Friday, May 24, 2013

Review: Eyes Wide Open by Raine Miller


The third part in The Blackstone Affair series: A love on the brink of being destroyed. The fight of a lifetime to keep it alive.

Big surprises are on the horizon for Ethan and Brynne as they struggle to adjust to what life has thrown at them. Demons from the past are threatening to destroy the passionate bond they’ve forged despite their vow that nothing will ever keep them apart. A truly devastating loss coupled with the promise of a new hope opens their eyes to what is most important, but is it possible for the lovers to move on from the painful histories that continue to haunt them? A stalker is still lurking in the shadows, plotting evil amidst the distraction of the 2012 Olympic games in London. Brynne and Ethan are on the cusp of losing everything as the stakes rise. Will they yield to circumstances beyond their control or will they give every ounce of fight they have left to save each other and win the ultimate prize of a life together?

Eyes Wide Open is a passion-wrought story that shows us what pure love can achieve when tested and what the heart can accomplish despite danger and adversity.

Once again, I finished a book in this series and have mixed feelings about it. Eyes Wide Open picks up where All In ended, with Ethan and Brynne on their way out of town after there is another threat to Brynne’s life.  This subplot is then moved to the background while Ethan and Brynne work out some personal issues, setting the stage for an ending that brings it all together.

What I do like about this series is that Raine Miller has created two interesting characters.  They are not perfect, and for me, that’s part of their charm.  Ethan is a step away from being obsessed by Brynne, and at times, got on my nerves with his need to use sex to possess and overwhelm her, but it also made him vulnerable. In some ways, Brynne is farther along on her quest to get over the legacy of her past. I love that she keeps pushing at Ethan to share with her, and in the process, enhances their relationship.  It’s their personal struggles and how they work them out that keep me coming back to this series.

I was happy (at first) to see this book was longer than the first two in the series.  It starts with a prologue that promises more surprises but then I was disappointed that the first half of this book was spent dealing with Brynne’s illness, and not the contents of that prologue.  It really slowed the pacing of this story for me and I did find myself skimming a little bit. Maybe shorter is better with this author.

Things heat up when the threats start coming in again, and when Brynne’s stalker finds a way under Ethan’s radar (which was not easy) the pace picks up. The storyline was resolved rather quickly though, but left some questions that I hope will be addressed in the next book.  

This is a solid 3-flame book and series for me.  The characters are interesting, the storylines have promise, but overall it just doesn’t hit the mark for me.  It will be Ethan and Brynne that bring me back to reading the fourth book in this series.

Thanks to Atria Books and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this title in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Review: TRUE by Erin McCarthy

When Rory Macintosh’s roommates find out that their studious and shy friend has never been with a guy, they decide that, as an act of kindness they’ll help her lose her virginity by hiring confident, tattooed bad boy Tyler Mann to do the job…unbeknownst to Rory.

Tyler knows he’s not good enough for Rory. She’s smart, doctor smart, while he’s barely scraping by at his EMT program, hoping to pull his younger brothers out of the hell their druggy mother has left them in. But he can’t resist taking up her roommates on an opportunity to get to know her better. There’s something about her honesty that keeps him coming back when he knows he shouldn’t…

Torn between common sense and desire, the two find themselves caught up in a passionate relationship. But when Tyler’s broken family threatens to destroy his future, and hers, Rory will need to decide whether to cut her ties to his risky world or follow her heart, no matter what the cost…

I struggled a bit with how to rate this one. Even though the story was somewhat predictable and the characters could have been developed a bit more, I still liked this. It’s a sweet tale of first love.

True is the story of misunderstood bad-boy Tyler and twenty-year old virgin good girl Rory. I could understand how Rory would be attracted to Tyler, and vice versa. Even though I’ve seen these character-types in other books in this genre, I was able to relate to them.

The book was on the shorter side, and the story was predictable but still enjoyable. I cared about the characters enough to keep reading to find out how they would resolve the fact that they came from two different worlds. I really liked Tyler’s sense of honor, and I liked Rory’s “love conquers all” thinking, even though Tyler was much more practical in his thinking when it came to that. Like I said, first love.

Things wrap up very quickly in this story and I would have liked a little more there. These two had so many hurdles to face, and it was hard to see at that point how this couple was going to make it. For that reason, it was a dubious HEA for me.

One real problem I did have with this book was that I didn’t care at all about the secondary characters. They were unlikeable to me. I would be challenged to read a follow-up book about them, I’m sad to say.

So overall, for me, True was an quick, emotional read with a predictable story and likeable main characters. 3 out of 5 flames.

Thanks to PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL / Signet Romance, DAW and Netgalley for a preview copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

ARC Review: Flirting with Disaster by Ruthie Knox


In the latest eBook original novel in Ruthie Knox’s scorching-hot Camelot series, a no-strings fling looks an awful lot like falling in love—or flirting with disaster.

Fresh out of a fiasco of a marriage, Katie Clark has retreated to her hometown to start over. The new Katie is sophisticated, cavalier, and hell-bent on kicking butt at her job in her brother’s security firm. But on her first assignment—digging up the truth about the stalker threatening a world-famous singer-songwriter—Katie must endure the silent treatment from a stern but sexy partner who doesn’t want her help . . . or her company.

Sean Owens knows that if he opens his mouth around Katie, she’ll instantly remember him as the geeky kid who sat behind her in high school. Silence is golden, but he can’t keep quiet forever, not with Katie stampeding through their investigation. It’s time for Sean to step up and take control of the case, and his decade-old crush. If he can break through Katie’s newfound independence, they just might find they make a perfect team—on the road, on the job, and in bed.

Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: How to Misbehave, Along Came Trouble, and About Last Night.

I didn’t make a single review note while I read this. I sank into the story and kept reading until the end. That’s one indicator of a 5-flame book for me. And when I wanted to re-read all or part of it again, well, that was the second indicator.

Flirting with Disaster was just perfect for me from start to finish. I love Ruthie Knox’s writing. So many smart lines. It was really terrific.

Katie’s been dumped by her husband and returns to Ohio from Alaska to start her new life. I love that she isn’t defeated by what happened to her. She smart and strong and doesn’t take any crap. Both Sean and Judah fall for her.

Sean is just a mess. He’s smart and sexy and sorta messed up in the head. He’s been running for a long time. But when he finds out that he and Katie are good together, not just as partners, and work colleagues, but also in the sack (or should I say SUV?), their relationship starts changing to something more than just a fling. Ruthie Knox does a fantastic job of portraying Sean’s pain without making him look weak.

Katie is a strong, smart woman who has had her share of bad luck, and its so easy to want her to have her HEA.

I was surprised to find I ended up liking Judah, when he was sort of a pain in the anatomy at the start of the book. I thought he was a great secondary character. I loved the relationship he developed with Katie, and maybe it was Katie that was just really good at people. She knew when to push and when to step back.

So wonderful to read a book that you can just sit back and enjoy, where the writing is smart and polished, the story tight, and the secondary characters bringing that little extra dash of spice to the story. I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about this. .I couldn't put it down. Just what I want in a romance. A good story, lovely characters, a bit of angst, and HEA. Go read this series.

Thanks to Random House and Loveswept’s Netgalley Catalog for the opportunity to read this ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Review: Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

Synopsis:  There are secrets in the town of Bon Temps, ones that threaten those closest to Sookie—and could destroy her heart...

Sookie Stackhouse finds it easy to turn down the request of former barmaid Arlene when she wants her job back at Merlotte’s. After all, Arlene tried to have Sookie killed. But her relationship with Eric Northman is not so clearcut. He and his vampires are keeping their distance…and a cold silence. And when Sookie learns the reason why, she is devastated.

Then a shocking murder rocks Bon Temps, and Sookie is arrested for the crime.

But the evidence against Sookie is weak, and she makes bail. Investigating the killing, she’ll learn that what passes for truth in Bon Temps is only a convenient lie. What passes for justice is more spilled blood. And what passes for love is never enough..

Review: 2.5 of 5 Flames

This is not the story of Sookie Stackhouse’s Happily Ever After. This is the sad story of a break-up and moving on. A story of revenge and paybacks. Whether that was Charlaine Harris’s intent with this story, I don’t know, but that’s how it read to me.

If you’ve read all the books so far in this series, it was obvious that Eric and Sookie were having major problems in their relationship. Eric had vampire obligations, and Sookie found excuse after excuse to avoid talking to him about them. It’s been a slow decline of this relationship since Dead in the Family, and the conclusion of the series had very few surprises.

As a reader, I have no say in how the author chooses to end the story. I just hoped that Charlaine Harris could give us something spectacular to end this series. Dead Ever After wasn’t as bad as I thought, but I don’t think Charlaine Harris delivered anything near the quality of the first nine? books in this series. The plot was predictable, the pace slow and tedious except for a few key scenes, and the characters were "off" in many places. The dash of hope at the end between Sam and Sookie wasn’t enough for me. That’s why I am ranking the book at 2.5 stars.

As for the Southern Vampire Mystery (do they still call this series by that name?), it was the same old, same old. Someone is after Sookie. There it is in a nutshell. How many times have we seen some character having it in for her? Mostly the same old villains, too. It’s clear that this series has reached end-of-life when the author can’t come up with some new ideas. In Dead Ever After, the reader knows more about the plot against Sookie, instead of watching Sookie unravel it. There was little mystery in Dead Ever After.

There was something a bit strange in this book. It left me with an odd feeling that I still can't entirely put my finger on. From the start I found myself wondering how much of this final book was very personal to Charlaine Harris. Was it a coincidence that the opening scenes are of someone selling their soul to the devil? Some have said CH sold out when she sold the rights for these stories to HBO. I don’t know for sure, but there was something in that beginning that made me think of the parallels.

There was also a comment that made me think about the drama surrounding the release of this book. Sookie says:

Do you sometimes wish you could fast-forward a week? You know something bad’s coming up, and you know you’ll get through it, but the prospect just makes you feel sick.

Charlaine Harris knew that this book would not satisfy readers looking for a Sookie / Eric HEA. Is this her commentary? I don’t know, but there a few times I took notice of such lines in the book. Almost like the last word or a parting shot.

Anyway, the middle third of this book was excruciatingly slow. At 40% I couldn’t imagine what more could be in this story. Endless pages of minutiae: hamburgers (although the thought of Quinn sneaking a raw hamburger did put a smile on my face), chicken fried steak, and on and on. I had hoped Charlaine could have at least delivered some excitement, but it just wasn’t there.

At least the Eric and Sookie scenes were the most emotionally charged in the book. This romance had been at the heart of this series, and in many ways, it was still front and center in this book. Only it wasn’t all fairy blood and gracious plenty; it was the emotional pain of breaking up. Hard to say whether Sookie truly loved Eric, and vice versa. But it was clear over the last two books their relationship was in serious, possibly permanent trouble. Sookie just never seemed to cut him a break, even in this book.

It didn’t bother me that they broke up. It just wasn’t meant to be. Neither one of them wanted it enough.

I had some problems with Sookie in this book. She seemed very out of character with her frequent swearing, her hardened attitude, and her depression and loneliness. I wondered how much of this Sookie was influenced by the TB Sookie. Seemed that way to me. I didn’t like this Sookie. At one point in the series, she valued the supernaturals, understanding their challenges of mingling with the humans. She always treated the supes with respect, but in Dead Ever After, she refers to them as creatures, as something less than.

As for Eric, much is made throughout the book about his pragmatism, as if it is something that couldn’t exist together with his strong feelings for Sookie. As if being practical meant that he didn’t feel any loss here. But the scenes between Eric and Sookie were the best in this book, with the divorce scene reminiscent of early series scenes. It was emotionally charged and I wish it had been longer. There was some real pain there, much like real divorce and breakups.

The ending of the book seemed to be fabricated to explain how Sam and Sookie could potentially have a relationship. I could have done without another scene where Sookie is abducted in a car.

With Sam, I wish there had been more build-up to the changes in Sam’s life. He just seemed confused for most of the book until the two of them boink it out. We won’t talk about the sex with Sam. No. We. Won’t.

I did like the inclusion of Karen Slaughter. Perhaps my favorite scenes is between Pam, Karen and Sookie, as Pam heals her with vampire blood for one last time, and the three women realize their connection. I was sad though, that Pam and Karen would so easily disparage Eric’s motives for taking care of Sookie. It seemed like even they could not believe he could love.

While I thought this was a better book than the last two, it was still a disappointing conclusion to the series.

Review: Hemlock Island by Kelley Armstrong

    St. Martin's Press • Hardcover & eBook • September 2023 • ISBN: 978-1250284198 Hemlock Island Laney Kilpatrick has been ren...