Review 22: Twist

I’ve been a bit lax posting reviews for books that I like, which is bad considering how much ratings and reviews can mean for independent authors. So, let me tell you a bit about Twist, by KC Enders.

This is a novella about another bartender at McBrides’s, Finn. He’s a young, cocky flirt who enjoys working his way through all the willing women he can. But his arrogance hides a secret. Until he meets Adelaide, who isn’t impressed by his posing and makes him re-think his usual approach.

I often find novellas to be disappointing – either the characters are great and I just want more or the plots are so abbreviated to meet the word count that they are either more like intros or force an HEA that isn’t justified by the action. This is one of the few that feels complete and fulfilling just the way it is. I think Finn and Addie are fun and I’d love to see more of them, but by the end, I felt like I was invested in them and the development of their relationship was realistic. I’d be happy to see them in again in future McBride’s books.

Review 21: Naked Love

I won my choice of ebooks from a member of Jewel E. Ann’s Facebook reader group and I chose Naked Love, her latest release. She has a fairly large back catalogue and I’ve only read three of them. I don’t know how much they tie together or not, so it was great to me that Naked Love features Jake, a secondary character from the Holding You duology, which I have read.

This book shares the plotting magic of the other books I’ve read. She has the ability to create one-in-a-billion situations to add stress to her characters’ relationships, without quite crossing over my “drama llama” trigger. She skates close enough that I don’t think I could binge-read a bunch of her books at once, but one or two are good for the days you feel like having your heart ripped out and then resuscitated.

I can’t say that Avery is anywhere close to my favourite heroine. I don’t want the ladies to be perfect, but she is messed up ways that just annoy me. It doesn’t have anything to do with how she is written, Jewel always seems to create nuanced and realistic people, but just the type of person she is. I spent the at least the first half of the book wanting to smack her upside the head. But on further reflection, at least I was engaged, instead of bored.

I like Jake a lot more. He’s got his issues too, but on the whole he’s got his act much more together. In the end, I feel like Avery gains more from their relationship than he does, but since they are happy together, that’s what counts.

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 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.