Red Hill, by Jamie McGuire

3 Stars

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I know Jamie McGuire as that woman who writes generic new adult novels, filled with characters likable enough to move the story along, but absolutely forgettable one week later. She’s a predictable author, which is why I was intrigued by Red Hill. Could the woman who wrote Beautiful Disaster pull off a zombie story? What the heck? I’ll try anything once.

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Yes, McGuire can pull off a zombie novel, but in the same way she can pull off a new adult novel. I’m not an avid reader of this genre, but I felt her story worked well enough to move the plot along, while lacking the depth of true sci-fi. McGuire managed to keep a very simple plot of seeking out loved ones and safety, pretty engaging, though. There were a few errors in story-telling, such as when a character drops his keys beyond reach, only to have them moments later, with no explanation. This wasn’t a recurring theme, however.

The shortcoming of Red HIll is one of characterization. This book came out just after Beautiful Disaster and McGuire’s effort to separate these characters from the intensity of her previous ones is clear. Scarlet was bland when she wasn’t infuriating. I had similar, yet more watered-down feelings for everyone else, despite the attempts at romantic plot lines. I found the ending both surprising and unbelievable, but not quite disappointing, because it was at least final. I would not call it an HEA. Overall, I enjoyed this stand-alone title.

Review Word Count: 247

 

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Ride Steady, by Kristen Ashley

3 Stars

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KA is my go-to escapist romance author. Her books are delightfully predictable, because in 50 characters, she replicates the same five personalities. While definitely romance, these books usually have an engaging plot to keep them out of the erotica category… until recently.

I’m not sure if KA’s fall is due to having a publisher or if she’s cranking out the books too quickly, but her books have grown shorter and both the sex and plot scarcer. It’s as if her last five to ten titles have been long novellas, where we meet some new characters, revisit some old ones, and see the resolution of a minor conflict. Since every book in the Chaos series has flopped, I checked Ride Steady out from the library, expecting disappointment… and ultimately setting myself up to be pleasantly surprised.

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Ride Steady tells the typical KA tale of love gone awry until boy saves girl some odd years later. While there were a couple of forced crossovers, unlike many of her latest titles, this one didn’t focus too heavily on cameos from other books. The characters were true KA characters, both quite likable, and the sex scenes were limited, yet explicit and normal. The plot was no Mystery Man, still being a bit sparse, but it was present and it was interesting. I’d have liked to have seen it developed more. The resolution was happy, as always. Overall, while the old KA isn’t back in full force, I think I see her on the horizon.

Review Word Count: 250

Chaos Series Order (sans novellas)

  1. Own the Wind
  2. Fire Inside
  3. Ride Steady
  4. Walk Through Fire

Off Season, by Jack Ketchum

3 Stars

Off Season

There’s something about warmer weather that makes me want to read horror. Perhaps, I just want evidence to support my insistence that camping is a miserable idea.

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Off Season certainly provides this, as Ketchum tells a tale of a weekend getaway gone horribly wrong, when joined by incestuous cave-dwelling savages. While the scenes of gore are certainly chilling, the character development and plot are both pretty bland. There are no twists to this story. It is exactly as advertised on the back cover and no more. Furthermore, not a single death broke my heart or left me feeling anything but mildly ill, because I didn’t care about any of these people.

I may not be a seasoned reader of the genre, but overall, I found Ketchum’s Off Season to be gruesomely fun. Other horror writers aim to get inside your head and mind rape you with their stories. You’re not intended to read Stephen King’s It and develop a fear of clowns; instead you fear the ancient evil inhabiting the world and the people in it, including yourself. Ketchum is a bit more to the point, both with his plotline and word count. I find that truly brilliant horror is tedious by nature, due to the aforementioned mental invasion. This title can be read in a few days and forgotten, despite some of the more cringe-worthy moments. Nick Cutter’s The Troop, however, still haunts me. If you want to be scared, without true commitment, Off Season is a good choice.

Review Word Count: 250

Darkfever (Fever series 1), by Karen Marie Moning

3 Stars

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I’ve been a fan of Karen Marie Moning since I read her Highlander series. It wasn’t an especially deep saga, but it was a great deal of fun and written fairly well, with likable characters. I’ve started Darkfever several times, but so often, when I’m in the mood for a paranormal romance, I expect romance. While the plot of Darkfever is not only engaging, but quite original, Jerricho Barrons comes off as exceptionally abrasive in this first installment. At times, he even seems cruel. Coupled with the Sookie Stackhouse-esque exaggeration of Mac’s southern charm, while I could tell this one would be worth the effort, for the longest time, I just couldn’t put it forth.

I’m glad I finally committed. Jerricho’s edges smoothed out a bit and Mac toughened up a touch, but I mostly just really liked this story. Unlike vampires, werewolves, and witches, the fae haven’t been overdone in books and television, so there’s a lot of room to expand on the lore, and expand Moning does. This is one of those delightful paranormal stories that includes a glossary in the book, because the author has gone so deep in her creation of the world. Sadly, though, world building seemed to make up the majority of this tale. This is not a stand-alone title, rather clearly the set-up for a series and it reads like one. That’s not a bad thing, as long as you’re looking for a commitment to character development and intricate plot details.

Review Word Count: 247

Series Order
1. Darkfever
2. Bloodfever
3. Faefever
4. Dreamfever
5. Shadowfever
6. Iced
7. Burned

The Teenage Brain, by Frances E. Jensen

3 Stars

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This book falls into a hole. It’s really quite technical for everyday reading, but Jensen has made a clear effort to “dumb it down.” At times, this is useful, but others, the effort is wasted, because I honestly cannot imagine anyone reading this if they don’t work directly with teenagers and/or have an interest in psychology. While I appreciated the diagrams and charts, teachers, librarians, social workers, and such will understand the language well enough without some of the more simplistic examples.

The science is sound enough. The experiments mentioned are relevant, though they’re also a bit obviously biased at times. While Jensen knows her psychology, however, she struggles with the social aspect of teens. She references her own teenagers several times, but mentions that they were in high school in 2005. I graduated in 2006 and I can guaran-damn-tee that teenagers, high school, and the entire social dynamic tied up between them has changed exponentially in the last 10 years. For example, on page one, she’s horrified that her son would want to dye his hair a non-natural color.

Walk into a public high school today and I’d say a good quarter of them have non-natural hair color… in the suburbs.

In general, I enjoyed the book. I’m fascinated by the effect of media on children and feel that teenagers are often overlooked, lumped in with adults. We worry until they aren’t cute anymore. Jensen doesn’t. She’s just a little out of touch with current teens.

Review Word Count: 243

Rock Chick (Rock Chick 1), by Kristen Ashley

3 Stars

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I can sum up Kristen Ashley books in one sentence: she ain’t deep, but she sure is fun.

As a librarian, I meet a lot of people who think that all reading has to grow your mind. It doesn’t. Sometimes, it’s really nice to enjoy the literary equivalent of that Kardashian show. The difference is, old school KA has a delightfully fun plot. So, why just three stars for Rock Chick?

Rock Chick is not a good introduction to KA. Lee isn’t quite as much of an alpha as her many male leads and, quite frankly, there’s not as much sex. I wouldn’t call the majority of KA erotica, but it’s definitely heavy on the romance. The plot of this entire series is crazy and fun and maybe a little too goofy in comparison to the rest of her contemporary romantic suspense. Not only do the women refer to themselves as Rock Chicks, the men are The Hot Bunch. It’s eye roll inducing if you’re unfamiliar with the author and even if you are, it takes a bit of adjusting to accept alongside the almost supernatural draw the men have to their individual gals.

All that being said, this book is great fun, as is most of KA’s older stuff. The author has a signature writing style and characterization that many have failed to replicate. Admittedly, she rotates the same six characters with new names, but they’re just so much fun to read that you’re not so sure you care.

Review Word Count: 249

Series Reading Order
Rock Chick
Rock Chick Rescue
Rock Chick Redemption
Rock Chick Renegade
Rock Chick Revenge
Rock Chick Reckoning
Rock Chick Regret
Rock Chick Revolution

Silver Bastard (Silver Valley 1), by Joanna Wylde

3 Stars

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I’ll admit, after book 4 of the Reapers MC, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this one. More often than not, once an unknown author has lost her mojo, it’s because she’s gotten a publisher and a time crunch and you’ll never read anything good by her ever again. However, I was still binge watching Sons of Anarchy and I am forever the obsessive 12-year-old who, at one time, regularly watched the week’s new episode of Roswell on repeat for seven days. I figured I’d get the MC craze out of my system and what better way to do that than with a book called Silver Bastard, from a one hit wonder?

If the 3 stars didn’t already give it away, I was wrong. Unlike Reaper’s Stand, Silver Bastard had enjoyable characters engaged in a gritty and intriguing plot. Wylde also managed not to overdo the alpha role, which has been one of her struggles in the past. Puck’s just arrogant enough to keep me from rolling my eyes over hearts and flowers, but not enough to earn genuine dislike. Becca was a little bland and inconsistent, virginal at times and an old pro at this slutty biker chick gig at others. Her decisions made enough sense, even when they were frustrating. It didn’t seem like Wylde was just trying to make the story happen and fill her word count. The climax did not disappoint, nor did the epilogue. I’ll reread the next time I’m in the mood, I’m sure.

Review Word Count: 246

Reaper’s MC, by Joanna Wylde

3 Stars

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Motorcycle club romances have become increasingly popular since Sons of Anarchy and few writers have pulled them off. They definitely need plot with the sex and Wylde accomplishes that… mostly. I tend to exhaust a genre before moving on, so I’m going to review this series as a whole, since I read them all in four days.

Reaper’s Property
The romance felt genuine and the plot, while a touch predictable, wasn’t lazy or tiresome. It worked and could’ve easily failed. Horse was a bit of a jerk, but he’s well redeemed in the end. Marie was too judgmental and took the mistrust too far. 3 stars.

Reaper’s Legacy
Ruger delved into alphahole territory. Sophie was too hormonally impulsive and made bad decisions. They both did, so the relationship had too many highs and lows. The plot wasn’t bad, but it was surprisingly anti-climactic. 3 stars.

Devil’s Game
It wasn’t intentional, as it says in the author’s note, but this is clearly new adult. It’s not bad new adult, but you can’t switch genres in the middle of a series, so it made for a frustrating read. Futhermore, the first 40% heavily overlaps with Reaper’s Legacy, so it drags. The plot is… fine, I guess? Nothing about this one was especially engaging. 2 stars.

Reaper’s Stand
DNF: 50%. This one just… sucked. Picnic was vastly different and London was about as interesting as a tape dispenser. The chemistry wasn’t there and the plot was painfully obvious. It read like fanfic and based on the reviews, the ending is completely unrealistic, even in this Felons Be Hawt universe. I couldn’t do it. 1 star

Review Word Count (no ratings or titles): 249

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

3 Stars

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Every time I reread a book I was forced to read in high school, I have one of two thoughts:

No wonder they made me read this!

…or in the case of The Great Gatsby..

No wonder I looked up the SparkNotes!

This book is beautifully written. The language and imagery practically define modern classic, making it obvious why we were forced to read it in the 11th grade. The portrayal of 1920’s materialism and the self-absorption of the upper class is both believable and insufferable. Jay Gatsby, himself, is a depressingly realistic portrayal of a man in love with an undeserving fantasy, yet unwilling to settle for less. We see him in every time period, the hero tossed aside for the villain, mourned only by the narrator. In this case, that’s Nick Carraway, who proves redemption is possible in the eleventh hour. Then there’s Daisy.

Daisy… well, Daisy was a hopeless cunt. I know. I know. We don’t use the c-word when reviewing classic literature, but it fits every other character, as well. No matter how gorgeously written, I just cannot enjoy reading about a cast of hopeless cunts, even if that is the point. I also wanted to shoot Gatsby myself by his 44th “old sport.” While intentional, the repetitiveness was distracting. Ultimately, I hated this book just as much at 27 as I did at 17. The best ending would’ve been for Gatsby to serve Kool-Aid laced with cyanide at one of his glorious parties. I’d read that fanfiction.

Review Word Count: 249

It Ain’t Me Babe (Hades Hangmen 1), by Tillie Cole

2 Stars

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This is one of those books that I laughingly describe to friends who mock my reading material ::ahem, GAIL::

She’s officially forbade me to read passages aloud.

The plot sounds absolutely ludicrous, but I actually enjoyed this book. In fact, one of the problems I have with motorcycle romances is that they’re rarely truly gritty, especially with an endearing love story. I love an old school KA book, and I enjoyed Motorcycle Man, but a true MC novel is a modern day outlaw story that might scar me a little. Well, this one certainly qualifies and it does so with an original twist… though, perhaps, too original, which is why I didn’t rate it more highly. You see, mute future MC president, Styx, meets indoctrinated Christian cult victim, Mae, through a fence one day. Fifteen years later, fate brings them together, forcing him to fight for Mae’s freedom from her fundamentalist captors. Yeah. That sounds like a Mad Lib. It sure was a fun one, though, if you can get past all that rape… and the intense vulgarity… and the murder… and the frustratingly structured dialogue (stutters and Old World English). In short, while it’s a bit random and far-fetched, you’ll have no complaints about it being MC Light or plot light.

Review Word Count: 212

Series Reading Order (sans novellas)
1. It Ain’t Me Babe
2. Heart Recaptured
3. Souls Unfractured (not yet released)
4. Deep Redemption (not yet released)