Friday, March 31, 2017

Rambling Thoughts: By Your Side

By Your Side

by Kasie West

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse.  But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her.  Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble.  Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with.  Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come.  No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her.  Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye.  As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection.  But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

I can't decide how I feel about this book, especially after Kasie's previous project, P.S. I Like You (my review), which was all sorts of amazing.  By Your Side was enjoyable as well, but at the same time, I felt like a lot of it dragged out a conflict that maybe could have been solved a long time ago if Autumn had just talked to her friends.  And while I understand that communication is sometimes not easy, it made me really frustrated every time she put off another important conversation, and then dug herself into a deeper pit of her own conflict.

I suppose it's possible that I just don't really understand if her anxiety has something to do with her need to avoid talking about anything that could potentially make anyone else other than herself upset.

Anyway, By Your Side is cute in its own way, but definitely NOT what I'd been expecting after Kasie's previous book.  The usual dry sarcasm and jokey dialogue I'd associated with her from her first few books (and from P.S. I Like You) seemed a bit dormant in this one.  There were some attempts at humor, and some very light, but none that really stood out.

I admit that I am slightly disappointed, especially since I'd been really looking forward to this book with it's premise of two people getting trapped in the library for a holiday weekend.  But so many things about the entire situation really didn't work for me as much as I'd been hoping.

One of the biggest issues I had with the situation would have been the fact that the two got locked in the library in the first place with no way of getting out, because I would have at least expected there to be some unlocked emergency exit door somewhere.  And then, I also have a hard time believing that there was no phone within sight--I don't know a whole lot of places of business that don't at least have one landline.  My local library has two at the front desk next to each computer.

You know, there are all sorts of safety codes and building codes in place that I think involve having emergency exits and landlines.

Thirdly: Was there no librarian at the front of the building to notice when Autumn rushed back into the library?  I rushed into my library very last minute one day (like exactly ten minutes before closing) to pick up a book real quick, and there were at least three staff members and one security guard at the front entrance.  And the security guard even reminded me that I only had ten minutes before doors were locking.

But setting aside all of those questions I had had about how Autumn even got locked in the library in the first place, I also have some reserves about how quickly she and Dax develop their relationship while they are in the library together.  We spend a whole lot of time in Autumn's head flash-backing on back story between her and her friends and the boy she currently has a crush on.  And while she and Dax do have fun, I don't see any of it so easily leading to her and Dax suddenly being so close in a romance story type of way.  In fact, those flash backs seem to jar you out of the potential romance she and Dax are supposed to be developing.  Although, then we bring into it their continued friendship after they escape the library... and maybe I can accept their slowly developing relationship with the addition of those moments as well.


Not Kasie's best work, and a lot of the story felt kind of rushed as well, and kind of flat.  But much like the rest of her books, By Your Side was enjoyable, entertaining, and a fast and easy read.  I'm sure many could like it mainly because it DOES come off kind of cute in some aspects.

One thing I will give this book extra brownie points for is Autumn's support system.  She has a loving and kind family who take care of her and encourage her to be happy, no matter how hard she tries to make other people happy at her own mental health's expense.  And she has a loving and supportive best friend who is "Team Autumn" all the way, no matter what kind of decisions she would choose to make, such as choosing the "bad boy with a golden heart who stands outside of their friend group" over the "golden boy with childish, jokester personality whom everyone loves who stands within the friend group."  And for that, I DO appreciate this book a lot.

To be honest, I kept expecting By Your Side to twist in one of those typical YA "Best Friend Betrayal" tropes where Autumn finds out that the reason no one came back for her in the library was because one of her best friends diverted everyone on purpose to keep her away from the boy all the girls have a crush on (sort of a "get rid of the competition" kind of plot device)... but that would have been too predictable, and so I'm glad the book didn't go that route.  Instead, her friends are all just a bunch of unobservant airheads who really just forgot about her and hadn't noticed that she was missing... AT ALL.

Nonetheless, again, I really DO appreciate that Autumn had all the positive friendships, both male and female, even if one of the guys turned out to be a childish, jealous prick, which is absolutely a first for me in YA fiction.  I would have never pegged one of the guys being a manipulative, grudge-holding jackass...

And now that I review what I'd just mentioned above, I think it just goes to show how poorly female relationships are depicted in media--that I would have expected one of the girl friends to be the conflict, and was surprised to find one of the male friends being the petty, jealous type.

Color me impressed, but I actually don't mind that too much, except that Dallin's antics just came off frustratingly immature for something beyond Autumn's control.  Then again, this is a young adult world after all, and "frustratingly immature" seemed to be the generalized personality trait for all of the boys in this book aside from Dax, or Autumn's brother, Owen.

While I don't really care for the "petty, jealous, manipulative friend" plot device because it's so overused, I just love that Autumn's female best friends were the ones who were all on her side, no mattering what the situation.  I just wished everyone had more development and personality than simply being "Autumn's best friends."  We absolutely need more positive female relationships in media, especially in YA fiction where I've noticed that it's always been kind of lacking.


On a final note: This book is light and fluffy and simple.  And maybe that's why, while some parts of it frustrated me, I can't find it in myself to truly dislike it.

Thoughts: Undeniably Yours

Undeniably Yours

by Heather Webber
Book 5 (final) of Lucy Valentine

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars


While still recuperating from injuries sustained in her previous case, the last thing psychic investigator Lucy Valentine wants is to dive into another job.  But when Detective Lieutenant Aiden Holliday comes calling for help in finding a missing woman, saying no is not an option.

TV journalist Kira Fitzpatrick has vanished without a trace.  There’s little for Lucy to go on except picking up Kira’s current investigation where she left off.  The fearless reporter had been close to cracking one of the year’s biggest cases: the disappearance of a two-year-old boy.


Now Lucy must use her abilities to find both of them.  As she follows a twisted trail of lies and deceit, she uncovers a shocking twist to Kira’s exposé that someone is desperate to keep secret.  It’s a race against the clock as Lucy struggles to discover who’s telling the truth…and who’s willing to kill to keep her from solving the case.

While I didn't really care for the fourth book, Perfectly Matched, I think that this fifth and final book in the Lucy Valentine series, Undeniably Yours, turned out to be a nice and well-rounded ending to the series.  And overall, this is a great series for anyone interested in fluffy cozy mysteries with a side dish of romance.

Undeniably Yours seemed to get a little bit chaotic with it's overlapping mystery lines, but it was overall a well-outlined book.  And while the ultimate conclusion wasn't quite as predictable as the previous few books, it didn't come as much of a surprise to me, even if I still feel like everything seemed a little... forced.

This last book, beginning immediately after that strange cliff-hanger off of the previous book, was actually quite fast-paced, making great use of Lucy's psychic skills (both new and old), as well as seemed quite thorough in its' investigative progress.

Of course, there were a lot of things about Undeniably Yours that I had quibbles about, mainly with the investigative process itself and who was actually doing all the investigation of our missing persons.  Because, to be honest, while I'm glad that Lucy gets to spend a lot of her time front and center as the person doing all the work... I found it a little hard to figure out why Lucy was doing all the work in the first place.  I mean, where are all the other detectives in this town and why aren't they all over this case?  You would think that after an explosion and the almost death of a police detective, there'd be more people fighting to work on this missing persons case.

Other little quibbles I had weren't really as bothersome as that first:
  • Aiden's avoidance at telling Em about what's been going on with him started getting annoying, because we all just know that that's not the way to go, especially since the two just got engaged.
  • Lucy's mother's sudden plans to renovate her little cottage without first consulting her also came off a bit more frustrating than humorously endearing--there's nothing worse than meddling parents, and that just seemed a bit extreme.
  • All the dead ends that Lucy kept coming upon felt a bit forced, actually, like we were trying really, really hard to just road block her entire investigation, just to have everything work out miraculously all at the same time.
  • The dreaded "Couple Curtain Call," because, while I love myself some romance, "Couple Curtain Call" endings are just a little tacky, no matter how authors try to handle them.
  • Again, the ending of this book felt a little rushed and awkward.
  • Also, with all the violent incidents that Lucy has been subjected to, I'm actually quite surprised she is even able to get up and move around, no less trek herself all over town investigating Aiden's case like she's actually a cop.
  • Which brings me back to:  Why is Lucy the only person investigating this obviously criminal case?

But enough of the quibbles.  Truly, this book was extremely entertaining, and then include into it an adorable eighteen month old (How do you even know a baby is eighteen months old just by looking, because Lucy mentions twice that Ava looks to be about eighteen months, and you know, I probably would have just gone with the very vague "about a year old or two, maybe;" although to be fair, I'm the worst judge of age and will also look at a coworker and guesstimate her age to be late twenties or mid- to late thirties... or something like that), and lots of animals, and we've got an easy to read, easy to like cozy mystery with lots of heart.

I may have had a lot of quibbles, but really, I enjoyed myself and would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in cozy mysteries and romance and psychics and animals.

Though if you're looking for logic, you may have to overlook a lot of things in the last two books, and simply just enjoy.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Cover Crush: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman by Tessa Arlen

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

Judge a book by it's cover?  Absolutely!


I stumbled across a review for A Death By Any Other Name and found the cover really pretty, but the story summary more interesting.  So I clicked into the page at Goodreads and decided to check out the first book.  And I absolutely love the cover for Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman!  Before I even read the summary (which was also interesting), I ended up adding the book to my TBR based on the cover alone.

While the other two covers of the books in this Lady Montford Mystery series are also quite pretty (architecture of historical homes are enchanting), my favorite is the cover for the first book.

There's something about old houses and the surrounding land and scenery that I love.  And Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman just does wonders to make me think of standing on one of the higher levels of that mansion and looking out into the green, green acres, the crystal river, the simple growth of flowers...

Even the font fact for the title is done really well!

So pretty!  <3

I will definitely try to make time for this series.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Thoughts: Perfectly Match

Perfectly Matched

by Heather Webber
Book 4 of Lucy Valentine

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

The heat is on...

When Boston psychic Lucy Valentine finds herself involved in a group of eccentric psychics trying to learn more about their abilities, she is convinced a rare spring heat wave has flushed the crazies out of hiding.

Adding to her theory is her newest client in the Lost Loves division of Valentine, Inc., her family’s lucrative matchmaking firm.  He’s an animal communicator who hires Lucy to find his purrfect mate—because his cat told him so.

But craziest of all is The Beantown Burner, a serial arsonist who is targeting private eye Sam Donahue, the brother of Lucy’s boyfriend, Sean.  With the help of her kooky psychic group, Lucy must tap into abilities she didn’t know she had to catch the firebug before the fires turn deadly.  What she never expected to discover is that the motive behind the flames hits a little too close to home...and her heart.

This is probably my least favorite of the Lucy Valentine series, but not for reasons of the story itself.  The mystery parts were pretty decent, and again, we have at least three different ones going on at the same time.  They were predictable, although I felt like the identity of the arsonist was a little left-field.  Some of the mystery were pleasantly twisty, but the ending of this book indeed felt a bit rushed and awkward.  I can't say I was really surprised by the reveal of the culprit even though I felt a bit iffy about the motive.

The book itself was entertaining and easy to read.

What irked me about this book were the way all the characters were acting.  Or rather, I was irked by the way that a select few of the characters were acting.  It was like, on Lucy's worst week ever, everyone was conspiring against her to either be extremely annoying, unnecessarily frustrating, strangely secretive, or inconsiderately hurtful.  I still loved Marisol, Em, and Dovie, because they were their usual, steadfast support pillars in Lucy's life.  As was Raphael for the brief scene he appeared in.

And then there are the animals.  They DO make everything so much more likable, really.  Grendel is characteristically grumpy and loving at the same time.  Thoreau is just a bundle of cute.  And then there's the addition of Ebbie, who just seems like an adorable fur ball with psychic energy.  The one-eyed hamster, Odysseus doesn't make much of an appearance.

And with the exception of Marisol, neither do a lot of our usual characters.  I found Dovie's passive aggressive hinting at how Lucy and Sean need to have a great grandchild for her kind of cute, even if unnecessarily intrusive--but since she's a grandmotherly age, I forgive her, because that's something you expect of someone like Dovie anyway.

But everyone else from Lucy's father, to her Diviner Whiner group, to Preston Bailey, and even Sean were getting on my nerves.  I never saw enough of Sam Donahue, Sean's brother, to know his personality, but his evasiveness wasn't as annoying, for some reason.

Even though Lucy's father only appears for a brief moment at the beginning of the book, I felt like he was being unnecessarily mean.  While there was some logic behind his reasoning for evicting Sean, I just never remembered him to be a man who was childishly spiteful, just because Lucy wouldn't let him have his way.  And even after Lucy makes him see logic in why they needed to shut down their building for a while.  Then again, maybe I never got enough insight into his personality in previous books.

The Diviner Whiner group--dubbed as such by Preston because they are a bunch of psychics who keep complaining about everything during their sessions--were just frustrating.  They are purposefully mean-spirited to Lucy because they deem her unworthy of being a part of their little psychic class, no matter that Lucy is definitely psychic, even if in her own way.  I appreciated that Orlinda stood up for Lucy by telling them to back off; I wished Lucy had stood up for herself, as well, though.  Lucy seemed to have shrunken in her personality in this book, somehow, and I kept expecting her to snap back at the other three whenever they made personally insulting jibes at her.

But she didn't, and that bugged me.

Sean had been secretive about his past and what's been on his mind since the previous book.  It rolls on over into this fourth book, and while it wasn't a big deal because the two of them overcome that little obstacle eventually, it was still kind of frustrating.  And took up more book space than I thought necessary.

But the most frustrating person of all was Preston.  I had always found her presence annoying throughout the series, yet still tolerable.  She was that irritating younger sibling you had no choice but to endure.  And while I understood how Lucy could have started developing affection for the girl, I couldn't get myself to really like the nosy, busy-body reporter myself.

And in this particular book, she was just extremely, stubbornly, childish for so many reasons that I just wanted to jump into the book myself, slap some sense into her, and then drag her off to the hospital myself, or shove food down her throat.  I couldn't fathom why she was letting herself waste away like that even though so many people were worried about her.  And I also couldn't figure out why everyone was tip-toeing around her when it came to her physical health.

The secret reveal about why Preston was looking so sickly though... I didn't feel like it explained very well why she was also being stubborn and childish about her health.  She also continues to refuse telling anyone why she's acting the way she is, and keeps insisting that she's just fine.  It was like watching a teenager pull dramatic stunts using her own health as leverage just to gain attention.

I thought that, surely, there was something going on between her and Cutter; it was hinted at so many times.  Or I thought that there was some big, twisty reason why she was acting so stubborn.  But then the ending came around and I was honestly sorely disappointed that she had no other reasons for being childishly stubborn and almost killing herself of starvation, than that she was simply being childishly stubborn.  There was no real reason or explanation as to why she was acting the way she was.


Despite all the ranting above, I have to include a disclaimer here that I actually DID enjoy this book.  I mean, I rolled right through it.  The mysteries were serviceable.  The story itself is easy to get into.  The book could use a bit of editing as I found a lot of either typos or grammatical errors that couldn't be ignored.  (I noted that there's a mention that this book was self-published by Webber at a later date.)

But for the most part, Perfectly Matched was an entertaining, easy, and short novel to read.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Very Brief Short Story Thoughts: Definitely, Maybe

Definitely, Maybe

by Heather Webber
Lucy Valentine short story (#3.5)

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

It's a dark and stormy night when psychic Lucy Valentine shares with her best friends exactly how she acquired her supernatural abilities.

The content is exactly what the summary says.  Definitely, Maybe is a very short piece of work wherein Lucy tells a brief story about the night she lost her ability to see auras, then following, learned of her new supernatural skill.

To be honest, the girls are great together, and I just love that Lucy has two best friends who are supportive and wonderful.  Yay for positive female relationships in a book!!

Of course, this short story really felt like a teaser of sorts, or that maybe it could have been inserted somewhere within one of the other novels.  It was abrupt and gave us only a little bit more detail about what happened when Lucy was struck by lightning, thus changing her life and the nature of her psychic abilities.  I had already surmised as much since this particular piece of back story is mentioned in every installment.

And then, before you realize it, it's over and you're feeling a little lost.

So I had to dive into the next book immediately to fix that little hole.

Still, it was cute and enjoyable.

Brief Thoughts: Absolutely, Positively

Absolutely, Positively

by Heather Webber
Book 3 of Lucy Valentine

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

"Exposed" by a Boston Herald reporter, Lucy Valentine is suddenly the talk of the town.  Long back-story short: Even though the rest of her Valentine ancestors were blessed by Cupid with psychic abilities, Lucy's only special power lies in her ability to find things.  This skill has proven quite a blessing for those who come to her matchmaking agency in search of finding their long-lost loves.  Now that Lucy's secret is out, she has more new clients than she knows what to do with.  But soon a certain man of mystery steals Lucy's spotlight…

No, it's not Sean Donahue, the sexy fireman-turned-private-eye who's stolen Lucy's heart.  It's a masked man in a cowboy hat, dubbed "The Lone Ranger," who's been throwing handfuls of cash across the Common.  Now all of Beantown's abuzz.  Can Lucy unmask the mysterious money man, track down all her clients' old flames, and turn up the heat on her love life?  Absolutely, positively…

Absolutely, Positively is another great installment of the Lucy Valentine series by Heather Webber.  I continue to grow fond of these characters, and really appreciate the subtle development in the romance department as well.

Truth be told, I really don't know what to say about this book that I haven't already said about the previous two books.

Lucy is a great character, steady and lovable.  Sean's developments are a great new touch to the story--though I can't remember if his background was mentioned much in previous books.

While he was always the "Perfect Boyfriend" material since book one, I must admit, there's a bit of a new twist in his character that came across a little frustrating, specifically having to do with the romantic relationship between him and Lucy.  But I'm glad that, with each book in this series, the couple manages to work out their conflicts to continue moving towards a stronger relationship.

The rest of the characters are as wonderful as ever from Marisol to Em, to the parents, and Raphael.  Even the newest addition from the previous book, Cutter, is kind of cool even if he doesn't make much of an appearance.  I still find Preston a bit annoying, but I can kind of almost see how she's growing on Lucy.

Finally, there were, I think, three separate mysteries in this book that were actually quite pleasantly twisty-turny.  Two of the mysteries I kind of figured out as they came out pretty predictable, but were still planned really well.  The last little mystery--which, when you think about it, isn't much of a mystery--really didn't turn out the way I had thought it would; though to be honest, I liked how everything concluded.

The ending of this book felt a little awkward, though, so I don't know how to feel about that; almost rushed, like we were in a hurry to wrap things up.  But I blasted through the entire book in no time, so obviously I was entertained.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Review: Aftershock


by Jill Sorenson
Book 1 of Aftershock

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

As a Side Note on 3/26/2017:
I reread this book as an audio listen, narrated by Piper Goodeve--a way to refresh my memory about this world so that I can dive into the rest of the series, hopefully to finish it within the year.

For some reason, the second go around reading this book wasn't as exciting as the first time.  Maybe because I already knew what was going on?  Or maybe because some of the characters seem a bit more... frustrating than I remember?

Or maybe I remembered my experience a bit differently as time passed.  After all, I had read this book the first time about three years prior in 2014.  I have slept since then, and have also read 300+ books since.

Anyway, the narrator, Piper Goodeve, for this audio book was also a bit disappointing.  The distinctions between characters weren't done very well, and the inflections of her voice don't seem to depict character dialogues properly--excitement doesn't sound exciting, happy voices seem flat, and sad voices... well, they also seem flat.  I'm going to listen to the next book anyway, if only to see if she improves.

Meanwhile, enjoy the slightly edited review below that I wrote for this book back in 2014.  My feelings and thoughts haven't changed much.

I've always enjoyed a good disaster movie, so the idea of a Romantic Suspense combined with the disaster element was an interesting one I was willing to take up.  Of course, the only difference is that the element of a "villain" had to be included into this book as well, whereas most disaster movies involve enough tragedy with the whole "Humans versus Nature" thing to deliver enough suspense.  Mother Nature is a force enough to be reckoned with on her own, so you typically don't really need humans to cause more trouble.

Fortunately, the way that the book presents human bad guys as part of the repercussions of a disaster works out pretty well.

Chapter One of the book immediately dives into the disaster as an 8.5 earthquake devastates San Diego.  And then, everything sort of just spirals out of control from there--in a good way.

The Story:
Paramedic Lauren Boyer and her partner are on their way to an emergency call when the earthquake hits.  Within seconds, their vehicle has plunged under the depths of a collapsed freeway, and without warning Lauren's partner is killed with an instant impact from a falling SUV.  Fortune on her side so far, Lauren scrambles out of the ambulance alive, meeting up with Garret Wright, a mysterious man, dangerous looking, and ex-military, who is on a self-imposed mission to help save as many people as he can.

The two of them manage to find an RV, unscathed where an elderly man and his granddaughter are staying put.  Along the way, they save a young pregnant teenager who's vehicle explodes with her aunt still trapped inside.

Together, this small group of survivors work together to try and find a way to escape the now cavernous underpass while remaining alive.  Other survivors are found, but not long afterwards, the unconscious Sam Rutherford is the only one remaining in Lauren's makeshift triage tent of wounded.

Also impeding their potential for survival is a group of convicts who managed to get free when their prison transport van crashes during the earthquake.   And it seems that they're out to cause trouble for our survivor group, not caring whether anyone else lives, and not too concerned with helping anyone else survive.

My Thoughts:
This book was exciting to me because it's a different type of Romantic Suspense than the typical crime thriller, or military romances I typically end up reading.  As I said, I enjoy a good disaster movie any day and this was attractive to me.  Unfortunately, despite all the activity and action in the first few chapters of the situation set-up, the book felt slow-going.  The narration was detached and disjointed at lots of moments until the story itself began to make more progress.  When our survivors are finally situated, the narration seems to smooth out enough (or the story picks up enough excitement), that I just kept reading without too many quibbles.

There is no holding back on the gore or the details; the imagery is quite vivid and gross at times with blood, as well as the descriptions of dead, decomposing bodies, and even maggots.  I shuddered at the thought of all the descriptions of the corpses and the stench and whatnot.  But the action is told in a gritty, gripping way that keeps you hooked with interest for the conclusion.

Characters were great, though a lot of the secret reveals seemed irrelevant in the face of survival needs and disaster repercussions.  The angst created by Garrett's big secret about who he is seemed insignificant, almost unnecessary.  And Penny's own secret about her identity was frustrating considering there were more important things to worry about.  Then there was Owen and why he wouldn't just fess up about why he had racial tattoos all over his body--I think he created a lot of his own misunderstandings by remaining silent, though in the long run it didn't seem to matter anyway.

The romance was unbelievable and a bit lukewarm.  I'm inclined to believe that our main couple could become friends and lovers in the face of danger, but I'm not sure that this is a good way to base a future relationship on.  It's conflicting since you could feel the chemistry they shared based on sexual tension, lust, and when they finally slept with each other.  But I couldn't quite grasp the chemistry between them that created a "falling in love" situation.

Nonetheless, this was an enjoyable first book to a series, and the appeal of the next book involving Sam Rutherford, who remained in a coma throughout most of this first book, is very present.

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Quick Thoughts: Wait for Dark

Wait for Dark

by Kay Hooper
Book 17 of Bishop/Special Crimes Unit

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

An SCU team investigates a string of accidents, only to uncover a deadly and deliberate monster in the latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Kay Hooper.

In Clarity, North Carolina, the residents have fallen victim to an unfortunate series of events.  Seemingly random accidents have taken the lives of several citizens in the small mountain town.  But these deadly coincidences are anything but.  Something is on the hunt in Clarity, and the only clue as to what is a cryptic note given to the victims 24 hours before they meet their ends: “Wait for dark.”

Sheriff Mal Gordon knows how to handle his town, but he has no idea how to handle this.  Hollis Templeton and her team from the Special Crimes Unit, including her partner and lover, telepath Reese DeMarco, are called in to investigate.

But while the SCU has prepared them for the unknown, the incredible evil stalking Clarity shakes the team to their core when one of their own is targeted.  Now Hollis, the “cat with nine lives” finds herself facing death again.

And this time, not even her partner can protect her...

The actual book itself gets a 2.5 Star - This book is so meh - Rating.  I give an extra 0.5 Star for Hollis, who is my favorite of the Bishop/SCU characters.  I've always loved how Hollis is blunt and sarcastic, the much more colorful and animated of any of the characters since her appearance in Book 4.

I think the main thing that lost steam for me with this series is all the talking.  Yes, I understand that investigating crime is more than just action and arresting the bad guys.  But these characters seem to like to sit around and rehash the same conversations over and over again--about their powers, about the psychic world, about the Universe... etc.  I'm almost afraid to admit that only two out of five of their sit-down-in-the-conference-room discussions actually had to do with the murder investigation itself.

The crime and concept of this book is good, with lots of potential.  A string of accidents begin to prove much more sinister when a grisly murder tops it all off.  With so many deliberately planned deaths and little to no evidence to go on, these cases would definitely serve as a challenge to our federal agents of the SCU.

And that is just how the entire book goes on for almost 300 pages, with a lot of sitting around and discussing psychic powers, like we hadn't already been doing as much for sixteen books already.  Okay.  I'm exaggerating.  We really didn't start this whole "sitting down and discussing everything about the psychic world" thing until probably about two story arcs ago.  Still... it's becoming a bit much and seems to make the books kind of boring since it's always the same conversation.

Then, the ending takes a turn when Hollis has an epiphany and suddenly the case has been solved.

To say I was a bit disappointed in this turn of events... well, I suppose this is what I'd been expecting anyway since the most recent of the Bishop/SCU installments have been less than ideal.  And almost too dragging and boring.

Don't get me wrong.  I love this series--have loved it since the first couple trilogy arcs.  Have loved and looked forward to seeing Hollis Templeton in action since she joined the unit.  But it seems that, slowly but surely, these books are starting to lose their appeal, even if they continue to be detailed and dark and gritty.  They can be thought-provoking as well, but it doesn't help if nothing new is introduced into this series.

Anyway, I will probably continue to keep an eye out for the next installment.  At the very least, they are written well and make for easy entertainment.  I haven't given up hope yet that things will turn around and surprise me.

Brief Thoughts: Almost Dead

Almost Dead

by Lisa Jackson
Book 2 of San Francisco

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

A Woman Who Wants To Get Even . . .

The first victim is pushed to her death.  The second suffers a fatal overdose.  The third takes a bullet to the heart.  Three down, more to go.  They're people who deserve to die.  People who are in the way.  And when she's finished, there will be no one left. . .

Will Do Whatever It Takes For Revenge. . .

Cissy Cahill's world is unraveling fast.  One by one, members of her family are dying.  Cissy's certain she's being watched.  Or is she losing her mind?  Lately she's heard footsteps when there's no one around, smelled a woman's perfume, and noticed small, personal items missing from her house.  Cissy's right to be afraid--but not for the reason she thinks.  The truth is much more terrifying. . .

Including Murder. . .

Hidden in the shadows of the Cahill family's twisted past is a shocking secret--a secret that will only be satisfied by blood.  And Cissy must uncover the deadly truth before it's too late, because fear is coming home. . .with a vengeance. . .

Personal biases aside, this was actually not as bad as I had been expecting, though not as great as I'd hoped for either.  While the beginning was kind of slow to get into, and the characters were hard to really relate with or like, this was overall pretty entertaining with a plot twist that was actually quite startling, in a good way.

Still, lots of plot holes, and try as I might, I couldn't really get myself to like any of the characters.  Even the sometimes adorable toddler got annoying at times.  And I felt like a lot of the family conflict felt unnecessary, but kept in tone with the whole dysfunctional family theme going on.

One of the things that has always bugged me about the few Lisa Jackson books I've read is the exposition fairy insertion.  At some point in time (or several moments, in this book), someone will sit down and have a discussion, outlining what's going on in the story, detail by detail.  As if the reader had the memory of a goldfish and didn't already know all the facts up to that point.

There were a few scenes at the beginning like this, and several little moments where our main detective did as much, giving the same details and reasons over and over again as to why certain people couldn't be a suspect.  So on and so forth.

This kind of insertion is often times jarring to a reader.  I would like to just move forward with the story rather than sit around discussing what's happened since we last convened three pages ago.  And I don't need to be told five times that Cissy couldn't possibly be the killer--after all, this is a romantic suspense novel, romance being first priority.  It'd be a little hard to have a Happily Ever After™ if our main heroine were a psychotic murderer.

Again, I also had some problems with the characters, but not so much that I didn't like them as much as I just felt like they were NOT interesting, in the least.  And we'll just leave it at that.

The ending picked up and got a little more exciting.  The empty mansion scene where the elevator frightens Cissy was actually done pretty well.  The horrific twist near the ending was also, as I've stated, quite startling, and I liked it.

Otherwise, this is a nice book you can read on a rainy day if you've got nothing else on hand.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Thoughts: The Child

The Child

by Sebastian Fitzek
Full cast audio drama by Audible
-- Robert Glenister || Book's Main Narrator
-- Rupert Penry-Jones || Robert Stern
-- Jack Boulter || Simon
-- Emilia Fox || Carina
-- Andy Serkis || Engler
-- Stephen Marcus || Andi Borchert

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

My name is Simon.  I’m 10 years old.  I’m a serial killer.

Robert Stern, a successful defense attorney, doesn’t know what lies in store for him when he agrees to meet a new client in a derelict estate on the outskirts of Berlin.  Stern is more than surprised, when his old love interest, professional nurse Carina presents him a ten year old boy as his new client.  Simon, a terminally ill child, who is convinced he has murdered many men in a previous life.

Stern's surprise quickly turns to horror as he searches the cellar Simon has directed him to and discovers the skeletal remains of a man, the skull split with an axe - just as Simon told him he would.  Things go from bad to worse within hours when Stern discovers more dead bodies, the investigating police officer Engler starts to chase him as a suspect in the murder cases, and his own past comes to haunt him.  Stern’s friend and former criminal Andi Borchert is the only one to believe Stern and Carina.  Hunted by the police, and led by Simon’s memories, they start to investigate shady sub cultures of Berlin, and soon discover things more gruesome than anything they could have imagined...

I can tell that the above summary was from, as it wants to show-case the characters and their voice actors--I went through and took out narrator names from the summary because I've already listed them above.  And then I had to edit the summary a little bit because some of the sentences were fragments that made no sense.

Anyway, enough of that...

I bought this audio book with an Audible credit when I first discovered that I could enjoy audio books.  After listening to my first audio book, Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, an approximately 3-hour radio drama adaptation headed by James McAvoy (!!!) and Natalie Dormer, I went on a search for other full cast audio books, especially of the "audio drama" or "radio drama" persuasion--I thought sound effects would be a bonus.  I stumbled upon The Child, hemmed and hawed about purchasing it, but finally just did so--and there it sat in my Audible library for at least two years.

I figured it was high time I started going through my book shelves, and made myself include The Child in a must read list for 2017.  Also, I've been pretty into listening to audio books lately--it's nice to listen to a story unfolding while you multi-task: doing the laundry, cooking dinner, rearranging the bedroom, playing Minesweeper, etc...

Anyway, moving along... again.

I'm a big fan of crime thrillers, and truth be told, The Child was actually quite excellently executed in the mystery/thriller area.  I must admit, there were a few instances that made me feel extremely uncomfortable--instances I cannot mention, as those would be spoilers--but when those instances passed, I made myself move on.  Granted, I'm still conflicted about how I feel about how dark and gritty and squicky some of the events in the book had ended up getting, but overall, not a bad experience.

There were a lot of instances where the story employed the "cliff-hanging scene" method, which absolutely drives me crazy, especially if you already have an idea where that scene is headed, and the cut-off seems a little unnecessary.  There were also a few logic holes during the middle of the book that had me frowning a bit, not quite understanding why these logic holes weren't getting addressed, even at the end.

In truth, the characters were a bit hard to relate with, and I found myself a little more annoyed by some of their actions rather than intrigued.

The only other complaint I have is mainly for the audio book presentation.  While I love full cast performances, and, as I had stated above, sound effects are great inclusions, I found the quality of the sound effects a bit lacking in this audio drama.  It was a great effort, don't get me wrong.  Sound effects really DO add to the experience.  But unfortunately, a lot of the times the sound effects made it kind of difficult to discern what was being narrated, which you immediately see in the beginning of the book with the rain scene and the dialogue between Robert, Carina, and Simon--at times, I had to turn the sound up because I could barely make out the dialogue between our characters, but then that also increased the volume of the falling rain.

Then there was the creepy voice known as 'The Voice,' which was mechanized and sometimes kind of grainy sounding--I had a hard time figuring out The Voice's dialogue sometimes as well.  I won't deny that it DID give me a chill every time it spoke, though, which I kind of see as one of the things I enjoyed about this audio drama.

Some Final Thoughts:
While it may sound like I had a whole lot of complaints about this book, to be honest, I DID enjoy it enough to breeze through the entire 6+ hours of audio book within two days.  Of course, it might have also been because I'm in the middle of another book I'm not enjoying right now.  It might even have been because audio books are just great ways to pass the time when you just want to bask in a nice, passive activity while playing some computer games or folding your laundry.

But I won't deny that The Child is indeed an exciting crime thriller that, despite a few logic holes and snafus, was very well written, well presented, and well executed.

It indeed kept me guessing, although I'm not sure how I feel about the darker, more sinister turn that the book took towards the middle.  Don't get me wrong: I've read a lot of dark, heavy stuff in my lifetime.  I suppose I had just been expecting one story line, only to be blown away with a different twist.  And again, I'm not sure how I feel about that.

And I'm also not sure how I feel about the epilogue in which an exposition fairy explains to us a lot of things that probably didn't get a chance to be inserted into the actual story line itself.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Happy Blogoversary to Me!! Sort of...

Well...  Actually, this post should have gone up on the 12th of this month, because I can't read and thought that my One Year Blogoversary was on the 22nd.

I had a few ideas planned to include in this post, but was still going to keep it simple: a list of favorite posts including links and whatnot, but as I was going through my posts, starting from the first, I realized that the first blog post at Blogspot had been published on March 12, 2016.  And yet, somehow, I had misread that date as March 22...

Give me a moment to mope about my mislaid plans...


Well, I suppose at this point, I really just want to leave everyone with a set of my stats in the one year I'd been posting to Blogspot.  I never did a Blogoversary post at Booklikes, mainly because I was just going along my merry way and blogging reviews, updates, and challenges and news all la-di-da.  But I'd like to make Ani's Book Abyss great--especially with all the new ideas and functionality, and etc... that I've discovered I can do with Blogger.

Unfortunately, unlike other bloggers out there, I will not be having any giveaway or whatever, as I was too lazy to plan this post properly.  Maybe if I can make it to five years, I'll be much obliged to really celebrate--in fact, if I can make it to three years, I might consider more fun things...

The Stats:

From March 12, 2016 to March 12, 2017:
  • 543 total posts published
  • 389 reviews -- 258 transferred reviews // 131 newly written reviews
  • 48 book update posts
  • 46 monthly/weekly meme posts
  • 434 books/novellas/short stories/anthologies have been reviewed at Ani's Book Abyss
    • 146 of those books were newly read/reviewed
    • 287 of those books were read/reviewed prior to the birth of this blog
    • 111 books' reviews are still awaiting posting or transfer

The First Blog Post:  Ani's Book Abyss Launches New Site!!!
The First Transferred Review:  Stars Above by Marissa Meyer | Transferred from Booklikes
The First Official New Review:  Rebel by Amy Tintera
The First Meme:  Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR
The First Multi-book Review:  Very Brief Thoughts: Haruhi Suzumiya, Books 1 & 2
The First Non-Bookish Post:  Recipe #1: Tomato Basil Soup
A Favorite Random Babbling Piece:  Another One Bites the Dust... and Other News | Transferred from Booklikes
The Birthday Post:  My Birthday Book Haul!
The 2016 Year in Books:  My 2016 Year in Books

The Packaged Thoughts Series:

Thoughts and Forecast:

It looks like I've still got a lot of work ahead of me, going by how many book reviews I've still got left to transfer from Goodreads and Booklikes; it is still a slow work in progress, and I'm trying to rewrite some reviews as I go as well.

And even as this blog is being written, I have added 2 more reviews to my numbers, posted after the 12th.  And then there are at least two more reviews being planned pending the next two or three books I will be finishing within the next week or two.

I've also got a mind to continue improving this site by up-keeping my blog pages for my book list / reviews, reading challenges, memes, and other posts.  I would love to create a more thorough "table of contents" type of page to help others (and mostly myself) better navigate and find written posts.  I say mostly myself, because sometimes I like to refer back to previously written posts... and yet sometimes I forget what I've written without doing a thorough skim of everything I've ever written.  Even with a spreadsheet index with designated categories, I still get lost.

How does everyone else keep track of everything they've written?  Or am I just way too obsessed with knowing exactly the title and date of every last post I've ever published?  O.O

Finally, I'd love to be able to get back into posting a weekly meme or some such thing.  I'd like to continue the Top Ten Tuesday posts, or even the monthly My TBR List voting posts.  I'm even considering following a few others and posting those Monday and/or Friday "What are you reading?" or "What I have read" weekly posts.

But truth be told, a lot of those things are still under consideration.  After all, I fell into a blogging slump and I feel like it hasn't quite lifted yet.

This is why this Blogoversary post wasn't already planned and written a month ago--something I used to do when I started blogging.

Anyway, wish me luck for the next year at Ani's Book Abyss.  And maybe next year (or the next), I will still be blogging, and I will actually remember my Blogoversary correctly and plan a less slap-dash post for everyone to enjoy.  And hopefully this blogging slump will lift soon--I've got so many things I want to do with this blog... but no motivation to sit down and get it all done.

Well... Cheers!

Quick Thoughts: Vision in Silver

Vision in Silver

by Anne Bishop
Book 3 of The Others

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.5 Stars

The Others freed the cassandra sangue to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences.  Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes.  In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.

Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy.  She knows each slice of her blade tempts death.  But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.

For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…

As many have stated, there is something strangely addictive about this series that keeps bringing you back.  And no matter how juvenile the writing style and presentation--which somehow doesn't really contrast too terribly with the not so juvenile story content--these books are easy to read and extremely easy to enjoy.  To the point, I really DO think it's the characters who make this series work; even though Meg started out as one of the most Mary Sue of Mary Sues created in fiction land, like ever.

I mean, who else could just show up in a hostile community, do something as simple as sort everyone's mail, and end up being loved by all?

Vision in Silver (as well as its preceding two books) would probably never win any globally recognized book awards; but I'll be darned if you don't get at least a little inspiration from all the events that happen throughout the book.  Because even with the chaotic outline of the story, Vision in Silver does manage to do something that the previous two books had a hard time with: it actually had a very distinct story line, conflict, and direction.  And it managed to interconnect everything (with a few tangential exceptions) and give us a broader idea of where the author is going with the rest of this series.

I'm itching to start the next book; I might have even whined a little when this book came to an end.  Those are really extreme feelings for me when it comes to books.  THAT is how much I'm enjoying this series.

Vision in Silver touches on a lot of repercussions that have surfaced ever since the events of Murder of Crows.  In order not to spoil the second book, I won't talk about it much, but let's just say that a lot of sadness and death happens, and a very distinctive rift is slowly beginning to form between The Others and the humans.  And then, on top of that, we also are introduced to a whole different set of earth natives in Thaisia that are hundreds of times more dangerous than the terre indigene that have already been introduced... and a lot of the actions across the continent are making them restless.

We get to see a lot more background about the events going on that will probably become the main conflict of the entire series.  We learn more about The Others and their thought processes as they continue to learn and understand the minds of the humans living among them.  Through Meg and her human female pack, there is more interaction between the two types of beings, even though more global actions by others outside of the Lakeside Courtyard are now threatening to rip that connection to shreds.

There's a lot that goes on in each of these books, but to be honest, up until this third book, I never felt like there was a whole lot to think about.  On top of being strangely addicted to this series, and loving it for no other reason than just because, I'm also actually quite impressed with how much time I spent thinking about the actions of characters, and how they kind of parallel real life events, at any one time in history.

It's certainly something to think about.

Meanwhile, the characters really haven't developed much, unless you count Simon, who seems to grow with each book, even if slowly.  Meg continues to be consistently good, and despite learning a lot of new things about herself, still seems to be a fairly flat character, despite also being strangely endearing.  I love the interactions between... well, EVERYONE... in this book, everyone has their moments and it makes me smile.

This isn't a book just about Meg, or just about the blood prophets.  This is definitely a book about the residents of the Lakeside Courtyard, about the beings, human or Other, connected with the Lakeside Courtyard.  This is a book that touches upon a lot of things and a lot of characters, with little snippets of their stories presented.

On a final note, I especially loved the side story line about the little cassandra sangue who doesn't choose a name until the very end of the book.  I thought her slow acceptance of the new life she's been given outside of her imprisoned compound life was kind of touching.  I'm also quite intrigued with the potentials she has set as a possibility for all other cassandra sangue to come--as a younger girl, her development is given a chance to find new survival and life for other girls.  This is in contrast to Meg, we can see, since Meg is already an adult, and it is already too late for her to break free of the life that her keepers at the compound had instilled into her.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: Cybele's Secret

Cybele's Secret

by Juliet Marillier
Book 2 of Wildwood

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

It's been some time since reading the first book in this duology, Wildwood Dancing.  And while some details are quite memorable, others are a little hard for me to recall without digging out my review and refreshing my memory.

There is one thing that I can say for certain:  Juliet Marillier's writing is forever and always magically amazing!  There's just something about her use of words, her imaginative creations, and her interesting characters...  And to repeat myself from my review of Wildwood Dancing, she has a way with her creativity that allows you to see her world and her setting so vividly--though Cybele's Secret DOES take place in the real world more than the fantasy world, it still feels like a fantasy world with all the mystical, magical elements presenting themselves.

On a side note, or two:

I had gone into Cybele's Secret thinking that, like Wildwood Dancing, it was based on some fairy tale.  But it quickly became apparent that this second book is a story of it's own, based in the same fantastical world Marillier had created from the first book.  There is really no retelling in sight, and instead, she makes use of the mythical Anatolian goddess, Cybele, to build a quest for our main characters.

Second, I can readily say that I personally liked Cybele's Secret more than Wildwood Dancing; however, Cybele's is less memorable for the fact that it DID tend to drag out in a monotonous way as the story build-up progressed in the beginning.

The Story:
Paula travels with her father to Istanbul as his assistant, determined to show him that she is capable of helping him work his trade, as well as acquire a special item that must remain a secret from others in merchant circles.  It is called Cybele's Gift, and very few know of it's existence, and any mention of this item could bring forth unwanted attention from the wrong people, simply because of the symbolism Cybele's Gift stands for--an old religion that must be abolished by the mainstream cultures.

As Paula is now situated in a place where the culture for women is quite different than what she is used to, and could present as dangerous to her, Paula's father insists on hiring a bodyguard, both to escort her when necessary and to keep her safe.  And so Stoyan, a large, dark-haired Bulgarian man-boy enters the picture.  Even as Paula goes about her day-to-day, assisting her father with his trade business, conducting her own research at the revered Irene of Volos's sacred learning sanctuary for women, she seems to have picked up a quest given her from the Other Kingdom.

The Other Kingdom is the fantastical world she and her sisters had gone to often years prior, where they partook in the magical festivities of the fairy folk, such as dancing and feasting.  Paula, herself, had always spent her time there in conversation with the more scholarly folk.  But the portal had been long since closed to the sisters, and so now that something presenting itself from the Other Kingdom has made its appearance, Paula has found herself more than excited for a chance to see what is going on.

Because whatever the quest she's been given, it might also pertain to Cybele's Gift, as well as her now lost sister Tatiana.  And meanwhile, the acquisition of said item might not be as secret as Paula and her father thought it was, since many others have been invited to its viewing, including the dashing, infamously known Portuguese pirate Duarte da Costa Aguiar, who seems to have taken a shine to Paula.

My Thoughts:
I must admit, even though nothing really stands out about Cybele's Secret, I DID really enjoy reading it.  But there is also a whole lot of story going on in this one book as well, and I can't help but notice that, even though everything is, indeed, based around one quest and one progressing story line, the book sort of, almost, feels like two (or maybe even three) separate stories.  It's kind of like playing a video game with a introductory cut scene, then a "Part 1: Developing the Hero" stage where our main characters build up their inventory and knowledge for the future quest, and then we go on to "Part 2: The Quest" and actually go on the adventure to complete the quest.  Then you get an epilogue of sorts, a "Part 3: After the Adventure" type of conclusion.

Of course, it's written rather more enchantingly than a simple video game walk-through... or even my own half-baked summary above.

Cybele's Secret is a well-written tale of myth, adventure, and inspirational lessons.  But I have to admit, the awkward repetition given by Paula about how the Other Kingdom's quests are often laid out specifically to teach people lessons started getting a bit tedious after the third or fourth time she mentions it.  I mean, what are fairy tales if not created to teach our youth some sort of story to live by?  And I'm also going to admit that during the actual quest... really Paula seemed a bit useless as the brains of this expedition--the majority of the time, it was Stoyan who figured out each challenge and how to go about completing them.  Answering a few riddles was all fine and dandy, and gives Paula a chance to showcase her scholarship and intelligence, but the rest of the time, she kind of just stands there and frets, which made me a little frustrated.  Especially since we keep going on and on about how she's the smart one who knows how to solve all the puzzles thrown at her.

While I'm on my brief rant of what I didn't care for in this book:  I didn't care for the awkward, forced insertion of our love triangle... if you could even call it that.  Truth be told, the chemistry between Paula, Stoyan, and Duarte felt more like friendship than romance.  And I can't help but to feel that a triangle was inserted more for the sake of having a love triangle rather than that it made sense.

But aside from that, I DID absolutely enjoy Cybele's Secret, and found the interaction Paula had with all the characters, including her love interests, quite intriguing.  The discussions she had with both Stoyan and Duarte were intelligent and thoughtful.  Her interactions with Irene were inspirational.

The story line and progression were easy to follow, unfolding smoothly as each event presented.  Well... all except for that little snag between the unofficial parts one and two (see above), where I really, really think that that scene happened because there was no other way to transition.

Meanwhile, the main villain of the story was really not so hard to spot when said villain starts displaying annoying erratic behavior, including being an uninvited busy body in Paula's life.

So... even as I finish writing this review, it occurs to me that I don't really know whether I truly liked this book more than the first of the Wildwood duology... or if maybe the two books kind of stand on equal footing.  Admittedly, I was more frustrated with the young characters of Wildwood Dancing than our trio in Cybele's Secret--though Duarte DID come close to making me roll my eyes or head-desk a few times.  Paula herself could have been a bit less love-struck--this seemed a bit out of character for her.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- February 2017

February came and went a lot faster than I had anticipated, though to be fair, the majority of my February was spent battling bronchitis and fatigue.  If it weren't for audio books, I may not have finished as many books as I did.

And also, I absolutely couldn't help but to read some new releases that I'd been waiting forever to come out--Laura Griffin and Pamela Clare, I'm looking at you!  And, of course, I enjoyed myself.

As far as 2017 being the year of the Laid Back Reading Plans, I think I'm sticking to it pretty well.  I haven't pulled the DNF trigger on any books I probably should have, but I'm also not forcing myself to rush through books just to meet my previously established normal average of 14 books per month.  Unfortunately, at the rate that I'm going (10 books in January, 11 books in February), I won't be meeting my usual yearly reading goal of 150 books either, unless I break out some short stories and novellas... which I probably will end up doing.  Or I could just try to increase my monthly number... or maybe take a week's vacation to do a personal readathon... or something like that.

2017 for my Reading Assignment Challenge has been a bit embarrassing; however, if I were honest with myself, I'm both glad I dropped to two books a month (rather than kept with the four books a month goal I've always signed up for), as well as glad that this is the year of the Laid Back Reading Plans.  Because I've already botched the first two months for Reading Assignment, and frankly, I'm actually quite okay with that.  Normally, I'd be quite upset with myself for not meeting all my goals in a timely manner.

I guess I'm slowly learning to lay off on the anal retentive need to finish every challenge with high scores... or whatever.  Or I just quit caring because I've been so tired.

In other news, with Booklikes looking more promising (the page loads have been satisfyingly quick), I may begin to cross-post there once more.  If you follow me on BL, look forward to a mass onslaught of book reviews to come...

Well... maybe, because I could end up getting lazy, y'know.

February Reads

Books Dropped/Put On Hold

None this month!  Yay!

Currently Reading

February Reading Stats

Total works read: 11
  • 7 print/e-book novels
  • 4 audio books

Average rating: 3.5 Stars
  • Highest Rated:  5 books // 4.0 Stars
    • (1) The Moon-spinners by Mary Stewart
    • (2) Tempted into Danger by Melissa Cutler
    • (3) Sweet Bea by Sarah Hegger
    • (4) At Close Range by Laura Griffin
    • (5) Falling Hard by Pamela Clare
  • Lowest Rated:  Highlander Claimed by Juliette Miller // 2.5 Stars

Series I started reading:
  • Clan McKenzie by Juliette Miller
  • ICE: Black Ops Defenders by Melissa Cutler
  • Sir Arthur's Legacy by Sarah Hegger
  • Heartbreaker Bay by Jill Shalvis
  • Fairy Tales by Eloisa James
Series I completed:
  • For Me by Cynthia Eden
Series I have made progress on:
  • Tracers by Laura Griffin
  • Colorado High Country by Pamela Clare

Favorite reads:  It actually looks like I had a lot of high rated, 4-Star reads, so February wasn't a bust, really.  My favorite reads for February, obviously, included Pamela Clare's newest release Falling Hard--I never get tired of Pamela and her lovely world of good people.  I also enjoyed The Search by Nora Roberts.  Even though other books were 4-Star reads, I don't know if I'd list them as personal favorites.  4.5-Star and higher is where I start my squealy, fangirl mode, honestly.

Disappointing reads:  While Highlander Claimed was the lowest rated book for February, I suppose I wasn't too entirely disappointed with it since I hadn't really gone into it expecting much.  Nonetheless, it wasn't what I was expecting.  But my biggest disappointment would probably be The Switch by Lynsay Sands, if only because I'm a huge fan of the cross-dressing trope, and when the story itself wasn't what I'd been expecting, I might had deflated a bit.

Reviews & Notable Posts

Reviews Written


  • None

Other Posts

Coming Up In March

Tentative TBR

Other Stuff

Once again, aside from 2017 being the year of the Laid Back Reading Plans, it is also the year that I try to clean up my messes, a.k.a., the year that I try my best to finish all those series I've started and left hanging.  I know that it doesn't help that I managed to start about five more series in February, but I've got a plan, and I really hope my plan pans out for me.  I figure if I hold myself accountable with a reading challenge, I can keep listing all the new series (and old) that need to be finished, and make myself keep up.

Otherwise, I really don't have any other plans for the next couple months, unless I stumble across another mini-challenge that looks tempting.

March will also mark the anniversary of Ani's Book Abyss at Blogspot!  Yay!  And no, I'm not planning anything special.  Maybe just a short "Yay Me!" post to make myself happy.

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

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Thoughts: Falling Hard

Falling Hard

by Pamela Clare
Book 3 of Colorado High Country

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

I had been anticipating the release of Pamela's newest book since there was an announcement that it would be published at the end of 2016.  When it still hadn't come out yet, I found myself a little disappointed.

But here it is, and as is per usual with me, I tend to devour Pamela Clare books like a favorite meal.

And I'll admit, while she seems to be breaking out the schmaltzy once again, I never cease enjoying her books, especially when she creates characters that are just so easy to fall in love with.

Truth be told, I liked this installment more than the previous one, as the romance develops in a more favorable and believable direction, and there is a lot less schmaltz, and a whole lot of sweet with the presence of the three-year-old twins.  This comes as a surprise to myself since I have a secret soft spot for firefighters, and was probably more surprised that I didn't end up loving the second book featuring Fire Chief of Scarlet Springs, Eric Hawke after I finished reading it months ago.

Moving along...

The Story:
Ellie Meeks is a Gold Star wife, raising a set of twins alone--her late husband having never even had a chance to meet his children.  For the past three years, she'd been surviving day-to-day just to raise her children, but not truly able to move on.  Even though Dan had made her promise she would move on and live a happy life if anything ever happened to him, Ellie has never found the pull to do so.

On a snowy night, with two sick children, a load of groceries, and a car that wouldn't start, she meets Jesse Moretti for the first time.  He helps her get herself and her kids safely home, then also offers to arrange for her car to be towed.  It's pretty much a mutual attraction at first sight, and knowing that Jesse is part of the elite Search & Rescue Team of Scarlet Springs, as well as a friend of friends, Ellie cannot help anticipating their next meeting, allowing a spark of interest in men to develop for the first time in three years since she lost her husband.  The best part, he lives right next door!

Jesse is a newcomer in Scarlet Springs, having settled in the small mountain town in order to find peace and get Iraq and war out of his head.  As an adrenaline junkie and a natural athlete, there isn't any dangerous sport he wouldn't participate in, and finds a natural high in mountain climbing and extreme sports.  While he's attracted to Ellie as well, he feels that he has no place bringing his own demons into her life, and in kind, he doesn't feel he could take on Ellie's baggage as a grieving widow as well.  He's got his own problems to deal with, least of all his currently recovering psyche, still feeling the guilt from having been unable to save a little girl from being washed away in rapids recently.

But as the two start to see more of each other, the chemistry is hard to deny, and soon Ellie and Jesse begin to feel more than just sexual tension and lust.  And maybe they can find a way to help each other move forward into a new life together.

My Thoughts:
I've always loved Pamela Clare's romantic suspense books, and while contemporary romance isn't the first genre I will reach for, it most certainly fills those in-between gaps when you want to watch a couple find their happily ever after without spending eighty percent of the book running for their lives.  Unfortunately, it means I need to be prepared to roll through 300+ pages of mundane, daily happenings...

Fortunately, Pamela has a knack for reeling you right into her books, falling in love with her characters, and feeling as if 300+ pages of mundane, daily happenings is just as exciting as watching a couple running for their lives.  Because as event after event takes placed, slowly bringing our sweet and sexy couple together, you get to a point where you're already reaching the end, and you wonder where the time went, and wish that there were more to the story because the enjoyment is real.

Ellie and Jesse are no different than other characters Pamela has created in the past.  They are good people, living hard lives, trying to make the best of things; then they come together and fill an aching hole in each other's hearts that they never even knew they'd been yearning to fill.  There are good people around them--supportive family and friends.

The interactions are good, the children are good, the kids are good, the developing relationship is good... the sex is good.  And somehow, I also love seeing those mundane, daily happenings such as Jesse's daily report on how many stupid people do stupid things on the ski slopes, or even how many unfortunate accidents can happen on a regular basis.  Ellie's daily activities were also interesting, including her interaction with her three-year-old twins, her set-up of the Snow Fest's first aid tent, her few workdays at the hospital as an RN...

You would think a couple--or three, or four--random rundowns of each other's days would get boring after a while, but all the different things that happen to Ellie and Jessie on a daily basis is too realistic to find boring, really.  Especially, for Ellie since I, myself, also work in a hospital and have a few stories of the random variety of things that can happen, both strange and sad.

Meanwhile, while Ellie might be a few positive traits shy of becoming a Mary Sue, I didn't really mind it all that much.  She's a very readily likable person, and that's what matters sometimes.

And then, as much as I'm not a fan of children in real life, the interactions between the twins, Daisy and Daniel, with just about anyone really DID make the book extra enjoyable.  Truth be told, the kids were the delightful part of the book amidst all the romantic angst that reared its ugly head a few times.

Anyway, I don't know who the next feature couple will be for Pamela's next great love story.  However, I DID enjoy the cameo appearance of the entire West family--Nate and Megan and Emily and Jack, and even the horsey, Buckwheat.  Each new Pamela Clare book always makes me want to go back and revisit her I-Team world!


If I had played my cards correctly, I think I could have shuffled a few squares around and inserted Falling Hard in somewhere for Romance Bingo 2017.  But it didn't occur to me until later that I might have used this book for the Guy/Girl Next Door square, and then move Sweet Little Lies to Blown Away (based on the cover),  I really considered Key to My Heart, but wasn't quite sure it would fit.