December 17, 2013

The Good, the Bad and the DNF: A Mixed Bag of Current Reads


I have been an inconsistent blogger, but I have been a steady reader. Here are some thoughts on a few recent reads.

Source: Not all the books are review copies, but let’s assume they are. 

A man ripping open his shirt. He's wearing a red tie and his chest is shaved.
Ripped by Sarah Morgan

This novella is a very good blend of Chick-Lit and a Harlequin Presents. It’s told from the heroine’s POV; a heroine who is a bit goofy and socially awkward, but instead of being an insecure mess, she’s a confident rocket scientist whose dresses have the misfortune of ripping open in front of people.  The hero is an intense Italian hunk all brooding and disapproving, but not entirely overbearing. See? Chick-Lit + Harlequin Presents. It may not sound appealing, but the result is a charming and funny story that I highly recommend, even if I my issues with the price remain.

Grade: 4
Sensuality: McSteamy
Purchase: Amazon


Red letters. A man wearing a brown scarf kisses a blonde wearing a red coat and a grey scarf.

Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan

We already know Ms. Morgan is good with novellas and category romance, but what about full-length novels? I’m glad to say that her single-title transition was as smooth as it gets.

I’m not a fan of holiday novels, but this one worked for me on every level. Not only that, but it made me feel like small-town contemporaries can be fresh and interesting when the author actually puts effort into her characters and doesn’t let the town and secondary characters overtake the story with their nauseating sugary cuteness.

There’s also a bit of a role reversal in that the heroine is the one who doesn’t want to commit, and the hero is the one who has to convince to take a chance on their relationship.  Small-town heroines tend to be so sunny and happy, especially when we add Christmas to the mix, but this one was the opposite. Thank God!
My one complaint is that the hero gets into “I know what’s best for you” territory, which made me pause, but fortunately, his asshole ways didn't last long.

This is the new series to watch, and I know a few authors who could learn a thing or two from what Sarah Morgan does here.

Grade: 4
Sensuality: McSexy
Purchase: Amazon

Dark purple background. A blonde angel wearing all leather and with black wings holds a crossbow.

Archangel’s Legion by Nalini Singh

The Guild Hunter series isn’t my favorite, and I thought Elena and Raphael had overstayed their welcome after book two, so I wasn’t eager to revisit them and the only reason why I read the book was because I’m invested in the world building.

I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the character grow Elena and Raphael showed both as individuals and as a couple, which made the reading experience quite pleasant.

Unfortunately, by the end of the book the humanization of Raphael took a step backwards. PNR has a power problem; its heroes tend to be infallible and indestructible, especially when they are old, something that makes them hot, but boring. And that is an issue I’ve always had with Raphael. But his relationship with Elena made him vulnerable and put him in touch with his long-forgotten humanity, which is perhaps the most interesting aspect of their romance and the one thing that made us fear for his life and safety. But the way the book ended, he now has a tool that makes him super powerful yet again, and although Elena remains his vulnerable spot, I’m no longer interested in his journey. The good news is that this series was never about him.

Grade: 3.5
Sensuality: McSteamy
Purchase: Amazon

Golden background. A woman wearing a leather jacket and a man wearing a black t-shirt in front of her.

Kinked by Thea Harrison

After a wonderful debut, this series turned into a mixed bag. However, I must give kudos to Ms. Harrison, because all her heroines have been quite traditional and weaker than her heroes, so I never thought that Aryal, the most powerful and vicious female character in the series, would ever get her own book, but she did! Kudos, indeed.

I loved that the heroine was aggressive and powerful, and that these two traits were never downplayed to please an equally dominant hero. The conflict was not about a power struggle between them and he was very much attracted to her power. The problem was that beyond the physical attraction, that at times was more need than anything else, there was nothing really binding them together, and so I found the romance lacking.

The heroine is great, though.

Grade: 3
Sensuality: McSteamy
Purchase: Amazon

The background is the sea and some ships. A shirtless man in the foreground.

Dragos Takes a Holiday by Thea Harrison

That awkward moment when you read a book where the baby has a POV and you like it! It’s all about fan service, but it was kind of fun. Don’t judge. And don’t read it unless you’re a fan of the series.

Grade: 3
Sensuality: McSteamy
Purchase: Amazon

Red background. A man wearing a white t-shirt and holding two guns on the foreground.

Striking Distance by Pamela Clare

This one didn’t have a baby’s POV, but at the rate Ms. Clare’s heroines give birth, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had one (or several). She has received criticism for that, though, and in a way, I felt like this book was the author responding to her critics. Needless to say, this heroine doesn’t quit her job in order to become a baby-making machine. In fact, it goes to (spoilery) places seldom seen in Romance.

It tells the story of a journalist who spends two years kidnapped by the Taliban and the Navy SEAL who rescues and loves her.

The bad news are that the main couple had no chemistry whatsoever, and that the evil Taliban women were really evil and no one in the book cared about them or their fate.

The book could have been good, but I kept seeing the authorial hand manipulating me, and the whole thing felt contrived and slightly off.

And when is Holy going to get her HEA? The sexually forward character has been present since book one, but she never gets her own book. At this point we have run out of pure, innocent, sexually-abused virgins, so it’s time for Holy to shine.

Grade: 2.5
Sensuality: McSteamy
Purchase: Amazon

A man kisses a woman's neck.

The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins

The heroine talks to her ovaries... and they talk back. That is all.*

*No it isn’t. There’s also slut-shaming. I should know better.

Grade: 2
Sensuality: McSexy
Purchase: Amazon

A naked torso and a green background.

Unbound by Cara McKenna

Cara McKenna is one of my favorite authors, and in fact, her April release, After Hours, made it to my “Best of” list of the year. But I couldn’t finish Unbound for a couple reasons, the main one being that the heroine’s friends were jealous bitches. Sounds like a weird reason to DNF, but stay with me and you will (hopefully) understand.

The heroine, Merry, lost a lot of weight. A lot. And apparently she only had fat friends who remained fat and were unhappy about it. They disguise their unhappiness with the excuse that Merry because obnoxious after losing weight, but it’s clear that they are unhappy and envious. Because fat people are so miserable that they can’t stand their friends becoming thin. I can’t even.

The interaction with the friends is a minor occurrence in the book, but it left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. If we add a hero whose issues can’t possibly be resolved with just the help of the heroine, the result is a book I can’t finish.

Grade: DNF
Sensuality: McSteamy
Purchase:  Amazon

A man and a woman kiss. Both are wearing white t-shirts. The background is a city's night skyline.

A Righteous Kill by Kerrigan Byrne

Oh, the lure of the $0.99 sale. Most of the time is a deadly trap filled with terrible books.

The book is about a cranky FBI agent investigating a serial killer. When the killer’s latest victim turns out to be alive (because the dumb, fat police officer didn’t use his Fat Fingers of Diabetic Doom to properly check for a pulse) our hero has to pose as her lover in order to protect her.

The fat-shaming wasn’t the only reason why I stopped reading, there’s also insta-love that strikes when the poor heroine is naked and bleeding out (emphasis mine):
“Hey. Hey… shhhhh.” Luca gently grasped her slim wrists. “I know this hurts. But we have to stop the bleeding.” He positioned himself into her line of vision, hoping to block out all the chaos and faces and flashing lights. ”Look at me, sweetheart,” he crooned as her wide green gaze locked on his face. 
She blinked rapidly, but stopped sobbing. She just trembled and stared, her tears mingling with the rain. The surrounding chaos immediately receded into darkness. Luca shivered again, but not because of the rain plastering his thin dress shirt to his body. As their eyes locked, some kind of cosmic puzzle piece snapped into place. The sensation that seized his chest with the force of an iron vice had words like fate and destiny chiseled into it.
You can't make this shit up.

Luca is (rightly) annoyed when someone calls him a Mexican, because not all Latinos are Mexican and our hero is “half Euro-Brazilian, half Puerto Rican” (unlike Latinos, Europeans are all the same). But then he goes and uses the word “chingau” which I’m assuming is a misspelled “chinga” or “chingada”, a Mexican swear word, so I’m all confused.

Then we have the sequel-bait characters, all members of the heroine’s family. They are a bunch of overachievers that include a Navy SEAL and an Assistant District Attorney, not to mention her parents (or maybe grandparents): a Russian spy and an IRA terrorist.

And this is only the first chapter.

Grade: DNF
Sensuality: I don’t know.
Purchase:  Amazon

8 comments:

  1. I loved Ripped! The guy was alpha but not a jerk for a change.

    Elena and Raphael weren't my favorites either but I was thinking of picking that one up.

    I did like Unbound because once you get past the friends part in the beginning they really aren't around and the story gets much better even in regards to the hero.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm sorry McKenna's book didn't end up working for you. I absolutely loved it. Karen is right.. once you get past her sorry ass friends, the book gets a lot stronger. I will say that the book's ending doesn't conclude w/ Merry fixing Rob's problems. The text does acknowledge that it will take more than the love of a good woman to get him where he needs to be.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, I figured she wouldn't cure him with love because McKenna is way better than that, but the issue with the friends was too big to look past it.

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  3. Karen and Readsalot: The friends didn’t bother me because they were mean and I felt defensive on behalf the heroine. They bothered me because in a book where the heroine finds love after she loses weight, the only fat characters left in the story were mean, jealous and clearly bitter. On top of that, the heroine only had fat friends who apparently were friends because they all were fat and nothing else. It’s a harmful, stereotypical, offensive, and just plain fucked up portrayal of fat people. Why couldn’t the heroine find love while she was fat? Was she not worthy of it? Sure, the friends were only mentioned in passing (although their actions act as a catalyst forcing the heroine to make her trip), but they colored my impression of the book and made me think that this is the same old story about a woman who becomes worthy of love after losing weight. So the problem isn’t the friends, but what they represent.

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  4. Well I loved Ripped too, so that's one!

    I also really enjoyed Striking Distance, Kinked and Dragos Takes a Holiday (but agree this one is definitely for fans).

    Unbound is on my TBL but I haven't got to it yet - I'm reviewing the audio for AudioGals. Sleigh Bells in the Snow and Archangel's Legion are on Mt. TBR but I do plan to get to them... sometime :)

    I think I've broken up with Kristan Higgins. I DNF'd The Best Man almost by accident. I was getting annoyed and generally wasn't into it so I put it down and I've just never picked it back up. But.. .talking to her ovaries? Really? *rolls eyes*

    I bought A Righteous Kill for 99c when my one click finger went a bit wild. Looks like that's moving *down* the TBR! LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At least it was cheap! LOL

      You have to read SBitS. It's so, so good! And it should put you in the mood for the holidays even if you are a bit of a Grinch ;-)

      Delete
    2. Well I LOVE Christmas so I expect I will adore this one then! :D

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FTC Disclaimer

The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.