Drinking the Kool-Aid: Playing for Keeps
This was a rec from ♡KarLynP♡ (her review is quite awesome) and since I managed to find it free from Kobo, I snapped it up.
This is one of those books that do not really make a lick of sense and is wildly unrealistic, but is still damn good. I am a sucker for deft humor in my books (see my repeated fangirlness over Shelley Laurenston & Thea Harrison) and Playing for Keeps has that in spades. Sure, there were some pacing issues, especially in the beginning, some grammar & misused word typos, and odd characterizations, but it was so damn funny.
I absolutely adored the hero, Josh. His relationship with his friends, the way he treats Haley, and his obsession with food makes for an engaging character. While Josh is not a guy I'd want to date, I can see perfectly why Haley falls for him. Haley is not quite as well-drawn as Josh is, but she's still a well-rounded woman who is a very good match for Josh.
I enjoyed Playing for Keeps so much, I'm diving into Mathewson's backlist. It looks like Tall, Dark, and Lonely is currently free so I'll be picking that up first. I'm really interested in seeing how the books compare to each other. In my experience, I don't think Mathewson is quite ready for the big leagues yet, but if all her stories are of the same caliber as Playing for Keeps, she just needs an experienced beta reader & editor team to give her work a polish. In any case, I definitely recommend this book, whether you get it for free or 0.99. It's worth it.
Where are we going and why am I in this basket?: Tall, Dark, and Lonely
Danger, Will Robinson!: A Humble Heart
I didn't actually write up a review for this one. I was drawn to it because it features one of my favorite tropes: famous people. However, this was so stunningly bad, I was forced to do status updates because I couldn't contain myself.
"I just hit Chapter 2. The waves of wish fulfillment & Mary Sue-ness are radiating off the page. If this doesn't improve quickly, I'll eat the 0.99 and move on."
"Middle of Chapt 6. It's like a train wreck. I'm all for fantasy, but give me a fricking break."
"Middle of Chapt 13. I can't read anymore tonight, it's hurting my head. Both Dana and Edward are too stupid to live. Every now and then, I catch glimpses of the talent that produced Playing for Keeps and then it gets buried under typos & soap opera crap."
Needless to say, I would advise skipping this one. I still feel like I overrated it by giving it two stars.
I think I can, I think I can: Without Regret
As you'll see shortly, I was starting to lose steam. Things have been a tad bit sucky lately, personally speaking, and I really wanted another lift like I got from Playing for Keeps. Without Regret wasn't going to give it to me.
Better than Tall, Dark, and Lonely, a million times better than A Humble Heart, but nowhere close to Playing for Keeps. Mathewson desperately needs an editor or a meticulous beta reader as there were some ridiculously misused words. Lounged instead of lunged. Contraption instead of contraction. The smartass attitude that Chris had in Tall disappeared until the very, very end of Without. In addition, he was a colossal dick for the majority of the book. Mathewson did provide some emotional context for Chris's dickhood, but I had a hard time reconciling the awesome character from Tall with the hero I saw in Without. We also never learn Izzy wasn't like the other Sentinels. I kept thinking Izzy was supposed to die instead of her brother, but something went amiss somewhere.
And call me anal, as this is a particular sore spot for me, but I would have liked to seen some justification for the pregnancy rash Izzy got, along with her supposedly blocked tubes. I thought perhaps it was because Chris got the male Sentinel sex talk, not realizing that the females aren't able to reproduce without their mates. However, no explanation was given in the text and I'm not sure where the accelerated pregnancy comes into play. Give me a reason to suspend my disbelief. Don't just chuck things at my head and hope I'm too busy ducking to realize the crazy.
RE-ENTERING SPOILER FREE ZONE
This is the fourth Mathewson book I've read, two of which I've paid for, and so far, only one didn't make me groan. So why, I must ask myself, am I still shelling out 0.99 a pop to give myself angina? I enjoyed Playing for Keeps so much, I'm searching for the writer that produced that story. I think I'm going to try Perfection and then call it quits.
De Plane! De Plane!: Perfection
I actually wanted to write something corny in my GoodReads review, like 'Ah, now this is perfect,' but I couldn't bring myself to stoop that low. This is the sequel to Playing for Keeps. Why I didn't read this first, I have no idea. I think I didn't realize that it was a sequel.
Now THIS is more like it! In a way, it's fitting that I bookended my dip into Mathewson's titles with the best of the lot. There were still some 'eeee' moments. In all of her books, Mathewson uses 'convenient store' when she probably means 'convenience store.' Also, she reuses some of the same character names in Perfection that she already used in Tall, Dark, and Lonely and Without Regret.
However, those things aside, this was a great read. The humor was fantastic. I liked how Mathewson handled Zoe's weight issues, a marked contrast to how she portrayed Dana's in A Humble Heart. Trevor was a great character. He was a likable idiot who matured into a real man. Also, the preview for the third book looks interesting. I hope Mathewson continues to do whatever she's now doing.
Home again, home again, jiggity jig
In conclusion, I think Mathewson is the perfect example of an evolving writer. She made a lot of rookie mistakes with her earlier books, learned from them, and became stronger as a result. I could make a bunch of guesses as to Mathewson's personal life as I feel she is very 'present' in her early books, but her 'Neighbors from Hell' series finally lets the characters operate on their own. I think Mathewson must have gotten a decent beta reader or editor so hopefully we will continue to see such wonderful improvement. For my part, I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for the third book in the series, but I will probably skip the remaining titles in her backlist. I keep looking at A Reclusive Heart, but I am afraid of being disappointed like I was with A Humble Heart. In any case, if you like humorous contemporaries, definitely check out Playing for Keeps and Perfection.