Friday, February 24, 2017

Christa Tomlinson - Showing Him the Ropes

Chance “The Chancellor” Gerhardt is a mainstay for Frontier Professional Wrestling. He’s won multiple championships and has the respect of the locker room. But after ten years at the top, Chance is looking for a new challenge. The one he gets, mentoring FPW’s young rookie, is both unexpected and unwanted.
Devin Jacobs is a hot new talent signed by Frontier Professional Wrestling. He’s always been a fan of The Chancellor, and not just because of the older man’s skill in the ring. He has it bad for the steely eyed veteran wrestler. Unfortunately for Devin, The Chancellor isn’t looking to get involved with anyone. Or is he? During long nights traveling and working together, Devin catches more than one secretly admiring glance from The Chancellor…
Devin is determined to earn victories and championships in the ring. But he’d also love the opportunity to win Chance’s heart. Can the two of them navigate their way through the hyper masculinity and backstage politics of professional wrestling to the most important victory of all? Or will their shot at love be defeated 1-2-3? 

Comment: I saw this book being referenced at some discussion board and it caught my eye because the romance was described as not being an insta-love thing, so often common nowadays. I was very curious and got the book but obviously it's been a couple months in the pile.

Chance is the main character in this book centered around the wrestling showbiz. His boss asks him to help a newcomer, a young man who has shown he had the drive and the humility to work hard to become a good and strong professional. Chance is a sort of loner and wouldn't choose to mentor the kid but his boss convinces him. It also helps the kid is very attractive but that's just collateral because Chance isn't going to mix business with his private choices.
Devin is the rookie, he's had a crush on The Chancellor - Chance's moniker - since he was a teenager and the age difference isn't important when he has the opportunity to work with him. He's also very attracted to him and starts a sort of seduction campaign...but will he be reciprocated?

In this book we meet characters from the wrestling world and the romance focuses on Chance and Devin. I liked this book because the romance was cute, believable and romantic at the same time and I got to learn a few more things about wrestling we see on TV.
I admit I don't particularly like it, it's not something I try to understand or know things about so it was a nice surprise to see the (apparent) knowledge the author has about this, or at least the result of all her research. I can't know if it's totally equal to real life, but the way things were inserted in the story convinced it was real, so... very interesting and added a sense of meaning to everything.

I liked the main characters. Chance is a professional wrestler, he's been with the company for years, has won many titles and knows the business side of things quite well. I liked him a lot because he is a professional. He isn't driven by silly actions or stupid, inadequate moments of sex just because. I liked how he is always concerned about how to present himself and how to act a professional, even if in his privacy he is as amazing as one could hope for.
Devin is a great protagonist as well, he's young but he isn't dazzled by everything to the point of losing sense of his abilities, expectations and most of all, his limits. I really, really liked how both guys were committed to their jobs and their actions and weren't silly nor uncaring about their surroundings.

The romance was very cute, in my opinion. It's a bit of a slow burn at first only because the author has cleverly included a great dose of sexual tension in the scenes between them, when outside work. It was wonderful to follow their romance until it got to the point where they finally got together. It made it seem so much more realistic and special. Their intimate connection also felt real and I was very glad how, with time, their feelings for one another started to become stronger and the HEA is actually very sweet and amazing and now I feel like reading some scenes again...

The secondary characters were well done, I guess. Of course there's not enough page time to develop every single aspect of each one, but I think we got a good idea about some of them and their roles and even how they fit in with the wrestling company and so on. I'm very curious about three characters, two of them I think might have a story of their own if the series continues.

All in all, I'm very pleased with this story. I'll have to try another book by the author to see if it was just a random lucky item for me but I have hopes. I especially would love a sequel to this book.
I think the pace and the content were very well done, there are always some little things I'd change or would see different, but for the most part the emotional process each protagonist went through to become the person the other was falling in love seemed very well done to me.
Grade: 9/10

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Maggie Osborne - The Promise of Jenny Jones

A desperate mother takes Jenny Jones' place in front of a firing squad in exchange for Jenny's promise to see her daughter safely to California. Though she and the six-year-old Graciela get off to a rocky start, Jenny will do everything in her power to keep her promise, even with the child's cousins in hot pursuit. Then she is mysteriously drawn to the handsome cowboy Ty Sanders, and though neither know it yet, their purpose is the same.

Comment: Another book that has been in the pile for some time. So far, I've enjoyed the books I've read by this author, some more than others, so I was quite expectant about this one. This is a western historical and another take on the "strong heroine" characterization that we often see in the author's books.

Jenny Jones is a woman with nothing to lose. She was condemned to death but is asked for a favor and a promise by a desperate mother. The only thing Jenny has to be proud of is her honor and word, so when she does promise to honor the request of Marguerita, she escapes with her life and a 6 year old, who she is supposed to take to her father, from Mexico to California.
What she doesn't know is that the girl's uncle Ty is also looking for her and somehow they two meet at different times and immediately seem to not get along. But that changes when they both admit to feel attracted to the other. But with greedy cousins from the Mexican side of the family come for the little girl Jenny promised to protect and care for, can Jenny and Ty help each other?

The best thing about this author's style and stories is how the heroines, for the most part of course, always seem to maintain a certain vulnerability and are humble, even when they have men's jobs or weren't raised to be what we expect from proper or society ladies.
Jenny Jones is the focus of this book and she is very likable, she is the type of person we might not bet much on at first but after knowing her for a while, we start to like her more and understand her attitudes and personality.
Jenny had a bad childhood, this is not something explored much but the simplicity in which we become aware of it is enough to paint a picture. Obviously, this is what makes it so much sweeter when we finally get to the epilogue and see how Jenny is completely deserving of her HEA.

The plot has its moments, this is basically a romance on the journey type of story, I liked Jenny gave her word and she tried her best to honor her promises. Some scenes and moments are very funny because we not only smile when Jenny gets herself in situations she is not used to but we also smile sweetly when something really good happens and Jenny is not conceited and is surprised as much as we are. The author paced the different scenes well, I think. We learn things along Jenny and there aren't dull moments. Probably the last section of the story feels a bit different, simply because the focus changes and we are centered only on Jenny's doubts and not her interactions with Ty and that sort of made things seem slower. I can understand the purpose of pacing things slower at that point, the HEA seems so much passionate then, but... it could have been done slightly different.

The romance is very sweet at times but it's the sexual tension between the protagonists while they spend time together to take the child to her father that makes their relationship seem stronger. After several scenes with them battling against their attraction but every time it seemed stronger, it was expected and believable when we are told they love one another. The path from attraction to love seems to have taken time to develop and be realistic. I do like romances when things like this happens.

The secondary characters were interesting enough. The child, Graciela, has her moments but she was often a bit annoying for her age. There are cute moments when she and Jenny finally seem to bond.
Robert, Ty's brother and Graciela's father, never seem a strong character. What a waste of pages, the story could have been as strong if he were to be a solid character but was disappointing instead.

The HEA was very sweet and adorable. I mean, it's not over the top nor does it present people in a way totally different from the story, but I admit I really liked that side of Jenny. She is one of the best heroines out there.
I hope future books by the author - if I ever get to them - will be as great as this one.
Grade: 8/10

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sherryl Woods - Flowers on Main

When her last two plays are dismal failures and her relationship with her temperamental mentor falls apart, writer Bree O'Brien abandons Chicago and the regional theater where she hoped to make a name for herself to return home. Opening Flowers on Main promises to bring her a new challenge and a new kind of fulfillment.
But not all is peaceful and serene in Chesapeake Shores, with her estranged mother on the scene and her ex-lover on the warpath. Jake Collins has plenty of reasons to want Bree out of his life, but none of those are a match for the one reason he wants her to stay: he's still in love with her.
Jake might be able to get past that old hurt if he knew Bree was home to stay, but is she? The only way to know for sure is to take a dangerous leap of faith.

Comment: I had this book to read for 7 years. At the time, I read the first book in the Chesapeake Shore series, The Inn at Eagle Point, and I was not impressed by it but then I already had this one too. I just put it off for all this time, not hoping for much with this book. 
Because I'm trying to go through some long standing books in my pile, I added up this one for my February reads.

In this book we have Bree O'Brien's story, she is a play-writer who has had some bad reviews on her plays and is reconsidering giving up and doing something else. While debating things, she does open a flower shop in her hometown, she is going to be near her family, re connect with some friends and maybe with Jake, her ex boyfriend, who she left when she went ahead to work in Chicago.
Although facing some inner struggles and some decisions in her past, Bree finds courage and determination to succeed in her new business and regaining the roots she lost, including her relationship with her mother. Will Bree just let go her doubts and embrace the new possibilities in front of her?

This book is labeled contemporary romance by most readers but it has a very strong vibe of woman's fiction, to be honest, because it doesn't have enough romance to balance all the drama.
In fact, this is the biggest problem I find with the author: her stories - if are all in the same lines as the two books I've read so far - are simply too elaborate and not in a complex situation kind of way, everything just takes forever to be dealt with and most situations go o an on and we barely see a moving on forward. It can become a bit annoying when you read about an issue, they don't solve it, they get back to it again and still go on until you get to the end and the whole thing wasn't dealt with properly. What's the point? I was not convinced by this book's resolution so...

Can the problem be that the stories are too analytic? For me it looked like it because the main characters, Bree and Jake, think and do things and think some more and say they need to solve this and that but they talk endlessly about everything. I don't think this was very romantic either. They had history, some bad stuff to deal with emotionally but those things lost importance by all the talking and thinking. It got boring.

The interactions with secondary characters might make this easier to read and some things were interesting, I did like Jake's relationship with his best friends, Will and Mack.
But all family relationships that mattered to this plot were explored to the point and not always in a positive way. In real life, it's obviously positive if you talk and communicate with your family but in a romance, to add a drama layer to every single interaction can become tiresome. I often asked myself while reading if real people really behave like this but if so, no wonder we prefer fiction. 

The plot isn't complicated and of course it's good things are properly mentioned and discussed. But I found the problems repetitive and without closure. I see some things are supposed to be dealt with as the series advances, as many things relate to other characters, other siblings as well. But the "community" in this book wasn't always appealing to spend some time with. The pace doesn't always match the same situation happening and being discussed.

The romance felt flat to me. Bree is an interesting character but I didn't find her likable in every aspect. Jake I liked more, but for him to give in to a situation they didn't truly solved, despite all the conversations they had...the end was positive but certainly not romantic and I still didn't get the feeling all their issues were solved, which means a lot after so many pages around the same.
The fact this is, at its base, a lovers reunited plot, same as with the first book, certainly didn't help me in wanting to like their story.

I probably won't read another book so soon. I do feel intrigued by the next sibling's story and romance, but to go again through all the complicated relationships and its dramas makes me tired.
I think I'll stop here with this author unless one day I'm very desperate or some emergency makes me want to try again. I still feel bad, though...what a pity, such beautiful covers, I love landscape covers!, but the content isn't as appealing. This could be a wonderful and sweet series but I think it isn't presented the best way.
Grade: 5/10

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

JR Ward - Immortal

The Creator invented the game, and the stakes are nothing less than the fate of the quick and the dead: seven souls, seven crossroads. Reluctant savior Jim Heron has compromised himself, his body and his soul, and yet he’s on the verge of losing everything...
...Including Sissy, the innocent he freed from Hell. Jim’s determined to protect her—but this makes her a weakness the demon Devina can exploit. With Jim torn between the game and the woman he’s sworn to defend, evil’s more than ready to play dirty.
Humanity’s savior is prepared to do anything to win—even embark on a suicide mission into the shadows of Purgatory. True love is Jim’s only hope for survival—and victory. But can a man with no heart and no soul be saved by something he doesn’t believe in?

Comment: Although I consider myself a fan of this author, the truth is I didn't have any trouble waiting to read this book. I've had it in the pile practically since it was released but I admit I wasn't feeling very eager to read it. I like the author as a writer and I still love the BDB, the series that really hooked me to PNR. But this Fallen Angel series, no matter how interesting some scenes, didn't win me over as easily.

In this 6th and final installment, we finally have the battle between Good and Evil and the solution for Jim's task and whether is can be accomplished successfully or not. In the previous book, Jim forfeited a win in order to save Sissy but now he pays a price too heavy on his heart. But as the final soul comes near, who wins it may become the winner of the game the Creator has started.
Could Jim be the savior anyone wants him to become or will he let his anger and past be the final straw that will unbalance things to the side of evil?

Two things that stay with me after having read this final book, especially after all the sort of secret "aura" given to the books and what would happen in them: the battle seems redundant, considering the key players and the end of this books feels rather incomplete and unimportant to the whole scheme of things if we barely see a reference to the previous characters and the ole they played in the whole thing.

To me, the biggest problem in all this is that too much page time was dedicated to Devina, the villain, and not to the connections between characters, namely the good ones. It makes all this sound silly considering we more or less expected the good guys to win. If the lesson is supposed to be about the hearts and actions of the souls to be saved, it was great they were important in their books, but what about now? Sure, Jim has always been the key player but the way this final book showed things, all the other things lost some importance. Why do we need to spend so much time in Devina's head - even if her character is important to the story - and not with the characters that obviously need to make the biggest change?

I liked the overall feel of the story, how the good ones tried their best to accomplish what they had to and how many inner thoughts were shared with us but the romance between Jim and Sissy, after everything, every sacrifice, could have been even sweeter. Jim is not a sweet guy, I know, but come on, everything he did was because of Sissy, I kind of wanted them to interact and bond more. Even the physical aspect, which had importance because of Sissy's role in all this, wasn't as romantic or special as I imagined after so many books.

I still feel dedicated to the author's writing, but it seems she is looking more towards individuals and not couples or the developments always necessary to the better improvement of the protagonists. Who are Jim and Sissy together? If certain aspects of their lives/personalities were given importance before, why not now?
Anyway, I liked Adrien and all the other secondary characters, I liked how some feelings were explored in specific contexts (like Nigel's inadequacy feelings or Adrien's losses) but they also almost felt like adds up to what could have been a stronger central romance.

Overall, I liked many parts of the book, many scenes, but when I think of the big picture, it's not as intensely romantic as I expected, after all the buzz.
The end was sweet, hopeful of course but a little bit bland. It was not a complete surprise but I imagined a different, better scenario to fit all the struggles and fights of before.
I finished the book feeling better than worse, though, because the series has an end and not a dried up version of an end. Better to stop before things get too tricky or out of familiar and expected content. Still, entertaining.
Grade: 7/10

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Molly Harper - Snow Falling on Bluegrass

Kentucky Tourism Commission employee and executive assistant extraordinaire Kelsey is known around the office for having everything under control. So it’s not surprising that she and her boss, Sadie, have everything planned to the second for the office winter retreat. But there are things even Kelsey can’t micromanage.
An unprecedented snowstorm smothers half of Kentucky and knocks out the power, closes the roads, and generally shuts down the state. Luckily, the lodge has working fireplaces and enough food to keep the staff from turning on each other like something out of The Shining. Kelsey wouldn’t mind being stuck inside if it wasn’t for the tension with her not-so-secret crush, Charlie, the office’s statistician. But handsome Ranger Luke, the lodge’s only employee on hand, is there to take Kelsey’s mind off her discomfort.
Even though this weekend is supposed to be a planning session for KTC, Kelsey can’t help her mind from wandering and finds herself conflicted over Luke and Charlie. Someone’s love will keep her warm, but whose will it be?

Comment: This is the third installment in the Bluegrass series by author Molly Harper, featuring a team of employers from the Kentucky Tourism Commission. I wasn't totally excited about this because the previous book kind of let me down but I had hopes for this one. Again, the characterization is perfect but the romance not much.

This is Kelsey's story. Everyone has wanted her to leave Darrell, the boyfriend who spend her money and didn't work, always complaining about this or that. When this book begins, the employers are leaving for a team retreat and Kelsey has recently broken things up with Darrell. Maybe this will be the time to see if her long lasted attraction and love for co worker Charlie might have some chance.
However, the team is caught on a snowstorm at the hotel and there's only one employee to help them, ranger Luke. He seems interested but can Kelsey just put aside that Charlie is right there?

The best thing about these little stories is the humor and the details about each character, and every single thought behind anything they do. The author took time to create them and to give them all specific quirks that make look funny and cute but also a little bit cartoonish at times. But there's a good balance in what they think and what they stand for so it's more a feeling of getting to know someone different but likable.

Another great aspect is the details about the character' work. I mean, we do learn a lot about how certain things work or can be dealt with if all these informations are correct. At least they do look well researched and presented. I liked the thought I was seeing how real people deal with situations, even obviously knowing the characters are fiction. But the possibility work related to Tourism Commissions can have some sort of truth in all the elements given is interesting.

What wasn't as amazing was how the technical side of every little thing the characters did seemed to be given more focus than the character's interactions or the relationships between them. When we do had this, something would happen and the emotional development I was hoping for wouldn't be addressed as seriously as I would have liked. I understand this is supposed to be funny and that's great but in some details, less could be better.

The romance too, wasn't as explored as it deserved. After getting a hint here and there in the previous books about Kelsey's crush on Charlie and the possibility he might like her as well, I wanted a more intense romance, or more "romantic". The conversations they had weren't as deep as I think they should have been and when they do talk and agree to try, something happens and there's some angst before the final HEA. The book is already short and with so many pages dedicated to other stuff, I really think the romance was barely dealt with, even if we acknowledge they were already in love.

The whole snowed in aspect was interesting and allowed for some funny scenes and developments but... I don't know, I expected something along these lines, this is not my first book by the author but I think there is some balance missing from this book and the previous, at least when comparing to the first one and some other titles by the author.
I understand the fun side of things but in some cases, it can be a little too much.
Grade: 6/10

Friday, February 17, 2017

Lane Hayes - A Kind of Romance

Zeke Gulden is a ruthless Wall Street exec. His hard-edged, no-nonsense attitude has served him well in the cutthroat business world, but less so in his personal life. When he finds out his ex-boyfriend cheated on him with a coworker, Zeke can’t let go—not until he finds a way to get even. However, his meddlesome father has other ideas. The new hire at the family-owned bagel store is somewhat colorful, but his dad is sure he’s the perfect man for Zeke.
Benny Ruggieri is a fiercely proud New Yorker who dreams of making it big as a costume designer in the theater. In the meantime, he’s working two part-time jobs in the food biz. When his new boss sets him up with his successful son, Benny has zero expectations. If nothing else, he figures he can entertain himself by making the uptight businessman squirm. Instead, the two become unlikely friends with an inexplicable attraction they can’t ignore. Benny might be the one to help Zeke set aside his quest for revenge, if he’s willing to let go and forgive what he can’t forget… and give in to an unexpected kind of romance.

Comment: This is the second installment in the A Kind of Stories trilogy by author Lane Hayes. This is Benny's story, a friend of Will from the previous book. I was quite eager to try this one after having enjoyed the other book so much. This one seemed a little less magnificent but so far this trilogy has been quite amazing to me.

In this second installment we follow Zeke's voice, he's one of the sons of mr Gulden, the owner of the bagel shop where Rand used to work and where Benny helps now as well. Zeke works high finance and wanted to separate himself from his father's shops and dealings. It's not that he doesn't like his father but they tend to clash. however, when he is told his father hit hid head he goes to the hospital and meets Benny, someone he immediately dismisses even if there's something about him...
Benny knows his book is a matchmaker and seems to think Zeke would be his perfect other half but do they really have something in common? One daring date probably would solve everything but what if they do hit if off?

Probably, the only major thing I'd change in these books is the narrator's voice. I liked Rand in the first book and I didn't have anything against Zeke in this one but often in a romance it's great if we can have both takes on things. I think these books are quite balanced in this aspect but t wouldn't hurt to have a third person narrating, that would increase the relationship angle for better, in my opinion.

I liked this story. Not as much as the other because this one seemed to have  a lesser focus on the romance in the way that although there are romantic scenes and this is a romantic story, the relationship between the two protagonists felt a little bit more clinical. Yes, they agree to a date just to see what they can talk about, and yes, things progress quite nicely, yes we are convinced they are falling in love but the way those things happen aren't as amazing as I hoped for.

Maybe my problem is the characters themselves... I liked them as a couple, I liked several parts of them, especially the emotional level they were showing when dealing with important tasks/situations, etc. But Benny seems to want to shock or to at least not hide from others his real thoughts and preferences and Zeke is a bit too quiet and "cold". I get it that this works out and they balance each other well but their personalities, no matter how charming at times, weren't always convincing or appealing to me.
Zeke, in particular, also had some issues with his father abut his own youth and his father's role in how he saw himself growing up.. it was an interesting take on a father/son relationship, especially when one of them is gay. The closure on this is one of the things that made me appreciate Zeke a bit more.

Something I liked too was the emotional development we saw the characters go through. Both had an idea about what it would mean to be together, to just see what it was between them, as a way to appease Zeke's father into thinking they tried...but the real connection they form seems believable. I liked all the little steps they took, all the sweet moments they shared. 
Of course there was an antagonist here, that was there - in my opinion - to simply act as a propeller to make Zeke realize what he had with Benny was true and could be forever. I don't really mind this tactic but it didn't make things work out as smoothly as I hoped for, considering all the things they were going through.
Zeke, as the narrator, also seems to have something more to deal with. He has his own mind, his father's opinion and his mother's illness. It's a bit too much but... it does provide interesting scenes and dialogues.

I liked the secondary characters. It seems everyone had a purpose, with more or less importance, and things went well, the pace was fluid... I wasn't as marveled with this book overall, but I still had a great time reading. I'm very eager to read the final story and I hope it's as good as these first two were.
Grade: 8/10

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Kevin Hearne - Hounded

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.
Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

Comment: This is the book chosen for this month's read in my book club. I had never heard of this author and seeing how prolific this series is, I started the book with some doubts, if it was good I would feel inclined to read everything but if not it was easier. How things turned up, however, is that I still don't know if I liked this enough to keep reading.

In this book we meet Atticus O' Sullivan, the last Druid to ever exist. Being an old druid doesn't seem real when Atticus looks like a young man and works at a bookstore in Arizona. When this book starts, Atticus is told an old enemy, an ancient Irish god is looking for him to get the sword - which rightfully belongs to Atticus - he wants back and what should Atticus do? Along with his wolfhound Oberon and a good sized cast of gods and goddesses and witches and supernatural beings, Atticus will use all his cleverness to not only keep his sword but defeat the god that has made him hide so well for all this time... 

I'm still wondering how I feel about this book. I mean, I did like it and it was fun to see all the interactions between characters but there's still something missing, which i can't really pinpoint but that doesn't let me say with more conviction that it was great.
I think that the story is well thought, the author has managed to insert countless details about myths and characters from several mythology pantheons which makes this feel very complete. I didn't check all the information given but everything seemed to be credible and that added interest to the plot. It was nice to see all the maneuvers around the plot.

I think that one element I would definitely change is the narrator. I totally understand the appeal and tactic of a first person narrator but I just can't forget how much more information about more important things we could get in that way. And more, when it comes to other characters' motivations or thoughts, it's all nice to see them talk and act in relation to the main character but it's different if we could have access to private thoughts of others too.
I liked Atticus in general. Many say he acts too young for his real age but sincerely, I liked him as he is and that was the least of the details that made me think about going on with the series or not.

I liked the pacing. It was good to go step by step into each situation while still having an idea of the overall picture. Obviously, I liked some scenes/situations more than others and I was entertained for the most part. I just think that some things weren't as seamlessly as the author probably wanted it to be and to me it shows when we have some new information coming at a time where it didn't make sense. The fact we had explanation after didn't make this look "quirky" to me, and was in fact a little bit annoying. 

Many people comment on the humor and  did find some scenes funny, especially when Oberon was in the area. But I wouldn't say this is a funny book. I do think it's lighter in terms of emotional content than some other UF series out there. It's good, to me, that not everything is life and death and doom in the horizon. But this also means some situations don't seem to have as much importance as they are credited. Maybe it's just my impression.

The secondary characters are interesting, yes. One of the things that would make me want to keep reading is to find out what happens to some of them and if they keep on being key to the plot. And, if I may dream a bit, perhaps they can also evolve emotionally and become more fleshed out and not as mighty-powerful-with-no-care-about-others as they looked like to me here? Anyway, I will hope for it and maybe the next book has the "improvements" I imagine in my head.
I'm not going to get it right now but I'll try the second one day...
Grade: 7/10

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

TBR Challenge: Aly Martinez - Fighting Silence

I've always been a fighter. With parents who barely managed to stay out of jail and two little brothers who narrowly avoided foster care, I became skilled at dodging the punches life threw at me. Growing up, I didn’t have anything I could call my own, but from the moment I met Eliza Reynolds, she was always mine. I became utterly addicted to her and the escape from reality we provided each other. Throughout the years, she had boyfriends and I had girlfriends, but there wasn't a single night that I didn’t hear her voice.
You see, meeting the love of my life at age thirteen was never part of my plan. However, neither was gradually going deaf at the age of twenty-one.
They both happened anyway.
Now, I'm on the ropes during the toughest battles of my life.
Fighting for my career. Fighting the impending silence. Fighting for her.
Every night, just before falling asleep, she sighs as a final conscious breath leaves her.
I think that's the sound I'll miss the most.

Comment: Time flies and here we are again, with another TBR challenge book. This month the theme is new-to-you-author and, as always, this is one of the easiest themes for me because I do have many books to read by unknown authors. This book is the first in the On the Ropes trilogy, it was also a recommendation and has a good average score on Goodreads. I thought it would be a good read for me, even more because it features a hero that would go deaf. I really wanted to see that play out. But in the end the story ended up a bit meh for me.

In this story we meet quite the cast of characters, being the main one Till Page, a kid that has grown up in an unloving house, he took care of his younger brothers and his only escape was an abandoned apartment he went in through a window One day, he finds there a young girl, Eliza, also running from her uncaring parents. That turns into their personal heaven and they become friends but at school they never talk and Till pretends Eliza doesn't exist. As years go by, we see these two grow up and all the challenges they face, both physical and financially, and all things that help them, namely Till's love for boxing and the doors it opens up for him and how working for happiness is the lesson to learn...

Sometimes amazing recommendations and opinions and even some elements that we recognize as almost spot on to our personal tastes don't really make a perfect read. I liked some things about this book but it only went as far as average to me, especially because I can't not focus on the things I liked less. Maybe I let my opinion be colored by my tastes but it's still an opinion.

I'm not exactly a fan of NA, mostly because characters tend to act as teenagers anyway and that has become super annoying to me. In this book we have characters going through so many domestic situations they would grow up very fast and in some situations, that was shown, but in others not so much. I guess everyone has weak moments and less than stellar performances but... I found the investment in their mature personalities and behavior not always as consistent as that.

Another thing that was super, super annoying to me, at least, was the continuous change in time. We have some chapters, some parts of the story with them as children, then time moves on, then some more scenes, then another six months, then one year later, then five years, then some more months...I mean, we get glimpses of what they are doing and feeling in a specific moment but we don't stay there. I get it that we learn interesting things this way but it feels so unsettled, it's difficult to pinpoint the key scenes that matter if you have to focus on something else again. Each step has a purpose, I know it, made me lose focus and removed some of the angst I'm sure was part of the author's point here.

I liked some situations and I specifically liked how Till got his head straight because he had a passion and good manners and he worked hard to impress his boss who became a friend as well. The working relationship between Till and Slate and the secondary characters were probably what I liked the most. I also liked some emotional elements we learn from almost every character, even at a small scale and it's obvious the author has thought about all things but the structure just didn't win me over.

This book also shows a character that fights going deaf. I really expected most of the book to be focusing on that but no. It's something we see, it's dealt with but mostly towards the end. All those pages dedicated to the guy's childhood and teenage years can have interest but surely removed attention from we are supposed to get and to me, this was a pity.

The romance...well I don't have any special opinion on this, I think we have many scenes with them to know they love each other but honestly I never felt I was reading about Eliza the way I was about Till. He is clearly the focus and she almost looks like a sidekick. Besides the fact she is nice, they like her, she is an artist who worked accountant and hated it, she wasn't as well developed.
We also have Eliza and Till as the narrators throughout the book. This allows us to get a reading on them but I admit I usually prefer a third person narrator.

The next stories in the trilogy feature Till's brothers but I've peeked at some reviews and some of the issues I had seem to happen again in those books (namely in terms of writing and narrative structure). I'm still debating if I want to go through it all again. I feel some interest in the next one, considering the things we saw at the end of this book but...
Overall, this had interesting, good elements but some things in it didn't appeal to me and I'm sure it can to other readers but it just didn't make me want to keep reading and some parts also seemed a bit repetitive. It's not exactly bad but it wasn't the marvel I expected..or maybe I just didn't get into it well.
Grade: 5/10

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Beverly Adam - The Spinster and the Earl

She was known as The Spinster of Brightwood Manor, and that suited Lady Beatrice O’Brien just fine.
She was happy being a spinster; happy running her father’s estates while amassing a fortune of her own; happy tending to the needs of her community; and most of all, she was happy not having a man around to tell her what to do.
But when Beatrice accidentally shoots her new neighbor, the Earl of Drennan, her life turns upside-down. Suddenly, this very arrogant gentleman, who also happens to be charming and attractive, makes himself at home at Brightwood Manor, and proceeds to court her!
Beatrice knows one thing for certain. Marriage will complicate her life. But falling in love? That’s an entirely different matter.

Comment: I got to be aware of this book some months ago, I can't precise exactly when and I don't really remember why I decided it would be a good idea to read it. The fact it had the premise the main couple would go through a enemies to lovers kind of trope probably had something to do with it but after all this time I no longer know. Anyway, it was in the pile and this month I added it to my reading list.

This is the story of feisty Lady Beatrice, she's an only child and the current lady of Brightwood Manor, she's used to deal with everything her own way and she is quite determined and confident in her abilities. Lady Beatrice is considered a spinster but she doesn't mind because she is used to do things her own way.
One day, she accidentally shoots a man and she finds out he is her new sort of neighbor and because of his injuries and not cared for house, he stays at her father's house instead, to recover. The two of them come closer together and seem to be attracted to one another but if only their attraction weren't disguised by Lady Beatrice's antagonism and her new neighbor's arrogance and secret plans...

Oh what to say about this novel... I still can't really find a logical manner on how to best describe my impressions about it. It just seemed too boring and unappealing to me.
This is the first book I've tried by the author and I can't really say it was a pleasure nor do I feel inclined to try something else by her. Sometimes things just don't work out for us.
I found the writing too difficult. I understand the intent of the Irish way of speaking, it did add veracity to some scenes and to the characters but being english my second language I struggled. Of course this is not the author's fault but as a rule it does not allow for many people to simply enjoy the story if so often one has to decipher or go through parts that aren't fluid or easy to grasp.

The narrative also seemed boring to me. The elements that would have made this a vibrant read, the magical coins, the feisty heroine, the cat and mouse sort of game the main couple would play until admitting they were in love, all this felt flat to me because it was done in a way I only saw as almost silly. The magical coin would have been interesting if it really played a part but as it is, I feel it was just an appropriation of Irish folklore and not really developed. The relationship that would have amazing felt like a childish game, considering the protagonist's personalities.
I confess I found the POVs from lady Beatrice's father to be rather silly as well. I think overall this story had interesting base elements but the tone of the narrative and some details were a bit too silly and not well explored in the serious way I'd expect from the narrator's "voice".

I didn't like lady Beatrice. I do admire her sense of enterprise, her need to be as independent as she can and her opinions on it but her behavior and her way of treating others seemed childish and not amusing at all. I also don't think someone in her position would ever act like that. Is this meant to be a comedy? Then, some things make more sense but I just didn't get any fun out of reading it.
The hero whose name I can't say from memory was bland. He had secret agendas, interests, but of course the heroine was just too perfect for me and everything else seemed like a game for them both. I wouldn't say their romance was "romantic" nor do I feel their HEA was as destined as we often feel when we finish a good romance.

The inklings about future stories just didn't do anything for me and I found everyone to be very boring and without any little reference that would make me curious. Another thing: many other readers mentioned in their reviews how everyone treated the hero by "your grace", something apparently only dukes would receive? but in this case, an earl was acknowledged this way. Is this an Irish thing? I can't tell but it seemed annoying to me. Also too annoying were plot inconsistencies...
Anyway, certainly the author was dedicated to this and that only proves some effort but I can't feel glad I read it not do I want to try it again with another book in the series.
Grade: 3/10