Sunday, January 21, 2018

Review: Avalon


by Mindee Arnett
Book 1 of Avalon

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Avalon was actually quite entertaining.  While I had trouble getting into it in the first half, the action started picking up towards the end and the ending was quite explosive.  I'm typically not a fan of science fiction, and like to reserve my sci-fi enjoyments to visual media (television and movies) as I had mentioned in my brief review of Avalon's prequel novella Proxy.  I'm not saying that reading Avalon has changed my mind or anything, because it's not really that outstanding of a book.

But enjoyable is enjoyable.

The Story:
Jethro Seagrave and his team of teenage intergalactic thieves work for a dangerous criminal syndicate leader named Hammer Dafoe.  When the story in Avalon starts, the crew is in the middle of stealing a ship called the Montrose.  It is the metadrive technology that Hammer wants--a navigation system or whatnot that allows ships to jump vast distances in space without using the Interstellar Transport Authority (ITA) regulated gates.  It is during this heist that Jeth is confronted by an ITA agent named Renford who appeals to him to botch the next job Hammer gives him: Retrieve a lost ship in the Belgrave Quadrant.  Instead of bringing Hammer the ship, Renford requests that Jeth bring the ship to him instead in exchange for his aid in reclaiming Jeth's family ship, Avalon, which is currently owned by Hammer.

This is an irresistible offer considering Jeth's one life mission is to work as many jobs for Hammer as he can in order to take back Avalon.  Of course, even as a teenager, Jeth knows that no one authority figure can be easily trusted, and so he decides to form his own plan to reclaim Avalon.  And it all starts with this mission to retrieve the Donerail from the Belgrave Quadrant as well as the dangerous weapon aboard it that Hammer admits to coveting.

But the Belgrave Quadrant is a dangerous place, a dead zone in space where ships and people have gone missing.  Those who have survived travel through the Belgrave usually don't return without losing a bit of their own sanity.

My Thoughts:
Avalon is a very typical space opera that doesn't seem too unique from other sci-fi plot lines I remember from television series.  What works for Avalon is the cohesiveness of Jeth and his crew (although this was already done in Firefly, and I already mentioned that I wouldn't be able to keep myself from making the comparisons).  And with so many similar parallels, it really IS hard NOT to keep referencing Firefly.  Of course, as a YA novel following a group of teenage intergalactic thieves who are actually pretty decent at pulling off their heists, I've got to give credit where credit is due.  Avalon set out to tell a story and tell a story it did.

I'm not good at sci-fi jargon or terminology or the works.  Some of the things going on in Avalon felt a bit far-fetched to me, but I let it slide because I'm not an expert on sci-fi and probably wouldn't know whether or not the world-building is legit enough to work.

Now the storytelling, however, seemed a bit dragged on.  The surprise twists weren't quite surprise twists when you kind of figured it all out in the beginning.  How no one ever made the connection between Cora's tantrums and emotional ups and downs with the strange destructive holes appearing on-board the ship was a bit incredible.  From the get-go you already have a feeling that there's more to Cora than just a random seven-year-old child that Sierra is trying to save from an abusive household.

But whatevs.

It's a pity that very little stands out about Avalon outside of its similarities to Firefly.  Avalon wasn't a bad book; on the contrary, had we had a bit more memorable moments or less flat characters, I might have found the book quite fascinating.  As it is, the characters were a bit underdeveloped with fairly standard, clichéd personalities, and the story line was simple and straight forward with attempts at surprise twists that didn't... twist very well.

I have nothing against any of the characters except for Sierra.  While she is made out to be an independent, resourceful, strong girl who's one weakness is her lack of faith in humanity, I felt like she could have tried to stop and think about the bigger picture of things before acting.  Because it had been her one un-thought-out decision that catapults all the chaos that ensues.  And in the end, while she DOES feel apologetic and regret for what she did, I still feel like she got off too easily for it.  I know she's not a bad person; but she made an entirely bad decision that could have been avoided had she just calmed down and stopped to think of the consequences.

To be honest, Sierra is a nice girl, but I didn't really care for her much.  Instead, I think I would have preferred Celeste for the love interest instead, but she wasn't as developed as a character as Sierra was.  I'm a bit glad that the romance wasn't the biggest factor in this book when so much else was going on, though.  Despite Jeth getting himself in trouble with romance for a milli-instant, at least he gets his priorities straightened out.

The most likable character is Lizzie, but only by default because I always think it's cool when authors make a young girl the sci-fi/techie prodigy geek (and she's only thirteen).  This is something that is more often reserved for guys (though I don't deny that in Real Life, all the techie geeks I know are all dudes).

On that note...

Overall Impression:  Enjoyable, yet mediocre read with an abundance of potential.  Great writing.

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

Brief Thoughts: Proxy (novella)


by Mindee Arnett
Avalon #0.5 (prequel novella)

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.0 Stars

Proxy is the prequel novella to the Avalon series.  I enjoyed Mindee Arnett's The Nightmare Affair and so was curious about this fairly different genre she's attempting.  I've never been a big fan of sci-fi nor the space opera/futuristic types of story lines (though admittedly I have enjoyed such television series as Star Trek and Firefly, or Cowboy Bebop).

The Story in Brief:
The novella details one of the missions Jeth and his crew are sent on by his employer, a large criminal syndicate owned by a man named Hammer.  In order to make enough money to retrieve his family's ship and home, Avalon, Jeth has no choice but to do Hammer's bidding.

The crew is stealing a precious ruby from the Grakkus empire, and it seems that this job is just easy pie until someone on Jeth's crew betrays them.

My Thoughts:
I'm going to say that this is the first time I've read a space opera story.  Watching television series and movies and anime series seems fairly different as the action in futuristic space settings translate better to me in visual media.

Nonetheless, this novella was quite enjoyable after I got through the initial few chapters of set-up and semi-world building.  I can't say that it was the most exciting thing I've ever read, and the characters seem quite flat and not quite so stimulating.  Everything passed by in mediocrity, though for a novella I'll give it leeway.  With comparisons of this story line and the characters to that of Firefly, I may have begun to create some biases, as Firefly was an exciting, complex series with well-developed, complicated characters and an extremely entertaining story line.  Not to mention the actors brought everything to life.

Going into Avalon, I'm hoping that things can move upwards of the mediocre enjoyable-ness factor.  After all, there's potential in a story such as this, and I'll try not to make too many comparisons to Firefly as I read it.  With more room to work with, hopefully an entire book will do well to bring the characters to life and deliver an exciting story to boot.

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

Not a Review: Sukitte iinayo (Say "I Love You") - Volumes 1 to 4

Sukitte iinayo (Say "I Love You")

by Kanae Hazuki
-- Review of Volumes 1 to 4 --

~ Goodreads ~

Average Rating:  3.0 Stars

Reviewer's Note on 1/21/2018:
(1) I used the series page on GR as the link for this book.  I didn't feel like linking all four books, as it didn't seem necessary.

(2) I didn't feel the need to change anything in this review aside from a few grammatical errors and typos if I found them.  So this is a direct copy and paste.

Onward to the original review!

I haven't exactly been actively reading lately, even though I'm almost done with both The Book Thief and The Distance Between Us.  But since it feels like I'm so behind on my Reading Challenges, and because I've been back in my anime groove lately I decided to pick up some manga as well.  Of course, I'm kind of conflicted as to whether to count each volume as one entity of a book, or the entire series as one book.

Since, most of the time, manga volumes are published as separate books, I'll choose the former.  (And it also helps me use them as sort of "cheat" books to catch up on my Reading Challenges.  I'll make up for them later with a higher number of books read as well as longer novels in the 500+ pages range... maybe.)


Being a long time manga/anime fan, it's not hard for me to fall right back into the whole ordeal given the right anime or manga.

Sukitte iinayo isn't the best of manga story lines out there, but it's a cute, refreshing love story in the typically stereotypical and sometimes frustrating shoujo manga world where the girls are always cute, weak, bumbling idiots and the dude is Mr. Perfect Prince Charming.  Indeed, this manga is a breath of fresh air.

I saw the anime first and got curious about the manga and so I started reading it, quickly blowing through the first 4 volumes.

And while I DO say that it's a refreshing new take on the "Cinderella meets Prince Charming" base trope (with a female lead whose got a heck care attitude about the world around her), it's still not very outstanding as a romance.  Nonetheless, it's cute and I've enjoyed what I've read so far and will continue to read the rest of what's been released.

Tachibana Mei isn't your typical female character, but then again, given some time, she slowly transforms into one.  Kurosawa Yamato is, of course THE typical shoujo manga male (not surprising there), but he's not a bad guy either (also, not surprising).  As a couple, they work out pretty well, and it's refreshing to see the couple get together right off the bat rather than going through truckloads of misunderstandings, missed timings for confessions... the like... just to get them to admit they like each other.

Of course, that only means we get lots and lots of obstacles in the form of other peers trying hard to break up the relationship.  Which is sad, because shoujo manga is so often full of vindictive people to the extreme.

Was high school always like this?  I'm so far removed from teenaged years that I'm not even sure anymore.  (Granted, I was always the invisible loner who could care less about other students and their drama...)

This manga series is still ongoing, having just finished up with Volume 11.  The anime itself only goes as far as Volume 7, so I'm interested to see where the story goes after the anime's ending.

I will admit that I never thought I'd get back into anime and manga again, but the phase sure is lasting long right now.

Reviewer's Note on 1/21/2018:  It didn't last long...

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

Monday, January 15, 2018

Very Brief Thoughts: Snowbound with the Notorious Rake

Snowbound with the Notorious Rake

by Sarah Mallory

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.0 Stars

One wicked Christmas night…

Trapped by a blizzard, the sight of notorious rogue Sir Lawrence Daunton almost makes schoolteacher Rose Westerhill turn back into the snow!  When it becomes apparent she has nowhere else to go Rose accepts his offer of shelter, vowing to remain indifferent to his practiced charm.

But as the temperature outside drops, she finds the wicked rake's sizzling seduction impossible to resist.  For one stolen night Rose abandons her principles—and her body!—to his expert ministrations.  Christmas with the rakish Lawrence promises to be a thoroughly improper yuletide celebration….

This historical romance by Sarah Mallory was written really well, but the actual story and the characters were quite frustrating.  On top of that, I was a little disappointed that the entire "snowbound" scenario really only lasted a couple chapters, then the rest of the book was just a typical romance with a reformed rake and the prudish schoolteacher.  I may or may not have started drifting off, or setting the book aside due to boredom.

As for our couple, they were pretty standard.  I didn't find Sir Lawrence to stand out much, but he was a neutral, good man.  Rose was more likable during the snowbound duration, but afterwards, I feel like she was a bit over-extreme in her prejudice against Sir Lawrence.  I understand that she has a history and can see why she's so cautious, but she went to the point of simply wanting to always believe the worst of Sir Lawrence no matter that he'd been nothing but honorable towards her from the beginning.

In contrast, I found it kind of hard to believe that she would take the word of her fiance, Magnus, and her future sister-in-law, Althea, without really giving it more thought.  She's been around Magnus and Althea enough that you'd think she wouldn't place so much credence in their words or actions.  So it came across as her trying to find any reason possible to discredit Sir Lawrence, even if it hadn't been warranted.

The romance was super frustrating, and I'm not sure there were even any characters I liked.

The background mystery about the sunken ship, and the investigation of it seemed kind of blah.

I may try another Sarah Mallory book, but I DO hope that this one was just a fluke.

Thoughts: Touch of Red

Touch of Red

by Laura Griffin
Book 12 of Tracers

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

This is a Laura Griffin Tracers novel, so it is dark and gritty and real where you need it to be.  The premise was typical of most crime thrillers, and I'm always in love with how crime scene investigation and forensic science is incorporated.

Unfortunately, I'm not much enamored with TSTL characters.  I can't say that I've come across too many of them in the Tracers installments previously, but I also can't say that they didn't exist.

In Touch of Red, she certainly did exist.

The Story:
At the scene of a gruesome murder, Brooke Porter discovers evidence that a witness might have escaped after the fact.  What ends up being more surprising is who this witness may be, and the fact that said witness is probably in a lot of danger.  Without hesitation, Brooke is determined to find this witness and keep him safe.

Detective Sean Byrne is in charge of this homicide case, and realizes that he may have to keep an eye on Brooke when the Delphi Center trace evidence expert decides to play at being detective.  While he's more than happy to get a chance to spend more time with Brooke, it doesn't escape his notice that the murder has become just as sinister as the carnage at the crime scene suggests.

My Thoughts:
There's very little to say about this book without getting into a rant.

Don't get me wrong--I really enjoyed Touch of Red, much as I've enjoyed all the Tracers novels.  It's intriguing, it's fast-paced, and it involves one of my favorite subjects.  I also love how Laura Griffin incorporates more than just the current criminal case, showing us a scene where Brooke has caught up with two days worth of work, just analyzing fingerprints from different cases on her workload.  She's not just narrowly focused on the "case of the week," but because crime labs have more than one case going at a time, they've got backlog, and they've got piles of work yet to be finished.

So I love how the focus of the "case of the week" is balanced enough to be realistic.

The romance was sweet, and probably could have been better if I had liked Brooke a bit more.  In fact, I absolutely loved her character from the previous book, and was set to enjoy her from the beginning of this book.  But at some point, she became so narrow-sighted and focused on "her witness" that she seemed to be teetering on reckless obsession.  I get that she was worried for the safety of the witness she discovered; I get that she felt it might have been her fault for bringing this particular person to the killer's attention.

What I don't get is how a level-headed trace evidence expert, who is supposed to also understand how the law works, as a medico-legal specialist, throws all of her common sense out the window for the last half of the book.  She also ended up kind of irrationally screechy...  Okay, well, she didn't really screech or anything, but she might as well have been.  Because she just started making all sorts of general, blanket assumptions that made it seem like she was the only one concerned about the witness's safety and finding the killer and blah, blah, blah...

She was basically telling all of her colleagues that they weren't doing their job.

It got a bit old.  Especially when she started imagining slights from Sean based on her own history with men.  I don't really think it was fair to him.

On the bright side, we have a not-broody alpha male this time around, who didn't feel the need to tell the heroine what to do all the time.  I'm not saying that he didn't try once or twice, but when he realized it was not the way to Brooke Porter's heart, he let it go, even if grudgingly.  And he never really went as far as caveman-styling his way into her life.

Anyway, the book was enjoyable on a certain level, and we do get to see more of some past characters as well as an introductory to what seems like the next couple in the Tracers installment--once again, somehow managing to seamlessly being part of this book without sticking out awkwardly.  And I approve.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

List of Rant and an Update: Cry Wolf

Cry Wolf

by Tami Hoag
Book 3 of Doucet

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  1.5 Stars

The scream heard by no one is the deadliest.

In the rural parishes of Louisiana's French Triangle, young women are disappearing one by one, only to turn up on the banks of the bayou, strangled and cast aside where they are sure to be found.  But there is one trophy the killer prizes above all others, one woman who must be silenced forever....

Attorney Laurel Chandler did not come back to Bayou Breaux to seek justice.  That once-burning obsession had destroyed her credibility, her career, her marriage—and nearly her sanity.  But when a ruthless predator strikes too close to home, she's lured into a perverse game from which there may be no escape.  Once before, Laurel's cries against a monstrous evil went unanswered.  Who will listen now?

1.  Tami Hoag can be a good writer.

I can see it in the other two books she's written that I recently read.  The story progression isn't absurdly staunched or anything like that.  And she can be good with words.  Unfortunately, I think she tried WAY too hard to emphasize EVERYTHING in this book.  The purple prose is strong with this one, suffocating and deliberate in its plight to squeeze meaning into every scene and every dialogue and every action.

It got tacky.

The only part of the writing I really DID appreciate about this book was the vivid imagery about the bayous.  But otherwise, everything else (character descriptions, action descriptions, character dialogue, character monologue...) all just needed to be toned down a notch.  Even all the sex scenes were so flowery that I started envisioning rose petals and climbing vines in the background framing our couple as they made passionate love.

2.  The story (and the romance, since this is what the book was mainly about) was pretty much Lucky's Lady Redux.  Same time, same place, same heroine, same hero, different story, same formula.  The only difference is that this one had a murder mystery in the background as well as in the last 50% of the book (see my reading update at end of post for more info).

Jack Boudreaux and Laurel Chandler are no different than Lucky and Serena in their personalities, the courting ritual, and their physical appearances (except that Jack may have one-upped Lucky by throwing in a kidnapping offense on top of the spewing of sexual innuendos, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and plain rude arrogance; and playing the self-pity game to the tipping point).

3.  The murder mystery is as significant to the story as me sitting in my home listening to the news telecast a serial homicide the next state over.

Basically, until we hit the half-point of the book, it HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH ME, period.  I was almost wondering if the murder mystery even existed anymore.

And also, the killer was obvious from the very moment that he appears in the book and all but tells you that he's the "brilliant predator" he keeps talking about.

The investigative process on this serial killer case was laughable.

4.  I wouldn't pay a dime to have Laurel Chandler represent me in court even if I had no other choice.

The book keeps alluding to how she's an excellent attorney and has a shining record of great case investigation and whatnot.  But she blows one case (because she didn't have enough evidence, and all but went public with her cause despite not having enough evidence to make these claims, which strikes me as an amateur move for some hotshot lawyer with a shining record), and then goes crawling into a hidey-hole, never to be seen again in her outstanding career field.

Because she lost ONE case!

Outside of the courtroom, she cannot stand up for herself or her sister.  She won't say anything at all when it matters.  And half the arguments she starts with a witty retort or a controlled, well-thought out line usually fizzles within seconds, and she's left fuming mad and speechless because she can't finish her argument.  Instead, someone else has to resort to coming to her rescue--usually Jack with his threats of physical violence, because being a disbarred lawyer and all, that's how we solve ALL our problems.

I was always under the impression that a good lawyer is excellent with words and can manage to, even if not manipulate a situation verbally in his or her favor, be able to stand up for herself or others and at least leave the debate with some form of dignity.  A good lawyer should have the ability to argue a point with facts and fancy words that drive people crazy, without resorting to quiet tantrums or gawking like a dumbfounded goldfish.  But Laurel's typical reaction to a confrontation (many of which she was the one to initiate in the book) is simply standing there and fuming.

Also, Laurel is hot and cold.  She returns home so she can be pampered and not have to do a thing but relax, but she simmers when her aunt and her sister try to coddle her.  She's got her own problems to deal with and doesn't want to do anything remotely close to legal obligations, but she'll butt her nose into others' problems, and when they request, she becomes their legal go-between to help settle their problems (which she does a shit job doing, by the way).  She is indignant that Jack is a terrible, annoying, arrogant man, and that she is this pure, innocent, Mother Theresa type who doesn't just sleep with anyone... but ends up having sex with Jack anyway; and on top of that, she can't seem to keep her self-control under check.  As with the rest of the confrontations she initiates, she can never seem to win an argument with Jack, but after her first witty retort, he'll smirk at her or say something alluding to sex or sex parts or any kind of sexy times and she is putty and forgets why she's annoyed with him in the first place.

She also seems to become sexually aroused and heated very easily around Jack, which is why she has so much trouble finishing her arguments with him.

And then she slut-shames her own sister.

5.  Jack is a self-pitying cry baby who exaggerates his problems.

I understand that he's been caught in tragedy and a terrible few years as a hot shot lawyer who went down the wrong road.  I get it.  But the point didn't need to be reinforced in his monologues repeatedly.  Cause I get it.  And even though you came across a bad streak when you were hotheaded, there are other issues in life other than your own self-made misery for you to try and care about.  Case in point, when Laurel is going through a big heart-breaking loss near the end of the book, rather than being there for her, he chooses to reveal his own past and making the situation all about him.

So then Laurel feels bad for him

and tries to console HIM instead.

Jack is a walking double standard because he's allowed to pry into Laurel's past and make remarks about how she needs to forgive herself and move on with life.  But when anyone even glances in the direction of his own wounds, he crawls into his own self-made prison and growls at everyone walking by.  He's allowed to wallow in his self-pity, but when he comes across Laurel doing it, he makes rude remarks about the pot calling kettle and how she's arrogant to think she can shoulder all the world's responsibility.  Then she calls him out on his own assessment, using it to compare his own tragic past and he tells her she's wrong, pushes her out the door, and goes whimpering to his hidey-hole again.

I get that there was a lot of darker content and subject matter in this book.  I'm not ragging on it.  I just think it could have been handled better.  Rather than hammering the point about our characters' tragedies every other chapter, how about we move on with the story and try to see our characters into development and a Happily Ever After... or something akin to that.  Or not.  The point is, we needed to move on with the story after everyone's wallowing in self-pity was re-emphasized for the fifth time--cause otherwise the book just gets depressing.

I'm at the edge of trying to decide whether or not to finish this series.  I own the paperback copy of A Thin Dark Line, then went and checked out the first three books from the library so that I could get around to reading A Thin Dark Line, but now I'm having misgivings.

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

A Reading Update @ 46% (originally posted on October 15, 2014)

Well, lookie here!  The book finally remembered that it's supposed to have a murder mystery.

Maybe now that our couple have gotten past the sexual tension, we'll quit dancing around each other's elaborately emotional and conflicted monologues about wanting and can't having (or something like that) and cut back on the romantic angst a little bit to have a story?

There has just been too much going on in this book, with too much monologue, and too much description, and too much of... everything!  But at the same time, there has been absolutely NO story progression.  I don't even know what this book is about anymore aside from following a dysfunctional set of characters and their relationships with each other, while the main couple lust after each other and continue to give one-sided monologues about how they want to sleep with each other, but they don't want to make things complicated, so let's try to stay away from each other, because we can't complicate a non-relationship that isn't there anymore than it already is complicated.  But well, Hey!  Let's fall into each other's arms reluctantly anyway and almost have sex, because that totally helps to NOT give the wrong impression that we actually want each other.

Yes, the darker subject matter mentioned in the book is saddening and I'm not trying to rag on that.

But the fact still remains that a whole lot of nothing has happened within this first 50% of the book.  And it's frustrating.

This is my fourth Tami Hoag book.  If things don't get better, I might have to rearrange my reading lists and rewrite my Reading Challenge selections.  She's a good writer, but I think she might have gotten a little carried away in this one.  And I have a feeling she's better at simple Romance novels than she is at Romantic Suspense--the first book in this series, which is a Romance, plain and simple, is so far the better of these Doucet books... and probably because Remy Doucet didn't come off as a complete douche nozzle.

Or maybe I'm just not picking the right books.

Hence the fact that I have started two new books and finished two others since I began reading this one.

This update was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in October 2014.

Thoughts: Lucky's Lady

Lucky's Lady

by Tami Hoag
Book 2 of Doucet

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars

As wild and mysterious as the Louisiana swamp he called home, Lucky Doucet was a dangerously attractive Cajun no woman could handle.  His solitary life left no room for the likes of elegant Serena Sheridan, but Lucky couldn't deny her desperate need to find her missing grandfather.  He would help her, but nothing more--yet once he felt the lure of the flaxen-haired beauty, an adventurer like Lucky couldn't help playing with fire.

Serena felt unnerved, aroused, and excited by the ruggedly sensual renegade whose gaze burned her with its heat, but she did not dare tangle with a rebel whose intensity was overwhelming, who claimed his heart was off limits...  Deeper and deeper they traveled into the steamy bayou, until with one electrifying kiss her resistance melted into liquid desire.   And the devilish rogue found he'd do anything to make Serena Lucky's Lady.

There's a little blurb in an author's note at the start of the book that mentions how Lucky's Lady is Tami Hoag's first foray into the Romantic Suspense arena after a career of writing strictly romances and romantic comedies.  So I decided to take this into account when I started reading the book.  I've only read two other Tami Hoag books in the past--one of which I don't even remember the book or the title since it was a long time ago, and the other was the first book in the Doucet series, The Restless Heart, of which I had just recently read.

Ms. Hoag is a very good writer and sets up the imagery and location of the bayous and nature really well.  At the very least, the images in my mind are quite vivid.

Unfortunately, the story suffers from everything else.

I'm under the impression that the book forgot that it was supposed to be a Romantic Suspense until sometime towards the ending--and then we just throw in a random scene for suspense sake and it's pretty much over before it's started.  Sure, there was a lot of the "conspiracy" and the "melodrama" and the straight out "drama" that lead up to the point (that actually could have been cut pretty short), but it still felt like reading a plain old traditional romance novel that tried to inject some suspense into it in the eleventh hour so it could join the club.

Serena returns to her old childhood home for vacation from her psychology practice in Charleston only to find that her grandfather has gone into hiding in a cabin out in the middle of the swamps.  For reasons (big bad conspiracy reasons), her twin sister, Shelby has not bothered to tell Serena the whole story, opting simply for claiming that Gifford Sheridan has lost his marbles and just ran off.  So, in the heat of stupid pride and stubborn anger, Serena goes to find a guide who will take her out into the swamps to find her grandfather and bring him home.

This is when she meets Lucky, douchebag of the century who is sexist and lewd and keeps throwing sexual harassments innuendos at Serena (more on him later), and her entire life begins to turn upside down when conspiracies, family drama, and an angst-ridden, lust-filled romance invades her perfectly settled lifestyle.

For a romance novel, it probably wasn't a terrible book.  As I had stated in my review of the first book in this series, I don't typically read books that are strictly romances; especially the stock standard, carbon copy, traditional romance novels with the same illustration of the same, barely dressed couple manhandling gripping each other tightly.

And Lucky's Lady was definitely no different than a typical romance novel (of which I have read few even if not many).  In fact, as I read this book, I kept picturing that illustration as our main couple:

Serena Sheridan is the standard, uniquely gorgeous woman who is supposedly independent, successful, and intelligent and insightful, prim and proper… practically a Mary Sue of her own caliber.  She’s got a dry, sarcastic streak about her (which works for some grins, but no straight out laughs), and she’s not afraid to stand up for herself… supposedly.

Etienne “Lucky” Doucet is, physically, the guy on the cover (not this book's cover, but the stock standard romance novel cover I'm picturing in my mind) with his wild hair and eyes, chiseled features, built body, bulging bicep, and eternal shirtlessness.  He’s the standard romance novel hero/faux-antihero whom women of the ages fantasize their excitements around--dangerous, roguish, on the edge of the law, and somehow alluring despite all of his douche-y qualities.  On the inside, he’s got the standard Heart of Gold, as well as a broken spirit.

In real life, any self-respecting woman would kick him in the shins and run away for the behavior he exhibits which ranges from sexual harassment, to sexual assault, to downright rude, disrespectful, and plain scary.  But this is a fictional romance novel with dated and cliche standards, so every woman is certainly going to become attracted to him and allow this attraction to cloud their inconsistently swaying judgment in his character.  I especially love the whole "No, no I don't want to have sex," "Yes, yes you do want this," "Well, okay, I guess you're right, yes I do want to be ravished," exchange that takes place in so many of these romance novels (AND in this book); then the guy gets what he wants, the girl's crying... but that's okay, it was mind-blowing sex, so everything is alright...  Excuse me while I go roll my eyes a fifth time.  But that's okay, because in the end, the guy is the most perfect man ever, never mind that he was an arrogant, egocentric, sexist douche-nozzle in the beginning; his standard Heart of Gold and his sad, sad tragic past that broke his soul makes up for his douchery.

And so goes our standard romance of the uptight and prissy, intelligent, yet also naively innocent woman who comes into our dangerous rogue’s life in order to make him fall in love with her and change his life while her life is turned upside down. There’s lusting, there’s insta-love, there’s angst, and of course, there’s the big “we can’t be together for reasons” quip that plays as the main conflict in 90% of romance novels.

The heroine is always prim and proper and needs a bad boy to liven up her life, because her life is a lonely pit of sorrow even though she is properly independent and successful in the rest of her life.  The hero is always the dangerous bad boy who needs a prim and proper innocent lady to fix his broken soul and reform him back into civilized living…

Or something to that effect.

And then the book remembers that it’s applying for the Romantic Suspense club as well and so throws in a random conspiracy and obligatory Damsel in Distress scene to mark off its checklist.

As a Romantic Suspense, it was a nice attempt.

I’m filing this story away as a regular old Romance novel, though because I never felt the suspense in it.  Had I not been told that this book is being classified as a Romantic Suspense, I probably wouldn’t have suspected it at all.  As a traditional romance novel, it probably hit upon the usual marks with the same, replayed formulaic story line and the same formulaic characters.

So it wasn’t a bad story.  Serena has to deal with her family history and conflicts while battling other things; Lucky has to deal with his own personal demons while battling other things.  The two have to work out their own romantic conflicts, and the bad guys sort of get the justice they deserve served to them… sort of.  I’m a little put out that Serena’s twin sister, Shelby still gets let off, scot free without repercussions to her life and still finishes of the story as if she hasn’t learned her lesson.

But I guess that’s real life for you--sometimes not everything gets tied up in a perfect little bow.  And so long as we have our Happily Ever After for the main couple everything else is fine, right? I’m not really too bothered by it myself.

I can’t say that I really enjoyed the romance or the characters.  And since there was barely much story line to contend with, well, I’m giving this book a big old mediocre rating.  If you like romance novels and you like your Happily Ever Afters (as I do), then this book won’t bother you.  But if you’re also looking for a little bit more substance, I’m not sure I’d go for this one.  Since I didn’t really care for the characters, the book and the romance didn’t impress me.

Tami Hoag is a good writer though, and I’m holding out hope that the rest of the series will be more enticing and the romances a little less formulaic.  The next book in the Doucet series, Cry Wolf, sounds like it has more of a murder mystery/crime thriller angle to it, so I’m interested.  I’ve read that her Kovac/Liska series is actually done really well, so I’m interested in checking those out when I get a chance.

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

Brief Thoughts: The Restless Heart

The Restless Heart

by Tami Hoag
Book 1 of Doucet

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars

As a world-renowned globe-trotting photographer, Danielle Hamilton was at home with Tibetan nomads and Kenyan bushmen.  But she didn’t think she’d survive six weeks in the “wilds” of New Orleans babysitting her sister’s five children.

Then help arrives in the form of the most unlikely nanny Danielle could imagine.  Tall, dark, and Cajun, Remy Doucet isn’t really a nanny and he isn’t accepting Danielle’s certainty that true love isn’t in the cards for her.  He’s convinced that her self-control masks a deeper need to let go, and he’s determined to prove she could trust him with the memory of a tragedy that still haunts her dreams...

I don't read many books that are singularly romance novels, though I AM a hopeless romantic--I like my romantic suspense novels and I HAVE indulged in few romantic comedies and like to enjoy other genres if they happen to have a side of romance to accompany them.

I read this book because it is listed as the first book in the Doucet romantic suspense series and introduces to us the first Doucet sibling, Remy, as well as mentioning the protagonist of the second Doucet book, Lucky.  I came across the last book in this series A Thin Dark Line at a warehouse sale and had bought it in tandem with several other warehouse sale books (17 books bought for $7, yo!).  And so with the interest in the series itself and my OCD-ness for reading book series in their proper order...

This book presents as a pretty traditional, standard romance novel with lots of lusting, lots of emotions being flung around, and some angst to wrap it all up.  I'm not going to say that I didn't enjoy it, but it wasn't the best book in the world.  The beginning of the book was kind of aggravating, but the story got better as the book progressed, so I'm not complaining too much--I might have taken offense to Remy's whole spiel about how women should know how to cook and clean and take care of children and automatically, naturally have maternal instincts and how it's absurdly ridiculous that Danielle doesn't have any of these qualities.

If fictional characters were tangible, I may have kicked the man in the shins myself, so I took pleasure in watching the kids do it for me.

Speaking of the kids... this is how I know this book is purely fictional and written in an old-fashioned sense geared toward a warm-hearted audience.  It utilizes the whole "kids do the darnedest things" cliche in the most comically unbelievable fashion to create endearment towards the book.  Because it's fun to watch a bunch a kids wreak havoc in the fictional world so long as some nice guy can come by and fix their behavior without resorting to hiring a drill sergeant.  In real life, behavior like that probably wouldn't fly no matter how rich you are.

Overall, this book made for a good few hours of entertainment.

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

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Series Review: Carhart

Carhart series

by Courtney Milan
Book #1:  Proof by Seduction | Goodreads | Rating:  4.5 Stars
Book #2:  Trial by Desire | Goodreads | Rating:  4.5 Stars
Book #0.5:  This Wicked Gift | Goodreads | Rating:  2.0 Stars

I'm not sure I have much to say about this series.  I became a fan of Courtney Milan after reading her Brothers Sinister series not too long ago and had planned on picking up more of her work after seeing a lot of great reviews about them.

Truthfully, Courtney Milan's writing is wonderfully witty and fun, and I love the concept behind both of the Carhart novels, even if some of it got a little heavy.  The chemistry between our characters was wonderful, and I just love the dialogue!

Milan includes an author's note, as well as discussion in Q&A at the end of the new enhanced Kindle edition, a volume that includes both books as well as the novellas and short stories, that the Carhart books were not her favorite creations.  I assume that these are her debut novels/series, and it definitely shows.  If I had to make a comparison, the Brothers Sinister series was definitely much more well-written, and the characters much more lovable than the ones in the Carhart series.

She was his last chance for a future of happiness...

A gifted fortune-teller from a humble background, Jenny can make even the most sophisticated skeptic believe her predictions simply by batting her smoky eyelashes.  Until she meets her match in Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely, a sworn bachelor and scientist.

He just didn't know it yet

Broodingly handsome, Gareth is scandalized to discover his cousin has fallen under the spell of "Madame Esmerelda," and vows to prove Jenny a fraud.  But his unexpected attraction to the fiery enchantress defies logic.  Jenny disrupts every facet of Gareth's calculated plan--until he can't decide whether to seduce her or ruin her.  Now, as they engage in a passionate battle of wills, two lonely souls must choose between everything they know...and the boundless possibilities of love.

Aside from the beginning of the book wherein I really wanted to put my fist into Lord Blakely's face... the rest of the book made me squeal.  Because then we find out that "Rude, Despicable, Arrogant Gareth Carhart" was really just "Socially Award, Misguided Gareth Carhart"... and I'm all squeals.  Though not as much as I'm all squeals about Jenny--I absolutely LOVED her!

Not much else I can think of to say.  The characters were outstanding, although I did find myself a bit frustrated and annoyed with Ned a lot of the time.

The elephant thing was fabulous!


In the three years since her husband left her, Lady Kate Carhart has managed to forge a fulfilling life for herself.  But when Ned Carhart unexpectedly returns, she finds her tranquility uprooted --- and her deepest secrets threatened.  Though she has no intention of falling for Ned's charms, Kate can no longer deny the desire that still burns in her heart.


Ned is determined to regain his wife's trust by using unbridled seduction.  But just as Kate surrenders to Ned's passion, her carefully guarded past threatens to destroy her.  Now Kate must place her faith in the only man she's ever loved, and the only one who has ever betrayed her ...

I can't decide how I feel about this book.  On the one hand, I really, really loved Kate, a lot!  On the other hand, the main conflicts in this romance/self-revelation historical were kind of frustrating.  It really wasn't until the second half of the book that things started picking up a little bit.

And I can't believe that I actually found myself annoyed with Jenny's behavior after all the things she'd been through in the first book.  I hadn't expected the snobbish dismissals she directed at Kate, and still don't understand the explanations given in the end for her rude behavior.

I understand that there's a deep, underlying conflict to do with Ned... but I just couldn't help but feel like his stubbornness got dragged out a bit.

In the end, it was really Kate who won me over.

Lavinia Spencer is too poor to be anything but practical.  But when her younger brother lands himself in trouble, she has no choice but to do the unthinkable.  She accepts the help of the dishonorable man that she’s always wanted, even knowing that it might mean her ruination…

I think that this novella was doomed to fail the moment our hero chose to coerce the heroine into having sex with him.  The fact that our heroine didn't need coercing and was very willing to sleep with him doesn't make a difference.  I feel like I wouldn't be able to trust a man who'd be willing to do such a thing, whether or not there were justifications revealed left and right.  He didn't know that she was willing, and he didn't know that she could very well have refused him--he still went there.

Read-a-thon: 24 in 48! January 2018 | Ani's Plans!

So here is the basic gist of this read-a-thon as copied from the 24 in 48 Readathon site:

Beginning at 12:01am on Saturday morning and running through 11:59pm on Sunday night, readers read for 24 hours out of that 48 hour period.  You can split that up however you’d like: 20 hours on Saturday, 4 hours on Sunday; 12 hours each day; six 4 hour sessions with 4 hour breaks in between; whatever you’d like.

So January 2018's 24in48 will be the weekend of the 27th and 28th!  I'm super pumped, and hopefully I won't be disturbed.  I don't work that weekend, so I'm going to comb my reading lists and see what I can get lined up for the thon.  Maybe, it'll include some of the following books:

I'm not sure what I want to read yet, but these are some that I'm wanting to get to at some point this year.  These are also books I own that have been awaiting my attention, so I hope I can get to them some time, if not during the read-a-thon!

Happy reading everyone!

Ani's 2018 Reading Challenges | With a short 2017 reflection

For the most part, 2017 was actually a pretty productive year for my reading challenges, save for the snafu's of a couple of months at the beginning and end of the year.  For some summaries, progress, and updates, you can check out all the challenges I participated in at my 2017 Reading Challenges summary page.

It's honestly really hard to do, making myself not spend so much time obsessing over my reading challenge goals.  For 2017, I kept having to tell myself to take a more laid back approach, don't participate in too many challenges, follow my own reading moods... and so on.  But then another new reading challenge would catch my attention, and the next thing I know, I'm lost.

So... for 2018, I really think my best bet is just... to make some goals, and see where they all go.  I failed my Reading Assignment challenge for the first time since I started participating, and it didn't feel like the end of the world.  So maybe I can truly start to take a more laid back approach towards my reading challenges for 2018.

Just make the goals.  Then see where the year takes me.

Goodreads Reading Challenge

My Goal:  150 books
GR shelf:  2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Assignment Challenge

hosted by Michelle and Berls @ Because Reading is better than real life
Spring Semester Goal:  Reading Level 1 // 12 books (1 books/month)
Fall Semester Goal:  TBR
GR shelf:  2018 Reading Assignment Challenge
My 2018 Reading Assignment Challenge Summary Page

2018 Mount TBR Challenge

hosted by My Reader's Block
My Goal:  Mount Vancouver -- Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
GR shelf:  2018 Mt TBR Pile Challenge

2018 Personal Series Challenge

My tentative book list and challenge announcement
Goal #1:  Finish/Catch Up With 10 series, already started
Goal #2:  Read/Catch Up With 10 series, new to me
Goal #3:  Read 10 1st in a series books

2018 Author Love Challenge

hosted by Michelle and Berls @ Because Reading is better than real life
Author Chosen:  Jayne Ann Krentz
Goal:  Read 12 Books


Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- December 2017

I think December had ended up becoming all about comfort reading more than anything else.  I mean, yes, I read some books based upon certain reading challenges, but they were also books I'd been meaning to find time to read anyway... and also I was in the mood.  And as it happens, my mood was all about the historical romances and Jill Shalvis's last few Lucky Harbor books.

The holidays are always busy, busy, with a lot going on, so I'm actually quite surprised that I managed to slip in a few more books during the last two weeks of December.  Of course, some of them were novellas, but they still count towards my goal.  And then on the last two days of the month, Courtney Milan happened again and made me remember why I had been wanting to read the rest of her books--not that I ever forgot, but the idea was quite reinforced.

Anyway, hope everyone had a great holiday!  And now we can all begin the year anew with new resolutions and new ambitions and new goals and new challenges!

December Reads

Also read two novellas, covers not shown here:
-- The Legend of the Werestag by Tessa Dare
-- The Scandalous, Dissolute, No Good Mr. Wright by Tessa Dare

Books Dropped/Put On Hold

None this month!  Yay!

Currently Reading

December Reading Stats

Total works read: 17
  • 12 print/e-book novels
  • 1 audio books
  • 4 novellas

Average rating:  3.35 Stars
  • Highest Rated:  2 books // 4.5 Stars
    • (1) Proof by Seduction by Courtney Milan
    • (2) Trial by Desire by Courtney Milan
  • Lowest Rated:  The Scandalous, Dissolute, No Good Mr. Wright by Tessa Dare // 2.0 Stars

Series I started reading:
  • Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie
Series I completed:
  • Lucky Harbor by Jill Shalvis
  • Spindle Cove by Tessa Dare
  • Castles Ever After by Tessa Dare
  • Carhart by Courtney Milan
Series I have made progress on:
  • Harmony by Jayne Castle

Favorite reads I love Tessa Dare, though I do have to say that even a beloved author can be a miss a few times.  Nonetheless, I still really enjoyed the last couple books for Spindle Cove with Any Duchess Will Do being my favorite.  On the other hand, I managed to slide in two more historical romances at the end of the month by Courtney Milan, and absolutely loved them both:  Proof by Seduction and Trial by Desire.  Neither are as great as the Brothers Sinister series, but still wonderfully witty and lovely.

Disappointing reads:  As Tessa Dare had some of my more enjoyable reads for December, as did she also have one of my least enjoyable reads--a novella by the name of The Scandalous, Dissolute, No Good Mr. Wright, which I didn't write a review for... but I just had all sorts of frustrating thoughts about throughout.  I believe this was one of her earlier works.  Otherwise, the month really didn't generate too much hate in booklandia, really...

Reviews & Notable Posts

Reviews Written


  • Did Not Meme This Month!

Other Posts

Coming Up In January

Tentative TBR

Other Stuff

With the beginning January also comes the beginning of the new year.  I don't know what will be in store for me in 2018, because even while I'm still picking up a lot of reading challenges, I'm intent on keeping that laid back reading attitude I'd been trying to implement all 2017 (rather unsuccessfully).  I'm not making any big, big plans for 2018; for this coming year, my main goal is just to focus on what I want to read, some of the series I'm meaning to finish up, and the new twist on the Reading Assignment Challenge.

I'm determined to just let the reading challenges be guidelines rather than anchors on what I should read.  If I can't think of what to read, I can refer to my challenges and choose from the many books that are part of each.

And if fellow readers at Booklikes want to start up another reading game, I'd be more than happy to join!

Meanwhile, I'm also planning on purging my TBR and my series lists.  There are a lot of books I've read that are the first in a series... and I'm resolved to make a decision on whether or not I'm going to continue that series or not.  Once again, I think it's time to purge that TBR list.

My tentative reading list for January is pretty skimpy (one book on the plan) compared to previously presented.  I honestly, do not know what to choose for my next read after I finish what I'm currently reading (listed above).  I've only chosen one book a month for my Reading Assignment, which is currently being read.

So... I suppose now would be a good time to go through the TBR stacks and see what needs to be read!

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