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

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

Beautiful series (Travis and Abby), by Jamie McGuire

2 Stars

Meh. That about sums it up.

I was surprised, and admittedly disappointed, that there is zero sex in Beautiful Disaster. It’s not that I can’t enjoy something without smut, but for this kind of romance, I expect some sexy times. Instead, I got an abusive relationship between once-friends, Travis and Abby. If you’ve read my reviews, you know I love a good alpha male. Travis wasn’t alpha, though. He was irrationally angry, a lot. After deciding that he and Abby, can’t possibly be just friends, he acts like a raving lunatic with the smallest provocation, by smashing up his apartment, beating the crap out of his cousin, and generally stalking Abby. It’s not fantasy sexy like Kristen Ashley. It’s scary and there aren’t even erotic scenes to make up for it. The “plot” is distractingly far-fetched in its conclusion, taking the reader right out of the pages for a good eye roll. 1 Star

Walking Disaster was surprisingly much more readable. Travis’s point-of-view comes off as less violent than Abby’s perception of the same events. The plot flaws are still present, however. I just couldn’t get past them. 2 Stars

Beautiful Wedding was wonderful, if only because we got to see an author respond productively to criticism. I’m not the only one who found Travis to be too much (which is saying something in the genre) and one year later, we see a realistically toned-down version in Beautiful Wedding. This wasn’t just a happy ending, but a healthy one to an unhealthy romance. 3 Stars

Review Word Count (sans star ratings): 249

Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changelings 1), by Nalini Singh

4 Stars

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I ignored this recommendation for months. I mean, for realz, yo, look at the cover art. Read the title. This must be nothing but trash. I’m so glad for my habit of reading titles because they look awful. Sometimes it leads me to some real gems, like the Psy-Changeling books. This series is told in the style of J.R. Ward and Kresley Cole, detailing an over-arching plot through the individual tales of different couples. It’s most definitely paranormal romance, but the story surrounding it is just so fun and original… and also broken up with explicit sex scenes.

The Psy are a cerebral species, connected to a neural network and possessing psychic powers. This made them all batcrap crazy, so they got rid of emotion 80 or so years ago. The Changelings are shape shifters that exist in packs, based on their animal. Changeling leopard Lucas strikes a deal with Nikita Duncan and is intrigued by the warmth he feels from her daughter, Sascha. When a neighboring pack is certain a Psy has taken one of their own, Lucas must work with Sascha to catch the villain before war breaks out.

Lucas is a definite alpha male and Sascha is a bit too weak at times. The language can be a touch redundant as well, but these issues are standard for the first installment in a series. The overarching plot is unique and the characters are enjoyable. This is a great beginning to a paranormal romance series.

Review Word Count: 247

Psy-Changeling series order (sans novellas)

1. Slave to Sensation
2. Visions of Heat
3. Caressed by Ice
4. Mine to Possess
5. Hostage to Pleasure
6. Branded by Fire
7. Blaze of Memory
8. Bonds of Justice
9. Play of Passion
10. Kiss of Snow
11. Tangle of Need
12. Heart of Obsidian
13. Shield of Winter
14. Shards of Hope

Keep Me Safe (Slow Burn 1), by Maya Banks

2 Stars DNF

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I don’t like to review DNF’s, but I tried, y’all. I really tried.

The problem with Keep Me Safe isn’t the plot. It was pretty original, mixing romantic suspense with paranormal romance. That’s why I gave it a second go (and star) after only having made it through 25% the first time. You have to be in the mood for Banks, because she loves her damsels. These aren’t KA damsels, mouthy and impulsive. These are old school Disney damsels, too stupid to refuse an apple from a stranger or prick their finger on a glowing spinning wheel. These gals are weak and need saving from the badasses who fall in love with them instantly… which can be fun to read. In fact, this theme worked particularly well in Banks’s highlander series and the first half of her KGI series, which, admittedly, takes a hilariously hard left turn.

Keep Me Safe’s major flaw isn’t the plot or characters. It’s the writing. I don’t know if Banks has jumped the shark or if she’s writing too quickly, but this book was unbelievably repetitive. In the first few chapters, Caleb confesses that he’d do it all over again at least four times. It takes away from the effect and is exhausting to read. On top of that, I know this is romance, but oh my stars, Caleb turned into such a vagina. I just could not take another redundant heartfelt speech from this “badass.” It was beyond nauseating. I quit at 66%.

Review Word Count: 246

Slow Burn

1. Keep Me Safe
2. In His Keeping
3. Safe at Last

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld 1), by Kelley Armstrong

4 Stars

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Bitten is definitely paranormal romance, but there’s a lot more action and adventure to the story than is usual for the genre. That’s both the reason for the high rating and the reason I didn’t award that 5th star. The relationship between Clay and Elena is too central to the story not to categorize the title as romance, but also lacks the emphasis of a typical love story, because of the heavy and engaging plot. At times, I couldn’t decide if I wanted more Clay and Elena or if I wanted to hear more about this whole wolf thing.

The plot itself is original and complex, and a truly unique take on werewolf lore, without creating a new supernatural breed. Honestly, though, I think my favorite aspect of Armstrong’s writing is her characterization. None of her characters are truly perfect. Elena is sort of cold and angry. She holds a wicked grudge against Clay, who is pretty unforgivably barbaric at times, his choices differing greatly from the show. The choice between Clay and Phillip isn’t obvious to the reader, because Phillip is never painted as a villain. Once again, the relationship is not the sole focus of the story. Typically, with PNR, we enjoy the tale, but we know how it ends. This isn’t so in Bitten. Characters die. Hearts are broken. Not everyone is forgiven. It’s quite refreshing in the genre, if you’re looking for refreshing. There’s also the joy of the closely based Canadian show, now available on Netflix.

Review Word Count: 250

Women of the Otherworld
1. Bitten
2. Stolen
3. Dime Store Magic
4. Industrial Magic
5. Haunted
6. Broken
7. No Humans Involved
8. Personal Demon
9. Living With the Dead
10. Frostbitten
11. Waking the Witch
12. Spellbound
13. Thirteen

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

Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, by Lori Gottlieb

4 Stars

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I don’t really read dating guides. It’s not that I don’t think anyone else has a valuable perspective. It’s just that the genre is generally so broad. “Love yourself first!” Thanks a heap, Carrie Bradshaw. I can’t believe this shit got published.

So, when I stumbled on this book while creating my New Year’s Resolutions display, at work, the provocative title got my attention. The title is exactly that, though: an effort to set the book apart in an overcrowded genre. Gottlieb is an unmarried woman in her early 40s, attempting to advise twenty-somethings and women in their early 30s to reevaluate their expectations of men, if they hope to be married and have children. Her book is written with marriage as the ultimate goal, children being an obvious perk. It’s not as preachy coming from Gottlieb, however, because she, herself, never got married and had a child alone, always assuming a better guy would come along.

This book genuinely changed my outlook on dating. If you follow my personal blog, you can see how my choices have changed. I’m no longer criticizing trivial issues and am willing to attempt to move past things that don’t matter in an effort to find love. Gottlieb writes with a somewhat defeatist attitude, but those who would benefit from reading this need that. My only real complaint was that she kept insisting religion was trivial and, at least for this Catholic gal, that simply is not true. This was a necessary wake up call.

Review Word Count: 250

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