Sunday, June 10, 2018

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

by Laini Taylor
Book 1 of Daughter of Smoke and Bone

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

Side Note (2/25/2018):  This review has been slightly edited from the original that was posted at Goodreads over five years ago.  It was my intention to fix the repetitive, nonsensical rambling that appeared as words during my brainstorming of this review.  I'm not sure I really accomplished that...
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

I started writing down thoughts when I was halfway through the book.  There were a lot of details; and then the new plot-arc that had my mind reeling.  I wanted to be able to have my thoughts down while I could still remember them.  And I wanted to be able to word them properly since my feelings about Daughter of Smoke and Bone was all I really had.  But after a few sentences, an entire review manifested almost immediately.

So for now, excuse the rambling that ensues starting from here on out.

Once again, I’m conflicted about this book.  On the one hand, it’s written very well with great prose and style, excellent dialogue, and an undertone of dry humor that I love.  The ideas are creative, the world is unique; there’s an almost mythical legendary feel to the storytelling.  And I really, really like it.

Karou makes for an awesome, kickass, strong heroine amidst a dangerous world hidden in modern society.  A paranormal or fantastical world hidden within the modern world with our heroine harboring a big secret and living a double life--this is the type of world creation I adore.  The rest of the world is created in such detail that I can actually see a different adventure unfolding with different main characters if given the chance.  The progression of the story is very smooth and paced in a way that I can accept without fault.  In fact, I really DO love the way that the entire book was written, the way the characters were introduced, the subtle humor and witty dialogue... I even enjoy the underlying main conflict of the war between seraphs and chimaera--it’s pretty epic, actually.

In all honesty, I enjoyed all of that.

But then there’s that SOMETHING that I barely put my finger on that makes Daughter of Smoke and Bone not work for me.  I don’t know if it has to do with the Angel and Demon motifs or maybe it’s the “Fated to Be” true love device.  Was it the over-emphasis of a lot of things that we, as the readers, already knew to be true?  Was it even the slight tangent into the past that I didn’t really care to read about over four (?) chapters that could have just as easily been a short two chapter flashback?

I’ve never been one to dismiss paranormal just because of a particular theme I don’t care for (vampires, werewolves, demons... the like).  And I DO like slight detours into the history of our characters if it means I understand their lives a little better.  So maybe it’s the whole “Fated to Be” true love device that’s getting to me.  Oh yes, and also the continued, pounding into our heads of certain facts: Akiva and Karou are beautiful beings, Akiva and Karou were meant to be lovers, Akiva and Karou are mortal enemies, Akiva and Karou are meant for no other.

Is it too harsh of me to say, in a very exasperated tone that: Yea, I get it already, so stop mentioning it every other chapter.

As for the grand romance: I get the scenario and it’s written beautifully; however, I just can’t seem to get behind the idea.  And maybe this is just a case of “It’s not you, it’s me” when it comes to this book.  Because the story itself isn’t bad, the writing is excellent, and I love the characters from Karou, to Brimstone, to Zuzana.  They’re great.

I’m even not too repulsed by Akiva despite the many, many, many, many references to his beauty, which... I get it, he’s an angel and he’s molded as perfection and he’s beautiful.  And Karou is beautiful and, in spite of all of her scars, she is also akin to perfection.  There’s no need to pound that into my brain; once or twice is enough, and thank GOD Akiva doesn’t sparkle.  Or does he?  In his own angelic way?

Aside from his perfection, there’s also something about Akiva that doesn’t sit right with me.  Basically, he's a stalker-ish pretty boy, which is almost akin to another sparkly stalker-ish pretty boy I'd rather not mention.  But it's okay, because he's pretty and he's made of perfection, so we don't see a stalker-ish pretty boy, but big romantic gestures...

Or something like that, right?  Oh look, I found something to dislike about this book!

All of the conflicting emotions coming in a “‘Fated to Be’ so I can’t kill you and am instead just going to stalk you” scenario bugs me.  That is definitely why I don’t like Akiva.  It is also why I didn't like the romance.

Okay, maybe I was a little repulsed by Akiva.  Maybe a little.

On top of that, I started losing track of how many times Karou and Akiva spend time questioning why they're drawn to each other like some supernatural force--it's pretty much YA speak for, "the author wants readers to know that the two are supposed to be a couple, for no other reason than 'just because that's how it was planned in the outline.'"  I mean, it could be that they're just physically attracted to each other as typically happens in real life, but due to reasons (chimaera vs. seraphs, yo) they can't be together.  But like most confused teenagers, they can't figure out their feelings and have already decided that love is in the air, and so cue the angst.

The insta-lust attraction is the most obvious explanation since I had yet to see either of the two bond over anything other than a compulsory physical attraction.

A fact that, much like Karou and Akiva being perfection embodied, is repeated over and over again, like I didn't already figure it out.

Story-wise, I pretty much had the "BIG SECRET" about Karou figured out way earlier in the game than Akiva did.  The scenario and direction of this particular telling was just plain obvious... which then falls back into why the two were so drawn to each other... which really didn't make the big romance any better, to be honest.  I would have rather preferred the insta-lust scenario more, because at least there's potential for attraction to become love if the two were ever given book time enough to bond rather than angst about how pretty each other is.

Because, when and where do we cross the wrong lines in a lifetime where a grand love is anchored on this type of basis?  I'm still conflicted about it, and I definitely don't like it.  It probably works for a lot of other people, such a grand scale romance based on Fate or the like.  But I just don't see it.

Fortunately, the book itself is written well and the heroine is pretty badass.  And I loved Zuzana because she’s wicked funny and a little crazy (but in a good way). The chimaera are interesting creatures and I can’t wait to see more of them.  The lore and the world created in Daughter of Smoke and Bone is nothing short of excellent; I can’t stop loving every time I come across a book that has such a complete world that I can, as I mentioned above, imagine other characters taking on an adventure all their own.

To the point (and I reinforce that I am a HUGE hopeless romantic), I found myself enjoying parts of the book that had nothing to do with the grand romance.  In fact, I absolutely loved the first half of this book up until the point where Akiva officially comes into the picture and meets Karou, face-to-face.


It’s a good read and I enjoyed it.

I had let it sit for a while to let the feeling of obligatory reading fade, but I was almost reluctant to pick it up again.  But when I DID pick it up again, at least the writing kept me grounded enough to finish the book.  There's still that sense of "need" that I had to move on from one chapter to the next because the story was unfolding some sense of excitement in me.  But there was also that need to just finish the darn book and be over it.

As you can tell, I was and am still extremely conflicted about this book.

I mean, I really DID enjoy it and have an itching to pick out the next book.  But I’m not sure if I’ll be in much of an awful hurry to read the rest of the series or not.  If that even makes any sense... It’s written extremely well, and that, at least has me hopeful that maybe I’ll enjoy the rest of it now that the initial “Meet Cute” of our lovers is out of the way.  Had it been a different kind of story with a different type of emphasis (not the “eternal fated romance between unearthly beautiful beings” persuasion), I might have enjoyed it a whole lot more.

For all it’s worth (at the risk of being repetitive... like this book’s romance), I really DID like the book a lot up until the fated official meeting where Akiva and Karou choose to defy all instinctual “you’re my enemy” logic and hang together, while at the same time keeping their “you’re my enemy” logic hanging like a giant elephant in the room as a verbal barrier... and then they make eyes at each other and flirt like lovers.

But who am I to judge two people in love, right?  The concept takes all forms even IF it escalates rather quickly from physical attraction.

For what it’s worth, I totally loved all the side characters from Zuzana to Brimstone... and maybe even Kaz for his predictable comic of assholery.

This review was originally posted at Goodreads in July 2013.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Very Brief Series Review: St. Helens

St. Helens

by Jayne Castle (a.k.a. Jayne Ann Krentz)
Book #1:  Amaryllis | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars
Book #2:  Zinnia | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars
Book #3:  Orchid | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars

Series Average Rating:  3.0 Stars

The truth is that I can't really remember anything about these books outside of the fact that they were entertaining enough for me to finish reading.  The characters were good, even if the romances were fairly dated, with virginal heroines, and pushy, irrational alpha heroes.

The suspense was fun.  There were no dust bunnies to make the experience more interesting...

And really, that was all.  Because in the end, all three books felt like they were pretty much the same story.  I'm giving it an average rating, mainly because it's Jayne Castle, and I like Jayne Castle.

Amaryllis Lark is undeniably beautiful.  She's also one of the best psychic detectives on St. Helen's, the earth colony recently cut off from the mother planet, yet not very different from home--a place where love still defies the most incredible odds.  Lucas Trent, the rugged head of Lodestar Exploration, isn't keen on the prim and proper type - and, from her neatly buttoned up business suit to her cool evaluation of his request to bust a corporate thief, Amaryllis is EXCRUCIATINGLY proper!

Amaryllis may have psychic powers, but she can't read minds--least of all her own.  When a bold hunch leads them from a wild murder investigation to a red-hot love affair, Amaryllis is shocked, Lucas is delighted, - and no power on heaven, earth, or St. Helen's can keep them apart!

She's called the 'Scarlet Lady'--but only Zinnia Spring would rise above her shocking nickname by dressing defiantly in red.  Ever since a false tabloid story ruined her reputation and her interior design business, this headstrong lady has made a living using her psychic abilities--a highly prized skill that sets her apart on the space colony of St. Helen's.  But when she's hired by casino owner Nick Chastain, their meeting of the minds--and hearts--has her seeing stars....

Nick Chastain craves what he doesn't have--respectability.  He calls on Zinnia's powers to help find his father's journal, and to dig up answers to his own mysterious past.  Zinnia doesn't have to be psychic to know what else Nick wants; together they're an explosive combination that may just blow St. Helen's sky-high with intrigue, danger, and a passion that's anything but predictable.  But when a ruthless killer crosses their search, Zinnia must risk everything she's got - in a love affair where the winner takes all.

A top psychic for exclusive Psynergy Inc., Orchid Adams doesn't expect even the best marriage agencies on the space colony of St. Helen's to find her a husband who measures up to her dreams.  It's just as well, because she's got her hands full with a baffling murder.  One thing is certain: her new client, Rafe Stonebraker, is definitely not marriage material.  But Rafe--primitive, elemental, powerful, perhaps dangerous--is perfect for an affair....

An unlicensed private eye with an edgy reputation and a psychic talent so awesome he hides its true power, Rafe has some serious secrets.  Not only is he trying to solve a strange theft, he is about to replace his grandfather as CEO of Stonebraker Shipping and is fighting to ward off a hostile takeover.  He needs a wife--and fast--to salvage his credibility.  Orchid Adams doesn't fit the profile he had in mind, but she fits in his arms.  Will their mind/body merger spark a rollicking and rocky partnership, just as his latest case threatens to end their world?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- April and May 2018

I thought I was developing a new average for me, to have read six books in the month of April.  And yes, considering my normal monthly "books read" average is usually around 10 to 15 books--at least in the past couple years it has been--this is considered a slow month for me.  But then May drew around and I ended up only finishing one book.  Yes--only one book.

In the meantime, I had barely posted anything on this blog.

It's been THAT kind of feeling, both abandoning my reading and my blog.  So I will just wallow in my own rain and feel bad.

And thus, we are getting a combined April and May Monthly Reading Wrap Up.

Although, to be honest, I'm not entirely complaining, or really that sad about not having  blogged anything throughout the entire month of May.  I've been giving my attention to other forms of entertainment, which also makes me extremely happy.  And isn't that all that matters?

In terms of blogging and socializing, I feel like I'm batting zero for zero here, though.  I think I spent, maybe all of two seconds on Booklikes the past few weeks, and that was just to check on a blog post I'd written a long time ago.

Anyway, this wouldn't be the first time I've gone on hiatus with a blog of mine; however, this would be the first time I've felt really bad about it since I truly DO love reading and blogging about books.  In the past, I'd done blogs for anime and manga and even live drama of the Asian variety... but I don't think I ever really got into those, and let them fall to the wayside without any qualms.

But as we can see... I'm still hanging on.

Which, I think, is why I'm allowing myself a chance to take a break from blogging and reading as vigorously as I'd been doing the past couple years.  I think this will be good for me, in that I will probably be less social online for a while, but will still try to post something, sometimes, whenever I'm feeling the mood.  I don't know how long this hiatus will last, but I'm hoping to jump back in sometime, at least before the end of the year.

I love writing reviews, and I love discussing books, but because I always end up subconsciously putting myself on a schedule, I think I wear myself out.  Try as I might to take the blogging scene in a leisurely fashion, I will always eventually start stressing about my own self-dictated deadlines and whatnot.  And while I had that kind of drive last year, the year before, and even the year before that, I think it's time for a little vacation.

To anyone still paying attention:  I'm still here.  But for now, I'm probably going to be pretty sporadic and scarce in my postings.

April Reads

May Reads

Books Dropped/Put On Hold

None this month!  Yay!

Currently Reading

Yes, I know.  Despite the fact that my reading mood has been low lately, I sure have started a lot of books already since the month of May...  Then I went ahead and started Mistress of Mellyn as June rolled around; of course, this was a book I had intended to start reading in May.

And yes, I'm still working on All I Want by Jill Shalvis.  I intend to finish it, because I only have so much of the audio book left, and it's the last book in the series published thus far.  It seems way too much of a shame to quit now.

April Reading Stats

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

Average rating: 3.08 Stars
  • Highest Rated:  Blood Surfer by Debra Jess // 3.5 Stars
  • Lowest Rated:  5 books // 3.0 Stars
    • All the rest of the books--I'm not listing them.

Series I started reading:
  • Thunder City by Debra Jess
Series I completed:
  • Whispering Springs by Jayne Ann Krentz
  • St. Helens by Jayne Castle
Series I have made progress on:
  • I-Team by Pamela Clare

Favorite reads:  The truth is, this was a slow enough month that I really didn't have a favorite of all the books I read in April.  I always enjoy Jayne Ann Krentz, and I always enjoy Pamela Clare... but no dice this month.  Even the one, highest rated book of the month, Blood Surfer was really not all that great, as you can see by the average 3.5 star rating.

Disappointing reads:  In disappointments, however, I'm sad to say that I HAD hoped that Pamela Clare's newest I-Team installment would bring back all my Rom-Suspense feels that I had when I first discovered her.  But either I was just not in the right mood, or the book didn't work for me.  So, yes, slightly disappointment there.

May Reading Stats

Total works read:  1
  • 1 print/e-book novel

Average rating: 3.0 Stars -- Lady Beneath the Veil by Sarah Mallory

Series:  Did not start, make progress on, or finish any series.

Favorite reads:  I read one book for May... and the truth is, I didn't really like it.

Disappointing reads:  See above.

Reviews & Notable Posts

Reviews Written


  • Did Not Meme This Month!

Other Posts

Coming Up In June

Tentative TBR

Other Stuff

I honestly don't know what I want to read or what I want to blog about in May.  I'm actually 75% finished with my Author Love Challenge, having read nine Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle books, out of the proposed goal of twelve.  So I only need to finish three more and I'll have accomplished my task.

Meanwhile, I suppose I need to start thinking about the second half of the Reading Assignment Challenge, coming up with a new list of books--I'm definitely sticking with one book a month for the rest of the year.  I'll probably be able to propose a new list sometime soon, scheduled to post by the end of the June--brainstorming is already in progress.

I'm still keeping to a really light reading and blogging activity, and while I'm posting very rarely and sporadically, I will still try to post.  Reviews, however, may or may not be written since I've been really lazy and just not in the mood.  There are a few reviews I've already written that will probably see the light of day within the next couple weeks after I've given them a final edit.

Then... I might work on some review transfers from stuff I've posted on either Goodreads or BookLikes prior to this blog's creation.

2018 Wrap-Ups 

Past Monthly Reading Wrap Ups (2016 / 2017)
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

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Packaged Thoughts June 2018: All the Books I Will Not Review Individually

Here we are with another year of Packaged Thoughts!  And it's the middle of the year, and Happy Birthday to me!

Or well, it would have been if I'd gotten around to posting in on the right day.  But we're only a day off, so it doesn't matter.

And just as well, I didn't have much to include in this package anyway.  I'm not even sure I can really call a two-book review a package, but whatever...

So we might just call this a personal news update as well...  =D

In that particular personal news, my family and I have just recently returned from a short vacay in Dallas, Texas--mainly to visit with my eldest brother, and just because we haven't truly had a full family vacation in a very, very long time.  We've had a lot of mini family vacations where at least one or two immediate family members were not present, and I can recall that the last time all six of us were together on a vacation was probably before I started college.... which would have been over ten years ago!

That's life for you, I guess.  But really, visiting my eldest brother in Texas just doesn't feel completely like a family vacation since he lives there now.  Maybe one of these days we can all find time to go somewhere else, like the east coast or the west coast... or a cruise of some sort.

Meanwhile, here are all the (two) books I decided would not get their own individual reviews, for one reason or another.  I usually plan this post out a couple months in advance, so even though I only collected two books that I wanted to include in this package, I decided to just run with it and get it published.

Thanks for reading!

Blood Surfer (Thunder City #1)
by Debra Jess
Rating:  3.0 Stars

I... don't remember anything about this book.  It's a new adult paranormal, urban romance, I think.  And it has an interesting concept.  Characters with super powers versus characters that are normal human beings.  It's kind of like an X-Men thing, but the humans with superpowers have more of a presence.

Unfortunately, a lot of the story felt extremely juvenile, even when some of the content could have been quite mature and dark.

I enjoyed it, but I can't say that I would come back to this series if it continued.

Deadly Intent (I-Team #8)
by Pamela Clare
Rating:  3.0 Stars

I'm loathe to give a Pamela Clare book a less than average rating because, for the most part, her romantic suspense books have always been intriguing to me.  I've loved all of them, and enjoy all the characters in each new installment.

So even while I didn't quite enjoy Deadly Intent, I still found it encompassed the typical heart that you find in a Pamela Clare romance.  The characters are great.  But Pam really DOES paste on the schmaltz in this one, which is disappointing after the previous two I-Team installments were so amazing, with a controlled schmaltz factor.

And also... the truth is, Joaquin was never really a favorite side character for me.  I was never as excited for a book where he's the main character, because the man always came out too intense and overly dramatic.  I could do without.  And the new addition to the series, leading lady, Mia Starr... didn't really stand out.  When I read that she was ex-military, I was really hoping for some more Holly-like badassery and action... but really didn't get much of that.

There was a lot of sitting around and waiting for things to happen, which didn't give this particular installment as much excitement as I would have liked.

On a final note, Holly is excellent and I'm glad she showed up for a few scenes:

"You have the most beautiful skin, gorgeous eyes, and lips and cheekbones that make me jealous."  Holly gently dabbed concealer on Mia's bruised cheek.  "You don't need much makeup.  In your case, less is definitely more--unless a bad guy has recently punched you in the face, and then more is more."

Monday, April 23, 2018

Series Thoughts: Whispering Springs

Whispering Springs

by Jayne Ann Krentz
Book 1:  Light in Shadow | Goodreads | Rating:  4.0 Stars
Book 2:  Truth or Dare | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars

Average Rating:  3.5 Stars

I can't help wondering whether this duology would have been better off as one long, two-part novel... but then I'm not sure all the story tangents going on in the second book, Truth or Dare, would have been handled any better.  Both books were great, in their own, JAK-style way, but that second book just kind of seemed a bit excessive.

While Light and Shadow gave us a straight-forward, fast-paced rundown of events and mystery and romance, I feel like Truth or Dare was the "I've got more ideas for these characters and am trying to cram everything into this last book" type of mish-mash.  While all of the story tangents were significant in their own way, I couldn't help but feel like I was reading a series of short stories, unconnected with the main story conflict, but that all took place around the same time, so let's just throw it all together into one big book!


While I always have a hard time recalling the characters and the events from most JAK books, there's always enjoyment had, and I always know I walk away from them feeling satisfied, and well entertained.  This is why I keep going back to Jayne Ann Krentz, as well as her other two pseudonyms, Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle.

As per usual, the characters in the Whispering Springs duo were great characters, with their own uniqueness, and a charming quality about them that just made them easy to relate with, and very easy to love.  The addition of some personality flaws doesn't hurt either, and we have all of that.

The conflict and mystery in both were interesting enough.

All-in-all, this was a nice reading experience--something to occupy yourself with on a rainy afternoon.  I just really wish that second book hadn't been so... well, chaotic.

Zoe Luce is a successful interior designer in the Arizona town of Whispering Springs who's developed an unusual career specialty--helping recently divorced clients redesign their homes, to help them forget the past and start anew.  But Zoe knows that some things can't be covered up with a coat of paint.  And when she senses that one of her clients may be hiding a dark secret, she enlists P.I. Ethan Truax to find the truth.

Working together, they solve the mystery . . . and barely escape with their lives.  But Ethan's exquisite detection skills are starting to backfire on Zoe: she never wanted to let him find out about her former life; she never wanted to reveal her powerful, inexplicable gift for sensing the history hidden within a house's walls; she never wanted him to know that "Zoe Luce" doesn't really exist.  She never wanted to fall in love with him.

Now, no matter how much she resists, Ethan may be her only hope--because the people she's been running from have found her.  And just when Zoe dares to dream of a normal life and a future with the man she loves, her own past starts to shadow her every step--and threatens to take her back into a nightmare.

Upscale interior designer Zoe Luce has found peace and contentment in Whispering Springs, Arizona.  She has a thriving business, and she's settling into newlywed life with private investigator Ethan Truax.  The threat that brought Zoe and Ethan together is finally over, ancient history, or so Zoe believes.  Very few people know of her uncanny ability to sense the dark secrets hidden within the walls of a house, and she wants to keep it that way, even from Ethan.

But someone is stalking Zoe--someone who knows all about her, and who shadows her every move.  Is it the same person who is threatening her closest friend, Arcadia Ames, the only other person in Whispering Springs who knows the truth about Zoe?  Or are Zoe and Arcadia getting tangled in a web spun by someone more dangerous than they could ever have imagined?

As a private investigator, Ethan is paid to find the truth, yet he has secrets of his own that are better left buried.  He can't let the threats to Zoe go unchallenged, although he fears that the truth may be a bigger burden than their still-fragile relationship can handle.  And Ethan isn't alone with his fears: instead of setting her free, Zoe dreads that the truth will only imprison her once more within the darkest nightmares, this time with no escapes in sight.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

2018 Reading Assignment Challenge -- First Quarterly Report Card

hosted by
Michelle and Berls @ Because Reading

January ramblings:  January was a great start to the year.  Books read, books read, books read.  Looks like things are looking up, even as a reading slump is still kind of threatening.

February ramblings:  February started getting rocky, but one of the first books I read in the month was a Reading Assignment book, so at least I got that out of the way.  Then I started losing focus.  I guess sometimes you just need a break, even from the thing you love to do most.

March ramblings:  I think I'm lucky I even finished a book in March.  But I did--I finished four books, and one of them was a Reading Assignment book.  That is all.

First Quarter:
My Grade:  I Made an A!

First Quarterly Report Card link up

A Summary

I think I'm lucky that I even managed to finish a book the last month of this Quarter.  I just lost all motivation to read.  Well, I wouldn't put it that way, because I DID read.  Just not as much as I normally do on a monthly basis.  I mean, I read four books in the month of March--my usual average is 10 to 14.  That's a pretty big difference.

But I made it, and I'm actually kind of enjoying the laid back, relaxed stance I'm taking this year.  One book a month at least gives me something to read, but doesn't make me feel obligated to finish one book so that I may get into the next.

A Forecast

The last three books in this first semester are as follows, and I'm thinking of assigning them to specific months as well... just haven't decided yet... so maybe not really assigning them.  Of course, as of the posting of this update, I've already read Blood Surfer for the month of April, so the other two books will get read... when they get read... in May and June.

Thoughts: Pretty Girls Dancing

Pretty Girls Dancing

by Kylie Brant

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Years ago, in the town of Saxon Falls, young Kelsey Willard disappeared and was presumed dead.  The tragedy left her family with a fractured life—a mother out to numb the pain, a father losing a battle with his own private demons, and a sister desperate for closure.  But now another teenage girl has gone missing.  It’s ripping open old wounds for the Willards, dragging them back into a painful past, and leaving them unprepared for where it will take them next.

Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent Mark Foster has stumbled on uncanny parallels in the lives of the two missing girls that could unlock clues to a serial killer’s identity.  That means breaking down the walls of the Willards’ long-guarded secrets and getting to a truth that is darker than he bargained for.  Now, to rescue one missing girl, he must first solve the riddles that disappeared with another: Kelsey Willard herself.  Dead or alive, she is his last hope.

I'm going to admit that it was probably my fault for going into this book expecting the typical Kylie Brant romantic suspense, and not getting what I expected.  This is definitely not what I'm used to with Kylie Brant, but since she'd primarily been a romance author, I hadn't thought twice about purchasing and reading Pretty Girls Dancing.

But as the book began, switching from one character's perspective to another, and introducing very un-romance novel-like characters, I started getting a little... well, I guess wary might be a good way to put it.  So I went to check the Goodreads book page, and realized that this book was never advertised as a romantic suspense--that was just my own wishful thinking.

On that note, after readjusting my own reading perspective, I found myself delving deeper into the book and becoming curious as to how everything would come together in the end.  In a way, the writing was still very Kylie Brant, even if the characters weren't.  It's not that I'm unaccustomed to reading books with a lot of flawed characters, all flawed to the point that I just cannot relate to any of them--I just prefer not to read those books.

And Pretty Girls Dancing is your typical crime thriller, based on a serial murder, but that ends up being more about digging up all the dark secrets among all the people affected.  These characters are all so flawed and so unlikable that I had a hard time trying to figure out how I felt about them.  Of course, that effectively made me focus more on the serial murder investigation, which had started to become more intriguing as new leads turned up, and even when the young teenage Janie Willard decided to try her hand at amateur detecting.

And then I found myself wanting more of Janie Willard--a young girl who has lost her elder sister, who has a social anxiety that makes it hard for her to interact with people, but who is trying her best to move forward while taking care of her equally shattered parents during the past seven years that her sister was taken.  I found myself wanting a Janie Willard story where she finds her niche in investigation.  I liked her the most of all the characters in this book, because to be honest, she was probably the most honest and good character.

Kylie Brant wrote a great crime thriller, I will admit that.  And even the lack of my own favored romance to go with it, the book was entertaining to a point.

My biggest quibble about this book, is surprisingly not about the characters.  I feel like the characters were pretty real, even if I couldn't find myself relating with them.  My biggest quibble is actually about the resolution and ending and how abruptly the case gets solved with a simple light bulb moment by our BCI agent.  And the truth is, it seemed kind of left field and I'm not entirely sure how we got to that point.  It makes sense, when we get there.  I just don't know HOW we came up with the conclusion.

Another small quibble would be the amount of story you get, and the number of secrets revealed... but that very few of them had to do with the main conflict--they just happened to be dark secrets (which truthfully weren't that dark, really) dug up during investigation.

It kind of leaves the book a slight bit unsatisfying, truth be told.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- March 2018

This is probably the slowest reading month I've had since I started vigorously tracking my reading progress using various spreadsheets.  That would have been back in 2014 when I started listing more than just what I read each month.  I think the lowest number of books read in a month since 2014 was 6 books.  Of course, before 2014, I was still not quite tracking or reading as much, and had months where I went without reading at all--that was back in 2012.

Before 2012 were my "in college" or "just got out of college" years wherein I maybe read one book a month, four books a month, or no books for months.

I wonder if this year will prove to be so slow I'll have to drop my reading challenge goal back down below 100 books...  O.O

Though at this time, about a week into April, I've already managed to finish reading three books, so maybe this will be a better month than March.  Maybe...

March Reads

Books Dropped/Put On Hold

None this month!  Yay!

Currently Reading

March Reading Stats

Total works read:  3
  • 3 print/e-book novels

Average rating: 3.33 Stars
  • Highest Rated:  Light in Shadow by Jayne Ann Krentz // 4.0 Stars
  • Lowest Rated:  Dangerous Deception by Kylie Brant // 2.5 Stars

Series I started reading:
  • None
Series I completed:
  • Tremaine Traditions by Kylie Brant
  • Whispering Springs by Jayne Ann Krentz
Series I have made progress on:
  • None

Favorite reads:  This isn't a hard pick since I only read three books in March.  Obviously Light in Shadow was the more enjoyable of the books I read, but probably only because I always seem to enjoy books by Jayne Ann Krentz, and I read very little of anything else.

Disappointing reads:  Kylie Brant was always a personal favorite because her Mindhunters books were some of the first few romantic suspense novels I'd read years ago when I first stumbled upon the genre.  Unfortunately, the tail end of her Tremaine Traditions romantic suspense series was a bit lackluster, so the last book, Dangerous Deception ended up being the lowest rated book for March.  However, it's not like I had much to go on with my slow month anyway.

Reviews & Notable Posts

Reviews Written


  • Did not Meme this month!

Other Posts

  • None

Coming Up In April

Tentative TBR

Other Stuff

In keeping with my Author Love challenge, I'm proposing three more Jayne Ann Krentz books to read for the month of April.  Hopefully I'll be able to get through those since it's JAK and her books have always proven fast-paced, exciting, and easy to get into.

Meanwhile, I will be doing my best to find some time to finish listening to Jill Shalvis's last Animal Magnetism book, which I put off for some time in favor of mindless and wonderful sing-a-long music.  But we will definitely get around to finishing that book.

I would also like to start in on some Juliette Marillier work, of which I've already decided to go the Sevenwaters direction, although I would also love to immerse myself in her most recent young adult high fantasy of the "Oh my god, those covers are so beautiful!" variety.

2018 Wrap-Ups 

Past Monthly Reading Wrap Ups (2016 / 2017)
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

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Series Thoughts: Tremaine Traditions

Tremaine Traditions
by Kylie Brant
Book #1:  Alias Smith and Jones | Goodreads | Rating:  3.5 Stars
Book #2:  Entrapment | Goodreads | Rating:  4.0 Stars
Book #3:  Truth or Lies | Goodreads | Rating:  2.5 Stars
Book #4:  Dangerous Deception | Goodreads | Rating:  2.5 Stars

Average Series Rating:  3.125 Stars ~~>> 3.2 Stars

I would say that the Tremaine Traditions is a great romantic suspense series to read during a nice rainy weekend if you don't have anything else to do.  Encompassing hints of what I found to love in Kylie Brant's later series, Mindhunters, this series also unfortunately sprinkles a lot of dated romance cliches in and around each story line.

I love that most of the heroines in this series are strong, feisty, independent women with some level of sense.  This is something I always wish we could see more of in the romance category in general.  Unfortunately, the strong heroines in this series also tended to get overpowered by the neanderthal-like, pushy men, and the way the romances played out.

The suspense aspect of these books were exciting enough, but unfortunately not a whole lot to write home about.  Possibly this is a case where you could see hints of the mysteries and the suspense being a great, potentially center-stage part of the books, but ended up as a background to the first and foremost romantic coupling.

He called himself Jones and was more pirate than charter boat captain.  His protective streak was suffocating.  His kisses devastating.  And the bullet scar on his back, the gun tucked in his pants, told Ann that there was plenty the sexy stranger wasn't telling her.  Perhaps even more than she wasn't telling him.

Because she wasn't Ann Smith, island-hopping rich girl.  She was Analiese Tremaine, and she was there to find and rescue her missing brother.  But how long could she hold on to her carefully constructed identity when her search had already landed her in deep trouble with no one but Jones to help her out alive?

I guess one of the things I'm grateful for is the fact that I haven't known Kylie Brant to suffer extremely damsel-like heroines.  Sure, Ana had her moments, but she was still quite resourceful and had her wits about her--if only Jones would quit smothering her with an over-protectiveness that sort of comes out of nowhere.

I would have liked to explore more of Ana's proclaimed skills and talents as a decryption and encoding specialist who works at her brother's company, Tremaine Technologies... or something like that.  Her expertise is hinted at, but never really utilized in the book.  She manages to get herself around just fine without too much interference from Jones, but then the story takes a turn into survival story mode, and Ana becomes just another damsel-esque heroine... sort of.

As for the romance, I'm not entirely sure I really care for it much.  Jones had some sort of stick up his ass that needed to chill.  Though at least the lusting was kept to a minimum and the "I love you" exclamations weren't premature.

The caveman/over protective big brothers thing gets a bit old though.

Sam Tremaine could charm the thorns off roses, and Juliette Morris both wanted and hated him.  The CIA agent had learned her secret identity--and had used it to gain her help to catch an international criminal.  Even worse, she was falling for this man of honor who had every reason to despise her.

He'd thought her a liar and a heartbreaker.  But in Juliette, Sam discovered a woman whose loyalty and warmth shook him to the core.  Hiding his growing feelings would take every covert skill he possessed, but Juliette's future depended on her never learning she'd stolen his heart....

Erm...  I found that I enjoyed Entrapment a bit more than I did the first book in this series.  A lot of that has to do with Juliette and her resourcefulness, her talent, and her skill at doing what she does.  But the ultimate truth is... well, there wasn't a whole lot else about this book I can even recall after finishing the read weeks later.

The romance could have been executed a little bit better, I suppose.  I had a hard time NOT getting frustrated with Sam and his judgmental preconceptions about Juliette.  It was getting annoying that Sam would admit, over and over again, that his actions in getting his job done were no different than Juliette's.  And yet, he allows himself to hide behind a government agency to justify what he does, while condemning Juliette just because her reasons are personal ones.  As if Sam didn't have his own personal vendetta against the big baddie in this book (a name of a villain I cannot recall, and do not care to look up).

Otherwise, I really DID enjoy this book, as it was much more intriguing and exciting than the first.  And Juliette was pretty awesome.

Dr. Shae O'Reilly followed the rules--but Cade Tremaine caused her to break them.  With a criminal father and a brother in jail, she knew the last man she should ever get involved with was a cop.  Especially one who didn't know her past. But when an injured--and then escaped--drug dealer decided Shae was his angel of mercy, she found herself getting very close to the charming detective.

Cade couldn't help but be intrigued by the sassy, independent and sexy-as-hell doctor.  She held the key to finding a cop killer--but would he risk her life to catch his man?  Or would this be the time he caught--and kept--the woman?

This was probably not my favorite Tremaine Traditions installation, but probably only because I had an issue with Cade Tremaine.  The man has no respect for boundaries; the fact that our heroine, a very intelligent woman, would still allow him to disrespect her boundaries, no matter how many times she has asked him to either a) leave her alone, or b) get out of her house, made it a little hard for me to swallow.

Nonetheless, at least she didn't really just melt at the smoldering, handsome alpha male's every gaze.  That would have been even more disappointing.  Meanwhile, the main mystery was a tad bit predictable, and at the same time, not quite so exciting as I would have liked.

I also wished a lot more things could have been resolved between Shae and her family.  The inclusion of James Tremaine, eldest Tremaine brother, felt a little forced as well--it was pretty much a shoe-in for "we've got another book coming."

Your parents' deaths weren't accidents...

Billionaire securities expert James Tremaine couldn't believe the anonymous note.  Private investigator Tori Corbett was his only hope of uncovering the truth, but keeping his hands off his beautiful employee was as difficult as solving the case.

And yours won't be, either.

For Tori, working day and night with the sexy tycoon was like playing with fire.  She wouldn't--couldn't--become emotionally involved with a man hell-bent on vengeance.  Especially now that there was evidence linking her own father to the crime....

It's unfortunate that the last two Tremaine Traditions had to show-case main male characters who are both not only pushy, but annoyingly unable to respect the boundaries of other people.  It also sucks that the women in both books were strong and independent in all aspects until it came to facing off with their male character counterpart.  It gets old watching the female characters in these books turn to putty just because the main male character is good looking and gives sexy, smoldering looks.

Nonetheless, I really loved Tori and her continued attempts, and resolve not to let the barbaric James Tremaine sway her principles... even though it was pretty futile watching the whole thing.

The twenty year old mystery was an interesting one, but in the end seemed a bit predictable, though I DID like following Tori's investigations.  The ending was abrupt and unsatisfying, even if conclusive.

All-in-all, this book is enjoyable, but that's about all I can say about it.