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review 2016-05-19 21:19
Status Update by Annabeth Albert
Status Update - Annabeth Albert

Maaaaan, I wanted to like this book so much! Unfortunately, I didn't.

 

Usually Annabeth Albert is one of my favorite comfort/fluffy authors, but this one didn't work for me. And it started out so promising! But then made me uncomfortable fast. Let me tell you a story to explain why.

 

In 2011, I was a heartbroken university student who needed a way out and fast. So after corresponding with a woman online, I packed my bag after barely 3 months of writing back and forth, and borded a plane. 18 hours later I arrived in Durango, Colorado, USA and was picked up by a lady that was 20 years older than me and nothing at all like I expected. And vice versa. My attraction pracitcally evaporated after 2 hours in the same car with her. Things went downhill fast, but we committed to 3 months of staying together and hopping around the country as house sitters, so what could we do? If she would have been a little more like Adrien's online date, I'm pretty sure she would have left me high and dry with a hitched ride in New Mexico. It was only my insane luck that she didn't. So I could emphasize with Adrien a lot when he was stranded on that camping ground somewhere in the middle of nowhere, in desperate need of help. That beginning really drew me in, because... yeah. I got it.

 

But back to my travels. At one point, we weren't able to find a new house sitting gig in Colorado, so we started to look elsewhere. We stayed in a hostel during the time, both sitting around with our laptops trying to find a new place to stay. After three days a guy arrived and checked in. He was from Texas, home from deployment and traveling through the country on his own. I found him somewhat attractive, least of all because I have a thing for military uniforms (I know! Bite me.). He and I ended up talking a little bit in the smoking area - which was fine until he started to press me for information I just didn't want to give. I left him to his own devices and went to bed. The next day he was RIGHT THERE at breakfast, talking to me, flirting with me like nobody's business. When I declined his invitations for various acticities around town, he gave me an indulgent smile. He came back two hours later, trying it all over again. Rinse, repeat over the next couple if days. He started to touch my hair, which was absolutely not what I wanted. He constantly threw an arm over my shoulders, brushed his fingers against mine at the oddest of times, and he refused to leave me alone as soon as I opened the hostel's front door. My constant rejection seemed to make him even more persistent, even more determined to invade my personal space to the point where he barged into the women's dorm room at 8 am in the morning. It took three appaled women and the manger to finally get him out of the room so we could get dressed in peace. I left the hostel the same day, tired of saying "No." in every language and every form or fashion possible without being heard. I didn't feel safe in my own dorm, and I was completely freaked out when the other men gave me the "You engaged him, we know you wanted it, too. Don't play hard to get. Stop being so stubborn." lectures and stares.

 

All of this came back to me when I read the first part of this book. Because that was exactly what Adrien did! He had absolutely no respect for the boundaries Nick set very clearly. He didn't listen when Nick asked him to stop flirting so outrageously. He didn't listen when Nick asked him to stop with his touching and brushing up against him. He had no respect for Nick's personal space or desire too keep his private thoughts private. Sure, you can try to explain it all away by saying that Nick actually wanted it, that he just needed to be perusaded for his own good, that he participated in the end. That Adrien only tried to woo him despite his reluctance.

 

I. Don't. Care.

 

There is a difference between wooing someone/being persistent and persuasive manipulation bordering on coercion. I can get behind the romantic notion of slowly winning someone's heart with thoughtful gestures and not giving up easily. What I can't stomach is that in romance, people seem to confuse the wooing with almost stalkerish, inappropriate behavior. I'm also not completely convinced that it hasn't something to to with this being about two men. If you had a man behaving like this in a F/M romance novel, would all the female readers still find that fine and romantic? I don't know.

 

But either way, when someone tells you that you make them uncomfortable, you BACK OFF. When someone asks you not to touch them or flirt with them or make inapproriate jokes, YOU STOP. If you care about someone, you respect their wishes, you let them decide when they are good and ready to touch YOU. You don't push and push and push until they are so out of their comfort zone that they don't even know which way is up anymore. That's not love, that's not caring, and it's certainly not romance. I refuse to accept that as romantic gestures or heartwarming behavior. Adrien was way out of line more often than not, and no matter how Nick reacted to it or not, that was WRONG.

 

Other than that, I was slightly disappointed by the turn the story took when the boys arrived at the wedding od Aiden's sister. Because, let's be honest here for a second: When you're driving across the country to attend the wedding of your sister and your EX-BOYFRIEND? There should be feelings, and words, and at least a little bit of something? But I didn't see that here. It was too smooth, maybe even too rushed, where I would have liked to see more conflict or at least tension. But that are my personal preferences coming through.

 

Sad fact is, after this whole insta-attraction-turned-manipulation-turned-love angle didn't work for me, I wasn't very invested in the story. It did get better after a while, but I mever really recovered from my discomfort. So the rest of the story passed me by in something of a blur. I did like the hard-earned coming out ending with happiness, sunshine and a lot of feelz. I did like the families and the secondary characters. And the dogs! Just not enough, I guess? 

 

So, where does that leave me with this one? Somewhere around 2 stars I think. Because it was okay, except for the situation in which it really wasn't. I wanted to love this so much, and maybe that was part of the problem. 

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review 2016-03-16 19:52
Gangster Country by Kade Boehme
Gangster Country - Kade Boehme

Well, I did not like this as much as I hoped I would.

 

It's not your typical A-Z MM romance. Logan and Gianni meet, argue and get down and dirty in the first chapter. So far, so typical. But then there is a one-year break in which these two get closer, become lovers, have (kind of) a relationship. (Unfortunately) All of it happens off-page. We get thrown back in at a time when Gianni is struggling with his life, his decisions and his love for Logan. He's a criminal in the closet - no other option - and his family would have his head if they ever found out. Logan on the other hand is struggling with the secrecy, with the hiding of his relationship. His constant struggle to finally, finally get to know the REAL Gianni is exhausting, frustrating and becomes harder as time flies by. Until it all collapses around them in a (rather predictable) moment of coincidence and fate.

 

I think my biggest problem with this was that I didn't get invested fast enough. Since most of the relationship building happened off-page, I had a harder time connecting to the two MCs before shit hit the fan. I was also very sceptical on how these two made it that far without ever really... being together. Communicating. Living life as a couple. Without Logan asking QUESTIONS all the damn time. Ergo, when everthing started to explode, I was prepared to say goodbye to that couple and move on. But that's not what happened. Instead we got something a little too close to insta-forgiveness for my taste. When your man tells you he is a criminal and a killer, it's hard to imagine you go from hate to forgiveness in one night. But maybe that's me and my missing connection talking.

 

But then there was Logan, who made it that much harder to believe in that massive change of mind. He was all around GOOD. He was the epitome of pure, kind-hearted and just... too damn good. He and Gianni? I don't now. Just didn't click with me.

 

But the writing was good, and I loved the cover. So. Where does that leave me? With 2.5 stars, rounded up to three because it's Kade Boehme and because I did enjoy parts of the story.

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review 2016-01-14 10:42
"Those places where sadness and misery abound are favoured settings for stories of ghosts and apparitions."
The Midnight Palace - Carlos Ruiz Zafón,Lucia Graves

What can I say? Thisreally isn't right up my alley, but my mother-in-law highly recommended it and I love that woman, so I gave it a try. I shouldn't have. 

 

I liked parts of it - mostly the writing. Zafón has a way with words. He lets them flow, makes them run through you, paints pictures in your mind. It's a wonderful albeit scary experience. It did however make me want to read more of this author's work which makes it not a total loss. 

 

 

"Set in Calcutta in the 1930s, The Midnight Palace begins on a dark night when an English lieutenant fights to save newborn twins Ben and Sheere from an unthinkable threat. Despite monsoon-force rains and terrible danger lurking around every street corner, the young lieutenant manages to get them to safety, but not without losing his own life. . . .

Years later, on the eve of Ben and Sheere’s sixteenth birthday, the mysterious threat reenters their lives. This time, it may be impossible to escape. With the help of their brave friends, the twins will have to take a stand against the terror that watches them in the shadows of the night—and face the most frightening creature in the history of the City of Palaces."

 

 

The blurb was very promising. I can't say I'm an expert on Calcutta, but I consider it a good thing to broaden my horizon now and again. I liked the first chapters very much. Thrilling and mysterious, it was all I could ask for in a book. Bite me, I'm a sucker for mystery novels and crime solving plots. Years later, Ben and his Chowbar society were a very loveable bunch. Young teens, not quite children anymore, but also not exactly adults, are unique and wild in a sense, but always stick together. Sheere and her grandmother were different. Especially the grandmother. Her issues were her own, and yet she forced a young girl to a lifer of fear, solitude and escapism. 

 

And the grandmother brings me to the parts I didn't like. As much as I enjoy a mystery plot, this one was all over the place. Mostly because despite the wonderful writing style, Zafrón failed to explain a lot of things. Or at least allude to them right from the start in order to make them plausible. The supernatural aspect of the story was strong, the corresponding plotline remained vague, pale and unsatisfying though. I was always torn between figuring out the origin of the supernatural or the mystery as a whole. Which led to a kind of constant distraction because time and time again, I would try to understand if one part of the story would finally give me a rational explaination for the superpowers or if the superpowers just were what they were and I should take all the other parts of the story as a piece of the mystery puzzle without thinking too hard about it. In the end, I wasn't happy with the execution of both, the supernatural and the crime solving. 

 

Also, the story started to fizzle and fly all over the place after approximately one third of the book. So many plotlines, so many pieces of a greater puzzle I wasn't able to see until almost the very end. Dramatic high points drowned in all the changing POVs that albeit being interesting, confused me or even bored me at one point or the other. The worst was the telling. So much telling of the same tales. Well written, but still all over the place. And when I get the same story told for the umpteenth time - with some parts changed completely and others completely the same? I'm over- and underwhelmed at the same time. The only good thing about that was my growing empathy for Jawahel, the "villain". Still didn't save me the disappointment at the end, but it gave the super-bad guy some facets and layers. 

 

All in all, I was sceptical going in because of the "horror" aspect of the story - since that is not my favorite genre. Being done with it, I can honestly say: The horror was not the problem. It wasn't the writingstyle, either. The plotlines and -holes, the lack of consistency and plausibility, the overall jumbled mess of explainations really didn't do it for me. Sadly disappointed. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-01-06 01:08
This should have been one of my favorites...
First You Fall - Scott Sherman

Well, CRAP...

 

 

Bear with me. Let me tell you, why this book should have been a solid 4 or 5 star read for me.

 

1. I love mysteries. I love the mysteries with a romance sub-plot. I like romance with a suspense sub-plot. I like the investigation, I like whodunnit, I like thrillers, I like cops, I like amateurs, I like PIs. Just put me in the suspense/crime section and leave me there for the rest of my life. I'll die a happy little camper. And this book fell smack in the middle of it all. Amateur rent-boy with a broken heart tries to solve the murder of an old friend, who officially commited suicide. It was amusing and interesting to see his murder candidates fall one by one, but all come back together in the end.

 

2. Love me some amateur sleuthing. There is a special kind of writing required to pull the sleuthing off in the first place, and I'm a sucker for it. Make it at least a tiny little bit believable, and I'll gobble it up. Extra cookies if I can imagine parts of the story happening like it, but that's really just a bonus. If you're going for that kind of trope, you're not interested in the accurancy or realism of the facts. If you do, you'll be very disappointed every time. And let me tell you, this story will never get an award for it's probability. But like I said, you don't pick up the story of a rent-boy playing detective when you're hung up on realism. You just don't.

 

3. Throw in a little steam, a little romantic entanglement and feelings, and I won't put this down until I'm done. Again, this story didn't disappoint. The romance is not on the fore-front, but when it's on page, it's nicely done and pulled me in. Except for maybe the second "triangle" between the parents and the neighbor. But I'll come back to that. But the "main" romance between out amateur/rentboy and closeted detective was good.

 

 

And now let me tell you why in the end, I started to despise the book.

 

 

1. Some of it got to the point of being more cartoonish than actually readable. The mother. The MOTHER! Oh my lord, what was that even? The whole storyline with the parents made me shake my head and irritated the crap out of me.

 

2. The end. MILD SPOILER ALERT! I have no problem with far-fetched solutions to far-fetched crimes during amateur investigations. Again, it's not about realism so much. And while I could get behind it in a weird and twisted way, it was still all kinds of crazy. Maybe a little too off the rocker for me.

 

 

3. The fat shaming. I read an interesting article about the likability of characters in correlation to the likablility of books. The truth is, I don't have to like a character to enjoy a book. And the MC also doesn't have to be politically correct all the time in order for me to enjoy him and his actions in a book. But. It has to be done in a certain way. That was not the case here. The first time, a hateful comment on the weight of a side character came up, I didn't think much about it. It was mean, yes. But it was also about the alleged affair of the Mcs father, made by the "scorned" woman. So I thought "What the hell." and moved on.

 

But it happened again. And again. And again. In a miserable, hateful way, completely out of context and for no acceptable reason whatsoever. And to be honest, in the end it just felt very cheap. It wasn't funny, it wasn't put into perspective, it was just plain bad taste. And soooo cheap. I couldn't get over the cheapness of it all! If you want to slam overweight people because of their weight, educate yourself first. Think first! Write and judge later - or not at all - especially not if it's only done for cheap laughs or out of ignorance! Every main character was slim, gorgeous and attractive, which is something I'm used to in this genre, or in books in general really. Doesn't mean you have to hate everyone who isn't, does it? That is NOT the core of this genre, and I refuse to leave it uncommented, because yes, it was that bad; and it was wrong, plain and simple.


So all in all, this should have been a 4 star read easily, maybe even more. But it wasn't. I'll give it two, because the core of the story was good, and I enjoyed it. The rest of it? Not so much. In the end, everyone has to decide if he is bothered by this kind of thing. I was pissed off royally after finishing. 

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review 2015-10-21 00:00
Winter Kill
Winter Kill - Josh Lanyon

3 stars? Maybe.


Well, I saved quite my bucks and waited to buy this book and read it at a time when I was "so ready" for a good romantic suspense story. Winter Kill didn't disappoint - not completely. It didn't knock me off my feet, either. Rob Haskell, local cop in Nearby, has a skeleton on his hands and his superior invites the FBI to take a look. Because it could have something to do with a serial killer. Agent Darling shows up with his partner, takes one look and is... not sure. Maybe there could be a connection, but mostly he doesn't think so, so this is the end of that investigation in Nearby. Well, almost, because firstly, he has a little fun between the sheets with Rob. Nothing earth-shattering, just some uncomplicated pleasure between two adults.

Or not. Because some time later there is another body, and now Agent Darling is personally requested to help investigate the murder of one of the town's very own. Of course, there is sexual tension between Rob and Adam, amongst other things.

What I liked? The Writing. Lanyon just has a way with words that impresses me, and gets to me every. Single. Time. I love it!

But the story was something else. Firstly, the investigation is clearly more important than relationship building. Which is fine with me, because hello?! Serial killer on the move! And I'm a huge fan of suspense/crime mixed with a little romance, so this aspect made me like the book more.

Which is not what I can say about the rest of it. I'll hide it, because I'll probably spoiler a lot.

Firstly, the solution of the crime was awful, no two ways about it. Two serial killers, both not entirely convincing? Really? Uhm, no. Not for me. The way to the solution was good. I liked the suspense, the guessing. They actually did some investigating, and had some adventures doing it - in and outside of the bedroom. That was really fine with me. Not quite as fun as some of Lanyons previous works, but still good. But the end?! The solutions?! So not my thing.

The other part? The epilogue! Actually, make that the last chapters and the epilogue! What, do you absolutely need a life altering, possibly fatal, catastrophy to bring people together?! I admit it, I'm tired of the whole "Oh my god, you almost died - I love you!" And the epilogue was just the icing of the cake. Because What. The Hell. And I'm supposed to believe that? Adam abandoning his city life and career with the BAU, with a legend profiler, to be with a man he barely knows? Come! On! Agent calm, controlled, and coll as a cucumber? Absolutely not. Sounds romantic in other stories? Maybe. I just didn't buy it here.

So, what's left to say? It was okay. Lanyon has a wonderful style that I enjoy immensely. But the plot here was just not "good enough" and the details didn't work together as a whole as I'm used to from her. For most authors it would have been 3.5 stars or something. But I already said it and I'll say it again: I hold Lanyon to higher standards. So 2.5 stars, because it was only okay. I liked it well enough, but I'd hoped for a lot more going in, and was somewhat disappointed.

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