Sunday, August 20, 2017

COYER Summer Reading List | August Readathon!

COYER is a reading challenge hosted by Michelle @ Because Reading, Berls @ Fantasy is more fun, and Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews Oh My!
COYER stands for "Clean out your e-reads."  And typically the goal is to read from all the freebies or low priced books you've collected in the past on your e-readers.

But for this summer duration of June 17th to September 8th, our hosts are throwing out the normal rules!

Click on this link to sign up or read about COYER Summer 2017.
My COYER Summer Reading List summary page.

For those of us participating in the Summer Reading List part of this summer's COYER Challenge, our hosts have announced three different readathons for each month of the challenge:

  • Read-a-thon Dates are
    • June 25th – July 2nd ~ read only ebooks
    • July 23rd to July 30th ~ read only physical books
    • August 20th to August 27th ~ read only audio and ebooks

And we're starting another COYER readathon!  As stated above, this will be audio and e-books only, and since I don't really have any obligations for this week, I will do my utmost best to dive into some of my e-books on this list.  I've been caught distracted the past few days and so am kind of stuck in a book I'm not all that interested in.  Chances are, I'll end up either dropping it, or putting it on hold.  Fortunately, it's not one of my COYER books; although, I DID go to the trouble of driving out to the library and picking it up...

I am currently reading Behind the Scenes, at a slow-going pace, but not because the book isn't good.  A lot of things have been going on lately.  I need to focus, but it's not entirely easy.

Meanwhile, I've randomly selected a few other books on my list to move onto once I finish Behind the Scenes.  All three are novellas, totaling less than two hundred pages each, so I'm hoping that I'll be able to breeze three all of them.

This should be the easier COYER thon to participate in, considering there are no crossover challenges I'm dealing with at the same time.  But somehow, I'm having doubts about my reading habits these past few days.

We'll see how it all goes.

Ani's COYER Summer Reading List

See Also: COYER Summer Reading List @ GR
See Also: COYER Summer Reading List current review link-up page
Progress:  19 books read
  1. Going Rogue by Robin Benway
  2. Secret Agent Secretary by Melissa Cutler -- 6/29/2017
  3. Hot on the Hunt by Melissa Cutler -- 7/8/2017
  4. Behind the Scenes by Natalie J. Damschroder
  5. Secrets by Cynthia Eden
  6. Suspicions by Cynthia Eden
  7. The Manhattan Encounter by Addison Fox -- 6/25/2017
  8. Hot Mess by Lynn Raye Harris
  9. Hot Package by Lynn Raye Harris
  10. SEAL's Honor by Elle James
  11. On the Loose by Tara Janzen -- 7/27/2017
  12. Cutting Loose by Tara Janzen -- 7/29/2017
  13. The Mysterious Twin by Leona Karr -- 6/23/2017
  14. Cold Memory by Leslie A. Kelly -- 7/31/2017
  15. Pushing the Lines by Kimberly Kincaid -- 6/27/2017
  16. Skin Deep by Kimberly Kincaid
  17. Midnight Exposure by Melinda Leigh
  18. Night Diver by Elizabeth Lowell -- 7/9/2017
  19. The First Victim by J.B. Lynn
  20. Thicker Than Water by Maggie Shayne -- 8/9/2017
  21. The Littlest Cowboy by Maggie Shayne
  22. The Law of Attraction by N.M. Silber -- DNF'd on 7/20/2017
  23. Her Fierce Warrior by Paige Tyler
  24. Heat Wave anthology - Stephanie Bond, Heidi Betts, Leslie Kelly -- 7/27/2017
  25. That's Amore anthology - Janelle Denison, Tori Carrington, Leslie Kelly
  26. Bare Essentials duo-story anthology - Jill Shalvis, Leslie Kelly -- 8/14/2017
  27. Night Driving by Lori Wilde
  28. Smooth Sailing by Lori Wilde
  29. Crash Landing by Lori Wilde
  30. Part Time Cowboy by Maisey Yates

The Add Five After Reading Five List:

(Added on 7/8/2017)
  1. Loose and Easy by Tara Janzen -- 8/1/2017
  2. Breaking Loose by Tara Janzen -- 8/4/2017
  3. Loose Ends by Tara Janzen -- 8/6/2017
  4. Ghost Horse by Patricia Rosemoor
  5. Fire and Ice by Julie Garwood

(Added on 7/29/2017)
  1. Dear Maggie by Brenda Novak
  2. Just Past Midnight by Amanda Stevens
  3. The Trouble With Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis -- 8/15/2017
  4. One Snowy Night by Jill Shalvis -- 8/17/2017
  5. Accidentally on Purpose by Jill Shalvis

(Added on 8/9/2017)
  1. One Night With Her Boss by Noelle Adams -- 8/14/2017
  2. Irresistible Force by D.D. Ayers
  3. Hit and Run by Allison Brennan and Laura Griffin
  4. Wild Wicked Scot by Julia London
  5. Her Special Alpha by Paige Tyler

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Brief Thoughts: One Snowy Night (novella)

One Snowy Night

by Jill Shalvis
audio book narrated by Karen White
Heartbreaker Bay #2.5 (novella)

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

It’s Christmas Eve and Rory Andrews is desperate to get home to the family she hasn’t seen in years.  Problem is, her only ride to Lake Tahoe comes in the form of the annoyingly handsome Max Stranton, and his big, goofy, lovable dog Carl.

Hours stuck in a truck with the dead sexy Max sounds like a fate worse than death (not), but Rory’s out of options.  She’s had a crush on Max since high school and she knows he’s attracted to her, too.  But they have history… and Max is the only one who knows why it went south.

They’ve done a good job of ignoring their chemistry so far, but a long road trip in a massive blizzard might be just what they need to face their past… and one steamy, snowy night is all it takes to bring Max and Rory together at last.

One Snowy Night was a potentially sweet and fun little romance, with a road trip in snowy weather, and some thought-provoking ideas about forgiveness, change, growing up... the works.  Rory and Max were both nice characters, although they don't really stand out all that well.  Rory is the typical, down-on-her-luck girl, who has had a rough go of things, who is trying to get her life back together and make amends with her past.  Max is Standard Broody Alpha Male #1, who is also letting things in his past influence his decisions in present day.

To be honest, the conflict between Rory and Max was a rather legit, realistic issue.  The biggest problem that I kept seeing was that the two didn't know how to talk to each other.  Max is pissed at Rory for some reason, Rory has secrets she doesn't want to talk about.  And thus, it makes for a very lonely, and quiet car ride, when neither of the two want to talk at all about anything.

I got a little frustrated when Rory realized that something big was bugging Max that had to do with their high school years.  He didn't want to talk about it, and so Rory decided that she wouldn't ask him, despite the fact that she really wanted to find out why Max had a chip on his shoulder about her.  And thus, that carried on for a bit of time and made me roll my eyes.

Because, yes, let's just NOT talk about what the problem is and let it fester while the two of you drive for a few hours together in the wintry blizzard.

My feelings of relief was palpable when some nice old couple gave Rory the tip that she needed to look to the past to figure out how to fix her present.  I probably would have just told her that she just needed to learn to talk to Max, and vice versa, but I guess the old lady put it in a more worldly way.

Anyway, this is a cute little romance, probably not something I'd come back to.

Unless there's more of Carl, the big and goofy doberman to see; now HE was probably the best part of the book!

Quick Thoughts: The Trouble with Mistletoe

The Trouble with Mistletoe

by Jill Shalvis
audio book narrated by Karen White
Book 2 of Heartbreaker Bay

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

If she has her way . . .

Willa Davis is wrangling puppies when Keane Winters stalks into her pet shop with frustration in his chocolate-brown eyes and a pink bedazzled cat carrier in his hand.  He needs a kitty sitter, stat.  But the last thing Willa needs is to rescue a guy who doesn’t even remember her . . .

He’ll get nothing but coal in his stocking.

Saddled with his great-aunt’s Feline from Hell, Keane is desperate to leave her in someone else’s capable hands.  But in spite of the fact that he’s sure he’s never seen the drop-dead-gorgeous pet shop owner before, she seems to be mad at him . . .

Unless he tempers “naughty” with a special kind of nice . . .

Willa can’t deny that Keane’s changed since high school: he’s less arrogant, for one thing—but can she trust him not to break her heart again?  It’s time to throw a coin in the fountain, make a Christmas wish—and let the mistletoe do its work . . .

If it's one thing I've come to understand, it's that Jill Shalvis books are charming even when you find them frustrating.

The Trouble with Mistletoe had an interesting premise to work from, however, you could readily tell that it wasn't something meant to be drawn out.  Keeping Keane in the dark about why Willa was always angry at him could have gotten out of hand, or it could have been an interesting twist; except that particular conflict was resolved quite early in the book that made me rather glad.  I figured it was kind of nice that Willa and Keane managed to take the adult way out and let the past go--after all, when you're young, you do stupid things that you might regret in the future.  And at least Keane was a good enough person to feel chagrined about being a jerk when he was a teenager.  And Willa was gracious enough to forgive and move on.

But then we come to a sort of "second half" of the contemporary romance... and things start getting frustrating.

To be honest, what I'd worried about for the first half, actually ended up happening in the second half of this romance.

Basically, there was a lot of wishy-washy, back-and-forth with these two, and it got to a point where I don't even know what either Keane or Willa wanted from each other.  I'm not even sure they knew what they wanted with each other, or themselves, or their own lives in general.  The same conflict kept getting dredged up in monologue about each other's inability to commit... or no, this is about the other person's inability to commit... but wait, it's about his/her own concerns about committing...

And it just kept going on like that:  "This is a very bad idea.  But let's have sex anyway."  "We're not doing this anymore... okay, maybe one more time.  But it's a bad idea."  "But you don't want attachments!"  "Wait, no, I guess it's me--I can't do attachments."  "But you said you don't get attached."

After the third time, it got old.

Meanwhile, I found myself also a bit frustrated with the side characters as well.  The last thing you ever want when you're going through a conflicting romance is for friends to be nosy, especially if they're also going to be nosy, interfering, disruptive, and unhelpful.  And while it might have seemed like a comedic insert for Willa's girl friends to be the nosy, interfering, disruptive, and unhelpful lot... it actually kind of got annoying.

Except for Rory.  I liked Rory--she was nosy, but she was also really sincere.  And Archer was pretty cool, too--he wasn't nosy, he wasn't interfering, and he wasn't disruptive; he wasn't really helpful either, but at least he offered to beat Keane up if Willa needed him to, no questions asked.  The rest of Willa's friends felt like they were there just for sheer entertainment.

Keane's staff was also a bit annoying as well.

And then, true to Jill Shalvis form, some tangential conflicts are introduced that are never properly resolved, such as Keane's relationship with his parents--you get a back story, you get frustration from him, you get a teaser... and that's it.

But as I'd stated before, as frustrating as this book got, it still managed to be charming somehow.  Keane's kitty-sitting adventure was certainly sweet and fun; Petunia was a typical Queen Cat, and totally makes you smile.  There's even a brief appearance of a small puppy with paws larger than his own head, and the scenes were super adorable.

This was a mediocre Jill Shalvis work, at best.  Still charming, but I can see where people may not enjoy it.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Thoughts: In Too Deep

In Too Deep

by Jayne Ann Krentz
Book 10 of Arcane Society
-- Book 1 of Looking Glass Trilogy

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0  Stars

Scargill Cove is the perfect place for Fallon Jones, confirmed recluse and investigator of the paranormal.  It’s a hot spot, a convergence point for unusually strong currents of energy, which might explain why the town attracts misfits and drifters like moths to a flame.  Now someone else has been drawn to the Cove — Isabella Valdez, on the run from some very dangerous men.

When she starts working as Fallon’s assistant, Isabella impresses him by organizing his pathologically chaotic office—and doesn’t bat an eye at the psychic element of his job.  She’s a kindred spirit, a sanctuary from a world that considers his talents a form of madness.  But after a routine case unearths an antique clock infused with dark energy, Fallon and Isabella are dragged into the secret history of Scargill Cove and forced to fight for their lives, as they unravel a cutthroat conspiracy with roots in the Jones family business…and Isabella’s family tree.

In Too Deep was another highly enjoyable Jayne Ann Krentz contemporary romantic suspense, with paranormal elements.  This is the tenth installment of the Arcane Society series, and the first in the sub-trilogy called Looking Glass, and we very soon get introduced to the so-titled "looking glass" as well as some introductions to the Victorian era events that will probably be brought up once again in the next Arcane book.

In Too Deep is not my favorite of the Arcane series, but like any other JAK contemporary, it is suspenseful with lots of twists, great characters, and fun wit.  Fallon Jones is an interesting character, and while I found his anti-social, stoic personality kind of appealing, especially as he seems to also emit some sort of "fish out of water" behavior when it comes to socializing, or even playing nice, there were things about him that seemed too brusque for my liking.

Isabella Valdez is an interesting character as well, coming from a family that "leaves no paper trail" of their existence.  What it is like to have no legal or official identity, always ready to be on the run... sounds like a tiring life.  Her sunny disposition was a bit over-the-top, but probably good for Fallon, I suppose.

Neither of the two characters' talents are really delved into very well, so I never quite understood Isabella's psychic skill.  Fallon's skill has been rehashed throughout the series, so I didn't have too much of a problem figuring him out, but it was still quite confusing.

Meanwhile, the background conspiracy is still ongoing, even though I'm of the impression that this is the last of the Arcane contemporary books.  I suppose sometimes you can't solve everything.

The true highlight of this book was really the little community of Scargill Cove.  It gave off a stranger than strange small town vibe, where everyone has secrets, but everyone protects each other, and everyone sort of knows who belongs in the Cove and who doesn't.  It's an almost weird creepy vibe, I suppose, when you get a bunch of sensitives together, even if they don't know they have some form of psychic talent.

Then there's the underground bunker with the clockwork curiosities that pretty much starts me thinking in terms of steampunk.  And it sets up a great transition into the next book of this series, Quicksilver.

As per usual, my rambling really just proves that JAK books are extremely enjoyable and entertaining while you read them, but when you try to talk about them, you don't come up with a whole lot.

Halloween Bingo 2017 | Ani's Tentative Reading List!

Halloween Bingo 2017

Moonlight Reader and Obsidian Blue are at it again with another reading game to spice up our reading lives!  Another Halloween Bingo with a slight twist, including custom cards for each participating player, as well as actual Bingo square calls every other day starting September 1st!

The basic new twist is that our game masters have created 31 possible Bingo squares to choose from, and we can request which squares we want to have on our card, or just ask for a specific focus, such as mystery or horror.  Moonlight will then create for each player a customized Bingo card, and then, as already stated, they will call a new square every other day.

A game square will only count as complete if A) it has been called, and B) a book has been read for it.  But, we do not have to wait for a square to be called before reading a book for it--so you can simply read a book for a square, and then sit back and wait for it to be called!

For more information on the game play, see the Halloween Bingo Rules and Other Information.

For some short descriptions for all 31 squares created, see Moonlight's Halloween Bingo Squares post.

Meanwhile, I've already been making a tentative listing of books I'd like to read for my own customized Bingo card above, courtesy of Moonlight Reader and picmonkey!  Thanks Moonlight!

Tentatively, this is what I'm planning on reading, four books of which are from my 2017 Reading Assignment list, and most of the other books are pre-owned TBR, and seriously just need to be read.

Please excuse my drawn out ramblings.

Magical Realism:  Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan
-- I have had this book for a very, very long time and have never read it.  As I read through the summary, it struck me that this particular book could count as magical realism.  I had considered reading this book for the Diverse Voices square, as well, so if it doesn't seem at all like magical realism, I might shuffle it off onto some other square.

Other possibilities:  Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen; The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Classic Noir:  Undecided
-- I've never read books in this genre before, but am open to trying something new.  Also, keeping this square allows me to cut out some of the 'horror' squares, and I'm more partial to mystery anyway.  The first group read for September will hopefully find me a nice book I can read for this square!

Ghost:  Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts
-- There are a lot of possibilities for this broad category, but I have recently acquired a lot of Nora Roberts books and would like to get through them.  I read something by Nora Roberts for last year's Halloween Bingo (Dark Witch), so it wouldn't hurt to read another something (or three somethings) for this year's bingo.

Other possibilities:  Devil May Ride by Wendy Roberts; Haunted by Heather Graham; An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James; This House is Haunted by John Boyne

Supernatural:  The Nightmare Charade by Mindee Arnett
-- The Nightmare Charade is a book off of my Reading Assignment list, and this, unfortunately, is the only square it will fit on the card (unless I use the Free Space, of course).  And yes, I DO want to have it read, as I've been planning to read it in either September or October for the longest time now.  Otherwise, there are many other possibilities to pick from.

Diverse Voices:  The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin
-- This was the next book I thought about after the Amy Tan book listed above.  In fact, if Saving Fish From Drowning does not actually work for Magical Realism, then I may just shuffle it back down here.  But, in the meantime, I AM quite interested in reading The Lotus Palace, a book written by an Asian author, that takes place in historical China, and is a mystery novel as well!

Other possibilities:  Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan

Cozy Mystery:  Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
-- Oh, the possibilities for this game square!  There are any number of cozy mysteries that I am quite interested in, so the above may not be my final choice.  It is just the first book that popped into my mind when I thought of cozy mysteries.

Other possibilities:  Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris; Die Buying by Laura DiSilverio; The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde; Frozen Stiff by Annelise Ryan; Shadowland by Meg Cabot

Witches:  Undecided
-- I am not a hundred percent familiar with witch books, but I think I should be able to find something.  If all else fails, I think Nora Roberts has a few books about witches.  There are two books in particular that I own that have a witch, so I may just pick one of them.

Possibilities:  Jaxson by Alisa Woods; Protecting His Witch by Zoe Forward; Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Vampires:  The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn
-- I'm not big on vampire books, so I had considered doing a Dracula reread via the full-cast audio that I own.  Then, while I was going through my shelves, I stumbled upon this little gem by Deanna Raybourn, of which I had just purchased with an Audible credit not long ago.  The book takes place in Transylvania, and there is talk of creepy castles and charming vampires.  I'm totally reading this one for this square!  And to think, I almost decided to exclude it from my choices!

Country House Mystery:  Undecided
-- The truth is, I'm not sure I know what a 'Country House Mystery' is, but I'm willing to find out.  Recommendations are welcome!  Though one of the books I found that was listed as a popular country house mystery was Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles.  I'd been meaning to get some more of Dame Agatha's work read.  What does everyone else think?

Haunted House:  Black Rose by Nora Roberts
-- Once again, the possibilities are endless.  But I'm starting a trilogy, and I'll be damned if I leave another series unfinished for a long time.  Black Rose continues the the trilogy, In the Garden by Nora Roberts, following behind Blue Dahlia, and there is talk of a ghost being present in the setting of the book's house for over a hundred years.  I'd call that a haunted house!

Other possibilities:  This House is Haunted by John Boyne; Ghost Horse by Patricia Rosemoor; Haunted by Heather Graham

Aliens:  Undecided
-- I don't know why I kept this square, however, I DO have one book that will definitely fit, if nothing else will.  For the meantime, I'm going to keep my options open, but chances are, I'm going to read my one and only possibility for this game square so far:  The Intrigues of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa.  You wouldn't think that this book would fit, but one of the characters is an alien, even if not the creepy weird aliens of space invaders and horror.

Genre: Horror:  Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
-- Halloween wouldn't be complete without a book by Neil Gaiman.  Smoke and Mirrors is a short story collection that is tagged as 'horror,' so I'm going to go with that.  The summary gives a great description that comes off kind of horror-like anyway.  Again, this is a tentative pick, I might change my mind later if I stumble upon something else.  But I own this in audio, so the chances of me changing my mind is a bit slim.

Free Space:  Red Lily by Nora Roberts
-- I can't find another spot to place this book so that I can finish off the trilogy.  So it will go here unless I can find a different place for it that I don't already have another book lined up for.

Monsters:  Undecided
-- Okay... this is another square I'm not entirely sure why I kept.  I thought I'd be able to find something to fit, but I can't come up with anything outside of dragons (mythological creatures), which there are plenty of books for.  Do random animal shifters count?  Feline shifters?  Bear shifters?  Unknown animal, possible monster shifter?  I suppose I could always read something about Bigfoot...

One possibility:  His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik -- because, dragons.
Another possibility:  The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett -- because giant turtles, and dragons.
Last possibility (that I can think of):  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander
-- because, fantastic beasts and mythical/magical creatures... which probably include dragons.

In the Dark, Dark Woods:  On the Night of the Seventh Moon by Victoria Holt
-- I picked up about three Victoria Holt books from a library sale a long time ago and have been looking for a chance to introduce myself.  Ever since my first Gothic romance, I've been paying more attention to author names that come up in connection with the genre.  On the Night of the Seventh Moon's summary mentions something about the significance of a forest.  I'm going to go with that.

Amateur Sleuth:  Just Past Midnight by Amanda Stevens
-- I have a feeling that this category was created probably for a cozy mystery of some sort, where the protagonist is often times NOT in law enforcement.  But as the description isn't entirely restrictive, I decided to go with another Reading Assignment selection, wherein there is a mystery, there is a murder, and the protagonist is a psychologist.

Werewolves:  Undecided
-- I probably have the same love for werewolf books as I do vampire books, but if I were honest, I'd be more likely to pick up a werewolf book than a vampire book.  So this square remained in my choices, and now I'm trying to figure out which of my wolf shifter books I want to read... if wolf shifter = werewolf, that is.

Possibilities:  In the Company of Wolves by Paige Tyler; Jaxson by Alisa Woods

Gothic:  The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
-- There are a number of books that I'm considering reading for this space, if only because I'd recently been drawn to Gothic romance and the genre appeals to me.  I've been shuffling around possible books by Mary Stewart, Susanna Kearsley, Simone St. James, and maybe even Kate Morton.  On the other hand, I DID pick up three Victoria Holt books at a library sale, and having already chosen one for one of my game spaces (see Dark, Dark Woods), I have two more I could try.  So this is a tentative selection.

Other possibilities:  Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart; Houses of Stone by Barbara Michaels; The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley; The Visitor by Amanda Stevens; Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt; The Black Opal by Victoria Holt; An Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. James; The Secret Garden by Kate Morton

Romantic Suspense:  Hit and Run by Allison Brennan and Laura Griffin
-- Frankly, this is a 'Free Space' for me since romantic suspense is my go-to genre.  I have so many possible picks that I my biggest problem is figuring out which book I want to read for this category.  So, to make life easier on myself, I went and chose one more Reading Assignment book, one of the books that I kept telling myself I wanted to read during the summer, but because of REASONS, I never got to it.  I'm not even going to give myself other possible reads, because I'd just end up becoming wishy-washy in my choices.

How much we want to bet that I'll end up changing my mind and reading something else anyway?

Darkest London:  Undecided
-- I had a few books I was interested in reading for this space until I realized that the books I'd been choosing were set in England, but not in London.  Well, that ended up being a problem I figured I could easily remedy, so another search had to be done.

And would you look at that?  Goodreads has a nifty list I decided to peruse:  Books Set in London.
However, since that list has anything from contemporary romance to Paddington Bear, I decided to do a more narrowed search of 'mysteries set in London' and came up with this list:  Best London Mysteries.

Possibilities:  Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick; Mistress by Amanda Quick; What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris; The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle; London Falling by Paul Cornell; And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander; The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry; A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Murder Most Foul:  Every Secret Thing by Emma Cole (a.k.a. Susanna Kearsley)
-- So I'm not entirely certain if this book fits--the summary mentions a murder, the book is tagged 'mystery.'  I really DO want to read this book (or rather, listen to it since I have it on audio).  But I'm not entirely sure that this is a murder mystery, per se, because some parts of the summary hint that this is a death that occurred in history.  Nonetheless, I obviously have a lot of books to choose from considering how broad a category this one is, requiring only that we read a murder mystery, any murder mystery.  So I might just include a few alternate options.

Other Possibilities:  Hit and Run by Allison Brennan and Laura Griffin; Chasing Evil by Kylie Brant; The Prey by Allison Brennan; In the Woods by Tana French; Midnight Exposure by Melinda Leigh; The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin; The Jade Temptress by Jeannie Lin; The First Victim by J.B. Lynn; A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Serial/Spree Killer:  Dear Maggie by Brenda Novak
-- Another category that has a lot of possible books I could read.  But to keep things simple, I'm inserting another Reading Assignment book on this space.  Dear Maggie's summary mentions the presence of a serial killer--that's good enough for me.

Other Possibilities:  Chasing Evil by Kylie Brant; The Hunt by Allison Brennan;

Classic Horror:  Undecided
I don't know what to pick.  Maybe a reread of Dracula, although, the truth is, I'm sort of waiting out for the October group read and will probably just use it to fill this square since the group reads are wild cards.

Terrifying Women:  Undecided
-- Amanda Stevens has written a book that I recall being tagged as 'horror.'  Then again, I can always pick up another Shirley Jackson book, or maybe something by Barbara Michaels... Daphne du Maurier...

Possibilities:  The Lottery by Shirley Jackson; Houses of Stone by Barbara Michaels; The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman; Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart; The Devil's Footprints by Amanda Stevens

Locked Room Mystery:  Undecided
-- I've only done a cursory search of the books that would fit this category and narrowed my choices down to a few, though I'm not entirely sure what I want to read.  All of these titles I found at the Goodreads Locked Room Mystery list.

Possibilities:  The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux; The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle; The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins; The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie;  Cover Her Face by P.D. James; The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Thoughts: Bare Essentials

Bare Essentials

-- Naughty But Nice by Jill Shalvis
-- Naturally Naughty by Leslie Kelly

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Naughty But Nice

Lingerie model Cassie Tremaine Montgomery intends to have her revenge on the citizens of her hometown—starting with seducing the sheriff, Sean "Tag" Taggart. Tag, however, isn't cooperating.  He's more than willing to set the sheets on fire with her, but he's asking for more than just sizzling sex….  He knows Cassie's not as tough as she pretends.  And he knows she cares about him—even if she won't admit it.  So he'll just turn up the heat until she concedes there's more between them than this red-hot passion.

Naturally Naughty

Kate Jones, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks, is home.  And she's got an agenda.  To get revenge on the man who humiliated her mother, Kate's going to seduce that man's son—the town's golden boy, John Winfield Jr.—and then leave him drooling in a puddle of lust.  However, when she finds herself seduced by a sexy stranger named Jack, little does she guess that the tables have just been turned….

Interesting premise with the adult women's store.  Standard premise of small town girls living a crappy life, wanting to get out and make something of themselves to show their town up.  The revenge story doesn't really build up all that well, and some of the revenge points aren't exactly resolved; however, in it's own way, that kind of creates a different story based on two women's need to take their revenge on a town that always treated them terribly.

Instead, we get a sweet set of stories with a love story and a journey to self-discovery.  Sort of.

Naughty But Nice

by Jill Shalvis
-- 3.5 Stars

Naughty But Nice is a typical Jill Shalvis type story--witty, fun, sexy... with just enough story for it to be enjoyable, and just enough drama for it to be thought-provoking, even while being a bit too angst-ridden for my liking.

Cassie is a great character, with all the sass and outrageous personality to make her stand out.  Unfortunately, Tag is a little boring, but he's at least not a broody alpha and makes for great boyfriend material.  The romance is sweet, but might have come off a little juvenile at times, and yet quite predictable as it was.  Cassie might have been a bit too stubborn; Tag might have been a bit pushy.  The romance itself might have gotten a bit cheesy.

And other characters were in line with a typical Jill Shalvis small-town-set, all with their interestingly unique personalities and a potential worth of back story.

The conclusion still seemed open-ended, with the issue between tag and his father quite unresolved.  The issues concerning Cassie's revenge plot kind of loses wind, and it would have been nice to see at least one person from Cassie's past eat their words, or get walloped with some sort of repentance or even get shown up.

But we make this story more about Cassie's own self-revelations, with some life-altering events... and then we move on.  The open ended resolution is probably apt as a way of showing that life just moves on whether or not you get your revenge.  There are always going to be people you treat you fairly, and others who will never see past their pre-judgments.

I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned here; but I'm not entirely sure I can put my finger on what it is.

Naturally Naughty

by Leslie Kelly
-- 3.5 Stars

I found that I liked Naturally Naughty more than Naughty But Nice, if only because the romance felt a bit more down-to-earth.  I mean, sure there's a big "lust and first sight" factor going on here, but it's pretty standard, and not completely unbelievable.  HOWEVER, when we throw in the "meant to be at first sight" deal more towards the end--that whole "I think I've loved you since that first time I saw you" nonsense, I always roll my eyes.  Had that been left out of the story, I might have been more inclined to give it a higher rating.

The revenge story that slowly develops into another self-revelation story feels a bit more realistic in this second Bare Essentials story than the first had been.  Truth, it's not that Naughty But Nice wasn't a believable romance, it just felt too cheesy to be more than a sweet contemporary romance.

On the other hand, Naturally Naughty progresses at a more banal pace, skipping over certain points of the story that had already been told in the previous; but at the same time, it gives more of a feel for Kate's little self-discovery journey as she comes home to Pleasantville and begins to see things in a different light.

Kate and Jack make a great couple, with a nice lusty friendship that slowly builds into more of a loving intimacy as they work around their problems--a semi-feud between each other's family, and a secret hanging over each other's heads.  I find it kind of amusing that both Kate and Jack are holding onto the same secret, unwilling to tell the other for the same reason: they don't want to hurt each other from finding out about a loved one's betrayal.

This story, unlike the first, was more about a self-revelation for both Kate and Jack, and in that sense, I really liked it.  This story is a little bit better resolved, with some old hates and hurts being forgiven and forgotten readily after some reflection by each character.

Once again, I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned here as well.  Once again, I'm not entirely sure I know what it is.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Brief Thoughts: Wicked Intentions

Wicked Intentions

by Elizabeth Hoyt
Book 1 of Maiden Lane

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars


Infamous for his wild, sensual needs, Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire, is searching for a savage killer in St. Giles, London's most notorious slum.  Widowed Temperance Dews knows the area like the back of her hand—she cares for its children at the foundling home her family established.  Now that home is at risk… 


Caire makes a simple offer—in return for Temperance's help navigating the perilous alleys of St. Giles, he will introduce her to high society so that she can find a benefactor for the home.  But Temperance may not be the innocent she seems, and what begins as a cold bargain soon falls prey to a passion neither can control—and may well destroy them both.

Wicked Intentions is an extremely enjoyable book, and yet it was still kind of hard for me to determine how much I actually liked it.  To be honest, I have a hard time describing my experience, because this historical romance actually holds a darker tone and atmosphere in comparison with all the Regency and Victorian romances I've been inhaling as of late.

I had been wondering whether there was an underlying religious theme for some time; but I wonder if maybe it wasn't just because of the time period that gave that effect.  Mainly this had to do with all of Temperance's talk about being a sinner and being a good Christian, and not doing un-Christian-like things such as non-traditional sexual acts... the like...  such as blindfolds and tying someone up.

Nonetheless, the characters are interesting, even if quite standard.  Temperance is your almost virginal, innocent, and saintly heroine; Lazarus is the bad-tempered, broody, and devilish rogue.  I say that Temperance is almost virginal, only because she has been married, and she has had sex before; except that, from the way she acts, you would think she'd never engaged in intercourse before.

This is a historical romance formula that isn't unfamiliar, with the standard character types.  Except that it then throws you for a loop by giving you traits and acts by our main characters that are certainly out of character for their character type... if that makes any sense.  Nonetheless, in the end it makes the entire book so much more intriguing and enjoyable.

There were certainly some steamy-hot sexy times.  The romance was a little predictable, truth be told, and so was the murder mystery.  Some other characters were interesting, although I have a hard time liking any of Temperance's brothers, because they all act like a bunch of jackasses towards their two sisters, Temperance and Silence.  It just makes me remember why I spent so much time avoiding reading historical fiction, romance or otherwise, mainly because it irritates me to see the way women are treated--even if it seems like a simple trivial slight.

Although, it then brings insight into Temperance's talk about sinning and Christian values when you see the way her brothers behave, as well as learn what her marriage bed had been like before her husband died.

Anyway, I'm also trying to figure out the whole "Ghost of St. Giles" thing as well--seems like a strange superhero thing.

If I had one complaint, it would be that, I lean more towards books with a slight comedic tone.  Wicked Intentions didn't quite have that; but it's still highly enjoyable.  The audio book narrated by Ashford McNab was also done excellently, though it took a bit of time for me to get used to.

Brief Thoughts: The Scargill Cove Case Files (short story)

The Scargill Cove Case Files

by Jayne Ann Krentz
Arcane Society #9.5, short story
-- Looking Glass Trilogy #0.5

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

As the director at Jones & Jones, a psychical investigation agency, Fallon Jones solves crimes of a different nature.  Jones’s latest case involves a body found in the basement vault of a local bookstore, and scratchings on the inside of the door that seem to be a coded message.

It wasn't until I skimmed some of the other reviews that I realized this short story was supposedly a collection of Twitter messages, which really makes no sense considering how secretive J&J's case files are supposed to be.  Prior to this realization, I had been trying to figure out if this story was written as a jumbled, scattered, and rough stream of conscience in Fallon Jones's POV, or if it was maybe a case file journal he was keeping.

It certainly didn't strike me as being a collection of Tweets--not that I would know considering I don't even own a Twitter account.

The story itself is a nice promotional piece to introduce Fallon Jones, and maybe insert some more conspiracy theories into the already complicated web that has been building throughout the Arcane Society series.  It was just another murder mystery connected to a bigger plot, so I assume we'll maybe see more, or get some references to this short story in the following Arcane book, In Too Deep.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Very Brief Thoughts: One Night with her Boss

One Night with her Boss

by Noelle Adams
Book 4 of One Night novellas

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.0 Stars

Anne has worked for her sexy, ex-surfer, businessman boss for seven years, and she’s been in love with him for two.  Jake doesn’t think about her as anything but his ever-efficient assistant, though.  She’s been trying to get over her feelings by dating other men and interviewing for other jobs—which doesn’t make Jake very happy.  But Anne is determined not to put her life on hold for him.

When she gets a new job offer, Jake will do anything he can to keep her, but he still only seems to want her as an employee.  Anne might find him irresistible, but she’s learned to resist.  There are lines that he’ll just never cross.

But then everything changes in only one night...

Extremely underwhelming read, even for a short novella with a simple contemporary romance.  The romance itself wasn't bad, and Anne's attempts to move forward with her life, and her determination not to put her life on hold for a crush is commendable.  The ending angst seemed a bit juvenile and unnecessary, and kind of rushed; but at least it wasn't drawn out.  Characters were okay and good, had potential, and maybe would have benefited from a longer story with more development.

Not much else to say about it.  I never reviewed the first three One Night novellas--enjoyed the first two, found the third lacking.

This was even tinier than bite-sized, and easily finished within the hour if you have nothing else to do in the meantime--something to pick up if you're between books and not sure what you want to read next.

I will probably stop reading this series with this last novella, though.

Thoughts: The X-Files Cold Cases

The X-Files: Cold Cases

by Joe Harris
-- An Audible original audio drama

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

The series that had a generation looking to the sky gets a breathtaking audio reprise in an original full-cast dramatization featuring actors David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson returning to voice FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.

Based upon the graphic novels by Joe Harris - with creative direction from series creator Chris Carter - and adapted specifically for the audio format by aural auteur Dirk Maggs (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Alien: Out of the Shadows), and directed by William Dufris of AudioComics, Cold Cases marks yet another thrilling addition to the pantheon of X-Files stories.  Featuring a mind-blowing and otherworldly soundscape of liquefying aliens, hissing creatures, and humming spacecraft, listeners get to experience the duo's investigations like never before.

Set after the events of The X-Files: I Want to Believe and providing additional backstory to the incidents that pulled Mulder and Scully out of reclusion prior to 2016's miniseries revival, a database breach at FBI headquarters allows an unknown group to access and capitalize on those investigations left unsolved - dubbed cold cases - by the secret department once known as The X-Files.  As friends and foes of the agency long thought gone begin to inexplicably reappear, former agents Mulder and Scully come out of anonymity to face a growing conspiracy that involves not only their former department, but the US government and forces not of this world.

Here, fans are treated once again to Mulder and Scully's irreplicable chemistry as only the series' leads could deliver, Duchovny's deadpan and cynical aloofness finding its natural counterpoint in Anderson's unwavering intelligence and rigidity.  Appearances from series regulars and the actors who made them fan favorites round out this must-listen arc: the gruff, no-BS righteousness of Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi); the distinctive click-puff of the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis); and the stooge-like hijinks of three beloved conspiracy theorists called the Lone Gunmen (Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, and Bruce Harwood).

Whether you're a believer or a skeptic, find your "I Want to Believe" poster. Break out that makeshift alien stiletto. Grab a pack of Morley cigarettes. The truth is out there. You just have to listen.

Since the above summary blurb--copied and pasted straight from this book's Audible page--mentions most of the main characters, I'm not to going to make any lists.  Anyone who is familiar with The X-Files is familiar with such characters as The Cigarette Smoking Man, The Lone Gunmen, or even the briefly present X, Deep Throat, and Alex Krycek.  On top of that, we've even got a lot of new voices as well.

To be totally honest, I was super excited to jump into this book the moment I saw it.  I was a big fan of The X-Files during its prime, and even now after listening to four hours of audio book, I have an itching to dig out the series and start watching everything from the beginning.  However, it's hard to deny that The X-Files has always been a very visual, very atmospheric television show.  And it definitely shows, the difference between the visually stunning effects of the T.V. series, versus this audio-only audio drama.

As the audio progressed, I found myself really wanting to see everything that was going on.  Because, then our characters wouldn't feel the need to, very awkwardly, narrate and describe everything they see and every action that was taken.  There are at least two points at the beginning of the book wherein Agent Scully, in very stilted detail, tells the listener what's going on: "Ow, my arm!  You shot me in the arm."  "The lights... they're so bright, and colorful, and they keep getting brighter.  Now they're pulsing.  Now they're getting brighter still."  So the quotes are not taken exactly from book, but they sound kind of like that.  I think there might have even been a point where she narrates what she's doing since we can't see what's going on.  Simply put, in real life, or even in television, this kind of dialogue would have been quite unnatural.

Fortunately, this excessive telling seemed to die down as each "episode" progressed, and the guy who wrote the script maybe figured out that there were better ways for listeners to infer actions and such without the dialogue being so strangely deliberate.  And also, both of our main narrators, Duchovny and Anderson, sounded like they were getting back into their roles as Mulder and Scully.

In that first episode, it actually almost sounded like Duchovny was robotic, exasperated, and maybe a little too loud, too deliberate in delivering his lines.  A couple episodes later, it seemed like he was finally enjoying himself as Agent Fox Mulder once again rather than just playing a role.

The sound effects, and even some of the guest voices almost came off comical, truth be told.  The sound of a door slamming, or a group of people chanting, or even someone being tied up or tackled, all came off a bit too loud and too forced.  I may or may not have rolled my eyes or snorted a few times when the events were supposed to be pretty serious.  Even the sound of someone being strangled came off a little comical.

Basically, the sound effects could use some work.

If I had to be honest, listening to this audio drama was like listening to a series of X-Files extras--like a filler episode to rehash everything that's happened since the beginning of The X-Files series.  Don't get me wrong--it was still quite entertaining, especially being able to re-familiarize with the voices of beloved characters/actors, such as Mulder, Scully, and Skinner.  But I'm not entirely certain that this audio drama really brought much more to the table if we're looking to revive the epic hit television series as an audio drama series.

The X-Files: Cold Cases comprises five different episodes, formatted and outlined very similarly to how the television episodes had always been.  Each new setting--location and time--is narrated to us, and that all-too-familiar X-Files theme music is included at the beginning and end of each episode.  The entire group of episodes in this audio drama plays in line with Chris Carter's creation, with the ongoing government/alien conspiracy, and one random not-quite-government created paranormal X-File, which brings 'The Fluke Man' back into action.  And, of course, each episode ended on a rather open note with no real conclusion.

There was even one episode called "More Musings of The Cigarette Smoking Man" in which our CSM spends his time reminiscing about his past--granted there's a perfectly good reason for this episode, but it still felt like an info-dump kind of filler episode.

On a side note:  One of my favorite scenes would have to have been Scully's re-investigation of The Fluke Man case, looking at the rapid cell division under a microscope, and then turning to find that the bottom half of The Fluke Man was stepping off the autopsy table now that it was thawed out.  This particular scene was a fun narration of each and every happening as Scully speaks into a recording about her actions and findings.

If I were to be honest with myself, I've always felt that, once a series (television or book) has run its course, sometimes its best to just let it go.  The X-Files was always a cult hit, with millions of fans and viewers, so it's no surprise that people will continue to revive it, time and time again, in the form of fanfiction novels, a new movie, references... in this case, it would be a fanfiction graphic novel.  And, don't get me wrong, I'm always excited to see something new with The X-Files.

There was a time when I used to get excited about getting my hands on any and all X-Files paraphernalia I could get to.  I had books about "The Makings of...," and posters, and even recorded television specials for more of "The Makings of..."

Even though I had (and probably still have) misgivings about a revival of the series as an audio drama (there will be another release in a couple months), I don't think I will ever tire of the fun banter between Mulder and Scully, or an investigation with the paranormal.  These two are a unique, very beloved pairing, and truly became the reason why I always came back to another episode each week.  Truth be told, the chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson was always best conveyed with little actions and intimate looks on television, so our actors will have to up the ante on their banter to continue that chemistry as an audio drama.

I hate to do so much comparing and contrasting, but it's going to happen.  And yet, I'm totally looking forward to the next Audible drama with the full cast present.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Not a Review... More like Fangirl Squee: Neil Patrick Harris - Choose Your Own Autobiography

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

by Neil Patrick Harris
audio book narrated by Neil Patrick Harris

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  5.0 Stars

Let's just start off with this:

NPH did this thing!  NPH did lots of things!  NPH gave us a life story!  And it is so damn AWESOME!  Because then he went and narrated it and made it even more AWESOME!

Ahem...  Moving along now.

I don't often read (or rather in this case, listen to) autobiographies.  In fact, I'm sure I haven't touched a non-fiction book since I graduated from college years ago.  Fiction is just so much easier to just melt yourself into.  Which is probably why I chose to listen to NPH's autobiography rather than sit and read it, even IF I had a good inkling I would enjoy it whether I read the written book or listened to the audio book.

Because, let's face it, Neil Patrick Harris is all sorts of charming and funny and fun and entertaining and charismatic and so, so AMAZEBALLS!  (I don't think I've ever actually used the word "amazeballs" in a review before... not that this is really a review, because I had so much fun listening to NPH narrate his book that I really don't know if I have all the right words to describe how much I loved this autobiography.)

And honestly, despite some moments that I thought kind of dragged a bit, I still thoroughly enjoyed NPH's life story--how much of it is true and how much of it is exaggerated and how much of it was simply a part of his humorous "Choose Your Own Adventure" formatting to elicit loud guffaws from me doesn't even matter.  The entire telling of his life story was entertaining at all the right points, hilarious at all the right points, and even managed to make you seriously think about his life and your own life and lots of other people's lives around you because a lot of the things he presents are very insightful.

And to be honest, I have never really followed pop culture and the only thing I truly know about Neil Patrick Harris is whatever I've known about his fictional characters from Doogie Howser to Barney Stinson.  I knew that he hosted award shows, but because I don't really follow many actors or actresses or their careers, I didn't know that he'd been a big hit in on-stage theater or Broadway.  But it's extremely impressive and made me very glad I picked up his autobiography.  I knew the name of the man he'd married, but I hadn't known that he had a set of twins (one boy and one girl) and that he's so sweet around them.

I love his natural comedic timing and wit, I love his random, sometimes bemusing side quips, and I loved that even Neil Patrick Harris isn't immune to tacky dialogue or lame jokes.  It all shows in his book.  All of which just further made me love NPH and love his autobiography so much more.

I haven't laughed so hard at a book in a long time.

And my only conflict about this book right now is whether or not I should just go ahead and get the actual hard copy format and read NPH's "Choose Your Own Autobiography/Adventure" the way it had been intended to be read.  Except that I don't regret listening to the book in audio form because between the anecdotes told and NPH's narration, the entire thing was just a delight.

This is definitely not a critical review; this is just me squee-ing about how much I loved and enjoyed this book and how much I think it is the most awesome of awesome!

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

Long Rambling Thoughts: Once in a Lifetime

Once in a Lifetime

by Jill Shalvis
Book 9 of Lucky Harbor

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

And then sometimes, there's a Jill Shalvis book that leaves you so conflicted that you're not even sure how you feel, much less how to give it a star rating.

Because Once in a Lifetime certainly did that.

You love it because it provides a lot of interesting insight to a lot of pretty down-to-earth, real life situations.  But you don't love it because sometimes these potentially promising conflicts just don't seem to have been executed in the best of ways.

And then you love it still, because it gives you characters like Aubrey, who has decided, on her own terms, to turn her life around and make amends for her past so that she can move forward with her future.  But then you don't love it because she then gets surrounded by a bunch of self-righteous, unmoving people who think that they have the moral high ground over her quest, not even giving her the time of day, when we know that everything Aubrey is trying to move forward from, were mainly all the things she did during her wild child days of being young and stupid.

Because who's never been young and stupid?

But then, you love it again, because of people like Lucille, who's such a nosy, busy-body, but who has a genuine heart of kindness, who doesn't judge, because she's older than the dinosaurs and understands that, well, shit happens in life, and we move on.  Truthyfully, Lucille was one of the highlights of this story and I only wished we could have seen more of her meddling if it gave Aubrey a chance to breathe through her mission.

The other highlight was this:

"Hold on a sec," he said.  Christ--he was going to do it; he was really going to ask.  "I thought we didn't like Dani."

Pink shrugged.  "She said she was sorry for being mean."

Kendra nodded, her pigtails flying.

Just like that.  Just that easy.  Ben looked into their sweet, innocent faces and felt something shift within him.  They were so damn resilient.  So easy to please.  So completely full of life.

And so full of forgiveness.


Bemused, Ben sat there for a long moment, absorbing the fact that he'd just been schooled on life and forgiveness by a couple of five-year-olds.

The Story:
Aubrey Wellington was never the golden child growing up.  She knows that she has a reputation for being a bitch, and she surely was never any teacher's favorite pupil... far from it.  But as she tries to start a new stage in her life, reviving her Aunt Gwen's book store and settling into something meaningful for her future, she's now determined to look back at her past and right some of the wrongs she'd accumulated during her youth.  Encouraged by the help of a local pastor, an accidental attendance of an AA meeting, and a list of names, Aubrey sets out to make amends with all the people she feels she'd wronged over the years.

And one of the people on her list is Ben McDaniels; an old high school crush, and now the guy who's helping her with her bookstore renovations.  Ben has just returned to Lucky Harbor after five years of being adrift after his wife's passing.  As an engineer, he'd spent his time building equipment and structures to help sustain and improve life in third world countries.  Returning to Lucky Harbor, he's pretty much the golden boy of the town, a little local hero, and maybe ready to stay in one place for a while.

And despite what either of the two have in mind, it seems that the attraction sizzling at the surface between them is something neither ever expected.

My Thoughts:
One of the things that came to mind while reading this book is something that I realize is always a problem in a lot of small town romances: the Double Standards.  Okay, so well, this is something you see in a lot of books anyway, romance or not, and really, just in real life in general.  But I'm narrowing it down to contemporary romances that take place in small towns, specifically this one.

Lucky Harbor is a place where everyone knows everyone and their business.  The majority of the people we get to follow throughout this series are Lucky Harbor residence, born and raised, and permanently rooted.  So you get to read a lot about how so-and-so used to be when he or she was younger.  You get to read about how Mallory was always the good girl, or how Sawyer and his buddies caused trouble when they were young... how Chloe was the wild child, and Leah was the girl next door, but who had a hard time of her childhood.

But for the most part, you read a lot of random, casually mentioned hints here and there about how most of the boys were all just holy terrors in their teenage heydays.

In fact, I'm not entirely sure there weren't any of our Lucky Harbor series males who didn't terrorize the public, and made a reputation for themselves as troublemakers.  And some of these antics written about, that color the back story of many of our lovely Lucky Harbor books, could have also been dangerous, life-threatening, illegal, or even construed as bullying.

But then the boys grow up, and the entire town flips their switches.  Because one trouble-making boy becomes a police chief and everyone loves him now.  One holy terror becomes a fire fighter and the whole town is in awe of him.

And the hero of this particular novel is mentioned to have had his moment in the trouble-making light.  But he's now Lucky Harbor's wonder boy, who is an engineer who works to help install important pieces of equipment in third world countries.

The point is, these boys did their worst, came out unscathed, changed their ways, and everyone loves them and becomes super protective of them.  Boys will be boys, and boys will get in trouble, and boys are just like that.  But in the end, they are still Lucky Harbor's boys and everyone still loves them and gives them the benefit of the doubt.

On the other hand, troublemakers like Aubrey Wellington, apparently don't get that kind of biased treatment.  And therein lies the Double Standard.

Because even as this book progresses, Aubrey continues to get crap thrown at her by people who, yes, she has wronged in the past, but who have also wronged her as well.  In another sense, being young and wild, a lot of the things that Aubrey claims she is going around trying to collect penance for... well, I'm not entirely sure all of it was singularly her fault.  And she shouldn't be the only one being labeled a troublemaker for it, nor should it fall to her shoulders to take all the weight of the blame.

Most importantly, she's trying to apologize for the things she has screwed up in from her past, and no one will give her the time of day.  Some of the people who were on her list were adults during her wild child heyday as a teen troublemaker--one of them, even, is currently an advocate for troubled teens (ironic...).  And instead of brushing off her bitchy, trouble-making youth like they all do for the boys of Lucky Harbor, they continue to look down their noses at her, as if they all have a leg to stand on, based on some sort of screwed up moral high ground they view themselves on.

Honestly, I give more leeway to trouble-making teens, because they're still young, and they still have time to reassess their actions and learn from them.  Mean-spirited adults, however, are a bit more unforgivable--they should know better.

And the way we see Aubrey's reasons for everything she'd done wrong, a lot of it was in retaliation for how she'd been treated first, except for maybe one or two instances.

Mean girls in high school who were mean to Aubrey first; and Aubrey stepping up and facing them down by out-mean-ing them doesn't come to me as a "big troublemaker screw up."  That's survival.  A teacher who falsely accuses a student of several wrongdoings, gets her in trouble and suspended, probably shouldn't be surprised when said student turns around and repays that favor.  That's Karma.  A snooty district attorney who goes out of her way to say demeaning things to a young teenager just because she doesn't approve of her being pretty, then finding herself the butt end of a bad prank.  Also not a surprising turnaround.  A bunch of stupid kids out drinking and causing general mayhem, who then cross a few lines when someone gets hurt... is simply that: a bunch of stupid kids.

Aubrey was just a stupid kid, just like every other stupid kid that Lucky Harbor produced and raised, who caused trouble and general mayhem, and who eventually learned to grow up and set upon a road to get her life together.

But this is Aubrey's own self-appointed journey to face down her own conscience; so I'm sure there's more insight there than I'm actually seeing.

However, to be totally honest, when she described the situation with the first person she needed to apologize to, I actually felt my eyes widen and my jaw drop.  Aubrey felt she'd screwed up and cost her sister an important internship, and her sister has never forgiven her for that incident.  Except that, no matter how I read the paragraphs and the snide dialogue from her sister's side, I don't see that the screw up was Aubrey's, nor does her sister have a reason to hold a grudge.

According to the back story:

Carla had needed a favor.  She'd found herself needing to be at her job at the same time as she'd needed to sign some documents to accept a very important internship, so she'd asked her look-alike sister to go sign for her.

Aubrey had been working her butt off full-time and trying to keep full-time school hours as well.  Busy, exhausted, hungry, and admittedly bitchy, Aubrey had agreed to the favor, even though she'd known it would be a real crunch to get there in time.  She'd left a little later than she should have, gotten stuck in traffic, showed up late, and lost Carla the internship.

Look, maybe I'm not seeing the underlying meaning here, but no matter how many times I read these two paragraphs, I can't seem to see how this screw up was Aubrey's responsibility, and how it would have merited Carla's life-long grudge.  Nor do I see how it justifies Carla's bitter sniping at Aubrey about how Aubrey was late probably because she was with their mother getting their hair and nails done.  Of all the spoiled and privileged bullshit that came out of her sister's mouth, harping about how she had to study at all the toughest schools and become a successful doctor and wah, wah, wah...

Because how many people even have the opportunity to even go to school, nonetheless, the toughest schools?  How many people can boast about being in a successful career, rather than at a crossroads in their life because they were never given that kind of opportunity?  Carla got chosen by their orthopedic surgeon father who proceeded to have a new life without Aubrey and their mother.  So while Carla is complaining about exhausting days in school, Aubrey had to scrounge to find her own way to pay for the opportunity to go to school at all.

So Carla had lost the internship and had to wait another whole year just to get it--big freakin' deal!

But I honestly do not see how that was Aubrey's responsibility to begin with, and that maybe Carla should have managed her time a little bit better.  Or at least be understanding that it wasn't like Aubrey had agreed to help and then blew it off on purpose.

I guess, I just didn't see how any of this was Aubrey's fault at all.  And on top of that, what about the moral and/or ethical issues of having a stand-in sign for you?  What if whatever committee found out that the person who signed hadn't really been Carla?  Then what?  Point more fingers and tell Aubrey that she'd screwed that up as well?

This entire story irritates me, because it was a pretty great premise that seemed really vanilla in flavor.  If Aubrey had truly been a big, bitchy troublemaker, then I'd probably love seeing her growth throughout the book as she went down her list to make amends with people.  But most of the antics she'd brought up from her past were somehow over-dramatically misaligned as, terrible, terrible deeds that mar her reputation for life; as her being the main culprit to blame for any and all screw ups.

In reality, a lot of her "wrongs" were either misunderstandings that no one would hear her explanations for; or a case of holier-than-thou adults already writing her off as a troublemaker even when she'd done nothing wrong.  Other "wrongs" were just a case of kids being kids--young and stupid, and overly emotional.

I've seen worse from kids when I was a teenager.  Heck, even some of the boys in these books talk about some of their own antics that were way worse than what Aubrey's done to other people.

But for some reason, the entire town, whilst able to forgive the sins of every other troubled teenager who caused trouble, especially the boys, sort of just cast Aubrey to the wolves.  The entire town can't seem to keep their opinions to themselves as soon as they notice that Ben and Aubrey are seen together in the same breathing space.  All of a sudden, the people of Lucky Harbor feel like they need to band together to protect Ben from Aubrey's evil, trouble-making, bitchy ideals.

Even though Ben is the one who keeps interjecting himself into Aubrey's life; even though Aubrey is the one who keeps telling him to go away and mind his own business.  Even though Ben was more likely to break hearts than Aubrey would have been to lead him astray of his golden boy status.

It's moments like these that I really, really find myself unable to like the small town of Lucky Harbor.  Little bits of dialogue, casually flung around about Aubrey and how "I'm telling you she's trouble" or "You're not good enough for Ben and he deserves better" really don't speak highly of the togetherness that Lucky Harbor is supposed to boast among its residents.

If I were Aubrey, I would have high-tailed it out of that town a long time ago, for all the closed-minded, pre-judgmental attitudes that everyone's been taking with her.  Even her father was a complete ass about things and he was barely in the book.

Ben was a troublemaker too--in fact, he admits to doing all sorts of things that would have gotten himself into jail, or maybe worse.

So what made his wrongs so much more forgiving than Aubrey's?  What makes it okay for the town to continue writing off Aubrey as a troublemaker, but accept that Ben has grown up and become a better person?

Anyway, hopping back down off of my soapbox of Double Standards.

Once in a Lifetime is a really hard book for me to decide whether I liked it or not.

I loved Aubrey, and I loved her friendship with Leah and Ali.  I loved how Aubrey was so willing to own up to her own shortcomings and try to make amends for her wrongdoings.  I loved how Aubrey was willing to put herself out there, even though everyone just sneered in her face, or continued to ponder about what other evil acts she's brewing up.  I loved how she didn't really make excuses for herself, even though, there came a moment when I really, really wished that someone would just put her reasons for what she'd done out there for all to see.

But aside from all of that, I didn't really love a whole lot else about this book.  As I'd stated, I loved Lucille, even though her presence was limited; but each and every silent gesture and nosy info dump she presented was a blessing to Aubrey's plight.  I loved the two twin five-year-old girls, even though their tangent seemed a little incoherent with the main story line of this book.

I DID NOT love Ben, unfortunately, because not only was he just another standard broody, male alpha... he let his own misgivings and fears rule his life, thus causing that obligatory romantic angst in any and all romance novels.  He even uses Aubrey's self-proclaimed screw ups of her past to punish her emotionally when she tells him why he's also on her list.  Like a typical romance novel hero.  I also did not love the lack of interaction between the three stooges, Ben, Luke, and Jack; and that what interaction we DID get made Jack out to be more of an ass than he was in his own book.  Luke was still great and I still like him a lot.

Finally... I did not like that the book still feels kind of open ended, even as the ending was also super rushed, both for Aubrey's self-journey, as well as our main couple's romance.

Aubrey and Ben had sexual chemistry in spades, I'll give them that.  But romantically... I honestly didn't really feel it for them.  So their concluding chapter of love declarations and whatnot actually felt really cheesy and forced.

And on a final side note, I think I would have liked to see more of Aubrey's conflict with other people resolved, especially with her father--this relationship was entirely open-ended, and made me a little irritated, especially considering the emotional turmoil that just thinking about her absent father had given her at least three or four times throughout the book.

As I said, sometimes there's just a Jill Shalvis book that you can't figure out.  Do I love it?  Do I hate it?  I'm not even sure.  Which is why everyone ends up getting a long-winded ramble of all the things I end up thinking about when I'm reading a book like this.