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review 2017-08-19 21:15
Brief Thoughts: One Snowy Night (novella)
One Snowy Night: A Heartbreaker Bay Christmas Novella - Jill Shalvis,Karen White

One Snowy Night
by Jill Shalvis
audio book narrated by Karen White
Heartbreaker Bay #2.5 (novella)

 

 

It’s Christmas Eve and Rory Andrews is desperate to get home to the family she hasn’t seen in years.  Problem is, her only ride to Lake Tahoe comes in the form of the annoyingly handsome Max Stranton, and his big, goofy, lovable dog Carl.

Hours stuck in a truck with the dead sexy Max sounds like a fate worse than death (not), but Rory’s out of options.  She’s had a crush on Max since high school and she knows he’s attracted to her, too.  But they have history… and Max is the only one who knows why it went south.

They’ve done a good job of ignoring their chemistry so far, but a long road trip in a massive blizzard might be just what they need to face their past… and one steamy, snowy night is all it takes to bring Max and Rory together at last.



One Snowy Night was a potentially sweet and fun little romance, with a road trip in snowy weather, and some thought-provoking ideas about forgiveness, change, growing up... the works.  Rory and Max were both nice characters, although they don't really stand out all that well.  Rory is the typical, down-on-her-luck girl, who has had a rough go of things, who is trying to get her life back together and make amends with her past.  Max is Standard Broody Alpha Male #1, who is also letting things in his past influence his decisions in present day.

To be honest, the conflict between Rory and Max was a rather legit, realistic issue.  The biggest problem that I kept seeing was that the two didn't know how to talk to each other.  Max is pissed at Rory for some reason, Rory has secrets she doesn't want to talk about.  And thus, it makes for a very lonely, and quiet car ride, when neither of the two want to talk at all about anything.

I got a little frustrated when Rory realized that something big was bugging Max that had to do with their high school years.  He didn't want to talk about it, and so Rory decided that she wouldn't ask him, despite the fact that she really wanted to find out why Max had a chip on his shoulder about her.  And thus, that carried on for a bit of time and made me roll my eyes.

Because, yes, let's just NOT talk about what the problem is and let it fester while the two of you drive for a few hours together in the wintry blizzard.

My feelings of relief was palpable when some nice old couple gave Rory the tip that she needed to look to the past to figure out how to fix her present.  I probably would have just told her that she just needed to learn to talk to Max, and vice versa, but I guess the old lady put it in a more worldly way.

Anyway, this is a cute little romance, probably not something I'd come back to.

Unless there's more of Carl, the big and goofy doberman to see; now HE was probably the best part of the book!

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/08/brief-thoughts-one-snowy-night-novella.html
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review 2017-08-19 21:08
Quick Thoughts: The Trouble with Mistletoe
The Trouble with Mistletoe: A Heartbreaker Bay Novel - Jill Shalvis,Karen White

The Trouble with Mistletoe
by Jill Shalvis
audio book narrated by Karen White
Book 2 of Heartbreaker Bay

 

 

If she has her way . . .

Willa Davis is wrangling puppies when Keane Winters stalks into her pet shop with frustration in his chocolate-brown eyes and a pink bedazzled cat carrier in his hand.  He needs a kitty sitter, stat.  But the last thing Willa needs is to rescue a guy who doesn’t even remember her . . .

He’ll get nothing but coal in his stocking.

Saddled with his great-aunt’s Feline from Hell, Keane is desperate to leave her in someone else’s capable hands.  But in spite of the fact that he’s sure he’s never seen the drop-dead-gorgeous pet shop owner before, she seems to be mad at him . . .

Unless he tempers “naughty” with a special kind of nice . . .

Willa can’t deny that Keane’s changed since high school: he’s less arrogant, for one thing—but can she trust him not to break her heart again?  It’s time to throw a coin in the fountain, make a Christmas wish—and let the mistletoe do its work . . .



If it's one thing I've come to understand, it's that Jill Shalvis books are charming even when you find them frustrating.

The Trouble with Mistletoe had an interesting premise to work from, however, you could readily tell that it wasn't something meant to be drawn out.  Keeping Keane in the dark about why Willa was always angry at him could have gotten out of hand, or it could have been an interesting twist; except that particular conflict was resolved quite early in the book that made me rather glad.  I figured it was kind of nice that Willa and Keane managed to take the adult way out and let the past go--after all, when you're young, you do stupid things that you might regret in the future.  And at least Keane was a good enough person to feel chagrined about being a jerk when he was a teenager.  And Willa was gracious enough to forgive and move on.

But then we come to a sort of "second half" of the contemporary romance... and things start getting frustrating.

To be honest, what I'd worried about for the first half, actually ended up happening in the second half of this romance.

Basically, there was a lot of wishy-washy, back-and-forth with these two, and it got to a point where I don't even know what either Keane or Willa wanted from each other.  I'm not even sure they knew what they wanted with each other, or themselves, or their own lives in general.  The same conflict kept getting dredged up in monologue about each other's inability to commit... or no, this is about the other person's inability to commit... but wait, it's about his/her own concerns about committing...

And it just kept going on like that:  "This is a very bad idea.  But let's have sex anyway."  "We're not doing this anymore... okay, maybe one more time.  But it's a bad idea."  "But you don't want attachments!"  "Wait, no, I guess it's me--I can't do attachments."  "But you said you don't get attached."

After the third time, it got old.

Meanwhile, I found myself also a bit frustrated with the side characters as well.  The last thing you ever want when you're going through a conflicting romance is for friends to be nosy, especially if they're also going to be nosy, interfering, disruptive, and unhelpful.  And while it might have seemed like a comedic insert for Willa's girl friends to be the nosy, interfering, disruptive, and unhelpful lot... it actually kind of got annoying.

Except for Rory.  I liked Rory--she was nosy, but she was also really sincere.  And Archer was pretty cool, too--he wasn't nosy, he wasn't interfering, and he wasn't disruptive; he wasn't really helpful either, but at least he offered to beat Keane up if Willa needed him to, no questions asked.  The rest of Willa's friends felt like they were there just for sheer entertainment.

Keane's staff was also a bit annoying as well.

And then, true to Jill Shalvis form, some tangential conflicts are introduced that are never properly resolved, such as Keane's relationship with his parents--you get a back story, you get frustration from him, you get a teaser... and that's it.

But as I'd stated before, as frustrating as this book got, it still managed to be charming somehow.  Keane's kitty-sitting adventure was certainly sweet and fun; Petunia was a typical Queen Cat, and totally makes you smile.  There's even a brief appearance of a small puppy with paws larger than his own head, and the scenes were super adorable.

This was a mediocre Jill Shalvis work, at best.  Still charming, but I can see where people may not enjoy it.

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/08/quick-thoughts-trouble-with-mistletoe.html
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review 2017-08-18 15:50
Thoughts: In Too Deep
In Too Deep (Arcane Society, #10) - Jayne Ann Krentz

In Too Deep
by Jayne Ann Krentz
Book 10 of Arcane Society
-- Book 1 of Looking Glass Trilogy

 

 

Scargill Cove is the perfect place for Fallon Jones, confirmed recluse and investigator of the paranormal.  It’s a hot spot, a convergence point for unusually strong currents of energy, which might explain why the town attracts misfits and drifters like moths to a flame.  Now someone else has been drawn to the Cove — Isabella Valdez, on the run from some very dangerous men.

When she starts working as Fallon’s assistant, Isabella impresses him by organizing his pathologically chaotic office—and doesn’t bat an eye at the psychic element of his job.  She’s a kindred spirit, a sanctuary from a world that considers his talents a form of madness.  But after a routine case unearths an antique clock infused with dark energy, Fallon and Isabella are dragged into the secret history of Scargill Cove and forced to fight for their lives, as they unravel a cutthroat conspiracy with roots in the Jones family business…and Isabella’s family tree.



In Too Deep was another highly enjoyable Jayne Ann Krentz contemporary romantic suspense, with paranormal elements.  This is the tenth installment of the Arcane Society series, and the first in the sub-trilogy called Looking Glass, and we very soon get introduced to the so-titled "looking glass" as well as some introductions to the Victorian era events that will probably be brought up once again in the next Arcane book.

In Too Deep is not my favorite of the Arcane series, but like any other JAK contemporary, it is suspenseful with lots of twists, great characters, and fun wit.  Fallon Jones is an interesting character, and while I found his anti-social, stoic personality kind of appealing, especially as he seems to also emit some sort of "fish out of water" behavior when it comes to socializing, or even playing nice, there were things about him that seemed too brusque for my liking.

Isabella Valdez is an interesting character as well, coming from a family that "leaves no paper trail" of their existence.  What it is like to have no legal or official identity, always ready to be on the run... sounds like a tiring life.  Her sunny disposition was a bit over-the-top, but probably good for Fallon, I suppose.

Neither of the two characters' talents are really delved into very well, so I never quite understood Isabella's psychic skill.  Fallon's skill has been rehashed throughout the series, so I didn't have too much of a problem figuring him out, but it was still quite confusing.

Meanwhile, the background conspiracy is still ongoing, even though I'm of the impression that this is the last of the Arcane contemporary books.  I suppose sometimes you can't solve everything.

The true highlight of this book was really the little community of Scargill Cove.  It gave off a stranger than strange small town vibe, where everyone has secrets, but everyone protects each other, and everyone sort of knows who belongs in the Cove and who doesn't.  It's an almost weird creepy vibe, I suppose, when you get a bunch of sensitives together, even if they don't know they have some form of psychic talent.

Then there's the underground bunker with the clockwork curiosities that pretty much starts me thinking in terms of steampunk.  And it sets up a great transition into the next book of this series, Quicksilver.

As per usual, my rambling really just proves that JAK books are extremely enjoyable and entertaining while you read them, but when you try to talk about them, you don't come up with a whole lot.

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/08/thoughts-in-too-deep.html
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review 2017-08-17 02:56
Thoughts: Bare Essentials
Bare Essentials - Jill Shalvis,Leslie Kelly

Bare Essentials
-- Naughty But Nice by Jill Shalvis
-- Naturally Naughty by Leslie Kelly

 

 

Naughty But Nice

Lingerie model Cassie Tremaine Montgomery intends to have her revenge on the citizens of her hometown—starting with seducing the sheriff, Sean "Tag" Taggart. Tag, however, isn't cooperating.  He's more than willing to set the sheets on fire with her, but he's asking for more than just sizzling sex….  He knows Cassie's not as tough as she pretends.  And he knows she cares about him—even if she won't admit it.  So he'll just turn up the heat until she concedes there's more between them than this red-hot passion.

Naturally Naughty

Kate Jones, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks, is home.  And she's got an agenda.  To get revenge on the man who humiliated her mother, Kate's going to seduce that man's son—the town's golden boy, John Winfield Jr.—and then leave him drooling in a puddle of lust.  However, when she finds herself seduced by a sexy stranger named Jack, little does she guess that the tables have just been turned….



Interesting premise with the adult women's store.  Standard premise of small town girls living a crappy life, wanting to get out and make something of themselves to show their town up.  The revenge story doesn't really build up all that well, and some of the revenge points aren't exactly resolved; however, in it's own way, that kind of creates a different story based on two women's need to take their revenge on a town that always treated them terribly.

Instead, we get a sweet set of stories with a love story and a journey to self-discovery.  Sort of.

 

 

Naughty But Nice

by Jill Shalvis
-- 3.5 Stars

Naughty But Nice is a typical Jill Shalvis type story--witty, fun, sexy... with just enough story for it to be enjoyable, and just enough drama for it to be thought-provoking, even while being a bit too angst-ridden for my liking.

Cassie is a great character, with all the sass and outrageous personality to make her stand out.  Unfortunately, Tag is a little boring, but he's at least not a broody alpha and makes for great boyfriend material.  The romance is sweet, but might have come off a little juvenile at times, and yet quite predictable as it was.  Cassie might have been a bit too stubborn; Tag might have been a bit pushy.  The romance itself might have gotten a bit cheesy.

And other characters were in line with a typical Jill Shalvis small-town-set, all with their interestingly unique personalities and a potential worth of back story.

The conclusion still seemed open-ended, with the issue between tag and his father quite unresolved.  The issues concerning Cassie's revenge plot kind of loses wind, and it would have been nice to see at least one person from Cassie's past eat their words, or get walloped with some sort of repentance or even get shown up.

But we make this story more about Cassie's own self-revelations, with some life-altering events... and then we move on.  The open ended resolution is probably apt as a way of showing that life just moves on whether or not you get your revenge.  There are always going to be people you treat you fairly, and others who will never see past their pre-judgments.

I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned here; but I'm not entirely sure I can put my finger on what it is.

Naturally Naughty

by Leslie Kelly
-- 3.5 Stars

I found that I liked Naturally Naughty more than Naughty But Nice, if only because the romance felt a bit more down-to-earth.  I mean, sure there's a big "lust and first sight" factor going on here, but it's pretty standard, and not completely unbelievable.  HOWEVER, when we throw in the "meant to be at first sight" deal more towards the end--that whole "I think I've loved you since that first time I saw you" nonsense, I always roll my eyes.  Had that been left out of the story, I might have been more inclined to give it a higher rating.

The revenge story that slowly develops into another self-revelation story feels a bit more realistic in this second Bare Essentials story than the first had been.  Truth, it's not that Naughty But Nice wasn't a believable romance, it just felt too cheesy to be more than a sweet contemporary romance.

On the other hand, Naturally Naughty progresses at a more banal pace, skipping over certain points of the story that had already been told in the previous; but at the same time, it gives more of a feel for Kate's little self-discovery journey as she comes home to Pleasantville and begins to see things in a different light.

Kate and Jack make a great couple, with a nice lusty friendship that slowly builds into more of a loving intimacy as they work around their problems--a semi-feud between each other's family, and a secret hanging over each other's heads.  I find it kind of amusing that both Kate and Jack are holding onto the same secret, unwilling to tell the other for the same reason: they don't want to hurt each other from finding out about a loved one's betrayal.

This story, unlike the first, was more about a self-revelation for both Kate and Jack, and in that sense, I really liked it.  This story is a little bit better resolved, with some old hates and hurts being forgiven and forgotten readily after some reflection by each character.

Once again, I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned here as well.  Once again, I'm not entirely sure I know what it is.

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/08/thoughts-bare-essentials.html
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review 2017-08-16 02:14
Brief Thoughts: Wicked Intentions
Wicked Intentions - Ashford McNab,Elizabeth Hoyt

Wicked Intentions
by Elizabeth Hoyt
Book 1 of Maiden Lane

 

 

A MAN CONTROLLED BY HIS DESIRES

Infamous for his wild, sensual needs, Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire, is searching for a savage killer in St. Giles, London's most notorious slum.  Widowed Temperance Dews knows the area like the back of her hand—she cares for its children at the foundling home her family established.  Now that home is at risk… 

 A WOMAN HAUNTED BY HER PAST

Caire makes a simple offer—in return for Temperance's help navigating the perilous alleys of St. Giles, he will introduce her to high society so that she can find a benefactor for the home.  But Temperance may not be the innocent she seems, and what begins as a cold bargain soon falls prey to a passion neither can control—and may well destroy them both.



Wicked Intentions is an extremely enjoyable book, and yet it was still kind of hard for me to determine how much I actually liked it.  To be honest, I have a hard time describing my experience, because this historical romance actually holds a darker tone and atmosphere in comparison with all the Regency and Victorian romances I've been inhaling as of late.

I had been wondering whether there was an underlying religious theme for some time; but I wonder if maybe it wasn't just because of the time period that gave that effect.  Mainly this had to do with all of Temperance's talk about being a sinner and being a good Christian, and not doing un-Christian-like things such as non-traditional sexual acts... the like...  such as blindfolds and tying someone up.

Nonetheless, the characters are interesting, even if quite standard.  Temperance is your almost virginal, innocent, and saintly heroine; Lazarus is the bad-tempered, broody, and devilish rogue.  I say that Temperance is almost virginal, only because she has been married, and she has had sex before; except that, from the way she acts, you would think she'd never engaged in intercourse before.

This is a historical romance formula that isn't unfamiliar, with the standard character types.  Except that it then throws you for a loop by giving you traits and acts by our main characters that are certainly out of character for their character type... if that makes any sense.  Nonetheless, in the end it makes the entire book so much more intriguing and enjoyable.

There were certainly some steamy-hot sexy times.  The romance was a little predictable, truth be told, and so was the murder mystery.  Some other characters were interesting, although I have a hard time liking any of Temperance's brothers, because they all act like a bunch of jackasses towards their two sisters, Temperance and Silence.  It just makes me remember why I spent so much time avoiding reading historical fiction, romance or otherwise, mainly because it irritates me to see the way women are treated--even if it seems like a simple trivial slight.

Although, it then brings insight into Temperance's talk about sinning and Christian values when you see the way her brothers behave, as well as learn what her marriage bed had been like before her husband died.

Anyway, I'm also trying to figure out the whole "Ghost of St. Giles" thing as well--seems like a strange superhero thing.

If I had one complaint, it would be that, I lean more towards books with a slight comedic tone.  Wicked Intentions didn't quite have that; but it's still highly enjoyable.  The audio book narrated by Ashford McNab was also done excellently, though it took a bit of time for me to get used to.

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/08/brief-thoughts-wicked-intentions_15.html
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