Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bonnie Dee - The Tutor

Seeing an ad for a position at a Yorkshire estate, typesetter Graham Cowrie decides to make an upward career move by passing himself off as a tutor. How hard can it be to teach a few subjects to a pair of nine-year-old boys? But on his arrival at the ancient house, he finds the staff creepy, the twins odd, and the widowed master temporarily absent.
His first meeting with brooding, stern, but oh-so-attractive, Sir Richard doesn’t go well, but with no other prospects vying for the teaching position, Graham manages to keep it. His mission soon becomes clear, break down the walls of reserve both father and sons have erected and attempt to bridge the gap between them.
But strange sounds, sights and experiences keep Graham on edge until he finally admits the Hall is haunted by two entities with very different agendas. Graham works to appease one and combat the other while protecting the broken family he’s grown to care for.

Comment: When I first saw references to this book I immediately thought about romances where the employer falls for the employee and vice versa and that convinced me to try it. This month, I finally got to it.

This is the story of Graham Cowrie, a young man who replied to an ad for a tutor at a remote Yorkshire estate. He thought he would have an easy job, a safe enough time and at the end of it, good references to make him go one step forward in the world. What Graham didn't count on was to like the boys he would be tutoring nor their reserved father. But the problems start because the estate seems to be filled with strange presences and auras and something must exist there besides the few employees.
At the end of it, can Graham help the family or will he be just more more person to fall victim to the depressive aura in the estate?

I had the idea this book would be more romantic than what it ended up being. I also thought it would be an interesting take on the governess trope we often see in regency books but with male protagonists. The story isn't bad but there were some issues that made me not like this as much as I wished.

The book is narrated by Graham, which is already limitative in terms of what we can see and know from other characters, especially if Graham himself isn't part of the scene. I understand 1st person narrators but it's not a working technique for all stories and in this case, I think a 3rd person narrator would have worked better. Just think about the whole potential we loose by not having access to what the other protagonist is feeling.

Something that also caught my notice and that I'd change is the character's interactions. I know this is meant to have a gothic feel and some situations are supposed to make you think and dread what's coming (it's not scary, though even if that would be one of the goals) but all the characters were gloomy except the narrator and one of the boys. I mean, ok, that suits the story but it's so unrealistic and I couldn't think or focus on that when I was noticing the things that were over the top, like this and the need for scary thoughts - which weren't.

The plot is quite simple, Graham feels presences in the house, he sort of realizes who and why, he knows that's what makes the house creepy - but not - and what the solution could be. In the meantime, his employer finds out his real occupation and that Graham wasn't completely true when stating his past references and work. This should have presented more drama added to the ghost and spirits thing, but no, at this point we already got the idea there was attraction between Graham and Richard, the father of the boys he was tutoring.

To me, the relationship between the two men was the biggest let down. I expected romance, despite everything but to me their story wasn't very romantic. Even the connection between them didn't feel especially strong but then again, we only have Graham's POV. Still, it's not something impossible to develop as seen in other books out there, but Richard is in a mental and emotional position that a relationship with Graham simply didn't seem real. Plus, Richard, supposedly a member of the aristocracy and used to manage estates and people was too "scared" of his feelings. I can understand why, and how his psyche could be weak after the things he saw and the consequences of his actions but he acted like, I'm sorry to say, a pansy. I mean, he didn't inspire much apart from Graham's lust and the little scenes where they supposedly connect intimately didn't ring true for me.
Graham is the stronger element for several reasons but their relationship never felt balanced nor romantic and the end just validated all my concerns about their HEA, it was too sugary and unlikely.

I suppose there are good elements here but in my opinion they weren't explored the best way they could, namely the ghost concept and the tutoring of the boys. Graham felt too unconcerned at times about his position and although I admire his attempts, he wasn't professional all the time. Maybe if he did, his newfound relationship with Richard might have looked more desperate, in the sense that their connection would feel inevitable. The way things were, it just seemed as if Graham did what he could to seduce Richard, apart from jumping him. 

Anyway, this wasn't completely bad, some of the scenes and moods explored were interesting, strong enough...but overall, I wasn't convinced by this and not even the captivating way the boys were presented is enough to save this from its less than good situations.
Grade: 5/10

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Molly Harper - My Bluegrass Baby

Sadie Hutchins loves her job at the Kentucky Tourism Commission. Not only could her co-workers double as the cast of Parks & Recreation, but she loves finding the unusual sites, hidden gems, and just-plain-odd tourist attractions of her home state. She’s a shoo-in for the director’s job when her boss retires at the end of the year…until hotshot Josh Vaughn shows up to challenge her for the position.
Josh is all sophisticated polish while Sadie’s country comfort, and the two have very different ideas of what makes a good campaign. So when their boss pits them against each other in a winner-takes-all contest, they’re both willing to fight dirty if it means getting what they want. But it turns out, what Josh and Sadie want could be each other—and Josh’s kisses are the best Kentucky attraction Sadie’s found yet!

Comment: Since I've found this author I've been curious about her writing and one of her series was quite good and I enjoyed that trilogy a lot, while another book wasn't as interesting to me. I had hopes about her contemporary romances and I've decided to add those to my list. This month, I finally got to the first one.
It was also handy this was a buddy read...sadly my buddy read friend hasn't got the time to read lately so I read this alone. But well, I would anyway!

In this story we meet some of the workers of the Kentucky Tourism Comission and the trilogy revolves around them. In this first story we focus on Sadie Hutchins, the director's assistant who, when the book begins, is certain - and her boss told her so - she will get a promotion. But, in a surprising twist, the boss of them all has another name lined up, Josh Vaughn, some guy she never met and who she thinks won't get the identity of Kentucky people and their quirky habits.
The battle begins and after many childish warfare tactics, Josh and Sadie agree on a compromise to see who will be the best person for the job. But can they work together after all?

I liked this book, I think it was entertaining, fluid, easy, had many interesting facts and notions, especially about Kentucky, the characters were as amusing as most of the authors' characters are. I just think the main characters didn't seem to have as much chemistry as one would expect.

The plot is quite funny, the situations while Josh and Sadie fight/battle over who does what or who gains the office warfare are cute, as are several situations where they get involved but in terms of actual plot development not much happens. The idea one of them will get the director's job is a good base to all this but the development doesn't always match up. Still, getting to learn many interesting factoids about Kentucky and how costumes vs tourist's expectations is a real issue was great. I work in tourism so that side of the plot was one of the things I liked the best.

The personal relationship between Josh and Sadie was sadly weak, in my opinion. The story is told from Sadie's POV and this is an author's trademark after all, but again, I feel it was such a pit because so many things would have been better presented with a 3rd person narrator. We lose so many things not having Josh's POV and I think that Sadie isn't always a character I want to be close to. Not that she is a bad person, in fact she quite realistic, but I think we don't know her that well and that's bad because, by consequence, we don't know Josh either. I can't tell if it's the author herself choosing this or if Sadie as a character simply isn't that interesting....
The romance is cute, there are some sweet scenes, especially when they bond and later on when they become friends, but in terms of passion and chemistry I feel something is lacking. I'm glad for them but their personalities never made me cheer them endlessly. 

The secondary characters were all very interesting, all of them as quirky as Kentucky itself and I felt very curious about them all and will look forward to see them in the next books as well. Because we get only Sadie's POV, I'm particularly interested in the characters she interacted the most with. I think that Sadie's relationship with her friends was stronger than with Josh, which tells me a lot about where the focus was or how lacking the romance ended up being for me.

All things considered, it's always obvious this is a book by Molly Harper, there's fun and fluidity in her writing but in this case I think the romance just wasn't as well used as she could. Maybe the page length had something to do with it, but it was too straight in the rules, they were enemies, then they weren't...I just never felt they had to be together in the end...
Still, a good effort.
Grade: 7/10

Monday, October 24, 2016


 When her chronically unemployed husband runs off to start a crocodile farm in Kenya with his mistress, Joséphine Cortès is left in an unhappy state of affairs. The mother of two—confident, beautiful teenage Hortense and shy, babyish Zoé—is forced to maintain a stable family life while making ends meet on her meager salary as a medieval history scholar. Meanwhile, Joséphine’s charismatic sister Iris seems to have it all—a wealthy husband, gorgeous looks, and a très chic Paris address—but she dreams of bringing meaning back into her life. When Iris charms a famous publisher into offering her a lucrative deal for a twelfth-century romance, she offers her sister a deal of her own: Joséphine will write the novel and pocket all the proceeds, but the book will be published under Iris’s name. All is well—that is, until the book becomes the literary sensation of the season.

Jerusalem, 70 AD. As the legions of Rome besiege the Holy Temple, a boy is given a secret that he
must guard with his life...Southern Germany, December 1944. Six emaciated prisoners drag a mysterious crate deep into a disused mine. They too give their lives to keep the secret safe: murdered by their Nazi guards...Egypt, Valley of the Kings, the present day. A body is found amongst some ruins. It appears to be an open-and-shut case for Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor police. But what begins as a routine investigation rapidly turns out to be the most trying case of his career. Forced into an uneasy alliance with Arieh Ben-Roi, a hard-drinking Jerusalem detective, and Layla al-Madani, a daring Palestinian journalist, Khalifa enters a murky, murderous world of greed, duplicity, intrigue and revenge as he goes in search of an extraordinary long-lost artifact that could, in the wrong hands, turn the Middle East into a blood bath. Traveling from ancient Jerusalem to contemporary Egypt, and involving Cathar heretics, coded medieval manuscripts, and hidden Nazi treasures, The Last Secret of the Temple is an absorbing thriller set against the tumultuous politics of the present-day Middle East.

 -> Two more mini comments on books I've recently read in Portuguese. The first  was borrowed, the other is mine. Both weren't priorities but in a way it good to have them out of the pile.

The Last Secret of the Temple is a contemporary story featuring an Egyptian police inspector and shows his efforts to solve a crime. This is a stand alone story but it can be read as part of a series if we think about the protagonist.
In this book, there are two main ideas being developed, the investigation of the crime and the war between Palestine and Israel.With time we realize both things are connected within the plot.
I liked the book because it was easy to read, the writing is fluid and accessible. Obviously, the themes not so much and the conflict we see everyday on television is well portrayed here. How easy it would be to find peace but...
The fictional part of the book was OK, not the best plot ever but it includes several interesting facts and ideas. To be honest, the end was sort of over the top. I understand the need to present something amazing but there was no need. In the end it was quite the story, I was entertained but certain plot moves weren't necessary in my opinion.
Grade: 7/10

The Yellow Eyes of the Crocodiles is a contemporary romance where we meet Josephine, a woman in her early 40s and someone very tired with life. Josephine's husband eventually leaves after she threw him out, but the bills keep piling up. Somehow Josephine manages to find work, besides her own, doing small translations and writing papers and that brings in some more money but it isn't until her older, rich and confident sister proposes her a deal that her life starts to change quickly...
The book isn't so bad in general but the cast is truly a challenge. I liked Josephine as protagonist but her daughter Hortense is more than annoying. The story is clearly meant to be a satire of today's busy lives and what happens if we lose our own personality under all the problems and difficulties we face but I never warmed up to any character and most of them are in situations too cliché to be considered special. Yes, it was fun to see some things happen but most of the time I struggled to just like them. I finished the book quickly because from a certain point on, it's just like a soap opera. I liked the fact I could finish but to me it's not as amazing as all the critics have led me to think when the book was published.
Grade: 5/10

Friday, October 21, 2016

Lorraine Heath - Between the Devil and Desire

The ladies of the ton won't stop whispering about deliciously wicked Jack Dodger—once a thieving street urchin, now the wealthy owner of London's most exclusive gentleman's club. There's no pleasure he hasn't enjoyed, no debauchery the handsome scoundrel won't provide for the lords who flock to his house of carnal intrigue.
Olivia, Duchess of Lovingdon, would never associate with such a rogue. So when Jack is named sole heir to the duke's personal possessions, the beautiful, well-bred lady is outraged. Now, Olivia is forced to share her beloved home with this despicable man.
But Olivia's icy disdain is no match for Jack's dangerous charm. His touch awakens desire. His kiss demands surrender. She will struggle to bar Jack from her heart...but her body, coveting divine release, will not let her bar him from her bed.

Comment: After having read and liked the first book in this Scoundrels of St James series, of course I would have to keep reading. This month I added this title to my list in hopes of keeping up with the adventures of the group of friends we met in book #1.

In this story we follow Jack Dodger, the risk taker of the group and the one the ones looked up to in trouble, not because Jack had the means to help them but because he would invent one way to make it so. But beneath Jack's appearance of nonchalance and indifference, he is very much attentive to his surroundings and with an anonymous helper, he managed to have his own business and became able to help many unfortunate ones like he and his friends used to be.
What Jack didn't expect was to be given the task to be guardian to a little boy, the son of a duke he was never friends with and he has no idea why he was chosen, even more so when the young widow and the boy's mother also has no clue about her late husband's idea. At first Jack only wants to provoke her out of her superior ways but getting to know her proves to be more challenging to his state of mind than what he ever imagined possible...

Months after reading the first book in the series I confess I didn't remember certain things but one thing is certain, the main ideas come to you because the author has inserted the needed information with precise splashes of knowledge without making it look like an info dump on readers. I no longer remembered certain things but I managed to have a global idea again without having to consult the first book. This is not easy to accomplish, so great work, author.

This story follows the first one pretty much right after and now we have Jack Dodger's tale. He seemed quite obnoxious and bent on his ways in book #1, in fact I think he is clearly shown in a not so positive light on purpose but now that we get to know him, his past, his fears and his hidden good guy personality, I think he is more than an worthy hero. I liked getting to know him better and his personality is quite tempered because he isn't perfect, he still acts rather sneaky at times but deep down he is as good any other hero.

The heroine, Olivia, seems one thing at first but she almost blooms from the moment she meets Jack and is more or less forced to interact with him. Se seems a bit too unmovable at first and that makes her hard to be likable but with time I think the author developed her personality well and one things is certain, she is a good, dedicated mother, even if slightly over the top here and there. But she had good reasons. 
I liked Olivia and Jack together, especially because it wasn't immediate and it wasn't done just because the story had to have a romance. Their relationship was believable and well paced.

The plot is interesting, I liked the slow development of everything...the bad guy/villain here is creepy, obviously that is on purpose but there is a certain lack of balance in the pace here. We barely have clues about why him and why like that and in the end all is found rather quickly. I don't mean to say we should have known about him and his motives sooner nor do I think more details were necessary, but some changes would have make him better matched with the rest of the plot moves.

There are some surprises that I didn't see coming. Ok, some were rather obvious, but I still don't think it had to be with those explanations. I get that the impact was much better that way but it still feels a bit too obvious at times and honestly, some explanations were avoidable, I mean, the story would have been perfect enough without the extra about Jack's parents identities, for instance.
I liked the secondary characters appearances, especially the couple from book #1 and the other friends, I now can't wait to have Franny's story.

Many readers prefer the author's western romances but I'm very fond of these regency stories as well and I'm looking for to read more.
Jack and Olivia ended up being a good couple and I wanted to keep reading all the time, so... that is a positive for me.
Grade: 8/10

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

TBR Challenge: JD Tyler - Savage Awakening

After one of their own is captured, the Alpha Pack must save him. With them is Psy Dreamwalker Rowan Chase. Her priority is her brother's rescue. What she doesn't bargain for is a scorching affair with a rugged wolf shifter. When his life is endangered, Rowan must ask herself what she's willing to sacrifice in the name of love.

Comment: Another read for the TBR challenge and this month the theme is paranormal or romantic suspense. I went with PNR with glimpses of suspense, not that I can say there is much of it...but it suited my reading list of October and it was the closest I had with the intended theme.

This is the story of Aric Savage, he is a member of the secret military OP Alpha Team, a group of operatives who became shape shifters after a weird mission. Aric has been taken by the enemy and has been tortured but he is rescued, along others in the beginning of the story and that is important because he will meet his mate after that.
Rowan Chase is a cop in LA but she never accepted her brother was killed and hint after hint leads her to the Alpha Pack complex where she meets the team and later on helps rescuing her brother and Aric, a man she feels strongly attracted to.
All would be well if the Alpha Pack hadn't to fight a specific enemy and to do that they have to figure out who that person is. But maybe the answers arrive too late to save all their loved ones...

This is my second attempt in reading this series. The first installment wasn't a favorite of mine, I've read it at the end of 2014, said I'd read more during 2015 but well, it's almost the end of 2016...where does time go? Anyway, the first book didn't impress me much but I feel glad I could still remember some things as soon as I started this second book. And I liked this one better. It's not perfect, but in terms of being able to maintain my interest in reading, this was better.

The story isn't too complicated when it comes to the plot. A bunch of guys (some girls, mostly doctors) in a shared complex, they are battling supernatural forces most humans would consider fantasy, they are buddies, some are nicer than others, all have their own personal supernatural abilities and were changed into wolves - and a panther.
The idea isn't that original for a PNR, but somehow works. As always, what makes it interesting are the specific characters, their powers, the friendship between them, the fact they behave like family and have a strong bond...well, to be honest, I think this aspect isn't used to its maximum potential, but whatever. They have enemies, humans and others they have to battle, they have comrades to rescue, not a single one wants to be mated and fights it when it, pretty much any type of PNR out there. Still, I liked this one better, I don't know if I was simply in the mood, if the writing is more fluid, therefore easier to follow and go through, if the characters felt more captivating...something surely was but don't expect originality or "amazingness".

The romance is always an important element in these types of stories and this wasn't an exception. Usually the romances are rushed and too much insta-love (even shape shifters/mating issues and rules aside) and I kind of noticed it here as well, but somehow, despite seeing it, I think it's better compared to the first one because of the attitude Rowan and Aric had going into it. I just think I can respect their decision and their lack of drama while being together. Of course, there is a slightly drama issue closer to the end, which was unnecessary but there's a HEA at the end and that was great.

The characters have to deal with emotional issues, they have to talk and discuss important things about themselves and I don't mean only the protagonists. I liked how the next story started to be prepared. Some people think this ha a cliffhanger but I don't agree. Sure, we are left wondering what will happen, but the way things are done I don't think it's not bearable. I liked how even things related mostly to other people somehow were important to the protagonists and others, not only the couple meant to be.
There is an obvious lack of more layers, more sense of community for a bunch of people living togther and the romance could have been done with more sweetness and romantic gestures...
The suspense parts, at least the ones we can address as suspense, certainly look weak and maybe there just to fill up space but to me it's perfect: not too much to make the story a thriller and just enough to make is a part of the team's purpose and goals.

All in all, Rowan and Aric provided an interesting story, yes there are obvious things one could change but I was entertained and I'm looking for to read the next story too.
Grade: 7/10

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Val Roberts - The Valmont Contingency

Tasha Ocasek is having a bad day. First, her father forces her to meet the son of the ben Khalid ship-building cartel to secure a marriage contract. Then she gets stood up by ben Khalid, and sold off like a common whore to a psychopathic pharmaceutical magnate. Threatened with a life of drugged servitude, Tasha stows away on the first available ship.
Garrick ben Khalid has returned from chasing smugglers and information on the corbies, derelict ships with zombielike crews. Without question, the corbies trump dinner plans with some socialite geisha. But when Rick discovers the same geisha on his ship posing as medic Marie Valmont, he knows the sexy stowaway is nothing but trouble.
After she saves his life—and shares his quarters—Rick learns there's far more to Marie Valmont than Tasha Ocasek. He needs her help, but will she agree once she learns his true identity?

Comment: As soon as I came across a reference to this book at a message board I usually visit, I knew I had to get it because the blurb seemed really interesting. I suggested and convinced my book club to give it a go too and this month, this was it.

This is the story of Tasha Ocasek, a young woman that learns at the beginning of the story that her father sold her for a business deal but she knows that will be her end, for the man who bought her is ruthless and keeps his women drugged.
Tasha wouldn't be in this position if only one of the richest families in the galaxies had accepted her marriage to their son but he didn't show up at the reunion where they were meant to meet and her father reacted badly. Tasha's only way out is to escape, which she does but fate has it and she is caught in the spaceship she chose to hide in. Eventually her medical abilities are put to use and she can' help but liking the crew and especially their captain, a mysterious man but someone she slowly starts to trust and care about. But her father still ants to get her so he can get hi business deal...

This is a sci-fi romance and I absolutely loved it. I mean, it's not perfect and I would change some things but overall, I had a great time reading and couldn't put the book aside.
This is my first book by the author but I have to say I was impressed by it. The story is mostly well developed, it's not too big but I found the author used her space wisely and didn't go to paths she couldn't manage. But at the same time I'd have liked to see more interactions between the characters, more development on them...

The plot is pretty simple, some things are quite obvious and expected but I liked how the author inserted all sci-fi talk and elements and despite not being as broader as I'd have liked, it was quite enough to have an idea about the world and the way everything happened within this society/world. All the space shift conversation and details, the little things characters did and had were realistically done if we are to think this is a story set in space.
The villain is caught, the problems are averted and solved but we still have a glimpse of possibilities for the following story.

The romance is obviously one of the best parts in this and I was always eager to see Tasha and Garrick together. I liked how things were at first, both were wary but their relationship developed very quickly. I think it was a little too quick at a certain stage but considering the page count, i don't think it was as bad as in so many other books. The relationship was balanced at the end and I really liked that. It was great to see apparently though characters like Tasha and Garrick to feel romance and to be in love... The HEA was good but I surely would have liked an epilogue or something where we could see them a few years after, already fully established and simply happy.

All in all, almost everything about this little story seemed well done to me. The pace was great if not the rush from one point to another in the big scheme of things.The secondary characters also intrigued me and I confess I wish I could read more about them!

Apparently, there are more stories but because this is an author with different publishers and books most of them aren't available everywhere. I really feel bad about it, because I'd like to buy the rest of the series but it's only available through amazon and other specific sellers and I refuse to download an ebook through those platforms. Why can't books all be available in all places?
Hopefully, things can change in the future but in the meantime I'll just cherish this one and dream about what could be in the others....
Grade: 8/10

Monday, October 17, 2016

Jen Turano - A Change of Fortune

Lady Eliza Sumner is on a mission. Her fortune was the last thing she had left after losing her father, her fiancé, and her faith. Now, masquerading as Miss Eliza Sumner, governess-at-large, she's determined to find the man who ran off with her fortune, reclaim the money, and head straight back to London.
Mr. Hamilton Beckett, much to his chagrin, is the catch of the season, and all the eyes of New York society—all the female ones, at least—are on him. He has no plans to marry again, especially since his hands are full keeping his business afloat while raising his two children alone.
Eliza's hapless attempts to regain her fortune unexpectedly put her right in Hamilton's path. The discovery of a common nemesis causes them to join forces and, before she knows it, Eliza has a whole retinue of people helping her. Eliza's determination not to trust anyone weakens when everyone's antics and bumbling efforts to assist her make her wonder if there might be more important things than her fortune and independence.
When all of Hamilton's and Eliza's best-laid plans fall by the wayside, it will take a riot of complications for them to realize that God just might have had a better plan in mind all along.

Comment: I got this book months ago somewhere and it seemed a good book to add to the list because I envisioned a clean but romantic story and as the author has quite the back list, if this was a positive experience, there would be lots more to be read. Sadly, although this book had its moments, it wasn't as spectacular as I imagined.

This is the story of Eliza Sumner, a lady from England who travels to America to find the thief who stole her fortune and inheritance. Eliza travels alone, she finds employment as a governess in a wealthy family's home and is determined to hear about the identity of the people who stole her if the name is mentioned.
Hamilton Beckett is an important and rich man and many young ladies would be interested in marrying him, despite his small children. But Hamilton fears any woman marrying him would be like his late wife, who seemed not to love him. But Eliza is different and when it seems they might have an enemy in common, there's no way to avoid getting to know her...

There are many interesting moments in this novel and I liked several of them, but when weighting in all elements, there was just one little extra comedy layer that I feel wasn't well used.
I understand this is a clean romance and one way of not focusing on the intimacy or the relationship is to use drama or comedy. Comedy it was here but there were just too many details to point in that direction that I feel missed the mark.

Eliza is a determined young lady but her behavior doesn't seem very proper if we are to believe she was an aristocrat. Ok, the fact she traveled alone had merit, purpose and allowed for interesting situations to happen, but it's not realistic and I found that was one detail that was taken a bit too far.
If characters always behaved properly in historicals maybe some romances wouldn't happen so I can't complain of everything but it did seem weird no one would go with her, even if her situation had been as dire as it was.
Hamilton is an interesting hero, obviously certain things in which he is the focus are too cliché to make this story amazing, but...overall, he was a good character, and his relationship with Eliza interesting to see develop, even if nothing explicit ever happens.

The secondary characters have interesting details on their personalities that make me interested in learning more about them but the expectation of having to find unlikely plots or situations and going through a writing style not always appealing makes me happy to stay where I am with this series.
There were just too many scenes that I struggled to imagine happening. Something abut how things are presented stories me as too unlikely and I just can't not think about it.

The comedy aspect comes from the situations and scenes where the characters find themselves trying to explain things even absentminded people could see through. I'm not talking about well placed private jokes os saves from difficult situations that gain a funny layer, but really silly things and dialogues that got on my nerves. I don't think the intend is for this to be funny although I understand why some things can look like it, but many scenes seemed staged and that gets the fun out of it for me.

All in all, this wasn't so bad but maybe I'm being nice because there were certainly parts where I felt like it was too much effort when the results weren't very realistic. Then two things happened that made the plot look even more unlikely. I swear, the author thought about many cliches and used them without really thinking how it would look in the rush to surprise the readers.
I think this is a case of too many ideas, a not well defined enough goal and a way to put a style not best suited to the plot in the page.
But gorgeous cover, some authors are very lucky in that regard.
Grade: 5/10

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Susan Elizabeth Phillips - The Great Escape

Lucy Jorik is a champ at never embarrassing the family she adores—not surprising since her mother is one of the most famous women in the world. But now Lucy has done just that. And on her wedding day, no less, to the most perfect man she's ever known.
Instead of saying "I do" to Mr. Irresistible, Lucy flees the church in an ill-fitting blue choir robe and hitches a ride on the back of a beat-up motorcycle plastered with offensive bumper stickers. She's flying into the unknown with a rough-looking, bad-tempered stranger who couldn't be more foreign to her privileged existence.
While the world searches for her, Lucy must search for herself, and she quickly realizes that her customary good manners are no defense against a man who's raised rudeness to an art form. Lucy needs to toughen up—and fast.
Her great escape takes her to his rambling beach house on a Great Lakes island. Here, she hopes to find a new direction . . . and unlock the secrets of this man who knows so much about her but reveals nothing about himself. As the hot summer days unfold amid scented breezes and sudden storms, she'll also encounter a beautiful, troubled beekeeper; a frightened young boy; a modern-day evil queen; and a passion that could change her life forever.

Comment: This is the last installment in the Wynette, Texas series by author Susan Elizabeth Phillips.
I think I've previously said enough about the writing, the style and the whys of enjoying the books by the author. I won't take too long with this comment when most things were said in my comments on the other books.
In this final story, the book starts with Lucy running away and the action pace goes along the same time as Call Me Irresistible did, meaning we get parallel situations here but obviously from Lucy's perspective.

Lucy Jorik is running from the perfect man because deep in her heart she knows their relationship isn't as perfect. She escapes her own wedding, she leaves a mess and the idea she's disappointing the people she loves the most.
Helping her is Panda, a man who gives her a ride and presents himself as Ted's friend. She barely pays attention, because her head is getting numb. She stays with him for a while until she decides what she want to do and who she really is besides crazy, after all. But time and space make Lucy understand some things and not even an almost betrayal makes her go home in shame.
When Lucy makes a surprising decision, in come more friends more challenges and maybe, if she acts as smart as she is, love as well. But will Lucy find what she is missing?

As always, the author has written a great story, well structured, a good fluid narrative about two people who apparently have nothing in common but end up being perfect to each other. It was great too see another emotional journey with characters we like and enjoy spending time with. I think this is one of the author's best qualities, how to make us care and be interested in the characters and what they do and why they are in the situations we are reading about.
Sure, not everything is very realistic or easy to solve as it appears in books, but I like this idea the characters need to get to something, even if only a goal of normalcy or happiness and we go along for the ride.

The main couple of this novel as quite good. Both Lucy and Panda had qualities, little irritating things too, but overall I liked them and the path they took towards happiness. I can understand why this book could have looked weaker than some others but I think it's author's trademark and it was well presented. I liked all the secondary characters as well, I liked the lessons we are expected to get while the action develops and I eve liked the HEA.

Sure, not everything is wonderful and I'd change certain scenes or situations, but overall I had as much fun and entertainment with this novel as I did with all the others. The main couple captivated me and I was interested in learning things about them. How amazing it would be if everyone could have epiphanies or could find what they look for in life like these fictional characters do...
This might not be perfect, but it works for me.
I'm sorry the series has ended but I'm certainly a fan now and will read more by the author as soon as I can or as soon as she publishes more.
I'm also glad the stories by her are well thought and recognizable, always making me feel happy I have something by her to read.
Grade: 8/10

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Anne Brooke - The Hit List

Jamie Chadwick is straight. Determinedly straight. Or so he keeps telling himself. His small conference business is doing okay and, even though he looks after his ailing father, he loves living in the countryside and life is good. Sort of. But the arrival of old college friend, David Fenchurch, who’s just come out on the distinctly camp side of camp, together with Lucy Reid, his father’s sexy new physiotherapist, sets Jamie on a path he’d never dreamed of taking. On top of all that, the unexpected return of long-lost family friend, Robert Trevelyan, himself openly gay, means that Jamie can no longer ignore the past he’s kept hidden for six years. When Robert and David get together, Jamie’s feelings begin to surface in surprising ways. Who, amongst the crowd of people set to blow his life apart, will make it onto his fantasy hit list? And in the midst of Jamie’s own emotional battlefield, how can he keep things together at all?

Comment: Another book that has been in the pile for years...not many, but some. I try to mix in current releases to books getting dust in hidden piles but it's complicated to update my TBR list to a reasonable size, but...I try.

In this story we meet Jamie Chadwick, a young British man who works at home, he has a business he can run from his father's house even more so because he need to help his father. His older brother is away in Japan and it's up to Jamie to do everything but it's getting complicated, his father is old and has some health issues.
But what concerns Jamie the most is the need to convince himself he is straight and to help that he tries to date women, not always feeling what he did with Robert, a friend of his older brother he kissed years ago but that he never saw again.
The return of Robert, the community relationships and connections that stress him out, the worry over his job and an important contract, proving to himself he isn't gay and jealousy make him start a fake hit list and that is Jamie's escape valve. But what about realistic life goals and personal wishes?

This story begun very weird and difficult to go through. The first chapters were confusing and I felt the lack of aim or structure. This is the first book by this author I try and I have to say the beginning wasn't very impressive.
Jamie's behavior and weird hit list - the idea seems quite over the top, to be honest - also made it hard to stay focused because I didn't feel this interesting enough.
I kept going and from the middle of the book onward things were looking up, mostly because I could glimpse the emotional effect trying to deny reality and fake things was doing to Jamie.

The concept of the story is confusing. Jamie starts the hit list to let go of some stress and impotence to change what he considers unfair situations in his life, namely the fact he's stuck taking care of his father and that he can't stop thinking he might be gay. His relationship with his brother isn't good either and although his work is going well, a major job he has to deliver makes things even worse.
There are a lot of emotional layers to peel of but at first Jamie just seemed obnoxious, stubborn and silly. I get his reasons but his behavior wasn't what I expected from someone doubting himself. His relationship with Lucy, to convince himself he wasn't gay had its moments but wasn't always very believable. Or maybe it's just part of the British culture...

When things start to get out of Jamie's control and Robert's presence more constant, it becomes obvious to us something happened between them but it's already well into the story we get to know exactly what was that. I can understand Jamie's fears and doubts in the past and the emotional weight it must have been for both was well done. I think this book is positive enough just for the interesting emotional situations and elements included. Towards the end, Jamie's true feelings get more and more obvious. Of course we'd always like fictional characters to act more quickly but I kind of liked how challenging it was for Jamie to confess or admit whatever related to Robert and some of his fears about other things as well.

I don't think this book is completely successful to me only because there are too many pointless characters and situations that get some focus out of where it should be. For quite the intelligent and driven character, Jamie often has weird actions I can't understand why would matter at all.
The writing is also boring at times, I suppose it's the way it is, but I struggled to always be focused on the book.
Apparently, this is considered a comedy but I didn't find it funny. In fact, what made it good for me were precisely the challenging and darker emotions portrayed here.
I liked the HEA presented and would have liked to see more of it, after all the indecision we had to go trough in the story. Anyway, a good enough story, interesting elements but in my opinion it surely could have used some more editing.
And another word, writing aside, this particular cover seems too much in the funny side but without looking as captivating as it could.
Grade: 5/10