Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Nalini Singh - Allegiance of Honor

The Psy-Changeling world has undergone a staggering transformation and now stands at a crossroads. The Trinity Accord promises a new era of cooperation between disparate races and groups. It is a beacon of hope held together by many hands: Old enemies. New allies. Wary loners.
But a century of distrust and suspicion can’t be so easily forgotten and threatens to shatter Trinity from within at any moment. As rival members vie for dominance, chaos and evil gather in the shadows and a kidnapped woman’s cry for help washes up in San Francisco, while the Consortium turns its murderous gaze toward a child who is the embodiment of change, of love, of piercing hope: A child who is both Psy…and changeling.
To find the lost, protect the vulnerable—and save Trinity—no one can stand alone. This is a time of loyalty across divisions, of bonds woven into the heart and the soul, of heroes known and unknown standing back to back and holding the line. But is an allegiance of honor even possible with traitors lurking in their midst?

Comment: This is the latest installment in the Psy/Changeling series by author Nalini Singh, probably one of the best PNR authors of today. This book has been received positively but for some readers it was repetitive. I was simply hoping to be amazed by the story and the possibility of seeing beloved characters consolidate their wonderful HEAs we've read before.

This book is a sort of extended epilogue to all the books we've had before. The book follows several known characters and their actions not only in showing us how they are in their lives, in terms of domestic routines, but also when trying to solve some situations, including the finally here story of father Xavier, a character we've know since book #3...
Trying to help a water changeling and protecting the interests of the friends they have as well as protecting Naya from anyone who might want to hurt her are also plots to follow here.
All the plots have a sort of connection and the best thing is to see how happy our couples have been.

One of the biggest critics this book has is how repetitive the information. It's also too sugary and clearly a fixing of ideas before the next arc begins.
Any fan would have known this prior reading, the author has made it clear this would not be a book like we were used to and would fall more into positive and happiness mode. I can understand how some readers could have still hoped for more advances in the general plots, but the author has explained where this would fit. Personally, I knew what to expect and loved it!
Yes, the story has repetitive moments, especially when we are shown many times how happy everyone is but that's precisely the idea. The fact the author spend hours writing about things most only include at the end of books and for one or two ages was/is incredible. For me, it rocked because there's a purpose in romances for the characters and this just confirmed us all that what we've seen and read is solid. So many times, after a while, things change in fictional world, but this is the assurance we used our time well before. I liked this one a lot.

There are several sub plots going on and a new "enemy" whose identity we don't know (but who will be of importance in the future for sure) along with some issues related to where things are after the fall of Silence for the Psy.
A new reader or a sporadic reader who hasn't been in love with the series so far won't certainly enjoy all the details and nuances of the plot. But I'm a devoted fan and I think that colors my perspective. Things just make sense to me and even the constant switch in POV or sub plots didn't bother me at all.

In the end, I didn't mind the repetition of ideas and how wonderful life was for hose in love, even with little challenges along the way. I can understand how that might have bothered some readers and they thought this book would explain more things but thee are more stories to come. This is full circle for some things but the ideas to further develop are here as well. Of course we wouldn't have everything explained and solved! Then why keeping up with it?

Again, to em this worked out quite well. It's not perfect, I would always change or say some things differently, some parts seemed less interesting as it always happen, but I feel so happy with this. My time as a fan and a reader of the series mattered and this is my reward. I just simply see things this way!
And I'll look for the next book with novellas and a new book (hopefully) next year. I think this series is officially my favorite ever in PNR!!
Grade: 9/10

Friday, June 24, 2016

Jojo Moyes - Sheltering Rain

Estranged from her mother since she ran away from her rural Irish home as a young woman, Kate swore an oath that she'd always be a friend to her daughter, Sabine. But history has a way of repeating itself, and Kate now faces an ever-widening chasm between herself and her daughter. With Sabine about to make her own journey to Ireland to see her grandmother, Kate is left wondering how they ever made it here, and what she can do to close the gap between them.
For Joy, seeing her granddaughter is a dream come true. After the painful separation from Kate, she's looking forward to having time with Sabine. Yet almost as soon as the young woman arrives, the lack of common ground between them deflates her enthusiasm. And when Sabine's impetuous, inquisitive nature forces Joy to face long-buried secrets from her past, she realizes that perhaps it's time to finally heal old wounds.

Comment: I got this book in Portuguese in a book fair last year and because I've read the author before and liked her, I went ahead and got this book. According to reviews it's not the author's best and I wanted to check for myself if I'd share that opinion.

In this book we follow the lives of three generations of women during a short period of time. The grandmother Joy, daughter Kate and teenager Sabine. Although we don't spend a lot of time with each, we learn some family secrets while we get to see them in their daily routines and dealing with grandfather's Edward poor health and illness. But could the three women, who don't have such strong bonds as one may think, come to terms with all the new things they find and how that affects them?

I liked this book and it was certainly easy to read. The author's style is easy to follow and interesting and, as I've come to realize, objective and a trademark, as I found it the same I've read before in her other books. So, overall, I can't say this is badly done, but then I have to confess it was slightly less striking when one thinks about the plot and one or two characters. I really think the author missed her mark with those elements. I suppose the fact this is the first boom she wrote has something to do with it, considering the style and not as much polish when comparing to the later books, but...still.
What I liked best was how this book showed some interesting ideas about different cultures like the
life of British people in Hong Kong, where Joy lived in her youth and also the taking care of horses and the respect for animals in the propriety Joy has as a grown up back in England. The details of Joy's life, the choices she did to have a good life, the details of that and of the people around her were things I felt enthusiastic about. I also liked some secondary characters such as Thom and Annie, who went through challenging things in their lives but life helped and even surprised them, Annie more at the end of the book.

The plot, however, wasn't a cohesive element in my opinion. There are some interesting details but I wasn't fond of the jumping scenes back and forth in time. And the author picked too many themes to explore which means we didn't see much of all and instead of making the characters seem mysterious and with more depth, they just looked superficial because each things wasn't' explored as well as it could.
Obviously the plot revolves around the characters. I sort of liked Joy, I feel ambivalent towards Sabine because she's a teenager so I didn't like to spend too much time with her and I didn't like Kate that much.

Joy is a strong woman, the oldest in the family and her life seems to be based on a certain idea but later on, the biggest surprise comes out of her past and, despite not being something directly related to her actions, it affected her personality. I understand but it's not always something that can be explained in her actions or maybe I think she should just have dealt with things differently. I liked her passion for horses.
Kate is intriguing, a challenging character to develop but honestly I disliked her a bit precisely because she has a way of looking at relationships and romantic interests that I don't agree with. Her scenes with her family are always emotional because of that and I understand why and even recognize the beauty of the romantic interest being focused on her, but she's my least favorite character.
Sabine acts like any angry teenager, I don't have patience for those, I much prefer characters with some maturity and she acts so closer to the end out of jealousy which annoyed me. I do agree with some of her opinions here and there but overall, I liked when I wasn't following her steps and ideas...

All in all, a trademark emotional story by Moyes but I think it's clear this is a first novel type of book. The Portuguese translation of the title reads like "family portrait" which I think it's more appropriate because the rain only makes sense for one or two characters. Still, an interesting way to compare an author's evolution in writing.
Grade: 6/10

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Jill Sorenson - Aftershock

As an emergency paramedic, Lauren Boyer is dedicated and highly capable. Until an earthquake strikes, trapping her beneath the freeway with a group of strangers--including Iraq war veteran Garrett Wright...
Handsome and take-charge Garrett aids Lauren in her rescue efforts, even as the steely look in his eyes seems to hide dark secrets. When a gang of escaped convicts goes on the attack, Garrett's bravery makes him more than a courageous bystander to Lauren. If they can save the others before time runs out, maybe, just maybe, they can explore the fire igniting between them--if the truth about who he really is doesn't pull them apart forever...

Comment: This book has been in my TBR pile for some time, ever since I've read other books by the author and this one caught my attention by its original premise, something I admit I usually don't look for (post tragedy adventures) but that in this case seemed quite intriguing. I was curious to read it.

This story begins with an earthquake in San Diego and how devastating it gets. The plot focuses on a group of characters that end up in a sort of secluded zone and how they must try to survive while help doesn't reach them. The situation is already difficult, with injured people and friends that died on impact, when the problem of not having food and water so they could survive becomes their main concern. Adding to it is the challenge to survive while dealing with convicts that were on route and who got free after their transport was caught in the impact.
The two main characters, mysterious Garrett and paramedic Lauren form a team to help everyone and to keep them strong until help arrives. The fact they feel attracted to each other shouldn't even cross their minds but it does, as does the fact the convicts are trouble...

I wouldn't wish an earthquake on anyone but I was quite curious to see how the author would put a plot in motion featuring one. Of course there's a lot of loss and devastation, of problems and struggles and I don't know if things would be as simple in RL. Still, I think the author offered enough setting so the book got meaning and that would justify character's actions and decisions.
In a way, this must be one of the strongest points: the details and setting are quite well portrayed in my opinion. Sure, the solutions and some situations seem easily dealt with but this is a romance, not a non fiction about the consequences of real earthquakes.

I really liked the plot, the ideas presented. I liked we didn't have a classic villain here, it was simply a matter of good citizens facing others who don't have such an easy acceptance in society, and it was quite the exercise to think about our own prejudices based on appearances and expectations we have of convicts. Of course, some can be realistic and true, others a wake up call for the fact many people in jails may deserve it but aren't bad people or true criminals. I liked I got to think about this while reading. In fact, the author included quite the themes here for the reader to weight in what we think about several aspects such as justice, prejudice, racism, among other things.

The main characters, Garrett and Lauren pend the book trying to help the group they saved somehow which includes an older man, a child, a pregnant young woman and an injured amnesic man. And then there are the three convicts. It was quite interesting to see everyone interact and how the stronger would try to defend the others and protect them. We get more defined glimpses about some secondary characters quite enough, especially when we are given their perspectives through their POVs and that gives power to their importance in future books in the series.

The romance I liked too. I'm not usually a fan of love-under-pressure or right after a stressful situation but in this case it worked out well for me, the author did a good job showing us their thoughts and actions and by writing down some good sexually tensed scenes which only made it better when they finally got together. Lauren is the classic heroine and I liked how she processed everything, including her personal issues but to be honest, Garret was my favorite character. He is a great hero, and quite special, I liked a lot how the author made him and the solution to his dilemmas and mystery. I wasn't totally surprised but I think it was well done overall. It was very nice to see them try to be a couple and I hope they are solid presences in future books.

I just ordered the rest of this series, the books feature known characters from this book, or at least one of the main characters is and I have high hopes for those stories. If the author maintains contact with Garrett and Lauren so we can follow them again, even if in a lesser capacity, it would be great. But this book at least, has won me over. It's not perfect, especially in some scene detailing, some parts I think the pace wasn't as well done, some situations I feel were too exaggerated, but overall a great effort and a great read for me.
Grade: 8/10

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Karina Halle - DarkHouse

There’s always been something a bit off about Perry Palomino. Though she’s been dealing with a quarter-life crisis and post-college syndrome like any other twentysomething, she’s still not what you would call “ordinary.” For one thing, there’s her past which she likes to pretend never happened, and then there’s the fact that she sees ghosts. Luckily for her, that all comes in handy when she stumbles across Dex Foray, an eccentric producer for an upcoming webcast on ghost hunters. Even though the show’s budget is non-existent and Dex himself is a maddening enigma, Perry is instantly drawn into a world that both threatens her life and seduces her with a sense of importance. Her uncle’s haunted lighthouse provides the perfect catalyst and backdrop for a horrific mystery that unravels the threads of Perry’s fragile sanity and causes her to fall for a man, who, like the most dangerous of ghosts, may not be all that he seems.

Comment: RL has been busy but I'll try to catch up with my comments.
This book was the choice picked for this month's reads in the book club I belong to. This is the first book by the author I've tried and although the concept of this book intrigued me and the little glimpses of possible romance too, the overall story wasn't as wonderful as I expected.

In this book we meet Perry Palomino, a 22 year old who doesn't like her job but hold on to it because the economy is bad. Perry has always been a strange girl, she has weird and realistic dreams that make her see things and she is aware she is mocked and was before in school. One day, while visiting an abandoned lighthouse in her uncle's property, she has vivid experiences that scare her and led her to Dex Foray, a cameraman to a show who looks for ghosts and weird things to film. They share a creepy experience inside the lighthouse and later on, after they got out alright, Perry writes about it in her sister's blog. Suddenly everyone is talking about Perry and eventually Dex shows up again and proposes a job to Perry, so they can film and present a show about ghosts. But what about the lighthouse, does it have any secrets they should uncover? And will Perry accept this new challenge just when her boss offered her a promotion?

Overall, I liked the book's ideas and what it was supposed to portray. But I have to say the plot wasn't as amazing as I imagined and I struggled a bit to finish reading. Often, we read books we can't let go, no matter how much we spend with it and how busy we might be: we just need to keep reading. Then, we have the books we know we are supposed to read but any excuse is enough to make us stop for a while. I had to push myself to read, not that it was so bad I couldn't stand it, but I didn't feel very motivated to read and find out more.

To be honest, the plot was not something I felt much interest in. The book is also labeled horror, many scenes are certainly supposed to be scary and creepy and I guess they are, in a way. But these things aren't things I usually read or look for or truly appreciate so I didn't have much will to take time to read about them, I was counting the time to get to the the better parts and therefore the interest of the plot and the more horror details were things I didn't fully felt captivated by.

Perry is an intriguing main character, I liked her approach to life, the fact she was bullied and not always someone you would spend time getting to know but, as always, she hid an amazing personality and temperament. I think my issue with her is that apart from that I had a difficult time to feel empathy towards her. Her liking to spend time with her younger sister's friends, her willingness to go alone to a dark place and her attitude towards some reality notions were down points for me. But overall, she is likable enough and I feel intrigued by how much she will grow up...but some of her choices still seem very teenage style and that puts me off.

Dex is a very interesting counterbalance to Perry, he's a decade older, his interests are different, he has a girlfriend, he has a mysterious past...all intriguing yes, but also a little bit too much because it's hard to get a grip on who he really is.
His relationship with Perry is what made me want to keep reading an if I ever go on, their connection will be the reason too but it wasn't enough yet.
I liked the tension between them, the obvious link, the looks they give one another, but nothing is too obvious and they don't jump each other. I like the idea of a slow burn romance but... with 9 books I think it will be just a bit too long, especially if I don't feel interested in the horror and plot parts.

All things considered, this is quite the journey but to think the author is taking so long and will create a lot of drama before things solved and on top with a horror themed narrative...I don't think I'll read more very soon. Yes, many readers say it only gets better and I can understand how by the way this story develops but to have to go through so many not appealing scenes puts me of. Well, it's still interesting and it might work for many.
Grade: 6/10

Friday, June 17, 2016

Ryan Field - Sleepless in San Francisco

When young Noah Richardson sends an e-mail to the producers of the home renovation show "Dream Away," he has no idea that the host of the show, Jonathan Haynes, will be intrigued and touched by his sad story. Noah, his father, and their black lab, Tucker, have recently relocated to San Francisco to start a fresh new life and heal their wounds. And their house is in dire need of renovation.
Jonathan Haynes is desperate to find an interesting house to film for the show. So he gets on a plane and flies to San Francisco the day after he reads Noah's e-mail. But Jonathan soon finds out that Noah's father, Ed, doesn't know about Noah's e-mail and he has to convince him to do the show. The fact that Ed and Jonathan wind up on the living room floor having passionate sex during their first meeting doesn't help.
But Ed finally agrees to do the show. By the time construction begins, Ed and Jonathan can't get enough of each other. They start having secret encounters to satisfy their desires, never realizing they are building a solid relationship at the same time.
Then a series of events takes control of their lives and changes them all forever. Ed's not sure what to do. He's in love with Jonathan, and he can't get enough of Jonathan's body. But he feels guilty about starting a new relationship with anyone. So he wrestles with the conflict and begs for a sign to help him decide what to do, which leads to a surprise ending that none of them could have predicted.

Comment: This is the last book I've read. I have several m/m romances, books I've been collecting with time but as any fellow addictive reader can assure, it's difficult to manage a TBR list! Slowly, I'm going trough my lists, one step at a time. This author has a long back list so I decided to read the title I had to see if it would be worth it to keep reading his work.

This is a sort of adaptation on the Sleepless in Seattle story but instead of a radio show, the idea starts from a letter to a tv show that renovates houses. 
The child, Noah, exists too and is the one who starts things up so he can help his father, after they moved across the country. The new house needs repairs thus the thought of the show but the catch is his father is gay and they lost his partner to a crash accident and now moved to away to start again in a place where memories aren't everywhere.
Jonathan, the tv host for the show finds the idea of a gay parent appealing, as he's gay as well but when first meeting Ed, the kid's father, he's not impressed and realizes Ed wasn't aware of his son's letter but they can't help themselves and get intimate. As the renovation moves along, their lives get mixed up and what was only a strong attraction turns into something much bigger.

Plot issues apart, there are two things that disappointed me a bit in this story. Two things that compel me not to keep reading this author, despite the long list he has or the good reviews/opinions of others.

First, the narrative style isn't very appealing to me. The writing is fluid but the narrative execution and style feel so detached to me that I couldn't find empathy with the characters and that lowered my appreciation of the story. This actually doesn't give me hope for the other books by the author because I have to assume his style won't change. This means I'd probably feel disappointed again and I think that is preferable to just leave things this way.

Second, despite the adaptation, the story has enough differences that we can see the inspiration but this is not a copy. This could be good, an interesting starting point to a good story but the renovation details is such a secondary issue that it barely makes an impact. I fully expected the house renovation to be an important part of the plot, I thought we would see a simple but objective description of the works done in the house but everything was so understated, it lost all the impact it could have. Ok, one can say the romance mattered the most but... disappointing anyway, for me.

These two things didn't suit what I hoped for, but then the romance - because this is a romance - could save the day and be so amazing that my pet peeves would be overruled. However, it was soon obvious things wouldn't be as amazing in this aspect either.
The narrative style isn't very appealing and that overflew to the plot. I was not impressed by how the intimacy between Jonathan and ed started the very first day they met. The development of their relationship was filled with unemotional and exaggerated sexual meetings and I never felt we were seeing their emotional connection of personal investment. The development was very lacking to me. I've read a review somewhere and the reviewer said the potential was there but wasn't used. I have to agree because the concept of this story in terms of emotions and characterization development, the renovation, all is a good setting for a great story but the author used clichés and superficial images to explain the character's personality and the exaggerated amounts of sex scenes to the point where nothing mattered and even the HEA felt rushed and pointless.

I can understand why the overall story could/does work for some readers. But how can someone say this is a happy or romantic story beats me because we don't get to know these characters at all and the glimpses from their attitudes and past behavior surely aren't special. I wonder if this is truly a male perspective? But then, I didn't enjoy reading about these characters and wanted something more emotionally developed and polished.

The dog and Noah are the best elements of this book but sadly they aren't the protagonists so I'll just think of this story as a good reason not to read more books by the author.
Grade: 3/10

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

TBR Challenge: Samantha Young - Hero

Alexa Holland’s father was her hero—until her shocking discovery that she and her mother weren’t his only family. Ever since, Alexa has worked to turn her life in a different direction and forge her own identity outside of his terrible secrets,. But when she meets a man who’s as damaged by her father’s mistakes as she is, Alexa must help him.
Caine Carraway wants nothing to do with Alexa’s efforts at redemption, but it’s not so easy to push her away. Determined to make her hate him, he brings her to the edge of her patience and waits for her to walk away. But his actions only draw them together and, despite the odds, they begin an intense and explosive affair.
Only Caine knows he can never be the white knight that Alexa has always longed for. And when they’re on the precipice of danger, he finds he’ll do anything to protect either one of them from being hurt again…

Comment: This is the TBR Wednesday of June and this time the theme was Favorite Trope. I have to confess I felt rather doubtful about which book to pick, I have some favorite types of books but I don't usually get books because of that, it would be much easier to pick other themes but after having this one already set to be read this book, I realized it had one of my favorite tropes in romance which is the Enemies to Lovers (and some boss/secretary included too) and so wanted to see them change their mind about each other, get to know one another and yes, realize they were falling in love. When done right, it can be totally romantic!
This one felt better and better for me the more I thought about it and considering the author, someone whose books I've read before were generally successes with me, I was sold.

In this book we meet Alexa Holland, a young woman who works for a photographer and finds out after her return from holidays that the shoot will feature Caine Carraway, a sort of self made man who's rich and powerful (obviously) but she feels it won't go well because they're enemies. The thing is, Alexa's father had an affair with Caine's mother and she died overdosing on drugs and Alexa's father did nothing to help, causing his mother to die. Caine became an orphan and was put in the system but he grew up and got rich and now can't even stand the Holland name.
When they meet in the photo shoot, Alexa can't help herself and tells him her name and things don't go well. Eventually she is fired and she gets angry at Caine, he hates her guts, she tries to apologize, somehow he offers her a job, she accepts to prove she isn't what he thinks, they have their little fights but of course, eventually things change. But will they fall in love?

Overall, this fit all the ideas I had about a enemies to lovers story and I had previously liked the author's books, so I was quite pleased with it.
It's when I think about the extras that I feel this could have been so much better... I think my biggest problem with this book is how fast they give in to sexual attraction. they are sort of antagonist more than deadly enemies and that part is interesting, but from the "I-can't-even-hear-your-name" stage to the "I-need-you-now" one, things move too fast. I wouldn't say this is an insta-love set, because it's not but the insta-sex surely seems quick! I don't mind erotica toned stories but I confess it was slightly not good to see Caine, someone who had reasons - even if without sense - to hate Alexa, to simply ignore everything to be with her sexually. Ok, the idea behind the trope is that love and hate are close but... why do we have to see it happen so fast? 
I can't help but thinking they should have struggled a bit more with their attraction, the sexual tension should happen longer while their feelings were changing. Sexually giving in to their attraction seems like an easy tactic and not as romantic or emotionally intense as it could be.

Alexa is an interesting woman and I think the author depicts well why she decides to accept Caine's job offer and why she would feel she had to do something to balance the harm her family did to Caine but I think part of her intentions and even the fight in her, something handy to battle Caine and the job challenges, is lost in the way because she is always speaking about how good looking he is and how she can't help feeling like that around him.
Alexa is the narrator of the book, so obviously we have a lot of her voice but I'll be honest and say there were more times I felt annoyed at her than dreamy because Caine was hot. I strongly suspect authors don't understand real life because it can't be that no matter how good looking someone is, there's no way professional people think about that all the time! I felt the lack of more scenes of Alexa working or dealing with Caine professionally, so the story and their initial antagonism could have more strength.

There's not much to say about Caine because we don't have his POV. Sure, he's sexy, domineering in a realistic way, has secrets, has a past which was a surprise somehow, I admit I was not expecting that...but his interactions with Alexa felt too erotic for the type of story being developed.
I think the more domestic scenes from a certain point on and the things that happen closer to the end give this a different flavor and the end was somewhat better than some middle parts. A bit more balance in the development of the story and the way the protagonists behaved would have helped.

This book rates closer to a 6.5 than a 7 but I kept thinking about how the good parts really won me over so I upped the grade. But I will also say this book didn't come closer to some of the author's other work, which was much more powerful emotionally and in terms of character's interactions and family bonds, this last item sadly lacking here too.
Still, an interesting romance that could be so much better, especially for the type of trope and the possibilities.
Grade: 7/10

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Two comments on books by Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Lisa Kleypas

 Kev Merripen has longed for the beautiful, well-bred Winnifred Hathaway ever since her family rescued him from the brink of death when he was just a boy. But this handsome Gypsy is a man of mysterious origins—and he fears that the darkness of his past could crush delicate, luminous Win. So Kev refuses to submit to temptation... and before long Win is torn from him by a devastating twist of fate.
Then, Win returns to England... only to find that Kev has hardened into a man who will deny love at all costs. Meantime, an attractive, seductive suitor has set his sights on Win. It’s now or never for Kev to make his move. But first, he must confront a dangerous secret about his destiny—or risk losing the only woman he has lived for...

Fleur Savagar is the most beautiful woman in the world . . . to everyone but herself. With her oversized hands and paddle-boat feet, her streaky blond hair and funny green eyes, she lives a life filled with secrets that began before she was born. That was when her bewitching mother left home to find James Dean and met Errol Flynn instead. Now Fleur has to grow up quickly, and life won't make that easy.
Jake Koranda is both New York's most brilliant playwright and Hollywood's hottest actor. Difficult, talented, and tormented, he has no patience for international glamour girls, not even ones with beautiful bodies and smart-aleck mouths. But there's more to the Glitter Baby than shine, and Fleur's tougher than Jake expects. Even with the odds stacked against her, she's fiercely determined to discover the woman she's destined to be.
An ugly duckling who can't believe she's turned into a swan . . . A tough-guy movie star with a haunted past . . . In a land of broken dreams, can two unlikely lovers trust their hearts?

Comment: I'm placing these two books together in one post to save time and because I have the same grade for both. Both belong to ongoing series I'm following and my opinion was pretty much the same about both.
I think both stories had interesting elements but didn't get exactly to the point where I think they would be more than good.

Glitter Baby is the 3rd book in the Wynette, Texas series and is a special story and I liked it but not as much as its predecessor simply because the action jumped moments too much. This means the narrative went from one moment in the character's lives to another and another. I understand the tactic but it interrupts the story and the flow, so I don't think we feel as connected to the characters. I was glad they found happiness but I wasn't as invested in them as I feel with some characters in other books by the author.
Something I also feel wasn't as positive was the behavior of certain characters. I can justify this by the time the book was written but many situations didn't feel as interesting or something I cared about. The setting didn't help, I'm usually not a big fan of books about Hollywood or featuring the lifestyle and ideas that surround the film industry.
But it's a SEP book and it shows and I felt glad by the amazing end, especially the way the protagonists found happiness and contentment. I'm looking for to see them again in incoming books.

Seduce Me at Sunrise is the 2nd book in the Hathaways series by Lisa Kleypas. I also liked this story but not as much as I did the first one, simply because the romance in this book wasn't as special, even more so after the glimpses of it we've had in the first book. It promised to be amazing but, again, the interruptions in the time frame of the narrative - even if necessary by important goals - made the romance feel less thrilling. Yes, we have some good scenes with the protagonists and we know they love each other but it wasn't as romantic as I imagined. Their HEA is quite good though and I feel it was good they could put aside any problems and focus on each other.
Also good was the interactions between the characters, especially the secondary ones and something else, the news we learn about the hero throughout the book also made me happy even if, when one thinks seriously, they aren't as credible as that.
I'm also looking for to read the next installment, in particular to see more interactions between these family elements, people I'd like to know in real life and what makes the series good. This book wasn't as addictive but it's still a good installment.

- > The two stories are well worth the time to read them and I liked getting one step further in reading and going towards the goal of finishing more series, and even more so when it's with characters I liked overall and in settings I feel interesting in reading.
Still, their little less than stellar elements made me lower the grade a bit when comparing to the previous books, but they are still in the positive zone.
Grade for both: 7/10

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Betty Smith - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Orville Prescott has called this American classic “one of the most dearly beloved and one of the finest books of our day.” Indeed, when A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was first published in 1943, four printing plants were required to keep up with the demand. Now, almost 60 years later, readers are still fascinated by Betty Smith’s moving portrayal of the Nolans, a poor family living in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn. A poignant tale of childhood and the ties of family, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn will transport the reader to the early 1900s where a little girl named Francie dreamily looks out her window at a tree struggling to reach the sky. 

Comment: I got this book last year after reading some good comments about it and after discussing the idea with my friend Hannah, we decided to have a buddy read. Once again, I've finished faster and here are some of my thoughts on a book I liked and found amazing to see and quite addictive, despite its more than 600 pages.

This is a classic story by author Betty Smith, focusing on the Nolan family, a poor family of 4 and their close relatives and how they dealt with the challenges in their lives and the difficulties of living in Brooklyn in the early decade of the 1910 and 1920s and their lives throughout the decades that follow.
All we see if told from Francie Nolan's perspective, a young girl growing up and realizing things and letting us in to her private world where small things can have huge impacts...

I was really impressed by this book. I wasn't aware of it before reading some good things about it last year and about the heroine but now that I've read and liked the book, I can say it's a wonderful story about family, special traditions and growing up, letting childhood and innocence behind. It's not a all happiness book, there are actually many things one would say are depressing, but I think overall, the warm feelings it provokes in the reader are well worth it.

I liked Francie as a heroine. She is a shy child, but very determined in times, as when she decided to switch schools. She is our innocent eyes towards a bleak life filled with despair and poverty but beauty in simple things. Things we can understand as complex were we grown ups but when a child says or makes reference to it, we can see ourselves in her place, we can get back to our own private and personal memories of long ago times when things had another taste, another importance. I think he success of this book must be precisely that, the possibility to think and compare what used to be to hat it is and how different things look when you can think about it seriously or not.

Francie is a young girl we can relate to, and not only because she likes to read and feels the need to understand and think abut things. Even when she grows up and realizes many of the things she thought meant certain things and, after all, don't, she still maintains her innocence and hope for the future, she still dreams and sees beauty in hard things... I liked her POV, her "voice" and I both dreaded and wished for more pages because I knew it wouldn't all be happy stuff but she would be voicing them.

The secondary characters are key parts to the success of the story. They make everything possible in a way that not many authors can do to their characters.
Francie's parents are obvious choices as hey portray the idea of self worth and determination and of good intentions but bad choices, but all intertwined with good and decent feelings along with some human weakness...I found the whole concept of the family an amazing one.
In fact, everyone in this book has an important part and I'm sure there are books or studies about them in books about this novel, but to me the beauty of all that is how every character was important to Francie in all parts of her life. People matter...

There are some less than good elements in this story, some bad things we read about or that Francie or her family go though. But that is part of growing up, of learning, of resisting a bad environment, like the tree mentioned in the title does in a challenging place.
But we learn to see through the difficulties, to wish for better and greater things...and to wish that Francie will think about all the wonderful childhood experiences and not feel as despaired about grown up things like a broken heart, too much.

I strongly recommend this to everyone. It's not perfect, there are things one could change or improve or could have been written differently, but the feelings, the ideas and emotions are all there and are all worth reading about and processing. I hope my friend ends up having such a good opinion as I did.
Grade: 9/10

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Belle Aurora - Raw

Growing up the way I did, you’d think I’d be more screwed up than what I actually am.
Soon as I turned sixteen, I left that bump in the road I called home and took my chances on the street. Best decision I ever made.
Now, at the age of twenty six, I’m educated, employed and damn good at my job. My friends have become my family. Like me, they know what it’s like to grow up unloved. But the saying is true. The world makes way for those who know where they are going. That’s me.
I know where I’m going and I’ll get there eventually. On my own terms and at my own pace. But then there’s him. I feel his eyes on me. I see him hiding in plain sight. He watches me. He makes me feel. It’s unconventional. But it’s real.
I’m sure you’re wondering how a person falls in love with their stalker. So am I.
This isn’t a story. This is my life.

Comment: Honestly I can't remember why I ever thought this would be a good book for me but somehow I convinced myself or I saw some good review from friends and thought why not, maybe this one will work despite being clearly targeting new adult crowds and having BDSM elements, two things I normally dislike. I guess we all have a certain masochist side after all.
Still, I was ready to be proven wrong and this would be awesome.

This story follows Alexa, someone we are told is very smart, beautiful, has a good and steady life and by all means, is intelligent. She has had not so good experiences in her past, her parents were severely negligent, she was a runaway for a while but she grew up to be someone witty and professional and her current occupation, with some reasonability, proves it.
The "hero" is Twitch, later on known as Tony, someone who apparently decided to stalk her every where. He does it so often, eventually she realizes it but instead of being afraid, Alexa feels protected by her stalker. (Who wouldn't)
Things change when Twitch saves Alexa from being raped and their weird relationship moves along from that moment on. But could they have a real relationship and not just a fantasy of it?

I will write spoilers about this book because I can't help myself. I'm certain this works for many and it's clear the author knows how to write a fluid story but I won't be able to help myself from criticizing.

I won't take too long because I still feel amazed by how much I could bad mouth this book.
I fully understand why readers liked the story, there's a certain sense of risk and hope that makes some parts of the novel feel good and it's certainly true often one feels like reading non stop. I think the author has talent and maybe something else by her, with different themes would suit me. But this story didn't and I found several things in it that annoyed me, mostly related to the main character, Alexa.

The story feels like a handbook on how NOT to behave:
Should you easily accept a stalker might be your dream man?
Should you think there's something remotely romantic or realistic that if someone does that, it will result in a love story?
Should you try drugs just because?
Should you start something with someone without knowing much about that person?
Should you let that person treat you like an object?

Alexa does all this and she is a professional! I mean, in contemporary times. Ok, there's some notion that whatever you do in your bedroom or privately with your husband/boyfriend/partner, consensually, is up to you. I'm not criticizing here the BDSM or her behavior when they are in that sort of atmosphere/set. Although I don't fully understand nor enjoy reading about BDSM, I couldn't care less about it here.
What makes me mad is how Alexa, someone that has a job trying to show kids or vulnerable people how to be strong, how to fight for their lives and a chance to be happy or having a positive life, will let herself try drugs and be in situations that clearly are wrong and stupid! I spend most of the time while reading hoping she would tell herself she was better off with someone else!
I mean, she tries drugs. And she's clever. And she has no reason to try them. What kind of message is this? Yes, it's fiction and yes, people do it, but I can't just understand why someone with a brain and a steady life would.

The relationship might have its moments but Twitch is quite annoying too. Ok yes, real people aren't perfect and fictional characters either but after all the bad things Twitch suffered through and knowing why and how to be a better man he still chose to keep his stalker facade and drug dealing. And he let teenagers in it too.... I mean, this story focused on almost all the elements I hate to read about and I think if Alexa was secretly a sex addict I would scream. (Not that I don't respect people with addictions and how difficult it might be to fight them, it's just an example)
Even Alexa's attempt rape was staged by Twitch himself! Come on! And when we (sort of because I never thought he had credible reasons) understand his reasons to stalk her or to have tried to make her pay somehow it's like... that was it? So illogical.

Then the end is an obvious attempt to make us cry or something because a kid both Twitch and Alexa liked dies, right after having the guts to ask a girl out and Twitch dies too and oh Alexa is pregnant. But Twitch isn't dead after all and keeps on stalking her and the kid...
Really, I was so annoyed, so angry at Alexa and I kept thinking how I would change everything in this story. Because the idea is there and I think it has merit, two people trying to make it work, having a kinkier sex life and facing obstacles...but so many things got on my nerves...

I guess I could talk a lot about this after all, but I'll leave it here for now. I won't say I never read anything else by the author again but about these characters definitely not.
Grade: 3/10