Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Business as Usual - Denise Grover Swank

I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Free books do not buy my positive regard, although they're nice.  What follows is my true opinion.

I really enjoyed this book a great deal and I like it a lot!  If you like a nice romance, you will too.

This is the 3rd book in Swank's Off the Subject series, and for my money it's the best one yet. The story is believable, the plot is tight, and the dialogue is pretty good for the most part.

I love Swank's writing style.  She doesn't bog me down in a lot of unnecessary descriptions when telling her story. For instance, I want to know what size the bed is, but I don't need a stitch-by-stitch description of the pillows, comforter, and duvet, you know what I mean?  I like that we're telling a love story, not writing a piece for BHG!

The story is simple: Girl meets boy. They fall in love.  Happily ever after. Right?  Well...

Lexi, also known as Alexa, has had a rough time the last year or so.  She met a bad guy, he did bad things, and now she's basically trying to start over at a new college, away from her Boston home, with her brother Reed as her guard dog.  She's doing great things with some charity work, but she doesn't have much of a social life. Until, that is, her friends drag her to a bar where she meets Ben. Of course, she happens to be wearing a wig at the time, and decides to try on a new persona in a bar she never expects to return to.

Ben has had a hard time, too. He doesn't come from money, as so many of his classmates do, and he's working hard for his education after losing his scholarships to some bad, and untrue, allegations made about him.  So, three jobs, plus studying all the time, plus the break-up of a bad relationship, make Ben a pretty lonely guy.  Then he meets Alexa, and all bets are off. No matter how much of his limited sleep he has to give up, he intends to get the girl.  When he realizes that her hyper-vigilant, overprotective, completely unreasonable brother is one of his bosses... well, love is never smooth sailing, is it?

We see the characters from the previous two books here (Reed and Caroline from Redesigned play a big part in this story, since Lexi is Reed's sister and room mate), and it's nice to check in on them.  There's a subplot about Reed and Caroline that's directly related to the main conflict, and there's a weird little thing with Caroline's last room mate that's just weird.  It's never really resolved to my satisfaction. WHY was she so interested in... whatever.  I'm kind of hoping the next book in this series is actually about Tina, but we'll see.

So, overall, I really enjoyed this book.  I think Swank grows in her talent with every book she pens, and she writes a LOT of books!  I really want to give this book 4 1/2 stars, if I had stars to give here, because the unresolved Tina thing really bugs me.  Also because, well, no one is perfect and there are a couple of things I found annoying but I'm not really mentioning them here because you might not. And besides, they're not enough to ruin my enjoyment of the book. 

Go buy this book on April 10!   Also, the 2nd book in this series is only 99 cents on Amazon right now!

Buy on

#1 - After Math            #2 - Redesigned          #3 - Business as Usual (Preorder)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Night Broken - Another great visit to the Mercyverse

I always come to a new Mercy Thompson novel with excitement, anticipation, and confidence that the story will be worth the time. Patricia Briggs never disappoints, and Night Broken is not an exception. It's a great read. As a resident of the area where the books are set, I have to say how much fun I find them to be and how I almost want to believe that these characters and creatures live and work alongside me!

We find Mercy still not fully accepted by Adam's pack and still emotionally and psychologically wounded from her assault a few books ago. She is strong, as always, but there's an underlying vulnerability that makes her more relatable and human. I just love what Briggs is doing with this character; she's gone from a lone-wolf coyote and mechanic to a lover, wife, stepmother, pack member, business owner, and more.
In addition to her problems with the pack, Mercy is now called upon to play hostess to Adam's former wife (unlike Mercy, she had never been his mate) who has decided she wants her home, her daughter, and her ex back, and she will manipulate, mislead, misrepresent, and cry big, fat crocodile tears to get those things. Christy, the ex, is being stalked by a boyfriend who turns out to be a whole lot more than the wealthy, attractive, European playboy he presents as. Not realizing this, Christy runs to Adam for protection and brings a whole lot of trouble with her. We've all got a Christy or two in our lives, and this character is annoying and infuriating because she's just so real.
Mercy is also contending with the members of Adam's pack, many of whom don't think a coyote shifter, or any non-were, belongs in the position of Alpha's mate. But Mercy is more than willing to simply be who she is, do what she does, and let the rest of them kiss her ass. Because as Adam's mate, they may dislike or resent her, but she outranks them all and they know it. It's an untenable truce, but unless she's willing to either give up her marriage or kowtow to the others in the pack (particularly the women) there's no alternative. Mercy's not willing to do either thing, so she just keeps on keeping on.
There is violence, of course, and it is, as always, gross, gruesome, and splashy, which is how it should be. A werewolf, or a fae, or even a god, doesn't roast his food on a spit and eat with a knife and fork. To take out the blood and bone from the fight scenes would be to render them not only sanitized, but boring. The Mercy-verse is a very realistic one and Briggs is keeping it that way.
Mercy grows, as always. This is one of the things that I love about Briggs's writing; she is absolutely willing to put her characters through some changes. Even Adam has to learn a few things, which is not easy for a big, bad, growly alpha werewolf.
Besides all the stuff she's got going on with the pack and Christy, Mercy also must find her erstwhile father, Coyote, and get him to return to her a fae-made, and magical, walking stick she'd had with her in the last few books. The son of the fae who made the thing wants it back and is making threats against all of the Tri-Cities to get it. While searching for Coyote, Mercy meets her "sort of" brother and learns a bit about herself and the supernatural being who may or may not be her father. It's an interesting side story and I enjoyed it. Again, it's all about making Mercy into something more than she was on page one, and it works.
Things happen, Christy insinuates herself into the pack and causes trouble, creatures and beings come and go and we finally end up with a climactic battle that results in all kinds of things. Like what? You'll have to read the book; I don't give spoilers. Ever.
I wish Adam had stood up Christy more, or that Jesse would, and I wish that he would simply tell the members of the pack to accept her or move on, but that's not his way so we will likely have to suffer through more Mercy-bullying in future books. It will be interesting, over time, to see how she finally gains acceptance from the pack. I understand that the next installment in the Mercy Thompson series is over a year away, possibly almost two, and that makes me sad, but there are so many other stories Briggs has to tell besides Mercy's. Since I hope this series goes on for at least 20 books, I'll let her take the occasional break.
Overall, this is a great book, as always, and fully deserving of each star I gave it. Be sure you can sit down and read it cover-to-cover when you get it, too, since you'll find you resent having to put it down for things like work, dinner, showering...

There have been complaints about the ending of this book.  That it's somehow disconnected or pointless or senseless. I want to disagree.  I thought that this ending made sense and, in fact, it's what I'd hoped for.  I think this ending made great sense and held promise for the next book.  Or three.  As low key as it is, it's darned near a cliff-hanger!  I loved it.

Up From the Grave - Jeaniene Frost

The Night Huntress series goes out with more than a whimper, less than a bang.

Cat and Bones are two of my favorite characters. As this is the last book in their series, I'm sad to see them go, and I'm not real pleased with the way things ended, but overall, this was an enjoyable book by a good author and I do recommend it.

As per the norm in this series, bad stuff is happening in the un-dead world and Cat and Bones are needed to help make it stop. Cat's old team in the supernatural department of Homeland Security is in trouble, maybe even dead or dying, Uncle Don knows a whole lot more than he's willing to say, and other aspects of the supernatural world are out to create various sorts of trouble for our protagonists. The villain appears to be nearly unbeatable, but our heroes always have an ace in the hole and they intend to make the world safe for everyone living, dead, and undead. There's a little twist and I must admit I saw it coming, but I'll discuss that under flaws.

Uncle Don is here, as a ghost, and we once again meet up with Tyler the medium, Marie Laveaux, Ian, Spade, Mencheres, and all the rest. Working together the problem is met head on. I don't like to give spoilers or even specific plot synopses, because you should get to discover the whole story for yourself. Suffice it to say that the story was engrossing enough to be read on one sitting, and that I enjoyed it.

There is less, and less graphic, sex than we've seen in previous Night Huntress novels, but I think that's good. Bones and Cat are growing as a couple and as a marriage, and the fact that sex isn't their primary concern is proof of that. Also, there's so much happening here that I don't think they could have taken time out to have as much sex as they used to!

All the characters we've come to know serve their purpose and we get a peak in at their lives. Ian is happily, promiscuously still single, Spade and Mencheres are still happily married, and they're fun. Cat and Bones can't do what needs to be done without them, and of course they're all there. Well, all but Vlad, but that's explained for us.

If you're a fan of the series, read this book since it's the last one. If you've never read this series, the book would stand alone, but I really recommend reading from the beginning.

Some flaws and failings: Bones is a great character and I'm as in love with him as most readers are. But I cannot abide a liar, and bones lies to Cat more than once in this book. Now, I understand his reasons for doing so, and I don't particularly disagree with them, but it's just never okay to lie to your wife. Or husband. That he comes clean, and apologizes, and accepts Cat's anger mitigates things, but not entirely so; it's a bit of a betrayal of a great relationship. I wish Frost had found a way to accomplish things without the lies.

The reason given for Vlad's absence is thin, to say the least. I mean, I get it, but it doesn't make sense. Vlad just wouldn't miss this whole thing and he'd find a way to accomplish his personal business and still help Cat. He's promised he always would. I just hate that his lack of involvement in something this important is treated as just an aside.


I will give Frost credit for handling it better than Twilight, but for heaven's sake, why do happy couples, especially vampire couples, need children??? Why?? I don't understand. This is the twist I figured out early on and it just sucks. It is disrespectful to Bones and to Cat that all of a sudden they have a child they've never mentioned wanting, and it's not even Bones's. The entire situation is part of the main story line, but the aftermath is just stupid. It's all neatly tied up with a pretty bow and everyone literally sails off into the sunset. Ugh, it was just so trivial and unnecessary.

Finally, my last thought when I closed the book was that I had always liked this series, enjoyed it, always waited anxiously for the next installment, and I've even read the books involving the tertiary characters and enjoyed them, too, and now... it turns out it was all a lesson on racism? Or tolerance? Or whatever? Seriously? Because the last few pages really felt like a social-studies lesson. More than any other problem or failing, this whole deal about letting people live as they are and putting aside fear and hate just really diminished the series and the characters. The ending should have had a lot more punch and promise than it did.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tattoo Thief: Tyler and Stella

Heidi Joy Tretheway has really hit her stride with this, the second entry in her Tattoo Thief series.  This books was a joy to read, which I did very quickly because I was dying to know what happened next!

I'm going to generalize here, because I don't want to give away anything of this story, but I want you to know how much I enjoyed it.

Stella Ramsey is the BFF of Beryl, the heroine of the first Tattoo Thief book.  It is through Beryl that Stella meets Tyler Walsh, bass player for the up and coming, eponymously named, rock band after having perpetrated a stunning betrayal of her friend, and the band.  Beryl's guy, Gavin, brings her and stella together with the rest of the band in the hopes of helping the ladies work things out.  That he winds up helping his band brother, Tyler, find love is just a bonus.

After years of sticking to the bad boys, the worse boys, the casual flings and one night stands, Stella finally meets someone she's willing to risk her heart for.  She wants more with Tyler.  Problem is, she has no idea how to make that happen anymore.  This girls got issues with men, her boss, her career, alcohol, her living arrangements, and everything else in her life.

Tyler has issues, too.  A scandal that really could mess things up between him and Stella, relentless press and paparazzi just looking to find some tiny chink in the band's armor, and even more relentless fans and groupies just dying to get a piece of their latest rock-star fantasy man.  He's also got some personal problems he really doesn't want to shar, but can't keep to himself, either.  Certainly not if he wants something real and lasting with Stella, and he's pretty sure he does.

This unlikely duo finds that love can go hand-in-hand with rock 'n roll if you can learn to just fight for what your heart wants, and to run to, rather than away from, the one you love.

This is a nice love story in an ongoing series that you can really enjoy.  There's even a love song (well, duh) and the lyrics Tretheway wrote are outstanding.  She could consider a second career as a songwriter provided she doesn't let it interfere with her writing.  I am dying to read the next several novels in this series and I don't want anything to get in the way of her writing them.  I look forward not just to the stories and the characters, but to Tretheway's continued growth as a story teller.

You can buy Tattoo Thief: Tyler and Stella on