Monday, July 23, 2018

24in48 July 2018 Readathon: Wrap Up

Yeah... We're done.

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.

Really nothing changed from the most recent update to the end of the readathon.  I got sidetracked and there was no reading done.  I didn't start in on Nora Roberts' Sanctuary, which more than likely won't get touched until the next weekend.

So my totals are as follows:

  • Total Time Spent Reading:  7:37:24
  • Total Pages Read:  612
  • Total Books Read:  1.5

These are my typical stats--one and a half books and approx. 6 to 8 hours of reading.  Not bad, but not my goal.  Maybe next time.

Books Read

Still Reading

Sunday, July 22, 2018

24in48 July 2018 Readathon: Hour Thirty Nine Update

It's been a lazy weekend, but we're almost there...

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.

I missed another update from this morning, but that's okay.  I had other things to do, so reading didn't really get to happen.  Besides, I'm resigned that I won't be getting 24 hours of reading in this weekend anyway.  And I've already reached my usual goal of 1.5 books read.

Finishing All Night Long took another 2 hours, as I'd predicted, with the actual time, according to my stopwatch, being 2:16:33.  This brings me to a total of 7:37:24 hours--612 pages read.

I will be starting in on Nora Roberts' Sanctuary sometime this evening, so hopefully for my final wrap up, I'll have some more stats to share.

Books Read

Blind Date Disasters / Eat Your Heart Out
by Jill Shalvis
286 pages / 163 pages read pre-marathon
-- 123 pages read in 1:48 hours @ Hour 10

All Night Long
by Jayne Ann Krentz
321 pages / 21 pages read pre-marathon
-- 0 pages read @ Hour 10
-- 189 pages read @ Hour 24
-- 300 pages read @ Hour 39

Currently Reading

Borrower of the Night
by Elizabeth Peters | narrated by Barbara Rosenblat
441 minutes / 68 minutes listened to pre-marathon / 373 minutes left to finish
-- 0 minutes listened to @ Hour 10
-- 0 minutes listened to @ Hour 24

Still working on this one...

24in48 July 2018 Readathon: Hour Twenty Four Update

Sleep is probably a good idea right now...

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 much for eight hour updates throughout the weekend.  I didn't even spend time reading the first half of the day after my last update, and instead immersed myself in food and television.  You always end up finding other things to do when you've made plans to do specific things.

Meanwhile, because I'd read zero pages of any book by the time my next planned update was supposed to go up, I decided just to skip it altogether and wait until I'd finished reading a good portion of All Night Long... the next thing I know, midnight is creeping up on me.

Anyway, I jumped right back into All Night Long, and as I'd predicted, being a Jayne Ann Krentz book and all, I just plowed through a good portion of it, reading 189 pages in 3:32:07, according to my stopwatch.  This brings me to a total of 312 pages read in 5:20:50.

5 hours and 20 minutes of reading...  I'd say not bad for my first 24in48 day, but that means I have about 19 hours of reading left to reach my ultimate goal.  I'm not sure that will actually happen, but I'm sure I'll at least make it halfway.

Yay me!

Books Read

Blind Date Disasters / Eat Your Heart Out
by Jill Shalvis
286 pages / 163 pages read pre-marathon
-- 123 pages read in 1:48 hours @ Hour 10

Currently Reading

Borrower of the Night
by Elizabeth Peters | narrated by Barbara Rosenblat
441 minutes / 68 minutes listened to pre-marathon / 373 minutes left to finish
-- 0 minutes listened to @ Hour 10
-- 0 minutes listened to @ Hour 24

Still working on this one...

All Night Long
by Jayne Ann Krentz
321 pages / 21 pages read pre-marathon / 300 pages left to finish
-- 0 pages read @ Hour 10
-- 189 pages read @ Hour 24

I foresee another two hours or so of reading to finish the rest of this book.  And yes, I fully intend to finish it before I go to sleep.  Mainly because it's getting exciting now and I'm loathe to stop any time soon.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Short Rant: Blind Date Disasters / Eat Your Heart Out

Blind Date Disasters / Eat Your Heart Out

by Jill Shalvis
Harlequin Duets #57

~ Goodreads ~

Average Rating:  2.5 Stars
-- Blind Date Disasters:  3.5 Stars
-- Eat Your Heart Out:  1.5 Stars

Blind Date Disasters
As an interior designer and an identical twin, Cami Anderson wants her home to be unique, so she hires a master carpenter to help.  She's expecting an older man, someone kindly, experienced.  In her wildest dreams, she hasn't figured on Tanner McCall, who's not old, not kind, but most definitely experienced... and seems more than a little interested in her blind date disasters!

Eat Your Heart Out
Dimi Anderson may be a TV personality, but she's never had the pizzazz possessed by her twin sister.  And pizzazz--read sex appeal--is what her new producer, Mitchell Knight, thinks is missing from her cooking show.  So, not only does Dimi get a radical makeover, she also gets Mitch as an on-air sidekick who really turns up the heat....

The first novella was cute and breezy, and I found myself enjoying it.  There were a few quibbles, but whatever--I enjoyed myself.

The second book made me angry if only because of how it gives me the message that Dimi would never be successful in her cooking show unless she was turned into a "Sex Kitten."  I liked that she learned to be happier, and felt more free to do as she wished with her own cooking show, but I felt like the "Sex Kitten" emphasis was unnecessary.

Getting on my feminist soap box here: this novella just further objectifies women in media, giving the impression that no one cares how well of a cook Dimi is unless she can also flash some cleavage and leg for the audience.  Women aren't taken seriously already, and are expected to be "Sex Goddesses" or "Sex Kittens" or some other type of "Sexy Something" in order for anyone to pay attention to them in media.

And to top it off, a man had to intervene to show Dimi how to become sexier.

And while I agree that humor and sex definitely DOES attract the ratings, it doesn't change the fact that Dimi's transition really did nothing for her cooking show, BUT attract ratings.  This is important in television, I understand.  But from the questions and the newspaper articles that are mentioned throughout the novella, her image change did nothing to make people take her seriously as television cooking show host.  Instead, everyone was more interested in her relationship status with Mitch, or her new wardrobe, and etc.  The one live caller to the show didn't even care that Dimi's show is a cooking show.


Soapbox aside, the second novella felt rushed and incomplete anyway.  I have the distinct feeling this is a book that our beloved author probably slept through when she wrote it.

It's a shame that the overall rating of this duet got pulled down by one of the novellas in it, because the first one was actually, as I already stated quite enjoyable, fun, cute and breezy.  Not that it's memorable, but I smiled and had my share of feels and was entertained.

Brief Thoughts: Primary Suspect

Primary Suspect

by Susan Peterson

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars


Cloudspin Resort held too many ghosts for Kylie McKee, so it was only the death of her father that brought her back to a place she once called home.  Getting in and out was key...until a murder and the appearance of her childhood crush thwarted her plans.

With a Killer?

Michael Emerson may have been blessed with fame and fortune, but when several of the women he once dated turned up dead, and Michael became the prime suspect, the good life seemed a thing of the past.  Now, as a blizzard trapped him and Kylie in a seemingly haunted resort, Michael knew someone - or something -- would stop at nothing to make him pay for his sins of the past....

Primary Suspect probably could have been an excellent crime thriller if not for the very obvious leaning towards the romance.  Also, this book probably suffers from a slight oversight in logic, as well as a too-rushed ending.  It certainly had a lot of potential, and had all the elements I would have loved in any story.  But there were one too many logic holes, and maybe a predictability factor that was blatantly obvious.

I didn't expect the supernatural angle, though I think it certainly added bonus points.  And if used properly, I really feel like the dialogue could have added to the likability of this book--there was a very valiant attempt at witty banter, which, aside from maybe one or two scenes near the end, really just seemed to come out at the most inappropriate moments.

The characters were fairly standard, which is another way of saying flat and boring.

But in the end, I DID manage to inhale the entire book in one day, so there's merit in that, right?

24in48 July 2018 Readathon: Hour Eight + Two Update

So basically an Hour Ten (and a half) Update!

Good Morning to everyone!!

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.

Although it IS almost noon and I probably could have clocked a couple more hours of reading before posting an update, I decided that I wanted to go ahead and get things rolling.  Also, I already had this post pre-drafted and ready to go after filling in the essential parts.  I didn't quite oversleep, though I didn't wake up at the hour I had intended to wake up.  When I finished my book at about 3:00 A.M., I knew that the Hour Eight update wasn't going to happen.

However, that doesn't matter all that much since I haven't read anything else since I've been up.

I'm working on some personal goals as well as readathon goals, and that included getting my butt in gear and jumping on a cardio workout this fine morning!  Next it'll be a shower, and then food!

Then, back to reading!

Meanwhile, I'm trying my hand at timing my reading this weekend and seeing how much I actually DO spend reading.  Previous years, I simply did a very rough guesstimate based on about what time I think I sat down to read, and about what time I think I stopped, then rounded to the nearest 0.5 hour.

This weekend, so far, starting a little after midnight, I started reading, then remembered my timer, so the minutes might be off by about one or two, but I'll take the hit.

According to my stop watch, the amount of time spent finishing up the second novella in Jill Shalvis's Harlequin Duet #57, listed below, was:  1:48:43.64.  So about 1 hour and 48 minutes.  I read 123 pages of the e-book.

Books Read

Blind Date Disasters / Eat Your Heart Out
by Jill Shalvis
286 pages / 163 pages read pre-marathon / 123 pages left to finish
-- 123 pages read in 1:48 hours @ Hour 10

As stated above, I had already read the first novella in this duet, and just needed to finish the second one, which I figured wouldn't take long considering how quickly I'd finished the first one.  I had wanted to finish it before the readathon started, but that didn't happen, but that's okay, because it'll just add to my readathon stats.

Currently Reading

Borrower of the Night
by Elizabeth Peters | narrated by Barbara Rosenblat
441 minutes / 68 minutes listened to pre-marathon / 373 minutes left to finish
-- 0 minutes listened to @ Hour 10

I don't typically get to audio books during readathons, but I'm listing this one here anyway just in case.  Who knows, maybe I'll spend a little bit of time on it when I'm doing some busy work that might come up.  Or if I suddenly decide to do some cooking.

All Night Long
by Jayne Ann Krentz
321 pages / 21 pages read pre-marathon / 300 pages left to finish
-- 0 pages read @ Hour 10

This is probably the longest I've ever let a Jayne Ann Krentz book sit after I started it, but to be fair, I usually like to read at work during down time, and it is kind of frowned upon to whip out a paperback for those purposes, so I stuck to e-books on my phone.  But rest assured, once I get started back into this book, we'll soon have another 300 pages to add to my stats.

I'm guesstimating a good eight hours before this one is complete, mainly because I'll probably get up a hundred times to either use the restroom, or make more food.

Read-a-thon: 24in48 July 2018 Starts Now!

Now!  Now!  Now!  Happy Reading Everyone!!!

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.

This post was obviously pre-drafted and scheduled to go.  Chances are, I am nowhere near my computer right now, and have eagerly started in on my readathon reads!  It took a little while, but I started planning the month, and sort of got into pre-formatting all of my update posts for 24in48 and the next thing I know, I got more pumped than I thought I would.

I have the entire weekend off, including Monday!  Yay!  Which means that, in theory, I could also keep reading until 23:59 on Saturday, July 22.  Whether or not that actually happens is still up in the air.  And knowing how my usual readathon weekends go, for all I know, I could read for a couple hours starting now, go to sleep, then wake up in the morning and suddenly have family obligations.

Sigh.  Thus is life.

Currently I'm reading the following three books, one audio book, one paper back novel, and one e-book novella duet.  I had intended to have Jill Shalvis's novella duet, Blind Date Disasters / Eat Your Heart Out finished before the readathon started, but that didn't actually happen.  So instead, a small portion of the book ended up being finished as part of the readathon.

That's fine, too.

My main goal this readathon... well... is just to get books read.  I've got a whole weekend, and I've got some snacks in mind to keep me happy.

Readathon Hopefuls:

What's everyone else reading this weekend?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Quick Series Thoughts: Eclipse Bay

Eclipse Bay

by Jayne Ann Krentz
Book #1:  Eclipse Bay | Goodreads | Rating:  4.0 Stars
Book #2:  Dawn in Eclipse Bay | Goodreads | Rating:  3.5 Stars
Book #3:  Summer in Eclipse Bay | Goodreads | Rating:  3.5 Stars

Average Series Rating:  3.67 Stars

I believe I first saw mention of Eclipse Bay in one of the several Arcane Society books--probably Running Hot, but definitely also mentioned in In Too Deep.  A specific character was mentioned as well, Arizona Snow, who is apparently a staple background character in this trilogy--a very eccentric background character, who honestly didn't really bring much to the table aside from helping the forward progression of our romantic suspense in a very deliberate fashion.

I would have really liked for Arizona's conspiracy theories to have had some truth in them rather than just being a part of her eccentric conspiracy theorist ramblings.  That would have probably given the books a bit more suspense.

Ultimately, these books are more romance than they are suspense, and meanders you through more contemporary scenes and tangents before sometimes remembering that there was either a murder or some other criminal act involved in the main conflict.

Anyway, I'm glad I finally got my hands on the Eclipse Bay trilogy, so I could see how it tied in with the Arcane Society books, or if it does at all.  These books definitely do NOT allude to the Arcane Society timeline, but they are certainly your typical Jayne Ann Krentz formula, in an enjoyable, yet forgettable way.

The characters were great, though I couldn't help getting frustrated with the continuous busy-body culture of the small town of Eclipse Bay.  I also started learning how to smell when someone was about to spout the words: "Nothing comes between a Madison and his passion."  The first time this came up, it was cute.  The second time, it was an interesting running gag.  The third, fourth, fifth, maybe twentieth time... well, might have been overkill.

Finally, I do believe that it was the presence of Winston, the high class, sophisticated Schnauzer, that ended up giving the first Eclipse Bay book an extra 0.5 star, because originally, I was thinking that this book was really only worth about 3.0 to 3.5 Stars based on my "meh" reaction to most of the book.

The characters were good, as Jayne Ann Krentz characters usually are, but they weren't great.  In fact, two of our three main male characters--Gabe Madison and Nick Harte--bordered on brooding, alpha, jackass.  So yes, some parts of the romance smelled of dated tropes, even if not all of it.  If that makes any sense.  Rafe came close to being a borderline broody, alpha male jackass... he gets points for steering clear of that stereotype... and also gets extra points for being a gourmet chef.

I actually have no complaints about our three main heroines--they were fantastic, standard, feisty, yet somehow not-so-standard characters.

Nonetheless, this was a fun, entertaining series to pass the time if you're looking for a great Jayne Ann Krentz to read!  As my BFF always says, "You can't go wrong with Jayne Ann Krentz."

Their grandfathers hated each other.

Their fathers hated each other.

And as the next generation of the Hartes and Madisons, Hannah and Rafe are expected to hate each other too.  But Hannah Harte, a successful wedding consultant with a skeptical view of marriage, remembers the long-ago night on the beach that revealed Rafe as much more than just "that disreputable Madison boy."  And Rafe remembers the heroic gesture that proved Hannah's fierce spirit was stronger than any feud and saved him from near-certain imprisonment.

Now reunited by a surprising inheritance after years of living their separate lives, Rafe and Hannah return to Eclipse Bay, and the hostilities that still divide, and bind, their families.  And they are discovering something that is at once delightful and deeply disturbing ...

They don't hate each other.  Not at all.

Nothing was ever simple between a Madison and a Harte.  The feud that had divided their families still simmered.  Now, only months after their siblings’ wedding, Lilian Harte and Gabe Madison are at each other’s throats.

Successful CEO Gabe had insisted on becoming a client of Lilian’s matchmaking service.  And after five disastrous dates, Lilian is at her wit’s end.  If she hadn’t already decided to close her business and move home to Eclipse Bay, Gabe would have been the final straw.  But when she finds Gabe at her door demanding she fulfill their business contract, the sparks between them suddenly turn personal.  Once again, Eclipse Bay will witness a showdown—between a relentless Madison and an irresistible Harte…

Return to small-town Eclipse Bay, Oregon -- where scandalous passions and decades-old resentments swirl with the relentless fury of a summer storm...

Word gets around fast in Eclipse Bay.  Nick Harte should know--his family's legendary feud with the Madisons fueled the local gossip mill for years before finally cooling off.  But people are still talking--and rumor has it Nick's involved with someone new...

Art gallery owner Octavia Brightwell doesn't take chances--especially on handsome, charming men.  But that's only part of the reason why she turned Nick down six times before--finally--agreeing to a date.  Octavia's related to the woman who sparked the long-running family feud--and fears that falling hard for Nick would only ignite the flames again.  Octavia knows her family's past is best kept hidden.  But her secret isn't safe in Eclipse Bay--and neither is her heart...

Monday, July 16, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? | 7/16/18

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It's a great post to organise yourself.  It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile!  So welcome in everyone.  This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey.  Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.  And here we are!

I just felt the need to post something random, and what better way to do so than with a meme!

My reading slump sort of, kind of, feels like it's letting up a bit.  I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that I'll be back into the groove of reading and blogging, as it's something that I've always enjoyed.  Reading is one of my many loves, and blogging is a close second.  Food is true love.

Exhibit A:

And now onto my week!

What I Read Last Week

I know it technically doesn't count, but I'm counting what I finished reading on Sunday as well since this is a Monday post and I finished more books on Sunday than I have in a while.  Or at least it feels like it.

What I'm Currently Reading

I'm actually listening to the audio book version of Borrower of the Night narrated by Barbara Rosenblat.  But I really don't like the official book cover for this audio book, shown on Audible (see link); so I'm just going to keep with the paperback book cover.

What I'm Planning to Read Next

I'm slightly undecided on which books I want to read next, so more than likely the above ones are the runners up.

Other Plans On the Blog

For the first time in months I've actually got plans for Ani's Book Abyss!  24in48 Readathon is coming up at the end of this week, for the weekend of July 21-22, and I plan on being a bit more active... well, as active as I've ever been in a readathon.  I don't typically participate in any of the mini-games, nor do I really chat on social media, but I DO spend time reading, and blogging about my progress as much as I can.

Hopefully this coming weekend will prove quite fruitful and will be the beginning of the end of my reading/blogging slump.

Meanwhile, I will be posting one or two more reviews this week as soon as I get them finalized--which shouldn't take long as both are pretty short reviews for both the Eclipse Bay series, and the almost bite-sized Primary Suspect.  In fact, aside from one last read through and edit, they're pretty much ready to be posted!

Happy reading everyone!  Look forward to some readathon updates starting Saturday, July 21, at midnight, on the dot!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Thoughts: In the Afterlight

In the Afterlight

by Alexandra Bracken
Book 3 (final) of The Darkest Minds

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

Ruby can't look back.  Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government's attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup.  With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers.  Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds.

They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IAAN, the disease that has killed most of America's children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained.  But internal strife may destroy their only chance to free the "rehabilitation camps" housing thousands of other Psi kids.

Meanwhile, reunited with Liam, the boy she would--and did--sacrifice everything for to keep alive, Ruby must face the painful repercussions of having tampered with his memories of her.  She turns to Cole, his older brother, to provide the intense training she knows she will need to take down Gray and the government.  But Cole has demons of his own, and one fatal mistake may be the spark that sets the world on fire.

Admittedly, the conclusion of The Darkest Minds trilogy was pretty exciting.

While The Darkest Minds was never the best series or dystopian to hit the YA trends, it had the fortune of including elements that hit the right marks for me, personally. While there wasn't much ado about the concept or the story, or even the probability of a dystopian world unfurling in the manner of which the world in The Darkest Minds had done so, I still managed to love it.

Despite the fact that these weren't the best characters in the world, they somehow grow on you and you find yourself falling for each and every one of them before the end of the books come around. We were introduced to Ruby, Liam, Chubs, and Zu in the first book--a ragtag group of young, innocent teens with the misfortune of being forced into tragic circumstances as they run for their lives and dream about ways to right the wrongs committed in their world so they can have a better future, and try to survive day by day. The second book reintroduced the characters you fell in love with along with few others.  But by now, a more realistic sense of "Action must be taken" has overcome most of our characters, and the dream for a better future is no longer just dream but an ambition.  In the new fights, new friendships form and old friendships are reforged.

I personally loved watching the friendships wind and knit so tightly together that you'd have to use force to pry them apart. It was heartwarming despite the bleakness of the situation these kids are thrown into in the fictional world of The Darkest Minds.

The ending approaches with pretty much the same action-packed, constantly-in-motion activity that had transpired from Never Fade, spilling the continuation over in the the last book of this series.  But this time, it seems like our kids have more of a direction... and yet, at the same time, very little action seems to occur, and we find ourselves struggling with the constant angst, the constant fear and danger, the constant idle planning and planning and more strategic planning before the ending finally rolls out some action.

Ruby continues to struggle with her powers and the "monster" she believes them to be; in doing so, she continues to hold her friends at arms length, fearful of hurting anyone she loves, but at the same time, she yearns for their warmth and is loathe to part with them.

Liam's struggle was a little less emphasized, and I'm a bit disappointed that he doesn't get very much book-time in In the Afterlight.  With his brother, Cole, and Ruby trying to take charge as the more powerful Psi kids (and the more dangerous ones) who have had training because of the Children's League, Liam is kind of left in the dust to find some way of feeling useful.

Other conflicts arise as well, and somehow also end up being a bit much to process.

And yet, I still found it all quite enjoyable.  I think it had to do with all the character interaction and all the conflicting, emotional ties being unknotted, and all the secrets and the personal dilemmas finally finding peace with one another.  To watch this group of kids get together, fight and make up and continue to remain together, willing to stick by each others' sides despite all the differing views and conflict of interests and secrets... it was pretty nice.

To date, my favorite relationship in the world of The Darkest Minds is still between Chubs and Ruby.  I don't know what it is about this pair that brings the FEELS surfacing when they interact.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the romantic coupling of Ruby and Liam; but the friendship and the understanding between Chubs and Ruby just seems to outshine the rest of the relationships around them, whether best-friendship, sibling-love, or even the romantic pairings that occur.

Chubs is the intelligent, level-headed big brother who just gets it, and despite having been hostile to Ruby in the beginning of the series, I love how he's grown to just accepting whatever she does, and just knows her well enough to remain by her side even when others suspect her actions.  Of course, he's also great enough to call out her fallacies with hopes that she'll think long and hard about her decisions before making them.

Not to say that the others (Vida and Zu) don't do the same, but there's something powerful about having Chubs on your side that just feels right.  He's like the voice of reason, a protective guardian... and I love him for that.

And now that I've made a whole lot of nonsense sound like more nonsense, I'll just end off this review.

In the Afterlight, as well as the full Darkest Minds series probably doesn't rank high on many people's list of good YA dystopian.  Goodness knows I've read better stories with better concepts.  But it's written well with some thoughtful quips and discussions and ideals here and there.  And most importantly, it's got a heartwarming feel to it presented through the characters and their love for one another through the struggle of a collapsing world around them.  The characters aren't the best, but on paper they can be quite complex if given the chance.

Most importantly, I personally grew to love them all and I DID find enjoyment in this book.

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

Review: Never Fade

Never Fade

by Alexandra Bracken
Book 2 of The Darkest Minds

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life.  Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies.  Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader,” but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind.  Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it.  But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League.  Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves.  But what if winning the war means losing herself?

This book went by in a flash.  Honestly, there was so much forward movement and progression that I didn't even consider stopping to think about the book at all.  At least not until that little break in the middle when I had to make myself go to sleep.

This was very much the same exact experience I had when I read the first book, The Darkest Minds.  I enjoyed the same things from both of these books: character interaction, character bonding, makeshift family coming together to save the world, fast-paced action, exciting adrenaline rush, and an adventure-like story-line.  Except, since I had gotten to know the characters from the first book already, there may have been a bit more of an emotional impact.

I may have had a few moments of "the feels" when Ruby and Chubs had their reunion.  I may have smirked a bit when Vida turned out to be "part of the team" rather than just "that jealous girl who wants to be the leader."  And when Jude, for the nth time, is the one to welcome Ruby "home" with a smile and a tackling embrace, I might have had some "feels" there too.

Just like the first book, Never Fade is very much a character driven story.  Honestly, without Ruby and her Scooby gang, I don't know if I would be so in like with this book with the same enthusiasm.  Sure, we get a deeper look into the heart of this dystopian conspiracy now that Ruby has joined the Childrens' League--more politics and whatnot going to work here.  Frankly, those parts were kind of boring for me; informative, but lackluster at the same time.

What I enjoyed actually came in the moment that Ruby broke out of the League's HQ, dragging Jude with her, to head across the country in order to find Liam.  And then along the way, she is joined by Vida and reunites with Chubs.  A whole new rag tag gang is formed with these four--SO MUCH LOVE FOR THAT!  It was at that point that the story actually started getting exciting for me.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed bits and pieces of seeing Ruby's life in the League as well.  It just wasn't as much fun.

The character bonding in this book is winning (just as much as it was from the first book).  The hopeless romantic in me is still rooting for Liam and Ruby to be together; their romance was set up pretty subtly and well, and even though it took a bit of a back seat in this book, it still managed to hang around with quite the intense punch.  I'll admit that there are always choices and decisions made by characters that don't sit well with me and there are also reactions to those choices by characters that also don't sit well with me.  And Liam and Ruby's relationship teeters on those lines that had me feeling a bit uncomfortable for the both of them.  Nonetheless, I do still love them and hope that there will be a good conclusion for them when the last book rolls around.

But while I'm a hopeless romantic and am rooting for Liam and Ruby to have a heartwarming ending, I'm also a bigger fan of the Ruby and Chubs friendship now that it's more developed and they've gone through so much to still maintain their friendship.  I love that they care about each other and have this weird understanding of each other's thoughts; but at the same time, they're pretty harshly honest with one another as well.  I can't get enough of these two, just watching them do what they do as friends who have been through suspicion and hate and love and... well, they're like all the family that they lost during the "apocalyptic" parts of the story line.  Even when these two are fighting with each other, it's still kind of heartwarming... cause then they hug and make-up and everything feels right in the world again.

And THEN there's also the love/hate bickering between Vida and Ruby; the love/hate bickering between Vida and Chubs; the adorable sunshine that is Jude (whom I kept picturing as a twelve-year old boy even though it's made clear that he's fifteen and has hit his growth spurt); and that strange new connection that Ruby now has with Liam's brother Cole.

I'm just saying, there are some really nice character dynamics going on here and I DO really like what's going on.

My only complaint came in the form of the ending, unfortunately.  (And hopefully I don't give too much away since I'm not one who likes including spoilers in reviews.)

Let's just say that it was a bit... disjointed.  On top of that... well, I understand the "BANG!" impact that the the author was probably going for in the end, but I'm not sure I liked it all too much.  It felt too abrupt and kind of forces a bridging onto the next (and maybe last) book of this series.  The first book ended with less of a bang with a more "finalized" feel to that part of the series.  You knew that there was more to the story, but you didn't feel like you were missing something--if that makes any sense.

It's not that I completely dislike cliffhangers... it's just that, sometimes I want to take and dangle an author by the toes over a cliff above shark-infested waters for making me hang at the edge of my own cliff for a whole entire year because the ending of the book was so abrupt and obviously prepared to dive into the next book with heart-wrenching, adrenaline-boosting "I need to read the next book right now" intensity.

But no, I don't completely dislike cliffhangers, really...

Nonetheless, we've got a little more than a year until the next book is released, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what's coming up.  I especially look forward to seeing more of our characters together, now that old friends have reunited and new friendships have formed.

I wouldn't call Never Fade a perfect book nor a terrible book for it's standards.  The series itself is quite enjoyable.  But I DID like The Darkest Minds a bit more, and to be honest, again, if not for the character interactions, this series would probably just be like every other YA trendy dystopian out there garnering attention right now.

I'm not complaining since I'm thoroughly into it.

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

Review: The Darkest Minds

The Darkest Minds

by Alexandra Braken
Book 1 of The Darkest Minds

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

Side note (7/15/18):  I read this book back in 2013 almost a year after it first came out, but have just gotten around to transferring the review to this blog, as it was originally posted on another platform (see link at end of post).  This review, as well as the rest of the reviews for the trilogy have been sitting, ready to be published in my draft section for months now, and I decided it was time to get them published.  Of course, the fact that a movie is being adapted now is purely coincidental.

Happy reading!
When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed.  Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police.  Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.”  She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.  When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life.  She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River.  She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp.  Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby.  But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close.  Not after what happened to her parents.  When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader.  But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government.  Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.

I love a story with great characters and character interactions.

The Darkest Minds had a very awesome makeshift little family of four as we follow Ruby through her short adventure with Liam, Chubs, and Zu, and frankly, there is nothing I love more in any kind of novel.  And to be totally honest, it really had been the characters who made this book the wonderful experience it had been for me.  Ruby was a good heroine to follow, although her character description was rather standard as the kick-butt, strong, heart-of-gold, female main character who leads her friends into the heart of our dystopian controversy.  The rest of the characters were pretty quirky in their ways as well (especially Chubs), and to be frank, if not for the character relationships, this probably would have been just another YA dystopia trilogy that you end up liking while you're reading it, but that you would forget about after it's over.

Liam, especially, was a personal favorite for reasons that I may not understand at the moment.  He's gentlemanly and caring and unsure of himself, and has so many flaws as a leader... but for some reason, that makes me want to cuddle him and make him feel better.  The bonds between each of the four were pretty awesome: Liam and Ruby were sweet, Zu and Liam were adorable... etc., etc....  But I especially loved Ruby and Chubs together as friends, though they started off as a pair of perfect strangers who didn't really care about each other and Chubs was annoyed by Ruby's inclusion in their group.  I loved how each of them bonded in their own ways; and I loved the sweet friendship to romance development that took place between Ruby and Liam (not just because it wasn't instalove, I promise).

Outside of my love for the characters, this book had all the typical, fast-paced and suspenseful dealings as all the trendy dystopians now-a-days; so while the ideas unique to this book were intriguing (kids either died or turned into super humans with strange powers and the world broke into pieces after that), and some of the interesting twists were... well, rather interesting, the concept was still a predictable one.  I hate to say that "it's just another trendy YA dystopia," but to be honest, it kind of is.

I must say, I DID enjoy the plot devices from the "concentration camp" type scenarios at the beginning, to the adventure that Ruby joined to find a place where they could belong safely.

In spite of all that though, I still found this story to be highly addictive and easy to fall right into; I found myself reciting my standard "One more chapter, then I'll sleep" mantra.  And to top it off, I am undoubtedly looking forward to the next book in this series and will be pining in agony as I toss Never Fade into my ever-growing pile of "OMG!  I physically need this book, like, RIGHT NOW!"

Something about The Darkest Minds just happened to grab me.  I don't know what it is, but I'm not arguing with it.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in October 2013.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Thoughts: The Prey

The Prey

by Allison Brennan
Book 1 of Predatory trilogy

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars

First, she imagined it.  Then a killer made it real.

Rowan Smith is living in a borrowed Malibu beach house while her bestselling novel is made into a Hollywood movie.  A former FBI agent with a haunted past, Rowan thinks she has outrun her demons.  But fiction and reality collide when a dismembered body is found in Colorado: the real-life victim had the same name, occupation, and looks as a character in Rowan’s novel.  By the time the FBI, the LAPD, and her own private bodyguard gather around her, another person is killed–again, the murder ripped from the pages of Rowan’s book.

In the company of a former Delta Force officer with secrets of his own, Rowan faces an excruciating dilemma: the only way to chase down the tormenting killer is by revisiting the darkness of her past–and by praying for some way out again.

After the prey is chosen, the hunt is on and the kill is certain.

Before I dive into my rant, I DO want to point out that things got better after the halfway point of the book.  Just in case anyone is wondering about the average rating.

The first half of this book actually merited a 1.5 Star to 2.0 Star rating.  The dialogue was awkward and unrealistic, and there was too much of an emphasis on the romance and our characters' dramatic woes.  It really derails a reader from the main, crime thriller conflict presented from the first chapter.  It also didn't help that I found the characters, except maybe John Flynn and Quinn Peterson, extremely irritating.

Things continued to be quite rocky even as we hit the midpoint of the book, although with the serial killings in the background, there was always a niggling need, as a reader, to continue on.  That didn't mean that I enjoyed much of that first half of the book, and I found that our characters had a lot of trouble prioritizing their duties and responsibilities.

Rowan was so adamant about keeping her secrets, or not being protected, or doing her own investigations, that it was making me roll my eyes pretty badly.  She's an ex-federal agent, and I have a hard time understanding why she wouldn't give up pertinent information that may or may not be connected to an ongoing investigation.  What she did could really be construed as obstruction of justice, truth be told.  People were dying, and more people would continue to die.  And predictably, the worse ended up happening because she wasn't forthcoming with her knowledge, no matter how tragic events had been for her.

Understanding only goes so far when lives are at stake, and you have a chance to do something about it.

Meanwhile, her own fatalistic approach to the entire situation really could have put a lot of people's lives in jeopardy.  A bodyguard was hired to help protect her, and as much as she detested that, Michael Flynn and his siblings were there and required her cooperation in order to do their job.  But her constantly stubborn attitude was so vexing because putting herself in the line of fire also meant putting others in the line of fire.  I'm not sure why she couldn't understand that, especially since she used to be a federal agent, who probably had to deal with difficult victims and witnesses as well.

It probably also didn't help that Rowan spent a lot of time being kind of whiny, unprofessional, and stupidly reckless.  Also, I lost respect for her the first time she decided to just point a gun at her hired bodyguard.  Then lost respect for her even more when she whipped her gun out again and and pointed it at one of the characters' heads just because he pissed her off.

Talk about anger management issues.  Rowan may be an ex-FBI agent, but she's still touted as justice-seeking and all good and all that.  What the hell is she doing pulling her gun on random, innocent people just because she got pissed off?  Truthfully, ex-fed or not, she should know better and have better respect for the power she wields with her weapon.

You don't just point guns at peoples heads just because you get pissed off!  Over-dramatic much?

Meanwhile, our first bodyguard, Michael Flynn, spends more of his time mooning and male posturing than actually doing his job as a bodyguard.  It kind of made an impact, because the contrast between Michael and his brother, John, felt so deliberately placed that you could just feel the author trying really, really hard to maneuver John into the main male love interest role, while including a pathetic excuse for a love triangle into the mix.  This polygonal romance was truly unnecessary in light of everything else that was going on.

I also found Tess Flynn very immature and bratty, even if her concerns were well-founded.  She acted like a childish brat rather than a professional.  The security business is not for her.

The overall crime thriller was rather predictable as well, and I'm not sure if it's because the formula is familiar, or if the build up to each new "surprise" twist was just so poorly lain.  It wasn't hard to figure out what would happen as the book progressed, as well as who the serial killer's identity was.

But as I stated at the beginning of the post, as the book progressed, I started finding the book more tolerable.  The writing felt less juvenile, the dialogue less awkward, and the characters less irritating.  I still don't like Rowan, but she stopped making stupid decisions (for a millisecond or two, maybe), and the men stopped being lead around by their male ego anatomy.

I AM quite interested to know what happened between Quinn Peterson and Miranda Moore, though, purely on a romance back story way, which means I will more than likely pick up the next book in the Predator trilogy.

I feel like Allison Brennan just isn't for me, though, as I didn't really get into the first book I picked up by her, Love Me To Death, the first in the Lucy Kincaid series.  But when I read her joint collaboration with Laura Griffin, Crash & Burn, the first book of the Moreno & Hart series, I found I liked her part of the book more than Griffin's--and I'm and avid follower of Laura Griffin crime thrillers.  So I decided to hop in and try Allison Brennan again.

Unfortunately, either because The Prey was her debut novel, or because I just can't get into Brennan's writing style, I'm not sure.  I found the beginning of this book just as detached and impersonal, and deliberately over-dramatic, as I had found Love Me To Death to be.  Of course, I also found the book improved as the story progressed... just like Love Me To Death.

So... Well...  I don't know what to make of it right now, but I may pick up the next book in this trilogy just to give Brennan another whirl.