Emily & Einstein: Linda Francis Lee

Emily and EinsteinAuthor: Linda Francis Lee
Book Name: Emily & Einstein
Series: *
Order:*
Genre: Romance/Paranormal
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  He was a man who didn’t deserve a second chance. But he needed one…

Emily and her husband Sandy Portman seemed to live a gracious if busy life in an old-world, Upper West Side apartment in the famous Dakota building. But one night on the way to meet Emily, Sandy dies in a tragic accident. The funeral isn’t even over before Emily learns she is on the verge of being evicted from their apartment. But worse than the possibility of losing her home, Emily is stunned when she discovers that her marriage was made up of lies.

Suddenly Emily is forced on a journey to find out who her husband really was . . . all the while feeling that somehow he isn’t really gone. Angry, hurt, and sometimes betrayed by loving memories of the man she lost, Emily finds comfort in a scruffy dog named Einstein. But is Einstein’s seemingly odd determination that she save herself enough to make Emily confront her own past? Can he help her find a future—even after she meets a new man?

Review:  Even though my library didn’t have this classified as paranormal or fantasy, I’ve added that label to clarify that this isn’t what you’d expect.  This is another one of those books that wasn’t awful, but just wasn’t my thing.  I was looking for different, and this was definitely that, but not what I was looking for apparently.

There were some things that rubbed me wrong in this.  So many of the characters came across as insufferably arrogant.  That is in part because they absolutely were and in part because the writing seemed pretentious, almost to the point where I struggled not to read many of the voices as having a snobby British accent at times.

I also expected this to be more about an actual romance after loss and betrayal.  Instead it is a somewhat twisted story a dead guy getting a second chance at becoming a better person by becoming, instead of an arrogant man, an arrogant dog.  There is still a romantic aspect to the story, but there is so little of it that it comes across almost as an afterthought.

If this had been more along the lines of what I was wanting, I probably would have enjoyed this more.  Since it wasn’t, it really was just an okay story for me.

 

Peeves: Lacking Author Websites

Since I make the effort to link back to both the author’s main website and a direct link to the book when I’m writing a review, I see a whole lot of websites and, shockingly, a lot that are just not well designed at all.

As an artist, aesthetics are something that I tend to notice. It may not stick out as much to me if the site is nice and clean (which is really the goal, you want visitors to remember you for your content not the layout or design), but it sticks out like a sore thumb if the design looks bad or is difficult to navigate.  It is also pretty bad in my opinion if the site isn’t kept up to date with the newest releases or, even worse, a website doesn’t exist at all.

There are so many options available to create a decent looking website so I don’t think there is much of an excuse to not have at least something.  You don’t even have to be particularly computer literate to create one, nor does it even really have to cost you as there are tons of free options out there.  I’m not talking Twitter or Facebook either as you don’t have options there to provide easy to access book lists for published works.

Navigation is a huge peeve of mine.  No website should be difficult to find your way around.  Simple, easy to use and find, logical menus should be a priority on any site.  Not one person that goes to an author’s website wants to spend hours clicking every single link on their page to get the information they went there for in the first place.

From a design standpoint, since it is an author website, the focus should be on the author and their works not on flashy eye catching graphics and tons of wild fonts.  That is kind of another peeve of mine anyway, but I feel it is unprofessional and amateurish to have a whole bunch of stuff that is really unrelated and detracts from the focus of the website.  This is a technique that seems to pop up more on what I’d guess were self designed sites where the creative talent needs to remain with the writing rather than the graphics.  Again, with so many options out there, there is no excuse to have a super low quality design that makes the author look fly by night rather than professional and accomplished.  The image you portray with your website reflects on you and your abilities as it is part how you present yourself to the world as an author.  If your website is cheesy then I’m going to question the quality of your writing.

This is a huge point for me.  The majority of the time I visit an author’s website, I want to know what books they have written, if the book I’m looking at reading is part of a series and if so, where it falls in the reading order.  It drives me bat shit crazy when this is missing or worse, not clear.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up a book thinking it is the first in the series based on what I’ve seen on the author’s website only to find out it isn’t because they have some whacked out way of listing their books.

There are a couple of simple solutions to a book list and reading order, so I have never been able to understand why this is so difficult.  Easiest is to list the books in reading order first to last, top to bottom or left to right and grouped by series (if there is one) or genre if you write in several areas.  Basic, right?  It should be so basic it doesn’t even warrant a mention, but you’d be amazed.  Another is to simply put the order number somewhere in your listing.  Ideally it would be both a reading order list that has the number listed as sometimes there are novellas in there and noting a .5 or something to the order makes that pretty clear.

I honestly hate it when an author only lists books in published order, especially when they write multiple series.  I don’t want to have to run through two dozen books to find the one book I’m looking for.  It is even harder when they don’t bother even noting the series a book is in when putting that list together.  Sometimes offering up a couple of different lists and orders works best when there are lots of series or interconnected series as different people are looking for different things.

Having a poorly designed, hard to navigate site that isn’t kept up to date can lose an author readers.  I have actually not picked up a book after going to an author site and not been able to determine important information like series order.  The same goes for sites that aren’t kept up to date.  Yes it is a little bit of work, especially if you publish quite a few books, but it is an essential selling tool that is not being utilized if you don’t take that little bit of time.

It doesn’t matter if you have one book or 20 to your name.  Having a website is really important.  Making it comfortable for your readers is just as important since they are the ones that count.

She Loves You, She Loves You Not: Julie Anne Peters

She Loves You, She Loves You NotAuthor: Julie Anne Peters
Book Name: She Loves You, She Loves You Not
Series: *
Order:*
Genre: Romance/Young Adult
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars

 

Blurb:  Seventeen-year-old Alyssa thought she knew who she was. She had her family and her best friends and, most important, she had Sarah. Sarah, her girlfriend, with whom she dreamed with about the day they could move far away and live out and proud and accepted for themselves, instead of having to hide their relationship.

Alyssa never thought she would have to make that move by herself, but disowned by her father and cut off from everyone she loves, she is forced to move hundreds of miles away to live with Carly, the biological mother she barely knows, in a town where everyone immediately dismisses her as “Carly’s girl.” As Alyssa struggles to forget her past and come to terms with her future, will she be able to build a new life for herself and believe in love again? Or will she be forced to relive the mistakes that have cost her everything and everyone she cared about?

National Book Award finalist Julie Anne Peters has written a compelling novel about coming out, finding love, and discovering your place in the world. Alyssa’s story will speak to anyone who has known the joy and pain of first love and the struggle to start over again.

Review:  I wasn’t a fan of this.  I’d have to say that is because this is not my genre of choice (another genre label mistake on the library’s part).  This book is a good example of why that is.

The majority of this book is really kind of a giant pity party held by the main character, Alyssa.  I get that is kind of part of the deal with this age range, but it is incredibly irritating.  I would not have picked this up if I had realized the entire book was going to be about a 17 year old girl.  I kept expecting something along the lines of her growing up and past that age (again, because of the label mistake).

I did read the entire thing and I think the only character in the entire book that had any redeeming qualities at all was Arlo.  I didn’t get anything at all from any of the other characters and that is the main reason why I couldn’t even rate this as an okay book for me.

Louder Than Love: Love and Steel, Book 1

Louder Than LoveAuthor: Jessica Topper
Book Name: Louder Than Love
Series: Love and Steel
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  In this powerful debut novel, a young librarian grieves the loss of her husband…and discovers a love that defies classification.

It’s been over three years since a train accident made a widow of Katrina Lewis, sending her and her young daughter Abbey back to the suburban town of her youth…the only place that still makes sense. Lauder Lake is the perfect place to hide and heal.

Recluse rocker Adrian “Digger” Graves survived the implosion of his music career, but his muse has long lain dormant. Until Kat hires him to play at her library—not on the basis of his hard rock credentials but rather, because of the obscure kids’ TV jingle he wrote years ago. In a case of mistaken identity, Adrian stumbles into the lives of Kat and her comically lovable daughter.

Using tattoos as a timeline, Adrian unfurls his life for Kat. But as the courtship intensifies, it’s unclear whose past looms larger: the widow’s or the rocker’s. Will their demons ever rest, or will they break these soul mates apart?

Review:  Finding something a little different from the norm to read isn’t always that easy.  This absolutely fit what I was looking for at just the right time.  As sweet as the story is, it isn’t fluffy.  It carries heavier, darker undertones that aren’t so heavy they break apart the lighter, sweeter side.

While it has some necessary aspects, it also isn’t the typical rocker romance either.  I liked the fact that this story comes not from the point where the stars are getting to or at their peak, but after they have fallen and had to learn about real life for a while.

Adrian’s character and where he is at in his life makes for a deeper and more appealing story.  The same goes for Kat and her history.  Their paths collide in a way that is beautiful.  They both have their histories.  It is part of them and they don’t just go away when life goes on.  I think that is a huge part of why I enjoyed this as much as I did.  It is more real with heartbreak, hardships and joys all wound together.

If You Know Her: Ash Trilogy, Book 3

If You Know HerAuthor: Shiloh Walker
Book Name: If You Know Her
Series: Ash Trilogy
Order: #3
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  A SHADOW IN THE WINDOW

Nia Hollister doesn’t scare easily. She’s returned to Ash, Kentucky, with a vengeance–and with a mission: find the killer who brutally ended her cousin’s life. What she didn’t count on was trembling with desire every time she sees Law Reilly. If any man can help her escape the nightmares for a while, it’s him. But can she allow herself to take comfort in those strong arms when her sister’s killer still roams free?

She may think she’s a bad ass, but she should not have come back to his town. He is watching her–as she slips into Law Reilly’s house, as she storms into the sheriff’s office. These men won’t be able to protect her when her time comes. Timing is everything, though he can’t wait forever. She’s nosing around the woods, looking for his hiding place. Yes, he is watching her . . . through the window . . . in her bed . . .

If she’s not scared, she should be . . . because he is very good at what he does.

Review:  As the third and final book in this series, this ended on a better note than the first two as there weren’t any hanging frustrations left at the end.

I liked the fact that the story was resolved by the characters figuring everything out rather than a big reveal.  It was fully played out and not just handed over in an info dump at the last minute.  Actually, I love that it turned out that way.  As a reader, if you paid really close attention, you could have figured some of it out along the way, but there were enough counter hints dropped to keep you from being 100% sure for a while at least, which was also really nice.

The series as a whole was really good, even with my frustrations with the first two book.  Each book was enough different from the others that they in no way felt cookie cutter.  They each brought something new and a bit different to the overall story.  This book still had the romance story, but unlike the first two it wasn’t the biggest part of the story.  That was balanced pretty equally with solving the big serial killer arch that was introduced in book 1.

I think I would have liked a little bit more of a look at the aftermath at the end to know what the fallout was and how it impacted these characters.  This was a great series even without that.

If You See Her: Ash Trilogy, Book 2

If You See HerAuthor: Shiloh Walker
Book Name: If You See Her
Series: Ash Trilogy
Order: #2
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  A FACE IN THE MIRROR

Hope Carson may not look like a survivor, but she has escaped an abusive ex-husband and recovered from a vicious assault. Now she endures the painful memories and suspicious rumors surrounding her involvement in the attack. Her ex is a cop, so the last people she trusts are law enforcement officials–and she certainly doesn’t trust how the local DA makes her feel inside.

Remy Jennings should know better. He has no business falling for a woman who he suspects may have a deeply troubled mind. And even if he did make a move, she’d bolt like a frightened rabbit. But how can he deny a burning desire that threatens to consume him? As Hope’s past catches up with her in the worst way, Remy is determined to break through her defenses, earn her trust, and keep her safe in his arms–before it’s too late.

Review:  This one had a more self contained story than the first book which I liked and didn’t like.

I liked it because the larger plot thread through this book is played out and resolved by the end of the book and doesn’t leave you hanging.

I didn’t like the fact that the huge plot thread that was introduced in book one was almost not even touched on in this book.  That was frustrating.  I thought that after the utter lack of an ending in book one, we would see a whole lot more growth and development of that plot.  All we got was an interesting twist that muddies those waters a bit at the end.

There were also a couple of things that pinged my believably meter a bit.  One was the way in which Law damaged his relationship with Hope.  He is supposedly this perfect friend and in a moment of lust for a total stranger that just stuck a gun in his face, he treats Hope like crap.  That really didn’t work for me.

There were a couple of others, but I’m waiting to see how they play out in the final book to see if they manage to work out later.  I did still enjoy this, even though I was frustrated by it.  That is more because I’m really not a huge fan of books that leave me hanging.  I want more closure or satisfaction by the time I’ve finished a book.

If You Hear Her: Ash Trilogy, Book 1

If You Hea rHerAuthor: Shiloh Walker
Book Name: If You Hear Her
Series: Ash Trilogy
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  A CRY IN THE WOODS

The scream Lena Riddle hears in the woods behind her house is enough to curdle her blood–she has no doubt that a woman is in real danger. Unfortunately, with no physical evidence, the local law officers in small-town Ash, Kentucky, dismiss her claim. But Lena knows what she heard–and it leaves her filled with fear and frustration.

Ezra King is on leave from the state police, but he can’t escape the guilty memories that haunt his dreams. When he sees Lena, he is immediately drawn to her. He aches to touch her–to be touched by her–but is he too burdened by his tragic past to get close? When Ezra hears her story of an unknown woman’s screams, his instincts tell him that Lena’s life is also at risk–and his desire to protect her is as fierce as his need to possess her.

Review:  Frustrated!  Utterly, completely frustrated!  This is a really good book but it didn’t resolve anything by the end except the romantic thread of the plot between the two main characters.  I really dislike books that leave me hanging like that.  I’m lucky that the library not only had the next two but that they were open to be checked out right away instead of me having to put them on hold.

There were a couple of things that kind of irritated me in this.  Early on there were a couple of places where it didn’t seem as though the plot timeline was consistent.  When something happened and it seemed that days had gone by, you were suddenly seeing that it was either the same day or the next day at the most which was a bit confusing.

The other somewhat annoying thing was the jumping from perspective to perspective.  I get the purpose and it works in some cases, but it is confusing to have that perspective be from a whole new character that we haven’t either seen before or gotten it from their perspective before every other chapter or so.  It messed with the rhythm of the story a bit.

Other than the lack of resolution and those little irritants, this was a really good book and I’m obviously stoked to read the rest of the series because I NEED to know how it ends.

Then and Always: Dani Atkins

Then and AlwaysAuthor: Dani Atkins
Book Name: Then and Always
Series: *
Order:*
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

Blurb:  Rachel Wiltshire has everything she’s ever wanted: a close group of friends, a handsome boyfriend, and acceptance to the journalism program at her top-choice college. But one fateful evening, tragedy tears her world apart.

Five years later, Rachel returns home for the first time to celebrate her best friend’s wedding. Still coping with her grief, she can’t stop thinking about the bright future she almost had, if only that one night had gone differently. But when a sudden fall lands her in the hospital, Rachel wakes to find that her life has completely changed. Now the people she loves most are not the way she remembers them. Unable to trust her own recollections, Rachel tries to piece together what really happened, and not even she can predict the astonishing truth.

Review:  This story is actually well written, but I just didn’t like it all that much because it isn’t the kind of book I like to read.  It doesn’t deserve a bad rating just because it isn’t my thing so it is incredibly hard to decide where it does deserve to fall.  This is the kind of book that you are either going to really like or you aren’t since it is so different.

You have the main story that is on the surface and you get that in the character scenes and events.  Then you have this hidden, underlying thread that hints at something more.  You know it is going somewhere because of the surface story, but you don’t really get many specific hints until late into the story.

For me, the main story was interesting, but a little lacking.  I kept waiting for something more exciting to happen, then a hint would be dropped as to that underlying story.  That made it more interesting.

My library had this tagged in both the romance and the suspense genres and is one of the reasons why I picked it up.  On the surface, it is a romance, but in my opinion the overall story really isn’t.  The suspense part, again on the surface, only has one real scene I’d classify as that, but the underlying thread is suspenseful as you are kind of on edge waiting for that to be revealed.  So in all it is a bit inaccurate in those genre classifications.

I didn’t like how it all played out in the end.  That is the part that just isn’t my thing.  I read for entertainment and I don’t find that kind of thing all that entertaining.  Sure there are lots of ways to look at it and interpret it, but I just don’t want to go there.  Because you can’t know the book goes there without either giving away the ending or reading the book there is no way to know that this wasn’t going to be my kind of book.  I hate that because if I’d known I never would have picked this book up.

Archangel’s Enigma: Guild Hunters, Book 8

Archangel's EnigmaAuthor: Nalini Singh
Book Name: Archangel’s Enigma
Series: Guild Hunters
Order: #8
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Naasir is the most feral of the powerful group of vampires and angels known as the Seven, his loyalty pledged to the Archangel Raphael. When rumors surface of a plot to murder the former Archangel of Persia, now lost in the Sleep of the Ancients, Naasir is dispatched to find him. For only he possesses the tracking skills required—those more common to predatory animals than to man.

Enlisted to accompany Naasir, Andromeda, a young angelic scholar with dangerous secrets is fascinated by his nature—at once playful and brilliant, sensual and brutal. As they race to find the Sleeping archangel before it’s too late, Naasir will force her to question all she knows…and tempt her to walk into the magnificent, feral darkness of his world. But first they must survive an enemy vicious enough to shatter the greatest taboo of the angelic race and plunge the world into a screaming nightmare…

Review:  Absolutely loved this!

I think that Naasir became my favorite character in this entire series.  His wild innocence makes him this deadly adorable mix that is undeniably wonderful.

Andromeda is no slouch.  She is this bright, strong character that is a perfect balance to Naasir.  While Naasir is a bit more in your face with his personality, Andromeda is much more subtle.

One of the many things that I love about this series is that with each book you get more from the other favorite characters, but they are rarely just cameo appearances.  They have vital parts to the story.  This book is no different and I loved what we see going on with Illium.

This is one of those series that I hate having to wait to get more.

Second Chance Summer: Cedar Ridge, Book 1

Second Chance SummerAuthor: Jill Shalvis
Book Name: Second Chance Summer
Series: Cedar Ridge
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Cedar Ridge, Colorado, is famous for crisp mountain air, clear blue skies, and pine-scented breezes. And it’s the last place Lily Danville wants to be. But she needs a job, and there’s an opening at the hottest resort in her hometown. What has her concerned is the other hot property in Cedar Ridge: Aidan Kincaid-firefighter, rescue worker, and heartbreaker. She never could resist that devastating smile . . .

The Kincaid brothers are as rough and rugged as the Rocky Mountains they call home. Aidan has always done things his own way, by his own rules. And never has he regretted anything more than letting Lily walk out of his life ten years ago. If anyone has ever been in need of rescuing, she has. What she needs more than anything are long hikes, slow dances, and sizzling kisses. But that can only happen if he can get her to give Cedar Ridge-and this bad boy-a second chance . . .

Review:  This was an okay read, but there just wasn’t anything that jumped out and grabbed me about this book.  The characters weren’t all that interesting and there were some issues with the storyline left me wondering if I fell asleep and jumped a few chapters because we went from point A to point G with nothing in between.

I had some issue with the firefighter/search and rescue role that Aiden has.  It seems like a huge amount for a single person especially when you are talking the extreme levels of back to back calls and events.  It not only seems unrealistic, it seems incredibly unsafe.  I’m not even remotely an expert, but to be able to do both jobs full time doesn’t seem realistic.  I also had some issues with the realism of the actual rescue towards the end of the book that completely negated any dramatic impact that scene was supposed to generate.  Again, not an expert so I can’t say if that is an even remotely realistic scenario.  Stubborn is one thing, but impractically stupid stubborn born from ego has no place in a rescue situation, so that made it even less believable.

So, I wasn’t much of a fan.  I didn’t not like it, but it wasn’t really worth the time.

The Promise: The ‘Burg, Book 5

The PromiseAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: The Promise
Series: The ‘Burg
Order: #5
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Since his brother’s death, Benny Bianchi has been nursing his grudge against the woman he thinks led to his brother’s downfall. He does this to bury the feelings he has for Francesca Concetti, his brother’s girl. But when Frankie takes a bullet while on the run with Benny’s cousin’s woman, Benny has to face those feelings.The problem is Frankie has decided she’s paid her penance. Penance she didn’t deserve to pay. She’s done with Benny and the Bianchi family. She’s starting a new life away from Chicago and her heartbreaking history.Benny has decided differently.But Frankie has more demons she’s battling. Demons Benny wants to help her face. But life has landed so many hard knocks on Frankie she’s terrified of believing in the promise of Benny Bianchi and the good life he’s offering.Frankie’s new life leads her to The ‘Burg, where Benny has ties, and she finds she not only hasn’t succeeded in getting away, she’s doesn’t want to.

Review:  Writing this one is hard because it is the first time I’ve had to give a KA book a less than stellar review.  Also for the first time, I actually struggled to stick with this during the first half of the book.  It really almost feels as if the first half was written by another author.

Since this book is really placed chronologically right after At Peace, it started off hitting a speed bump.  It kind of threw me off that the last couple of books that I’d just read in this series hadn’t happened yet.  I thought for a while that there’d be a time skip to get us past those books to current time but that never happened.

Several of the important plot points early on were confusing to me.  The break with the Bianchi family and why there was that break really tripped me up and it just didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  The entire family blamed Frankie for Vinnie’s choices and his resulting death to the point they completely shut her out for years, but she gets shot and all is clean slate, no revelations that the choices where his not hers, no explanations, just straight to no hard feelings all is forgiven.  On all fronts.  That all goes from full stop zero contact to all in your face we love you closeness.  An emotional wound like that takes at least a little time before things can get to smooth, so this whole thing was really off for me.

Along those same lines, Benny and Frankie’s relationship made no sense at all to me in the beginning.  Everything seemed like it went from all out hate on Benny’s side to no doubts totally in love in a second.  It felt completely unrealistic as I felt like there was a huge part of the foundation for that relationship missing.  We did get a little bit of that in the end of At Peace, but not enough to really explain how these two are actually attracted to each other.

I wasn’t a fan of Frankie’s character.  Not at all.  I thought she was spunky and smart and good crazy when we met her in the end of At Peace, but it was like she underwent a personality transplant between the two books.  Here she is (at least in the beginning) neurotic, flaky and really kind of a crazy bitch.  We do get a little bit of an explanation of why, but again, it just doesn’t really work.  Like there is something missing.

Benny isn’t a whole lot better except he is more of just an ass.  The whole first half of the book he talks to Frankie as if she doesn’t have a brain in her head and it seems as if he doesn’t have any respect for her at all.  He doesn’t listen to what she says and when she talks his attitude is all “Aww cute!  She is trying to be smart.  Let’s shut her up by throwing her around and screwing her until her brains fall out.  She doesn’t need them anyway.”

KA is the queen of writing bossy alpha males.  She does it in such a way that the bossy rides a knife edge of tough that is still sweet without falling into true asshole.  We did not get the sweet in this, at least not the first half.  The way Benny was bossy was missing that essential KA element that made it truly sexy and not dickish.

I won’t say that I disliked this book because I didn’t.  It got way better in the last half and is the only reason I gave this the higher rating, but by the end I still wasn’t much of a fan of either of the main characters.  As of right now, it is my least favorite KA book and more than likely I won’t ever take the time to read this one again.

I think it is sad that the absolute best part of this book was the speech given at Vi and Cal’s wedding rehearsal dinner.  That was absolutely beautiful and had me crying like crazy yet it had not one thing really to do with the main characters in this book.

Thoughts on Reading and Writing: Male vs. Female Authors

Most everyone has preferences when it comes to reading.  Those may be the genres and subgenres they lean towards, paperback/hardcover vs. ebook, specific authors or even writing styles.  Another big preference potential is male or female authors.

Male and female authors very often write from differing or even contrasting world views.  As I mentioned in a previous post on perspectives, readers bring their life experiences into what they read.  Authors do the same thing when writing a book.  Since men and women have very different struggles and obstacles in their lives, their base level life experiences are going to be different, so how they approach the stories and characters they create are also going to be different.

It has been my experience that, as a woman, I struggle to connect with books that are written by male authors.  I can absolutely enjoy them and appreciate the artistry that is behind those stories, but I have yet to find a male author that inspires me to be watching impatiently for their next book release.

I have found that books written by male authors (though I must say that my sampling is on the narrow end and really only range in a few genres) tend to focus more on action than emotion.  The big, exciting parts of those books fall heavily into that range.  When there is an emotional context, it is often times harder to actually grasp the emotion the author is trying to impart because it comes from a different perspective than mine.  It is also more of a punctuation to different points of their stories rather than a threaded part of the cohesive whole.

A female author tends to have that emotional thread underlying and permeating everything.  When a reader sees a character developing, that character’s thoughts, actions and personality is woven in along with their feelings about themselves and everyone around them.  This applies to male and female characters.

Male and female authors usually portray their male and female characters differently.  What a woman sees as important or appealing aspects to her male and female characters is often going to be different than what a man sees for those same characters.  While both tend to either overtly or subtly objectify the opposite sex in their characters, women are more likely to emphasize non-physical or imperfect physical traits in their characters.  I think that they are also more willing to place both women and men on equal or at least balanced footing.

Author Kim Harrison posted similar thoughts on male vs. female author character representation on her FB page.

There will always be exceptions to every rule, but in the broader spectrum, these generalities tend to run true from what I’ve noticed.  I can admit that I’m biased here as I prefer a female author and often will skip even reading the blurbs of books that are obviously written by male authors.  I know that I have a better chance of connecting to how the female authors have written their stories and portrayed their characters as they are coming from a similar world view and life experience.  This absolutely is not always the case, but it is often enough to allow that to impact my reading choices.

That doesn’t mean that I am a staunch male author hater.  I will read something if it looks appealing.  I am always on the search for new favorite authors to add to my collection.  I just haven’t found one that gets to me yet.

 

Games of the Heart: The ‘Burg, Book 4

Games of the HeartAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: Games of the heart
Series: The ‘Burg
Order: #4
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb:  From the balcony of his house, Mike Haines can see the quiet, commonplace beauty of the Holliday farm. But what he remembers is the little sister of his high school girlfriend, Dusty who grew up there. As a teen, Dusty had gone off the rails but when she was a kid, she was sweet, she was funny and she had a special bond with Mike. But after high school, she took off and Mike never saw her again.

Then tragedy strikes Dusty’s family, she comes back into town and Mike thinks she hasn’t changed back to the sweet, funny girl he knew but instead continued to be selfish and thoughtless, leaving her family alone to deal with their mourning. So he seeks her out and confronts her in an effort to understand what went wrong and to force her to sort herself out.

He finds out quickly he’s wrong about Dusty Holliday. Very wrong. And right after Mike discovers that, the bond they had years before snaps back into place in ways he would never suspect.

But Mike Haines had a bad marriage then he played games of the heart for a good woman. And lost. In order to protect himself and his kids, he’s cautious, he’s careful to read the signs and he’s not interested in finding a woman he has to fix.

Then he learns what happened to Dusty and he thinks she needs to be fixed. He swings, he misses and in this new game of hearts, for Dusty, Mike just got strike three.

Review:  Another stunning one from Ms. Ashley.  I think I liked this better than the last several in this series.  Every single character had something of interest to contribute on this one.

The focus of this book was almost as much about Reesee and Fin as it was Mike and Dusty.  I had a few issues with this, the biggie being the complete and utter support of the adults when it came to a relationship between a 17 year old and a 15 year old.  It threw me off a bit a couple of times, even though that relationship still stayed on the sweet side.

Dusty was a kick ass lady who had zero hesitation being exactly who she was without apologizing for it.  Loved her character.

This, as is kind of standard practice for a KA book, had all the right pieces in all the right places to make it an excellent read.

All She Ever Wanted: Rosalind Noonan

All She Ever WantedAuthor: Rosalind Noonan
Book Name: All She Ever Wanted
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  For years, Chelsea Maynard has longed to be a mother. She’s imagined caring for a new baby in the lovely house she shares with her husband, Leo, fondly planning every detail. But after a difficult birth, those dreams of blissful bonding evaporate. Chelsea battles sleep deprivation and feelings of isolation. Little Annabelle cries constantly, and Chelsea has dark visions fueled by exhaustion and self-doubt. Her sister, Emma, insists she gets help for post-partum depression, but Chelsea’s doctor dismisses her worries as self-indulgent.

Doubting her ability to parent–even doubting her own sanity–Chelsea is close to collapse. Then an unthinkable crisis hits. And suddenly, Chelsea is compelled to face both the fragility and resilience of life, and the extraordinary depths of love.

Review:  I’m still puzzling out how this one ended up on my to be read list as it doesn’t fit the genres I usually look into when looking for new reading material.  Because it doesn’t fit my normal choice of reading, I’m probably not the best to review this as it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

I really didn’t connect with any of the characters in this book.  There was a whole lot of jumping around from perspective to perspective, even going to the baby’s perspective at one point (she is 4 months old, there isn’t much perspective to be had with that), that you didn’t get enough time with any one character to be able to really get to know them, let alone empathize with them.

It was also really difficult to get into this as the book wasn’t even sure what kind of book it wanted to be.  Was it supposed to be about a woman suffering from postpartum depression?  Was it supposed to be about a family going through that and the possibility and fallout of a kidnapping or even the mother killing her child?  Or was this a crime drama?  The focus was in one place, solidly, then it moved on to another place, again solidly, with very little to no back focus on the previous place.  It was difficult to determine what the actual intent of the book was, even by the end.

This was an okay read with a decent story but it just didn’t really feel cohesive or emotional and a story about postpartum depression or child abduction should be a whole lot more emotional that what I got out of this.

Magic Shifts: Kate Daniels, Book 8

Magic ShiftsAuthor: Ilona Andrews
Book Name: Magic Shifts
Series: Kate Daniels
Order: #8
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  After breaking from life with the Pack, mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate—former Beast Lord Curran Lennart—are adjusting to a very different pace. While they’re thrilled to escape all the infighting, Kate and Curran know that separating from the Pack completely is a process that will take time.

But when they learn that their friend Eduardo has gone missing, Kate and Curran shift their focus to investigate his disappearance. Eduardo was a fellow member of the Mercenary Guild, so Kate knows the best place to start looking is his most recent jobs. As Kate and Curran dig further into the merc’s business, they discover that the Guild has gone to hell and that Eduardo’s assignments are connected in the most sinister way…

An ancient enemy has arisen, and Kate and Curran are the only ones who can stop it—before it takes their city apart piece by piece.

Review:  Book 8 in the Kate Daniels series is right up there on the same level with the previous seven.  As a series, I have absolutely loved this world and all the characters that exist there.  It is so incredibly vivid that you absolutely get absorb into it while you are reading.

Where in most of the other books it seemed as if the characters never got a moment of peace, this book has a few more places where the pace is slower and a bit less chaotic.  I do have to say, though, that I didn’t feel like I really got anything new going on, at least with regards to the characters’ growth.

For Kate, she didn’t get any new understanding or hold on her powers.  There is a very fine line between having your character become ever increasingly, and conveniently, powerful (to a ridiculous point) and leaving them to stagnate.  The series as a whole has done a great job at keeping a happy balance, but I think this book landed Kate’s character slightly on the stagnate side.

Curran does seem to have found a purpose outside of being the Beast Lord, so we do have a bit of growth there, but that is about it.  While we got to see many of the secondary characters that are so much a part of this world, I don’t think we really spent enough time with any one of them to see any kind of real change.

Even with those things that I would have liked to have seen a little different, this was still an awesome book.  I was thrilled to see a hint at a solution to the Roland dilemma.  Makes me wonder if the next book is going to be the end or if that is going to get stretched even further.

Golden Trail: The ‘Burg, Book 3

Golden TrailAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: Golden Trail
Series: The ‘Burg
Order: #3
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Tanner Layne and Raquel Merrick fell in love young, hard and fast and both of them knew a beautiful life they thought would be forever.

Until Rocky left Layne, no explanation, no going back.

Layne escapes The ‘Burg only to come back years later because his ex-wife has hooked herself to the town jerk and Layne needs to make sure his sons get raised right. Layne manages to avoid Rocky but when Layne gets three bullets drilled into him while investigating a dirty cop, he can’t do that because Rocky stops avoiding Layne. They make a deal to work together to expose the dirty cop but they have no idea the strength of their enduring attraction or the sheer evil at work in The ‘Burg.

As Tanner Layne and Raquel Merrick play their game and dance around the pull that draws them together, Layne has to discover the dark secrets buried so deep in Rocky’s heart she doesn’t even know they’re there at the same time untangle a sinister web of crime so abhorrent it has to be stopped… at all costs.

And to do it, Layne has to enlist everyone, including his ex-CIA mentor, Rocky’s detective brother, the town’s unpredictable informant and Layne’s two teenage sons all the while stopping Rocky from doing something crazy and keeping their game secret so Layne won’t get himself dead.

Review: Yes, this was a great book and it gets top ratings.  That said, there were a couple of aspects that I had a hard time with, which is really rare for me when it comes to a Kristen Ashley book.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Rocky’s character.  It took almost the entire book to get her whole story and when I got it, I struggled with it and the drama around it as it just didn’t all add up for me.  I ended up not liking her dad or her brother at all because of it as that whole situation was completely f’d up.

I think that part of the reason I struggled to connect with Rocky is that, for the first time (that I’ve seen) a KA book is told entirely from the guy’s perspective.  Normally, she goes from the female perspective or bounces around between the two main characters (which I think I like the best) and sometimes even has bits in there from secondary characters.

Because we got nothing from Rocky’s side, we could only get her personality from how Layne sees her.  Honestly, there were times where I think he had some major blinders on and she really wasn’t all that.  I’d have to say, that Rocky is probably one of my least favorite KA characters ever.

Still, I did love this story and the secondary relationships that exist in this book.  While this is probably going to fall towards the bottom of my KA favorites list, it is still light years ahead of most any other romance on the market.

 

As Long As You Love Me: Ann Aguirre

As Long As You Love MeAuthor: Ann Aguirre
Book Name: As Long As You Love Me
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/New Adult
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Most people dream about getting out of Sharon, Nebraska, but after three years away, Lauren Barrett is coming home. She has her reasons–missing her family, losing her college scholarship. But then there’s the reason Lauren can’t admit to anyone: Rob Conrad, her best friend’s older brother.

Football prowess and jaw-dropping good looks made Rob a star in high school. Out in the real world, his job and his relationships are going nowhere. He’s the guy who women love and leave, not the one who makes them think of forever–until Lauren comes back to town, bringing old feelings and new dreams with her.

Because the only thing more important than figuring out where you truly belong is finding the person you were meant to be with.

Review:  I really struggled to get into this one as I just wasn’t much of a fan of the characters.  Rob bugged me the most as he is like this kicked puppy that will love on anyone for a pat on the head.  It isn’t adorable, it is kind of sad.

Lauren is messed up, but is also the absolute perfect person.  I so didn’t by the cat fight into insta BFFs with Rob’s ex.  Lauren should be submitted for sainthood she is so perfect outside of her anxiety issues.  Again, that isn’t adorable or cute or funny or aww inspiring.

I’m all for broken characters that fight through their issues to become better people, but the way this was played out, that scenario just didn’t seem all that genuine to me.  So, not much of a fan on this one.

 

Thoughts on Reading and Writing: Perceptions

It is easy as a reader to think that when you open that book, you are starting with this blank space that the book fills completely.  That the book will succeed or fail entirely on its own merits.  That is great in theory, but theory and reality rarely ever travel along the same path.  In this, the theory breaks because while the book may be a blank slate, the reader is not.

We each bring our own issues, experience and history onto that slate before we ever even glance at the cover.  Our own well covered slate has us beginning to form thoughts and expectations on that first glance before the spine is even cracked.  It is impossible to not let our slate color the slate of the book.

Our slates help us to form opinions and perceptions about what we are reading.  It is what helps us to like characters, plot elements, settings, everything that make up that book.  It is also what can make us dislike all those same things if they don’t fit into our personal version of the perceptions we form.

A book may connect on a seriously deep emotional level with a reader that has a personal experience that resonates with the subject in the book.  While that same book may be incredibly unemotional to a reader that their own history doesn’t give them the background to create any kind of a bridge between them and the book  to help them empathize.  The second reader may still be able to enjoy the book, but they just won’t be able to connect in the same way or on such an emotional level.

As  reader, I try to keep in mind what my own slate has written on it and attempt to understand how a person with a different history may view a story that I’m struggling to connect with.  There are times when my imagination just isn’t good enough to stretch that far, but sometimes, I can get a different perspective on a story and understand it on a different level.

I find it fascinating to look at how differing perceptions form peoples opinions with regards to books.  There are times when I’m floored after I’ve read a book that I thought was stunningly written only to then go read how other people have reviewed that book and find out that they completely hated it.  A lot of times, if the review is well articulated, I can totally understand how someone might feel that way.  I many not agree, but I can understand it.  Other times, I’m on the opposite end of that concept when I’ve found a book I really didn’t like that is heavily praised.

Understanding how my perceptions influence my opinion has also helped me learn to articulate what or why I like or dislike certain aspects of the books I’ve read.  It still isn’t always easy, not by a long shot, but it does help.  Eh… sometimes.

At Peace: The ‘Burg, Book 2

At PeaceAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: At Peace
Series: The ‘Burg
Order: #2
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Violet Winters once had it all but lost it when her husband was murdered by a criminal madman. During a cold winter night Violet has to leave her warm bed to tell her neighbor to turn the music down. And that’s when she meets sinister, scarred, scarily attractive security specialist, Joe Callahan.

She wants to deny it, but Violet can’t beat back the hunger she feels for Joe so she gives in again and again. Feeling it himself, Joe feeds Vi’s hunger, breaking his own rules to keep her in his bed.

Even though Violet had only one man in her life, she’s sure Joe is giving her the signals and Vi decides she’s ready to take a second chance at life and, maybe, love. But Violet doesn’t know the dark secrets in Joe’s past, secrets so soul-wrenching, they’ve drained him dry. With nothing left to give, Joe’s determined to live his life alone and he breaks Violet’s heart.

Crushed by Joe’s betrayal, Violet comes to terms with the fact that, no matter what signals he gave, Joe was not theirs to win. But Violet’s husband’s murderer is obsessed with her and heartbreak again haunts the door of the Winters home. When it does Joe is forced to face the knowledge that he can’t fight Violet’s pull, she’s under his skin and filled him full to bursting.

Joe needs to win her back and put his life on the line to keep Violet safe. But, having had it all once, can Violet endure losing Joe?

Review: The best of the best of the best!  So, I’m a little biased in that Kristen Ashely is my favorite hunky, sexy, funny, crazy, quirky, deep, sweet, heart wrenching romance author and I don’t think anyone really comes close to her ballpark.  This book is no exception at all.  Seriously loved it.

As usual, these characters are so realistic and personable.  Wasn’t a huge fan of Joe in the beginning, but again, as usual that works itself out in the story.  Kind of the same with Violet.  That is what is awesome about Ms. Ashley’s characters.  They are far from perfect, but all their quirks and bumps and wrinkles are what make you love them.

If I had one negative thing to say, it would be the issue I had with the pet name “Buddy”.  For me, that is what you call your guy friends, your dog or even a kid, not the hot chick you are dating and getting crazy in the sack with, so that kinda tripped me up here and there, but it wasn’t near enough to take me out of this awesome addition to the KA repertoire.

 

Dark Dreams: Fall of the Fair Isle, Book 2

Dark DreamsAuthor: Rowena Cory Daniells
Book Name: Dark Dreams
Series: Fall of the Fair Isle
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Fair Isle was once legendary among the lands, a place of wealth, elegance and culture. Now it lies blackened and despoiled, its barbarian Ghebite conquerors trampling places that, for centuries, had known only peace and beauty.

Imoshen, one of the last of the T’En—legendary for their magical powers and their ethereal grace—carries the Ghebite General Tulkhan’s child, but she must still battle to defend both her position in his new kingdom and her people’s lives and futures. Tulkhan himself, bewitched both by her fierceness and her country’s ancient heritage, fears and resents her even as he grows to love her.

And something else threatens Imoshen’s safety in this new world. For there is one other living T’En—Reothe, a prince of her people, and once her betrothed—who means to reclaim his country and his throne once more; and Imoshen besides…

Review:  The annoying parts of book one managed to continue into book two, only they were worse in that they were still going on.

This isn’t so much an epic fantasy series as it is several books about a love triangle that repeatedly yo-yos back and forth with the trust between Imoshen and Tulkhan and then Imoshen and Reothe.  It wore out its interest level in the first book and was just too much in this one.

I think I’m going to have to be pretty bored to pick up the third and final book in this series because I’ve gotten to the point where I just don’t care what happens to any of the characters.

 

The Opera House: Hans M Hirschi

The Opera HouseAuthor: Hans M Hirschi
Book Name: The Opera House
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars

 

Blurb:  Raphael doesn’t believe in a higher power, or in anything, for that matter. After the death of his son, his life shattered, Raphael regrets that he didn’t lie about some perfect paradise, and he pushes away everything that once mattered to him—his lover, his job, his reputation as a top architect.

Then he meets Brian, a homeless, maybe hopeless kid, a street kid. When he disappears, Raphael realizes that he cannot fail another person, and he launches a full-out search.

What he finds both breaks his heart and begins to heal it. The price of saving Brian is high, maybe too high.

But Raphael is no stranger to sacrifice, and he’ll risk everything to save Brian and reunite with the man Raphael now loves. The question is—how?

Like the architecture of the opera house Raphael designs, the steps to regaining his life will depend not just on careful planning, but faith, hope, and maybe just the magic of love.

Review:  I really wasn’t a fan of this one, which is sad because the beginning of the book was incredibly heart wrenching.

Once I got past that part, it was a real struggle at times to follow along.  The dialog just didn’t flow in a natural conversational rhythm and there were word choices and phrases used that seemed really off.  I’d guess that English is not the author’s first language and, based on the author blurb in the back and the fact that this author’s homeland is Sweden, those issues are potentially the difference between cultures and countries.

The struggle to follow or get over term or phrase hiccups made it difficult to really connect emotionally with the characters.  Some of the situations seemed extremely far fetched, even ridiculous at points.  The deeper into the book I got, the less in tune I was with what was going on.  In a few places, the plot timeline seemed out of order and there were several things that were flat out, word for word repeated at different points in the story, which became annoying.

I liked the basis of the story, but just not the follow through and how it was fleshed out.