And the Kitchen Sink

I enjoy all kinds of books, mostly romance and mysteries but I read just about everything..
Naked - Megan Hart

Frustrating. I never really felt like I knew Alex or his motivations, he felt paper thin and I didn't feel like we knew much more about him at the end than we did in the beginning. Maybe because I didn't read the first book, but I always felt that I couldn't get a good grasp on who he was. Also, early on he talks about not lying to Olivia and yet he does, by omission. I felt like they never resolved it with him doing so being at the end of the story and all. Nor did I feel like the story with Patrick really got resolved. So many loose threads and really a waste of what otherwise was a wonderful story. I'm not sure this should have been a romance novel. I do think this may have been better as two books, exploring their relationship deeper and resolving some of the dangling story lines. I don't buy the ending that was slapped on and I felt like both Olivia and Alex needed to work harder toward their HEA before I could really believe in it for them. And I really would have liked to believed in their HEA.

Sweet Dreams - Kristen Ashley

Ms. Ashley writes compelling stories that need a heavy hand with an editor. Some of her writing quirks are just too much. The cutsey nicknames. The use of "babe" and "sorry" as a complete sentences. Jumping around the timeline and, bizarrely enough, jumping around points of view for only the last chapter are unique to this story and unwelcome. Where Ms. Ashley shines is in fleshing out her secondary characters and in building a believable small town atmosphere. Her stories are interesting and her talent is undeniable. What Ms. Ashley would benefit from is an editor to rein in her unnecessary tangents that go on for pages, her penchant for describing every single outfit the characters wear, and her chapter long rhapsodies on food. All of that could be excised from the book and still be a great story with great characters without all the extraneous blabber. Her books could easily be several hundred pages shorter and not lose anything essential to the story. I am always torn by Ms. Ashley's books. On one hand I appreciate the stories she tells and their appeal, on the other I am frustrated by the need for tighter writing and better adherence to grammatical rules. I give the story 3 stars and the editing 1 and ended up with 2.

The Best Man - Kristan Higgins

This was good but could have been so much better. Somehow I never really felt like some of the big issues between the couple got resolved in any meaningful way. Certainly I'm not convinced that their communication issues were resolved by the HEA. I felt the bickering grandparents were sad and desperate and desperately unhappy but that no one would take their issues seriously. I didn't think it was cute or funny or whatever timbre the author was going for with them. The story was engaging and I liked both the main characters well enough but this felt like a book trying to strike a balance between cute and funny and serious and emotional and I pretty much felt like it failed in that regard. I felt like it never mined the serious issues deep enough (and there were plenty in this book) and never struck the right tone with the humor either. In this case a three star rating means that the book was readable and enjoyable but that instead of inspiring a deep sense of satisfaction once the book is over it left me with some unresolved questions and a nagging sense of "will they really make it?" that I don't really want at the end of a romance.

Built: Saints of Denver - Jay Crownover
Sweet, complicated, and sexy. The blurb doesn't do this book justice. The hero is amazing. The heroine is smart and complex and the storytelling is compelling and realistic and wonderful. My first book by this author but it definitely won't be the last. I love a strong, solid contemporary and that is what this book is all about.


The Real Mystery is What. The. F Did I Just Read??????

— feeling hypnotized
Mystery Man - Kristen Ashley
I had a TON of problems with this book. The first? Babe. Boundaries. Babe, seriously. You investigate her, have cameras on her house, and require daily reports on your fuck buddy and it's supposed to be ROMANTIC? I mean, I understand that the opposite, sleeping with a dude who you know nothing about, not even his name, who breaks into your home at nights for a year and a half is also TOTALLY INSANE. But I can't stand stalkerish behavior passed off as "I care about you, babe, I really do".
Also the heroine frequently says she should put her foot down or break it off with this psycho dude but never follows through. This woman needs to find Tori Amos, and fast. Girl, she wrote a lyric just for you. "So you can make me come that doesn't make you Jesus." Learn it, live it, love yourself you crazy lady.
Also how is every man she meets so freaking hot and also so very into her? That's beyond even my powers of suspension of disbelief, and I frequently read books about magic and shapeshifters and vampires, so. . . Yeah.
All that said? There was something that kept me in this whole big pot of WTF until the end. I mean, everything that turned me off? Pushy, asshole hero. Doormat, TSTL heroine. Overuse of pet names and sometimes downright confusing prose. All of these cons and I still read the whole mess. I don't know if it was the trainwreck factor or if the over the top story just sucked me in, but I have to give credit where credit is due. There is something compellingly readable about this book. So. I"m just kind of throwing my hands in the air here and giving it a 3 star rating despite everything that bugged the ever loving crap out of me in this book. More like 2.5. But I think I'm done with Ms. Ashley because no matter how readable the book the entire thing was bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S and not in a good way.


Last Kiss Goodnight - Gena Showalter

 I am so torn about this book. On one hand I enjoyed the premise and even the characters. On the other hand the preaching was as subtle as a 2x4 to the head. There were definitely parts that took me completely out of the story and I felt as if I had to grit my teeth and power through. It was unnecessary and ultimately contributed nothing to the story. The story itself was a classic beauty and the beast tale, which I enjoyed. The setting and the world were unique enough that my interest in finding out what happened next got me through the aforementioned rough spots. I also had issues with the love scenes. They were not what I was expecting from this seasoned author and I felt as if she got suddenly squeamish about including details but knew she had to include the love scenes anyway. It read very conflicted for me and I was left feeling very cold by them. I'm not sure I can really recommend this book to anyone because of my issues with it. But there were still some parts of it I enjoyed very much. Ugh. So torn. Ultimately I could only give this 2 stars.

Blade Song - J.C. Daniels

Was it awful? Nah. Mediocre. Sure. I kinda see the comparisons to Kate Daniels if I squint real hard, but pretty much any book is going to come out on the losing side of that equation. But despite some fairly unpolished writing I did find myself drawn into the main mystery. There is something to say for a book that draws you in even as it repels you in other ways. The protagonist, Kit, was annoying at times, yes. I thought she was still better than like 65% of some urban fantasy protags. I didn't want to rip her face off and she wasn't completely stupid, even if some of the choices she made weren't the smartest. At least I could understand what drove her. The "romance" was pretty meh. I can't say that I swoon over asshole heroes who assault the heroines hours after meeting them. Or that I bought his apology or reasoning. But for most of the book neither does Kit. Until about 3/4 when all of a sudden it's true lurve. Barf. Still, I was mainly pulled in by the central story and I think the series has some potential. Enough that I'm willing to give it a middle of the road 3 stars. The romance gets 0 stars.

Ride - J.C. Emery

This book was really not for me, I have limited patience with assholes and this book is littered with them, especially the so-called hero. The heroine has no spine, continually lets the men in her life tell her what to do and how to do it, spends 3/4 of the book crying and the other 1/4 just being stupid. There was no real connection between her and the misogynistic idiot she hooks up with - there is no way I'm calling this a romance - dude uses her, treats her like crap, and all she can do is lap it up? Ugh. I don't think MC "romances" are for me. In the real world we call that behavior abuse. I just can't find anything sexy about it. I know other people enjoy the shit out of these kinds of books, but they are absolutely not for me. The only reason I gave it any stars at all was because the premise had promise and the plot was all right.


In Death Series so far. . .

So I'm now 25 books into the In Death series and I thought I'd take a moment to do a sort of overall series review. I'm not always great about doing individual reviews on books unless something stood out as either spectacular or fell spectacularly short. If things fall in between, or if, like now I'm reading a whole bunch of series books back to back it often falls in the cracks of my reviewing purview. However, I am now hip deep in this series, of which there are so many books that I've been at it nearly a whole month and thought I'd give some overall impressions about it and share the good, the bad, and whatever else happens. So yes, there will be spoilers up to book 25, Creation in Death.



Overall I find this is a great series for back to back reads. As with any series there is some mild repetition, some off-putting quirks, and some descriptive phrases I wish the author would quickly and quietly forget. Mostly though, the back-to-back showcases this series great strength which is the subtle and believable growth of the main characters, mostly Eve, but also the regular supporting cast as well. There are some great character moments in nearly all the books so that even when the main story or villains don't interest me much the book can still come out a winner. I really enjoy Eve's growth throughout the books and love how opening herself in one way seems to create all these small openings in others. I love how Eve appears on the surface, and certainly in the first few books, to be cold and closed off which we discover later is not the case at all. I also love how she is continually puzzled and embarrassed when she finds she genuinely cares about someone and when someone genuinely cares about her. Her bafflement with Roarke's gift giving is vastly amusing to me (and to him as well). That initial relationship between her and Roarke started off being rather cliched and ran amazingly fast for me, but later books flesh out his character and their relationship so well that it was only a slight bump in the road for me.


Throughout the series I've grown to love almost all the supporting characters. They are myriad although they each seem to be individuals and retain their own characteristics and personalities throughout, which is wonderful. The large supporting cast never seems superfluous or unnecessary, rather they all seem bits and pieces of the whole and I never get the feeling from them that they walk on, say their lines, and are done. A wonderful feat and Ms. Roberts should really be applauded for creating such real, complicated world full of real, complicated people.


Speaking of the world, I find the futuristic setting to be more of a distraction than anything. The world building is subtle, which I can appreciate, but it also doesn't feel as if it adds anything to the books. These people, the work they do, could just as easily have been set in the here and now. It's a minor quibble.


Mostly, these books just work for me. I adore Eve and her character and her journey are more than enough for me to keep reading the books. The minor frustrations, the few things that don't work for me are smoothed over by my ultimate desire to see her story to the end, to appreciate the growth and the growing pains. I also love the underlying themes of making your own families and overcoming and becoming more than what your beginnings try to force you to be. Obviously if I've stuck out 25 books I'm invested in the outcomes. I think there is enough in these books for fans of police procedurals and also enough for people who may want to dip their toes into romance without going whole hog. Neither element is off putting to me and so I pretty much love the whole package. I'm very much looking forward to what's in store for these characters.

When You Wish Upon a Duke - Isabella Bradford

Not bad, just boring. The conflicts were lukewarm and I never felt that the characters really earned their HEA. The characters themselves were so-so, again, not bad, just there. That's the crux of the problem, at least most bad books have something that engages my emotions, even if it's rage. This book never engaged any emotion in me at all. Oh well, clearly not for me. Moving on.

In a Fix - Linda Grimes

TSTL is a kind way to describe the heroine of this book. Ciel is whiny, childish, and rarely thinks any single thing through. Add to that a ridiculous love triangle and a nearly incomprehensible plot and this book was nearly a DNF. The small glimmers of humor and a hope that the story might end up somewhere close to coherent kept me in it until the end but I doubt I'll be continuing on with this series. I don't need all my fantasy to be dark and gritty, but I do need them to make sense and to have likable characters. This had neither.

A Countess Below Stairs - Eva Ibbotson

A beautiful fairy tale like book, charming from beginning to end. Everything, from the language to the exaggerated villains (at one point there was even dog-kicking! So over the top!) to the essential goodness of the main characters it read exactly as a modern Grimm might. I loved it and ate up every piece. It was delicious in the elan in which it was executed. Much as Anna charms everyone, this book has thoroughly charmed me. Such a sweet, simple Cinderella story but wonderful and lovely, moving and engaging all the same.

For Darkness Shows the Stars - Diana Peterfreund

THIS is the retelling I've been waiting for and never knew I needed. Jane Austen's Persuasion has always been my favorite of her books. The story of lovers separated and reunited, of hope for happiness when all hope for happiness has gone, and the making and remaking of ourselves into better and more capable people have long been some of my favorite tropes. Persuasion stirred all my emotions and made me fall headlong into love and made me believe in second chances. For Darkness Shows the Stars is everything I could have hoped for and more. It stays true to the themes set out in Persuasion and builds it around such a wonderfully realized world of its own. Each character is individual while still paying homage to the original characters. The emotions are all there, the longing, the missed opportunities, the recriminations, the hope. I don't need explosions and fighting and action in every book I read and if perhaps you expect that you will be disappointed, but I love internal conflicts and this book has a plethora of those. I, personally, am a little bored with the myriad books with thrill a minute action sequences that sacrifice character development. Here I felt rewarded for following these characters through their journey, I felt as if there was growth and real change. Tastes may vary, but this was the perfect book for me at the perfect time.

Ironskin - Tina Connolly

The Jane Eyre plot couldn't save this book for me. I wanted to enjoy it, wanted to be swept up in the gothic romance elements of it, but could not be fully immersed in it. The original elements of it were frustrating. The world building seemed thin and insubstantial as the fae in this book and the characters never felt fully realized. Instead they hovered between cipher and caricature and never found their footing or connected with me. There were brief glimpses that this story could be more and that was the frustrating element. I felt at times that the story stuck too close to its origins and never spread its wings to become more. If a story is to be inspired by such a beloved piece of fiction than in order to become something other than a pale imitation it needs more than a few fantastical twists; it needs to be daring and confident. In many ways I felt the author constrained herself, much like the ironskin in the book, too tightly bound up in the restrictions she made for herself to fully realize the potential in the story. Which is a shame because I would have loved to have loved this book. Instead I felt a vague disappointment and not caring is the antithesis of a good book.

Ravished - Amanda Quick

A delightful oldie but goodie from Quick. Although her usual tropes are comforting they can be stale in some incarnations of her work, although this charming book is not among them. Despite having the alpha take charge hero Quick usually employs she also gave the hero a wonderfully complex backstory with a sweet, indulgent streak. Her heroine is much in the way of her usual bluestocking, take no nonsense style but Harriet is also wonderfully naive in some regards. This in combination with an engaging plot and several twists and turns makes this is a great, comforting read. Quick at her very best.

Moon Spell: a Tale of Lunarmorte novel - Samantha Young

I expected with as many 4 and 5 star reviews this book had that it would be, I don't know, good. Or at the very least engaging. This book is neither. If the story had been more compelling it would have been far easier to overlook the grammatical and punctuation issues, not to mention the off-putting stylistic choices. But this book falls, sadly, into the same blah mold that so many young adult paranormal stories fall into. The main girl, Caia, is the most Mary-Sues of Mary-Sues and the plot could have moved forward so much quicker if the author hadn't relied on the secrets and lies machinations to absurdly move her chess pieces on the board. I guess I'm simply resigned to not getting the love on this book and moving on.