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review 2017-03-07 18:07
The IHOP Papers
The IHOP Papers - Ali Liebegott

Francesca, "Goaty", has a crush on her former college tutor and follows her to San Francisco, where she starts working at an IHOP, writing a novel, and crushing on pretty much every woman she meets... 

Seriously, if I had read a synopsis of the book, I would have given it a miss. As it turned out, however, the book is not just painfully cringe-worthy as we watch Goaty's journey of self-delusion, it is also, in part, really, really funny.

 

Unfortunately, The IHOP Papers are not as enjoyable as The Beautifully Worthless of Cha-Ching! both of which feature a much more mature main character. 

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review 2016-12-03 14:00
Thoughts: Whirlpool
Whirlpool - Elizabeth Lowell

Whirlpool
by Elizabeth Lowell


My TBR List -- November Winner!
See Other My TBR List Reviews @ Because Reading

 

 

As a child, Laurel Swann barely knew her father.  Always an enigma, intriguing and inscrutable, he was an elusive shadow flitting in and out of her life.   Even now, years later, he remains a stranger to her.  Still, when a mysterious parcel arrives containing a priceless Fabergé egg, Laurel is certain it came from him.  But she doesn't realize that her father's gift has brought death and terror into her world...

Against her will, Laurel is being dragged down into a swirling vortex of betrayal and violence.   And there's nowhere to turn for help--except to Cruz Rowan, an ex-FBI agent and her father's sworn enemy.  A strong, secretive, and dangerous man, Cruz has his own agenda and is spinning his own webs.

And he is her last and only hope...



First of all, I read this book as part of the My TBR List monthly voting meme (see links above).  But I couldn't finish it in time for so many reasons--one of those reasons being that I just couldn't really get into the book.

Elizabeth Lowell is an author I have read before--there were a few of her books I enjoyed.  Her Romantic Suspenses are exciting and constantly forward-moving, which helps to keep the reader in the game even if said reader has no idea exactly what's going on.  Because Elizabeth Lowell DOES also have the tendency to scatter the focus of her books.  Sometimes there are so many story tangents and characters that you have a hard time figuring out what the story is actually about.

When it comes to Whirlpool, I was actually quite satisfied with the story progression, story outline, and the story concept, in general.  The execution wasn't terrible.  I knew where the book was taking me, and I knew what the main conflict was.  In contrast, it was actually the characters that made the book unbearable for me.  Because when you insert two alpha-jackass heroes and one doormat heroine... it really makes for some rage reading.

I have so many issues with our main couple, and the heroine's father.

Laurel really is a bonafide Category Romance heroine.  To be honest, I didn't have as big a problem with her as I had with how she handles the situation between her father and her lover.  Both men are nothing but jackasses to her.  But she lets them use her, and then lets them turn around and continue shoving her around.  They keep talking (and monologue-ing) about how much they care about her and how they have her best interests at heart; but they act like they don't care one way or another if she gets hurt in the process.

Despite what Cruz kept saying about Laurel--that she's the innocent who got dragged into the mess her father created; that her father is just using her; that he never really wanted to hurt her--he still went and did those exact same things.  And it doesn't help that Laurel doesn't even blame him or get angry or upset.  She just allows him do whatever he wants.  Then she wants to go and blame herself if two testosterone-fueled men end up killing each other.

And it's the same way with her father, too.  Although, to be honest, I dislike her father much more than any other character in this book.  Because with as much experience in the dark, twisted world of government politics, and private mercenary dangers as Jamie Swann has, I refuse to believe that he DIDN'T know the kind of danger he was putting his daughter into the moment he sent the stolen Fabergé to her address.  From that moment forward, he already put a target on her back, and it matters not a whit that he figured he'd just disappear and Laurel could go on with her life.

I'm not entirely sure whether to blame the character himself, or poor planning on the author's part.  Because Laurel's father--who keeps claiming over and over again that if Laurel just stays out of the entire business then she'll be safe--keeps making other stupid decisions and saying other stupid things that lead killers and assassins right to Laurel's door.  I have a hard time believing that someone as highly trained and experienced as him wouldn't have figured that out.

I'm just a common layperson reading a book, and I figured it out.

If he had intended to keep his daughter safe, he should have never contacted her in the first place or done anything to draw her attention to the bad guys... (a relative term considering the fact that I'm not even sure that old man Swann was a good guy himself).

And then the things he says to Laurel when he finds out that she's working with Cruz... highly crass and inappropriate.  He does not get to say things like that to his own daughter, especially since he spends a lot of time trying to convince her that he's got her best interests at heart... when obvious actions seem to say otherwise.  Also, I figure he kind of forfeited his right to be judgmental about his own daughter when he wasn't exactly a pillar of fucking morality himself.  And when he's the one who brought all this trouble down into her life in the first place.

Jackass AND stupid.

But anyway...

Romance-wise, the feelings and love development was way too insta and way too abrupt.  I have a hard time accepting stories wherein a strange man breaks into the heroine's home, but the heroine still manages to immediately feel the stirrings of attraction, and immediately decides that she trusts him not to do bad things to her.  The continued antagonistic development of Laurel and Cruz's relationship was also hard to accept because of everything going on between them.  And especially when Cruz continually broods over the fact that Laurel is protective over her father.

I mean, what did Cruz expect?  That Laurel, who has always loved her father despite how he's treated her her entire life, would suddenly turn around and go, "Oh.  Okay.  I'll help you track down my father, capture and arrest him, or possibly get him killed!"


Anyway, basically this book was just chock full of romantic clichés and frustrating people.

At least the suspense part of the story wasn't too bad, even if the random forays into our villain's heads was a little disturbing.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/12/thoughts-whirlpool.html
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review 2016-11-19 13:25
Thoughts: All Fall Down
All Fall Down - Julie Coulter Bellon

All Fall Down

by Julie Coulter Bellon
Book 1 of Hostage Negotiation Team


My TBR List -- November Winner!
See Other My TBR List Reviews (link coming soon) @ Because Reading

 

Hostage negotiator Claire Michaels’ never thought she'd be involved in an international crisis.  Can she overcome her scars of the past to stop a new al-Qaeda threat?

Navy SEAL Rafe Kelly is on leave to recover from a knee injury he suffered during his tour in Afghanistan and he doesn't expect to be fighting terrorists on his home turf.  When he's taken hostage, he knows he has to fight or die.

 

 

I read this book as part audio and part Kindle book, though towards the end, it ended up being mostly audio as I found myself listening to it while playing computer games.  It was very easy to just lose myself in a book while playing mindless computer games.  It was a good evening, well spent.

Anyway, the audio book is narrated by Simon Pringle-Wallace, and was actually done quite well once I got used to his voice.  Since the majority of the characters were male, it was easier to get used to his voice once you get past his softer voice for Claire.

But enough of that.

Book-wise, even though I DID enjoy the book, it still seems, sort of, like I'm in the minority of opinions about it.  While it was exciting, fast-paced, and enjoyable enough, there were still things about All Fall Down that didn't quite work out for me, mainly the events at the beginning.  I haven't been able to really pinpoint why, but that some of the actions and events didn't seem to make much sense to me.

Even so, having great characters helps the book.  All Fall Down is bite-sized and flew by before I knew it.  Once the action got started, everything just kind of fell into place.

We already get to see a bunch of side characters, many of whom will probably be getting their own book.  At the same time, the introduction of all these characters doesn't seem awkward or forced.  And while I did like Claire and Rafe just fine, I felt like they were fairly standard as a main couple for a romance novel; though, to be clear, that doesn't take away from the fact that both are great characters.  They just don't really stand out.

Very enjoyable, though not much more unique than any other romantic suspense outside of being about a hostage negotiation team, which is a premise I haven't come across in other romantic suspense books yet.  HOWEVER, I have been introduced to this concept in an old Hong Kong television drama series, which I very much enjoyed, which is why I'd been drawn to the concept of All Fall Down in the first place.

I will definitely find the time to continue this series.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/thoughts-all-fall-down.html
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review 2016-11-17 14:42
Bullet-Listed Thoughts: Dark Triumph
Dark Triumph - Robin LaFevers

Dark Triumph

by Robin LaFevers
Book 2 of His Fair Assassin
Audio book narrated by Angela Goethals

 


**See Also:  Collective Updates for Dark Triumph

 


To start off, I probably should warn people about the presence of the fairly incestuous relationship that takes place between Sybella and her brother Julian; just in case anyone might have difficulty accepting this in their reading diets.  It's not entirely a heavy focus, though, since we see a lot more of the obsessive love on Julian's side.  While Sybella is merely playing a part as part of her assignment, and has no desire to encourage this relationship, Julian is very much in love with her.

Moving along...

If we compare Dark Triumph to Grave Mercy, there was a lot more focus on the political and war strategies significant to the Duchess Anne and her Duchy of Brittany in Grave Mercy.  Sure, you still see a lot of personal growth and development on Ismae's side of things, but her growth really DID also follow along with how she aided her young Duchess.

Dark Triumph's focus, on the other hand, was more heavily centered on Sybella: her vengeance, her mental and emotional stability, her revelations, and how she would figure out how to survive her own fatalism.  And it was definitely an emotional ride with everything that this girl had to go through.  Because if ever there was someone who attracted trouble and death, it definitely would be Sybella.

Many other readers were stating that Dark Triumph was much darker than Grave Mercy--this is definitely true.  But I can't help feeling like the execution of the story felt almost too deliberately created to be dark, so much so that it felt outrageous at times... or maybe it was just that Sybella's first person narration was heavily influenced by her own mental and emotional instabilities that it felt that way.

Whatever the reason is, it was definitely an emotional journey, and you definitely find it hard not to feel for Sybella throughout it all.


The Story:
Sybella had run away from the life that was slowly driving her mad, coming upon the Convent of St. Mortain, and learning that there might be hope in her life after all.  For she has been told that she is really the daughter of Death, himself, and can finally split her ties with the evilness of the father she's known her entire life, the terrible Count d'Albret, who serves no one but his own malicious desires.  But then the convent decides that the best way for her to serve their saint is to return to the darkness that is her family, to the brutal father who wouldn't hesitate to use her or kill her, to the brother who loves her to the point of unsettling obsession, and to a court full of people who would more likely betray you for any number of reasons.

The Reverend Mother has promised that Sybella would be the one to mete out final justice to the Count d'Albret, to rid the world of his vile existence, to avenge her lost innocent childhood and all those who have suffered thanks to this man.  But she has yet to find the mark of death on him, and this continued service to Death, as directed by the convent, is again, slowly driving her mad.

Then the convent sends a new order: she is to find and help free the captured knight known as Benebic de Waroch, and aid in his delivery to the Duchess in Rennes.

This creates a whole new dilemma for Sybella, as it could jeopardize her chances of remaining at Nantes in her father's presence--it would definitely put a kink in her carefully laid plans to kill d'Albret as she'd been promised she could do.

And even as she follows the convent's orders, she begins to question the existence of Mortain and her role as his handmaiden.  Because if she isn't really Mortain's daughter, then that would mean that she is truly the daughter of the evil d'Albret; and that is absolutely unacceptable to Sybella as it would mean that all her hopes have come to nothing.


What I Liked:

  • This book was an emotional roller coaster ride.  To be honest, I'm listing it as one of the things that I liked, but I'm not entirely sure if it is.  It was refreshing to follow such a flawed and emotionally unstable main character, but at the same time, it wasn't like Sybella turned out much different from a typical main heroine, really, as she is also kind and giving and all sorts of goodness, hidden beneath that cynical and fatalistic exterior.

 

  • The relationship between Sybella and Beast was subtle, yet also sweet and emotionally charged.  As I'd stated in a previous update, I was very much looking forward to the potential of their slowly budding relationship after they finally meet.  They are certainly not shy around each other in terms of words exchanged and verbal sparring.

 

  • Sybella is not shy at all.  Casting aside the blushing virgin roles, Sybella is definitely a step away from typical YA heroines.  She does not hesitate to utilize her feminine advantages in seduction in order to accomplish what needs to be done.  And she also rolls her eyes at the way that everyone tries to treat her like a delicate flower.
  • This is further along in the book, but I love how Sybella so readily slides into a role of leadership when the situations demand it of her.  She has that demeanor and firmness that allows her to command soldiers without hesitating, a demeanor that doesn't even give them a chance to argue or question her authority, even though she was never really given that authority.

 

  • The relationship between Sybella and Ismae is sweet and loving.  While we don't get to see a lot of their interactions--in fact this book is actually quite scarce in character interaction--I still loved that these girls love each other unconditionally, developing on their shared youthful tragedies that lead them both to the Convent of St. Mortain and into each other's lives many years prior to the book's timeline.
  • As usual, the writing is beautiful, the telling smooth, and the story very easy to dive into.



What I Didn't Like:

  • As much as I have enjoyed following along Sybella's journey, the book itself felt altogether too one-tracked in that aspect.  At some points, I felt like the story focused too heavily inside Sybella's head, and all the thoughts and ideas bouncing around in there.  It wasn't altogether a bad experience, far from it.  I just felt like the book could have given us a little bit more.  If that makes any sense.

 

  • The romance between Sybella and Beast was a bit too instantaneous, and maybe a little abrupt.  Much like in Grave Mercy between Ismae and Dival, I felt like I rather enjoyed the partnership between Sybella and Beast as comrades in a war.  They had great chemistry as friends, taking care of each other, and fighting beside one another.  But the love story felt a little awkward, actually, and I felt a little taken aback as to when the love story even actually started, since I hadn't seen it coming, even as I knew it was inevitable.

 

  • The events that continued to follow Sybella's dysfunctional family life, the secret reveals she gave us a piece at a time, started getting almost too outstanding to be believable.  Don't get me wrong--I understand that Sybella has gone through hell on earth during her childhood spent with the d'Albrets.  Between her brutally evil father and her much too obsessively in love older brother, as well as no allies or friends on her side, I don't blame her for her eagerness to runaway and hide her past from everyone.  But each new reveal just seemed like a never ending stumble down a hill.  Because just as you thought there was nothing else for Sybella to tell us, she uncovers a whole other layer to her family's secrets that make you question all those times you claimed that your family was crazy.  (At least my father didn't have six wives who died of "mysterious" circumstances or "accidents.") 



Final Thoughts:
I ended up listening to the audio book of Dark Triumph for the remainder of the book.  While I'm not entirely in love with Angela Goethal's narration, it actually grew on me and I found myself wanting to listen to the audio instead of just stopping and reading from the print.  Of course, there were times where I DID have to stop and look to the Kindle book for spellings of names, as well as certain quotes that I wanted to highlight.

I don't know if it was the narration or the book itself, but Dark Triumph became easily devoured in a matter of hours, and I finished the entire book much earlier than I had anticipated.

But even as I write this review, I'm still a little conflicted.  Dark Triumph has a lot more emotional depth than Grave Mercy did.  Sybella is truly the NUN ASSASSIN I'd been looking forward to since the first time I'd heard the words "nun assassin" and learned about the His Fair Assassin series.  The death count in this book, by Sybella's hand, might even make up for the lack thereof by Ismae's hand.  If I thought Grave Mercy was quiet and tame, in comparison, Dark Triumph could be its opposite.

But honest, it's not.  Dark Triumph is certainly darker than its predecessor, as it details events that are bound to make a lot of people uncomfortable.  Just the list of all the secrets Sybella has been keeping is enough to last me for some time, though not all her secrets are dark ones.  But Dark Triumph isn't any more exciting or intriguing that Grave Mercy was.  Just the fact that we focus so much on Sybella's journey of self-revelation and her state of mind, and less on the events surrounding Anne's Duchy of Brittany, made the action in this second His Fair Assassin book quietly thought-provoking, even if not tamer.

It's hard for me to decide whether I liked one book more than the other.  It's like comparing apples to oranges.  Because even while both books follow a different girl, set in the same time-frame, with a lot of the same events surrounding them, they are definitely two very different stories.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/bullet-listed-thoughts-dark-triumph.html
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review 2016-10-30 14:00
Thoughts: Beg for Mercy
Beg for Mercy - Jami Alden

Beg for Mercy

by Jami Alden
Book 1 of Dead Wrong

 

 

He lurks in the shadows, waiting and watching.... And once he has you, all you can do is...

BEG FOR MERCY

Megan Flynn thought she was falling in love.  Cole Williams wasn't just handsome and passionate, he was one of the good guys.  Or so she thought, until he arrested her brother-the only family she has left-for a murder she knows he couldn't have possibly committed.  Now, with her heart broken and her brother's life hanging in the balance, Megan will risk everything to prove his innocence.  Even if that means throwing herself into the path of a sadistic killer with a hauntingly familiar MO.

Seattle Detective Cole Williams had given up on making Megan see reason where her brother is concerned.  But when she insinuates herself into the most shockingly brutal case Cole has ever worked, he can't stand idly by.  Plunged into a secret world where the city's elite indulge their darkest desires, Cole will do whatever it takes to bring down a madman who has made Megan his most coveted prey.



I was actually really looking forward to this book (and this trilogy), mainly because I've read a few erotica-contemporary romances by Jami Alden and really DID enjoy them.  They were written well with some fluff love stories that I found decently likable.

And, to be honest, Beg for Mercy was enjoyable for some reasons... but utterly frustrating for others.  The book is written quite well.  Even the mystery and the story's set-up wasn't too bad.

But the murderer was completely obvious the moment he strolls into the book.  And also, I absolutely hated our main couple!  Okay.  Maybe "hated" might be too strong a word for two characters who made me cringe with everything they said and did.  To be blunt:  Megan Flynn is stupid, and Cole Williams is a douche-nozzle.  That is probably the best way to describe these two--their relationship will probably mainly have to be sustained on steamy sex and Megan's ability to overlook every asshole thing Cole does.

From the moment their relationship falls apart in the beginning to their subsequent reunion three years into the present, to Megan's frustrating attempts at investigating her brother's case, to Cole's continued douche-hole behavior...  I just really, really got frustrated with these two before the mid-mark of the book came around.

Megan's amateur and non-existent investigation skills not-withstanding, she is just a trouble magnet who can't seem to do anything right.  While I understand, and also admire, her desperation to find the real killer and get her brother out of prison, she really DOES just recklessly bowl into every situation without thinking about any consequences, and then is surprised when her activities come back to bite her in the ass.

Cole is just a jackass, period.  Even after admitting that he didn't handle his relationship with Megan very well, he still continues to prove to me that he's just a jackass.  He continues to handle his reunion relationship with Megan very poorly, and at times is kind of a condescending jerk.

And the romance was hard for me to root for because Megan all but drops her pants whenever Cole is around her, even though she's still vengefully angry at him for arresting her brother as well as dropping her like a hot potato three years prior when it all happened.  Though I suppose she DOES manage to walk away at least twice before finally just having sex with the asshole...

It's just that, even if she were able to understand Cole's "just doing his job" by arresting Sean because all the evidence added up; I'm not sure that it would have been as easy for her to forgive him for that fact, nor forgive him for walking away from her during a time when she needed support the most.  Sean is her only family, and with him being arrested, Megan pretty much had no one else in her life except for her not-so-serious-but-becoming-serious-because-love boyfriend, Cole.

Anyway...

The reason why this book got an average, 'meh' rating though, is because the book DOES pick up after the midpoint when Cole stops being an asshole and Megan starts using her common sense a little bit more.  Things get a little more interesting.

And also, I liked Sean Flynn.  For a guy stuck in a prison for most of the book, I think he was probably my favorite of all the characters in the entire book.  Coming in a close second might be some side characters such as the fourteen-year-old Devany who actually kind of exhibits a bit more sense than Megan does, even if she DOES make some terrible mistakes--but she's fourteen, so I'm more forgiving.  Also there's the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Kristin Slater, who makes a brief appearance; and even the mysterious former Ranger, Jack Brook.

But mainly, I liked Sean.  He is pretty much like the ideal older, protective brother.

And for this reason, I'm going to continue on reading the rest of the trilogy since Sean is the main character of the second book.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge
2016 Halloween Bingo

 

Free Space

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/10/thoughts-beg-for-mercy.html
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