Goodreads Review: The Escort by Laura Marie Altom

I have been a reading maniac lately, but it doesn’t help that I found some podcasts and book blogs that pretty much feed my need to read all the romance. In fact, I heard about two books today that I just went ahead and requested at the library because they sounded so good. Meanwhile, I’m still getting through the list on my Kobo and Kindle and making sure I get in on new ones from NetGalley. This one was one I requested on a whim. It’s the 3rd in a series, but assuming you don’t need the backstory of the side characters, it can be read on its own. In fact, after reading the synopsis for the first two, I’m glad I started with this one. This book comes out in August. 

The Escort (Shamed, #3)The Escort by Laura Marie Altom

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Carol and Nathan hook up at the wedding of the people each of them has been in love with for a long time. Though only intending on a quickie on a pool table, the two find that they’re interested in pursuing more with the other. But with Carol’s background of men leaving her and Nathan’s pride and lack of money presenting them with challenges, it’s hard for either of them to commit fully. When Nathan takes a job as an escort, he thinks it’ll solve his problems, but as he becomes more attached to Carol, he realizes that the choices he made to take care of her could actually endanger her instead.

Let me say that while this book was fun, it was also a little bit silly. It wasn’t a romantic comedy, and much of the content was serious, but overall, it was still silly. Among my favorite silly things:
– A company named Zoogle and the fact that people use Zmail
– A guy signs up with an escort service and right away is given a car, an apartment, a bunch of new clothes and money (if anyone can verify this is truth when it comes to escorts, please let me know)
– The fact that the guy decides he can lie to his girlfriend about still having the job and then somehow miraculously help her do something and go on an assignment in the same weekend without cloning himself
– Celebrity singers showing up at big events, my favorite being John Mayer’s hilarious cameo

While there were times I wondered if this novel was actually taking itself seriously, I was also really digging on many aspects of it. I like the role reversal of the heroine being the well off one while the hero initially has no money and a low paying job at a grocery store. I thought the crazy madam was brilliant (though evil), and I enjoyed the angst between the 2 main characters.

As far as annoyances go, Carol wasn’t horrible. She had dealt with some stuff in high school (fairly serious stuff) and was trying to deal with her own hang ups about abandonment, while at the same time wanting to take care of Nathan to maintain control. Nathan is sweet, but it drove me nuts that he didn’t tell Carol about things that potentially put her life in danger. Also, as hard as he tries, Nathan never comes across as a full alpha male, which I think worked really well for the story.

I didn’t get any major heart feels from this book but it had a few good moments, so I’m giving it a 3/5 Romance Factor. The Sex Factor also gets a 4/5. The scenes were steamy, but there was a little bit of shady voyeurism at one point that got kind of squicky.

Overall, this was a fun read. Though I talk about its sillier points, there are some heavy things in this book, like voyeurism, the threatening of loved ones, and adoption, so it’s not necessarily a laugh riot, but I think the author did a good job balancing the silly with the serious.

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Goodreads Review: Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge

I finished this book during my recent trip up north to the Minnesota Yarn Shop Hop for some hardcore yarn shopping and friend time. You know it’s a good weekend when you get to chill with cool people, buy a ton of yarn, and finish a good book. This one reminds me of my mom, but only because it reminds me of Val McDermid’s crime novels, and my mom got me hooked on those. I think she’ll really enjoy this one. My mom, I mean. Not Val McDermid. Though maybe Val will enjoy it too. The book comes out on June 2, 2015, so put in a request at your local library. 

Eeny Meeny (Helen Grace,#1)Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Mystery/crime drama isn’t my first choice of genre, but the premise of Eeny Meeny intrigued me, so I requested it and am so glad I got approved.

It starts with a young couple, then a pair of work associates, then a mother and daughter – people are disappearing in twos. Days later, one of them emerges, starved and sick. During their captivity, the victims are given a gun and a choice: shoot the other and be set free or die a slow, painful death from starvation. It falls to Helen Grace and her team to solve the mystery and apprehend the criminal. Pretty straightforward, right?

There were a lot of things that made this book enjoyable for me. I tend to give simplified plot synopses anyway, but in this case I’m doing so because I don’t want to give too much away. However, the writing and plot were solid. The author details the captivity of the victims in horrific detail (some of that detail made me uncomfortable, which raises its “awesome” factor) but not so much that the story drags. It keeps its pace with the main plot and the side plots of which there are a few, all of which intertwine through the main story with ease.

The characters were great. Helen Grace is a strong female character, but she’s also strongly damaged and comes with some painful quirks. The side characters, while taking a backseat to Grace and those involved in the crimes, are given their own personalities and lives that emerge throughout the book. By the end, I had a sense that I knew them, was involved with them, and even shattered with the ones who get dealt the trauma. My investment in this group was worth it…the payoff at the end of the book is good and sets things up for more in this series.

The writing was strong and the story well-paced. There were only two things I took issue with. The first was in the formatting more than the writing. There were no breaks when the scene shifted, so it was sometimes hard to easily discern when the setting and characters had changed. However, I think that was more an ARC format problem than a problem with the author’s presentation.

The second thing was the weirdly added romantic/sexual aspect to the story. It seemed to come out of nowhere, and I had to go back to make sure I hadn’t missed a chapter or two leading up to when it starts. As someone who loves a good romance and tends to prefer romantic interludes in all the books I read, I actually didn’t feel like this one was needed. It seemed a little forced and out of place, though not jarring enough to throw the whole story off.

If you like crime novels, definitely give this one a try. It reminded me of Val McDermid’s novels, and that’s a good comparison. Helen Grace could be the new favorite read of gritty/graphic crime lovers.

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Goodreads Review: Last Kiss

I have been reading like a mad woman lately, and so I haven’t been spending time on writing or knitting. And while that’s okay, I really need to try to get some projects finished, including a couple gifts before my trip to Michigan in June. However, between book blogs and podcasts, NetGalley, and opportunities to read great books like this one, it’s really hard to tear myself away from my e-reader. Reader problems, I guess. This one was so good, and I’m thinking about using the other books in the series as incentives to get back into a routine and start getting my self back on track. 

Last Kiss (Hitman, #3)Last Kiss by Jessica Clare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an ARC for an honest review. Minor spoilers below.

To prove he can lead his Bratva, Vasily enlists the aid (i.e., kidnaps) a computer hacker known as the Emperor to help him find a painting. The Emperor is Naomi, a young woman with Aspergers, who is brilliant, self aware, and seems to take no issue with Vasily’s profession or the bodies he leaves behind (don’t worry…they’re all bad guys).

I’ve been pondering reading the Hitman series for awhile, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to be something I’d enjoy. I was excited to get a chance to read this one, the third in the series (it can be read as a standalone), and I confirmed that I definitely need to read the others.

The plot is full of hitman/assassination action, but it’s balanced perfectly with the romance between Vasily and Naomi. The start had me a little worried, as Vasily comes across as extremely cold-blooded, but the plot reveals so many interesting things, and it doesn’t do it all at once…it spreads it out over the whole narrative. The pacing is good, and I never felt a place where there was a lull in action. There were a few places where I thought there were continuity errors, but I was consuming this book, and I might have just missed some details.

Vasily and Naomi are high on the list of my favorite couples. Vasily is cold, but he has his reasons to be. Naomi understands her autism and is frustrated by it, but she continues to be who she is, and though she’s hurt by the unkind words of others, she also knows what she’s good at (hacking computers). The interactions between them go from sweet to sexy and back. I think one of the reasons I loved these two is that Naomi understands that people find her weird. She doesn’t like it, but she knows what it is, whereas Vasily only comes to terms with his own quirks after being around her. He also seems like a contradiction…a ruthless killer who accepts Naomi for who she is and even starts to adore her for it.

Romance Factor is a serious 4/5 on this one with a few Heart Feels and Aw Moments. Their relationship wasn’t quick, starting out as mutual lust. The way it developed between them and then developed them each as a character was very well written. The Sex Factor gets a 5/5. This one doesn’t let up, but neither is it overpowering to the story. Be warned though…there are sexual themes in this book that are not of the romantic kind. They are few and far between, but they’re there and they add to the mood of the story, which is dark and dangerous (and sad).

There wasn’t much that I didn’t like about this book, but I will say that while things in the present end well, the book doesn’t give everyone a bright future. I thought this would disturb me more, but it fits with the somber tone of the story, and really, it just means the authors have to write more so I can read more. I’m excited to read the first two in the series now. If you like graphic, dark, Stockholm Syndrome type stories, I think you’ll enjoy this one.

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Goodreads Review: Love on the Ledge

Usually when we go out of town, I don’t get to read much, but this weekend was an exception. We visited my in-laws near Wichita, and they’re pretty low-key. Also, I tend to let J go do stuff with his brother while I take some downtime, so after we watched the new Avengers movie, they went gaming and I went back to the house to read (btw, Avengers was awesome!). This was one of the books I finished. This one comes out in just a couple days, and while it wasn’t one of my favorites, it wasn’t bad. It also seems to have some really good reviews over on Goodreads, so give it a shot. And if you’ve read the first one in the series, let me know how it stacks up. 

Love on the Ledge (On the Verge #2)Love on the Ledge by Zoraida Córdova

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This review will contain minor spoilers.

After catching her long-term boyfriend cheating on her, Sky quits her job and returns home, using the planning of her uncle’s wedding to distract herself and figure out what she wants the next step of her life to be. This proves difficult, however, with a mother who wants her to date a plastic surgeon, a bunch of meddling family members, a jealous cousin, and a friend who is in desperate need of rehab. On top of that, her ex won’t stop calling, the plastic surgeon won’t leave her alone, and she’s afraid to let herself pursue the guy who really does it for her…Hayden, the roofer who literally fell through the roof while she was trying on her bridesmaid dress.

I found the first part of the novel boring, but it got better when I started reading it as woman-finding-herself novel instead of a romance novel. Because while there is a touch of romance here, the first part of the book is Sky dealing with her own issues, mourning her lost relationship, and trying to get her head and emotions together. The romance is kind of an afterthought. Once I stopped waiting for the romance, I found that it read well, though the end turned into kind of a jumble of thrown-in minute conflicts. I like there to be romantic conflict, but other than two minor issues between the main characters, there was very little.

While Sky is fun and Hayden is likable, I wasn’t feeling the chemistry between them. The meddling/disapproving family trope is one that always carries with it some of the worst secondary characters, and this was no exception. The mother’s actions are justified with “she just wants what’s best for her daughter,” but that doesn’t make her any more likable. While Sky’s friends are better and more willing to accept what Sky wants, the one friend is a hot mess. I have a feeling this might have been a set up for a later novel? I didn’t care much for her. The ex and the plastic surgeon are complete jerks, which serves to highlight how great a guy Hayden is, which is fine, but again, I prefer there to be a little bit of romantic conflict to build up some sexual tension, and there was none of that.

Romance Factor gets a score of 2/5. There was no romantic conflict, not enough romantic chemistry between the characters, and only a secondary relationship story. The romance was there, it just wasn’t enough to make me feel warm and fuzzy. The Sex Factor gets a 3/5, because while not very frequent, the author didn’t shy away from detail when there was detail to be told.

Overall, I liked the story, but there was one part I really didn’t like. Sky has an unsettling run-in with one of her pursuers, one that involves her getting physically hurt. Yet later, instead of telling her mother what happened and insisting she not be put into a dangerous situation again, she says nothing and goes along with what her mother wants. It drove me nuts to read about someone acting like that sort of behavior could be easily overlooked and handled with no further repercussions.

This book is technically well-written, with good dialogue and good flow, though the romantic pacing seemed a little unsure of itself. It was good for a light and quick read.

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Goodreads Review: Garrett by Sawyer Bennett

I got an email today from Kobo saying that the next two books in this series are available for preorder. Happy day! Granted, I have to wait until September to read the 4th book, but I have a ton of other reading to do in the meantime since a couple book blogs have turned me on to all sorts of things I feel I need to read and a bunch of things I’ve been meaning to read for awhile anyway. Watch out for the minor spoiler below.

Garrett (Cold Fury Hockey, #2)Garrett by Sawyer Bennett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This review contains spoilers.

Garrett is a ladies man, happy with his life but not interested in forming any sort of long term relationship with a woman. That is until he meets Olivia and finds that he wants to only be with her. Olivia wants to be with him too, but she has a much bigger problem to worry about: she has stage 4 cancer and she wonders if she’s not hurting him more by possibly dying on him too soon.

I’m conflicted about this book. I still love the hockey aspect of the Cold Fury books and I still love my formulaic romances, but this one seemed to hit the insta-lust/insta-love button way too quickly. Garrett is supposed to be a complete man-whore, so the fact that he changed his ways so quickly seemed weird. I believe the point was to showcase the possible death of Olivia and bring about a “life is too short” theme, but I think it would have worked so much better with a different character. Some of it was also a little boring, and I felt there was no real conflict.

Other than his quick fall from Ladies Man, I enjoyed Garrett as a character. He’s a sweet guy (mostly). Olivia on the other hand? Not so much. Okay, I get we’re supposed to feel sorry for her and that she’s supposed to be quirky, but her whole “I don’t want to die on him” angst got very old, very fast. Having said that, it was interesting having the character roles change, since in the other books in this series, the guy is the one doing the dumping. Sadly, Olivia’s alpha female just doesn’t do it for me. What saves the characters for me is Stevie, Olivia’s flamboyant best friend and owner of the flower shop where he works. He’s a fun character and offered comic relief when Olivia was driving me nuts.

If I can leave behind the insta-feelings, the Romance Factor is high, with Garrett being a model boyfriend (no Heart Feels though). The Sex Factor is also high. I feel like the author gets a little racier with each new book in the series (which means the 4th one is going to be super hot). However, I think the sexy times filled in gaps where plot was weak, and I would have rather have had a stronger plot and more interesting conflict.

Here’s that spoiler I was telling you about, so stop here if you don’t want to know (though it’s a romance novel, so it’s probably not that much of a spoiler, right?)***

There was one other thing about the book that I really didn’t like, and that was the ending. I understand a flash forward is supposed to assure the reader that the couple have a happy ending, but I don’t think it was needed. I think just knowing they got back together and having the hope that things would be okay would have been enough. The FF also felt weird amidst a series where the other characters are connected with these two, because it put them on a different level. Now I know their future, and I feel I should know everyone else’s, but I really don’t want to because I’m not a fan of the device in this instance.

As critical as this review is, I still enjoyed the book and how it tied in with the 3rd book in the series. The vibe felt alot different in this one. Sure, it was sexy and lovey, but there was also a lot of depressing aspects. I think tackling some of this heavy material was kind of a risk, and while I’m not entirely sold on some of the book’s aspects, I still respect it and love the world it’s set in.

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Goodreads Review: Undertow by Michael Buckley

Some of you may remember that I posted a Goodreads review on this book back in March. It’s publication date is May 5, and I wanted to make sure I re-posted that review here on the ol’ blog before it comes out. After the GR review went out, I realized that there were aspects of it that I apparently liked a lot more than I thought because the book stayed with me for a few days after I closed it. If you enjoy contemporary fantasy, I think you’ll enjoy this book. 

UndertowUndertow by Michael Buckley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The premise of this book was interesting. A race of fish people have come from the ocean to Coney Island where they’re treated harshly by most of the residents because of their differences. While one side tries to assimilate them and allow their children into their schools, another side, led by the state governor, wants them gone and will go to great lengths to bully them out of society. Caught in the middle is Lyric Walker, who’s been assigned to partner with the Prince of the Alpha (the fish people race) by the school’s principal. Lyric, however, has her own secrets, and with the tensions in her town getting higher and more dangerous, she has to try to figure out how to save her family, her friends, and the Prince to whom she’s formed an attachment.

I’m really on the fence about this book. It had some good things going for it. The writing was good. The author didn’t shy away from such themes as bullying, death, and racism. There were also political undertones (I’m not sure if the last name of the governor was a purposeful jab at a real-life politician with the same name or not). Parts of the story flowed really well and had a strong fairy-tale aspect that mixed well with the contemporary alternate world. There was also a brutality in the book that I think a lot of YA books shy away from, and there were a couple of scenes that were realistic and terrifying.

The characters were mostly well done and interesting. While the descriptions of the fish people were strange, I thought the race itself and how it was broken down into different ranks was interesting. The dynamic of the race was very obviously meant to cause conflict between them and the humans and act as a personal conflict to Lyric.

However, there were a few things I wasn’t so much a fan of. The pacing felt off, but I think that’s because for most of the book, I didn’t feel there was an actual plot line. It was a lot of narrative about racism and riots and thugs that was eventually given a dose of a strange, forced romance. A plot eventually emerged, but even then, the story still felt off. As I read, I found myself going through periods where I really enjoyed the book and then periods where it seemed to drag.

I also felt that Lyric was very much a “Mary Sue” character. Normally this doesn’t bother me. A good protagonist/main character should have something of a Mary Sue about her. It’s also possible I missed something in the reading, but there was a part in the plot that randomly boiled down to “Oh, hey, it looks like Lyric might be able to save us.” That’s not exactly what was happening, but it seemed that Lyric’s “specialness” was very much a convenient way to tie things together.

This book was very different from what I normally read. Overall, I think it’s an okay read, and I do think that even though it wasn’t one of my favorites, I know there are readers who are going to absolutely love this book for the cool fantasy aspect it brings to the genre.

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Goodreads Review: The Woman in the Movie Star Dress

I’ve been having a fun weekend spending time with one of my best friends from college who came to visit this weekend. I’m currently sleepy and have had 3 beers, but I finished this book a few nights ago and really wanted to get my review, as well as some gaming stuff, done before I conked out. Sadly, this book wasn’t my thing, but opinions are just opinions, and I would bet I have friends who would dig this book. It did spark a new interest in watching some old movie classics. Now it’s just a matter of actually doing it. 

The Woman in the Movie Star DressThe Woman in the Movie Star Dress by Praveen Asthana

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This review contains minor spoilers.

Genevieve is a young Native American woman who works in a thrift store that sells clothing that may or may not have been worn by previous celebrities. Believing they hold a trace of those woman they’d adorned, Genevieve wears them to various functions to achieve various goals, including finding love, being a seductress, and playing detective to find out the truth of a tragedy that tore her family apart.

I probably wasn’t the target audience of the book, as I’m not a huge noir reader, or a huge mystery reader, or really a fan of classic movies and movie stars. While I found some entertainment value in the read, there was alot I wasn’t sold on.

The book starts out with something of a plot, and then branches to all these little subplots that one would assume would end up connecting. However, the number of story lines slows the pace way down and parts of it were either boring or melodramatic. It doesn’t help that the plot just seems to stop so that Genevieve can go out with different people wearing different dresses. The mystery gets lost and then becomes less of a mystery and more of a personal journey story. Which is fine, but it definitely doesn’t feel noir. The supernatural aspect of the clothes carrying traces of their former wearers would have been more interesting if Genevieve wasn’t also taking peyote or smoking marijuana. Because seriously, between the peyote or clothing spirits, my bet is on the peyote.

I found Genevieve to be annoying and some of the side characters to be melodramatic. Like the number of story lines, the number of characters got a little out of hand, doing nothing more than giving Genevieve a reason to wear more clothes and not really serving a purpose. The idea of linking characters to different movie stars was interesting though. The one character I did like was Renzo. His story and mystery was my favorite, and I really enjoyed his ending.

Besides the fact that Genevieve has weird feelings towards three different guys, the romance factor is low. In fact, I wouldn’t really consider this a romance novel. There’s a pretty high level of angst and a really awkward scene with the father of one of her love interests. As for the Sex Factor, there is no steam to this book. It talks about sex happening without ever going into it, which would be okay, but this book needed something to spice it up.

The writing was okay, but technically the book could have benefited from some deleted scenes and extra development into the main characters and mystery. There are many people on Goodreads who seemed to love this, but it just didn’t grab me.

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