Friday, June 29, 2018

Thoughts: The Jayne Ann Krentz Reading Phase (Part 1)

To start off, this is sort of a bundled, package review... but sort of not...

I've been spending a lot of time in a reading slump, barely finishing a book in one month, and dragging out another book in yet another month.  Then I decided to just read what I felt like reading, whenever I felt like reading, and somehow I ended up just picking up one Jayne Ann Krentz book after another.  It helps that I'm a fan.

And then I couldn't really come up with much to say about each book without being repetitive about it, because, let's be honest, most Jayne Ann Krentz books tend to have the same formula, no matter how hard you try to see otherwise.

But that's what makes me keep coming back to Krentz.  She uses the same formula, but it's a formula I enjoy, and it's a formula I know I'll like, and it's a formula that just gives me a pleasant, satisfied warmth at the end of the day.

And sometimes, that's all you need.

  • Trust No One | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars
  • When All the Girls Have Gone | Goodreads | Rating:  3.5 Stars
    • Book 1 of Cutler, Sutter & Salinas
  • Smoke In Mirrors | Goodreads | Rating:  4.0 Stars

As much as I love reading Krentz, I couldn't help but notice some of the similarities between character creation in Trust No One and When All the Girls Have Gone.  And maybe even Smoke In Mirrors.  Our heroine is a health nut with a dinner menu consisting of organic everything--all three of the heroines in these books have that same trait.  I'm not saying it's a bad trait, but it makes for interesting comparison, as well as proves that JAK will sometimes use the same formula for most of her books.

There are a couple other things similar between Trust No One and When All the Girls Have Gone, but that gets into the mystery/suspense part of the book... and I don't want to give anything away.

Meanwhile, characters are great, although Smoke In Mirrors by far, had the best dialogue between our characters.  And probably the most interesting heroine.

  • Secret Sisters | Goodreads | Rating:  4.0 Stars
  • River Road | Goodreads | Rating:  4.0 Stars
  • Falling Awake | Goodreads | Rating:  4.0 Stars

Secret Sisters was lots of fun, in spite of the heavy content involved.  Do I remember anything about it?  Maybe.  I remember the hotel, the main conflict/mystery.  I don't remember much about the main heroes, because they didn't stand out much.  In fact, our main hero seemed to have some character traits similar to the hero in River Road.  I can say that I DID love the friendship and interaction between our heroine and her secret sister in Secret Sisters--that made for heart-warming reading.

And I found the comment about "six degrees of separation" mentioned in River Road quite apt for describing JAK books... in a way.  And it doesn't escape my notice that there are some drug-related criminal elements being bandied around in few of her books as well--this particular plot device popped up in both Secret Sisters and River Road.

Falling Awake was fun and intriguing, and I found the lucid dreaming story line quite promising; although, I must admit, it was a little hard trying to figure out how far into the paranormal JAK was trying to go.  And a few things were a little muddled, but all around, it was an entertaining read.

Oh yes, and Falling Awake boasted another heroine with a health-centric, organic diet--soy sausages were mentioned.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Series Thoughts: Animal Magnetism books 5, 6, 7

Animal Magnetism
by Jill Shalvis
Book #5:  Then Came You | Goodreads | Rating:  3.5 Stars
Book #6:  Still the One | Goodreads | Rating:  3.5 Stars
Book #7: All I Want | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars

See Also Reviews for:

Sometimes I forget that Jill Shalvis is the type of author you love, but that you must take in small doses, at separate times, over a long duration of time.  For some reason I was bound and determined to plow through the rest of the Animal Magnetism books, all narrated by Karen White.  And unlike some other ongoing series out there, I'm not sure if I'm hoping for more.

I mean, it took me nearly five months to finish listening to All I Want--though admittedly, two of those months were spent in a reading slump where I barely did any reading at all.

Sure, I love the animals in this series; and truth be told, the animals of this series were really the stars.  And Kate, from Rumor Has It, was also a star, as well as her younger brother--they were probably the only humans in this series I actually liked.  Meanwhile, we'll give a big kudos to all the little furry and not-so-furry lovelies in this book, from an adorable little kitten named Bean, to the verbally naughty smart-ass commentary from Peanut the parrot, to two golden retrievers named Thing One and Thing Two whom I wished could have had more book time.

There was even a small turtle named Sammy, a rescue puppy named Woodrow... there were horses, iguanas, more kitties...  Oreo, the big, fluffy giant of a dog who ended up attaching himself to two newborn kittens as they terrorized him with their rowdy, heathen ways...

Really, this series was all about the animals!

Veterinary intern Emily can't believe she wound up in the small town of Sunshine, Idaho, instead of in a Los Angeles clinic like she had always imagined.  Now she has to put her plans to move to L.A. on hold for a whole year while she fulfills the obligation of her vet school scholarship.

Then Wyatt, her gorgeous one-night stand from a Reno vet conference, introduces himself as her new boss.  And Emily is just as drawn to his seductive looks and quiet strength as she was on that very steamy night.

She soon learns that Wyatt isn't just a laid-back doctor but a delicious alpha male tempting her away from her carefully laid-out plans.

There were some things I liked and some things I didn't like about Then Came You.  The beginning was a bit rocky, and might have been cut down a little bit.  Emily's constant, repetitive wishy-washy feelings got a little frustrating... but then again, so did Wyatt's indifferent behavior, and heck care attitude, masking all the roiling emotions shown during his monologues.  These two really just needed to learn to communicate honestly, and all probably would have been right in the world.

Then again, if they had figured that out at the beginning, we'd have no story, probably.  Which doesn't mean I wasn't getting frustrated.

And I'm not sure how much I liked the respective households' siblings, with their nosy interjections, and sometimes annoying commentary.

There were moments in the book that might have gotten a bit tear-jerkingly heart-clenching... which were nice, for some strange reason.  And then Wyatt and Emily sometimes had an interesting partnership as two veterinarians working together to save animals, which I sort of liked.  Truthfully, while the relationship between Wyatt and Emily was a little rocky, I found the rest of the story quite solid... especially for a Jill Shalvis book, since she tends to leave a lot of loose ends in some of the pretty significant story lines.

Darcy Stone is game for anything — except sexy navy vet and physical therapist AJ Colten, the guy who'd rejected her when she'd needed him most.  Now the shoe is on the other foot, and he needs her to play nice and help him secure grants for his patients.  She needs the money to fund her passion project: rescuing S&R dogs and placing them with emotionally wounded soldiers.

AJ admits it — Darcy is irresistible.  But he's already been battle scarred by a strong-willed, vivacious, adventurous woman like Darcy, and he's not making the same mistake twice — until he and Darcy are forced to fake a relationship.  Growing closer than they'd ever imagined possible, Darcy and AJ have to ask themselves: How much between them is pretend?  What's the real thing?  And where does it go from here?

To be honest, Still the One wasn't the best of the Animal Magnetism books, but the romance and the story and the personal conflicts were actually moving along quite smoothly.  I loved how straight forward and crazy Darcy could be, and how she didn't hesitate to tell you exactly what she thought of you.  And I also really liked all the development she went through throughout this book.

The romance itself was quite sweet as well, and it seems that even broody AJ had trouble resisting falling for Darcy.

There was even a snowbound, fake couple trope inserted, probably just for the fun of it.  And I absolutely ate that one up!

Then the ending started rolling around, and all of a sudden we whipped out all the angst.  Everyone started becoming frustrating, between Darcy's friend Xander turning into a dickhead, to Darcy herself getting irrationally bitchy at everything.  It just seemed that after all the progress she'd been making, she suddenly presented with very un-Darcy-like behavior, what with her "I'm angry at you, and if you don't know why I'm angry at you, I'm not even going to tell you.  And no, we won't talk about it, because you should know why I'm angry with you even though I don't want to tell you."  It was so entirely frustrating that I actually felt kind of bad for AJ... even though he had been a bit of a broody jackass in the beginning.

Anyway, HEAs and whatnot, this was an enjoyable one, and probably would have been my second favorite of the series if not for the sudden explosion of angst at the end.

Pilot-for-hire Zoe Stone is happy to call Sunshine, Idaho, her home base.  But her quiet life is thrown for a loop when her brother’s friend Parker comes to stay with her for a week.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife special agent is a handsome flirt with a gift for getting under her skin.  And the situation only escalates when Parker hires her to fly him around the area while he collects evidence on a suspected smuggler.

Now she has to live and work with the guy.  But when they’re in the air, she sees another side of him.  He’s driven, focused, and sharp. And while he enjoys giving commentary on her blind dates, she quickly realizes with a shock that it’s Parker who gets her engines going…

All I Want should have been my favorite of these last three Animal Magnetism books, but at some point, I simply got tired of the sex and the repetitive courtship-non-courtship between Zoe and Parker.  The two of them had wonderful chemistry and banter; and I loved the way that Parker did little things around the house for Zoe, like fixing her plumbing, or replacing the lock on her back door, or fixing the brick that always fell out of the fireplace whenever she slammed the front door.

I even loved how he just automatically brought home a pair of newborn kittens because the little girl next door was so sad about sending them off to be adopted.

But I started getting annoyed with his inability to answer questions in a straight forward manner, even for such petty things such as fixing the kitchen sink.  Dude, if you fixed it, you fixed it--what's the big deal?  Even if Zoe had pride the size of the Western Hemisphere, I'm sure she wouldn't have thrown him out on his ass just for fixing the kitchen sink.

But what really got to me was how quickly Zoe melted into a sex addict whenever she and Parker were around each other.  So I may not have had a lot of experience with relationships, but I'd hate to believe that, in the real world, a woman has so much trouble holding onto her mad and her principles just because a good-looking man gives her a smoldering look.  And that's exactly what Zoe kept doing.  She would resolve to be angry at Parker for one offense or another, but melt and fall into bed with him as soon as he touched her.

This is one of the things that has always been a big problem with me when it comes to a lot of contemporary romances, especially in a Jill Shalvis book.  The men always get away with being a jackass just because they're good-looking or sexy.

But I'm getting off of my tangent, because this isn't something I can fix.

All I Want had a pretty good semi-romantic suspense subplot going as well.  Granted, I've read some of Shalvis's romantic suspense and she just doesn't really work them all that well.  This one was no exception, but it didn't stop me from hoping for a great story.


I love books with animals, so as much as I had my quibbles with this series, I still found myself enjoying it a lot.  If I just forget that there were so many weird conflicts between our humans, I'm sure I'll find myself looking back and remembering the animals in these books and being happy about it.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

2018 Reading Assignment | Fall Semester Book List!

Michelle and Berls @ Because Reading

This post and subsequent updates will be linked at 2018 Reading Assignment Challenge Page.

I had considered sitting out for the year 2018 for this challenge, but the newest changes made by our challenge hosts happened to be quite appealing, so I decided to go for it anyway.  And then I briefly considered sitting out the last half of the year because of my ongoing reading slump...

But I figured that if I don't pass, I don't pass.  At the very least, I still want to make my list for the Fall Semester and try to finish it.

Here is a recap of the newest changes made to 2018's Reading Assignment Challenge:
  • Commit to reading 1, 2, 3, or 4 books a month and MAKE A LIST of the SPECIFIC books you will read in January – June.  This is one of our changes… rather than committing for a year, you’re just picking the books for the first half of the year.  You’ll make a new list and commit to a new number of books per month in June for July – December.  So 2 books a month works for January – June, but only 1 for July – December?  That’s fine!

The Levels:
Reading Level 1:
12 books (1 book/month)

Reading Level 2:
24 books (2 books/month)

Reading Level 3:
36 books (3 books/month)

Reading Level 4:
48 books (4 books/month)

And then, to recap continuing features--the challenge is separated into four quarters, and each quarter will be a new start to receiving a new grade, with the same list of books you have pre-picked for 2018.

Quarterly Grading System
  • I made an A! Read all your books all three months of the quarter.
  • I made a B! Read all your books for two months of the quarter.
  • I made a C! Read all your books for one month of the quarter.
  • I made an F! Didn’t read all your books during any months of the quarter.

I will be continuing with Reading Level 1.  Plain and simple, I'm not interested in over-taxing myself.  So, for the second half of the year, I will be reading a total of 6 books, 1 book per month.

For more details, visit the 2018 Reading Assignment Challenge sign up post at the beginning of this post.

My 2018 Fall Semester Reading Assignment List:

-- List was finalized on 06/24/2017
See Also: Goodreads Shelf - 2018 Reading Assignment Challenge

This list is in order by author's last name, and not the order in which I will be reading them.

1.  New Year's Resolution: Romance! anthology -- Leslie Kelly, Tanya Michaels, Christie Ridgeway
2.  The Prey by Allison Brennan
3.  The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley
4.  Ghost Horse by Patricia Rosemoor
5.  The Littlest Cowboy by Maggie Shayne
6.  The Intrigues of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa

Wish me luck!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Brief Thoughts: The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever

by Julia Quinn
Book 1 of Bevelstoke

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

2 March 1810...  Today, I fell in love.

At the age of ten, Miranda Cheever showed no signs of Great Beauty.  And even at ten, Miranda learned to accept the expectations society held for her—until the afternoon when Nigel Bevelstoke, the handsome and dashing Viscount Turner, solemnly kissed her hand and promised her that one day she would grow into herself, that one day she would be as beautiful as she already was smart.  And even at ten, Miranda knew she would love him forever.

But the years that followed were as cruel to Turner as they were kind to Miranda.  She is as intriguing as the viscount boldly predicted on that memorable day—while he is a lonely, bitter man, crushed by a devastating loss.  But Miranda has never forgotten the truth she set down on paper all those years earlier—and she will not allow the love that is her destiny to slip lightly through her fingers...

To be honest, I think I had really hoped that a cutesy, humorous historical romance would help bring me out of the ongoing reading slump I've had since the beginning of the year.  But the truth is that this story wasn't as cutesy or humorous as I'd expected.  That's on me.  I should have figured that it would end up being quite angst-filled based on the fact that our hero is already starting the book off as a "lonely, bitter man, crushed by a devastating loss."

Truth is, I found Turner to be a bit of an ass, and nothing he did managed to redeem himself in my eyes.  He was pushy and barbaric, and I wish that Miranda had been able to stand up for herself a bit more rather than letting her ten-year crush/love dictate her emotions.

But otherwise, I really DID like Miranda.

It was everyone else in the book that made me a little upset.  And as much as I loved the friendship and the banter between Miranda and Olivia, I sometimes felt that Olivia needed a good slap upside the head to make her stop and think about her best friend before she chose to interfere in said best friend's life without any thought for said best friend's welfare.  Olivia came off pretty selfish, to be honest.

The book itself was enjoyable, and I may or may not continue the rest of the series.

Brief Thoughts: Mistress of Mellyn

Mistress of Mellyn

by Victoria Holt

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Mount Mellyn stood as proud and magnificent as she had envisioned...  But what bout its master--Connan TreMellyn?  Was Martha Leigh's new employer as romantic as his name sounded?  As she approached the sprawling mansion towering above the cliffs of Cornwall, an odd chill of apprehension overcame her.

TreMellyn's young daugher, Alvean, proved as spoiled and difficult as the three governesses before Martha had discovered.  But it was the girl's father whose cool, arrogant demeanor unleashed unfamiliar sensations and turmoil--even as whispers of past tragedy and present danger begin to insinuate themselves into Martha's life.

Powerless against her growing desire for the enigmatic Connan, she is drawn deeper into family secrets--as passion overpowers reason, sending her head and heart spinning.  But though evil lurks in the shadows, so does love--and the freedom to find a golden promise forever...

I'm wavering on my rating of this book, because I obviously ended up entirely engrossed in it after the first couple chapters, managing to finish the whole thing within hours of starting it.  The writing is beautiful, the setting is atmospheric, and I can absolutely see why this is a book that many Gothic romance readers would love.

There were elements that really bugged me, mainly the romance itself--I found it a bit too instant and was unable to pinpoint the moment that our main couple fall in love with each other.  It seemed almost too dictated; like the author had decided that these two would be lovers by the end, no matter that there was barely any time for them to have bonded or created any sparks.

But everything else about this book I really, really enjoyed and loved.  The heroine was fantastic--in fact I really liked all of the characters, even if I disliked the few male characters present.  The mystery was kind of predictable, and I had already had it figured out at some point, although a few red herrings DID get thrown in there that might have had me second guessing myself.

Nonetheless, this was a very enjoyable novel to pass the time with.

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."