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review 2016-01-13 13:27
Ranting Thoughts: Dead by Wednesday
Dead by Wednesday - Beverly Long

Dead by Wednesday -- Beverly Long



First of all: Apparently I'm in the minority about this book--it's got a lot of glowing reviews.
Second of all: I had only intended to write a short opinion piece... then the ranting started and here we are.

This book wasn’t the worst thing in the world; and to be honest, I thought about cutting it some slack because it wasn’t really as terrible as some of my frustrated mutterings made it seem. But it still wasn’t the best thing in the world either. It was simply your standard, formulaic, carbon-copy romance using a crime thriller as background scenery to give said standard, formulaic, carbon-copy romance a possible story to follow.

And if the crime thriller had had any substance to it, I might have been inclined to enjoy it a little bit more. But the serial killings in the book really took a huge backseat despite the fact that at least two chapters were spent on the investigation process. I just never got the sense that the ‘suspense’ part of this romantic suspense was all that significant to this particular book.

The basic outline of the story is pretty much as follows:
There’s a serial killer targeting teenage and pre-teen boys, who are supposedly dying a gruesome, torturous death. Not that I need detailed descriptions or anything, but, again, I never got the sense that the killings were gruesome or anything. There is a lot more telling about a vague “gruesome murders” happening rather than showing that these were gruesome murders. I hadn’t even realized that the serial killings were gruesome murders until someone had some dialogue somewhere that made a half-hearted mention about it.

I only knew that boys were being murdered. But that’s fine--details of gory murders aren’t really my cuppa anyway, even if I can sometimes enjoy details for the sake of chilly, spine-tingling intrigue. But I’m the type of person who avoids Saw movies like the plagues, so I can live with less gory details.

However, I still need some details.

Back to the book...

Carmen Jimenez is a pregnancy counselor; Robert what’s-his-name (I’ve already turned the book into the library and am too lazy to look up character names I don’t remember) is a police detective. And somehow Carmen’s younger brother gets caught up in the whole mess of murder and intrigue… so somehow Carmen gets caught up in this whole mess as well.

And then the story spirals on from there.

My Thoughts
The ideas in this book aren’t bad. In fact, it was the premise that drew my attention anyway--as do most crime thriller premises. Aside from a murder mystery with (unfulfilled) potential, the book brings up a lot of good discussion topics including high school bullying, teens getting wrapped up in gang violence, and teenage pregnancy.

But everything presented in this book is only second (or maybe even third, or fourth) string to the standard, formulaic, carbon-copy romance. Which would have been fine, because I don’t mind a good romance. If the romance was a good romance.

But since the romance really wasn’t all that great, I would have liked some more in-depth substance pertaining to the tangent plotlines dealing with the teenagers in this book--specifically Carmen’s teenage younger brother, Raoul, as he deals with growing up raised by his older sister and struggling to understand his deceased brother, Hector’s life that had lead to said older brother’s death.

Frankly, aside from Raoul, the characters were lackluster and boring and nothing outstanding presents in Dead by Wednesday.

Carmen is the usual romance heroine: cynical, almost virginal, always second-guessing herself, and then in the end, she pulls a TSTL even though she’s supposed to have been a character with some street smarts. For a social worker specializing in teenagers, she doesn’t know how to read her brother--but I’ll give her that, because dealing with family is always different from dealing with clients. Romance-wise, she flashes hot and cold in a very inconsistent manner in a way that makes me extra frustrated. She sends mixed signals and jumps to conclusions and makes wild assumptions and then gets over-dramatic at all the wrong moments.

Mainly, I’m a little disappointed that she made a bad decision that she should have known was a bad decision, that nearly got herself and her brother killed. I know she has spent her entire life fending for herself and her brother, but there is a line between being independent and strong versus being plain reckless.

If you know it’s a dangerous situation and there are other options, don’t just walk right into said dangerous situation without a plan--especially if you’re taking your teenaged younger brother who relies on your protection with you.

I can forgive Raoul for doing stupid things because he’s young and vulnerable and still has time to learn from his mistakes; but Carmen is a grown woman who has already gone through a lot of rough stuff in her life and is described as having street smart experience. And she’s a social worker who guides teenagers into making the right decisions for their lives. So she should know better.

Robert is the usual romance hero: broody, sexually experienced and a ladies’ man, overconfident in his own attractiveness, pushy and determined to get into a woman’s pants no matter that she’s sending him “Back off” signals every other encounter. But because he’s a good man at heart and described as a gentleman in the narration, it’s totally okay for him to force his affections onto a woman who keeps pushing him away. (/sarcasm)

And then he gets all offended when friends are telling him to leave Carmen alone if he’s not serious about her. After all, just because he plays around and has lines of women waiting to sleep with him, doesn’t mean he’s constantly breaking hearts. Not mattering that he knows Carmen is looking for a more committed and serious relationship, and he has admitted that he’s really only in it for the lusty, sexy times and doesn’t know how to do the committed relationship thing… So, hey, stop treating him like he’s an inconsiderate bastard bent on misleading a woman on into thinking that he’s interested in more than just sex.

But, of course, he then just happens to meet the right woman (Carmen, by the way) and suddenly all other women are dead to him. He transforms into a protective caveman, but he goes through the usual “Love? Where did that word come from?” phase and “Marriage? Who needs that kind of lifestyle?” as he goes off and buys an engagement ring. All of this after three scarce encounters with his true love--two of which ended in either mixed signals or the big “Back off” signals.

But that’s fine, Robert and Carmen were meant for each other, so let the instalove roll.

But I’m being harsh. Probably because I’m irritated about stuff.

At the worst, Dead by Wednesday is simply a typical romance with a typical storyline with typical characters. Monotone and boring, but NOT a bad book. At least there was a semblance of a story.

I guess I’m mainly disappointed because I’d been considering reading Beverly Long’s Return to Ravesville books since the moment I read the synopsis of the first book in that series.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge -- New to Me Author #1

Also Read during Bout of Books 15 -- See Day 6 Update



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review 2015-12-14 03:17
Thoughts: Vitro
Vitro - Jessica Khoury

Vitro -- Jessica Khoury

Book 2 of Corpus


**This book can be read as a stand-alone apart from the first book in the series, Origin.  In fact, there is some dialogue alluding to the South American facilities, another research group owned by the fictional company of Corpus, which, if I'm not mistaken, is where the events of Origin takes place--possibly concurrent to the events of Vitro.



I am actually quite conflicted with whether or not I liked this book. In the end, I can only say that I found it entertaining and gripping, maybe enjoyable. However, really liking it is a bit of a stretch. The story's progression was consistently forward moving without any room for breath--there was constant action and constant activity, and everything was just moving so fast you don't get much of a chance to think about anything.

Jessica Khoury's writing is great and the premise of Vitro an attention-grabbing idea. Certain controversial subjects are raised, and the story can be quite thought-provoking. But aside from that, there wasn't much that stood out about Vitro to make it a memorable book. While the characters were great, there is nothing memorable about them nor about their stories.

The Story:
Sophie Crue has looked forward to working with her scientist mother on Skin Island her entire life. Ever since her parents split up and she was whisked away to Boston to live with her father, Sophie has desired nothing but to prove to her mother that she can be useful and can help with her mother's research of finding cures for certain human ailments such as Alzheimer's. So when she receives an urgent e-mail from her mother asking for her to come to Skin Island because Moira Crue is in distress and needs Sophie immediately, she does not hesitate to fly all the way out to Guam where she hires a young pilot, Jim Julien (an old childhood friend of hers before she moved to Boston), to take her to Skin Island.

But upon arrival, the duo realize that there is something much sinister happening on the isolated island. Instead of researching to find cures for Alzheimer's, Sophie finds that her mother has been creating Vitros, young, teenage children artificially born and grown, with chips embedded in their brains who are programmed to imprint upon the first person they see upon awakening, and thus will become a slave to that person.

Moreso, Sophie discovers Lux, one of these Vitros, who is her own twin sister.

My Thoughts:
There were just a few things here and there that did not work for me: mainly a lot of Sophie's actions that get her onto the island in the first place, and some of the sci-fi logic surrounding the creation of these Vitros. Not that I'm a scientist or anything, so I just went with it and enjoyed the horror-like aspect of the sci-fi part of the story.

As for Sophie's actions: Had she not been so reckless and naive to begin with, I might have enjoyed the book a lot more. But I found her actions maddeningly stupid. While I understand that she's been wanting to be with her mother for all these years and takes the first chance she gets to run off to Skin Island, I can't help but think that someone more level-headed would have thought things through first before flying across the world based on a single e-mail SOS from a mother who has denied her requests to visit Skin Island for so many years.

On top of that, while I don't begrudge her getting into a plane with Jim Julien because he IS a childhood friend, and as she states, her only ever closest and best friend, she also has not seen this boy in over ten years. HOW do you know he's still that same friend and trustworthy enough to climb into a plane with him and rush off into the air where he has full control over where you are going and where you will end up?

And THEN, by the third chapter, Sophie once again runs off with another strange boy she DOES NOT EVEN KNOW when they land on Skin Island. Nicholas just shows up, says a lot of cryptic things, doesn't even acknowledge whether or not he is taking Sophie to see her mother, and Sophie just goes with him without hesitation.

Honestly, change the way the events at the beginning took place--get Sophie and Jim to Skin Island in a different way with some more tangible reasons, and I might buy into the story a little bit better. But after three very bad decisions, I started becoming wary of everything else that Sophie did such as continuing to trust Nicholas and trying to help him despite the fact that he'd lied to her, sabotaged Jim's plane, and got her stuck on Skin Island.


At the halfway point of the book, when secrets start coming out and the entire island starts becoming chaos and mayhem, things started getting MUCH better.

And to be honest, Jessica Khoury's writing is spectacular in laying down the foundation of a world and creating excellent imagery of the island's setting. The story concept was also intriguing, and the characters were all pretty awesome. If not for the few bad decisions that Sophie makes, which seem highly illogical, I might have liked this book a lot more.

The character interactions were kind of meh, though. Aside from the whole "childhood" friends memories to go on, the friendship bond between Sophie and Jim was a little flimsy. So it's fortunate that Jim's got a good altrusitic hero complex going on for him and couldn't abandon Sophie, putting his own life in danger time and time again to help her and Lux. But otherwise, even for a friendship, their tight bond felt a little forced.

It makes me a little glad that the romance was so back-seated that it might have been non-existent. And I'm okay with that, really.

Final Thoughts:
I had had stars docked from this book's rating for quite some time until halfway into the book and things started getting exciting and the story world's events and logic felt a bit more stable.

Vitro can be an entertaining and enjoyable read. I didn't like it nearly as much as I liked Origin, but it IS serviceable as an action-packed, fast-paced, science fiction.




This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):




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review 2015-11-22 10:49
Thoughts: Lark Ascending
Lark Ascending - Meagan Spooner

Lark Ascending -- Meagan Spooner

Book 3 (final) of Skylark trilogy



@62% into book
This last book is probably the least haphazard one of the trilogy with a much clearer direction. Even with new events surfacing that give rise to new plot twists, we’re at least still focusing on one main conflict, even if said main conflict is extremely predictable.

Unlike the first two books, I’ve yet to encounter too many dragging moments. And then, much like the first two books (with the exception of some of the first book), Lark Ascending is fast-paced with an urgent “need-to-know-what-happens-next” narration. At least it has that going for it.

However, also much like the first two books, the characters are hard to relate with--I find myself caring very little for them or concerning myself about what happens to them. This book is more plot driven than it is character driven; but as I’d mentioned in the other two Skylark reviews, the characters have a lot of potential for great story. They just don’t seem to come to life in the books.

@ Book’s Completion
To be honest, this wasn’t a bad ending for the Skylark trilogy, if only because despite having an ongoing conflict that was hard to grasp, each book also had it’s own well-rounded conflict and conclusion.

And maybe, aside from that fast-paced storytelling that made the books within the Skylark trilogy easy to read, I can give it a little bit of credit for the above-mentioned well-roundedness of each book’s sub-conflict within the bigger main conflict of the trilogy.

Of course, for all the other things I stated in the 62% few paragraphs further up in this haphazard review (characters that are hard to relate with, ready predictability of story direction, uncertainty of each book’s general direction throughout the series…), the overall impression I got from the trilogy was quite less than enjoyable.

Makes sense? Probably not. I’m not even quite sure I know what I’m trying to say.

Nevertheless, I still managed to fly through the books without too much trouble.

In this conclusion:
Basically, it feels like we’re moving forward in the main series conflict with the start of Lark Ascending. But at the same time, it feels like the book recycles the same formula and storyline from both, the first and the second book.

There’s traveling in the dark wilderness outside of the safety of magic-generating cities wherein Lark and her companions are headed to fight another evil. Except that, much like the first two books, she doesn’t know she’ll find another villain to save the world from--she’s just traveling to her destination to find answers she has lots of questions about. And in doing so ends up in another large-scale battle to save lives and overthrow oppression or defeat the bad guys or something like that.

There’s a lot of fighting, a lot of bloodshed, a lot of inner monologue-ing angst about darkness and evil and monsters and etc….

My Thoughts:
The only real difference between this book and the previous two in the trilogy was the fact that (as I’d already stated), the main conflict and the story’s direction are a little more clear cut. It made the book easier to read than the previous two books; I fell asleep less often and got bored less often. I turned pages with a good bit of urgency, curiosity, mostly; wanting to know how the series would tie up; disappointed that there were still a lot of loose ends. Of course, it could also be stated that because the storyline was easier to grasp, so was the predictability of future twists and secret reveals.

Even then, it doesn’t mean that the book itself wasn’t chaotic.

As a dystopian in a sea of other YA dystopian series/trilogies, Skylark isn’t a terrible set. As I’d stated before, the world created in Skylark has potential; the storytelling and the general YA formula, however, made it into “Just another YA dystopian trilogy”.




This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):



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review 2015-11-10 11:19
Quick Thoughts: After the Storm
After the Storm - Maya Banks

After the Storm -- Maya Banks

Book 8 of KGI series



I had a lot of time to sit on this book and how I felt about it. And the more I thought about it, the more I feel like this is the one KGI book that I like the least... which is definitely a disappointment because I hadn't realized how much I'd been looking forward to middle son, Donovan Kelly's story. Like the rest of the Kelly men, he's a warrior, ex-military, broody, and gorgeous and muscled. The only difference is that he's the self-proclaimed geek of the siblings, always tinkering with one set of tech or another, and always working intel with his computers and whatnot.

So, yeah... I'd been looking forward to his book. The disappointment, however, as well as the continuously building disappointment with the turn that the KGI series has taken, has been enough that I can't quite let a personal bias influence my enjoyment of these books now.

While the action sequences were riveting enough to keep me hooked, I can't help but see the same story line over and over again concerning the romance and even the light-hearted contemporary portions of the most recent KGI installments.

Added onto that, the insta-love and the almost obsessive, controlling, stalker-ish, man-handle-y behavior that Donovan exhibits, which feel completely out of character for any of the Kelly brothers, and we take caveman possessiveness romance to something that I'm not sure I can accept readily. To me, it didn't even really matter that his need to protect the heroine had justifications left and right--the way in which he goes about being a hero just felt wrong to me. The only redeeming factor was that he acknowledged how wrong everything felt concerning his behavior... even if he still went ahead and did it all anyway, then coming back around to regret his actions.

A healthy romance this kind of behavior will not make.

It struck me as almost scarily similar how Donovan's ideals of claiming Eve and her siblings as his family felt to the other hellish, dysfunctional family Eve and her siblings had been trying to escape. The only difference is that while Eve's stepfather was a possessive, evil monster who didn't hesitate to damage or hurt other people, Donovan comes from much more loving, caring stock and probably would have allowed Eve and her siblings to retreat into their own lives, independent of him if they so desired. The comparisons that surfaced in my mind were very, dangerously similar, and THAT definitely didn't settle well with me.

This is definitely NOT the best KGI installment. Only the instalove romance in Book #3, Hidden Away bugged me equally, but at least I could still kind of gloss over that love story and accept it... if I squinted hard enough.

Final Thoughts:
While After the Storm might have suffered from its main love story line, there were a lot of other things about it that I found delightful enough not to write it off completely. Once again, I always enjoy a good family interaction story and the Kelly's are definitely a group of people you come to love over time... even if they manage to get dramatically sappy to an extreme. And so the interaction between Eve, Travis, and Cammie (our heroine and her step-siblings) was quite heartfelt, even if you had to suspend some disbelief to accept some of the dialogue between the three siblings.

Travis was especially a nice kid to have around, and while at the age of sixteen, he's still got some growing to go through before getting his own book in this world, I wouldn't mind seeing him with a story of his own at some point in time.

Secondly, Rusty is a character I've liked since the beginning as a belligerent teenager who grew into a really great young adolescent. I've always enjoyed her presence and her growth and the interaction between her and the Kelly's. And since her ambition is law enforcement, I'm crossing my fingers in hopes that when her story finally comes around, we'll get to add onto our collection of kickass heroines, right alongside P.J. And also, that new interaction between her and Sean Cameron that had been hinted at throughout... I like it (and I might have squealed a little... even if only in my head). In fact, that is entirely where a whole half a star came from to make this book only slightly better than a 2 Star rating.



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review 2015-10-31 23:31
Brief Thoughts: Raging Heat
Raging Heat (Nikki Heat) - Richard Castle

Raging Heat -- Richard Castle

Book 6 of Nikki Heat



Well... more like 3.75 Stars... but I can't only fill in a point or two of the star on the rating thingy.  So I'll just statistically give it that 4 Star rating even if it isn't quite there.

Because I don't really, REALLY love this book, but I DID like it enough to mentally give it a 4 Star rating while I was reading it. But then some other things happened that bugged me a bit and made me think: "The detectives on Castle wouldn't act like that!" or "Detective Beckett would have handled this situation differently!" or some other nonsensical exclamation...

But to be totally honest, if you look at this book in a non-Castle-comparison way, it was a very well written crime thriller. But then it would drop meta-details here and there, with that continuous subliminal message to "Watch Castle the television series on ABC", and I'm back to making my comparisons.

All-in-all, I am actually very pleased with this installment of the Nikki Heat series--it may even be the better written, personally most favorite book of this series to date. I haven't yet read the newest release, Driving Heat, but I am very much hoping for some of the same kind of writing, narration, and story progression.

Raging Heat may not have had as many funny quips as previous installments (which I missed, because I love one-liners and you can't have a meta-fictional Richard Castle as Jameson Rook without those subtle, yet ingenious one-liners of which Jameson Rook actually kind of fails at), but Raging Heat DID have an engaging story plot with a introductory that started with a literal bang. It did not drag out action sequences or simple scenes, it moved smoothly from Point A to Point B without inserting useless side tangents...

Simply put, I am very much pleasantly surprised. And while the meta-references to Castle can get a little tedious, I actually DO like those extremely rare references to Firefly.




This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):



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