Friday, December 28, 2018

Review: Beyond Risk

Beyond Risk Beyond Risk by Connie Mann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

2.5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Beyond Risk starts off the Florida Wildlife Warriors series dropping the reader into relationship drama and murder mystery. There are a lot of characters to keep track off and I have to say, I didn't quite get a handle on who was who until the second half of the story. Our heroine Charlee is a former Fish and Wildlife Officer who is starting to take over her parents' business of selling outback supplies and offering guided kayak rides down the rapids. Last year a teenage boy was killed on one of her guided trips and now on the anniversary, another teenager is almost drowned and shot. Last years accident is starting to look like murder and the murderer is back.

Along with Charlee, we have her two big brothers Pete (cop) and Josh (Fish & Wildlife Officer), her younger sister Natalie, an ex-boyfriend who doesn't want to be one, an employee who has a big crush on her, another younger male who has a crush on her (or at least her cupcakes), the two different families of the teenage victims, a father and mother (recovering from a stroke), and last but not least, our hero Hunter. There are some other minor characters but you can tell by that cast list what I was talking about a lot of who to keep track of.

The story does start off right the bat but I checked twice to make sure this wasn't second in the series or if I had missed some prologue story. Charlee and Hunter's friendship starts and develops before this book starts, so when we come in, the ground work is already laid and feelings have already developed, they now have full blown crushes and want to get together. This was disappointing as that is why I read romance, to witness and enjoy the building blocks of romance. The case work of putting the pieces together, racing to rescue everyone of Charlee's family members (dad isn't targeted I guess, but everyone else has danger moments), and searching for a possible murderer; it all started to feel a bit repetitive.

The chemistry between the leads felt pretty dry, Charlee doesn't know if she can trust her instincts towards Hunter. This started to feel very forced as Hunter constantly is great to her and she is always thinking how his actions put her agency first (there is an ending scene to cause some friction between them to angst this up). Hunter has the ever present storyline of not feeling good enough for Charlee, even though he only really pushes her away twice and then actively is trying to be with her. This was fairly clean overall, their sex scene goes by pretty quick and is cloaked in water rafting metaphors, think something about riding the rapids. They came off as probably would work in real life couple but not particularly romantic, inspiring, or fun to read about.

The murder mystery simply had too many characters along with their backstories to explain motivations, it was confusing and not all that believable in certain parts. There were obvious red herring characters but as they faded into the background or were left abandoned, I couldn't help but think what was the point of them as they only clogged up the story. Charlee supposedly has this great relationship with her siblings but they never really interact in many scenes, leaving an empty hole in feeling their relationship. I did enjoy the one or two scenes she had with her mother, these were heartfelt and added to the emotional feel of the story and brought depth to both characters.

Characters felt a bit like they were standing still as the story weaved around them, instead of feeling like they were a part of and guided the story. The building of the romance and relationship between Charlee and Hunter seemed to happened before the reader is brought in and some secondary characters clogged the story instead of added to it. This was pretty fast paced and if reading about two characters who like each other while stop and go driving around trying to figure out a possible murder mystery, with some crocodiles, a snake, and the hero calling the heroine cher (many, many times) making appearances, there is plenty of that here for you.

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Reading Update: 50%


His tenderness undid her. Where did such a hard guy find such soft words?

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Review: The Duke I Once Knew

The Duke I Once Knew The Duke I Once Knew by Olivia Drake
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

2.5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Though she loved her family dearly , she yearned for something more. Something of her own choosing.

First in the Unlikely Duchesses series, we have a heroine wanting to make a change. Abby was the surprise baby, her older siblings were already out of the house as she grew up. She ends up taking care of her older parents, missing a debut in London, and eventually landing into a role as caregiver for her nieces and nephews. It is when her family is arguing over who gets to have her that Abby decides she would like some control and freedom in her life. She decides to become a governess for the younger sister of the Duke of Rothwell, who just so happens to be her childhood love.

Her rapt gaze followed the dusting of black hair that narrowed to a line, trailing downward across his flat belly to disappear inside his breeches . He looked every inch the wicked rake that young ladies were warned to avoid.
Thirty-year-old spinsters ought to know better, too.


This story was filled with cliches and tropes that help make up the backbone of romance and while they provided the, somewhat, requisite sweet and romantic moments, it also gave this a been there and done that feel. You won't get a fresh take or be particularly inspired by this story but you will like the heroine, she saves this from getting the mediocre tag and raised the rating from two to three stars. Her family is not malicious in their selfishness or obliviousness to Abby possibly having her own wants and needs but they are still selfish and oblivious. The author did a wonderful job infusing and relaying Abby's emotions to the reader, her quiet determination and fear from stepping out on her own. There wasn't villainous family members or a one eighty change from Abby, she still wanted to be in her family's lives but didn't want theirs to be hers. I thought towards the later half we lost a little bit of Abby as the focus shifted to the hero, Max, and the tired “Don't love because it can weaken you”.

It was an unsettling thing for a man to question the state of his life. Especially when only a few days ago, he’d found it to be perfectly satisfactory.

The cliches I mentioned before, really hit hard on Max. He is the child of a marriage where his father loved his mother more than she loved him and he now feels he has to shun all love connections. There is a Misunderstanding that has him hardening his childhood heart against Abby but other than a quick plot trick, it is discussed (Thank-you!) and while not completely solved, figured out enough to not be a problem between them anymore in the first half. Abby does outshine him but he also doesn't ever break out of the duke, rake, and scared of love mold; he just isn't interesting or memorable. Their sex scenes do come in the second half but as there wasn't much emotional build up to them, they still ended up feeling abrupt. As a consequence, I can't say I was ever too invested in their romance or caught any sparks from them.

Along with the sweet, fun, and romantic cliches and tropes, there were some very tired ones. There is a “villainous” woman who wants Max and plays into the one dimensional social climbing, jealous other woman. This used to be a favorite of romance but it has been tending to move away from it and at this time, I much rather see female friendships or at least villainous women with some depth (in a time period where it was tough for women, this can be written as intelligent and powerful stratagem).

All in all, this had a sweet inspiriting heroine, Basic Ben hero, tired other woman character, and some possible interest in reading their stories secondary characters.

Oh, hell, why deny it? He was in love with Abby. And nothing in his life had ever shaken him so much.

View all my reviews

Friday, December 21, 2018

70%


“You oughtn’t be here, Max … I mean, my lord duke. Nor should I. If you’ll excuse me…” 
He took a step to block her path . A suggestive smile tipped one corner of his mouth. Reaching out, he brushed his fingers over her cheek, leaving a trail of sparks. “I’m exactly where I want to be. Aren’t you?”

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Reading Update: 10%


The Duke I Once Knew - Olivia Drake

Never in her life had she taken such a bold step. Never had she abandoned her role of caregiver to the family. Never had she indulged her desire to earn a wage of her own. 
The prospect of leaving the confines of her childhood home felt both exhilarating and terrifying.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Review: Blindsided

Blindsided Blindsided by Gwen Hernandez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How could he not admire a woman who understood camouflage?"

A Marine scout sniper working now as a security expert and a hacker who has tried to go white hat from her childhood black hat days.

I loved this heroine, she was smart, not only in her computer abilities but understanding how the hero was better equipped to handle certain situations and listened to him. However, there wasn't a lot of that happening as she was the one who dictated a lot of the efforts to help them out of their bind.

The gist of the story is that her employer has clients that hire them to find security leaks in their computer systems, except the employer is lying about the companies hiring them and takes the weaknesses the heroine gives him and uses it to steal information from the companies. The hero is hired by the employer in a set-up situation as he tells him he thinks the heroine is the one stealing from the companies but is really a big set-up to make it look like the hero is helping the heroine.

I promise you, it makes sense in the beginning and you'll think the employer is an evil genius but the reader doesn't get much insight to the villain and the suspense side gets pushed to the side too much in the middle. Basically, the suspense side started off very strong but faded away and rushed at the end.

This couple was great in that the hero and heroine meshed super well and it was understandable that such an accomplished guy like the hero would be a little rattled about how competent the heroine was and how her skills were more important in this situation, he gets rattled but he also found her hot because of this and I find him hot because of that. Along with the suspense side, I thought their romance stalled a little in the middle, even though the story slows to focus in on it more. I thought the middle meandered or slowed too much overall.

I'm definitely going to find the other two in the series and read them as this author intrigued me with her suspense writing and different characteristics to her characters.

View all my reviews

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Review: Kiss Me at Christmas

Kiss Me at Christmas Kiss Me at Christmas by Valerie Bowman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For more quotes and comments - Buddy Read

The past twenty-four hours with him had been unbelievable. Not only had he nearly been killed, but when she’d treated the man for a pistol wound, of all things, she’d been lusting after him like a common street doxy.

The leads, Daffin and Regina started off cute and sweet. I really liked Regina as she was a wonderful combination of vulnerable and courageous. When she is talking with Daffin you could feel how much she liked him and how nervous that would make her but then she would charge on bravely, such a great character. Daffin was interesting as a Bow Street Runner but towards the end he started to get a bit redundant with the "I'm not good enough for her" old stand-by.

The first half was a really good beginning but the second half didn't expand on it enough for me with growing depth in their relationship, the murder mystery had a villain seemingly out of nowhere and a very rushed ending, past and future hero/heroines clogged up the ending, and I was wanting a little bit more of a holiday feel.

Overall though, I liked it as it had some cute moments, humor popping in, and a heartfelt heroine.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Reading Update: 20%


Kiss Me at Christmas - Valerie Bowman

She needed to set this to rights. “When we met last summer, I felt we had a connection, and I think you did, too.”
He arched a brow. “That, my lady, is a dangerous statement, and I make a habit of not commenting on dangerous statements.”


More comments & quotes - Buddy Read

Monday, December 10, 2018

Review: Not the Duke’s Darling

Not the Duke’s Darling Not the Duke’s Darling by Elizabeth Hoyt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

First in the new Greycourt series, Hoyt starts us off with a spot of danger as our heroine, Freya, is on the run from some men and finds herself face to face with her childhood crush, Christopher, but who she also blames for her brother's downfall. There's some background foundation to the hows and whys of where are characters are at in life. The main thread is Freya's brother, Ran, tried to elope with Julian Greycourt's sister, she ended up dying (we aren't given specifics), and Christopher just stood by while Ran was beaten bad enough he ended up losing his right hand. Ran, Julian, and Christopher were bestfriends but this fractured their bond and they all separated, the other members of the family cut ties all with each other also.

The Wise Women had long been hunted by Dunkelders— nasty, superstitious fanatics who knew about the Wise Women and believed they were witches who should be burned.

While the ill fated elopement gave us the underlining emotional tones, the Wise Women that Freya is the Macha (spy) for, gives us the suspense as she is trying to stop a law in the House of Lords that gives free reign to declaring women witches along with her trying to hide from members of the Dunkelders, men who hunt “witches”. These are the two main plot threads but there are numerous other ones, some slight and others weighty, that at times only clog an already full story. Christopher has PTSD induced anxiety from his time in India, we get povs from an old friend of Freya's, Messalina Greycourt, who's storyline looks to be set-up for the next in the series, an imprisoned wife, and a whole slew of secondary characters that get little mini-plots of their own. I like full stories but none of these threads or plots were fully fleshed out and it left a lot feeling shallow and dull.

This, this was what he’d been missing without even realizing it: genuine conversation. Genuine feeling.

The romance and chemistry between Christopher and Freya was severely lacking for me; I had more fond feelings for the relationship between him and his dog. Hoyt has been a favorite with word play, sexual and taunting, but these two never sparked; it felt like he just found her attractive out of nowhere, while she relied on childhood feelings and the color of his pretty blue eyes. While their bedroom scenes didn't start ridiculously early, besides kissing once or twice, when they do start to get hot and heavy, Freya's first move is to give him a blowjob, because of course. The latter second half brought more sexual scenes but I almost found myself skimming them as their emotional connection wasn't there.

He might be a duke now, but she was a de Moray woman , small, swift, and above all ruthless.

My biggest disappoint and what frustrated me the most was that Hoyt introduced these interesting ideas, plots, or instances but they all happen off script. The intense ill fated elopement? Happens before this story takes place, no prologue to introduce, show, and explain the basis for the whole the series. Christopher's time in India? No flash back scenes to help immerse the reader into the emotional turmoil of his PTSD or his relationship with is first wife. Freya spending time with the Wise Women? It takes an absurd amount of time for the reader to even get a full explanation of who and what the Wise Women are, let alone the author writing and showing scenes of Freya interacting with the women. This could have been a great emotional fulfillment moment of showing women taking care of one another, bucking the system in a way they could, and female bonding while providing a solid and understandable reason for why this group was so important to Freya and why she might shy away from marrying Christopher.

I missed Hoyt's normally atmospheric writing, I did not feel the time period at all, and the sexual heat between the leads that she has a knack for expressing. This honestly felt kind of generic and with dukes popping up everywhere, I'm not sure I could pick this book out of a lineup. The second book is set-up here and with two leads that at least seem like they have some spark, I will give it a try but am hoping for more showing than telling and emotion.


***************************************************
*Whimpers*



View all my reviews

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Reading Update: 40%


He was a man, both good and bad and everything in between. A man who made her very aware that she was a woman of blood and bone and wants.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Review: Not Quite a Husband

Not Quite a Husband Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars



This comes close to visually representing how I felt reading this.

I'll let you soak that in for a sec.



What stupid children they had been, to cause each other such pain and then to hold on to their wounds so fiercely.

The book page count for this claims it is 341 pgs, my friends, I blew through this like it was an author newsletter free story. The first half felt like one huge exposed raw nerve. There are three main characters, Bryony, Leo, and India. The research! The scenery! The setting! I saw some reviews claiming they didn't like how much detail the author went into but I salivated over finally feeling the time and place of a historical story.

The writing and feel of this is a bit different from most in this genre, I can't find the right words to describe it but we get an intense focus on Bryony and Leo with cut-ins to their past experiences that gives you the hows and whys of what they are feeling and how they've reached this place in their relationship. The time duration is actually pretty short of what we get from them together in the present time but with memories from the past relayed, it felt like they were together longer.

While the first half is a raw exposed nerve, the second half is the balm being applied to the wound, done slowly and carefully. The second half slowed down a little bit for me as Bryony's past and why her personality is the way it is never quite jived or fit for me. Young and impressible is going to have to extremely work for you here and carry any good will you'll want to show Bryony. Bryony is a tough one to crack and she is all those characteristics we see in some broody heroes, rigid, harsh, still waters run deep, and etc. Even though her personality was a little cold and I kind of head tilted at the reason given for it, I was still able to stick with the character.

Now, the reason I'm giving this three stars is because of their sexual relationship. Leo has loved Bryony for a loooong time and just thinking about his memories, thoughts, feelings, and actions makes my eyes want to water, But, the majority of their sex scenes (mostly remembered but also a present time one) had me cringing away. I fall more on the side of reading romance for the sexual tension but, for me, sex is an intricate part of a relationship and theirs was off-putting to say the least. I'm going to put in spoiler tags why I cringed ..
(view spoiler)

So, given how I felt about their sexual relationship, this couple had a cringe worthy feel to them and I couldn't feel the gushy fuzzies that put couples near and dear to my heart. However, like I said, on the other side of the coin, the writing is superb, addicting, and raw but when I will think back on this story, a cringe will probably be my first reaction but in the complexity of my own thoughts and feelings, second will be watery eyes over Leo's feelings and some of his actions.



View all my reviews

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Reading Update: 50%

Not Quite a Husband - Sherry Thomas
Damn, this story is raw.




He’d loved her since he was four feet high. Children would be lovely, of course, but children were not essential. She was essential. She had been alone her entire life. He would see to it that she was never alone again.

*******

The Castle. He’d seen this expression far too many times during their marriage. The Castle was Bryony drawing up the gates and retreating deep into the inner keep. And he’d always hated it. Marriage meant that you shared your goddamn castle. You didn’t leave your poor knight of a husband circling the walls trying to find a way in.


********

Ever since he understood what sex was he’d wanted it with her, the girl who kept everything inside, who ached and yearned and mourned in complete solitude.


********

He had choices, and each time he chose to accept the one invitation that placed him in the same country as her, so that help, should she need it, didn’t have to be summoned across oceans.

Review: Garland of Straw

Garland of Straw Garland of Straw by Stella Riley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

It was never going to be anything other than it was. The route to being rid of him.’

Second in Stella Riley's Roundheads and Cavaliers series, we're once again immersed into political, societal, and familial drama during the second part of the English Civil War (1640s). The first in the series (The Black Madonna) was about the build up and first part while also introducing us to three families and other assorted characters that represented sides of the war. While the first installment mainly followed a Roundhead family along with an outsider's perspective, our heroine is a Cavalier and forced to marry a Roundhead.

While in the first, I thought the author had too many irons in the fire that lead to a somewhat fractured story, she nails the inclusion of real historical events and people with her fictional characters. Our hero Gabriel is a Colonel in the Roundhead army and thus, we are given an amazing inclusion and relay of the events of the day.

‘So that,’ concluded Venetia, ‘is it. I’m required to forget the man I’ve been betrothed to for five years in order to marry a base-born Roundhead usurper.

If you read the first in the series, you'll remember Venetia and her betrothal to Ellis Brendan. She's a heroine that will make you feel like she takes stubbornness and obstinate actions to the next level for the majority of the story. Her forced hand and lack of control in instances of vital importance are worth remembering but mirrored against Gabriel's strong, steadfast, and generous attitude, will have you feeling very frustrated with her. Their romance is very slow burning and the turmoil swirling around them are much more front and center; this is historical fiction with a thread of romance. That is not to say that their romance isn't inspired, Gabriel is a hero you'll fall in love with, just that I couldn't help reveling in all the historical drama taking place.

Said Algernon Sidney, ‘The King can be tried by no Court; and no man can be tried by this Court.’
‘I tell you,’ replied Cromwell, ‘we will cut off his head with the Crown upon it.’


The way the author relayed history and wove it into a story that was entertaining along with intellectually stimulating deserves a standing ovation. I was lost into the various different factions of the Army, Parliament, rising up of Levellers, and various others fighting for control, and bringing and introducing new ideals that pop up in our government today. This was living breathing history that directly shaped and impacts us today. I felt the passion of Free-born John, the self-righteousness of Cromwell, the weariness and fear of the people, and the monumental moment of trying a King.

Our heroine and hero have a bit of side story and drama but I thought the author did a better job, than the first, of integrating it into the overall and spotlight deserving Army and Parliament battles of the Civil War. Books like this is how you reach people who think history is boring, they'll learn, it will spark thinking, and be entertained. I can't wait to read on in the series to follow along with these characters Riley has created to see what becomes of them, not mention England's growth struggle.

View all my reviews