Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

Synopsis: Two is a crowd when Peter and his four-year-old brother, Fudge, are in the same room. Grown-ups think Fudge is absolutely adorable, but Peter and his pet turtle, Dribble, know the truth. Fudge is actually a tiny terror in disguise, causing mischief everywhere he goes.

My Thoughts: Although I discovered Judy Blume around age 11 I firmly refused to read this series because, well, I was in the fifth grade and couldn't possibly read something that was obviously for someone much younger and less mature. In all actuality, I was discouraged from reading books from our little school library that were beneath my reading level. It was unfortunate because I really missed out on quite a few little gems like this book.

What Worked: Told from Peter's point of view the book reads exactly as I'd imagine a 9 year old would tell these tales. It was pretty easy to empathize with Peter and his frustrations of having a little (yet adorable) sibling who, in Peter's mind, messes everything up. The language is simple and easy to read. I was glad that Peter didn't use words like "misogynist" or "antidisestablishmentarianism". Nothing throws off a book with a child narrator who uses the word antidisestablishmentarianism.

What Didn't Work: Since this book is technically one of tales and not a continuous storyline the stories do not have a set timeline or a feeling of continuity to them. Although this might appeal to a child (which I fully admit that I am a few years beyond this book's demographic) I think older readers might long for an actual storyline with a plot.

In a Nutshell: A truly delightful book that would be excellent for a parent/child read together session. For children ages 7-11 I'd say. Although in a slight warning, younger children might ask questions on what happened to Dribble and if you are not inclined to have a "Circle of Life" discussion you might want to skip this one.


Photobucket

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Dancing With the Devil by Keri Arthur

Synopsis: Private Investigator Nikki James grew up on the tough streets of Lyndhurst and believes there's nothing left to surprise her. All that changes the night she follows teenager Monica Trevgard into the shadows-and becomes a pawn caught in a war between two very different men. One fills her mind with his madness, the other pushes his way into her life-and her heart. Nikki knows how dangerous love can be, but if she wants to survive, she must place her trust in a man who could easily destroy her. Michael Kelly has come to Lyndhurst determined to end the war between himself and another brother of the night. For 300 years he has existed in life's shadows, gradually learning to control the life from death cravings of a vampire. Nikki not only breaches his formidable barriers with her psychic abilities, but makes Michael believe he may finally have found a woman strong enough to walk by his side and ease the loneliness in his heart. But will his love be enough to protect her from a madman hell-bent on revenge? Or will it drive her into his enemy's deadly trap? Only together can they overcome the evil threatening to destroy them both. But the secrets they keep from each other might prove to be the greatest threat of all.

My Thoughts: While the concept of this book was actually to my liking, a psychically gifted PI being caught in the sights of an evil vampire and a vampire hero comes to her rescue, I found the execution was a bit off. Finding the positives to point out has been difficult for me because every instance had both pro and con to it.

What Worked: Our heroine, Nikki, is both determined and strong....yet flawed. This will allow for future character development....and believe me, this character needs some because although I've listed Nikki as a plus she was also the biggest disappointment I had in this book. (more on that later)

In addition to the character of Nikki, her boss, Jake, although completely human with no special abilities is actually the glue that holds Nikki together and essentially the book itself. He lent a calmness and logic to the story that it truly needed it as Nikki seemed to go off half cocked most of the time.

What Didn't Work: The World Building. The addition of the Damask Circle was woefully under-explained. If not for Michael mentioning a few times that he worked for them I'd never know it existed. This was just one example of the lack of world building. Arthur has also failed to provide rules to her world. Nikki has telekinesis but apparently also has psychometry and precognitive skills too. I've never read a book where one person had so many different types of psychic skills. Usually a person is only gifted with one. In addition it is mentioned so many times that while battling vampires or the zombies Nikki had depleted her psychic gift yet a moment later she is pooling more energy to attack or defend again. It is not explained where her reserve is coming from two, sometimes three times after it's mentioned she's essentially empty of her gifts. In addition to this it appears Arthur's vampires have even greater psychic gifts than Nikki as they have telepathy and can control anyone with their minds in addition to having telekinesis. They also can raise the dead and become invisible by blending into the shadows. And can someone tell me how a vampire 1/3 of the age of our hero could be continually best our hero? In every vampire romance I've read, the older the vampire the greater the strength and the speed and the everything....not so much in Dancing With the Devil.

The romance between Nikki and Michael didn't work either as it rang false by basing itself on a psychic connection that readers had to believe in without any actual romantic gestures from either character. When all was said and done I was still wondering how the characters fancied themselves in love.

The biggest flaw of the book would have to be Nikki herself. She came across angry with the world and self sacrificing to the point I really was rooting for the bad guy to kill her and get it over with. I have a hard time liking a character who completely ignores all of her own instincts, runs headlong into danger every other page knowing it was probably not a good idea and practically gift wraps herself for the bad guy to kidnap her (after already having been kidnapped by him once.) She was BTSTL (Beyond Too Stupid to Live!)

In a Nutshell: Despite the numerous negatives I did give this book 3 stars because it has potential and room to grow. Jake was a very interesting secondary character and I'm interested in seeing what the Damask Circle is all about.

Photobucket

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Synopsis: She won't rest until she's sent every walking corpse back to its grave. Forever.
Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would changed course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that's all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone.
Her father was right. The monsters are real.
To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn't careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies.

My Thoughts: What started out as a really decent paranormal YA ended with a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of suppositions on my part.

What Worked: Gena Showalter's idea of 'Ghost' zombies is unusual and interesting. They are essentially soul eaters that infect the living. She wrote the idea very well and I never had any question as to their existence. It made sense and it was exciting but then it got muddled.

What Didn't Work: Although her zombie concept was great and well explained it appears that the readers of the series have to wait to see every other question answered as Ali, herself, figures them out. We don't know why some people can see the ghost-zombies and some can't. We have no idea how they have special abilities to fight them either. Alice is often reading a journal but we have no idea where it came from or who wrote it. We find there are beings called Watchers but don't know exactly what they are or how they came to exist either. So a biiiiiiiig minus in the world building column.

Also, some of the characters come across extremely immature. Ali's new friend Kat has secrets that are just silly to keep. It's not like she secretly killed her algebra teacher or anything. She also is pretty obnoxious which Ali just loves about her but she actually comes across as annoying. The two of them have a couple of friends who bail at the first sign of trouble and apparently come back with open arms when the coast is clear and yet, they still are friends. It's weird.

The relationship between Ali and Cole is pretty explosive too. Their chemistry is pretty intense and reading about her wrapping her legs around his waist as they kissed made me a bit uncomfortable because they seem so young. I know teenagers do make out (and more) but I thought this aspect of the book seemed out of place and a little more advanced than the rest of the book portrayed the kids. They did talk about sex a few times which could be seen as mature but as I mentioned it just didn't fit. By the way, one discussion about sex between Kat and Ali was just weird and I'm not sure why it was included except to bring Kat's untruths to our notice.

What REALLY Didn't Work: The title is Alice in Zombieland which leads readers to believe this just might be an Alice in Wonderland retelling. Not so much. There are some basic things, like our heroine being very blond and named Alice and she keeps seeing a white rabbit (in the form of a big puffy cloud) but the idea of Alice in Wonderland is more figurative and not literal. This will be a big turn off for those who would love a retelling.

In a Nutshell: Not what I expected based on the title. Because of this and the lack of explanation of a whole lot of concepts this book was a disappointment and I'm not sure I'll even pick up the next book.
Photobucket

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Wicked Witch Murder by Leslie Meier

Synopsis: With planning the town's annual Halloween Party, the drought wreaking havoc on her garden, and her brood of four children, Lucy Stone's got her hands full this fall- As the air turns crisp and the trees blaze red and gold in the tiny town of Tinker's Cove, Maine, a newcomer arrives who seems to suit the Halloween season. Diana Ravenscroft has just opened Solstice, a charming little shop featuring candles, crystals, jewelry, and psychic readings. But after an unnervingly accurate reading by Diana, Lucy starts to get more than a little spooked- Then there's the dead body Lucy finds, way up on one of the old logging roads behind her house. The deceased is identified as Malcolm Malebranche, a seemingly harmless magician who worked at children's birthday parties. When it turns out that Diana knew the murder victim, Ike Stoughton, a prominent local businessman, starts a campaign against Diana, blaming -the witch- for everything from the unseasonal dry spell to his wife's illness and his pumpkins- lack of plumpness. But Lucy's not so sure that Ike himself is innocent. Still, as the town Halloween party approaches, Lucy's more concerned about the costume competition, pin-the-nose-on-the-pumpkin, and baking three dozen orange cupcakes and Beastly Bug cookies. But as the October moon rises, a killer plans a lethal celebration of his own-and Lucy's the guest of honor-

My Thoughts: I've been taking a sabbatical from mysteries for a while now and, in the past, I've loved the cozy sub-genre to pieces, including the Lucy Stone series. Before my time away of all that is murderous, I must have read 8...maybe 9 of the previous Lucy Stone books. I truly enjoyed them. So, what happened? Did I get punk'd by the Suck Fairy? Did this series really suck all along and I never realized it or was this just a horrible book? At this point I'm just not sure....

What Worked: Um...I got nothing. Well, I kind of liked the dog and maybe the couple cats the appeared through out the book. Other than that...yep. Nothing

What Didn't Work: First off the synopsis above was on the inner flap of the dust jacket. Meaning the publishing company thought this was a very good description of the contents. Not so much. For one thing this book starts in April (minus the prologue that is time line ambiguous). What? I thought Lucy was overly concerned about the Halloween festivities. Well, she was but not until the last couple of chapters in the book. This book is not about Halloween at all but the persecution of the Wicca religion and those who practice it.

The main character, Lucy Stone, is not charming whatsoever. She flip flops between sticking up for Diana, who is a witch and a practicing Wiccan and making horribly insultive and prejudistic comments like...
Lucy: "Samhain?"
Diana: "It's our new year, but you know it as Halloween."
Lucy: "Oh," said Lucy. "I suppose you'll all be riding around on broomsticks."

I suppose that if Lucy was known for her wry and sarcastic sense of humor or Meier had included some indicators to suggest she were kidding (ie: Lucy said jokingly) this might not have rubbed me the wrong way but as it's written this statement is an insult to Wicca.

The entire portrayal of the Wicca religion actually rubbed me the wrong way. I am no expert on Wicca but do know a little. The book rang false in it's portrayal from Lucy (who knows NOTHING of it) convincing Diana to perform her spell at 9pm instead of midnight because "Nine is three thrice." "The power of your spell will be magnified three times.", to the spell being cast (an annoying rhyming ditty), to an entire coven ignoring the first rule of Wicca "An it harm none do what ye will".  Basically, play nice and don't harm others.

Oh Yeah, this Didn't Work Either: The Mystery? What mystery? Sure someone died. Sure someone is vandalizing Diana's property (which is never solved by the way.) The murder is ultimately solved but not by Lucy, who I would have thought would have a hand in it. No, all she did was stumble along and point fingers at people and talking about Diana behind her back. Oh  and almost get killed because she was too stupid to notice her gas gauge was low. Anyway, back to that non-mystery. What really torqued my tonsils about this book was that there was no way to actually solve this mystery. There were no real clues with only one viable suspect and a couple vaguely suspicious ones. Too many of the characters had a 'weird' moment making them all suspect a bit. Now one or two character weirdnesses I normally would say "Hey, Doomis over there is actin' a bit shady. I bet he set fire to that nice magician back in April." but I couldn't do that to everyone without having to forfeit my Mystery Book Lovers club card, besides I love the decoder ring too much to even chance a false "Aha! Mr Green in the Library with the Revolver" moment.

In a Nutshell: I really didn't like this book (in case you missed all of my "This book Sucked" points up above). I'm regretting reading it. I'm thinking of never going to Tinker's Cove with Leslie Meier again. I'm actually thinking of boycotting Maine all together despite their lovely lobsters. Man I hope the entire cozy sub-genre is not ruined for me because of this book.....

Photobucket

Friday, November 1, 2013

Two Weeks' Notice by Rachel Caine

Synopsis: Bryn Davis finds out that making a living can be rough if you’re already dead...
After dying and being revived with the experimental drug Returne, Bryn Davis is theoretically free to live her unlife— with regular doses to keep her going. But Bryn knows that the government has every intention of keeping a tight lid on Pharmadene’s life-altering discovery, no matter the cost. Thankfully, some things have changed for the better; her job at the rechristened Davis Funeral Home is keeping her busy and her fragile romance with Patrick McCallister is blossoming— thanks in part to their combined efforts in forming a support group for Returne addicts. But when some of the group members suddenly disappear, Bryn wonders if the government is methodically removing a threat to their security, or if some unknown enemy has decided to run the zombies into the ground…

My Thoughts: No sophomore blues when it comes to the second book in Caine's Revivalist series. I enjoyed this one more than I did the first one.

What Worked: Bryn's personal growth from the first to the second book is tremendous. One of my biggest complaints of the first book was that if Bryn didn't have a gun she was nothing more than a punching bag for every Tom, Dick or Freddie to abuse. She got her butt kicked more than a bad MMA fighter in the first book. With this book she took her military training to a whole new level. She exuded confidence in bulk and could back it up. She was no one's victim even while tied up and tortured.

The relationship between Bryn and Patrick reached a whole new level in this second installment. Bryn being, technically, dead and Patrick being, well, not, a sexual relationship could have been an urpy concept however, Caine wrote it in a way that I completely believed it and liked it. Actually the complexity of relationships between all the characters was very well done. Including Joe Fideli's contribution to Bryn and all of her jobs and Liam, the Alfred to Patrick's Batman and his contribution to everything.

What Didn't Work: Parts of the book did drag a bit especially in the first 1/3 and I found it easy to set this book aside for something else until I got past page 100. Also even though I did love the advancements Bryn made towards being a bad-ass I would have liked some explanation on how she went from perpetual victim to thwarting professional kidnappers without (barely) breaking a sweat. Something like a rigorous training schedule for hand to hand combat or weapons training would have been an asset.

I didn't care for the Revived being called addicts either. To survive they all needed a shot on a daily basis. To me, addiction is the abuse of something, whether it be drugs, alcohol or gambling an addict would use to the point of abusing it. Having to have a shot once a day does not make an addict any more than a Diabetic reliant on daily insulin would be.

Towards the end, unfortunately, Bryn kind of fell into the TSTL category by making a bad decision for not only herself but for her sister Annie as well. This point is a bit teetering because I could see why she made the decision she did but I thought it was a bad one. Her sister thought it was a bad one and even Bryn herself was not completely on board with it. The results were catastrophic to Bryn but did open up a whole new level of awesomeness for this series. So, a minus and a plus all rolled into one!

In a Nutshell: I love this series. Zombies, who aren't exactly zombies...but might as well be, bad guys who might be good guys, bad guys who are living in bad guy land so deep even traditional bad guys won't go there, torture sequences in which nothing more than a spoon is used (mostly off camera) and several OMG moments towards the end ensure I am going to read the latest installment of this series ASAP. This series is not for everyone as it is a bit more gruesome than a typical UF series but for me it's a winner!
 Photobucket

Friday, October 25, 2013

Three Little Words by Susan Mallery

Synopsis: Isabel Beebe thinks she's cursed in the romance department. Her teenage crush, Ford Hendrix, ignored all her letters. Her husband left her for another…man. So Isabel has come home to dust off her passion for fashion and run the family bridal shop until her parents are ready to sell it. Then she'll pursue her real dreams. At least, that's the plan, until sexy, charming Ford returns and leaves her feeling fourteen all over again…..
Seeing Isabel all grown-up hits bodyguard trainer Ford like a sucker punch. Back when heartbreak made him join the military, her sweet letters kept him sane. Now he can't take his eyes—or his lips—off her. The man who gave up on love has a reason to stay in Fool's Gold forever—if three little words can convince Isabel to do the same.

My Thoughts: After finding Just One Kiss just OK and Two of a Kind a little bit better than that I had high hopes for Three Little Words. Despite that some of the books in Mallery's Fool's Gold series are simply average contemporary romances I found this one to be better than most. Matter of fact, I thought she hit this one out of the park.

What Worked: The characters of Ford and Isabel. Ford's charming sense of humor coupled with Isabel's awkwardness around him make for interesting dynamics and some giggling on my part. Their combustable sexual attraction didn't hurt either. I thought it was great that they both were a bit stunned by it rather than the expected reaction of her being stunned and him getting all cocky saying "of course it's good. I'm the man! High Five!"

Although the plot is basic in it's concept it was nice to read a book where what you see is what you get. There were no uber bad guys threatening children. There were no life threatening illnesses to deal with. The only issues were those between adults who agree to 'fake-date' to throw off a marriage happy mama who find that they were actually 'real-dating' instead.

The setting is also a plus. In the past I have felt that Fool's Gold had a bit of a creepy vibe (Standford Wives kind of creepy) but in this book I felt none of that. Even the ever present and all seeing Mayor Masha seemed less...um...everywhere which was a good thing.

What Didn't Work: Just a few very minor things actually. First would be the secondary romance. I typically love a secondary romance but really, Consuelo is such a strong woman with a lot of background baggage adding her romance as a secondary one is short changing her. Her story should have been more than what it was.

In addition, some may find it a bit weird to have Ford date one sister then eventually date the other. I honestly didn't have an issue with this. I thought Susan handled the situation very well.

One more thing. I do think that a new reader to Fool's Gold may have trouble following along with all the secondary characters. There are quite a few. Some are old having been introduced ages ago and some are actually quite new. This is the only reason I would recommend that this book should get read in order. If you aren't inclined to read all 11 previous Fool's Gold books first at least read Just One Kiss and Two of a Kind first. Susan sets her books up as trilogies with a common connecting theme (the town of Fool's Gold).

In a Nutshell: I truly enjoyed this book. From the witty banter to the smexy parts and everything in between I thought this was a winner of a book. Perhaps not for everyone, as it is a pretty basic concept of a romance but for me it worked.
Photobucket

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

***Giveaway!!! First Strike by Pamela Clare***



Yesterday I was super happy to hear that I won an e-copy of First Strike by Pamela Clare from Ruth at Blithely Bookish. Woohoo! Then I found I also won a copy from Pamela Clare herself. Double Woohoo! Since I had already accepted Ruth's gift from amazon I thought, 'What will happen to that other lonely copy....just sitting there not getting read.' Well, after contacting Ms Clare and getting the OK I'm a'gonna give 'er away to one of my lucky followers.

First strike is a novella in her highly recommended I-Team series. Previously written as a prologue to her upcoming release Striking Distance, she cut it and expanded it to become the awesome sauce of a novella it now is. Here is what Pamela had to say about writing First Strike Pamela Says.... If you're too lazy to follow that link (I'm not judging....I often ask for Cliff Notes versions too!) let me just say that this novella ends in a CLIFFHANGER! I know, I know....those can be total bummers but her 6th book Striking Distance comes out on November 5th so there isn't a terrible wait. You could actually wait to read this one on that day because I know you totally are going to buy book 6 anyway!

Just so you know, Striking Distance is available for pre-order at a discounted rate. The Mass Market Paperback is actually cheaper than the kindle ebook but both are a great deal (yes I already pre-ordered mine!) Oh and if you're looking for a deal, book #5 in the I-Team series Breaking Point is on sale right now on kindle for only $1.99 Just click on the titles there and you'll go to their amazon.com links for ebook.

Rules of My Giveaway

Yes there always has to be rules...what a pain.
  • Because this series is classified as erotic I have to insist that only followers 18 years or older are eligible.
  • The ebook is offered through Smashwords and is available for various ereaders in Mobi, EPub, PDF etc. I honestly don't know if the coupon code will work for outside the USA. I'm assuming it will. If you can order from Smashwords from another country the code should work for you.
  • Giveaway ends on November 1st at Midnight CST
  • To enter leave a comment on this post along with your email address so I can contact you
  • The winner will be chosen randomly using Random.org
  • The winner will have 24 hours to contact me to accept their prize
  • If that winner does not respond another winner will be chosen
  • If you share my giveaway on your blog, facebook, twitter etc. you'll earn a second entry. I'd appreciate the exposure with multiple shares but only 1 (one) extra entry is available per person. If you share my giveaway make sure to mention it in your comment along with the link where it can be seen
I guess that is all. Good luck everyone!
Book #1

Book #2

Book#3

Book #4

Book #5

Book #6


Photobucket

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Remarkable Miss Frankenstein by Minda Webber

Synopsis (aka Back Blurb): The problem, Clair realizes, is that she’s a Frankenstein. Everyone in the family is a success, while all she’s managed is a humiliating misadventure with pigs. But her spirits are rising. The Journal of Scientific Discovery promises to publish a paper on the Discovery of the Decade, and she has a doozy. She simply has to prove Baron Huntsley—man of distinction—is a vampire. With his midnight-black hair, soul-piercing eyes and shiny white teeth, what else could he be? Oh yes, the Baron wants a bite of her or she’s no scientist. Pretty soon she’ll expose him, and on everybody’s lips will be… THE REMARKABLE MISS FRANKENSTEIN

My Thoughts: I really wanted to like this book. I truly did. How could I not like it? It's paranormal. It's historical. It's funny. I like all of those things. So, what could possibly be the problem? A heroine who is truly an idiot and humor that is so in your face on every page within the book that by page 60 pages the reader is so tired of the puns we are no longer finding the book funny.

What Worked: The set up is actually quite entertaining and early on (while we readers are still oblivious to the depth at which the author will go to make a pun) our heroine appears quite clever and refreshing. In addition to the beginning there were a few references that I completely adored. How could I not love a shout out to Young Frankenstein?
"Victor Frankenstein was brilliant, but he was also a card-carrying lunatic. He was most famous for his forays into animating dead flesh--queer work which had created widespread controversy, not to mention chaos when his creation escaped and roamed the countryside, eating up blind men's food and setting fire to the Ritz after a particularly bohemian display of dancing."

Another thing that I believe belongs in the plus column is that some of the sexual encounters are actually not bad (when compared to the rest of the book.)

What Didn't Work: Clair. Clair. Clair. Minda Webber told us repeatedly that Clair is an intelligent, inquisitive scientist yet her actions prove otherwise. She draws conclusions from hearsay and gossip without any shred of proof. Her idea of proving her theories (which she boldly calls her hypothesis...because she's a brilliant scientist and all) is to break into people's homes to witness their paranormal debauchery. She broke into no less than 3 homes and almost as many men's bedchambers trying to catch a vampire or werewolf in the act of being not human based solely on the fact people told her that they were not human. Except for Asher, the Earl of Wolverton. She used her brain on that one and decided that he was a werewolf because he was the Earl of WOLVErton and his coat of arms is the image of a wolf.

Just a couple more things to point out and I'll be done: Although this book appears to be set in regency England the author does not attach a time frame on the book so the timeline seems to be quite ambiguous. The balls, the dress and the coaches all seem period in appearance yet the dialogue and writing are so clearly modernized. If the author had left those markers out I would have argued this was actually a contemporary romance and not historical.
"...she would set her cap for him in a London minute." 
"Ian wanted to worship at the shrine of those magnificent breasts."  



Also, when making a joke by introducing characters named Dr Durlock Homes and Professor Whutson, who are known for their crime solving abilities, it is important to make sure the names Holmes and Watson do not accidentally make their way into the story by accident. Oh, and Artie Doyle? By the time his name was dropped into the story I had already decided this book was to the literary world what Scary Movie is to the Oscars (only worse.)

In a Nutshell: I disliked this book more than I liked it. I knew I was only supposed to take it with a grain of salt and just have fun but there was so much that just got on my nerves I wasn't able to get over that hump. I found I could only read this book 20-30 pages at a time before I wanted to throw the book against the wall and knowing what I know now I'm really regretting purchasing Minda Webber's other book (The Reluctant Miss Van Helsing) at the same time I bought this one.

Photobucket

Saturday, October 12, 2013

When Summer Comes by Brenda Novak

Synopsis: Welcome to Whiskey Creek— Heart of the Gold Country!

One day, Callie Vanetta receives devastating news…

She needs a liver transplant. But her doctors warn that, in her case, the chances of finding a compatible donor aren't good.

Determined to spend whatever time she has left on her own terms, she keeps the diagnosis to herself and moves out to her late grandparents' farm. She's always wanted to live there. But the farm hasn't been worked in years and she begins to fear she can't manage it, that she'll have to return to town.

One night, a stranger comes knocking at her door…

He's an attractive and mysterious drifter by the name of Levi McCloud, and he offers to trade work for a few nights' shelter. Callie figures she doesn't have anything to lose. He needs a place to stay until he can fix his motorcycle; she needs an extra pair of hands. The arrangement seems ideal until what was supposed to be temporary starts to look more and more permanent. Then she realizes she does have something to lose—her heart. And, although he doesn't yet know it, Levi stands to lose even more.


My Thoughts: I actually started this  book ages ago as my first look at Brenda Novak's writing. After reading over half the book and finding myself hating the heroine, confused by the large cast of secondary characters and their importance within the heroine's life and annoyed by the hero's undying love for a woman from his past I thought I'd give up on this book. A friend of mine suggested I go back and read the first books in the series because the cast of characters would make more sense. I did this and enjoyed them enough to give this book a second try. 

What Worked: The beginning of the book was quite exciting with a late night visit from an injured stranger, getting the local veterinarian, who lived next door, to patch him up and the following incidents regarding some less then upstanding renters in the area. The initial chemistry between our hero and heroine had great potential also. Oh and I liked Callie's dog, Rifle too.

What didn't work: As Callie is dealing with her mortality and knowing that without a new liver her time is short she decides to not tell anyone so she can have one last summer without being coddled and surrounded by looks of pity. In addition she also justifies not telling as a way of saving her friends and family months of sadness. What could have been a story of a strong independent woman ended up being one about a martyr. It is evident during the course of the book she needs a support system in place for doctors visits and emergencies yet she chooses to leave 12 people in the dark to protect them. 

In addition to the issues I had with Callie, Levi was not a whole lot better. His underlying 'fear' of the police and living under an assumed name felt a bit ridiculous as did his undying love for a dead girlfriend. 

Now lets talk about diuretic spironolactone. There were a few medical jargon words thrown into the book to authenticate Callie's condition and her need for a lot of medications. If the book had been written in a way that coming across a phrase like diuretic spironolactone would have felt natural I wouldn't have been pulled out of the book long enough to say "What?" and highlight the phrase in my kindle. Yes I did highlight it, it's one of the things I love about my kindle. Anyway, "she could claim the diuretic spironolactone, or the lactulose, which she had to take four times a day to inhibit the buildup of ammonia in her blood, were for a harmless condition like premenstrual cramps." She not only decided not to tell anyone of her impending doom but she went out of her way to lie about it while telling everyone that nothing was wrong!!! She ended up hiding her box full of medicines under the porch. In the middle of summer. Outside. Just want to point out that storing medications in the summer heat outdoors is generally frowned upon. Oh and she gets her medications filled in another town much further away because "She couldn't use the one inside Nature's Way--a locally owned grocery store not far from Whiskey Creek--unless she wanted everyone to know about her condition...." Really? Even small town pharmacies have to comply with HIPAA laws and regulations. 

Now lets talk about transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunts. Just kidding. Since I really disliked Callie and didn't like Levi any better one could hope the secondary characters were worth reading about. Not so much. Once again I found her large close knit group of friends nothing more than busy body gossip whores who judge books by their covers. Their continual treatment of a woman in the group (yet not quite part of the group) is horrifying despite their constant justification of their rudeness being based on the woman's 'mean girl' attitude when they were in high school. Good Gravy people. It's been a decade. Grow the Hell up!

So where does that leave us? The ending. It was all wrapped up in a nice big unrealistic bow where the good guys or girls don't die (or go to jail) and the bad guys get run out of town by Deputy Dawg (aka Office Stacy). How lovely.

In a Nutshell: I still maintain that I like this series or rather, I like the idea of the series. I think fans of the series will find this an ok read and I'd never encourage anyone to not read this book. However, for new readers of Brenda Novak and/or this series I'd recommend you go back to the beginning and read the first book When Lightning Strikes first. Because there is such a large cast of secondary characters it is impossible to understand their impact on the Whiskey Creek storyline as a whole without their back stories and there isn't enough time or space to spell it all out as a recap.
 Photobucket

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Feature and Follow #2

Hey all! It's the weekend again and I thought it would be nice to participate in Parajunkee and Allison Can Read's Feature and Follow meme.
Click on the button to head to Parajunkee's blog for more instructions!

This week the question that was asked was:

What book (or TV show or movie) have you not read that seemingly everyone else has? Super simple answer....Twilight and Shades of Grey. Never read either one..Probably won't either.

 

A little more about my blog. I read mainly romances. Any kinds of romances. I love Paranormal the most but historical romances are right up there. I do occasionally read YA and Mysteries/Thrillers with an odd ball book thrown in (like the time I read Who Moved My Cheese?)  My ratings are directly correlated by how much I enjoy a book not how much I think someone else might like it. I am also very character driven so, a book with great characters but a week plot may still get high marks from me. I really prefer everyone to use Bloglovin' to follow me. You'll find the clickable link over there--------------------}

 



Photobucket

When Snow Falls by Brenda Novak

Synopsis: After growing up in cheap motels, moving from town to town with her sister and mother, Cheyenne Christensen is grateful to be on her own. She's grateful, too, for the friends she found once her family settled in California. But she's troubled by the mystery of her earliest memories, most of which feature a smiling blonde woman. A woman who isn't her mother.

Although Cheyenne has repeatedly asked for explanations, the people who could help aren't talking. Cheyenne is set on finding answers, but without so much as a birth certificate, it won't be easy.
Things get even more complicated when her closest friend is attracted to the man Cheyenne has secretly loved for years. For Eve's sake, she decides to step aside — which lands her right in the arms of Dylan Amos, oldest and baddest of the hell-raising Amos brothers. He's the kind of guy she's sworn to avoid. She can't afford to make a mistake, not when she finally has a chance to learn who she really is and change her life for the better. But . . . maybe there's more to Dylan than she thought. Maybe letting him go would be a bigger mistake.

My Thoughts: While I maintain that I really love this series I have to admit this is my least favorite book so far.

What Worked: Oh darn, for the life of me I can't think of anything that worked in this book yet despite the issues I had with it I still enjoyed reading it. It could be Novak's way of writing. She is my new go-to comfort read author. Her style is non-taxing and very enjoyable for me. The group of friends that make up our Whiskey Creek experience is an interesting dynamic and I'm now pretty attached to them so I need to read all of their happily ever afters.

What Didn't Work: Oh darn, where do I start? Let's start with the inconsistencies of Cheyenne herself. For one, I have issues with a 31 year old virgin (Um really?) who is saving herself for someone special but has sex with a stranger for no better reason than...well, I don't even know why....because he propositioned her, I suppose. (Disclaimer: Cheyenne knew OF said stranger but didn't really KNOW said stranger.) Throughout the book, her character's virtues are shoved down our throats yet she A) does naughty things with a man she doesn't really know, B) when it becomes apparent the stranger has feelings for her and has for a long time (from afar) she uses him for sex and then basically tells him he isn't good enough for her (repeatedly) and C) covers up a potential murder. So, this girl who is supposed to be so much better than her part time prostituting mother and drug addicted sister has just as many issues as they do.

What else didn't work? The fact that Cheyenne wanted to date her friend's older brother forever and the book spends 100 pages pursuing this train of thought only to have it change course abruptly with the introduction of the hot bad boy (that Cheyenne does naughty things with).

Oh yeah, this also didn't work....The group of friends that I truly enjoy reading about has a nasty habit of exhibiting intolerance and very judgmental attitudes. In the novella, When We Touch, Gail tells Kyle he is making the biggest mistake of his life by marrying Noelle (yes it was founded but go with me on this journey anyway). In When Lightning Strikes, Callie tells Gail she is making the biggest mistake of her life (not founded since Callie had yet to meet or get to know Gail's husband). In this book it was Eve who informed Cheyenne that she was making the biggest mistake of her life (before getting to know the hot bad boy). Even Cheyenne says "Can't you just...support me even if I'm wrong?" The group of friends were even planning an intervention to stop Cheyenne from dating sexy bad boy.....With. Out. Getting. To. Know. Him. ARG!!!! (oh and by the way, I've read half of the next book and this same thing happens....again.)

One more thing that didn't work and then I'll wrap it up....Those nasty things that Cheyenne does with hot sexy bad boy that no one likes? We didn't witness any of them. Oh sure Cheyenne and her sex toy talked about the passion they had but we readers only see the old time movie "Fade to Black" scenes when they start getting busy. I'm not saying a romance has to have hot monkey sex in every book but a series really needs to be consistent. Since the first book and the novella do have sex scenes Novak really made an error to not include them in this one. It makes this book feel out of place within the series.

Ok I lied. This didn't work either....There were several different plot threads interwoven throughout this book with multiple different view points. This muddled the story quiet a bit because we were expecting Cheyenne's story to be primary, yet one of her plot threads was dangling through the whole book only to have it wrap up virtually 'off camera' while we focused on her hot mess of a sister.

In a Nutshell: Oh boy, sounds like a horrible book, doesn't it? It truly wasn't awful. However, it is a weak link in the series and I can only recommend that fans of the series read it because you can't read all the other books and leave this one unread. I ended up giving it 3.5 stars only because I actually did like hot sexy boy toy Dylan. BUT, if you are a Novak newbie steer clear of this one it will only disappoint you, which will only lead to too many Oreos and the government shutting down.


Photobucket

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Bad Nights by Rebecca York

Synopsis: When Professor Morgan Rains goes out to investigate a strange sound coming from her backyard, the last thing she expects to see is a naked man covered with burns and bruises. Jack Brandt is a former Navy SEAL on an undercover mission, and he's barely managed to escape from a terrorist militia's torture. When his torturers come back to claim him, he and Morgan are thrown into a pressure cooker of danger and intrigue, and they soon find themselves falling in love. When Morgan is captured, Jack must rescue the woman whose life now means more to him than his own.

My Thoughts: A book with a great premise that just didn't live up to it's potential.

What Worked: The set up for this book was really great. An ex-Navy SEAL who goes undercover to investigate a militia group is compromised and tortured, barely escaping with his life. How awesome does that sound? This really could have been touted as a thriller similar to the likes of Lee Child's Jack Reacher books yet it falls so very flat on every aspect that finishing it was a chore. Which leads me into.....

What Didn't Work: A series of unlikely events compromised the integrity of the book. We're to suspend our disbelief that a man tortured so severely he can barely see, walk or even maintain consciousness is able to rally after only a few hours of sleep to escape a burning cabin, traipse through the woods, take out an enemy soldier and fight off a mountain lion. We also have to believe that a professor of Psychology doesn't know the difference between a psychopath, a sociopath or someone with an antisocial personality. "Did that mean she was in the clutches of a psychopath? Or sociopath? Or someone with an antisocial personality? Whatever you wanted to call it." (straight from said professor's thoughts.) We also have to believe that a security firm made up of an ex-Navy SEAL, an ex-Army MP and an ex-cop would take a job without investigating their new client, after they all agree isn't telling them the full truth and know he didn't even tell them his real name. We also have to believe that the money man behind the militia is waging war on Washington DC and planning on killing hundreds if not thousands because he lost his son at war. And yes, we are also to believe that a woman still mourning her husband who died a year and a half earlier (yes we know she is because that is all she thinks about and is actually watching old video tapes of them together just prior to finding Naked Man outside her cabin) is no longer thinking of her dead husband but hoping to make a relationship work with said Naked Man a mere 48 hours after meeting him.

In addition to this we have inconsistencies with a ladies button down long sleeve shirt which Gail had to take off so Naked Man can inspect her forearm because her button down shirt didn't have buttons on her cuffs to which she could simply undo and roll up her sleeve. A situation where those crazy kids were soaked with rain yet their shirts were stiff with blood (wet blood does not get stiff), Gail's unusual forearm that happens to be above her elbow. "The animal had left teeth marks in her forearm, above her elbow." and her amazing ability to hypnotize someone by simply saying "Relax now. Relax now. We're going back to that beach." because she took a class once in college.

In a Nutshell: A series of unbelievable events, inept professionals and insta-love makes Bad Nights just, well, bad. I couldn't recommend this in good conscience to fans of Romantic Suspense which is a darn shame. I have read several of York's Harlequin Intrigue Rom/Susp books and I very much enjoyed them. Too bad this wasn't one of those. If it had been it would have been 100 pages shorter and less taxing to read.
 Photobucket

Friday, October 4, 2013

Undead by Kirsty McKay

Synopsis: Out of sight, out of their minds: It's a school-trip splatter fest and completely not cool when the other kids in her class go all braindead on new girl Bobby.
The day of the ski trip, when the bus comes to a stop at a roadside restaurant, everyone gets off and heads in for lunch. Everyone, that is, except Bobby, the new girl, who stays behind with rebel-without-a-clue Smitty.
Then hours pass. Snow piles up. Sun goes down. Bobby and Smitty start to flirt. Start to stress. Till finally they see the other kids stumbling back.
But they've changed. And not in a good way. Straight up, they're zombies. So the wheels on the bus better go round and round freakin' fast, because that's the only thing keeping Bobby and Smitty from becoming their classmates' next meal. It's kill or be killed in these hunger games, heads are gonna roll, and homework is most definitely gonna be late.

My Thoughts: A disappointing YA book that even my love of zombies couldn't fix.

What Worked: There were some parts I actually did find humorous. For example this quote: “I saw a bear once. I was peeing then, too.”(for some reason that really cracked me up!) and this one: “I grab at Smitty and he at me, and, for one horrible, desperately embarrassing second we fly into each others arms like Shaggy and Scooby Don't.”

The zombies were sufficiently gross and zombie like (no super fast uber zombies here) which was nice that it was traditional in that sense. It was also nice that the ending was a big shout out to cheesy horror flicks of yesteryear where the characters think they're safe and (cue the ominous music) Dum-dum-DUUUUMMMMM.....oh no they aren't...the end?

What Didn't Work: The humor...OK I know I said I thought some parts were funny but for the most part they weren't. Our 'heroine', Bobby is so snarky that after awhile of being in her head I kind of wanted to choke her. Her humor was her entire reaction to the zombie outbreak. Not many other emotions were involved in regards to her. Which leads me to....

The characters....Not one of them was interesting enough to make me want them to survive the zombie apocalypse. Not. A. One. Our 4 teenage 'heroes' are not friends and their constant bickering should have got them killed right away. In addition, these kids should have some knowledge about surviving a zombie outbreak. Granted, it's not a subject taught in school but when the opportunity arose to gather supplies and food they all sat around to watch surveillance tape of the last 24 hours. Um...Hello!!! Food and supplies first...then television. Any good teenager knows television comes after chores!

The first person present tense narrative also worked against this book because spending so many hours in Bobby's head was just annoying. This also lead to a big debate I had on Facebook with my friends on "Do teens today really use text talk in conversation?" I've heard people using OMG (oh em gee) a lot but do they really say "LOLZ" and "ROFL" in conversation? After talking with real teens I was told only douche-canoes do. Don't be a douche-canoe!

Two more things that worked against this book. 1) the gestation period on becoming a zombie was inconsistent. Those who ingested the 'virus' turned to zombie at different rates depending on the amount of zombie virus they ingested. This ranged from immediately to 2 days. OK got it. Now those who did not ingest but who were ingested (aka bitten) also seemed to gestate from immediate to 2 days. Consistency would have been great but sadly, it just wasn't there. AND B) No matter the situation, the kids managed to escape from being killed by extremely convenient circumstances. The topping on the flesh eating cake was when Bobby's mom, who apparently was not worried that her daughter was in the middle of ZombieFest for days, swooped in at the end and saved the day just in time, providing her daughter could follow through with getting her what she wanted first. Way to go mom! Gold Star for parenting!

In A Nutshell: Perhaps a teenager could enjoy this book, I am, after all, a grown-up. However, I have to mention that there are far better YA paranormal books out there that are written better and are more interesting. Zombie factor aside, if you're looking for a paranormal YA I'd check out Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor or The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting before Undead.
 Photobucket

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

When Lightning Strikes by Brenda Novak



Synopsis: Gail DeMarco left Whiskey Creek, California, to make a name for herself in Los Angeles. Her PR firm has accumulated a roster of A-list clients, including the biggest box office hit of all — sexy and unpredictable Simon O'Neal. But Simon, who's just been through a turbulent divorce, is so busy self-destructing he won't listen to anything she says. She drops him from her list — and he retaliates by taking the rest of her clients with him.

Desperate to save her company, Gail has to humble herself by making a deal with Simon. The one thing he wants is custody of his son, but that's going to require a whole new image. He needs to marry some squeaky-clean girl who'll drag him off to some small, obscure place like Whiskey Creek. . .
Gail's the only one he can trust. She agrees to become his wife — reluctantly. But she isn't reluctant because he's too hard to like. It's because he's too hard not to love!

My Thoughts: Although I was initially afraid that I wouldn't be able to connect to Gail or Simon because of their Hollywood lifestyles I was pleasantly surprised that I not only connected but became emotionally invested in their HEA.

What Worked: The cast of characters are well developed and interesting. Despite Gail's small town roots she is a smart and savvy business woman. In a business full of phony people getting to know her and her caring personality was a treat. I admired Gail almost from the start and when she thought her business was crumbling around her, her first thoughts were for her employees and how much they needed their jobs. She couldn't walk away from any of them any more than she could walk away from Simon.

Simon's struggles were not evident from the beginning. Who he appears to be is not who he actually is. When an author can take a man who appears to have very few morals, an alcohol problem and one who is an adulterer and make me care about him and root for him, she has mad writing skills.

Novak's writing flows very well throughout the book even though the plot was a fairly simple one. I was completely involved in the story, never even noticing that I was staying up way too late to finish it.

What Didn't Work: Not much, to tell the truth. Just a few minor points.
1)Novak's writes her 'villains' so that there is no mistaking that she wants the reader to hate them. No redeeming qualities and from early on we are aware that they are not going to be likable. Also one of Gail's 'friends' is written in a way that the readers are to feel sorry for her. I prefer to draw my own conclusions regarding my feelings for the characters and I don't necessarily like this high-handed approach.
2)One of Gail's friends was quite nasty about Gail's marriage to Simon yet we are to believe that she is kind-hearted and very giving. She has her own book (#3 When Summer Comes) where she will get a HEA but at this point I'm not sure I like her much.
3)Simon's way of wrapping up who posted a doctored video of him and his ex-wife was way too convenient. I would have liked to see the authorities involved especially since there was a big custody battle going on.
4)Simon's realization of love was nice and gradual but I wanted more of an epiphany (maybe with fireworks LOL).

In a Nutshell: Despite the minor issues this truly was a great book. Novak's Whiskey Creek series is my new go-to Mac n' Cheese comfort reads. If you like contemporary romance series like Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove, Susan Mallery's Fool's Gold or Robyn Carr's Virgin River you will be delighted with Whiskey Creek. Make sure you read them in order so you can get the full impact of all the gang and their personalities. It's well worth it!
 Photobucket

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Against the Ropes by Sarah Castille

Synopsis: He scared me. He thrilled me. And after one touch, all I could think about was getting more...
Makayla never thought she'd set foot in an elite mixed martial arts club. But if anyone needs a medic on hand, it's these guys. Then again, at her first sight of the club's owner, she's the one feeling breathless.
The man they call Torment is all sleek muscle and restrained power. Whether it's in the ring or in the bedroom, he knows exactly when a soft touch is required and when to launch a full-on assault. He always knows just how far he can push. And he's about to tempt Makayla in ways she never imagined...

My Thoughts: After a really rough start I found that I was able to enjoy some of what this book offered despite the improbable occurrences that kept cropping up over and over and over again.

What Didn't Work: The present tense first person narrative can be quite off putting. It took quite a while for this to work for me and even then there were times that I was still pulled away from the story because some of the sentences just felt awkward. Also, there were several instances of texting between the two main characters. The formatting was a bit off as there were several times that the author of the texts were unclear because one line could contain both Torment and Makayla's texts together.

Normally I'm not one to complain about an Alpha Male hero but in this case Torment (aka Max) often came across domineering and controlling to the point of red lights and alarm bells going off in my head as I was reading them. He forbid her to do this. He ordered to not do that. He said it was for her own good, so he could protect her. In addition to Torment's extreme character flaw, Makayla wasn't all that great. She claimed to be able to "handle him" over and over. Again with the warning bells and blinking red lights! Makayla's flaws didn't stop with that, however. She had such an extreme reaction to violence (which included things like cold sweats, vomiting and almost fainting) yet she had no problem patching up the MMA fighters wounds as a result of the violence. She happily did it as a matter of fact. I think the topping on the I Hate Makayla cake had to be when she all of a sudden exhibited a seriously TSTL (too stupid to live) moment. It counteracted all her "I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself." moments reducing her to a shell of a woman and one I'd never want to meet.

So, all that's really left is to mention a bill collection company named Collections R Us, who apparently allow their collection team to call debtors from their personal cell phones and scream obscenities at them, an administrator in a hospital that is allowed to date their underlings, an organ donor list that requires monetary donations to get a name to the top and one person's past filled with anguish and mafia hit-men. Really. I'm not joking.

What Worked: Despite the over the top ickiness that was Torment's caveman mentality there were quite a few tender moments which melted my frozen-I-hate-these-characters-heart just a bit. The more I read the more I really believed he loved Makayla. I am not foolish to believe that love conquers pent up rage and violence but for the sake of fantasy I did enjoy those tender moments. In addition to the tender side of this book (and Torment) I thought the sexual encounters between our two love birds were very well done (except for the first one on the motorcycle...that one was a horrible example of BDSM and a Dom working with his sub.) So, first one aside I actually enjoyed reading the encounters and liked that even though there were a lot of them, they did not over power the story.

In a Nutshell:  Keeping in mind that if you've read (and liked) one of those other super popular series involving BDSM, Dom/sub relationships, extremely rich heroes or MMA fighters this book will not overly impress you on the originality front-line but it should be likable enough to spend a few hours of your time. For me, as an independent-mature-40 year old woman, I have long since outgrown my days of weekend binge drinking and reading about them coupled with Makayla's attitude and immaturity made it hard to connect to her and ultimately the book. But hey, at least the cover was hot!
Photobucket

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bite Me by PJ Schnyder

Synopsis: Few people walk the streets of London since the zombie outbreak, but that's not an issue for Seth. As a werewolf, he can handle himself and save humans reckless enough to take a nighttime stroll. While on patrol he comes across a group of people under attack. The one woman brave enough to take a stand against the zombies catches his eye—and not just because of her way with a gun. Learning the beautiful woman is homeless and fends for herself only intensifies his urge to protect and care for her.

Maisie can't help but admit that she's attracted to her werewolf rescuer. She's drawn to Seth's strength and ferocity, and finds herself opening up to him in ways she never imagined, even though she's determined to not rely on Seth or anyone else. She doesn't want another person to get hurt—or die—for her sake. She has enough scars, physical and emotional, from the last time…

But when Seth realizes something is drawing the zombies to Maisie, there may be nothing he can do to save her…

My thoughts: Despite this being a novella of less than 100 pages I thought this story was a great introduction to PJ Schnyder's writing and her new London Undead series. I love books with zombies and I'm so happy that this one didn't try to portray any zombie as a hero. They were dead disgusting buggers and I loved reading about them.

What Worked: I think Schnyder did I commendable job introducing us to her London Undead world. Although we might not have all the information we could have had if this had been a full length novel I think what she was able to accomplish was a great start.

Her characters are strong and intelligent. I really liked that our heroine, Maisie, could take care of herself without fear freezing her up. I liked that Seth recognized her strength and although it is in his DNA makeup to take care of her he knew she could do it herself.

I also liked that Schnyder doesn't have the characters falling into insta-love because there wasn't enough time to develop a longer courtship. I was quite satisfied with the way the characters came together in the end.

What Didn't Work: Just a few minor points actually. The length of the story really limited a longer courtship, the background on the characters and the world building. As I mentioned before, I think PJ really did a great job within the novella limitations but as a reader I just wasn't ready for the story to end. I could have happily settled in for another several hours worth of reading about these characters and the Undead world. Seth and Maisie's story is not finished. I hope PJ has realized this and plans to write more about them in the future. Oh and Seth's playful way of tossing Maisie up into the air repeatedly while carrying her was a bit much. Coming from someone with a bad leg, the jarring would have hurt. See, told you they were only minor points.

In a Nutshell: A new Urban Fantasy setting well worth the read but I'm begging you PJ, please, please, please give me more! Write that full Undead London novel. I'll definitely read it!
Photobucket