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review 2019-05-27 17:40
Thoughts: Hard Target
Hard Target (Cobra Elite #1) - Pamela Clare

Hard Target

by Pamela Clare
Book 1 of Cobra Elite

 

 

Derek Tower has spent his life at war, first as a Green Beret and then as the owner of a private black-ops company, Cobra International Security.  When a high-ranking US senator asks Cobra to protect his daughter, a midwife volunteering in Afghanistan, Derek’s gut tells him to turn the senator down.  The last thing he wants to do is babysit an aid worker.  But Jenna isn’t just another assignment.  She’s also the younger sister of his best friend, the man who died taking bullets meant for him.  There’s no way Derek can refuse.

Jenna Hamilton doesn’t need a bodyguard, especially not one hired by her intrusive and controlling father.  She knew the risks when she signed on to work in rural Afghanistan, and the hospital already has armed security.  She also doesn’t need the distraction of a big, brooding operative skulking about, even if he is her late brother’s best friend—and sexy as hell.  As far as she’s concerned, he can pack up his Humvee and drive into the sunset.  And, no, nothing her hormones have to say about him will change her mind.

From the moment his boots hit the ground in Afghanistan, Derek does his best to win Jenna over, posing as her brother so the two of them can spend time alone.  Except that what he feels for her is anything but brotherly. Stolen moments lead to secret kisses—and an undeniable sexual attraction that shakes them both to the core.  But events have been set into motion that they cannot escape. When a ruthless warlord sets his sights on Jenna, Derek will do whatever it takes to keep her safe, even if it costs him his heart—or his life.



This was another enjoyable romantic suspense from Pamela Clare, and as per usual, I bowled right through this one, stopping once only to go to sleep after three hours of being unable to set the book down.  But why the average rating?

The truth is, Pamela Clare books are wonderfully easy to slip into and get caught up in.  There's a certain attractiveness to her work that I somehow manage to hook onto without realizing it.  Her characters and story lines have heart, and she's actually rather good at writing suspense, and making you want to keep reading to find out how it all ends.  But one of the things that I've always found that Pamela gets carried away with is the schmaltz, and sometimes a way of presenting characters and situations that seem too deliberately structured to be perfect.  If that makes any sense.  It's hard to describe.

I don't mind it, because those instances are quickly overshadowed by the stuff that I DO love about her books.

Anyway, Hard Target was a pretty good start to a new series, taking place in the same world as her other romantic suspense series, I-Team, which is nice, because then you get a chance to briefly revisit some favorite characters from the past.  I especially loved the sparse guest appearances from Holly Andris, as I think she will forever be my favorite of the I-Team heroines.  And unfortunately, her few brief appearances kind of managed to overshadow our main heroine in this book, if only because, of all the Pamela Clare heroines, Holly has been the only one so far who gives us a streak of bad-ass that I loved.

No offense, and maybe this is my own issue, but for the most part, Jenna Hamilton, and the majority of the I-Team heroines (except maybe Kat James), somehow tend to end up being overly sensitive to a lot of things.  I'm not saying that Holly is without compassion or anything, quite the opposite, but she also never got faint or anything at the slightest evidence of evil.  She took things in stride, did her job, saved the world, and moved on.

But this review is about Hard Target, so let's go back to Jenna and Derek.

Truth is, while this book was pretty entertaining and attention-hooking, I did find that I wished it had been a bit more fleshed out.  Hard Target is a pretty standard romance, featuring the standard hero and heroine with hearts of gold, who are just great people all around and no flaws.  Story-wise, our author does well to bring awareness to the terrible treatment of women in Afghanistan, the lack of women's health, the lack of prenatal care, and the lack of, or even unwillingness to understand the importance of it all.  We get to see how even a Westerner like Jenna is expected to abide by cultural dictates--not speaking or even being seen in the presence of men she is not related to, as it somehow is seen as her attempting to tempt men and be flirtatious, which is evil.  We get to see how her one time breaking of the cultural rule, albeit out of the goodness of trying to save a young mother and her baby, almost caused trouble to the hospital that could have ended in her being beaten and flogged.

It's a terribly horrific thing to even think about.

The story progression itself presented well, but I feel like the entire book and each scene was a bit short and rushed.  Maybe that was just me.  The romance between Derek and Jenna was typical of Pamela Clare's love stories, but I DID like that Jenna was so open about her wants and her desires in a non-traditional romance heroine kind of way.  As per usual, the action and suspense was good, even if some parts might have been a bit overmuch.

And once again, I liked seeing Holly again, and hope to see more brief cameos from her in future... of course, only if we can naturally slip her into the story.  =P

All-in-all, a pretty good start to a new series, even if I feel like it still had potential to be seen.



***

 

Booklikes-opoly 2019


Roll #1:
How it fits:  Book is set in Afghanistan
Page Count:  261
Cash:  $3

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/05/thoughts-hard-target.html
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review 2019-03-07 05:17
Brief Thoughts: Ride the Fire
Ride the Fire - Pamela Clare

Ride the Fire

by Pamela Clare
Book 3 (final) of Blakewell/Kenleigh Family trilogy

 

 

Sometimes survival isn't just about staying alive...

Widowed and alone on the frontier, Elspeth Stewart will do whatever it takes to protect herself and her unborn child from the dangers of the wilderness and of men.  Though her youthful beauty doesn't show it, she is broken and scarred from the way men have treated her.  So when a stranger wanders onto Bethie's land, wounded and needing her aid, she takes no risks, tying him to the bed and hiding his weapons before ministering to his injuries.

But Bethie's defenses cannot keep Nicholas Kenleigh from breaking down her emotional walls.  The scars on his body speak of a violent past, but his gentleness, warmth, and piercing eyes arouse longings in her that she never imagined she had.  As Nicholas and Bethie reveal to each other both their hidden desires and their tortured secrets, they discover that riding the flames of their passion might be the key to burning away the nightmare of their pasts.



Whether it was because of the non-stop action, or the survival story line, Ride the Fire ended up being my favorite of the three Blakewell/Kenleigh Family trilogy books.  Nicholas ended up being my favorite of the three heroes presented in this trilogy.  Bethie, on the other hand, was really standard for a romance novel heroine, as a damsel in distress, and the kindhearted, innocent angel.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the romance in this book more than I did the previous two books.  In a way, the two main characters were more on equal footing at the beginning, with Bethie not knowing Nicholas's true identity, only knowing that he's a trapper and frontiersman.  Unlike the previous two books, there was no sense that one party had more power than the other, that one side was more subordinate to the other.  Aside from all the kept secrets, the two of them seemed to get along quite sincerely and honestly.

Meanwhile, Ride the Fire also seemed more like an adventurous journey, as we followed our main couple through the frontier towards the east back to safer ground, away from the wars and battles between the Indians, the frontiersmen, and the British army.

In spite of the book being first and foremost a romance, this was also quite fun to follow.  In a way, it also kind of reminded me of one of Pamela Clare's contemporary romantic suspense novels, Breaking Point, if only because the main couple spends a good chunk of time trying to survive the harsh wilderness while avoiding human predators.  And the danger just never seemed to let up.

As I'd stated the adventure part really drew me in, and to be frank, after the two reach civilization, the book kind of plateaus.  And the battle scenes were pretty well-outlined, to be honest.  The romantic angst might have been overdone a bit.  And finally, the ending managed to wrench some FEELS out of me.  The reunion scene between Nicholas and his family was all sorts of heart-warming--kudos!

I really, really enjoyed reading this book.  And a lot more of the typical Pamela Clare style is starting to shine through--at least what I'm familiar with from what I've already read of her books.

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/03/brief-thoughts-ride-fire.html
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review 2019-03-01 05:37
Some Thoughts: Carnal Gift
Carnal Gift - Pamela Clare

Carnal Gift

by Pamela Clare
Book 2 of Blakewell/Kenleigh Family trilogy

 

 

"I expect you to show my friend just how grateful you are.  Your willingness is everything.”

With those harsh words, the hated Sasanach earl decided Bríghid's fate.  Her body and her virginity were to be offered up to a stranger in exchange for her brother's life.  Possessing nothing but her innocence and her fierce Irish pride, she had no choice but to comply.

But the handsome man she faced in the darkened bedchamber was not at all the monster she expected.  His green eyes seemed to see inside her.  His tender touch calmed her fears while he swore he would protect her by only pretending to claim her.  And as the long hours of the night passed by, as her senses ignited at the heat of their naked flesh, she made a startling discovery: Sometimes the line between hate and love can be dangerously thin.



Carnal Gift wasn't much different from Sweet Release in terms of angst and content matter, to be honest.  While the story was quite different, we didn't stray far from the whole formula of the villain wanting to force the heroine into bed with him, and the hero being the hero and saving the heroine's life over and over again.  Meanwhile, we also revisit the whole "hero and heroine are forbidden to be together" device, although this time around, I think that the romance faced more tangible barriers based on law and religion, and other societal and cultural conflicts.  In contrast, Sweet Release needed only to prove that Alec Kenleigh was Alec Kenleigh and all was well, and Happily Ever After.

That doesn't mean that I didn't see the similarities in the two story lines, which made it a little hard to enjoy this book as much as I was maybe meant to.  It didn't escape my notice that this book (and now that I think about it, even Sweet Release), seemed to be written in an "epic saga romance" type of light.  The truth is, I'm not sure if it managed to do that.

On the other hand, it's not like I didn't enjoy this book.  Pamela Clare's writing has this way of pulling you right in.  Whether it's her writing style or just that sense of righteousness that emanates from her main characters, I always find that I can't put her books down.  I DID love the detail given to the Gaelic culture and history.  While some of it felt too deliberately placed, I still found some of it interesting.

Unfortunately, the characters didn't really do anything for me.  While I found young Jamie in the first book quite charming for a four year old boy, adult Jamie in this book is kind of a jackass.  Brighid was a typical standard damsel in distress, and I honestly don't have much to say about her.  Brighid's brothers weren't really all that likable, both because they never seemed to understand how much danger and trouble they were in, and put their own pride before everyone else's lives.  It was quite frustrating.

I liked Matthew and Elizabeth enough as the parental figures in the story, but they didn't really appear a whole lot.

Then there was the standard Pamela Clare repetitive exposition fairy conversations that I've gotten used to seeing in many of her books.  Her characters just can't seem to help but to keep talking about the events that occurred to everyone they come across.  These don't really bug me as much, but I found it interesting that this wasn't really a thing in Sweet Release.

Still, I was entertained and found myself finishing the book pretty quickly.

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/02/some-thoughts-carnal-gift.html
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review 2019-02-26 05:28
Some Thoughts: Sweet Release
Sweet Release - Pamela Clare

Sweet Release

by Pamela Clare
Book 1 of Blakewell/Kenleigh Family trilogy

 

 

For five pounds in cash, the convict was hers. Though Cassie hated the slave trade, her Virginia plantation demanded the labor, and she knew this fevered man would surely die if she left him.  But as his wounds healed and his muscled chest bronzed in the sun, Cassie realized Cole Braden was far more dangerous than his papers had indicated—for he could steal her breath with a glance and lay siege to her senses with a touch.

Abducted, beaten, and given a new name, Alec went from master of an English shipbuilding empire to fourteen years of indentured servitude in the American colonies.  There, he was known as Cole Braden, a convicted ravisher and defiler of women.  And while he longed to ravish the auburn-haired beauty who owned him, he knew his one hope of earning her love—and his freedom—was to prove his true identity.  Only then could he turn the tables and attain his ... Sweet Release.



Pamela Clare books never cease to be addictive for me because of the fact that they're often well-written and contain a lot of heart.  I'm more familiar with Pamela's contemporary series, and will usually devour them in one read through.

Sweet Release was no exception, although there were some parts where I wished the book would either get on with it, or stop creating so much added drama towards the end--a lot of the ending felt a bit deliberate in creating more suspense than necessary.  I feel like, maybe a whole lot more went on in this book than was actually necessary.  And while I thoroughly enjoyed myself reading this book and got hooked, I really didn't have any strong feelings towards the two main characters, one way or another.

I DID feel like Cassie was more shrill than I liked, and was inconsistent in her behavior.  Some moments she would show some backbone and stand up for what she believed in, other times she would back down and let others walk all over her.  It got frustrating, and it's not like I expected her to HAVE too much of a backbone and stand up to the men in the book--this is a historical taking place in the 1700s after all where women were treated no better than chattel, and any kind of attempt at back talk or expressing opinions either got belittled or reprimanded.  But I still wish she could have been a bit more consistent.

Alec had his moments, but came off a bit of an ass.

In contrast, I loved all the background characters much more than the main characters.

This is probably the first time I've read a historical taking place during this time frame, set in the Americas when slavery was so prominent.  I can't say one way or another whether the historical aspects were handled properly or accurately (history was never my best subject), but it certainly managed to bring to surface how terrible people were treated, based on class, gender, and race.

Story wise, I was truly only interested in finding out how Alec would reclaim his real identity, though it didn't take a lot of sleuthing to know who was behind his abduction in the first place.  The rest of the story got super angsty, and even the main villain of the story felt kind of comic.

Overall, this could have been a better book, even if I DID get hooked into it and finished it in pretty much one sitting.

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/02/some-thoughts-sweet-release.html
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review 2018-12-28 16:29
Packaged Thoughts Christmas 2018: More Books Lined Up In A Row!
Daughter of the Forest - Juliet Marillier
Scandal - Amanda Quick
Jurassic Park - Michael Crichton,Scott Brick
Not My Father's Son: A Memoir - Alan Cumming
The Light Fantastic - Terry Pratchett
Chasing Fire - Pamela Clare
How the Dukes Stole Christmas: A Holiday Romance Anthology - Sophie Jordan,Sarah MacLean,Tessa Dare,Joanna Shupe
Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets - John Woolf,Nick Baker,Stephen Fry

It's that time of year again!  Happy Holidays to everyone!  Or rather, a belated Merry Christmas, as this review came out a few days later than I'd planned.  Of course, it also gave me a chance to include my 100th read book this year, Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets.

This is a feature I've been hoping to keep up since 2016, with two posts a year, once at mid-year on the first day of June (my birthday!), and one at the end of the year for Christmas!  Whether you like it or not, you're getting a packaged review post!

Meanwhile, in other news, I've been out of touch online, and I hope to get back into more interaction with the holidays winding down.  I'll also have a couple more updates about how the rest of the year has gone, and how my new year will start... maybe.  I'm also needing to post an update on my progress with 24 Festive Tasks--that'll probably get posted this weekend!

 

~*~*~*~

 

 

Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters #1)
by Juliet Marillier
Rating:  3.5 Stars

The only thing I recall describing this book as, when I was talking to my BFF, was how heavy the content matter turned out.  I suppose I was more familiar with Marillier's YA books (Shadowfell, Wildwood...).  It's not that I didn't know what to expect--I'd read some telltale hints here and there about what happens in Daughter of the Forest--trigger warnings, if you will.

Those moments are fleeting, but still a bit surprising.

Anyway, overall, Daughter of the Forest was a good read, even if there were moments that I wished the story would get on with itself.  But Marillier's penchant for whimsical, magical lore and atmosphere more than makes up for those few moments of drag.

 

 

Scandal
by Amanda Quick
Rating:  2.0 Stars

Definitely not one of Amanda Quick's best books, but still had a bit of the same charm I've come to appreciate from her.  Unfortunately, the frustration I had with both of our main characters overshadowed that charm.  Emily was a walking doormat and Simon was just a typical, broody, Grade A jackass.  How this romance is even supposed to work in the long-term will definitely be a miracle.

Meanwhile, I actually found the constant references to the "exotic tastes of the East" a bit distasteful.  It reeks of misrepresentation and false ideals.  And the repetitive descriptions of the metaphysical plane or transcendental communication or some such bullshit got annoying after a while.

But this is Amanda Quick, and I love Amanda Quick.

I just didn't love this book.

 

 

Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park #1)
by Michael Crichton
audio book narrated by Scott Brick
Rating:  4.0 Stars

This book was a "reread," which quite rarely happens, because I'm always worried that reading an old favorite will come back and bite me in the butt.  Especially an old favorite from my younger, teen days.  My tastes have change a lot since then.

But as we can see, I still ended up really enjoying the heck out of myself with this extremely long audio book.  The beginning took a while to start up, but I started getting into the story once the park started getting out of control... though I'd forgotten how bloody and gory this book was.  Considering this is about dinosaurs, it's surprising that I was so startled by some of the blood and guts.

Meanwhile, obviously there were some glaring foibles about Jurassic Park that my high school self managed to overlook.  At present, I'm still going to overlook them in favor of my enjoyment of this book, but I will still acknowledge said foibles.

A wonderful narration by Scott Brick though, and makes me want to jump on into the next book, The Lost World, if he's narrating that one, too!

 

 

Not My Father's Son
written and narrated by Alan Cumming
Rating:  4.0 Stars

This was a wonderful narration and telling by Alan Cumming, detailing a terrible and dark childhood, involving his abusive father and how he has questioned his self-worth his entire life.  Aside from that, it's also a very thought-provoking story, as Alan brings a lot of modern issues to light: child abuse, women's rights, LGBTQ rights...

Alan Cumming is truly an inspirational, and wonderful man, and I'm glad he shares so much of his life with us.  I also love those little tidbits that shine through the bleakness of his telling, that show the sweetness of his love for his mother, Mary Darling, his brother, Tommy, and his husband, Grant.  He doesn't showcase a whole lot of laugh-out-loud humor, but his presentation is more of a "smile warmly to yourself" kind, and I loved it!

 

 

The Light Fantastic (Discworld #2)
by Terry Pratchett
Rating:  4.0 Stars

I'm not sure if it was simply the fact that I'm more familiar with the writing style now, or maybe the characters, but The Light Fantastic was certainly more enjoyable than The Colour of Magic had been.  While there were still some instances where I found the humor a little odd, there were many points in the book I highlighted because I thought it either chuckle-worthy, or simply a ingeniously inserted one-liner.

Pratchett proves that he can easily reel you into the world of Discworld, and I'm definitely looking forward to the rest of the series now.

In fact, the ending of this book kind of gave me a little pang of sadness, in a weird way.  I'm going to miss some of these characters... sort of.

 

 

Chasing Fire (Colorado High Country #7 / I-Team crossover)
by Pamela Clare
Rating:  4.5 Stars

Pamela Clare never fails to bring out the heart in all of her books.  As schmaltzy as some of her dialogue sometimes comes out, she's as equally meticulous about detail and good characterization.  One cannot help but to fall in love with the world she's created, surrounding the beautiful characters from both the I-Team world and the Colorado High Country series.

This is a crossover (not the first) between her Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Romance series, but this time she utilizes more characters from both than simply a guest appearance.  From a story plot standpoint, however, this was more a Colorado High Country book than I-Team, as Erik Hawke, chief of the small Scarlet Springs fire department, pretty much takes center stage in fighting for his life as well as the lives of his townspeople to battle a raging forest fire before it burns down his town.

I've always loved the attention to detail that Pamela puts into the goings-on of the Scarlet Springs Search and Rescue team's every tone out.  And I am especially appreciative of how well she outlines the way in which the fire fighting team battles the forest fire.

This book is less about character development, but more a story being told of how a community bands together to help each other when something this disastrous unfolds.  Man versus nature is a hard battle to fight, really, and I love how she handled this issue.

The truth is, I loved this book enough to give it a full out five star rating.  Of course, her tendency towards schmaltz, and her habit of making all of her characters an exposition fairy every couple chapters can really take away from the telling of the story sometimes.

 

 

How the Dukes Stole Christmas (anthology)
authors include: Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, Joanna Shupe
Rating: 3.8 Stars

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I had a bias going into this book.  I love Tessa Dare, no matter that her heroines are typically not historically accurate in terms of mannerisms and roles.  But that's what's delightful about them.  And the fact that this is a holiday book helps as well.

The truth is, though, aside from the magical shortbread cookies and the typical Happily Ever After, I don't really have much to say about this book.  I enjoyed each story, and that seems to be about it.

Sarah MacLean's The Duke of Christmas Present was probably the most thought-provoking, in-depth romance, but a bit too angst-ridden for my liking.  I don't remember much about Dare's Meet Me in Mayfair, sadly, considering it was her name that drew me to this anthology in the first place.  I couldn't quite get into Heiress Alone by Sophie Jordan, and thought it was a little hard(er) to suspend disbelief for--as well as having a pretty loosely wrapped up ending.  Christmas in Central Park was by far my favorite, if only because of how fiery the heroine was and how lovely her friendships are presented.

There's also a nod to making of shortbread cookies, which my mother and I discovered first-hand this year what "cream the butter and sugar together" actually meant.  It was the first time we'd ever made cookies, period.  We succeeded after the second batch, and lovely chocolate shortbread cookies were borne!

 

 

Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets
an Audible Studios Original
written by John Woolf & Nick Baker
narrated by Stephen Fry
Rating:  3.5 Stars

I'm not sure I know how I felt about this one.  It felt like a strange documentary you'd expect to see (or hear) at a theme park, or a random television presentation.  It was entertaining, but I don't know if I'd call it enjoyable since I DID somehow zone out several times.

The book itself was outlined in a rather scattered way, and I found myself realizing that we were talking about a new, different historical instance than what was being narrated five minutes ago, without a very clear transition.

Still, I think I'd give 3 Stars just for Stephen Fry's presentation alone.  Another 0.5 Stars is for the actual book itself because it was entertaining, and also I might have learned a few new things about Victorians, even if the rest were more open secrets than actual secrets.

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/12/packaged-thoughts-christmas-2018-more.html
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