Light And Fun – Mostly. In this installment of the Valentine’s Inc Cruises MM romance series, we get paranormal author Pandora Pine’s effort, and it is indicative of her stylings while only tangentially being related to her overall world. If you’re like me and have been on many cruises, there’s a lot here that will bring back your best memories – including Stingray City in Grand Cayman and the Magic Chair at Mahogany Bay. If you’ve never been on a cruise before, this is a good introduction to what ship life can be. If you’ve been curious about Pine but are a bit leery of paranormal stories, this is an excellent way to see how she tells a story while only having the barest mention of her normal schtick. (And btw, her paranormal stories are awesome, so you should try them anyway.) This is a somewhat standard ish romantic comedy in that there is obviously the fight right before the happily ever after, but really that is the only time this book really veers away from being as light and airy as a cruise is supposed to be. Excellent work, and I’m looking forward to more from both this series and Pine.
Ronan Faces His Toughest Challenges Yet. In this latest chapter of Pandora Pine’s long running police procedural MM romance series, we find one of her main characters facing some of his toughest battles to date. All because five kids get kidnapped and 2 adults decide to have a shootout with the FBI… in the first two chapters of the book. Pine yet again does a superb job of going with the overarcing story without putting too much emphasis on having the reader already know about things lest they be lost. Thus, virtually any book in this series – this among them – can work as entry points so long as the reader doesn’t mind going back and discovering how the various personal relationships got to the point they are here in this book. The one minor complaint I have with this particular one is that Pine could have potentially allowed some late revelations in this book to play out over several – perhaps dozens, if she wanted to be particularly creative – other books. But instead she plays into the episodic nature of the police procedural, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – several best selling authors more well known than her have achieved their fame almost specifically *because* they play into that trope. Still, a very much recommended book, one long time fans of Pine are likely already reading but are certain to enjoy – and again, a good entry point for any potential new fans.
At the back of this book, in the author bio, it notes that Winchester is a pseudonym for an author that primarily writes bubblegum pop level romance novels but who wanted to take a shot at psychological suspense. After reading this book, I can tell you first hand that if you went in expecting a bubblegum pop romance, well, those notions would have been dispelled in the first few pages. By the time you get to a rape scene fairly early in, the darkness has already been well established. So it is likely a very good marketing decision indeed to keep those two product lines separate.
That said, this was an absolute mind fuck of a book, particularly in the exceedingly dark and oppressive first half. As I say in the Goodreads review below, I really was questioning my desire to finish it, it was *that* dark. To the level that I’m actually glad I was alone when reading this one, just so no one else was impacted by how dark I became while reading it. It was an amazing effort, it really was. Winchester’s ability to bring the reader’s mind to such darkness was truly superb – and a bit disturbing. By the end, the story does in fact brighten up a bit, if only by a shade or two, and this was probably necessary just to preserve the reader’s sanity and ease them back into the real world outside the book.
This is an excellent book for a dark winter night laying around the fire reading, but probably a bit dark for the beach. (Scratch that, I was reading a fair amount of that first half while actually on a beach – there is no probably there. You really don’t want to take this one to a beach. But fall is coming anyway. 😉 )
And as always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release of the Week: All the Lovely Pieces by J. M. Winchester”
Carpet Diem! This was an interesting look at what happens when two broken people get thrown together for a blind date that keeps getting extended for various reasons both of their own choosing and not. Fairly Hallmark Movie-ish, if one of the ones with a bit more drama to it. Funny without necessarily being gut-bustingly so, it works well for a tight yet plausible romantic dramedy. (The entirety of the actual story of the book takes place over just about 27 hrs or so.) A great palate cleanser after a dark book, this one is very much recommended.
Great Game. If Heffernan’s friend Maggie Dallen’s latest book was a Hallmark Movie of the saccharine sweet variety, this one is closer to one of the rocky road jalapeno ice cream variety. Still mostly funny, but deals with some weightier issues in a mostly sweet manner with a hint of burn-your-mouth spice. Heffernan takes several risks with her characters that are rare, and that is much appreciated by this particular reader. The narrator is a gamer – and not a video gamer, which has gained a degree of acceptance in mainstream modern society. No, this narrator is a *board* gamer. And bi. And one of her best friends is demisexual – an orientation I’ve literally only seen used in *one* other book. And the driving narrative force is a board game tournament. And there are several weighty issues that could drag the book down, but Heffernan deftly keeps the focus on her primary couple as they haltingly get together. Excellent work, I’m very much looking forward to the next one. Very much recommended.
Fun, Fast, and Fluffy. This was a very light, very funny romance designed for the Hallmark Movie crowd but with elements that could draw in fans of the various home renovation shows all over TV (and even some streaming services) these days. Very fast read, without sleep catching up on me and Facebook being too addicting, I could have easily finished this book in 3 ish hrs. (As it was, I still finished in 12 – most of that asleep.) Book 2 in the series, but the main couple from the first book barely appears at all (indeed, the male half *doesn’t* appear at all) and even the secondary couple in that book barely registers in this one. (The man in it is in this book for maybe one scene, the female is mostly just a convenient plot device to make introductions to other secondary characters.) In other words, can very easily be read as a stand-alone book. Not a lot of drama here, just a syrupy sweet romance where the most action even hinted at is hugs and kisses – so good for the “clean” crowd too. Given that Dallen surprised us with a brand new couple in this book, I’m very interested to see where she takes Book 3 in this series. Very much recommended.
Whereas in the first book in this series The Memory Man (a former Featured New Release here itself), Savile put the Catholic Church firmly in his crosshairs with a tale centered on abuse within the Church, for this outing with Ash and Varg, he picks up a few months after the endgame of that book and puts his crosshairs firmly on a fictitious religion eerily similar to reports of the real-life Church of Scientology. Many of the familiar faces from the first book – at least among those who survive it – show up for this outing, and Savile even fleshes out the Division a bit more here.
Savile does an excellent job of briefly examining the realities of homelessness in Europe (and the Western world for that matter) and having his characters at least consider the impact of what they may well have to do will be on those who can least afford to be further harmed. Yet he never loses focus on the overall mystery involved here, and the action and intrigue are well paced.
The one thing that was a bit off-putting about this book was the rather abrupt ending wherein he blatantly sets a sequel in motion and leaves a bit of a cliffhanger. Perhaps the ending could feel a bit less abrupt with a simple change on the title of the final chapter – instead of calling it just “Chapter 69”, call it an “Epilogue” and the reader would know that this is truly the wrap up / set up the next book chapter, which isn’t always implied just by being the last chapter.
Still, a very strong tale that takes the form of a police procedural / action book to ask much larger questions, much as its predecessor did. Very much recommended, and I’m very much looking forward to the as-yet-unannounced sequel.
As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release of The Week: The Black Shepherd by Steven Savile”
Solid Christian HS Story. Hale does an excellent job here of showing the all-too-real mindset of Southern Baptist HS kids as it relates to the Church of Latter Day Saints, at minimum circa the turn of the Millenium when I was in HS myself. While I never actually went to a private school myself, growing up in Ga not far from the Tennessee regions described here, Hale paints the pictures pretty dang accurately there from both the kid and adult perspectives. Solid introduction to a much larger story, by the time of the somewhat abrupt ending to this particular tale, you’ll be invested and interested enough to want to have the next one handy. Very much recommended.
(And as a postscript not overly relevant to this book perse, reading it completely on the beach was awesome, though reading it immediately after the much-more-mature-oriented book I had read earlier in the day I started this one was very interesting, to say the least. :D)
Hot and Explicit. For those who may not be aware from the title or description, this book contains all combinations of sex between 1 gal and 2 guys – and describes everything very explicitly. If you’re not a fan of either of those things, spare yourself some time and spare Ms. Matthews a bad review just because you didn’t like those things.
That out of the way, for those that *do* like those things, this was a really good book. Enough character development to take it more into NC-17 territory than simply a written form of XXX, though it becomes clear (particularly late) that actual fight scenes are not the author’s forte. Still, the book works as a standalone even while being book 2 of at least a 3 book series, and the world was one that this reader is looking forward to coming back to. Very much recommended (with the above caveats).
Excellent Conclusion. In this conclusion to the Finding Home series, we pick up shortly after we left off in Book 3 – Jasper has found his relationship. Now he just has to tell his family…
This produces some amazingly touching scenes between Jasper, who stayed home and worked the family ranch, and his brothers, who went off to different parts of the country. As the oldest of three brothers myself, these scenes expressed quite a bit that I only wish I could communicate to my own brothers – even though in our case, they stayed in our home town (one lives barely a mile from where our parents live, the only home he had ever really known prior to moving out) while I moved several hours away.
Once again Marie outdoes herself, showing steadily increasing skill as a storyteller of both human emotion and hot and heavy “erotic scenes”. 🙂 Very much recommended, though at minimum you’ll want to read Book 3 first.
(And I shouldn’t have to note this, but I will – if MM sex offends you in any way, this book isn’t for you. If cursing offends you, this book isn’t for you. Just to try to spare Marie some common 1 star review complaints. 😉 )