Review 17: San Francisco Longing

I am a great fan of Lila Dubois, so I was super excited to read San Francisco Longing, the first book in her new trilogy. Sadly, she lost me in the first few chapters and never really recovered.

My issue is this: women in STEM still have to deal with a staggering amount of sexism. So the idea that a female engineer would do something with the possibility of such a huge negative impact on her reputation and career just… stopped me. I love imaginary settings in books: paranormal? Bring on the werewolves! Magic? Hot witch sex, yes! But a supposedly intelligent woman making such a poor choice? And that choice is the basis for the plot of the whole book? Nope, sorry.

I did finish, just to see if there was a saving moment and it’s hard to say, since it ends on a mid-action cliffhanger. (A cliffhanger, I might add, that is triggered by yet another very stupid decision by our heroine.) Yes, this is billed as a trilogy and that is meant in the older sense of the word. This isn’t a related series, it’s one long story offered in three novel length parts. This doesn’t bother me, but if you have a problem with those, I’d recommend avoiding this one.

As for me, I’ll be looking forward to more of Lila’s other series, but I won’t be following up on this one. I’m giving it two stars in Goodreads.

Review 16: First and Goal

I posted this review earlier and it was apparently lost in the electronic ether, so this is a re-post.

I won a copy of this ebook in a contest on a Facebook page. I had never heard of the author before and I really had no idea what the book was about, beyond a quick scan of the Goodreads blurb. First and Goal is the first in the linked series Moving the Chains, by Kata Cuic.

Because I didn’t do a heck of a lot of research on this one, it caught me by surprise that it ends on a heck of a cliffhanger. Going back to the Amazon description, it does mention this, but I missed that detail. You think you are getting the HEA epilogue and *bang* – what just happened??!? Now to be fair, this is not a short book at 363 pages, so don’t think it’s one of those series where they charge full book prices for a short story and it turns out to be one book portioned out in five purchases. You get a full read.

On to the book itself. This is one of those books that I have trouble really placing, because although the characters are “young adults”, in this case, really young adults because they are all in high school, they have an emotional awareness that I find rare in most of the population, regardless of age. Not necessarily emotional maturity, mind you, but their inner landscapes are incredibly well-examined. In some books, I find this off-putting, just because I consider it unlikely, but sometimes the characters and the writing overcome my objections, and this is the case here.
It’s true, in movies or books, if the dialogue entertains me, I can forgive a lot of other problems. I realize this is not true for everyone, so that’s your grain of salt. The main plot here relies on a bit of that “drama for its own sake” craziness that usually turns me off, but at least here I can forgive them because a) their age, b) there is actually a lot of character development, so they are learning as they go, and c) it’s not over the top. Eva and especially Rob really did suck me in, and for a group of high school kids, they have an interesting and fairly rich supporting cast.

If I had more disposable cash, I’d likely be buying book 2, but it’s definitely going on my TBR.

Review 15: HOT Justice

HOT Justice is the fourteenth book of the Hostile Operations Teams series (plus the HOT Seal Team spin off!) I have to give Lynn Ray Harris kudos for managing to come up with enough variation in the plot lines to keep me going. Are these epic reads of literary greatness? No, of course not. But they continue to be fun reads with decent plots, hot and caring Special Operators, kick-ass heroines and steamy sex scenes.

This book veers away from the ongoing Ian Black involvement and instead focuses on the problem of drug addiction and the wave of fentanyl-related deaths happening in the US. Haylee continues LRH’s line of strong female protagonists who follow their noses into trouble. Wolf is the latest HOT team member who thinks that his profession and personal obligations make him unfit for long-term relationships. But being thrown together and seeing each other in action proves that some relationships are worth taking a chance on.

In reality, this is probably a three star book, but I have a history with the series, so I’m giving it four stars on Goodreads.

Review 14: Troubles

KC Enders has been on my radar for a while now, since she hangs out on several other author groups that I follow and her books have been highly recommended to me by other book friends. I finally got my hands on my own copy of Troubles (Beekman Hills #1) and I’m glad I did.

I think it’s a testament to the writing and character development that I fell for this couple, even though the plot relies on a few of my less favourite devices. It’s basically an “insta-love” situation, at least for Aiden. He seems to decide that he loves and worships Lis from the first moment he sees her. The saving grace is that Lis takes a lot more convincing. The other device is a meddling third-party, which isn’t a problem in itself, but I hate that neither of the protagonists question it at all. Aargh! Fortunately for our HEA, time and meddling friends heal all ills.

Neither of these are complete deal-breakers for me though. Aiden and Lis as characters just sucked me in. Aiden is endearingly earnest and strangely naive, for all of his huge family and supposed experience. As an added bonus, he has a sexy Irish accent. Lis has been burned by her past and is unable to move on, but she manages to stay devoted to her friends. The series is centered around McBride’s, which is the best kind of authentic, Irish pub, with a crusty but caring owner and a bevy of hot bartenders. Hard to go wrong there, really.

I’m giving this one 4 stars on Goodreads.

Review 13: Truth or Beard

Truth or Beard, by Penny Reid, is a book that I picked up because of the title, to be honest. It’s been languishing on my ereader for ages and last night, unable to sleep, I decided it seemed like a good one to start. The first chapter or two didn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but I still couldn’t get back to sleep so I persevered. And I’m glad I did, because I didn’t get any more sleep, but I did end up getting sucked in and finishing the book.

If you like to read series in order, then don’t start here. It looks like you would need to read at least Beauty and the Mustache, if not the whole Knitting in the City Series, to be completely “in the know”. However, I found that although it was evident that there were earlier events being referenced, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything that would really contribute to this story.

I laughed a lot through this reading – or at least chuckled under my breath, trying not to wake up my partner. Despite all the self-styled hill-billies running around, the humour was a bit dark and a little intellectual at times, just my favourite. There was just enough drama to keep the plot moving and I could have applauded when Jess chose to act like a grown-up and sidestep the opportunity to have drama for drama’s sake.

This will definitely be a book that I re-read, if nothing else but to experience it in a more lucid state of mind, but I don’t think that will change my mind about enjoying it. I’ve giving it four stars on Goodreads, but I feel like I might upgrade that to five later.

Review 12: Halloween at the Graff

Alright, so this is going to be a really short review, because I just couldn’t finish this book. In fact, I didn’t finish Chapter 1. The writing was terrible. Tortuously long sentences, with far too many adjectives stuffed in to keep track of. As a general rule, if you regularly have paragraphs that are a single sentence – you need to edit! I was struggling with that when I got to the first description of the hero, including his black beanie. Uhhhh… what now?

I don’t know about you, but when I see beanie, this is what I think of:

I don’t care if it’s black, if the guy I’m supposed to fall a little bit in love with is wearing one of these, un-ironically, you’ve lost me.

This book gets one star from me and I don’t even feel bad about it.

Review 11: The Brightest Star

I realized that I had this book sitting on my Kobo and I could read another author from my Goodreads group. The Brightest Star is the first release by B. Cranford. This might explain why this book didn’t live up to my expectations, based on how people I know rave about her.

This is a second chance romance, that starts two years after the couple broke up because Sebastion has gambled away all of their money. He’s gone through rehab and looking to win Brighton back. The characters are fairly well developed, I just feel like they aren’t very interesting. And Bright’s ongoing angst about trust and love gets painfully repetitive after a while. It’s not a terrible story, but it didn’t suck me in at all.

Since this a first book, I probably will read some of her later releases at some point, before I decide whether or not she’s an author for me. In the meantime, I’m giving this one three stars.

Review 10: Genealogy

In the interests of clarity, I need to say that I am a huge fan of Mae Wood and her writing. I follow her on social media and I managed to score an ARC of her newest release, Genealogy. This book was a departure for her, as her first releases were more mainstream contemporary romances. This is an epistolary novel and not to mince any words-it’s gorgeous.

The story is told through the interweaving of two time frames: Alice trying to choose between Elliot and Fred during the First World War and Ali working through relationships with Scott and Ben now. Both couples are separated by distance and keep in touch through correspondence. Alice is dependent on letters sent halfway around the world through the challenges of war-time ship movement. Ali has the speed of delivery and the agony of wait times with the potential immediacy of email, text messages, and video messaging to keep in touch across the country. The two stories are linked by the fact that Ali is named after Alice, her great-grandmother. Ali inherits a pack of the letters sent to Alice from Elliot.

I was delayed in getting to read this book by a couple of days, and finally sat down to at least start it this morning. I ended up finishing it, sitting next to a cold cup of tea. This story sucked me in, entirely. The characters are warm and unique and as cliched as it sounds, Alice, Elliott, and Fred really do have the charm and innocence that we associate with earlier times. The earnest devotion of first love, an era when showing off your calves was risque, and the pain of making choices when your dreams collide. Mae has done a fabulous job of capturing the tone of the era, in the language that the characters use, in the details that influence their actions, and in the descriptions of the world they live in. By contrast, Ali, Scott, and Ben, faced with a similar situation in their personal lives, make their choices based on a different set of priorities and rationales that will be more familiar to readers. Ali is given Alice’s letters just as many parts of her life are in flux, and she uses the letters first for diversion and then for inspiration.

There are many emotional moments throughout the book. I was giggling, gasping, intrigued, and sad by moments. But without giving anything away, the last chapter was when my heart was really ripped out. No one expects that last few paragraphs of an entire book to be when they cry, but that’s what happened. Not to worry, it does have a happy ending, but it’s the bittersweet happiness of real life, not the perfect “happily ever after” that standard romance novels excel in. I’d give it an extra star just for that, if I could. As it is, I’m giving it an enthusiastic 5 stars on Goodreads.

NOTE: As an added bonus, Mae has included discussion points at the end of book, making this an excellent choice for your book club or classroom.

Review 9: Secret Blend

I’ve been feeling a bit off lately, so although I have several new releases burning a hole in my Kobo, I opted to read something else I got free/cheap. Secret Blend, Bourbon Springs #1 by Jennifer Bramseth. 

This was another mediocre read. Nothing horrible, but nothing really to suck me in. The plot pretty much depended on some manufactured drama to move things along. The characters were pretty flat and the sex scenes weren’t very inspired. The writing was fine, nothing to odd or poorly done. The whole thing was just… bland.

I’ve given a number of books that were better than this a 3 star rating, so this one gets a 2.

Review 8: Love, Chocolate, and Beer

I got this book either free or at a discount… maybe through Bookbub? I don’t remember for sure any more. But the title was intriguing so I grabbed it: Love, Chocolate, and Beer by Violet Duke. This is the first book in the Cactus Creek series.

Sadly, I don’t really feel like it lived up to the anticipation engendered by the title. First of all, it was not particularly well edited. There were several instances where weird language, odd word choices, and outright errors kicked me out of the story. I tend to overlook some errors if I’m sucked in by the story and the characters and only notice them on subsequent readings. I know this story didn’t pull me in, because I noticed everything. The problem was that there was just too much drama: poor choices, instant lust, people clinging to the past, etc., etc., just piling up to a point that made it unbelievable to me. I was rolling my eyes a lot.

It’s not a terrible story, but there are lots of books out there waiting to be read and I’m not wasting any more time on this series. I’m giving this one 2 stars.