Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: More Than Words, Volume 7 by Carly Phillips, Donna Hill, Jill Shalvis

More Than Words, Volume 7
More Than Words, Volume 7 by Carly Phillips

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Compassion Can't Wait" by Carly Phillips: This is the RITA nominated story from this anthology. Phillips gets around the novella format by having her couple be high school sweethearts. So the emotional foundation was already there, they just had to get over the misunderstanding that separated them. I think it was a good novella. I wasn't left wanting more and I didn't feel like it was bursting at the seams. In addition, the organization, Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation, was skillfully woven in. It was name-dropped a bunch of times, but it felt organic and not preachy. I was left with a lot of admiration for how the organization helps single parents care for their critically-ill children. I'd give "Compassion Can't Wait" four stars.

"Someplace like Home" by Donna Hill: I definitely wanted more from this one. I felt like it ended too quickly. I liked the premise of it and the slow way the hero (baseball player) & heroine drew together. It was also kinda nice to have a hero who was the nurturing type. However, in addition to the abrupt ending, there were also a few loose threads here and there. "Someplace like Home" gets three stars from me.

"What the Heart Wants" by Jill Shalvis: Shalvis is gradually becoming one of my must reads for contemporary authors. I'm kinda bummed this was so short because I loved Jack and I wanted to see more of him. There was only one short scene from his POV. Also, there were repeated allusions to something that happened to the heroine in her youth, but we never get the particulars. I suppose it's not really that big deal, but when the heroine finally mentions the 'horrific experience,' my curiosity went into overdrive. Stupid page limits and word counts. Still, four stars here as well.

Out of the three stories, I liked Shalvis's hero & heroine the best, but overall, I thought Phillips's story was the strongest.

Review: The Mystic Wolves by Belinda Boring

The Mystic Wolves
The Mystic Wolves by Belinda Boring

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

You know I try to remain objective about critiquing someone's life work, but this book gave me a headache and if I'd had it in hardcopy, it would've been flung across the room a number of times. Only sheer willpower led me to finish it.

First off, this is the first book in a series, but when you start reading, all this stuff has already happened. Darcy and Mason are together, war has been averted, and football has commenced. Boring later inserts a flashback showing us how they got together, but, at that point, it's anti-climatic. Why not make it a prologue at least?

Secondly, a supporting character is killed and someone who is very important to both Mason & Darcy. However, rather than mourning or dealing with the fallout, they go romping in the woods. Mason, who should be more devastated than anyone, seems particularly unmoved by the murder of a loved one. He eventually breaks down a little, but it didn't ring true to me.

Thirdly, it was hard to get a grasp on the culture of this particular breed of werewolves. During the first violent scene, Darcy makes reference to the idea that they are taught not to change, as if the wolf will take over, but no reason or explanation is given as to why. In addition, Boring allows her characters to utilize some wolf behaviors while still in human form, implying the human and wolf are meshed together. So why aren't they allowed to change? There also seemed to be some kind of psychic component to this werewolf breed as Darcy tries repeatedly to connect properly with Mason. Darcy and Mason also reference dreams that foreshadow finding their mates. However, the reader is never told how these werewolves came into being, how they evolved into what they are.

Fourthly, it was in first person and Darcy is, um, how to put this, not exactly what I'd call alpha material. She's an unreliable narrator because she's so focused on Mason and she, presumably, knows all the things that the reader doesn't, so she doesn't feel the need to think about them, leaving us in the dark. For example, we know that the humans are unaware of the existence of supernatural species. Darcy violently kills an attacker and then gets swept away by Mason. No mention of hiding the evidence, of DNA, nothing. The attacker has links to vampires, but Mason & Darcy just go la la la-ing into the woods. Yet, SOMEHOW, the vampires find out and show up. The plot holes, they are huge.

In conclusion, I did not enjoy this book. However, after writing this, I have come to the conclusion that I think it would have been salvageable. The biggest problems were the flow and the complete lack of world-building. There were no spelling or grammar errors. The funeral scene was lovely. Shifting some scenes around, adding some detail here, trimming some interactions between Mason & Darcy there, and you'd have a solid read.

If you'd like to form your own opinion, as of 6/15/12, The Mystic Wolves is currently free from Amazon and Smashwords.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review: A Mother's Homecoming by Tanya Michaels

A Mother's Homecoming
A Mother's Homecoming by Tanya Michaels

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think it's clear by now that series titles aren't my thing. The rigid and short page counts often leads to a compressed story that fails to satisfy me. A Mother's Homecoming is not necessarily exempt from this as this would have been a five star book if there had more meat to the ending.

This is a unique book because, from the get-go, the reader is not predisposed to like the heroine. A recovering alcoholic, Pamela Jo abandoned her husband and daughter. She's returned to her hometown to make amends, but she thinks Nate and Faith now live elsewhere. She's wrong.

What I loved about this book is that Pamela isn't necessarily apologetic about her actions in abandoning her family. She felt she had her reasons and that she made the best possible decision. When I started the book, I was not inclined to be sympathetic towards Pamela Jo at all. However, as the book progressed and I got to know the character, I warmed up to her. Going in, I had a negative outlook about a mother abandoning her child. By the end, I could understand why Pamela Jo felt she had to leave.

I also liked that the relationships between Pamela Jo and Nick, and Pamela & Faith, were developed as naturally as the constrained book format allowed. Nick was understandably hostile and protective of his daughter. Even by the end, he was still referring to Faith as 'his' daughter. Faith is naturally curious about her mother and acts out, but she's smart enough to go the 'model child' route after a brief detour in 'troublemaker' zone.

Even the ending was more of a 'happily right now' than 'ever after.' It was a more abrupt ending than I would have liked, but I think Michaels did the best she could with what she had. Overall, this book was excellent. So far, I think this is my favorite series title out of all the nominees I've read so far. I leave you with a bit that tickled me.

"[Leigh] glanced past Dawn, and the smile wobbled slightly when she spotted her former sister-in-law. '[The cookies]'re sort of a housewarming gift, I guess. I understand you had furniture moved out to Mae's old place this week.'

"'Thank you.' Pam was touched. And deeply suspicious. Maybe she should have a lab in one of the bigger cities test the cookies before she ate any" (pg173).

Monday, June 11, 2012

Review: Deadly Sins by Lora Leigh

Deadly Sins (The Callahan's, #2)Deadly Sins by Lora Leigh
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Two things first: 1) The identity of the Big Bad is not revealed in this book and there seems to be quite a lot of people gunning for these guys & their paramours. 2) In the book itself, this series is identified as the Sins series and I checked this specifically because on GoodReads & Leigh's website, it's listed as 'The Callahan's.' First off, there is more than one Callahan so it should be Callahans. Secondly, you would only need the apostrophe if you were adding a noun after Callahans, like Callahans' Women. The fact that Leigh has this on her own website drives me up the freakin' wall and, to me, is an example of the problems that have been evident in Leigh's books of late.

Leigh's romantic suspense seemed to hold up better than her Breeds books, but Deadly Sins made me roll my eyes. I have a thing about repetitive language and that's a problem here, big time. I wish I'd written down the page numbers or made a note of the sentences, but a character would have a thought and then a few pages later, they'd have the exact same thought. I didn't read the first book in the series, Midnight Sins, but even I was like, 'Okay, I get it already! All the parents suck! Bad things happen!' In addition, I caught at least one incident where Leigh swapped Crowe's and Logan's names. Also, some of the sex scenes reminded me strongly of some from the Breed books, especially when Logan thinks about 'marking' Skye.

Authors live and die by their contracts, and I know it's really hard to make a living as a writer. However, if Leigh has any leeway, I'd really recommend that she take a break from cranking out books. Recharge the batteries, clear her head, write some contemporary e-novellas to cleanse the palette, something, before she does permanent damage to a career that began so promisingly nine years ago.