At Your Beck & Call

At Your Beck & Call - Jane Harvey-Berrick Note: this is not really a romance. Wholistically it is the story of two people who find each other, 50% of the book is a rather sad story about a lonely man...and it's damned good. Tug-on-your-heart-strings good.

The Traveling Man (Traveling Series #1)

The Traveling Man (Traveling Series #1) - Jane Harvey-Berrick Ah! The ending was killer. You can't just end a book like that. I was going with five stars until it didn't resolve any conflict, it just sort of stopped.

This is exactly my kind of story despite any flaws. I was surprised at how much I liked this book, and what a huge improvement it was from this author's previous work: The Education of Sebastian, which didn't really do it for me.
I was drawn in by the concept there, but the forbidden love angle didn't work in that book imo. Here, I was drawn in again by the interesting premise: traveling carnies!? And this time it didn't disappoint. I loved the scope of this love story. I loved how the characters met when they were kids and really, are soul mates. I'm a sucker for soulmates. Also, setting the book in and around a traveling carnival was both unique and interesting. And the fact that the hero, Kes, has dyslexia was another point in this book's favor. I really like broody heroes with issues.

The trouble is that none of Kes's internal conflicts get resolved and neither does the conflict between the two leads. From the first they wanted to be together but couldn't because they come from such different worlds. I kept watching percentage climb higher and higher on my tablet, wondering how the author was going to wrap things up. It turns out she wasn't going to. While I eagerly turned the pages and didn't want the book to end, a sure sign of a good read, I am now frustrated. And I guess I'm going to stay that way until April.

This Man

This Man - Jodi Ellen Malpas No, just no. I have looked at the review for this book and I am just confused. This doesn't work, not at all. I like me an alpha-male as much as the next girl, but this dude-- Jesse-- isn't an alpha, he's a stalker.

A caveat here, I didn't finish this book, because I just couldn't. There is no way that I could-- just the first few pages after Jesse meets Ava, he starts calling her obsessively, showing up at locations where she is, more obsessive calling, refuses to take no for an answer in his insistence that she work for him. The heroine is attracted to the hero, which is why I guess, as the reader, we are supposed to be okay with his decidedly CREEPY behavior, but I wasn't and I couldn't be. Objectively this is the author trying to create conflict in the book, but NO, just NO.

All I could think of was Jesse's behavior from a "normal" guy. Imagine if the person calling her obsessively and following her and trying to "seduce" her was a normal looking guy, without any money, someone who didn't look like an underwear model, that would make him an actual STALKER imo. And in that version of this book, I'm guessing the heroine would get her butt down to the police station and report him for harassment. However, because this dude lives in some huge, opulent palace of a hotel (i.e. sex den) called The Manor, and he is ridiculously good-looking he is merely an annoyance who she is trying to brush off.

Okay maybe I can believe that she is slightly tempted by him at this point, but mostly I'm getting the vibe that his craziness is weirding her out.

I know that in a few pages she'll get tired of ignoring him and breakdown and accept his advances and sleep with me, but I can't go there with her.

For me, no matter how rich or good looking, that doesn't change the fact that his behavior is a total turn-off, it's not demonstrating his need for control, or dominance (which I guess is the idea behind this lunacy), it's just revealing some serious neuroses. So Jesse is not my book boyfriend and he never will be.

So, I mean really here's an actual scene. Ava answers the phone after Jesse has called, oh, say 1,000 times.

"Are you alone?" The voice hits me like a sledgehammer to the gut...This is exactly why I've been avoiding his calls. The affect he has on me is unsettling and most unwelcome. Why didn't his name come up on my phone?

"No." I lie, a sweat breaking out across my brow. I hear him sigh.

It's a loud sigh. Why are you lying to me?"

I jump back up from the sofa. How does he know? Darting across the lounge, my wine swishing out of my glass, I look out of the window to the road, but I can't see his car. How does he know I"m alone? In a panic and with a lump in my throat, I hang up. It rings again immediately.

I chuck my phone on the couch and let it ring off. And then it rings again.

"Go away!"

Now, after reading that can you honestly tell me that this doesn't sound like a scene from a thriller, or a murder-mystery in which the heroine is about to be murdered by her crazy stalker? Well, it sure does to me. And so, I'm out.



Hero - Samantha Young This book has solidly put Samantha Young on my list of authors who can be counted onto tell interesting, well-written, love stories. Even though the billionaire-ingenue trope as been done TO DEATH in the aftermath of 50 Shades of Grey, it's still one that I love. I'm a total sucker and I just keep picking 'em up. 9 times out of 10 I get so annoyed with the stories that I want to throw my kindle across the room by the end of it. I've become more and more picky about the quality of the characters, the writing, and the overall believability of the story, especially in the billionaire romance genre. Young doesn't disappoint. She delivers a solid story here with two very interesting, readable characters.

But, I'm pleased to report that this is a GOOD one.

Alexa is a very strong woman, independent but with some baggage. Our resident billionaire is of course, handsome and awe-inspiring, but he is also kind of a jerk. But a jerk that you can believe. A lot of times with these kinds of alphas the authors just go waaaaay too far with the jerk-face maneuvers and I can never get behind the hero afterwards, especially since it is hardly believable that someone who is just a completely selfish a-hole would make a remarkable 360 over a woman, who most of the time is nothing remarkable. In Hero however, I think beside Lexie is so much her own woman and the conflict centers around more than just Caine being an ass to her because he's generally an ass, it works. I liked that the whole book didn't center on the conflict of Caine disliking Lexie solely because her father had done some horrible things to Caine's mother. He was able to see that she was her own person by about the middle of the book and the conflict moved it Caine having to confront his own fear of commitment demons, but again those demons were believable. I also really enjoyed the neighbor, Effie, who played the role of token advise giver to both Lexie and Caine. I usually hate secondary characters, but she was quality without the cheesiness that usually accompanies the side-romance characters.

I read Young's On Dublin Street and liked it, but didn't love it. She's shown a lot of growth as an author with this one and I'll be on the look out for her new books and probably read her back catalogue.

Fan Girl (Los Rancheros, #1)

Fan Girl (Los Rancheros, #1) - Brandace Morrow Ugh! Started so strong and then just fell apart. Op about half way through there is no conflict, just a play-by-play of everything the characters are doing, eating and what they are wearing. Sorry, just couldn't keep going. It was a bummer too because Deklan and Ali were strong leads. Ali had an interesting and believable backstory. The first bit might have worked as a novella that could have ended after they got together.

The Five Stages of Falling in Love

The Five Stages of Falling in Love - Rachel Higginson Just felt like both men in this book were too perfect. Liz's memories of her deceased husband paint him as a saint: the perfect husband, great father, wonderful and supportive. Equally, her new love interest Ben seems to have no flaws. He is the perfect man: handsome, unattached, doting, patient, kind, loves kids. I realize the conflict here was Liz overcoming her grief but it just didn't work for me. There were also pages and pages of sap in between the action where Liz contemplates her grief. As a grief book, this just didn't work for me. As a love story I liked the idea, but the execution didn't work for me either. I appreciated what Higginson was trying to do with this story and I think that she does accurately portray the stages of grief and recovery, but it fell flat for me.

Knight In Black Leather

Knight In Black Leather - Gail Dayton 3.5 stars. Improved as it went along. The ending was very strong.

Chasing Magic

Chasing Magic - Stacia Kane Gah! Best one so far. Can't get enough of Terrible and Chess and the stakes just keep getting higher and higher. I can't BELIEVE that the 6th book is just in the wind right now. I'll have to tide myself over with the little side novellas she's written. This was by far my favorite in the series, which was just brilliant, because now that Chess and Terrible are officially togehter, and Chess continues to be drug addict, as well as continues to improve her badass-witchery skills, it could have gone off the rails. I usually get bored with series if they start to get repetitive. This one had me filling the pages like mad. The mystery worked better for me than in previous books because it was all wrapped up in the drama and darkness that is Downside and Chess and Terrible's world.

Unholy Ghosts

Unholy Ghosts - Stacia Kane Holy goodness! I put off reading this for YEARS. Big mistake. I think because I'm not that into Urban Fantasy anymore. This is a great series though and I'm sorry it took me so long to pick it up. It's reminiscent of Karen Moning's Darkfever series as far as a cool setting and kick-ass heroine. The world building is EXCELLENT as other reviewers have pointed out. I mean, it's really good. There aren't many authors that can hold a candle to the detail and depth that Kane gives us we even in just this first installment of the series. She does a great job of not info dumping, but making Downside feel really realistic. Others noted issues with the fact that Chess is a drug addict, but it didn't bother me. It's all part of the world and the of the whole anti-hero vibe here. Like so many things in the media today, the anti-hero is totally "in." (E.g. the popularity of things like Sons of Anarchy and Breaking Bad.) Chess is much less bad than any of the characters in those stories. She definitely has issues though and that makes her compelling to read about.

And then there is Terrible. Who, as nearly everyone else has noted, is what makes it all worth while. More Terrible please! I don't think Lex stands a chance with a character like Terrible around.

The Jade Temptress

The Jade Temptress - Jeannie Lin While I liked the freshness of this story, I found that it spent too much time on the "suspense" aspect of the story (I'm not a huge fan of the sub-genre). I liked the slow-burn between Kaifeng and Mingyu, but I found the investigation into the murder tedious towards the end, though pretty well done. Ms. Lin's writing style is very eloquent and engaging. I also liked that it was a Chinese historical, because the setting, characters and lifestyle were all very fresh to me. At about 60% I was done with the story. Had the story wrapped up then, I would have given it four stars, but I had lost interest by the very end, so 3.5 stars.

A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story

A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story - Linda Sue Park Though it be but little it is fierce, is a good description for this book. It isn't lengthy, it moves at a rapid pace and it doesn't provide flowery detail or tons of verbage. This story is short and to the point. Initially I wondered how much impact such a short book, with such forthright language, could have. I was wrong. The fast pace and the clear, but eloquent language enhances the story rather than detracts from it. This is a beautiful little book. All the more beautiful because it will appeal to readers of almost any age. I'm not usually a fan of non-fiction (though this is an fictionalized account of a true story), I usually struggle to get through any sort of non-fiction. This was great. It made me want to dig wells in Sudan. It made me want to research the Sudanese civil war. In short, it made me care about something that I would otherwise not have been exposed to.

Freak the Mighty

Freak the Mighty - Rodman Philbrick And then there was crying. I was seriously under prepared for my level of emotional involvement in this book even though it was very short. This will teach me to put off reading classic YA for years. This was worth it.

Ain't She Sweet

Ain't She Sweet - Susan Elizabeth Phillips I just did not love this. There was SO much OTHER stuff in this one. I guess this is a romance, but really there was more small-town, contemporary women's fiction. I really don't like women's fiction. There was way too much information about Sugar Beth's background, high school years, life etc. In fact, by the end of the book the reader basically knows everything there is not know about the whole town and everyone in it. That might be some people's cup of tea, but it isn't mine. It was a struggle to get through this one. I wanted to give up.

Of course there is the romance between Sugar Beth and Colin, but everything else is much bigger. In fact, the romance between Winnie and Ryan is more pronounced than the title characters' coupling. I do love SEP, but this wasn't for me. Of course, the whole thing is witty, well-written and excellently done, it just wasn't the book for me.

Dream a Little Dream

Dream a Little Dream - Susan Elizabeth Phillips I really liked this one! The setup: broke woman comes back to a town that hates her and falls for a rich manm was the same idea as the SEP book I read next "Ain't She Sweet." I didn't like "Ain't She Sweet" because it was all about EVERYTHING except the romance. This on the other hand, was just the right mix of information about the town and the other people in it (including past couples from SEP books) and the romance. It probably didn't hurt that I found Gabe and all his tortured pain to be incredibly amazing. And amazingly, Rachel with her little son, didn't bother me. The kid wasn't a plot moppet, which was a great. (I had just finished another book with a complete plot moppet kid and I just don't understand the need for them). Rachel, her kid and the whole plot worked really well and the whole thing was sweet, readable, realistic and of course, had a lovely HEA.

Match Me If You Can

Match Me If You Can - Susan Elizabeth Phillips This features the elements that SEP does so well, but it wasn't my favorite of hers. I didn't love the heroine, Annabell. I'm not sure why, she just didn't do it for me. I think it was the constant references to how UN-attractive she was in comparison to all the awful supermodeling-look-alikes she keeps having to set the Python up with. Also, he kind of sucks until the very end when he gets his act together. I mean, in most of SEP's books the hero will kind of suck until the end, when he realizes he's been a fool. I usually like that, but he just didn't work for me. I think the other issue was the this was toward the end of the Chicago series, so of course the other 5 couples that SEP has written about had to make cameos. I hate the cameo's in romances because they are always way too cutesy. Everything is always sunshine and rainbows flying out of people's butts, vomit. When cameo's happen in SEP books it sort of feels like her epilogue's intertwined with the narrative and I HATE her epilogues, just saccharine sweet and lacking in all the wit and humor of the meat of her books. Okay, enough complaining. SEP is my favorite contemporary author and nobody's perfect. This one is worth a read if you don't have anything else to read, but Simply Irresistible or some of the earlier Chicago books are more worth your time.

Someone to Watch Over Me

Someone to Watch Over Me - Lisa Kleypas I feel like I got gyphed here because I thought I was getting a courtesan and a bow street runner story, but it turns out there was ALSO a mistaken identity plot and therefore I was really getting a country miss and a bow street runner. Sadly, that coupling just doesn't do it for me. I would have like the reformed courtesan a lot better.