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 Audible.com, 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...


Okay...

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


Memes

  • 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.


Thoughts: At Close Range

At Close Range

by Laura Griffin
Book 11 of Tracers

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars


Tracers is one of my favorite crime thriller slash romantic suspense series.  While a lot of Laura Griffin's earlier work wasn't to my liking, I found that I slowly started becoming hooked to her Tracers series, and before I knew it, I'd read every single book available.

Now I devour each book as they are published and look forward to the next, as well as keeping tabs on other projects Griffin may be creating.

Granted, every so often, one of her books will come off as a regurgitation of something she's already written, with a few switch-ups, I still find myself enjoying them.  Because, if it's one thing she knows how to do well, it's being able to reel the reader into a gripping, un-put-down-able suspense that has you turning pages.

And also, it doesn't hurt that her characters aren't hard to relate with.


The Story:
A lakeside tryst turns into a double murder.  Select persons of interest turn up dead as Daniele Harper is tasked to lead the investigation.  Meanwhile, crucial evidence turns ballistics expert, Scott Black into the police's main suspect.  Having grown up with Scott, Dani finds it hard to believe that he would commit murder, especially after finding a solid alibi for Scott's whereabouts during the killings.  That means that someone is trying to frame the ex-Navy warrior.

When Dani and her team learn that these killings had been planned months in advance--starting from the selection of Scott as the scapegoat--they also uncover evidence that something much deeper is happening.  And as Dani's investigation leads her closer to the truth of the murders, a professional hit man might also be gunning for her life.


My Thoughts:
As I'd stated, sometimes Laura Griffin books feel like they'd been written before somewhere in her back list.  Fortunately, At Close Range feels like an exciting breath of fresh air, despite being another crime thriller and murder mystery in a sea of crime thrillers and murder mysteries.  And also despite there being a few elements that Griffin has used before.  Because we get to watch and follow very intimately as Dani and Scott uncover one piece of evidence after another, acquiring knowledge that slowly pieces the mystery together.

Granted, the ending twist felt a little far-fetched, and maybe a bit over-dramatic, I still found myself flipping pages until the very end.  A little before the mid-point of the book, the story becomes less of a "Whodunnit" and more of a "Why are we killing?"  Because a professional hit man is uncovered, but now we need to know who hired him, what connects all of these victims, why are they all dying, and why Dani is in his cross-hairs as well.

Meanwhile, we get introduced to a few new characters whom I believe will probably be featured in Griffin's next Tracers novel.

One of the things I appreciate about Laura Griffin is how naturally she incorporates new characters, because the introductions don't ever feel forced for the sake of setting up back story for a new novel.  Instead, Sean Byrne pulls his weight quite well as one of the police detectives working with Dani on her case.  Brooke Porter, a Delphi Center forensics trace evidence tech might have already been introduced before, but I don't recall for certain.

And then there are the previous characters, also included into the book quite naturally.  Of course, I must point out that Ric Santos seems to keep going through partners like a new trend.  Throughout the series, I think I've seen him partnered up with at least two other detectives.  This is a big town and a big world after all, and I suppose you don't always see the same officers and detectives and forensic scientists, but I'd still like to know what happened to the other guys Ric had worked with previously.

Anyway, back to our main couple and their story...

Daniele is a tough, smart, and resourceful detective who is given her first case as lead detective, which kind of shakes her up a little bit since she's at that "I'm not sure if I'm up for that challenge yet" stage.  But that doesn't keep her from doing her job, even if it might rub others the wrong way.  So I like that she maintains her level head throughout the case.  Of course, except where Scott is concerned, obviously.

Still, she's a great character, even if a little detached.

Scott is a typical alpha male, who, unfortunately turns into a repeat of previously created male characters in Griffin's Tracers world.  He's ex-military, and somehow has decided to take it upon himself to investigate the case because he doesn't feel like he can trust law enforcement to clear his name.  I can understand his concerns since a crucial piece of evidence is pointing arrows at his head, but it also bothered me that Scott seemed a bit contradictory in his way of thinking.  And it also bugged me that he purposefully omitted his alibi, thus impeding the investigation, forcing Dani to go on a wild goose chase to find his alibi for him--in the meantime, she could have been following a different lead.

In some of his monologues, he is consistently thinking that Daniele is a great detective and will be able to handle a murder investigation--he even tells her so a couple times.  But then he turns around and talks about how he'd be damned to leave this investigation in law enforcement hands because he can't trust that they'd be able to do it properly.  In a round about way, that's like telling Dani to her face that he doesn't trust that she knows what she's doing so he's going to do it himself.

So... I kept wondering... he either believes that she can help him by tracking down the real killer, or he doesn't.  It seemed kind of frustrating that he couldn't quite make up his mind.

Of course, if he weren't so arrogant about his own superior investigating skills, then we wouldn't get to see Dani and Scott in action together, figuring out significant details of the case.

Meanwhile, Scott also goes a bit caveman on Dani, by pretty much telling her to sit back and let him do her job.  This is something that seems to come into play a lot with a few other Laura Griffin books, and really bugs me.  Daniele is a trained law enforcement officer, and lead detective of the current story line's murder case.  It seems rather insulting for Scott to suggest she should "call the cops" to deal with crime, or that she should go hide somewhere while he apprehends a suspect.

For some people, I'm sure it comes off manly and protective.  But I simply see it as an insulting gesture wherein he cements his subconscious distrust of Dani's skills as a police detective, even as he tells her aloud that he believes in her.  And so I DID like that Dani calls him out at some point in the book, when her house is broken into and she chases after the mysterious suspect.  He'd told her she shouldn't have gone after the guy who broke into her home; she snaps back something to the effect of, "Should I have called the cops instead?" clearly trying to point out that she is, after all, a cop.

Because given the same scenario with either of the male detectives in her place, I'm sure Scott wouldn't have bothered suggesting that said male detective NOT go after the culprit--probably would have gotten ribbed if he had stayed home obediently and dialed 911 instead.  Thus is the social double standard.

And also, Dani DID dial 911 and reported her break-in.  She just also went after the guy while she was at it.

Anyway... getting off of my soapbox...

To conclude:  At Close Range is an exciting, page-turning, intensely suspenseful new addition to the Tracers series.  I look forward to reading the next one.

***

I originally wanted to use this book as part of the Romance Bingo 2017 for the Blown Away square, trying to connect it with guns and shooting, as well as the explosions that happen in the book... but I decided that that would be stretching it too much.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Romance Bingo 2017 | Wrap Up

When January came to an end and I wasn't even a good ways into this Bingo card, I had a feeling I wouldn't be able to Blackout.  My personal life kind of got in the way, and while I'm not one to cast blame, being sick for a month and a half--starting with a cold, maybe some sinusitis, and ending in bronchitis--really put a dent in any and all motivation to do anything at all.

Reading became a backseat priority after getting some sleep (or not getting sleep, really).  Blogging was definitely something I wasn't getting into.

Truth be told, I probably could have gotten at least one or two Bingos, but my book selections didn't really take me in that direction.  And also, two or three of the books I read, I didn't really want to stretch too many liberties trying to get them to fit some of the more vague squares such as 'Blown Away' or 'Key to My Heart.'  I'm quite surprised I didn't find a book to fill in 'Insta-love'--well, actually I read several books with insta-love in it, but I had read those books for other squares, and my mindset was quite stubborn against moving them around.

Maybe I could have done some shuffling.

Maybe not.

Still, I had a good amount of fun, started a few new series, and found some great books, even if I also found a lot of cruddy books.

I look forward to the next Reading Bingo, definitely!

Click here for my Romance Bingo 2017 summary page, and to see the original, unmarked card.



Books:
Insta-love:
Too Stupid To Live:  Forgotten Sins by Rebecca Zanetti
"Headless" Woman:  Sweet Bea by Sarah Hegger
Love is Murder:  Die for Me by Cynthia Eden
New Adult:  Overruled by Emma Chase

Young Adult:
Regency Romance:
Eyeshadow and Heaving Bosom:  A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James
Virgin & Best First Time:  A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare
Gothic Romance:  The Moon-spinners by Mary Stewart

Blown Away:
Man in a Kilt:  Highlander Claimed by Juliette Miller
Love (Free Space):  The Search by Nora Roberts
Rogue:  A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare
Historical Romance:

Secret Billionaire:
Twins:  The Switch by Lynsay Sands
Fairy Tale Retelling:
Wedding Bells:
Second Chances:  Fear for Me by Cynthia Eden

Key to My Heart:
Pirates Argh:
Guy/Girl Next Door:  Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis
Interracial Couple:  Tempted into Danger by Melissa Cutler
Urban Fantasy Romance:  Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep


Currently Reading:
Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier || Pirates Argh

Reads I Never Got To:
A Lady by Midnight by Tessa Dare || Historical Romance
That's Amore! anthology || Wedding Bells
By Your Side by Kasie West || Young Adult
Treasures Lost, Treasures Found by Nora Roberts || Key to My Heart


Squares I Never Chose Books For:
  • Insta-love -- I thought at least one of the Rom-Suspense books I read would have insta-love in it, and while they did, I used them for other squares.
  • Regency Romance -- So many Regency romances... didn't choose a one... or just didn't get around to reading for this category.
  • Blown Away -- Had one book, but it might have been stretching it.
  • Secret Billionaire -- Had no idea what to read for this square.
  • Fairy Tale Retelling -- I had decided to read Cybele's Secret for this square until I found out that it's not really a retelling.  Nixed the idea of reading Daughter of the Forest for Bingo since I wouldn't be able to finish it.  At least Cybele's Secret ended up having a pirate (see above), even though I haven't finished reading it yet.

See Also:  My Romance Bingo 2017 Page