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beanbaglove

Beanbag Love

I read. I write. I talk about reading and writing. That is when I'm not driving kids somewhere or teaching them. Married, educated, domesticated. I really enjoy the friends I've met through a variety of different message boards and venues regarding reading and authors. I try to take a positive view when I write reviews but sometimes I can't. Those times are few and far between, but they do exist. I'm mostly an old softy, though. I think so anyway.

Currently reading

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Susanna Clarke
Driven - Eve Silver, Eve Kenin

Found this book because of Book Bub's sale alerts and thought the blurb looked pretty good. So, so happy that happened!

Raina Bowen drives a high-tech big rig through the post-apocalyptic Siberian wastelands. The New Government Order is supposed to secure a safe and peaceful existence even in this crummy, frozen region, but cronyism has actually secured a ridiculous amount of power to one man. The man who wants to torture Raina to death.

Raina meets Wizard when she "saves" him from her nemesis's ugly minions. She'd been there to meet him anyway for some finagled documentation, but the actual meet includes a rescue and confused intent. And thus our adventure begins.

Eve Silver AKA Eve Kenin says in the author's note at the end of the book that the show Firefly was a big inspiration for this world. Considering I'd thought that many times while reading, she did a good job of harnessing the same feel of the characters and the place. Being a big Firefly fan, that's a huge plus for me as a reader. And they're truckers! That's a new one for me, but it works spendidly.

Raina is beautiful and Wizard is hot. They're both damaged and a bit strange and their chemistry is clearly not something either of them has ever experienced before. It's totally believable in the story as well as refreshingly different from the typical romance path.

I'm already starting on the next book thanks to my inability to avoid sample chapters at the end of books. There's also a deleted scene included at the end of the main text that's pretty darn smokin'.

I don't know if it's on sale anymore, but it's definitely worth the read. My one actual story complaint is that the villain is A Very Bad Man. Meaning, he's just crazy, evil bad. He has one basic motive, but one doesn't have to be so Terribly, Terribly Bad and Evil to accomplish it.

I definitely liked this one for a new-to-me Romance/UF series.

Forever My Girl - Heidi  McLaughlin

Both leads were selfish and annoying. They're very poorly introduced so for most of the story they're completely unlikable and the only reason you'd root for them to be together is to spare anyone else the heartache of being married to such self-centered people.

They do get better over the course of the book, but their reasons for doing certain things are not valid enough to excuse the results. IMO.

The present tense, first person POV is also not one of my favorite new trends. Some authors pull it off okay, but most come off reading amateurish. One problem I've seen in most of the books I've read that use this device is that it seems to be an invitation to crazy grammar. The usage of "I" and "me" is especially wonky in most of them and I find myself editing too much in my head.

I liked getting both leads' POV regardless of how I was feeling about either one of them at the time. I guess this would be classified as NA, although the leads are around 28 or 29 years old.

One thing I always like is a small town story. This one, though, gave me no real indication of where the town was or anything specific to latch onto. I know it's in a place that gets cold. It's called "Beaumont", and it's a close-knit community. Big enough to have a shopping district, but not big enough to support more than one high school it seems. That's about as well-defined as it gets. So that was disappointing too.

I'm rounding it up to three stars because there really wasn't anything terribly objectionable about it, but it's more like two and a half.

Rock Chick Revolution, by Kristen Ashley

 

Book cover

 

My relationship with this series has been up and down. The first three had me gritting my teeth to get through (although there were, in all three books, the expected hilarious scenes) because of the behavior of the female protagonists. They really annoyed me.

But there was this character whose book I really wanted to read (Vance), so I stuck with it. The books got steadily better and now we come to the final one of the series.

Ally's a character I wasn't completely warm to. She seemed a lot like Keely in Lorelie James's "Rough Rider" series. The wild child younger sister who got in everyone's faces (and drives me nuts). I liked Ren from his earlier appearances in RC books, but I thought he was going to get ripped off with Ally as his HEA.

Glad to be wrong. Ally has hidden depths. She was far more thoughtful with Ren than I thought she'd be, even though this book centers around her proving herself to everyone else as much as it focuses on the her romance with Ren. After 7 RC books, this was a total change-up to the format and, for me, it was welcome.

The book does read a little like an epilogue to the series and we check in with the other couples, but the story line itself is engaging. Ren is a wonderful hero and Ally is refreshingly aware of this throughout.

It's a really nice series finale. The RC world isn't over, though, as there's a spin-off series taking place in LA. I'll be looking forward to that, although I really hope we don't get some of the relationship-delaying devices KA used in the earlier Rock Chick books. Since this series developed away from that (for the most part), I have high hopes for LA. :)

Warbound - Larry Correia

Warbound is the third and final installment in Larry Correia's amazing "Grimnoir Chronicals" trilogy. This series is one of my favorites and now that it's over it's going on the keeper shelf for all time. Correia has promised some more material in the world so I have that to look forward to, but I would definitely like to read more about these characters specifically. I don't know if that will happen, but I would be thrilled if we got to see them again.

This book isn't perfect. In fact it's probably the weakest in the series, but that's all relative since all three books are fantastic, IMO. The ending felt rushed and the epilogue felt incomplete for the ending of a story arc. I think it could have used another chapter to wrap things up and to bring the remaining characters back together for a check-in rather than some reminiscences from one character's POV (memorial, wedding, conference … just something to bring them to the same place at the same time). Then it could still have ended with the same really nice scene it does have. But nobody listens to me and I can't say I was horribly disappointed in anything.

The battles in this world are mind-bending and the relationships are very effective. There were surprises and heartbreaks and, as always, a lot of humor in the face of catastrophe. Correia handles character death better than many fantasy authors. It's always important, never a gimmick, and I can't express how much, as an emotionally involved reader, I appreciate that.

The basic overview of the world is that people started being born with magical abilities in the mid-1800's. These abilities are specific, such as teleportation (Travelers), fire starting/controlling (Torches), Healers, incredible strength (Brutes), the ability to manipulate gravity (Heavies AKA Gravity Spikers), and so on. They can be super heroes or super villains and some nods and winks are made toward the comic book genre. But this is an alt-history, so some of the things you might think are "stolen" from comics are really references to actual historical events. It's fascinating and inspires further research which is kind of fun with this created world lurking in the back of the mind.

The characters in this series are well made and just about any of them (on the good guy side, of course) could be called my favorite. There's intrigue and action and mild romance and dirigibles, although it can't really be classified as steam punk. It's called "diesel punk" but it's also modern epic fantasy/alt history.

If you like audio books, the first two are award winners. I read the Kindle editions and, unfortunately, this installment suffered from many typos. I had to wonder if Baen had been taken over by Penguin since I don't usually have that problem with them and Penguin is notorious for shoddy end product. Still, it was an annoyance and not a deal-breaker.

Clearly, I highly recommend this series. :D

It Happened One Midnight - Julie Anne Long

I became hooked on this author when I bought the first book of the Pennyroyal Green series on sale. I absolutely loved Perils of Pleasure and I've always found Long's stories to be entertaining and often moving. But that first book was always the best. This one nearly equals it. I absolutely loved both lead characters and I loved the conclusion.

Having been a bit disappointed in the last installment (even after forgiving the huge publishing screw-up that left an incredible number of typos and editing mishaps in the text), I'm thrilled to have just enjoyed a story that's everything that's good about JAL.

The Alienist - Caleb Carr

CSI at the end of the 19th century. Fascinating story. Heartbreaks and triumphs. Interesting characters.

It was pretty dark and overwhelming with detail -- reminded me of Stieg Larsson's "Girl" books although I think this was written prior -- but once you've absorbed the ambiance of the place and the players, it's really a terrific read.

Breathe Me In  (Ross Siblings, #2.5) - Cherrie Lynn

This is a prequel to the story "Leave Me Breathless", which I absolutely loved. In this short we get the full accounting of the shadowy hook-up between Ghost and Macy that was referenced in "Rock Me" and "Leave Me Breathless".

I loved visiting with Macy and Ghost again. I adore their connection and their chemistry. Two problems though. One, Macy was still in her tightly controlled, semi-bitchy phase and even though I know she's on the way out of it, it's still happening in this story. Two, the window of time upon which we're gazing is the worst part of "Rock Me" when Candace is being TSTL and an utter basketcase. So, while I love every encounter between Ghost and Macy, every scene with Candace makes me want to bang my head against a wall. And I want to kick Macy for being so scared to take a chance ... but then that's kind of silly because I know how it all works out.

So, in short, read "Leave Me Breathless" before you read this and enjoy it as a nice little fix of a favorite couple.

Rock Chick Rescue - Kristen Ashley

Not going to give this a huge review, just note that this is a KA that disappointed me a lot. The female lead pushes the male lead away until the very last pages. It becomes seriously annoying. I really did wonder why Eddie stayed so interested in Jet. I wanted to like them both, and I'm not sure that I didn't, I just didn't like them together. I'm hoping that the books following have some participation from them as a couple so I can believe they're not on the same treadmill they were on for this entire book.

KA has shown that she can follow a dud with a great success, so I'm definitely sticking with the series. I was just very disappointed in this installment. :(

Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers It starts pretty well then it slows waaaaaaayyyy down to get all the nuts and bolts of the world in and then it picks up nicely in the second half. I'd say it took until 50-60% for me to get really invested in this story of convent-raised young women who are trained assassins. But I was eventually fully engaged. I'll definitely pick up the next one in the series.

This is not a romance although there is a romantic story line. It's a tale of intrigue. I was suspicious of the villain from the start, but then I realized I was fairly suspicious of most of the characters so I can't really crow about calling it. ;D
Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman - Lorraine Heath Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman is the second book in Heath's "London's Greatest Lovers" trilogy about three brothers who are famously good in bed.

I have to give this one a meh review just as I did the first one. Unfortunately it has a trope that I hate and it went on far too long. The heroine keeps a major secret from the hero and maintains the ruse deep into the story. When that happens I just can't get into the book because I feel like their romance is built on no foundation at all. The actual relationship can't start -- IMO -- until the truth is out so the longer the one character is in the dark, the longer I wait for the real story to begin.

Mercy Dawson brings Stephen Lyons's son to his family thinking Stephen died in the war in the Crimea. His death was misreported and she's shocked when they send for him and he appears. She was a nurse there and tended him and his fellow soldiers, although she was not present when he was so badly wounded he was thought dead and then sent home. She also fell in love with him in a situation we only get hints of for longer than I'd have liked. What we do learn is that the child is not actually Mercy's although he is Stephen's. But everyone thinks she's the mother, Stephen as well, and she just rolls with it. She's come to love the baby and consider herself his mother even though she didn't actually give birth to him. If they all believe she's the result of a tryst she had with Stephen, she'll get to be a part of his life.

Maybe it's just me, but it just really bothers me for the MCs to build their relationship on the back of a lie.

As it's Lorraine Heath, it's not terrible. It's just not up to her standards. It's kind of like she chose the most difficult to like tropes for the three books in this series and succeeded about as well as an author can at writing them. So, while I always enjoy something about an LH book, there are definitely much better efforts in her backlist.
Passions of a Wicked Earl - Lorraine Heath Passions of a Wicked Earl is the first installment in Lorraine Heath's "London's Greatest Lovers" trilogy. Despite a trope I actually like quite a bit, this story has some major problems.

First, the setup. Morgan Lyons, the Earl of Westcliff is married to Claire who was betrothed to him when she was a baby … possibly before. He's eight years older than she is and when they married she was barely 17. Terrified of him, she turned to his younger brother for comfort. Said younger brother being part scamp, part dunderhead, comes up with a brilliant plan to help her avoid the wedding night she's so afraid of. He'll just let his older brother find her in his arms in her bedroom. Brilliant plan.

It works about as well as you'd expect. Cut to three years after she's been banished to the country and he's been living it up in London without her. No consummation of their marriage, no contact between them, total distance.

That's the trope I like. The angry husband banishes the wife and she makes the best of it, turning his revenge/punishment on it's head. But it's not quite like that here. See, she and Westcliff come back together because she needs him to help her give her younger sister a season. And, on top of that, she wants him back.

Now Westcliff hasn't been the least bit faithful to her in all these years and she knows it. There's always some kindly friend who wants to share. So she's been seriously humiliated as well as isolated all this time. He's got a steady mistress that everyone knows about and she's not the only one he's been with since dumping his wife.

Still, Claire does manage to give him fits which is nice, but her TSTL behavior on their wedding day (not to mention a few other choice moments) continues to lurk in the back of the mind as well as Westcliff's continued association (for the most part non-sexual) with his mistress. Well, the mistress part is not in the back of the mind, it's front and center as an integral part of the story.

Ultimately, it didn't completely work for me. It's a solid 3 star because it's Lorraine Heath and even her duds are usually worth 3 stars, but it definitely could have been better. Better setup, better arc, better conclusion. Meh.
Kissin' Tell - Lorelei James This book has been out a long time and I just couldn't seem to pull it together to review it. Not that I'm conflicted, it's a solid 3, but that it's annoying.

Basically this is the story of Tell and Georgia. They knew each other in high school when she was a cheerleader and he was a bit of a loser. Not a lot of money or sports participation and too smart for the redneck set so Tell tended to be less popular than the typical McKay. Georgia appeared popular but actually stood in the shadow of her domineering boyfriend whom she later married and divorced.

She and Tell meet again and sparks that never caught in high school finally start to fly. Great, right? Except that a lot of this is rehash of Brandt and Jessie's story. The essential problems are very similar as is the trope. Guy who's harbored feelings for a woman he thought was unreachable (but who actually has major insecurity issues) finally gets the prize after years and years of pining.

And the biggest distraction from both romances (Brandt/Jessie and Tell/Georgia) is the most compelling part of the story while being the most frustrating at the same time.

I'm talking about Caspar. Tell, Brandt and Dalton's father. He was a verbally abusive drunk until a few years before this story takes place and now he's a verbally abusive recovering alcoholic/bible thumper. No arc there. The relationship's basically the same.

But the really frustrating part to me is that Tell will say things about his dad usually being okay to be around, but then the only thing we see is Caspar being absolutely, no-holds-barred horrible. The only person worse than Caspar, IMO is Joan. Tell's mother. Yes, the poor, sainted Joan. In Brandt's book we found out that (background and rant follows) Joan had tricked Caspar into marriage by lying about being pregnant when she found out he was in love with someone else and wouldn't be coming to her for quickies anymore. Then, after he found out the truth but didn't leave her, she proceeded to stand by while he destroyed their kids' childhood in a bizarre, mean punishment on her. She enabled his abuse and continues even now with the "oh, woe is me!" when she never did anything to stop it. She finally leaves him, but not really for her sons who she threw to the dragon all those years, but for her grandchild out of town. So the sons have to take care of their drunken, abusive dad because their selfish, bitch mother thinks she's "earned" her freedom. Fuck. That. Shit.

So, to me, the only thing that interests me here is what's going to eventually happen with Caspar. Is he going to just die? *cough*copout*cough* Or is he going to change in a positive way? Will Joan's secrets ever be revealed to her sons? Another shitty thing she did was telling Jessie the truth of what she did to Caspar and making her promise not to tell Brandt. Selfish bitch. Terrible mother, terrible grandmother, horrible person. There's the potential for a major blow-up there, but I don't get the sense it's going to happen because these two don't seem to be considered main characters even as they take over the story line. Don't get me wrong, I do NOT want them getting back together, I just think there's a story there to be developed and it's languishing as a go-to device for male lead angst instead.

I guess I'm thinking about this story because Dalton's book is going to come out soon and I wonder if it's going to be another retread where Caspar is the hero's major issue and the only thing that changes by the end is that Dalton has a female he can obsess over rather than his wrecked childhood.

Back to this book, though. Do I love Tell? Definitely. I want to hug him and squeeze him. Georgia gave me more trouble, but I felt some real sympathy for her and when she gave in to her feelings for Tell I thought they were a very good match. Shoehorning cameos from far too many McKay's was a bit much, but a few of the encounters worked.

So … kind of a read that just laid there. I'm both anticipating and dreading Dalton's book. With only two books left in the series and the last few (with the exception of the most recent, Gone Country, which I liked) ranging from "meh" to seriously frustrating, I'm keeping my expectations pretty low.
Always to Remember - Lorraine Heath This was the last of my Lorraine Heath Texas story backlist and it was a very good read. A strong 4.5, I'd say.

For a romance novel it's very thought provoking. I might have been bothered by the heroine, but Heath humanized her and invited empathy. I had to wonder how I would feel in the same circumstances, knowing only the little she could know. The story touches heavily on the irrationality of grief and the variety of ways that people can show courage. I thought about it long after I turned the final page.

Two complaints. This tale is like so many other stories of this era in that it ends a few pages after everything works out. It does have an epilogue, but it's not as thorough as some of Heath's later, exquisite epilogues, so I was left wanting more. My second complaint is that Clay is a saint. A true saint. Maybe just a bit too perfect. That didn't stop me from loving him and feeling all kinds of anger and sadness on his behalf, I just felt he was a bit too good to be true.

In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'm only sad that I don't have any of these older stories left to savor.
Lady Luck (Colorado Mountain, #3) - Kristen Ashley Lady Luck is the third installment in Ashley's "Colorado Mountain" series. While I liked Sweet Dreams more, this was nearly its match.

Ty meets Lexie as he's leaving prison on parole after serving five years for a crime he didn't commit. She's been tasked with picking him up and taking him wherever he directs her to go. Well, that's what she thinks her task is. It's much more complicated than that.

I loved the chemistry between Ty and Lexie. I loved both characters and felt angst and joy right along with them. Their past and present pain is very accessible, so Ashley's wonderful ability to draw the reader into a scene and spur emotional involvement is on full display here.

There are a lot of great side characters and keeper scenes so I'm sure this one is going to be a reread.

Sweet Dreams, by Kristen Ashley

Book cover

 

So I thought I'd read the king of Kristen Ashley's dick heroes with Tack. I was wrong.

Actually Tate and Tack are pretty much even for sickishness, so at least he's got that going for him.

Another Ashley book where I really didn't believe the hero was going to win me over, but he did. Considering Tate's first interaction with Lauren pushed all kinds of personal buttons for me, I have to say that affecting my transformation from throwing the reader stink eye to bringing out the moony eyes was impressive writing.

I loved Lauren, the female lead. She was a great character with traits that were easily relatable and she was exceptionally lovable. It was completely believable that the town of Carnal would open up to her once they got past their initial, ingrained distrust.

There's a murder mystery going on in this one and it's pretty gruesome. It works for the story, though, and it really helped with humanizing Tate. It was interwoven well with the romance plot and it brought about some of Ashley's signature poignant moments. I did not have tears running down my face this time, but it was a near thing.

Some of the side characters were wonderful and they added nice detail and color to the setting.

The first book in this series was hit/miss ultimately, but this one was all hit for me. I had a hard time putting it down and I was eager to get back to it every time I did. Very happy I kept going with this series.

The Gamble (Colorado Mountain, #1) - Kristen Ashley The Gamble is the first book in the Colorado Mountain series and it's a difficult story to rate. It was highly effective emotionally and I actually found myself wiping tears from my face at several points while reading the book. Some of the scenes are really powerful and beautifully presented.

But then there are even more moments where it's just not gelling. One of the main traits of Nina's (the female lead) is that she keeps things to herself when she should speak her mind. So basically she's lying about her feelings throughout the majority of the book. A typical exchange goes as follows: "Are you okay?" Max asked. "I'm just tired," I lied.

She admits she's lying about her feelings so many times it just makes her really annoying. This book really suffered from "JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER!!!" syndrome.

It was also not acceptable to me that Max kept his own big secret throughout, either. That was a huge deal and each time he had an opening to tell her and didn't he dropped a notch for me.

There's a lot of pointless arguing that ends up feeling like padding which is so unfortunate because those scenes that were powerfully emotional were amazing and the bickering just detracted.

Ultimately I give it a 3 with all the stars dedicated to those scenes that ripped it up so wonderfully. The namby-pamby lying and tedious arguing, however, brought the rating down significantly.