Far Gone: Laura Griffin

Far GoneAuthor: Laura Griffin
Book Name: Far Gone
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  Police detective Andrea Finch is a rising star in her department until a split-second decision derails her career. Disgraced and disillusioned, she’s on leave from her job when she gets an urgent call from her younger brother. She’d prefer to ignore his latest plea for cash, but this time instinct tells her something is very wrong. Andrea’s search for answers takes her to a dusty Texas border town where danger lurks in plain sight and nothing is quite what it seems.

FBI agent Jon North is working undercover in west Texas, investigating an unsolved murder that may be linked to a terrorist plot. But when the evidence points to Andrea’s brother, Jon finds that persuading the stubborn cop to help will be harder than cracking his toughest case.

Andrea must find a way to do what’s right while protecting her only sibling. As the clock ticks down, Andrea and Jon race to confront a heartless killer who will stop at nothing to deliver a final, terrifying message.

Review:  There were a couple of places where this stretched the believability factor a bit with some of the scenarios, but this was still a pretty entertaining read.  I got deep enough into the story that those little blips didn’t really pull me out at all so I don’t think they are worth picking over.

This is definitely more suspense than romance and the romantic parts that do pop up notch in pretty well with the rest of the story.  Though the overall timeline here doesn’t take up more than maybe a few weeks, the romance isn’t an insta-love thing.  Attraction, definitely, but not deep, everlasting love in that time frame.

I’d say my least favorite part was that this finished and resolved a little too perfectly clean.  I love it wasn’t a bad guy reveals all in the end, but it was still wrapped up in this nice tidy bow and the main characters both come out totally unscathed.  Heck almost every single character, good or bad, came away pretty clean.  One person got roughed up, that was it.  Something with this intense of a plot really kind of needs to have the people in it get dirtied up a bit.

Thoughts on Author Kristen Ashley

Reading Heaven and Hell, by Kristen Ashly opened my eyes to something that has been bugging me with the last several KA books I’ve read.  It took a while because I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but with this book, I finally figured it out.

While she writes these amazing, badass alpha males, they are all pretty chauvinistic.  It is most often done in such a way that they are still damn hot and sexy, which is one of the things that kept bugging me because I don’t find that kind of behavior sexy.  There are parts of all of these alpha males that I absolutely adore, but a lot of times, that gets pushed to the side because of the attitude.  The female characters also have their own issues that I don’t normally like and how they act and respond to those alpha males really emphasizes that chauvinism.

When taken as a whole, the majority of female characters in KA books, while spunky, quirky and, on the surface, pretty cool, they are also most often the stereotypical heroine that ultimately needs someone to take care of her and rescue her.  They also often seem like they are bordering shallow and flighty.  No matter what strengths she may have, she is rendered weak when put up against these serious alpha males.  They talk over the female characters, are almost always right and have some reasonable, rational, logical response to every concern that the females may raise, making them seem irrational, over reacting, or even bitchy and that makes those thoughts, feelings or concerns seem frivolous.

As a standard (and there are exceptions to every rule), the female characters are the ones to compromise or give in.  Heaven and Hell is a good example of that as really the only compromise the male character allows in the entire story is the biggie in the end.  Sure, it is huge and important, but the smaller, every day compromises are just as important as the biggies.  Again, not always, but so often these books seem to be carried on the solid personality of the alphas, even if they are chauvinistic, and only a bit on the quirky of the females.  There just aren’t that many female characters that come across as truly strong.

This creates a power imbalance in the relationships between the male and female characters.  Not once have I read a KA book where there is a true balancing of that power.  When it comes to the “man’s world” aspects of the relationships it is always the man’s way or the highway with zero room for compromise.  I am not usually a fan of this huge divide between men and women in romance.  I see no reason why you can’t have these amazing, protective alpha males that still balance and support the strengths of the females, making them stronger instead of making them seem weak and unable to stand alone while also not emasculating or lessening the power of that alpha male because she would in turn balance and support him.

So why is it that I have, and still mostly do, love Kristen Ashley?  In a lot of ways, it isn’t the characters, as I’ve seen often enough, there are lots of aspects that I don’t like about her characters, yet I still love them.  It is the way she writes them, infusing them with huge, gut snagging emotions that make them so incredibly real.  The histories she wraps those characters in and the fact that they are so far from perfect they can only be human makes it impossible not to connect with them.

It is because of the realism and beauty that she manages to weave into every story that I keep coming back and why I still love the stories even if I don’t always love the characters or what they represent which kind of makes me hate that I like them in the first place.  There is such a uniqueness to her style and how she writes that just draws you in no matter what.  That is kind of difficult for me to understand.  How can I love a story but not so much the characters, even sometimes when I feel like the story may be missing something?  It doesn’t seem rational or logical, but it just is.

The last several KA books that I’ve read have been really difficult for me to rate and review because there are quite a few things that I love and hate about them so it is incredibly hard to figure out where it falls in the grand scheme of things.  I’d have to say that I’d still rate Kristen Ashley as my favorite romance author because what she writes always hits strong.  I’d even say that a few of her characters are some of my favorites, but I don’t actually like her characters (at least parts of them) most of the time.

It’s kind of crazy, but even with the things that I’m not such a fan of, I’ve yet to find another romance author that I like they way I do Kristen Ashley.  It would be beyond awesome to get the kinds of characters I know I’d love wrapped up in the kinds of stories KA writes, they way she writes, but that is probably expecting something like perfection and not even our favorite authors are capable of that.

Heaven and Hell: Kristen Ashley

Heaven and HellAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: The Promise
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  After making a bad decision when she was very young, Kia Clementine finds herself in hell. Then, suddenly, within the time it takes for a shotgun to blast, her hell changes. Completely. Then out-of-the-blue she sees Sampson Cooper, her celebrity crush. A man the whole world knows is decent. A man the world knows is loyal. A man the world knows is good. All of these very unlike her now dead husband.

He’s sitting at a table right next to hers. And she catches his eye.

Terrified of the interest Sam shows in her, Kia finds the courage to go out with him. Not long after, she shares her dark secrets and Sam shares that he’ll stop at nothing to gain her trust.

As Sam leads Kia to heaven, Kia realizes that Sam is living his own hell. But although he gives her beauty and she gives him everything, he withholds his trust.

Even with all the beauty Sam shows her, Kia wants it all. But Sam forces Kia to make a heartbreaking decision and only she can decide. It’s all or nothing.

Review:  I came to some realizations while reading this book, but are a bit too in depth to put into a review, so I’ll be writing up a separate post on that.   As for this…

This is what I’ve decided is classic KA writing with yet another serious alpha male.  I’m not as big of a fan of these characters as I have been in many other KA books, but they are still good.  This definitely had its sweet moments.

I did find the underlying plot in this with regards to the hit put out on Kia to be a bit underwhelming and kind of an afterthought.  I think I would have liked for this to have had a bit more focus and not such an anticlimactic resolution.

In all, though, this was another really good story that brushed the edges of a couple of other series KA has written without being a direct part of any one of them.

 

Tex: Burnout, Book 2

TexAuthor: Dahlia West
Book Name: Tex
Series: Burnout
Order: #2
Genre: Romance/Erotic
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Abby Raines is leaving Las Vegas. She’s trading the glitter and excess of her hometown for the rolling hills and lush forests of Rapid City, South Dakota. She’s taken her first real job and she’s determined to succeed on her own.

Mark Marsten traded the Texas range for the Army Rangers years ago and never looked back. Now, he’s settled permanently in Rapid City with the remaining members of his Special Forces unit. He thought he had it all, well almost anyway. Until a sassy redhead with a sharp tongue and body to die for rolled into town.

Mark knows he’s too much for her long-term, but he can’t resist a fling with Rapid City’s newest resident. He thought he knew the game. After all, it’s his game. And always his rules. But more and more it feels like Abby is the one holding all the cards.

Burnout is a series but each novel can stand alone on its own. You do not have to read Tex to enjoy the others. It is the only novel in the series with BDSM. If you don’t like BDSM skip this one. Fair warning: the kink factor is extremely high.

Review:  This was a reread for me, so not a new one.  For hotness/sexy factor, this rates pretty high, but there are parts that push my comfort level beyond something I find sexy and that puts the overall rating down for me.

Both Mark and Abby are pretty decent characters, but don’t have a depth that I’ve found in other books in the same genre.  This is definitely one of those stories that has a whole lot more steam than story, though what story there is is good.

As a second read, I ran across more things that kind of bugged me than I noticed on the first round so I don’t think I liked this as much as the first time I read it.  If you are in the mood for hot and steamy that pushes some serious boundaries on the kinky scale, this would be a good choice.  If your looking for a deep emotional story, might skip this one.

The Two Gentlemen of Altona: Playing the Fool, Book 1

The Two Gentlemen of AltonaAuthor: Lisa Henry & JA Rock
Book Name: The Two Gentlemen of Altona
Series: Playing the Fool
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/LGBT/Suspense
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  Mischief, thou art afoot.

Special Agent Ryan “Mac” McGuinness is having a rough week. Not only is he on a new diet, but he’s also been tasked with keeping Henry Page — the world’s most irritating witness — alive. Which is tough when Mac’s a breath away from killing the Shakespeare-quoting, ethically-challenged, egg-obsessed Henry himself. Unless killing isn’t really what Mac wants to do to him.

Con man Henry Page prefers to keep his distance from the law…though he wouldn’t mind getting a little closer to uptight, handsome Agent McGuinness. As the sole witness to a mob hit, Henry’s a valuable asset to the FBI. But he’s got his own agenda, and it doesn’t involve testifying.

When evidence surfaces of a mole in the FBI office, Mac and Henry are forced to go into hiding. Holed up in a fishing cabin, they’re surprised to discover that their feelings run more than skin deep. But as the mob closes in, Henry has to make his escape. And Mac has to decide how far he’s willing to go to keep Henry by his side.

Review:  This has a wonderful blend of story and characters, funny and serious with a little bit of dorky and cute and vulnerable.  I really fell in love with both Mac and Henry and am so glad that their stories aren’t done yet even if I was left hanging at the very end.

The different aspects of this story are pretty well balanced out.  The focus isn’t too heavy on just the suspense or the romance.  This was a bit of a surprise for me as that seems to be something of a rarity in this genre, at least as far as I’ve seen.  I’m definitely going to be grabbing the next one in this series.

Edge of Sight: Guardian Angelinos, Book 1

Edge of SightAuthor: Roxanne St. Claire
Book Name: Edge of Sight
Series: Guardian Angelinos
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

Blurb:  The killer she can’t escape . . .
The heartbreak she can’t forget . . .

The one man who can stop them both.

When Samantha Fairchild witnesses a murder in the wine cellar of the restaurant where she works, the Harvard-bound law student becomes the next target of a professional assassin. Desperate for protection the authorities won’t provide, Sam seeks help from Vivi Angelino, an investigative reporter who recruits her brother, Zach, to protect Samantha. A Special Forces vet with the scars to prove he’s equally fearless and flawed, Zach takes the job, despite the fact that he and Sam once shared a lusty interlude that ended when he left for war and disappeared from her life. Now, as they crack a conspiracy that leads to Boston ‘s darkest corners, Sam and Zach must face their fears, desires, and doubts, before a hired killer gets a second shot…

Review:  There really wasn’t anything about this book to make it stand out.  The story was okay, the characters were decent, but really nothing that made it more than that.  Sorry for the short and sweet on this one, but I just didn’t really feel much about this one way or another.

To Have and To Hold: Nalini Singh

To Have and To HoldAuthor: Nalini Singh
Book Name: To Have and To Hold*
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:  The pact Jessica Randall makes with wealthy New Zealand rancher Gabe Dumont is simple: in exchange for marriage and an heir, he will save her family property. It’s calculating and completely devoid of any tenderness, just like the man himself. But things soon get very complicated as secrets and mistrust, jealousy and ultimatums take over, threatening Jessica’s ability to maintain her emotional distance. Worst of all, the sizzling attraction between them is suddenly making this marriage of convenience decidedly inconvenient!

A Reader Favorite Story originally published as BOUND BY MARRIAGE.

Review:  This has a very different style when it comes to a Nalini Singh book and I struggled with trying not to hold it up to all the others of hers that I’ve read and loved.  Even knowing the voices she uses in her two fantasy series and her Rock Kiss series are very different from each other, they still have this underlying unity that allows a reader to know it is a Nalini Singh book.  I had a very difficult time picking up that voice in this book.  I actually had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t written by another, lesser liked author as it had some similar tones that I don’t typically like.

Ms. Singh is no stranger to writing amazing dark and broken heroes, but Gabe is on a whole other level and I didn’t like him all that much.  It was hard to tie the scarred and broken Gabe into anything that Jessica could actually love.  Not with what very little she was given to work with.  Jessica was also hard to like as a character because she completely failed to stand up for herself until the very end.  Sorry, but no land or family legacy is worth selling yourself for.

One of the things that I’ve always loved about a Nalini Singh book is that they stand out from a typical romance, both in amazing characters that are full of personality on all kinds of different levels and a stellar story line that, even when I’ve reached the end of the book, I’m not ready to let it go.  This book was lacking in those elements and landed squarely into the standard level for a romance novel with just a decent story and okay characters.

*Please not that apparently this book has been published under two different names.  I’m reviewing under the title I read, but it was also published as Bound by Marriage.

You Dropped a Blonde on Me: Ex-Trophy Wives, Book 1

You Dropped a Blond On MeAuthor: Dakota Cassidy
Book Name: You Dropped a Blonde on Me
Series: Ex-Trophy Wives
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars

 

Blurb:  She was the perfect party-planning, haute-to-the max trophy wife. Now Maxine Cambridge is broke, unemployable and living with her mother and teenage son in a retirement village, with her self-esteem kicked to the curb.

Until her geeky former classmate Campbell Barker returns, all grown-up- and off-the-scale smokin’ hot. Campbell refuses to believe Max isn’t that smart, funny girl he’s crushed on since high school. The more Max tries to show him he’s wrong, the more she rediscovers her long-retired mojo. Now, she’s ready to throw down some payback on her ex-life and fight for what she deserves…

Review:  If I had paid a bit closer attention to the series name and the blurb on this one, I probably could have avoided what ended up being a pretty annoying read.

The main character Max comes across as this incredibly insecure, whiny, spineless woman that can’t handle the fact that her husband, who she married at 20 and is 20 years older than her cheated with someone half her age and left her and her son penniless after 20 years of marriage.  Oh, yeah, he also did that for their whole marriage.  Yet she is shocked that he turned out to be a slime ball.

It is insanely difficult to feel any sympathy for a person that puts themselves into a position like that and continues to allow it to happen, so connecting with this character is more than hard.  The couple of female friends mentioned were all also married to much older men.  Seriously?  Sure, there were all in it for the love.  Absolutely.

Campbell isn’t a whole lot better.  He is all about understanding her and where she is at, yet pushes her when she says she isn’t ready then insists she get over herself and heal at the pace he deems is the correct one.  Sorry, bud!  She just got away from an ass that demanded she be only what he wanted and needed, when he wanted and needed it only to find another one just like that and that is just as hot and cold as you claim she is.  So not prince charming.

I get I’m a little back and forth on not liking Max and wanting to stand up for her, but that is because I can’t stand characters like her that won’t stand up for themselves.  I didn’t find her all that cute or funny.  In fact I really kind of felt like when she wasn’t being whiny and weak, she just had kind of an ugly personality.  No matter the emotional damage left from her marriage, I didn’t like the personality shifts that character portrayed.

The other thing that just got me irritated and on the not buying it bandwagon with this was Max’s history before her marriage.  This book makes it sound as though she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth rather than having only come into the rich girl life when she married.  She had never been inside a Walmart but her own mother has no problem going there?  What?  Her own mother never once took her shopping while she was growing up?  That just doesn’t fly.  The selfish, snobby underlying attitude she has colors everything she does.  No matter what, she is either way better than others or has it so much worse, the world should pity her.

Obviously, I’m not a fan of spoiled little rich girl stories, even if the rich girl falls flat on her face.  The series name and blurb hint at this, but I didn’t think it was going to be quite so out there with regards to being totally unable to like the main character.  Missed by a huge long shot with this one.

 

The In-Between Hour: Barbara Claypole White

The In-Between HourAuthor: Barbara Claypole White
Book Name: The In-Between Hour
Series: *
Order:*
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  WHAT COULD BE WORSE THAN LOSING YOUR CHILD? HAVING TO PRETEND HE’S STILL ALIVE…

Bestselling author Will Shepard is caught in the twilight of grief, after his young son dies in a car accident. But when his father’s aging mind erases the memory, Will rewrites the truth. The story he spins brings unexpected relief…until he’s forced to return to rural North Carolina, trapping himself in a lie.

Holistic veterinarian Hannah Linden is a healer who opens her heart to strays but can only watch, powerless, as her grown son struggles with inner demons. When she rents her guest cottage to Will and his dad, she finds solace in trying to mend their broken world, even while her own shatters.

As their lives connect and collide, Will and Hannah become each other’s only hope–if they can find their way into a new story, one that begins with love.

Review: This isn’t a lighthearted read.  It is loaded with heavier emotions that are bracketed by anger and denial, so it is a little hard to say that I liked it because it is so heavy, but it was really good.

Will’s character is great.  It was incredibly easy to feel him and move through the story along his emotions.  Hannah was a bit harder, but I believe that was kind of the point.  Her character falls more into the denial category and tries to only focus on the lighter, more positive emotions which don’t seem to fit what is going on.  It is hard to connect with a character when their emotions don’t match the scenes, but her character is missing connections because of that, which is how she was written.  It worked.

The focus of this is more on the family dynamics and dramas rather than on the romance.  I think the lack of focus on that made that aspect of the story harder to connect with, so it seemed a tiny bit off for me, but overall it was a pretty good story.

 

Scarred: J. S. Cooper

ScarredAuthor: J. S. Cooper
Book Name: Scarred
Series: *
Order:*
Genre: Romance/New Adult
Rating:  Garbage
1+stars

 

Blurb:  Everyone in Jonesville thought that Bryce Evans had the perfect life in High School: he was the Mayor’s son, the quarterback for the football team, the boyfriend of the head cheerleader and had a 4.1 GPA. His acceptance to Notre Dame came as a surprise to no-one. However when he chose to enlist in the marines instead everyone was shocked.

Lexi Lord was the quiet girl in school and kept to her small group of eccentric friends. She had no connection to any of the popular kids except for one incident on Prom Night when her path crossed with Bryce’s. When Bryce enlisted, Lexi was the only one that wasn’t disappointed and decided to send him anonymous letters as a way to feel connected to him. She stopped after a year because she felt there was nowhere for their relationship to go.

Fast-forward four years and Bryce is back in Jonesville and once again he and Lexi cross paths. Only he’s no longer the seemingly perfect man and Lexi’s no longer the quiet girl. This time their relationship is quite different but both of them have secrets from the past and friends that threaten to ruin their chance at happiness together.

Review: It takes a combination of a lot of factors for me to rate a book this low because it is such a harsh rating and one that I hate to hand out, but it is obviously there for a reason.  Unfortunately, this book hit on all of the reasons why I have this rating as an option.

This isn’t so much a new adult genre book, not because the characters don’t fit the physical age range for that genre, but because they mentally, emotionally and behaviorally are more pre-teen/junior high than people that should be in their 20s.  Lexi comes across as though she has a pop-star crush and is so utterly naive.  Bryce is an arrogant SOB and there is no way, the way this is written, that he comes across as a former Marine.  He is more like a spoiled child than anything else.  Every one of the secondary characters are just as bad, even the parents.

The story was decent and still had potential for about the first 1/3 of the book.  Things started to be less interesting after that but just dropped into ridiculous at about 70% when everything just got totally stupid.  Bryce sleeping with Lexi’s best friend.  The best friend thinking it was okay to do that and that they were suddenly in a relationship.  Bryce thinking it was okay to not share that and still go after and have sex with Lexi.  Lexi being totally okay and still loving Bryce after finding out she had been set up to be raped.  And every single other character with the exception of maybe Luke being horrible people that are just painfully ignorant.  Again, more junior high drama than what you’d expect from adults.  It didn’t help that every single early adult character is still living at home with their parents.  Really?  Even the supposed genius, money making machine Luke.  It makes no plausible, realistic sense.

If this were just about a not so well written story, this wouldn’t have gotten such a low rating.  It was so much more than that.  There were contradictory issues with character histories (Lexi having no clue who her dad was in one chapter and then in another chapter she not only new him but had met him in the past) and way too many serious editing mistakes.  It was bad enough to see some either mistyped words or completely wrong words in places but then there were also quite a few sentences or paragraphs that seemed like there were huge holes and were missing all the important parts.  Conversations would be going on and a character would have a response that made zero sense with regards to the previous sentence or paragraph so it was obvious something got deleted along the way and not fixed.  I’ve seen worse, but this was still pretty bad.

Yes, I did finish this, but that was because this was kind of like watching a train wreck.  You know it is going to be bad but you just can’t look away.  So glad this wasn’t something that I spent money on.

Scratch: Rhonda Helms

ScratchAuthor: Rhonda Helms
Book Name: Scratch
Series: *
Order:*
Genre: Romance/New Adult
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:  The most painful scars are the ones you never see.

In her DJ booth at a Cleveland dance club, Casey feels a sense of connection that’s the closest she ever gets to normal. On her college campus, she’s reserved, practical–all too aware of the disaster that can result when you trust the wrong person. But inexplicably, Daniel refuses to pay attention to the walls she’s put up. Like Casey, he’s a senior. In every other way, he’s her opposite.

Sexy, open, effortlessly charming, Daniel is willing to take chances and show his feelings. For some reason Casey can’t fathom, he’s intent on drawing her out of her bubble and back into a world that’s messy and unpredictable. He doesn’t know about the deep scars that pucker her stomach–or the deeper secret behind them. Since the violent night when everything changed, Casey has never let anyone get close enough to hurt her again. Now, she might be tempted to try.

Review:  Usually I’m a bit iffy on the new adult genre books, especially if it is a new author, but the blurb on this pulled me in.  I did expect this to be a bit darker, but it really fell more on to the sweet side than the dark.

Really, I was enjoying this quite a bit until the last little part when we get what really amounts to an epiphany moment or set of moments and all is mostly good.  After the amount of time and grief involved, you just don’t have a moment and suddenly you let it all go.  It is a process, one that is admittedly different for each person, but still a process.

I think I would have done much better with this if the letting go and opening up and been a gradual release throughout the book.  The letting go isn’t 100% roses and all is good in the world, but it is close enough to have made me like this just a little less than I had before I got to the end.

All in all, this is a sweet story.

The Last Exhale: Julia Blues

The Last ExhaleAuthor: Julia Blues
Book Name: The Last Exhale
Series: *
Order:*
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars

 

Blurb:  Marriage isn’t easy—especially without honesty. In this exploration of love, intimacy, guilt, and infidelity, two people learn what happens when their feelings get in the way of the truth.

For Sydney Holmes and Brandon Carter, love is losing its strength. Infidelity is the side effect of both of their broken marriages. Now, struggling to pick up the pieces, each is clinging to the hope that lasting love still waits for them, inside—or outside—of marriage.

Sydney’s not happy. Ever since marrying the wrong man, she’s regretted her decision to marry for the ring—not for her husband. Now, nearly seven years and two kids later, it’s not so easy to walk away. When a man drops into her life who gives her the oomph she’s been missing, she may be on the verge of making another wrong decision.

Brandon’s hurt. The death of his son was painful enough, but now he’s faced with losing the love of his life. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t make his wife love him. But soon the attention of another woman begins to mend his shattered ego. He moves out, and just as his new life grows comfortable, the reason his wife pushed him away surfaces, and Brandon must decide if the love they once shared is worth holding on to.

Love is the muscle of marriage. Both partners have to work to keep it strong and healthy, and without it, a marriage has no chance of survival. In The Last Exhale, Sydney and Brandon uncover the truth of what it really means to love—for better or for worse.

Review:  Ugly is the best word to describe this book.  I’m not talking the writing being bad, but the subject and characters of the story.  This is not a pretty romance with an HEA.  It is about all the ways that love can go wrong.

The reason I didn’t like this wasn’t because it was badly written.  I didn’t like it because there wasn’t a single character that I liked in this book.  Every single character had not one single redeeming quality.  Even in books with darker, uglier story lines I want to be able to connect and find some worth in the characters.  There is nothing here.

Sydney is a spineless doormat that keeps making horrible decisions and throws away her life in the process.  Sure she finally makes a decent one in the end, but there is so much that took so long that it really kind of screams too little too late.  Eric is really kind of a scummy, heartless, hypocritical bastard.  You’d think a woman dying of cancer and who’d lost her son would tug the heartstrings, but she is so incredibly selfish it wipes out any desire to feel compassion.  Brandon came the closest to having something to recommend, but he is just as guilty as being stupid as the rest.  I won’t even get into how utterly terrible the secondary friend characters are.

Everyone makes mistakes, makes bad decisions and has to live with the consequences.  I get it takes time sometimes to realize what needs to be done to make things better in your life and move on from those mistakes.  Some people never get to that point.  But we are talking a book here and when I read, I want to find something positive in it, even in the ugly stuff.

I came so close many times throughout this entire book to just putting it down, but I kept thinking that it had to have a more positive end.  Nope, it ended pretty much just as ugly as it started so I really wish I would have listened to my instincts and put it down the first time I didn’t think it was worth my time.

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.