BKHorne

The Off Season

The Off Season - Catherine Gilbert Murdock Very similar to book one and still compelling. There is even more tough stuff in this one and DJ really grows up to have to deal with it. However, by the end I was read to wrap up the story and I was a little upset to learn there was a third book. I think this series would have worked better as a duology, a third book feels a little like milking it. DJ does have a great voice, but it is so authentic that it can sometimes be almost tough to read. She sounds EXACTLY like a kid writing a book, complete with run on sentences and sometimes very unclear thoughts. I was ready for DJ to finish dealing with her stuff by the end of the book. Definitely a good read, but I'm all done with the trilogy now.

Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen - Catherine Gilbert Murdock Voice, voice, voice. This one is all about the FANTASTIC voice of DJ Schwenk. Ms. Murdock as done an impressive job creating her character. DJ literally leaps off the page. It took me a while to pick this book up because I didn't think that a story about a Wisconsin girl who lives and works on a farm and likes football would appeal to me in any way. I really DON'T like sports books. I'll read a sports romance here and there, but they really aren't my thing. I was VERY surprised at home compelling this book was. And again, it's all because of DJ and her voice. Ironic, that a narrator whose major character flaw is her inability to speak to other characters, could have such a strong narrative voice, but that is really the genius of this book.

More than the voice, this is a story about family and loyalty. It is also a story a little bit about love, but mostly about accepting yourself and growing up, but it's never preachy. There are a lot of books that feel like an adult wrote them, talking to kids. This is not that book. This is a book where the reader muddles along with the narrator, but somehow comes out the end of the story with a profoundly different view. It felt like learning life's lessons right along with DJ. In short, it was great. So great, that I immediately picked up book two.

Out of My Mind

Out of My Mind - Sharon M. Draper Though this book does read a bit young (about 3rd grade) it delivers its message and connects with the reader. There are some parts of the book that do feel dated (references to MySpace etc.), which might put off a few kids who want to read more cutting edge stuff, but these are relatively minor. This book offers a unique perspective and will help kids build empathy. I would recommend this as a read aloud to any teacher or parent.

Mind the ending, it had me in tears, though there is redemption at the end, but perhaps not the kind you would expect. This is my first Sharon M. Draper novel and I will definitely picking up more of her work and recommending to kids.

Monument 14

Monument 14 - Emmy Laybourne Interesting idea...surviving the end of the world in a superstore like Walmart. In fact, that might be the best place to be. I liked that it was about a group of kids as well, but the narrator I found irritating. He alternated between what seemed like forced "kid like" ideas and thoughts and more sophisticated ideas. I don't really know how to describe it. I also found some of the plot all over the place. I assume that some of that can be attributed to this being the first book in the series and the author is planning on actually explaining what the heck is really going on in the world in the next books, but that is just soo annoying and sooo overdone right now. I also didn't get the ending. There is a decision made that divides the group and I just thought it was a bit dumb. Overall, it was a mildly entertaining way to spend a few hours, but I won't be reading the rest of the series.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Ellen Forney, Sherman Alexie One of the best young adults I've read in a very long while.

I have put off reading this book for a good three years. That was my bad. This is not a good book. It's a GREAT book. A book that will make kids like reading books. There is a lot of controversy (or was at the time of publication) surrounding the content of this book: language, references to masturbation, and alcohol and quite a bit of violence. I agree with Alexie wholeheartedly when he defends this book and its content by explaining that the content is authentic. I think that is what makes it great. Kids don't want to read about things that they feel are dumbed down or edited to fit their age-group.

Enough about the nonsense that got this book in trouble. This book is FUNNY. Junior is a fabulous narrator and the episodes of his life on and off the reservation are equal parts poignant and tragic. Including the comics throughout the book adds readability to the book that will help it appeal to a broader audience.

This is going on my classics shelf and I'll recommend it to everyone.

Scandal

Scandal - Carolyn Jewel OOOH! An angsty-historical. This was right up my alley. I like the idea of a lot of new-adult books a la extreme angst, that are so popular right now, but often times they drive me crazy with poor writing and terrible characters. I always get sucked into reading them because I love a tortured hero and/or heroine and all that angsty drama that younger lovers get involved in. So this book sort of hit a sweet spot for me. There was a lot a of angst and misunderstanding between the main characters, but it was all FULLY SUPPORTED and made sense. It wasn't just misunderstanding for the sake of furthering the plot. Sophie's fear and belief that Banallt wouldn't be faithful to her if she agreed to marry him was based on facts and experience. Banallt's character makes a really lovely journey from horrible rake to genuine nice-guy. Also the writing was awesome and the love scenes were steamy, yet tasteful. I liked it all. Good stuff from Carolyn Jewel. I'll be picking up more by this author.

The Care and Feeding of an Alpha Male

The Care and Feeding of an Alpha Male - Jill Myles, Jessica Clare Bah! This was no good either. I HATE reading not-so-good books back to back. This one started strong. The premise had me. Surviving in the woods for the weekend as a meet-cute. What a good idea! A relationship that starts off as a one-night stand. Yes, yes! I've been into this little small-town Texas romances lately, but this one had no depth. I expected more grit from Colt, the former marine and avid survivalist, but instead I got a dude sort of whiny dude, who doesn't think he's good enough for the town sweetheart because his family was poor. I get that there are class divides, but it wasn't enough to make me care.

Also, ALL of the conflict is predicated on misunderstanding between the two characters and the fact that Beth Ann has an obnoxious lying ex-fiance. Things that could have been easily remedied by talking to each other. Also, the "lies" that Beth Ann gets so upset with Colt about are really just not that big of a deal. No reason for her to think her obsession with having "truth" in a relationship has been violated. Apart from those issues, I liked the story well enough.

The reason I rated it so low is that there are editing issues with the book and it made me really annoyed. There are a number of times where there are obvious inconsistencies that should have been edited out. E.g. Beth Ann gets dressed and purposefully doesn't wear panties. In the next scene (in the same outfit, later that night) Colt pulls the panties that she isn't supposed to be wearing to the side. They are interrupted mid-coitus and then later in the same scene Beth Ann is again no longer wearing panties. Now that is just laziness in the editing department. Don't publish the book if you haven't made sure that it flows. That is just one example, there were multiple instances like this and it grated.

The Twelve Nights of Christmas (Harlequin Presents Extra)

The Twelve Nights of Christmas (Harlequin Presents Extra) - Sarah Morgan This was cute and fun and very holiday-esque. It is a Harlequin Presents title, which, I've learned from the gals over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books means it has it's own special set of rules. As long as you know that to expect from a title like this: a dashing billionaire, a down-on-her-luck heroine and a certain amount of silliness, you will enjoy this. You really have to suspend your disbelief to enjoy these types of books, but I like Sarah Morgan a lot and enjoyed this book. It was light and charming and I enjoyed all of it.

Landline

Landline - Rainbow Rowell So, I can really only gush about this book. And that gushing really comes down to a mega fan-girl moment over Rainbow Rowell, who I adore.

Rainbow Rowell can write. She can really, really write. She can tell a story (with a magic time traveling phone) that is so real and so poignant that there is really no choice but for you to love it. I knew that my love of Ms. Rowell's books was official last year after reading Eleanor and Park and then again after Attachments-- but it wasn't until I finished this book that I realized now it was on, for serious. She is amazing.

This is the story of Georgie and Neal (and sometimes Seth) and how their marriage fell apart and sort of how it got put back together again. Georgie is a TV comedy writer (she sort of reminded me a bit of Liz Lemon from 30 Rock) and Neal is her husband and a stay-at-home-dad. We join the party when Neal is leaving for Omaha for Christmas. Georgie is supposed to go, but instead she doesn't. Georgie decides she can't go with them at the last minute because she (and writing partner Seth) have finally gotten THE MEETING for the production of their own show. The show they have been writing, imagining and wish they could write for the last 17 years, since college.

Once Rowell introduced the idea of the best-friend relationship between Seth and Georgie I got concerned that we were going to have a love triangle and I can't HANDLE love triangles. I should have known better. This is Rainbow Rowell we are talking about and she just wouldn't do that to me. She doesn't. There isn't a love triangle, but there are the ideas of love, priorities and choices and how those things effect the people we love.

The ending made me glow. The backstory of Georgie and Neal is slowly revealed throughout the book. It made me glow. It is the cutest, most real and least clique romance I've read in a long, long time-- maybe ever. There is nothing stereotypical about this book and nothing typical about these characters. They are just delightfully honest and flawed.

Beneath the Burn

Beneath the Burn - Pam Godwin Imagine how angry I was when by ten percent into this book I just couldn't stand anything about it. It had so much potential to be a thrilling, dark read and then it just fell on its' face. Our main characters just didn't work for me. Everything felt inconsistent.

My biggest problem was with our hero, Jay, who is supposed to be some big-time rock star with all of these deep seated issues-- which is EXACTLY my thing-- but he didn't work for me. Like at all. I felt like the author was forcing him into a role which he did not fit. Jay was not a rocker, but a troubled man, an introvert with some deep-seated control issues, who would probably avoid the limelight at any cost. But here he is, a world-famous rock star? The scenes where he is speaking honestly and openly with the heroine and interacting with other characters, you just can't as a reader, believe that he is a rock star because he doesn't act like one. You also can't believe that he has addiction issues, except when you are explicitly told that he does, because he is able to function fine in main scenes without them. The drugs and the rock-star trope seem like a plot device, to add interest to the story, but it didn't feel authentic, or work for me.

I liked the premise, that Jay goes into a tattoo shop at a really low point in his life and meets our fair heroine, Charlee who has problems of her own to deal with. He has a horrible scar on his back from being abused as child, which is what is causing all of his major ISSUES. The heroine who understands abuse, connects in a deep and meaningful way over this tattoo. This creates some sort of unshakeable bond between the two of them and carries them over time and space. I liked the idea of that, but I didn't really buy Charlee, later on, sitting in captivity fantasizing about a guy she had given a tattoo to for an hour before getting re-kidnapped, but whatever. Especially when she had a very nice boyfriend at the time of Jay's tattoo, who is killed just before she gets re-captured. Wouldn't she be worrying about HIM? It seems a bit thoughtless on her part to be so fixated on a client and not the guy she'd been seeing for a year (or something). But, I was willing to over look it. The tattoo gets Jay and Charlee through until the next time they meet-- fine ok, I accepted that.

Unfortunately, the next time they meet, Jay is supposed to be a big mess and having sex with all these random girls and doing all sorts of drugs all the while being the member of The World's Most Famous Rock Band. (Aren't they always?) Somehow his band mates are well-adjusted and sober (no idea who that works, but again, whatever). Here's where it went totally downhill for me. Jay isn't really attracted to other girls, he struggles complete the "act", yet he is sleeping with them? He doesn't like people to touch him, but he is finding a lot of women to have intercourse with, and just tying them up to avoid contact? And Jay really likes leather pants, skin tight ones (again, what? This has been a sexy idea in some books, but the character has to be pretty alphatastic to rock it and not seem like some weirdo. The King in J.R. Ward's books-- he can rock some leather pants. This dude, not so much.) He is also a rock star that likes to hide in the shadows on-stage? I got that he has issues, but is rocking really the career for someone who ABSOLUTELY HATES attention from the public? He should have been written as an agoraphobic hiding in a cabin in the woods. THAT I would have believed.

Conveniently, this is all good for Charlee, because despite the severe abuse she has also suffered for YEARS and YEARS, nay since her adolsence, she likes to be dominated? She is also remarkably well-adjusted for a woman kept as a slave by a sadistic psycho since the age of 16.

Naturally, Jay can't handle Charlee's needs, because he doesn't want to do anything to hurt her (it's only other human-beings he doesn't give a crap about hurting). He's all possessive and protective of Charlee. He just seemed like a jerk to me.

The whole thing just didn't make sense to me. Once our heroine is back on the scene, we are experiencing Jay's issues firsthand, but Jay snorts coke once and then comes down off his high about five minutes later and somehow has no withdrawal issues to contend with as a long as Charlee is around. That's quite a rehab program!

Once they are reunited and have a bit of privacy (oh wait, they don't seem to care about that either. There is a long sequence of them practically screwing in the car and then again in the public area of the band's private jet. If we clock the time that Charlee and Jay have actually known each other at either of those points, including the tattooing, it is less than a day.) Of course, being madly in lust, Charlee and Jay just want to get it on a lot, but they are struggling because they are both all messed up. (Cue a scene in the airplane bathroom that just creeped me out. Because seriously, who wants to engage is serious acts of prolonged intimacy in an airplane bathroom, gross!).

I just couldn't believe anything about either of them, or their "love" story. Their actions, based on the history we are given, does not work. Additionally, in many of the scenes the writing lacked consistency. The conversations, all of which sparked the conflict that kept the book moving forward, contained dialogue that was conflicting, non-linear and confusing. It left me wondering what Jay and Charlee were talking about and how they got from point a to point b.

I gave up near the end, I just couldn't slog through anymore nonsense. 1 star, what a let down.

Stolen Songbird

Stolen Songbird - Danielle L. Jensen Gah! I hate when you begin a great series and realize that the other books won't be out for YEARS and YEARS. This was a GOOD one and I want to read on, right now!

Fear of Heights

Fear of Heights - Mara White “I keep turning rebellion into reality. Then I wake up, lost, standing in the middle of the mess, clueless as to how to proceed.”

I would say that pretty much sums Kate, and this book up: lost into the middle of a mess, clueless as to how to proceed.

This is not the conclusion to a happy little love story. However if you've just finished reading Heights of Desire, it is a completely necessary installment.

Unfortunately, through most of this book, I wanted to strangle Kate. Has there ever been a heroine so completely inept at making good decisions?

First off, Jaylee is in jail for the majority of this book, so it’s not the tale of Kate and Jaylee round two. If that is what you are looking for, you’re going to be disappointed. As for me I didn’t know what to expect, so I went in with an open mind.

Until about 35% I had no idea where White was going with her story. Kate is totally off the rails at the start of book two. Jaylee is gone, Kate has charges pending against her for her involvement in the drug bust, and Robert is forcing her to choose between getting Jaylee out of jail and staying with him and keeping her baby, but him refusing to help Jaylee. She’s in a total crap position. And, as we quickly learn, if we didn’t already know from book 1, when backed into a corner Kate makes Really Bad Decisions. The first of which in this book is jetting off to the DR with Jaylee’s sister Janinie for a beach getaway, so she can ponder the mess she’s made of her life.

Their adventure does not go to plan. Drugs and gangs get involved. Bad things happen to Kate and to Janinie. When they finally get back to the US, Kate just keeps on going. She’s confused. She’s conflicted. She wants to help Jaylee and get him out of jail by not upsetting Robert further. She loves Jaylee, but she can’t help but sleep with another random Dominican street-thug—Jaylee’s arch-rival, Ideal—in a fit of grief.

At this point I got angry. I wasn’t even sure that I liked Jaylee in the last book. I understood him and I thought that White’s characterization was great, but I wasn’t 100% sold on him as a hero. But the way Kate treats her and Jaylee’s “love” in this book—I felt sorry for Jaylee, he gets a raw deal. He’s stuck in jail while Kate screws around on him and he gets the repercussions of her actions effecting him all the way inside.

Funnily enough, as I was super angry with Kate, I also understood why she was compelled to go looking for comfort in another man’s arms. White is a very good author. Her writing excellent and she cuts down to the heart of the emotion without being over-written or maudlin. Kate is rough edges and raw emotion and her actions though misguided in the extreme, make sense.


“I know all too well how infatuation makes you fall for everything around you. My love for Jaylee created enough overflow and runoff for me to fall newly in love with my husband. That was a mistake.

My heart belongs to Jaylee, but there is bounty in this lovemaking that gives a sweet compassion toward the world. I came to Ideal longing for escape through his touch. Instead, I’ve found meaning in his dusty apartment. In his well-worn bed that could use a change of sheets. In this unexpected lover, who can soothe everything that stings.”


However, Kate’s inner thoughts are straight up confusing at times. I know she is conflicted, but she waffles constantly. There is one particular instance when she has just : discovered that the Jaylee knew that Robert was the lawyer that got his father life in prison and everything has just become clear for both Kate and the reader. At that point Kate doesn’t know if her whole relationship with Jaylee is based only on his need for payback, or if he truly cares about her. One minute she is sure he was just using her. The next she feels like she has to protect him no matter what. The next she can’t live without him. Then back to her thinking he is using her. The thoughts felt authentic, but they were also jarring for the reader and confused the line of the narrative.

The shame-affair between Kate and Ideal while Jaylee is still in the big house rankles at first. And he helps her, it a lot of ways. I wanted to hate Ideal, because I felt that liking him would be disloyal to Jaylee, but I couldn’t help but love him. He’s Jaylee’s opposite: fun and carefree, affectionate and sweet. The little interlude between Kate and Ideal is a sort of burst of fresh-air in the middle of the wreckage of Kate’s life. The most poignant moments in the book are when the two of them are together.

So why such a high rating if this book bothered me in so many ways? Much like its’ predecessor this book made me feel a lot of things. It made me want desperately to know what was going to happen and I couldn’t stop reading. So it is not a perfect book, but it is well-written and provides closure for a compelling story.

I was dissatisfied with the ending. It is bittersweet and certainly not what you would call an HEA, but that wasn’t my problem. Mostly it bothered me because of what Kate doesn’t do, which is take charge of her life. I don’t mind when my books don’t have a happy ending, but I do mind when the characters don’t make choices at the end of a book that show they have truly grown as characters. For me, Kate staying with Robert, even though she felt as though that was the only way to keep her children, was a cop out. She should have filed for divorce and gotten joint custody. She and Robert were done. They didn’t even like each other by the end. We didn’t need an HEA with Kate and Jaylee for Kate to have shown the growth to stand her ground and become truly independent.


Note: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.


Transcendence

Transcendence - Shay Savage Out of the ordinary, interesting and just plain good.

Skin Deep

Skin Deep - Pamela Clare Just thought this was a little too mushy. I couldn't get past the obnoxious inner monologues where the characters constantly told themselves they weren't good enough. Also Megan's daughter Emily is just a crutch for the plot with no discernible character traits. Not my favorite. A real bummer because I really, really liked the other I-team book I read.

Shattered Rainbows

Shattered Rainbows - Mary Jo Putney 3.5 stars. I liked it, but not as well as Book 1 in the Fallen Angels series, even though this one had a lot more adventure and a lot of delicious angst because Catherine and Michael can't be together. They are both so damn noble, it was wonderful and heart-wrenching all at the same time. I had some issues with the conflict in the second part of the book, in part because of the villain, who was your basic evil prototype: maniacal laughter and mustache twirling.

Sweet Filthy Boy

Sweet Filthy Boy - Christina Lauren Surprisingly good. The level of heat is reminiscent of Cara McKenna, whose books I love. Ansel was delicious and intriguing. It has a similar plot to the second half of Love, In English by Karina Halle, which I also really enjoyed. The major issue here is that the premise is just plain silly-- and overdone-- but if you can get past it, this is a good, emotionally deep love story.