I read a short story by Tara Janzen in the SEAL of My Dreams anthology and found her work had enough of that rapid-fire exciActual Rating: 3.5 Stars
I read a short story by Tara Janzen in the SEAL of My Dreams anthology and found her work had enough of that rapid-fire excitement factor to be attractive and enjoyable. Then I decided to look her up and found a fairly long looking series to do with some Special Ops men, found that at least the first five books were available at my local library, and went from there.
While exciting and fun and fast-paced and similar to a lot of what I enjoy in a standard Romantic Suspense, the story was a little haphazard. But the progression of the story was quick enough that you don’t have time to dwell on anything BUT the forward progress of the story line--an entertaining, mindless read to enjoy without analyzing it to death, if you will. Because it isn’t until you let yourself think back on the book that you realize that nothing really stood out, save for a couple of details: cars, guns, a strangely eccentric old paleontologist with an obsession with Cretaceous era nests, people who make bad decisions, and sex (lots of sex).
The Story in Brief: Regan McKinney’s grandfather, a well known paleontologist, has gone missing and despite what everyone else thinks, she knows this isn’t normal of the older man. But he’s left a cryptic message on his calendar pointing to Cisco, Utah and a man from Regan’s past, Quinn Younger, and she hopes that finding Quinn will help her figure out what happened to Wilson McKinney.
Quinn Younger is hiding out in the rundown, abandoned town of Cisco while he recovers from an injury he sustained on an ongoing mission. But then Regan appears with the bad guys tailing her and he knows that he needs to jump back into action if he wants to keep her safe and alive, while finally bringing the bad guys to justice.
Overall Thoughts: I’m sitting here trying to recall bits and pieces of Crazy Hot’s story line and unfortunately cannot pull the bad guy’s identity out of my head on a whim, with only the name Roper floating around. I don’t even remember what kind of bad guy he is (gang leader, mob boss, business man, random crazy guy with minions…) and can only remember that he’s brutal to everyone and doesn’t hesitate to kill, even his own men if they screw up. And he’s got a reward out for Quinn’s head because Quinn stole from him as part of the mission that landed Quinn in hiding at the beginning of the book.
I know I enjoyed the book while I was reading it, but I also remember thinking that the balance between Romance and Suspense was teetering on a very thin line. Our couple would spend monologues lusting after each other, then the Suspense part of the story would pick up with stuff to do with dinosaur fossils, stolen weapons, and hitmen out to make trouble for our good guys. Then we’d have another random, but steamy, sex scene. Then we’d go into more of the bad guys and the good guys and “The Plan” to capture the bad guys (which was flimsy at best). Then more talk about emotional feelings, physical feelings, lusty feelings...
And then there’s the short-lived “bodyguard” side plot that introduces one of the series’ main couples, Kid Chronopolous and Nikki McKinney (Regan’s little sister), when the guys of Steele Street learn that Bad Man Roper might be watching the entire McKinney family for one reason or another; which also ended up being more Romance with more sex scenes (not that the sex scenes weren’t welcome, ‘cause they were pretty steamy).
Anyway, I’ve yet to figure out the roles of all the Steele Street guys, or what kind of an operation they are aside from some sort of secret unofficial government Special Ops group. There’s Dylan Hart, the leader; Christian Hawkins, who feels like second-in-command as well as maintains undercover op roles; Kid Chronopolous who is simply described as “the sniper”; some other guys I may have missed; and finally Quinn Younger who, despite his juvenile life of crime, is the golden boy and heroic public face of the Steele Street secret operatives… or something like that.
And then there’s history between the boys and it sounds like they all either grew up together, or met up at some point in time when their lives converged and linked up with car theft, chop shops, and other stuff to do with juvenile delinquency and some remediation program working for Wilson McKinney digging up bones in a valley… or something to that effect. I don’t know. I got a little lost with all the backhistory of these boys.
What I DID learn, as I read Crazy Hot, however, was just about how little I understand about cars. Either the author has some sort obsession with American muscle with lots of power, or she went a little overboard in her research, because there was A LOT dealing with cars (and guns, but this is a Romantic Suspense, so I expect there to be talk of guns). If the guys weren’t thinking about sex with the ladies or fighting with the bad guys, they were monologuing about their cars.
Being that the first book in this Steele Street series is actually quite enjoyable and entertaining for a summertime R&R read, I am very much interested in continuing on with the rest of the books. I’m just also crossing my fingers for some girl power as well… and maybe less about cars… and more sold storylines?...more
Just as suspenseful, thrilling, and romantically heated as Cynthia Eden's first two Deadly books, Deadly Lies was very much intense and un-put-down-abJust as suspenseful, thrilling, and romantically heated as Cynthia Eden's first two Deadly books, Deadly Lies was very much intense and un-put-down-able. I believe that I had picked it up thinking to just read a few chapters to get started... then I ended up a lot further than expected.
Once again, another Cynthia Eden book that hooks you from the start, with likable characters and an intriguing criminal mystery. The dark tone of the story helps too. And once again, the focus is really more on the Romance and the steamy sex than was really necessary. However, I flew through this book so quickly that I didn't even really take note when or if the romance scenes felt inappropriately placed.
The Story in Brief: Samantha Kennedy was introduced in the first Deadly book, Deadly Fear and suffered a tragic, deathly torture at the hands of the killer called "Watchman". Using her fear of water against her, the twisted killer would drown her and then resuscitate her just to turn around and drown her again--it was an endless cycle of hell for Sam until she was finally rescued by her fellow SSD agents.
Unfortunately, Sam has not been able to recover from this incident. She's worried that she never will and that her SSD boss will see through her anxiety and that everyone will think that she is incapable of continuing to do her job. In order to forget, Sam chooses to lose herself in no-strings passion. Which is how she meets Max Ridgeway.
At present, the SSD is investigating a string of serial kidnappings--young college boys from well-to-do families are being taken. And the stakes are starting to become higher when two of the most recent kidnapping victims get sent back to their families in pieces.
The next kidnapping victim turns out to be Max's younger step-brother, Quinlan Malone. And on top of that, the SSD have learned that the game is changing for these kidnappers--their patterns are changing and their crimes are escalating.
Overall Thoughts: As per usual, there are Romance elements spread throughout the story at some of the most inopportune spots. Sam will be in the middle of investigating a lead, but then she'd run into Max and the two get sucked into their whirlwind passion of lust and sex. And then the reader is left wondering, "Wait, what about that lead you were in the middle of following? What about the kidnapping case? What about the victims and the murders?"
And then almost immediately--after a quick scene of fast, steamy sex--we get right back on track: another victim gets kidnapped, calls are made, and Samantha slips into the Malone household, undetected even though the kidnappers specifically specify that there are to be NO COPS INVOLVED or else Quinlan will die.
I think why I liked this last Deadly book more than the previous two had to do with two things:
1st) I've come to like the world and the characters, because even the supporting characters have mysterious pasts and lives of their own to pique my curiosity;
2nd) Sam and Max's relationship was strewn with angsty emotions of a good kind of feel that I can't describe, because both of them are damaged individuals fighting their own demons alone until they meet each other. Sometimes I hate these tropes... sometimes, I guess depending on the characters and the focus of the story line, they work for me.
It probably also helped that we've known Sam since the beginning and have watched her struggle through her terror with the promise of finally being able to let go and move on with her life now.
Deadly Lies is fast-paced and exciting, and as I had already mentioned, you just didn't have time to dwell on the disconnects between Romance elements and Suspense elements, because both aspects are written very well, even if their continuity is a little bit stunted. As in the first two books, it was hard for me to reconcile the case investigations suddenly taking a turn into steamy sex being had and then back again.
But, honestly, did that really bother me at all? No. Not really.
Again, if it's one thing that Cynthia Eden does quite well it's Romantic Suspense. And despite the fact that this is the last book in the Deadly series (as of present, because who knows what will happen in the future) I really WOULD love to continue following the FBI team of Serial Services Division agents. There are still so many more stories to tell (Kim Daniels and Jon Ramirez are stellar side characters who need their own books) so will happily welcome a continuation of this series if it ever happens....more
Lora Spade puts in a plea for help from the FBI's Serial Services Division (SSD) to look into recent fi3.5 Stars
Deadly Heat was quite an intense read.
Lora Spade puts in a plea for help from the FBI's Serial Services Division (SSD) to look into recent fires she believes is being set by a serial arsonist. The link between each fire are the victims that the arsonist traps to be burned to death in their own homes or in abandoned buildings.
In comes Kenton Lake who's first meeting with Lora involves a fire and being punched upside the head. An informant who was meeting Kenton is trapped in a burning building, and the FBI agent's first instinct is to go find him and pull him out. Instead, Lora is the one who clocks Kenton when he gets difficult, and then drags him to safety, away from the burning building.
Meanwhile, it seems that the arsonist/killer has set his sights on Lora as part of his sick and twisted fire games.
Deadly Heat was definitely more romance than it was crime thriller.
Despite the fact that the focus was more skewed towards the romance, the suspense of crime thriller didn't disappoint. But there's just something about the way both books (Deadly Fear and Deadly Heat) were presented that falls short somewhere and I'm not quite sure I can put my finger on it.
There were times when it seemed inappropriate for the romance to be front and center in certain scenes; however, the story would then refocus on the serial arson investigation and level itself out. To be honest, I've found that Cynthia Eden does excellent work with romance and erotica (even if some of the details got a little bit... too much). And the suspense part of the genre balances out quite well, too.
Still... those times when the investigation should be what's important needed to focus less on the romance and the lusting. It's like the main characters are always horny, 24/7.
I suspect this is just standard for a Romantic Suspense with a side of Erotica that is much heavier in the Romance than it is the Suspense.
Overall Thoughts: That being said, Cynthia Eden is quickly becoming one of the few romantic suspense authors who automatically pique my interest. Deadly Heat (as well as Deadly Fear) is a very enjoyable book that hooks you right in from the beginning.
It also doesn't hurt that we've got a great set of characters to hold the story up. Lora being a kickass firefighter who saves the day multiple times throughout the book is a plus.
It was also nice to see Monica as a prominent agent in the investigation. Luke's and Samantha's belated appearances were also welcome. There's also potential at hand for Lora's gaggle of brothers to have their own stories expanded upon--that would be interesting to follow.
On a side note, there were a few instances of typos that stood out, but not enough to detract me from enjoying the book completely....more
I'm caught between calling it 'Awesome!' and saying that there was still something left to be desired about The Caller. But ultimately, I enj4.5 Stars
I'm caught between calling it 'Awesome!' and saying that there was still something left to be desired about The Caller. But ultimately, I enjoyed the heck out of this last book in the Shadowfell trilogy and loved the hell out of both Neryn and Flint and even the minor and not-so-minor supporting characters.
There were only a few things in the broken world of Shadowfell's kingdom that had me questioning logic... but then I would turn around and find a way to justify what I had thought didn't make any sense. Just as well, since there were also a few things about the story's progression that felt predictable as well, but that I said "whatevs" to and continued to read and enjoy the book without analyzing it.
And so in the long run, I just ended up deciding to throw my objectivity out the window and just give the book a completely biased rating based solely on how much I loved the book, the conclusion, and the series in general, the world, the culture, the back-history... pretty much everything about this book was pretty damn awesome!
On a side note, I noticed that my rating kept climbing higher and higher with each book. Keep in mind that this has more to do with my influenced enjoyability as I got to know the characters, the setting, the world, the Good Folk and their ways, and Neryn and Flint and Tali et al, as the story progressed. Sometimes when you become invested in a world and its characters, it's hard NOT to finally fall completely in love with them.
Because the endless traveling and long-drawn out days of Neryn waiting and waiting and waiting were an ongoing theme in all three books; however, while they felt uneventful and monotonous and long-winded in Shadowfell, they started giving me a sense of excitement as the last two books progressed.
It's strange how much leeway you're willing to give certain similar writing styles and repetitive themes and predictable story progression if you just so happen to be steadfastly in love with a book. Yea. It's a thing.
The conclusive war against the oppressive King Keldec and his psychotic queen and manipulative councilors is finally drawing near as the seasons change. The Midsummer Gathering is right around the corner and Neryn must continue on with her training in spite of the tragedies and concerns flowing over from where we last left off in Raven Flight. Because Tali has been seen in public at the Midwinter Gathering, she can no longer accompany Neryn to seek out the last two Guardians--just as well, Tali is needed at Shadowfell to finalize the rebellion's last plans in the place of Regan who has lost his life on a technicality mission gone wrong.
Now traveling with Neryn is Whisper, an owl-like Good Folk who is able to transport her from one place to another, saving precious travel time in order to finish her training before the Midsummer Gathering. Along the way she meets new allies and friends who prove just as significant in the ending outcome of the rebellion. But more obstacles surface as Neryn learns of the frail state the Good Folk of the East are in, then following is shown a gruesome parade of Good Folk by the King's Enforcers, that can only mean that Keldec has found Caller for his own twisted greed and use.
The tides of the rebellion may have changed now unless Neryn can find a way to turn everything back around.
I like that each book of Shadowfell has ongoing twists and turns and secret surprises as the story progresses. And I like that with each new obstacle, Neryn only becomes stronger, more determined, as well as much more steadfast in her belief of the rebels' cause. Despite not being the warrior woman that Tali is, whom I missed in this book, by the way, Neryn has her own brand of strength and resourcefulness and tact.
It's slightly inconceivable that one young girl was able to do all that she did in The Caller and make such a big influencing change among the human folk and the uncanny Good Folk just by being present, but I'll live with it. It gave rise to some interesting story progression, that's for sure; and it took the story in the direction it needed to go.
The endgame was a little too neatly packaged, to be honest, but as a big fan of Happily Ever Afters and satisfying endings, I'm not complaining.
The Caller also became very 'Flint'-significant, more so than the first two books had been. I've always been very 'meh' about books written in 1st person POV, but I accept them as they are anyway. When a book starts taking on multiple POVs, alternating between 1st and 3rd, though, I get a little wary. Fortunately, the transitions were smooth enough that it didn't bother me, and at the same time we get an insight into Flint's mind and his actions, which was not bad at all.
Did I mention that Flint still comes off as kind of swoon-worthy despite his continued plunge into misery? Well, he kind of is. And even though the romance in the Shadowfell series is fairly backseat, there's still enough mention of it here and there to continue solidifying just how strong the bond between Neryn and Flint has become after all this time. It's nice to see a developing romance that didn't start from instalove, that doesn't become a handicap for our characters, that doesn't end up the main priority of the couple's lives, but still managed to feel significant, strong, and exude warm and fuzzy feelings whenever the two of them were allowed their rare moments alone together.
Final Thoughts:The Caller was definitely full of significant progression, with a new turn of events each time we think a chapter in Neryn's adventure has come to pass. There is little time to dwell on past events as a new one unfolds almost immediately with our characters constantly moving forward until the final stages of the rebellion come to light.
The conclusion to this book as well as the series is well-rounded and satisfying, but purposefully leaves an open-ended "there are still many things to do for the future of Alban" out there. However, in the end, it IS a final ending and I doubt much more will be said about Neryn or Flint or Alban. The world of Alban and it's histories are rich and extensive, but not overwhelming. The characters were created and developed excellently, each with their own personal stories, each with their own purpose even if it's not evident in the present setting.
Juliet Marillier definitely created a wonderful world in Shadowfell, the type that I wouldn't mind revisiting again and again, as even the minor characters seem to have untold stories that could become an adventure of their own. Her writing is smooth, beautiful, descriptive, almost magical... what more is there to ask for?
There are... parallels that stood out for me. And maybe I'm just looking too hard or seeing things where they really aren't. (view spoiler)[But the beginning of the series--the constant traveling with not much really happening--was reminiscent of The Hobbit, wherein I recall telling people that the first 50% of the book is traveling and walking and world and story build-up. That's fine. That's how most high fantasy adventures are anyway. But then there was the ending which also reminded me, once again, of Tolkien and it made me... well, I didn't how what to think about it. How Neryn and Flint are boarding a boat and everyone of their friends are standing around, bidding them farewell. I mean, it's not like it's an exact replica of the ending from Lord of the Rings movie where Frodo leaves on a boat... but it's there. (hide spoiler)] Maybe it's just me. Not that it influenced how much I enjoyed the series though, so it's a moot point.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
In a strange way, Raven Flight reminded me of an adventuring, single-player RPG. Specifically, I had thoughts of the Zelda games as I read about NerynIn a strange way, Raven Flight reminded me of an adventuring, single-player RPG. Specifically, I had thoughts of the Zelda games as I read about Neryn's adventure throughout Alban in search of the Guardians.
First, you've got the ultimate 'Final Boss' you must defeat; but before you can defeat him, you must journey through to different places and improve upon your fighting skills as well as acquire the different knowledge, means, precious items, treasures, etc. that are needed to fight the ultimate battle. You journey away from home and learn that you have the ability, that you are the one chosen to help free the lands. You then reach a point where you finally accept and comprehend (even if very little) the role you must play in this war. Then you are told by some prophet or some random higher being, that there are several trials you must accomplish, knowledge that must be acquired, treasures to seek... whatever it is. Then finally, you gather all of your strengths and use all means you have learned to defeat the 'Final Boss'.
I suppose the only difference so far is that Neryn doesn't have smaller, less significant, yet necessary 'Bosses' at different areas to defeat along her way. But if she did, that would be pretty neat.
I didn't pick up on this idea until after I started reading Raven Flight. I'm still not sure if it's the right comparison to make, but the thought came to me and it stuck.
The rebellion against King Keldec has taken a turn with a deadline in the midst. Neryn must now hurry across the lands of Alban to seek out the "Big Ones", or the four guardians of north, south, east, and west. As the Master of Shadows has mentioned, Neryn still has a lot to learn about her canny gift of being a Caller and in order to do so, only the Guardians can teach her.
Neryn, with a reluctant Tali as her guard, first travel to the west to see the Hag of the Isles before heading north to wake the Lord of the North. But their journey is a dangerous on with Enforcers about and common folk ready to betray any stranger at the sight of anything unnatural.
Meanwhile, the Good Folk, having agreed to aid in the rebellion's efforts, have already spread word from area to area. Uncanny beings of big and small are well versed in the goings on of their Caller as well as the rebellion itself. Though some are reluctant, the Good Folk do not hesitate to aid Neryn's journey through the lands with small bits of advice here and there, or simply just trivial gestures. Neryn is well on her way to learning and honing her skills as a Caller, though she still has one more Guardian to meet, as well as one other Guardian to find again.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's an adventure of a quiet kind, but there's an underlying tone of building excitement as the story progresses. Neryn's development is immense, though I would say that she was already quite well-developed to begin with. Tali stands out most of all as her character comes upon her own growth and transformation from being the harsh leader tasked with babysitting an amateur Caller, to acknowledging Neryn's strength and seeing her as an equal for their cause. Flint gets little time in this book outside of snippets here and there, but his presence is very much felt--though I can't say that much happens in the sense of character development for him since he continues to live his double life as a rebel spy and continues to drown in the misery of all he must do and all the responsibility on his shoulders.
The story progression feels like it's pacing forward nicely, although really, the only things that have happened is Neryn meeting the Guardians, learning that she already has what it takes to be a Caller, learning that she's already quite adept at using her gift, and then learning ways to better improve her skills. A lot of time passes by as Neryn is tested again and again, seemingly to further tout her claim as a Caller. A lot of time passes as she continues to struggle with her conflicted feelings about whether or not she should even use her gift in the first place and whether or not she can use her gift properly.
While it's a good virtue to have in a hero, sometimes you DO wonder why Neryn is still so hesitant and why it continues to take so many days just for her to figure out certain obvious tacts upon meeting the Guardians.
Final Thoughts: Adventures are my favorite types of fantasy stories and Raven Flight certainly hit upon all the perfect notes of an high fantasy adventure. Now that the setting is much more developed and much more matured from the events of Shadowfell I feel like there's a smoother progression in this second book for all the same ideals. The story certainly picks up more in this sequel than the pacing had been from the first book, which is rare considering the fact that sequels usually don't impress much....more
The only promising aspect of this book was that it had an interesting premise. Otherwise, The Sin Eater's Daughter was really just a fairly boring reaThe only promising aspect of this book was that it had an interesting premise. Otherwise, The Sin Eater's Daughter was really just a fairly boring read with lots of unrelatable characters who are dramatic and make lots of bad decisions.
Twylla is the Sin Eater's daughter, but for the past few years has lived in the castle as a legend come to life, Daunen Embodied, who is supposedly the reborn daughter of the Gods. She is immune to all poisons and can kill with her bare touch; as such, she is tasked as the executioner of all traitors of the kingdom. But as the story progresses, Twylla begins to learn that her status is not so much special, but she's really just a puppet being strung around by the evil queen who wants to continue ruling in glory. On top of that, the plot thickens (and thickens, and thickens, and thickens) as all of the evil queen's deceit is revealed to Twylla, little by little.
And honestly, not much else really happens. The Sin Eater's Daughter had a lot of potential to be an intriguing high fantasy with a kickass heroine who should have been more than a moping, pitiably boring doormat. But unfortunately, while the main conflict and the story's direction was quite clear, very little of the narration really helps to do much for the story's progression.
Honestly, the book wasn't really terrible and I didn't really hate it, per se. It was just pretty boring. The writing is decent and smooth, the conflict is attractive, if not the most unique, and the escalating of plot twists and secrets revealed had potential. But all of it together just felt really, really flat--like, I knew what was happening was supposed to be somewhat meaningful and exciting, but instead, I didn't really care enough to react.
The characters were like drama queens, the lot of them; a lot of the dialogue towards the ending seemed unnecessarily deliberate and theatrical.
But I somehow managed to get through the entire thing--it felt fairly short in comparison to other books I've been reading, which could have been a plus.
Final Thoughts: And despite my boredom, I was curious enough to finish the book. Despite my boredom I'm actually wondering about the rest of the series and what happens. But it doesn't escape me that I'm really 'meh' about the story line and the characters, especially Twylla.
As I've already stated, Twylla, especially, is dramatic about her situation and makes very bad decisions throughout the entire book and never learns from them. Most importantly, she was just a very boring heroine to follow even with all her dramatic claims of "Woe is me"--probably because of them. I don't find her frustrating, really, because I'm not sure I cared enough about the goings on about the book to BE frustrated. I'm just in a mellow 'meh' state with her and the book.
Things weren't terrible. Things could have been good, but they weren't. Simple as that.
And what about the part where she's the Sin Eater's daughter? Somehow, throughout the entire book, that point just didn't seem like it was all that significant. She could have been the Pig Farmer's Daughter, or the Random Pedestrian's Daughter, or even a little orphan girl and it probably wouldn't have made a difference to the story.
Although, I must admit, at least the ritual of Sin Eating is a pretty nice touch. In fact, quite a bit of the culture behind the book's world has potential for development with a proper story.
Now, the tradition of the royal family line marrying their siblings though... that made me shudder a little bit, even as I see it as another nice touch to the story's world-building. Still... ...more
Frostfire is really NOT a terrible book. I just didn't like it.
In fact, the world in Kanin Chronicles DOES do quite a decent job balancing mo1.5 Stars
Frostfire is really NOT a terrible book. I just didn't like it.
In fact, the world in Kanin Chronicles DOES do quite a decent job balancing modern society with a somewhat, age-old world of trolls who are all still stuck in their own traditional monarchies. Setting aside the fact that I know nothing of the world of Amanda Hocking’s previous books about the Trylle (and now learning that this book was set in that world), I could come to like this world. Also setting aside the reasoning behind why trolls require changelings to luxuriate their greedy communities (which I don’t really agree with, but whatever, it’s their culture), I could STILL learn to like the world and the culture built around the different troll tribes.
It’s really actually quite creative and sparked an interest in wanting to know about the different tribes around the world of trolls.
What I DON’T like, unfortunately, are the underdeveloped characters, the lackluster storyline, the uninspiring narration and writing style, the random uses of pop culture references that are misused in at least three cases, and the multiple logic fails behind all of Bryn’s condescending monologues of righteous tirade as to why the society of Kanin and the whole changeling thing works and why Bryn is the best tracker in the world, and I also don’t really like Bryn much either because she just lacks development most of all as the main character.
I mean, don't get me wrong, I like that she's strong and independent and can hold her own and is uber kickass--we all know fiction lacks a lot of such strong heroines and I could have really liked her as well. But she's so all-powerful and she's always right and knows what's best for everyone and the community and she's so perfect... what's left to develop? Her biggest flaw is that she's a condescending bitch who is rude to her parents and her friends, throws childish tantrums, and lacks empathy and open-mindedness; and even as the end of the book rolled around, I'm not sure that particular trait was going to change.
And also, the entire story was kind of boring and long-winded with 80% of it feeling very much like random tangent anecdotes and only 20% of it actually being about the main conflict. Oh, and the romance was also laughably predictable and eye-roll worthy too. So I don't have a summary for this book because I don't even really know what story we were aiming to tell despite the fact that I have an inkling about the direction the story was taking.
At least the ending ended on an exciting note, even if it DID supply an abrupt and unsatisfying cut-off cliff hanger in which I turned the page after the last sentence and went, "Wait, it's done?" but not in that "Man, I wish there were more!" way; it was more of a "Hmm... that was unexpected..." way.
Overall Thoughts: I have a lot more thoughts written down about all the many ways I don't like Bryn, but I'll spare everyone my soapboxes and personal tirades. I figure, this book is so popular that maybe I just don't understand it's popularity. Maybe I have to go back and read Amanda Hocking's first few novels about the Trylle... except that the small spark of interest I have is very much overshadowed by the many negatives I developed about this book. Chances are, I won't be finishing this series and neither will I be interested in picking up her previous books.
Her writing style is probably not my cuppa....more
Despite the fact that Inherit Midnight had its fair share of mediocrity and flaws and loose ends, it was a very enjoyable book because it was3.5 Stars
Despite the fact that Inherit Midnight had its fair share of mediocrity and flaws and loose ends, it was a very enjoyable book because it was just tons of fun!
It was a lot more entertaining than I had expected considering the slightly slow start it had with Avery's introduction. While it seemed like those first few chapters might have been important in establishing a setting as well as Avery's state-of-mind when we first meet her, I kind of feel like it could have been a bit condensed. But then it flew right by and we dove into the not-so-friendly VanDemere family competition and things just kept moving forward from there.
Avery VanDemere is the outcast of her family, a group of stereotypical, money-greedy, snobby, and entitled rich brats. Because she was "born from a scandal" that her entire family and her Grandmother says could blemish the family name, she's always been treated poorly and has never felt like she belonged. The VanDemere's come from a long history of wealth and reputation. Justine VanDemere, Avery's grandmother, is the current matriarch who, according to back story, has spent her life worried that her children and grandchildren would drift down the wrong road and become a bunch of no-good money-grubbers who will only end up squandering the family fortune and shaming the family name.
Then Avery is born from an affair between Preston VanDemere and "the nanny".
On top of that, as the years go by, Justine VanDemere's children and grandchildren all show that they've become the spoiled, rich, entitled brats she has always feared they would become.
And so in an effort to teach her family a lesson as well as create an opportunity to choose the best member to inherit her fortune in the future, Justine VanDemere creates an elaborate Inheritance Challenge that all of her potential heirs must participate in to prove their worth. The last heir standing will inherit all of her estate, her business, her assets, and her money.
But with a group of merciless and selfish relatives, the stakes for these games just seem to be a little higher than what Dearest Grandmother might have bargained for.
As for Avery, it seems that despite not being too intent on the financial inheritance of the VanDemere estate, she has learned something about her own past that motivates her to fight as hard as she can to complete all of these challenges. Apparently, her long-thought dead mother was never dead and still very much wants to meet her; and the road to discovering more about this new knowledge will only be revealed to her as she continues on in this challenge.
Like I said, the book was a lot of exciting fun; but once you get the chance to stop and think about it, it's not like Inherit Midnight was entirely special or unique. The concept is intriguing, the progress smooth and continuous, and the writing style and narration were done very well. The book itself isn't entirely too memorable in the long run even if it is well-written.
Avery is a spunky heroine, resourceful, intelligent, though not without her flaws. Of course, she's also a pretty predictably good-natured, kindhearted, and righteous girl-next-door type of heroine. If not for her personal back history, her interactions with Riley, as well as the interesting premise of an Inheritance Challenge running the show, I'm not sure she would have stood out very much.
In fact, aside from a bunch of nasty, snobby, rich relatives, none of the other characters really stand out at all.
Riley's sweet and good, but he's a standard male hero who stands by our heroine's side throughout the entire book. Don't get me wrong. I liked Riley, I liked Avery, I liked their cute little, slowly developing romance. In fact, I kind of liked that there wasn't too much emphasis placed on the romance or even any unnecessary angsty situations. Between Avery's own past turmoil and the Inheritance Challenge games and the looming threat of nasty relatives who will do anything to win the game, we didn't need any more conflict.
And so it was kind of nice that Inherit Midinight was able to remain focused where the focus needed to be.
Everything just felt kind of lukewarm, from the relationships, to the revelations, to the individual characters themselves as well as their interactions. But that's not to say that I didn't enjoy the relationship between Avery and Riley--they were sweet, adorable, they stood on equal footing, and they made an excellent team, both as friends, teammates, and romantic partners.
But there's little else to say about it.
A few asides, though:
- Rich people really know how to play their fancy games.
While it was a lot of fun to follow, it didn't escape me just how unnecessarily extravagant and elaborate Grandmother Dearest had set up her stipulations for becoming the last heir standing. I'm not one to dwell on the past, and while it's good to know where your roots come from, it seems that Justine VanDemere was so stubborn and set in her traditional ways and her irrational thinking that she didn't see the present for what it was.
She spouted values, but told the biggest lie of all. She becomes so disappointed in her children and grandchildren for leading lives that she does not approve of, without considering that maybe her own ideals are outdated.
The entire Inheritance Challenge didn't really seem to serve much purpose aside from being an interesting game to follow along with. I'm not sure that half the values she'd hoped to instill in her children and grandchildren even got their messages across.
She notes that she's disappointed in Avery for being so rebellious, but then she keeps the poor girl at arms length and doesn't bother even considering how Avery must be feeling. It's not hard for others in the family to pick up the same vibes when the matriarch of the family doesn't even treat her own granddaughter fairly. And I'm reluctant to believe that Grandmother VanDemere had no idea that Avery was being treated like crap by her cousins all these years.
To be honest, there were so many more messed up problems in the VanDemere family than simply a bunch of greedy, entitled heirs.
- I never understood what was so bad about the boarding school, St. Fredericks, that Avery had been sent to. I get that there are horrible kids there that treat Avery like crap and teachers who are two-faced. But that's pretty much common place for a lot of schools anyway.
Except that Avery had this big long list of reasons why St. Fredericks is a terrible school... and everyone else agrees with her about that big long list. But the reader never actually finds out what was so bad about St. Fredericks.
Of course, it's not like it was a big deal since St. Fredericks existence is moot besides being a background factor in why Avery wants to win the competition so badly. With this "terrible boarding school" lingering as her fate if she should lose out the competition, it made for a good springboard in Avery's determination. At least part of it.
- I can't seem to reconcile the book's cover art with the actual story line. I'm not sure if this is an issue, but the girl wearing a red trench coat running against a sleek blue background made me think that this adventure would involve more cyber puzzles and technologically savvy challenges. I never expected history lessons, honestly.
- I'm a hundred percent in agreement with Avery. If the VanDemere family is how family is always going to be, then she's better off doing without them. These relatives of hers are just a bit insane, and I'd just as soon be far, far away from them for the rest of my life without any contact unless it's through bulletproof glass. With cousins and uncles like that, who really NEEDS true enemies.
Final Thoughts: I really did find solid enjoyment in Inherit Midnight. It was well-written, exciting, and didn't have any boring moments with the continuous forward progression. The completion of one challenge immediately took the characters right into the next challenge. It reminded me of a certain Korean game show that involves a bunch of people completing one mission after another to find the ultimate prize at the end. Except, games like these are probably a lot more fun if your competitors aren't trying to get you killed.
(view spoiler)[I'm a little disappointed that Chase doesn't get his comeuppance because with the behavior he exhibited, I'd rather see that psychotic, conscience-less, little monster behind bars than running around the streets. It'll only be a matter of time before he actually gets someone killed, whether he means to do so or not.
Keeping quiet about the two attempted murders Chase VanDemere committed against Avery shouldn't be something ignored and I find it strange that neither of these two acts were brought up. This wasn't just a case of "Avery being bullied" because in both situations, either Chase is a complete dumbass or he knew what he was doing when he intended to A) leave Riley and Avery stranded in the diamond mines to rot and die, and B) shoot Avery in the temple with a paintball gun which would have seriously damaged her even if not killed her outright.
Either way, that is very dangerous behavior that needs to be addressed rather than blown off. (hide spoiler)]
Avery and Riley were a delight to follow and made a pretty good team, though a lot of their work can be attributed to the law firm's research team on stand-by.
If it's one thing that really bugged me about this book, however: (view spoiler)[The rest of the VanDemere relatives didn't seem to really learn any lessons. You don't get to see them punished for being nasty, you don't get to see them get scolded, and you just don't feel like Avery really got much justice aside from winning the competition and wrangling an apology out of her grandmother then finally being granted the freedom from strict rules she's always wanted.
The rest of the VanDemeres really just get a slap on the wrist without truly atoning for their wrongs. They still act like entitled brats and I think Justine VanDemere's little games might have made things worse. But then again, maybe that's more realistic than everyone suddenly realizing the error of their ways and trying to make the VanDemere line better for it. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I had issues keeping up with this book because it started off being a little flat at the beginning. I especially had trouble believing in the credibilI had issues keeping up with this book because it started off being a little flat at the beginning. I especially had trouble believing in the credibility of Nikki Heat being roadblocked in her investigation so easily--somehow, I had the distinct feeling that Kate Beckett wouldn't have been cowed so easily like that, even at the expense of pissing off her Captain. Then again, I was also under the impression that Captain Montrose was definitely very un-Montgomery-like in this book and it irked me a little bit.
All that Kate Beckett spunk seemed to have evaporated.
No matter though. It was quite interesting trying to find all the parallels between the book and the television series, even if things didn't seem to fit in quite right.
I liked the previous book more so than I liked Heat Rises, and it could be because the investigation felt stalled in several moments throughout this book. Nevertheless, it's still a vast improvement from the first book in the series, and we get to see more development in the characters, even if they still don't quite compare with the television series' characters.
The murder case was a more conspiratorial one, starting with the death of a priest with connections to an old murder case that was blown off as related to gang violence, and then finally the danger of Nikki Heat being targeted because of her dogged investigation of the murders.
It's fairly standard crime thriller fare, but it had its moments of intrigue and excitement. I'll give it that much.
You can see where this book might have taken a page from Castle with the ending of Season 3. And also, it borrows the idea of a murder being blown off as gang-related violence, via Detective Beckett's mother's murder... which may or may not have more conspiratorial possibilities lingering in the background as well.
Overall: Enjoyable as enjoyable does.
And really, the only reason I decided to even write a sloppy, short thoughts piece for this book was because I wanted to give a shout out to the brief Firefly reference in the last 25% stretch of this book.
And also, there was a scene of dialogue that really tickled my funny bone and had me guffawing... for whatever reason:
"Oh, very cold. Be glad you not have goldfish," he said. "Mrs. Nathan, she have to move her goldfish to Flushing."
Rook said, "Is it me or is there something sad about hearing goldfish and Flushing in the same breath?"
**I only read Roxanne St. Claire's Reason to Believe. I may or may not come back and read the rest of the novellas at another time.
Review for Reason to**I only read Roxanne St. Claire's Reason to Believe. I may or may not come back and read the rest of the novellas at another time.
Review for Reason to Believe
”You weren’t paying attention to Protection 101. I go where you go.”
Yes. Thank you. I was wondering about that exact thing on certain occasions (**cough**cough*Thrill Me To Death**cough**cough**), and was delighted that at least someone realizes that bodyguard work does not equate to “wandering off alone on independent investigations” or “asking the bodyguard to go somewhere else because it seems more important”.
The Story in Brief: Reason to Believe was a decently told short novella featuring Chase Ryker (who was first introduced in the second book, Thrill Me To Death, and actually drew my attention with his subtle, yet charming personality). The assigned principal is a TV psychic, Arianna Killian, who has hired the elite Bullet Catchers because she has been receiving malicious visions of a murder; however, Chase is under the impression that Ari has requested a guard due to nasty, threatening e-mails, which is also part of the problem, but not her main problem.
Someone out there wants Arianna to stop doing her psychic thing, and Ari knows that this person is willing to kill her if she doesn’t comply. But her first hurdle is to figure out how to get Chase to believe that she is truly psychic so that he will take her seriously about this ethereal threat to her life.
Overall Thoughts:Reason to Believe is intriguing and exciting, much like all of Roxanne St. Claire’s works that I have read so far. Well written and decently suspenseful, even if some things don’t make sense, I still find myself properly entertained by each story. This short novella was no different, though I will admit that it was somewhat more exciting than the previous two full-length novels--only the ending seemed to screw up the progressive flow of the storyline for me.
Ari and Chase are both likable, relatable characters; and I love that Ari comes off blunt, straight-forward, no-nonsense, and pretty outspoken. While she and Chase have their face-palm-worthy moments, I wasn't really too bothered by them as I have been for other characters from other books in this series.
The novella presented a sweet romance (though a bit too insta and too abrupt for my liking, but I’ll take it) and a good crime mystery and enough of a twist that I found that I really DID like it enough to overlook the unfortunate ending hour quibbles that surfaced--the closing chapters of this novella felt rushed and made little sense. The paranormal aspect of this book was typical psychic investigation formulas, but an irksome deux ex machina in the last chapter really didn’t do much to help matters.
Nor did the throwing out of “Protection 101” that made me groan and roll my eyes.
Call it a favored bias, but I had a few superficial reasons for anticipating the third installation of the Bullet Catchers series, Take Me Tonight. PrCall it a favored bias, but I had a few superficial reasons for anticipating the third installation of the Bullet Catchers series, Take Me Tonight. Pretty much everything should have aligned properly to make this Ani’s favorite Bullet Catchers book:
-- The summary blurb, as per usual, was intriguing. -- Our Bullet Catcher’s name is Johnny and he’s a playful, flirty, Italian who can cook. (Have I ever mentioned before that a lot of the previous fictional male characters I’ve fallen in love with always got extra points for being able cook?) -- There was an underlying “cyber crime”-ish base to this Buller Catchers installment’s mystery. -- The beginning of the book was equal parts intriguing and exciting and came on strong enough to hook me right into the story.
But in the end, while the beginning was decently laid out, the rest of the book started to teeter on typical clichéd scenes that readily made me frustrated and roll my eyes. Things did not play out productively, the progression was haphazard, and our main female character turned out NOT like the spunky, smart heroine I had been anticipating. Because, of all the TSTL things a heroine can do in any storyline, I think that Sage Valentine pretty much does it all:
-- Knowingly walking right into danger without any security or back-up plans. -- Pushing away her personal protection for the sake of her own stubborn grudges. -- Trusting all the wrong people and forcing away all the right ones. -- Continually painting a target on her own forehead when she knows someone is out to harm her.
There is a time and a place to bravely do your job and be fiercely independent and search out the truth. But then there’s also knowing how to be smart about being fiercely independent. Because I don’t hate that Sage is a smart, resourceful woman who can take care of herself and can get out of certain sticky situations; I don’t rebuff the fact that she is independent and a skilled investigator. I just always take issue whenever smart women become incompetent at keeping themselves safely out of danger when they have a world of resources to turn to for help, due to whatever misguided ideals they have about the meaning of being a strong, independant woman.
Why does being strong always have to equate to being stupidly heroic, or stubbornly martyr-ish?
The Story: Sage Valentine’s roommate has died and Sage suspects foul play to do with a thrill-seeking website that Keisha Kingston has been participating in: takemetonite.com. Apparently there’s a new trend of role playing in real life and real time where women pay to get the full package thrill of being kidnapped and then rescued--they also come with some sexual perks on the side, of course. (Yes, I’m rolling my eyes too, but it’s a good concept for a Romantic Suspense/Crime Thriller, especially when these games lead to dead people and murder mysteries. I promise, I’m not morbid or psychotically twisted in any way--I just enjoy my crime thrillers as proper crime thrillers with intriguing premises.)
In order to find out what happened, Sage pleads with her estranged aunt, Lucy Sharpe, to help her investigate the matter. But Lucy claims that she has found nothing illegitimate or sinister behind the takemetonite.com website and that Sage would be best to leave the investigation to the police, especially since Keisha’s death has been ruled as a suicide.
Unable to let it go, and convinced that Keisha would have never killed herself, Sage books her own kidnapping with plans to question the site’s “kidnappers” and “rescuers” until she can figure out the truth about Keisha’s death (in an utterly TSTL move without telling anyone what she’s planning to do, despite knowing that her life could be in danger). And of course, being the all-knowing leader of the Bullet Catchers, Lucy knows what Sage has planned and she’d be damned if Sage ends up hurt, or worse, dead, because of her dogged investigations (which made me scratch my head about this since Lucy was fairly adamant that the whole takemetonite.com experience was a hundred percent legitimate and not life-endangering, but whatevs, now we have a legit reason for a bodyguard to grace the scene).
Enter Johnny Christiano, a young man Lucy had saved from his previous life of darkness and crime and turned into an elite Bullet Catcher. As someone who will follow Lucy blindly because of what she’s done for him, Johnny asks no questions when Lucy sends him to security detail on Sage without so much as an explanation or a fully-loaded file on the client and their principal.
And yes, of course, there are much more sinister workings going on to do with Keisha’s death as well as her fellow dance team members, the Snow Bunnies. And then on top of that, we’ve got a side conflict involving back-history between Lucy and Sage and betrayal and how Johnny is highly loyal to Lucy and thus we also get some typical “Romantic Angst” at play.
Some Thoughts: The biggest surprise twist in this story was why the kidnappings were ending in dead women--why there was a crime thriller to begin with and why our resident “bad guy” was doing what he was doing. It’s not the best surprise twist, but I would have never guessed the motive even if I managed to guess the culprit--it was... strange, really. The biggest disappointment (aside from Sage’s TSTL moments) was that the entire mystery was pretty predictable as to who was the “ultimate evil mastermind”--the guy practically flashes neon when he’s introduced for the first time in the story.
And then the rest of the book teeters into typical Romantic Suspense formulaic outlining.
The only saving grace of this book was probably Johnny as well as the excitability factor. Because even though the crime thriller was predictable and even though I really, really tried to like Sage but failed, the book was written well and I DID like Johnny. I mean, he’s not really unique or outstanding or anything; and he’s definitely no Johnny Duane Reed, of course (but that’s an unfair comparison, because no one could EVER be Johnny Duane Reed, really), but he’s an adorable sort of broody alpha male and he can cook.
The romance was all over the place, but the development wasn’t too bad. The rest of the background characters came off kind of insignificant and flat, or boring and annoying and irritating.
Overall Thoughts: I’m sorely disappointed that this third installation of the series didn’t really do anything for me. The first book of the Bullet Catchers was a real hook, line, and sinker; however, the books just keep getting more frustrating as the series progresses. Fortunately, they are written well and have a good enough dream team for me to still be considering following the rest of the series.
I suppose we’ll just see where it all leads....more
I only read Roxanne St. Claire's You Can Count On Me from this anthology, so the rating only applies to that individual novella. Since I was on a shorI only read Roxanne St. Claire's You Can Count On Me from this anthology, so the rating only applies to that individual novella. Since I was on a short Bullet Catchers binge for the weekend, I didn't bother reading the rest of the novellas/short stories in this anthology. I may or may not come back to them at some point in time.
In Short: Bullet Catcher Raquel Durant is finally ready to take on her first field assignment and she's been assigned as bodyguard for the eight year old daughter of Grigori Nyekovic while he's in New York for business. Of course, being a Romance novella, it doesn't take long for sparks to fly, and apparently, while a sweet, gentle father, Grigori (Gregg), comes on quite strong when he knows what he wants. And obviously, he's found that he wants more from Raquel than just guarding his daughter.
My Brief Thoughts: This was a fun and cute little romance novella with a short side of suspense to keep the theme going. Gregg is in New York to procure a Fabergé egg which ends up being stolen in some convoluted plot that seems more complicated than it really is (or really needed to be). This couldn't be just a cute little Christmas story, we have to have something more happen for action... which I normally don't mind for a full-blown novel, so the extra suspense seemed a bit much.
Nonetheless, I really did find the story enjoyable, that is, if you ignore some of the logic failures such as why Raquel would willingly wander off with Gregg on spy missions when she's supposed to be guarding eight year old Kristina. I get that she was excited about learning investigative skills and espionage, but her first and foremost priority was supposed to be Kristina's safety, no matter what else the father asks her to do.
Besides, I was of the impression that Raquel already had pretty good investigative skills, so what gives?
Final Thoughts: Simple and cute. I had been hoping for more of a full-length novel for Raquel, being the only female Bullet Catcher aside from the head honcho Lucy. So I'm a little disappointed that she gets stuck into a short novella where not much really happens. Enjoyable nonetheless....more
The second book in the Bullet Catchers series proves to be quite exciting with a very strong start and a set of interesting characters. It's only unfoThe second book in the Bullet Catchers series proves to be quite exciting with a very strong start and a set of interesting characters. It's only unfortunate that a few logic fails in the realm of bodyguard-landia makes some of the eleventh hour plot a little hard to accept.
Also, the concluding mystery of billionaire William Peyton's death was explained away in a too convenient, left-field sort of way and kind of didn’t really make much sense.
Nonetheless, the excitement of the investigation and some other weird suspense stuff kept me hooked, even if some aspects were a little irksome to me (more on this later).
The Story: Bullet Catcher Max Roper has been assigned to protect billionaire widow Corinne Peyton. Being the Bullet Catcher boss and manipulative fearless leader that she is, Lucy Sharpe has reasons for everything she does and this assignment isn't merely a bodyguard and security detail task.
Corinne Peyton was formerly Cori Cooper, Max's ex-lover and ex-fiancé until a DEA mission went awry and Cori's father died in the line of fire. For this, Cori blames Max and the two have been split up since.
Now, Max's mission is not only to provide security to the billionairess, but at the behest of the insurance company, to investigate whether or not Cori had a hand in her husband's death. After all, a young, beautiful, and smart woman would have never willingly married a much older, sixty-something year old billionaire if not because of his money and his status… right? And so the sudden heart attack that killed William Peyton may or may not be suspect.
On the other hand, Cori already suspects that William didn't die of a natural heart attack, but she doesn't know who she can trust to help her find out who murdered her husband. And with her digging for answers as well as a suspicious attempt on her life, she believes there is something much more sinister at hand.
Brief Thoughts: The story starts out very strong and I was hooked by the mystery. While the story tries to create a plausibility that Cori is hiding a terrible secret, that maybe she is the one who murdered her husband, the attempts are only half-baked and we, as the readers, know that she is obviously NOT the one who killed her own husband for money or power or whatever else. So I give the book kudos for making me wonder what it was that Cori was hiding from everyone about her husband’s death since she was obviously keeping secrets; however, I frown at its attempt to paint Cori in the greedy, manipulative murderess light while giving caveats to her personality as a good person.
The romance was okay, though I liked the friendship and romantic tension flitting between Max and Cori. It wasn’t the best romance in the world, but it worked just fine. The side characters had their fair share of unique intrigue as well, which made for a really good "Whodunnit".
Unfortunately, as I'd already mentioned, there were logic fails that I had a hard time accepting. The conclusion of the billionaire's death was a bit left-field, for one.
But the biggest problem I had was between Cori being determined to get herself killed in typical TSTL fashion, and Max not doing his job to keep her from getting herself killed. For all the crap that Max gives Alex Romero in the first book about doing his job properly, I honestly feel like Max really screws up as a bodyguard and at least Alex didn’t consistently make bad decisions that would keep putting his principal in danger just because he couldn’t handle his own personal emotions or the sexual tension.
Sure, Max would make an excellent investigator--he was a former DEA agent after all. But as a bodyguard, his job is to keep his principal safe, not chase after bad guys or go off doing his own investigation. A bodyguard is pretty much ON his client like white on rice, especially when you know that her life is being threatened. It probably doesn’t help that Cori kept sending him away when she was the one who requested a bodyguard in the first place, but more than once, Max goes off to investigate William Peyton's murder, leaving Cori completely unprotected, and I really don't think that's okay.
The romance between Max and Cori was lukewarm and their chemistry as lovers left much to be desired. Their chemistry as friends with an underlying sexual tension, however, was actually pretty damn good.
Overall Thoughts:Thrill Me To Death does require a little bit of leeway in suspension of disbelief to be acceptable. However, once you get past the frustrating logic fails, the rest of the story really isn't all that bad and actually extremely entertaining, exciting, and enjoyable.
I was looking forward to reading Max’s Bullet Catcher Romantic Suspense, but it turned out that it wasn’t really what I’d been hoping for.
HOWEVER, we’ve been introduced to two new Bullet Catchers who have caught my attention and THAT is definitely a good way to keep me attentive!...more
I'm not familiar with any of the authors in this collaboration, but I know the names--heard of them before as popular crime thriller/action/mystery wrI'm not familiar with any of the authors in this collaboration, but I know the names--heard of them before as popular crime thriller/action/mystery writers. I thought the project was an interesting one.
The concept seemed created as any typical action thriller, maybe made-for-movie entertainment. I didn't find anything overly unique about the story line or the characters, but the book was as enjoyable as any action movie I've seen in the past. It probably helps a little bit that I listened to the audio book version, narrated by Alfred Molina. I believe that this story was originally created as an audio book, which helped since I'm not sure I would have read this book otherwise--not because the book is terrible or anything, but probably because it's just not my cuppa.
I'm reminded of a time in high school when several of my classmates spent a free day sitting around when someone slipped a sheet of paper onto my desk. It had the words, "Once upon a time, there was a teenage girl named Alice." Without hesitation, I had grinned and added the sentence, "She was sitting in school one day when the ground began to shake." And then I handed the paper over to one of my closest friends sitting next to me. As the paper circulated between a few other girls, "Alice" managed to slip down a rabbit hole, fight dragons in the underworld, and meet up with a hunky knight who was also a warlock.
We never finished the story. The progression began to get out of hand and then class ended and the notebook paper scribbled with the gibberish of "Alice's" adventure was left in the trash on our way out. I regret not taking and saving the writing--it would have made for some good material for future reference.
But this is what I thought about as I listened to The Chopin Manuscript. I worried that several authors with differing writing styles, ideals, and behaviors would create an incoherent product as we did. But the difference is that we were a bunch of teenagers fooling around.
The Chopin Manuscript was a challenge to create an epic serial thriller between fellow crime thriller authors.
I can't say that they didn't accomplish their mission. The story turned out quite well and I was fairly hooked from the beginning. The background music and Alfred Molina's stellar performance might have been incentive--I was pleasantly surprised at his ability to move from one foreign accent to another and even take on sounding American so naturally. It was pretty cool.
In the beginning, The Chopin Manuscript felt exciting with plots developing and characters surfacing with hidden agendas. But as the story progressed, you could start to see the presence of several minds competing against how they wanted the story to unfold, yet also trying to remain within the scope of the original concept. It was barely there, but the way certain scenes twisted were different from others and the way the story progressed felt sudden and haphazard. It took some time to figure out what significance each character played, and with some, their significance didn't seem to stand out despite having a heavy presence throughout the book--then they were killed off and it felt a little awkward and sudden.
A lot of times, I found myself asking why certain conflicts were introduced only to fizzle out.
But the story itself, as a whole, was quite entertaining.
Overall Impression: Typical action/crime thriller plot you would see in a lot of action movies involving government conspiracies, secret organizations, international conflicts... the like. Enjoyable.
Alfred Molina's performance was the best part of the whole ordeal, though and I'd be interested in looking up any other audio book he has narrated.
***This post contains Spoiler Bombs at random. Read at your own risk.***
I thought this book would never end.
I thought about**spoiler alert** 1.5 Stars
***This post contains Spoiler Bombs at random. Read at your own risk.***
I thought this book would never end.
I thought about DNF-ing this book at about 70%. I probably checked out of the book by 50%. I started struggling through by 80%, flipping back and forth to see how many pages were left to read every five minutes. At 89%, I set the book down and started writing this review before finishing the rest of the book because I didn’t want to lose my train of thought. The book was that boring that I had time to formulate exactly what kind of thoughts I wanted to include in my “Oh, I’m probably not going to write a review for this book” review.
And then, how I managed to finish the book after that is a mystery to me.
And then when there was a definite inconclusive cliff-ending, I realized that I could either just move on, or brood about all the unanswered questions I will only get answers to by struggling through another book.
To be fair, the world created in Zodiac was actually very imaginative and held lots of potential. While the beginning of the book wasn’t anything extraordinary, it was grounded with a direction and a purpose. There are different planetary cultures for each Zodiac sign and using Zodiac traits to create these cultures was a nice touch. But as soon as those first few disasters start happening, as soon as Rhoma Grace becomes Cancer’s new Guardian Mother, as soon as the big conflict was revealed, everything in the book just floated around like it didn’t know what to do with itself next.
So let’s get straight to the point with a brief summary:
Rhoma Grace has been specially trained by her spiritual mother (who has left her at the book’s present time, by the way) since she was a child to be unique and different from everyone else in the entire Zodiac Universe. She has learned the history of the galaxy, all the stories and how best to connect with that ethereal plane of intangible energy that they call the Ephemeris to read the stars. She’s different, she’s unique, and she’s special. While Rho is in school training as an Acolyte, she uses what the rest of her tutors view as unorthodox means to foresee things in the stars, in the great Ephermeris that everyone else has to use fancy contraptions called Astralators to read using more “logical” calculations and measurements…
And then disaster starts happening when her own home planet of Cancer is attacked, its four moons destroyed and millions of people killed. Then the Cancer House’s Guardian is killed because she didn’t foresee the attack coming (obviously an experienced Guardian cannot read the Ephemeris like Rho can, because she saw the attack coming).. Then Rho becomes chosen as the next Guardian… for reasons. Then Rho somehow makes contact with the mythical Thirteenth House, Opiuchus and decides that he’s behind all the attacks and that he is planning other attacks as well when she reads the Ephemeris. Then he threatens to kill her if she reveals his presence and his plans. Only no one believes her wild theories and dismisses her on the grounds that she’s emotionally distressed and too young to understand how to read the Ephemeris properly, despite the fact that they had all just elected her to become their House’s Guardian so that she can read the Ephemeris to help guide their lives. But Rhoma is different and she is the only one who can save the world.
So then Rho sets off on a suicidal mission to warn the other Zodiac planets of impending attacks from the invisible Thirteenth House armed with no proof save from what she alone saw, no means of convincing everyone because she’s a newly appointed Guardian as well as a child, an irrational need to believe that she’s the only one who knows what the truth is because there could be no other possibility except what she saw, and an almost obsessive pursuit of her one and only belief of what’s happening… and, oh right, her two-man harem of posturing male sidekicks to build a frustratingly standard YA love triangle with male posturing and jealousies and brooding and angst all around.
Did I miss anything?
The conception of this book’s story, plot, and conflict isn’t bad. In fact, the ideas have potential to build a largely extensive universe using the Zodiac signs to create different cultures on different planets of different types of peoples. I’d even chance to say that the world-building was pretty great, as I’d already mentioned above.
But that’s where it stops. I mean, probably the creativeness of the world-building is the only thing about this book I admired. But even the way each House/Planet of the Zodiac introduced is done in such a flippant way that I stopped caring that Cancers are stubborn, righteous people, that Gemini are creative and innovative, that Sagittarians are open-minded and prone to travel...
It’s just disappointing that the execution of the book was frustratingly banal at worst… and just boring and haphazard at best. Despite there being a looming danger on the sidelines, I never felt the urgency of Rho’s self-appointed mission to “Save the Galaxy” because nothing really happens and nothing really gets accomplished except that Rho seems to bring trouble to every planet she visits.
Rho’s conviction to her mission to reveal the truth was actually quite strong at the beginning. I found myself feeling righteous anger that Rho kept getting blown off time and time again because no one wanted to believe that a sixteen year old, untrained, inexperienced girl could have the answer to all the disaster happening in the worlds (no matter how incredible that sounds). I so badly wanted her to find her truth, save the day, and march up to everyone and sling those “I told you so”s into their faces.
But as the book progressed and Rho continued to half-heartedly argue her point without seeking tangible proof, just rushing into danger without a plan, recklessly and narrow-mindedly believing in only one possibility, and then fizzling her temper and her determination at the slightest show of resistance by other authority figures, I started having my own doubts. And despite knowing that Rho had been attacked by Ochus directly, that she’d received death threats, that a lot of things DID kind of support her theories, I began to question her credibility just like the rest of the Zodiac House Guardians and their Advisors and Ambassadors.
It was just hard to continue rooting for Team Rho when all she had to show for her arguments were words and no strategy. It was hard NOT to question her stubborn convictions when the possibility of deceit was placed on the table. And then even I’m wondering if maybe what she saw in the Ephemeris wasn’t really planted there by someone else just to screw around with her head.
And what’s sad is that a lot of the book’s time was spent traveling and making no progress to Rho’s mission. The one takeaway I got from a good amount of her narration was that she never forgets to mention every single insignificant time that Mathias and Hysan silently brooded while passive-aggressively fighting each other over Rhoma because they’re both in love with her--as if THAT was what was important when we’ve got a big, bad intangible villain and people dying and moons being destroyed all over the galaxy.
I’m not going to lie. I don’t like love triangles. And love triangles in YA are extremely predictable and overly angsty when they don’t need to be. They also tend to become the central focus when there are more important matters to attend to. And in this book the triangle doesn’t even feel like it served a purpose or was even necessary.
In fact, on an aside, a lot of things that Rho narrates about with her flashbacks and her revelations and philosophies just don’t seem to serve in ANY way to propel the story’s haphazard progression.
This book’s most frustrating point was really the fact that a whole lot of nothing happens for 70% of the book. And then when something DOES finally happen, the entire organization of Planetary Ambassadors and Guardian Figureheads explode like they’re rallying some sort of first world protest rather than fighting a war against an enemy that they cannot even see.
Save from a few attacks by persons unknown and Rho’s encounters in the Psy with Ophiuchus, no one ever actually finds concrete evidence that the Thirteenth House even exists and where it would be. Ochus only ever appears in Rho's Ephemeral readings, described as a cold, evil entity at best, with no depth of character except for the fact that he's hell bent on destroying the Zodiac for revenge or something like that.
Even I started having problems believing this guy existed at all.
I get that Rho was right and Ophiuchus is behind all the attacks and that he probably DOES exist and the Zodiac must work together to save each other. I get that Rho finally gets her “I told you so” moment and it’s a big deal to her and her boy sidekicks. And I get that there’s supposed to be something really global and symbolic about uniting the entire Zodiac in a single cause for survival. (Which, by the way, characters don’t hesitate to emphasize repeatedly that only Rho could have done something like that because no other person has done such a thing in centuries and that is what makes Rho so special.)
But the actions leading up to the first launch of the Zodiac’s attack on Ophiuchus feels so ill-planned. I mean, okay, believe Rho because she’s probably right. Use her as a mascot rather than a leader to get everyone hyped up for battle. Spout glamorous B.S. about unity and shit like that. But planning a war on an invisible enemy that just two chapters ago everyone agreed was just a children’s legend seemed to merit more of a planning period and some semblance of intel reconnaissance and at least some sort of “Meeting of the Minds” type of deal before blindly heading out into the first offensive attack with a really juvenile war strategy.
These people didn’t even know who they were going to war against because Rho was the only one who had ever seen him in the Ephemeral plane. These people are supposed to be revered political leaders, but they were acting out and rallying like a bunch of unorganized rebels. And what's also strange was that Rho was supposed to be a fairly integral part of their battle plan, but she was never invited to sit in on any of the military war strategy "meetings" that supposedly took place.
It all just seems so illogical that I found myself wondering if there was another conspiracy lurking somewhere ready to spring in and wipe out the entirety of the Zodiac’s planets altogether. And then there was some sort of a conspiracy, just something I hadn’t expected, but also something I wasn’t at all surprised about either.
I wanted to DNF this book after the halfway point when it started to get boring. I wanted to DNF again at 80% when things got out of control and stopped making sense. I even wanted to DNF at 89% after I finished writing the first draft of my overly-extended rant/review. But I made myself trudge on. And only because I have issues dropping a book I’ve put so much time into following, with hopes that things will come together and prove to me that there was a point to all of it in the end.
Final Thoughts: Setting aside a lot of the strange inventions being slung out left and right; setting aside the fact that I didn’t bother dwelling on whether or not these things were even plausible even within the scope of a futuristic time-frame; setting aside that the people of the Zodiac Galaxy use the stars to foresee occurrences in the future, but blow off old myth and legend as unorthodox… Even setting aside that Rho really needed to build a backbone, maintain her determination with more assertiveness, learn how to NOT clam up and keep quiet when someone contradicts her, learn how to form better strategies, and get her priorities straight…
Zodiac had a lot of potential to launch into a good story. The beginning wasn’t exactly wonderful or anything, but it was grounded, and sailed in a good direction. But then we spend so much time not getting anything done except for becoming more frustrated and more doubtful that the rest of the story really just came off boring.
It’s not a terribly written book. It just seemed to have a concept, a decent introduction, a vague direction… and then nothing else.
However, it DID remember to insert everyone’s favorite YA romance cliches:
1. A makeover scene so the girl can look beautiful in the middle of a disaster. 2. A love triangle and struggling romance developments as millions of lives are at stake. 3. Beautiful YA main characters that the side characters can’t stop staring at as well as jealousies blossoming among our youths in light of an impending war. ...more