Book reviews à la bookworm...The good, the bad, and everything in between.
Released on the anniversary of the biggest terrorist attack on U.S. soil that spurred the "War on Terror", effectively destabilizing the Middle East and causing one of the largest human tragedies in the world, this book deals with a growing disaster that not only involves the U.S., but the entire world as well.
This book shows us the aftermath and consequences, some that we knew about and some that were kept a secret until now, of putting a childish, entitled, narcissistic, incompetent, selfish, tantrum-prone sociopath with a short attention span and apparent learning disabilities into one of the most important, powerful and pivotal roles in the world.
“The president has zero psychological ability to recognize empathy or pity in any way.”
“I don’t care about any of that.” [...] “I don’t give a shit about that.”
It feels strange to say I liked a book like this one, but I did. I loved the journalistic narrative style of short, concise sentences, and of reporting facts without getting into speculation, gossips or rumors (as another author quite failed to do earlier this year). Maybe it is Woodward's clout as an investigative reporter, maybe it's the fact most of the revelations in this book weren't that new, but I believed it (I'm also not part of the blinded base, so that probably helps) and I'm sure that if push came to shove, Mr. Woodward had more than enough evidence to back everything up despite constant denials (which only make things worse, if you ask me).
And then there's the tempo. The pacing is important no matter what you write or read; be it an article, a puff piece, a novel or a non-fiction book. And Mr. Woodward (unlike the author of the book that came out at the start of the year) has the pacing and tempo down pat. Except for a few passages here and there involving military strategies and positions, this non-fiction book was quite a page turner. A train-wreck you cannot help but be drawn to and watch to see what happens next.
It reads like a thriller, a piece of fiction, which, I guess, paints a sad picture of the world we currently live in.
***copy provided by publisher through NetGalley***
This one was even worse than its predecessor.
The heroine was a cold, emotionally-stinted bitch, but without the requisite explanation as to why she was that way. I guess Ms Monroe wanted her to come across as eccentric, but the girl was just a cold, emotionally-stinted bitch. Especially once she turned her eye onto the hero as a replacement for the corpse she's been trying to resurrect for the past six months.
The hero was flat and one-dimensional, the "romance" completely nonexistent...The entire story was an utter disappointment.
Claire has been in love with Teddy, her best friend, for ages, it seems, but he only wants to be friends. Which is good for her, since she's going to go crazy like her aunt and mother did—it's a family curse.
But it turns out, Teddy doesn't only want to be friends with Claire and he also has no intention of letting her go mad. He's willing to break the curse no matter what, even if it means cavorting with a coven of witches.
I only read one book by this author previously, and I loved it, so I expected the same mix of suspense, romance, drama and humor in this one. Sadly, I was disappointed. It tried, it sure did, but it failed to deliver.
I didn't really care about the main protagonists; they came across as rather juvenile for people in their twenties, I hated the hero's nickname of Teddy (what is he, twelve?), I disliked the heroine's woe-is-me attitude, and their romance left me cold. I didn't understand why they loved each other, since both came across as rather flat, boring characters.
Then there were the gothic/suspenseful aspects of the story, which also fell flat. It turned out there weren't really any ghosts, just a crazy woman locked up in a castle, the curse thingy didn't inspire much confidence, sounding really made-up, while the final banishing of the curse with the help of the coven of witches seemed more like it was added as an afterthought.
Thankfully, this was a novella, so the "pain" was fleeting.
***copy provided by publisher through NetGalley***
Elijah Sorensson has spent over thirty years Offland, only returning home, to his Pack, once a month, during the Iron Moon. He's slowly losing touch with his wild and knows the only way to regain himself is by returning home. But his Alpha demands he stay among the humans, protecting the Pack's interests off Pack territory.
Almost at the end of his tether, utterly disgusted with himself and what he's become, Elijah meets his saving grace. A woman who calls to both halves of him, but mostly to his wild. A woman he can be himself with, a woman he can confide in...But not fully, since she's the biggest taboo of his Pack—she's human.
As its predecessor this story also moved rather slowly, but apart from a few slower than slow scenes, it wasn't boring. It wasn't as suspenseful as the first book in the series either, focusing more on the main character (hero), his inner struggles, and his environment, but it still worked.
At first, Elijah came across as a prick, one of those you meet on the street every day. The smooth operator with an overused pick-up line, but one the story really kicks in, the reader (and the hero himself) realizes Elijah Sorensson, the lawyer and player, is just a mask. A suit he pulls on for those days of the month he's not home, a suit that's become too tight, almost ingrown, until he hardly recognizes himself or knows who and what he really is.
It takes a woman, the right woman, a vegetarian loner with a passion for animals, someone rather similar to him, to bring him out of the thirty-year-old fugue state he's been living in. It takes the right woman to make him see what he's missing and what he's been losing. And it takes the right woman to make him see the true meaning of sacrifice, Pack, and home.
The story is once more told in first-person POV—Elijah's point of view. And once more, it didn't bother me at all. This was mostly a one-character show with the rest of the cast (Thea included) serving as backdrop, set design for Elijah and his character development and change.
I was happy to see more of Silver and Tiberius, discover just how Evie is taking on the Alpha duties...And in the end, I was more than glad to see the Pack would be fully reunited, since I didn't really appreciate how they behaved toward Elijah, almost judging him for his life in the Offland, while it was the Pack that sent him there in the first place.
The issues dealing with the suspense arc of the first story were only touched upon in this one, and since the main architect of evil is still loose, I'm looking forward to what the future might bring. The Pack is growing, and no matter what many of them think, to me having a Shifter and now a human in their midst, will only make them stronger.
***ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley***
SWAT Officer Jayden Brooks has his hands full. First, he has to keep his recently injured pack member, Zane, from possibly quitting and leaving the pack. Second, he has to deal with a locked-up werewolf hunter wanting to share information. Then there's the new drug lord in town cleaning up the gangs and selling his drugs in the form of energy drinks...Brooks certainly doesn't have time for a woman, even though she might prove to be the elusive The One.
Unfortunately, he hasn't much say in the matter, since first he has to save her from getting shot by a gangbanger...And then they both have to deal with the pesky little detail that she's obviously turning into a werewolf.
Having read the blurb, I was really looking forward to this story, especially once it was known Brooks's mate is an Omega. Unfortunately, the book ended up being quite a disappointment.
I still liked the action sequences; the drug busts, the saving of hostages and even the full-on assault on the SWAT compound (though those hunters are becoming rather boring). It was the romance that left me cold and severely slowed the pacing of the book.
Is it just me, or are the situations between SWAT members and their Ones starting to be repetitive? They meet under stressful situations, she either turns into a werewolf because of it or remains human, they have sex, he tells her the truth about him (and possibly her), she bolts, talks to whomever happens to pass by at the moment and blurts everything, then she's in danger and calls the werewolf, they make up, have some more sex, someone attacks them, and they all have the BBQ at the end.
It's always a variation on the same theme, and though sometimes the variation is rather nicely developed, this one came across as generic template.
I didn't particularly like the heroine. I didn't dislike her, but I didn't like her either. I felt as if Brooks was relegated to the role of window dressing on this one, since everything turned out to be about Selena (ending up in a slight retcon as to just what sort of werewolf one of the SWAT is—rather convenient, if you ask me)...Their romance was simply meh, but it did slow the pacing down.
I ended up skimming their scenes together and concentrated more on the action sequences. Which were also rather repetitive, but at least something happened. And the mole inside the DPD was so obvious, it was painful.
The slight foreshadowing at the end sent my teeth on edge as well with the newest member of the SWAT team, Rachel, letting one of the hunters go after both of them staring at each other strangely (although the fact she might mate with one of the hunters does offer quite a few nice plot possibilities and bucket-full of angst).
I do hope, Zane's story is next, though. Maybe he'll meet a nice California girl/werewolf while on assignment. He sure deserved a happy end.
A man walks into a merger meeting and blows himself up, killing twelve people in the process. Lieutenant Eve Dallas soon moves the supposed murderer onto her victims list, since it looks like the man was threatened and coerced in executing the attack to protect his wife and daughter.
The attack doesn't smell of terrorism, but Eve's husband, Roarke, might have found the real motive. Money and stock trading.
Eve's gut tells her the perpetrators wouldn't stop at just one job. Not when the first one worked so nicely...Then a man walks into his own gallery and blows himself up, killing a rising artist in the process. The MO and the motive are the same—the man's family was threatened and the artist's work's value will increase.
The police is now running against the clock to find the real killers and prevent more leverage and more death.
Another compelling, gripping installment in this series. It started deceptively slow, but for the big bang, yet the peril and urgency were there, just out of reach in the sidelines, slowly increasing the tempo as the story moved forward, until that last sprint for the finish line.
I liked the detective work in this one. The plot itself truly had me guessing, floundering as much as the characters as they tried to uncover the motive and the perpetrators. The baddies were hard to spot, which I liked very much.
The cast of characters really feels like old friends by now and it's always a pleasure having these two visits per year.
When 5,000-year-old bones are discovered in a field in Maryland, archaeologist Dr. Callie Dunbrook is called to head the excavation project. Unfortunately, her ex-husband, and love of her life, decides to join as lead anthropologist.
Soon, though, the pain of the implosion of their marriage is forgotten, as a stranger starts claiming Callie is her long-lost, kidnapped daughter, and death starts plaguing their archaeology project.
This book was classic Nora Roberts. Wonderful, realistic, flawed characters, drama, explosive chemistry and passion, and intriguing suspense rife with mystery and murder.
I loved the two protagonists, and I absolutely loved their second-chance romance. It was obvious they cared deeply about one another, but never bothered to actually get to know each other while they were married, never bothered to talk things through, hence the implosion. This second time around, thanks to Jake's stubborn refusal to let Callie go a second time, their relationship finally got a chance to grow beyond the stage of sexual attraction and frenzy, and they finally managed to communicate.
I found the initial conflict (and what led to their separation in the first place) a little out of sync with everything I got to know about both characters, especially Callie. I didn't understand her inability to trust him, her inability to realize his feelings, even though he failed to verbalize them. It didn't really gel with her past, since there were no real issues connected to "the conflict" in said past. And since the reader never really gets a chance to see the two before the start of the story, this "mystery" was never resolved.
But their romance worked, because it evolved, it grew in front of the reader's eyes, as the two got to know each other better and maybe for the first time.
And as all NR romances, it had its sweet moments, its dramatic and angsty moments, it had its fights, and it had sizzling chemistry and passion.
The rest of the cast could've easily paled in comparison to the two protagonists, but that's not how Nora Roberts rolls. Each had their own personality, their own issues, their own demons, and their own things in common with the rest, making their relationships and interactions shine no matter what.
The secondary romance was cute and sweet, especially compared to the main one, and the intricacies of the connections between the cast a real pleasure to read.
And then we come to the suspense. It could've easily worked without it, but the suspense added that extra layer of intrigue, mystery, and yes, danger. At first, it looked like two random sub-plots thrown into the story together, until, in the end, it turned out it was all connected.
The subject matter was chilling (and once again easily translated into out every day "normal" lives), and the lengths, the culprits went to to keep the truth buried, even more so.
The suspense elements kept us guessing, kept the characters on their toes, and kept the two protagonists occupied with more pressing matters than fighting. ;)
***copies provided by publisher through NetGalley***
CHRISTMAS SPIRIT by Rebecca York
Chelsea Caldwell is right back where she started, seeing ghosts and being the talk of the town. Yet there's something sinister happening in the small town of Jenkins Cove, and Chelsea might just be the person to uncover it.
It felt like this book couldn't decide what it wanted to be. Romantic suspense, paranormal romance? Each separate classification would've worked, unfortunately, mixed together created an unfortunate mess.
The characters were bland and dull, the plot got lost in the suspense/paranormal/killer/ghosts mess, and the romance left me utterly cold.
CHRISTMAS AWAKENING by Ann Voss Peterson
After ten years, Marie Leonard is back in Jenkins Cove determined to discover why her father's been murdered...But she'll have to deal with skepticism by the local chief of police, the man who broke her heard ten years ago, and a killer determined to silence her forever.
Though this one also had some paranormal elements, it was a much more straightforward romantic suspense story than its predecessor.
Unfortunately, the suspense aspect was the only thing I enjoyed about this one, even though the villain's motive left much to be desired.
The characters were bland (the hero was a self-pitying fool and I simply couldn't stand his moaning toward the end), and the romance tepid.
CHRISTMAS DELIVERY by Patricia Rosemoor
Lexi thought Simon, the father of her preteen daughter, dead for thirteen years, but instead of dead, he's merely been through hell, thanks to human traffickers operating in the small town of Jenkins Cove.
But now, Simon is back, determined to make whoever the culprit is pay...
This second-chance quasi-romance left me utterly cold. The characters were dull and bland, I didn't care about their relationship in the past (since we never got to see it) or in the now (because they simply weren't that compatible).
The main suspense arc of this "series" was never that interesting, so the resolution (rather predictable in all ways) didn't bring much satisfaction.
***ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley***
Kit Jernigan is the new cop in Monroe, Colorado. After one of their own working with the criminals that turned the small town into a post-apocalyptic movie set, she doesn't take it personally that her three colleagues on the K9 unit are taking their time in trusting her. What chafes is the fact they apparently can't figure out their girlfriends' new roommate isn't what she seems. Why are these three cops willing to trust a stranger over her cop instincts?
There's something off with the woman, Kit feels it in her bones...
Yes, this series at least ended on a high note. Even though it didn't concentrate on victims getting their second chances like the first three did, it featured a strong, confident leading lady (the cover should feature a woman, since the heroine is the one with the dog...and the gun), with killer instincts, and an adorable dog.
I liked Kit's strong cop-woman persona, and I liked her a little awkward girl-with-a-crush persona as well. It matched very well with the adorkable hero, and every scene these two shared, made me smile.
The romance felt a little rushed, since most of the story revolved around the trouble in Monroe and the newest arrival (not to mention the scenes from the villain's point of view), so the reader didn't spend much time with the hero and heroine, but they were cute together, highly compatible, and I loved that he trusted her from the get go.
Unlike her three partners, who were strangely obtuse in their inability/unwillingness to see the truth until it was almost too late—and even then, Kit had to save the day. Girl power!
I never particularly cared for either of the three previous heroes, so their reactions in this book weren't disappointing from the character point of view, but they were disappointing from the point of view of their profession.
The suspense was good, though, keeping the reader guessing just what the villain's purpose was and how that purpose would be accomplished, though I found the resolution to Jules' familial drama rather quickly brushed aside and ended. After all the angst from the first book and through the rest, the "finale" of it all felt like it was written more as an afterthought than a worthy solution.
Beside the strange reactions from the three previous heroes and the easy solution to the problem that began the whole series, this story delivered.
Wonderful protagonists, solid suspense, and an utterly adorable canine partner.
***copy provided by publisher through NetGalley***
One year ago, on Christmas, Drew Harwood returned home from the Great War, only to lose his fiancée to the Spanish flu. Determined to never love again, he's become standoffish and a recluse, but that is all about to change, when the sister of his army buddy comes to visit her brother on Christmas, and Drew's personal ghost decides the man is ready to move on.
This one started off really well. I liked the sad prologue and I liked the first couple of chapters, where the characters were introduced, where the nice countryside and little town picture was painted.
Unfortunately, after those few chapters passed, everything ground to a standstill. The characters, especially the hero, turned rather childish and immature in their actions, decisions, and even some conversations, there was no development whatsoever, the romance felt forced and came across as rather awkward, and the fact it was helped along by the ghost of the hero's departed sweetheart didn't help matters at all.
DNF @ 24%
The blurb sure sounds swell, and I like the premise...It's the execution itself that's lacking.
The pace is plodding at best, the narration rather amateurish, and the characters, beside being bland and unappealing, sound like they're still in high school instead of in their thirties. If I wanted to read a YA book, I'd read a YA book, thank you very much.
They were never meant to be together, she one of the three, he the spawn of evil, carrying his mark, yet Branna and Fin still fell in love. Oath, blood and the curse of a dying witch might've kept them apart for more than ten years, but now, as the final battle approaches and the future is uncertain, they must take what moment they can to experience what has been denied them.
And then this happened. After two books of hyping the "epic, star-crossed lovers" tale of the eldest of the three recent descendants of Sorcha, the Dark Witch and the man carrying the blood (and mark) of Cabhan, the evil sorcerer that killed Sorcha and her man, bringing about the creation of the three and prompting Sorcha's curse, this is what we got.
Blah, blah, blah, boohoo to me, I-love-you-but-cannot-be-with-you-no-matter-what-but-have-to-be-with-you-no-matter-what, wringing of hands, cooking, cleaning, blah, blah, blah, let's-make-some-more-witches, let's-make-demon-poison, blah, blah, blah, the end.
This is this third book in a nutshell. Boring.
Where was the drama? Where was the angst of this star-crossed, doomed, cursed love? I have no idea. This book sure didn't deliver.
Even the characters and their interactions were boring. There was no sign of friends and family from the previous two books. They were just there for form's sake, to warrant another book, if you will.
There sure wasn't enough material for an entire book in this story, so it had to be filled with ballast and redundant scenes (cooking, cleaning, making of soaps, taking strolls in the woods...)
Even the final confrontation with the big bad wasn't that satisfying. It read like overkill, too large-scale, too much everything; it actually turned into almost a parody (and it would've, if this series had any more books to come).
Come to think of it, the entire arc of the trilogy didn't have enough story meat to fill three books. It could've easily been condensed into a single one (like Three Fates for example). It would've packed more of a punch, instead of spreading itself thin.
They've known each other since they were children, but they were always only friends. Then, one night after his near brush with death, things change with a sizzling kiss, and their friendship evolves, strengthening the circle against evil...
The evil Cabhan still isn't vanquished (that's why it's called a trilogy folks), but the bonds of family, blood, love and friendship still hold true in this particular trilogy. It was like visiting with old friends, ones you know from childhood, ones you share joy and sorrow, know their deepest secrets. And this is what I love most about Nora Roberts writing—realistic characters. True, they're mostly flawed, with deep-seated issues and scars, but they feel real, normal, living, human. Their relationships and interactions are always a pleasure to read.
This time it was Connor and Meara's turn. It could've gone the icky way, this friendship of theirs "marred" by deeper emotions, but having gotten to know both of them, the reader knows and feels those emotions are already there, they just needed to be dug out.
It brought heartache and annoyance (thanks to the heroine and her abandonment issues), but it also brought joy and laughter. Much needed before the final battle begins; both with Cabhan, but mostly between Branna and Fin.
This was the middle one of the trilogy, so it didn't bring anything really new to the table as far as the big bad is concerned (except for a few new forms of fighting him and him eluding them), and nothing really new about the characters (except for the two best friends turning into lovers), but it wasn't bad.
Well-written and well-paced, it gave us the calm before the storm, some lighthearted scenes, and the warning to brace before the big finale.
Iona Sheehan finally found the place where she belongs. She had to travel from America to Ireland to accomplish it, but she did it. And she finally found people, unlike her distant parents, that love her—her Irish cousins, Branna and Connor O'Dwyer and their three best friends, Boyle McGrath, Meara Quinn and Fin(bar) Burke.
There's a connection with her cousins that transcends family, forged in blood centuries ago, when their ancestor, the Dark Witch, Sorcha, shared her power with her three children to vanquish evil. That evil is back, strong as before, thirsty for the power Iona, Branna and Connor share, and it will take their combined magick, alongside bonds of love and friendship shared by the six, to banish the evil forever.
This is very similar (in theme) to the Sign of Seven trilogy, and in drama to Three Sisters Island trilogy (at least the promised showdown between star-crossed lovers Branna and Fin in the last book), but still, it holds its own weight, no matter the similarities.
In such trilogies, it always comes down to family and friends in Nora Roberts books, to the power of love that transcends the familial, to the power of blood bonds forged through life and hardship. True love and true friends are hard to find, and those who are lucky to have them, can achieve all...even fight and banish ancient evil.
That's the metaphor of this book and this series.
The feelings of love and friendships are immediately palpable, as soon as Iona lands on her cousins' doorstep, meets the three friends (even if one of those descends from the same evil they're trying to fight—drama, drama, drama). I loved the easy rapport between them, the camaraderie between friends, the love between the five people who knew each other since childhood, and quickly included the one that's been missing from their life so far.
The romance itself was nothing to write home about—a tad rushed, and quite desperate from the heroine's point of view—but the friendship and bonds of family were top notch.
The characters, once again, shone, with their layers, issues, little idiosyncrasies, their bonds (I know I'm repeating myself), their differences and similarities...And yes, there were those sprinklings of humor I so love with this author.
The paranormal elements didn't dominate the narrative, but what there was served as great augmenter for the suspense, the heightening of feelings of danger and peril the characters were in (and will be in the future). This was more of an appetizer, preparing our palate for the main course.
The same could be said about the entire story, really. A very good appetizer, that makes you really look forward to the main meal.
Hugh the Relentless wants to become Hugh of Scarcliffe. To accomplish that, he needs to appease his superstitious villages by finding a green crystal that's been recently stolen from the Scarcliffe convent.
The green crystal was briefly in possession of Lady Alice, a sharp-tongued beauty that's determined to strike a bargain with Hugh. She'll help him locate the stone, if he helps her and her brother leave their uncle's manor.
This was almost an exact copy of Desire with the long-suffering, knightly hero becoming saddled with an opinionated, rather spoiled, and entitled heroine with a sharp tongue, reckless impulses, and (at least from what I've seen) not much wit.
The romance between Hugh the Relentless and Alice the Relentless Pain in his Butt left much to be desired, since the heroine was so bloody annoying, I couldn't comprehend what drew Hugh to her and Hugh being so goddamn bland, I couldn't comprehend what drew her to him.
The suspense was the saving grace of this story with motives and suspects galore, and the mystery involving past sins and the Stones of Scarcliffe was nicely intriguing. Unfortunately, it couldn't compensate for the lack in all other "departments".
Clare, lady of the Isle of Desire, has no other choice but wed. What little choice she does have, will be spent on choosing the right husband, following a specific "recipe". All she needs are suitable candidates; they must not be big, they must be kind and have a pleasant disposition, and they must read.
Her liege lord sends her only two possible candidates. Sir Nicholas is out of the question, since he's an idiot, while Sir Gareth, the knight they call the Hellhound of Wyckmere, will not do either. He's huge, too serious and appears emotionless...But at least he can read.
I like medievals; the pageantry, the hulking knights on huge warhorses, the swords, the damsels in their girdles and wimples...This one only had the hulking knight on a huge warhorse and his sword.
I liked Gareth. He was the incarnation of a still water running deep. He was honorable, protective, smart and cunning...And unfortunately saddled with an idiot for heroine.
I couldn't stand Clare. For someone who prided herself on her intelligence, she sure could act stupid and shrewish. I'm sure she was supposed to be a feminist, but her "smart, strong willed" tantrums landed her in the entitled and opinionated bitch territory. She was impulsive, she never thought before she spoke, and her stereotypical view of knights (even the one who has sworn to protect her), coupled with her idiotic fantasy of the "dream man" got old really fast.
The resulting romance between the poor guy and the somewhat TSTL shrew made me wince, the "suspense" was predictable (you could see the villain and his "accomplice" from a mile away) and too short-lived...The majority of the story was spent on the two protagonists getting to know each other and Clare being Clare. With a different heroine, it might've been entertaining; with this one, it was just painful.