Review 20: Jagged Ink

Jagged Ink is the just released third book in the Colorado Springs spin-off of the Montgomery Ink series by Carrie Ann Ryan. I keep reading this books, but I’m not sure why. I loved the original series, although even it “jumped the shark”, so the point that characters within one of the later books comments about a similarity with all their “finding each other” stories.

To my mind, the characters in the spin-off series (Gallagher Brothers, Whiskey and Lies, Colorado Springs) are getting repetitive and whiny. There are still at least some kind of external blocks to the relationships, but mostly they are only problems because the couples aren’t willing to talk to each other without some life or death style event.

Jagged Ink is a change, but only in that it’s almost too realistic. Roxie and Carter’s marriage is falling apart because they each get stuck in their own heads and stop talking to each other. The whole first half of the novel is watching them spin their wheels over the unspoken event in their lives. Then a fairly minor action provides the motivation for them to start talking and rebuild their relationship. I watch couples around me do variations of this all the time and I bash my head against the wall when it happens. I’m really not sure why I need to read another variation of it. Honestly, this book reads more like dreary contemporary literary fiction than a romance novel.

Review 19: The Red

A very kind book friend lent me The Red by Tiffany Reisz, which bumped it straight up my TBR, as Amazon loans only last for a week. However, this is a novella length read and quite engrossing, so it didn’t take long to read.

This novel is fantasy, in a way that’s closer to the older meaning of the world. These days when I hear fantasy, I think either “urban fantasy” or something Tolkien inspired. Instead, this is a story of imagination and wish fulfillment. The heroine does live in the contemporary world, but the events of the story take her out of that daily grind and into a series of sexual experiences with a dream lover in a range of scenarios.

Of course, the interludes with her lover affect her outlook on her real world life and her decision making. And I have to say that I was wrong in my guesses about what the truth of the situation was going to be. It’s not often that my plot guesses are so completely off the mark, so it gets bonus points for that. More books from this author are definitely going on my TBR.

Review 18: Clutch: Disciples Daughters #1

I believe that I got this book as a freebie as the start of a series, and it seems to be a bit confused. The series is listed on Goodreads as the Savage Disciples MC. The cover shows it as the first of the Disciples’ Daughters Series. On my Kobo, the listing is Clutch: Disciples Daughters #1 (Savage Disciples). I don’t know if the author changed her mind part way through or what and I only mention it because searching for the info on the series might require a bit of hunting. The author is Drew Elyse.

I haven’t made a particular point of reading motor cycle club romances, but I have come across a selection in my reading. I’m not a fan of “dark mc” novels, to me it’s just romanticizing a host of behavioural and personality disorders. “He abuses me, but he loves me and doesn’t let anyone else hurt me, so it’s ok.” Yuck. The good news is that this book doesn’t fall into that category. Yes, it’s a MC, so there are some fairly well-defined gender roles and some of them might not to be the taste of the general public. But within the community, they are accepted and understood.

Given that, I quite enjoyed this book and the main characters. They are human beings, who make mistakes and have baggage. But they also do a pretty reasonable job of communicating, and learning from their mistakes. There are enough road bumps to make the story interesting, but there is a refreshing lack of manufactured drama.

The book was well written but there was one unfortunate homophone error that showed up several times. She used “road” to mean both “street” and the past tense of “ride”. Hint: it should be “He rode his bike down the road.” Considering this in an MC series that seems to be up to six books, I genuinely hope someone has pointed this error out to her.

I’d have given this one 3 stars, but it loses one for the repeated and annoying error.

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.

Review 7: Found in Bliss

Honestly, once Lexi Blake finishes republishing her old catalogue, we are all going to go into withdrawal. Getting a “new” book from an author every couple of months is a treat! I haven’t read the Nights in Bliss or Texas Sirens series before, and I’m enjoying them. In some ways, even with her updates for the new releases, you can tell that these were written earlier in her career. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but it does help to keep it in mind if you are familiar with her newer work.

In the case of the Bliss books, it shows to me in the way that I feel like there is no doubt whatsoever that there will be a “happily ever after”. Yes, I know, for the most part, that is assured with all of these books – many of them advertise it right in their blurbs! – but some of them make the characters work for it. That sense of tension is really missing with these, especially within the relationships that are developing later along the timeline. These characters all live in a town with several successful triads, so there is a model for it being possible. The internal dilemma that often causes the most tension in menage books is pretty much eliminated. That leaves external forces, in this series, usually someone trying to kill at least one of the main characters, as the only possible hindrance. And yes, guns are damaging and in a lot of ways unpredictable, so you can never be sure, but a) Bliss has proven that it can handle itself and b) we know there’s gonna be a happy ending, so the tension is somewhat dispersed.

However, I still enjoy reading these, because the comic situations that Lexi creates are hilarious and unique and the sex scenes are still smoking hot!

I’m still struggling with trying to find some “scientific” way to assign stars. I don’t have one, I’m winging it. So I vascillated between 3 and 4 stars for this one and in the end, I went with 4. Ask me tomorrow, and I might say 3.

Review 6: Feyness

I finally got around to reading another book for my Goodreads group challenge, and this time it was Feyness by E.S. Carter. It was another book that had been languishing on my TBR, so this was a good kick in the butt to get into it. This book comes with all kinds of warnings that it is a “dark” read and that if you want light and fluffy, don’t pause here. I generally don’t go looking for that kind of thing, but it doesn’t particularly upset me either, so I figured I’d at least give it a try. In a sense, it lived up to it and in another sense, I was kind of disappointed. There are definitely a lot of characters who are miserable human beings who torture other people, apparently for kicks. There are some graphic descriptions of horrible acts and brutal deaths, so if you are bothered by that kind of thing – it lives up to its warnings and you should just keep moving on.

But it was a bit disappointing in it’s development of the interior landscape of the hero and heroine in the face of all this depravity. They spend a lot of time telling the reader how scarred they are, how evil they’ve become to survive or how innocent they’ve managed to stay despite all that is done to them, but it mostly feels like pantomime. In the end, I have to admit that this ended up being more of a deep skim than a true read, because nothing really pulled me in. The characters are flat and the plot is pretty predictable.

In the end, the mechanics of the writing are decent, nothing really leapt out at me as examples of horrible editing and I’ve read worse, so I gave it three stars. I’m starting to feel like three is kind of my default position and there is probably a pretty wide range that I put there. In reality, for me personally, this was probably a 2 star read, but at least one lost was more due to personal preference and I’m a soft touch, so… it gets a three.