Monthly Archives: July 2014

Review of Forecast (Shakespeare Sisters 1), by Jane Tara

ForecastI downloaded Jane Tara‘s Forecast from the Amazon free list. It is still free.

Description from Goodreads:
The Shakespeare women were what the locals of Greenwich Village called “gifted.”

Sure, Rowie’s predictions were helpful for forecasting the weather or finding someone’s lost grandkid. But when it came to love, her abilities were more like a curse. Why bother dating a guy if you knew at the first kiss he was destined for some blonde from New Jersey? Nope, Rowie was much happier bringing together the people she knew were a perfect match. Until the day she kissed the man whose future she couldn’t foresee.

Well written but 100% predictable and full of far, far too many feel-goods for my taste. It’s the sort of book where the heroine is an amazing Mary Sue that everyone except the single person who has to dislike her to create enough dissonance for a plot loves her. Then, once the necessary challenge has been presented and mastered the single bitch becomes mysteriously contrite, apologises and is instantly forgiven (because there can’t be any lingering hard feelings apparently). Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, ends up happy. (How realistic is that?) I know many people love this aspect of romantic comedy. Me? I’ve over here suffocating on all of the hearts and flowers flooding the room and blocking the oxygen from reaching my poor withered heart. 

Plus, apparently I’m not nearly as good a person as Rowie, because I wouldn’t have forgiven so easily and have a hard time relating to how she could have. Her easy forgiveness kind of felt like a betrayal to me. I also thought the need to have every single person in the book paired off in the end, thus requiring attention be paid to their bit of the story, thinned the plot (a lot). I mean that’s Rowie, her mother and grandmother, Angel, Petey, Jack, Drew, Georgette, William, Shin and Jess. That’s a pretty full list of people to find partners for and try to keep a plot tight. It didn’t really work that well. 

Again, the book is well written and I didn’t notice any editing errors. It’s also pretty darned funny. I liked a lot of the sarcastic commentary. So, it’s not a fail in general, just a fail for me. 

On a side note: The series is called the Shakespeare Sisters, but Rowies an only child. Figure that one out.

Review of The Guy From Glamour (The Guy), by Skylar M. Cates

The Guy fFrom Glamour

I bought a copy of Skylar M. CatesThe Guy From Glamour.

Description from Goodreads:
Anthony Carrino loves his big, gregarious Italian-American family, even if his sisters are interfering, and his dad, the local sheriff, knows everything going on in town. He’s happy as a middle school guidance counselor. Despite helping kids and their parents fix their problems, Anthony can’t manage to get his own love life right. If only everyone would stop calling him the “nice” guy. 

Dean Pierce doesn’t do relationships. A tough-minded military man, he is dedicated to his job as a Night Stalker, flying Chinook helicopters and not speaking much to anybody. He certainly doesn’t want to deal with a mess of emotions. But when tragedy strikes, Dean finds his hands full with his troubled niece, her irresistible guidance counselor, and a meddlesome family, which includes a rather large puppy.

This was an all right book, I suppose. Just, as it turns our, REALLY not my cup of tea. I’m not a big fan of the heavy ‘Awww’ moments on the best of days and The Guy From Glamour is practically a hike through the hearts and flowers garden. I can handle it a lot better in m/m romance than het, which is why I picked this up in the first place. (Plus, I expected a bit more grit from the soldier.) But in the end, there wasn’t enough other stuff to keep my interest. And lacking distracting ‘oh, I’m happy with that’ moments I was left too aware of the text for all the little annoyances to pass unnoticed.

I don’t really know how to explain my biggest one, but in general I’ve noticed that when an author writes about things they don’t know that much about (in this case combat pilots), it’s pretty obvious. Even if every word is technically accurate. They explain things that don’t need explaining. Things that someone immersed in the subject would hardly notice are made big deals of. Their characters talk about their jobs or missions in ways that don’t feel natural. Here’s an example:

We’re special Forces. We’re the most elite helicopter force in the whole damn world. We fly into enemy territory and navigate our way through it to complete search-and-rescue missions or perform high-risk air assaults.

Sure, the wikipedia page might describe the Night Stalkers that way, but I can’t even imagine an actual soldier doing so. Plus, other characters are overly aware of what a Night Stalker is and give undue accolades for it. Cates is guilty of all of the above. Maybe I’m wrong about how much she does or doesn’t actually know about the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, but something about the way Dean and his position is written didn’t feel real to me.

Similarly, I spent several years working in Children’s Protective Services, dealing with the children brought into the Foster Care system. Let me just tell you, this book really should be labeled  as fantasy for how it describes the process and what it’s like.

I also had issues with writing itself. It was fairly well edited, but I thought the writing was stiff, especially in the beginning. There were lots and lots of blunt, staccato, telling sentences. Plus, everything was just sort of thrown on the table with very little finesse. Characters met and then immediately explained their entire life story and such (much of which wasn’t really needed anyway). Good for providing the reader information, not so good for feeling like realistic dialogue. The whole thing just felt kind of clumsy. You knew exactly where it was going at all times and it lurched there unfailingly. No surprises or subtlety involved. Plus, there was almost no character development. I never felt I really knew either MC and Nikki was just a shadow puppet. I was more attached tot he puppy than her.

Again, most of my complaints are personal. For readers who like guaranteed happy endings and what I call cheesy moments (but people who like them probably would call sweet scenes) this book might be a hit. I appreciated what the story was trying to accomplish. I was impressed to find that some characters with a history in the foster care system were there for neglect rather than abuse. So often, people forget that there are other, less dramatic reasons for children to be removed from their parents. I really liked that there was no strict designation of position, no exclusive top and/or bottom. I liked that one scene with Dean and Rick. There where aspects of this book I liked, but on the whole it was a fail for me.

Review of Home the Hard Way, by Z. A. Maxfield

Home the Hard Way

The nice folks over at Netgalley sent me an ARC of Home the Hard Way, by Z. A. Maxfield.

Description from Goodreads:
Dare Buckley has come home—or at least, he’s come back to Palladian, the small town he left as a teenager. After a major lapse in judgment forced him to resign from the Seattle PD, Palladian is the only place that’ll hire him. There’s one benefit to hitting rock bottom, though: the chance to investigate the mystery of his father’s suicide.

Dare also gets to reacquaint himself with Finn Fowler, whose childhood hero worship ended in uncomfortable silence when Dare moved away. But Finn isn’t the same little kid Dare once protected. He’s grown into an attractive, enigmatic stranger who neither wants nor needs what Dare has to offer.

In fact, Dare soon realizes that Finn’s keeping secrets—his own and the town’s. And he doesn’t seem to care that Dare needs answers. The atmosphere in Palladian, like its namesake river, appears placid, but dark currents churn underneath. When danger closes in, Dare must pit his ingenuity against his heart, and find his way home the hard way.

I’m having a hard time deciding how I feel about this book. I finished it last night, with time to review it, but waited until today in order to consider my own response to it. You see, I can’t decide if I didn’t like certain aspects of the story full stop or if I just didn’t like that it wasn’t the story I wanted it to be (if that distinction makes any sense outside of my head). 

Before I talk more about that let me add here that I like erotica. Not that I would qualify this as erotica, there isn’t that much sex in it. But my point is that I have no problem with sex in books. I like a lot of m/m romances. I also like finding a little surprise kink thrown into either one. So, my complaint isn’t based just on not liking D/s, BDSM, rope and/or pain play in the book. (Though, I have to admit, anytime a character refers to something by its name, like ‘pain play,’ it feels too proper to be realistic to me. It rings the same cringe-bell as stiff dialogue in my head. But that’s a whole ‘nother matter altogether.)

Having said all that, I didn’t like the BDSM, etc. aspect of this book. I think it was probably well written; that’s not my complaint. And it was kinda hot; that’s not my beef either. It just didn’t feel natural in the story. This is the first Z. A. Maxfield book I’ve ever read, so I’m not coming from a place of comparative knowledge. But to me it FELT like it was all thrown in just to catch readers from the current D/s popularity wave. I don’t know if it really was, but that’s how it felt to me.

You see, Dare comes home to Palladian with no discernible interest in being dominated in any fashion. Doesn’t even seem to be consciously aware of the lifestyle. But on meeting up with Finn he immediately starts wanting things he’s never wanted before. He allows Finn control he’d never previously even considered giving up and he does it with no discussion, explanation or even verbal request (from either party). Now, consent is very clearly established, as are stop words and such. I don’t mean anything like that. I just mean there must have been some psychic communication going on for Finn to know what Dare wanted and for Dare to know Finn could/would provide it, especially on Dare’s part.

I did like Dare and Finn. Don’t get me wrong. I liked them. I just kept thinking that the things they were doing didn’t fit the otherwise sweet romance that was trying desperately to establish itself. This is also were my ‘did I just not like it’ or ‘did I not like that the blurb sent me in expecting something else’ internal debate comes in. Either way, it was jarring to me. 

Then there was the whole Fraser twist. Surprisingly, I also like Fraser. I had fewer problems with he and Finn’s activities than Finn and Dare’s. It felt more natural there, maybe because it had had years to develop. However, unless there is going to be a sequel that deals with Fraser and his issues I’d have to call it a giant loose end. 

I also liked the, I believe the phrase is penetration politics. Dare is your average hulking police alpha (as is Fraser), Finn is as you would expect. He’s smaller, finer boned, prettier, gayer (or at least more openly so). Based on m/m norms you would expect Dare & Fraser to top almost exclusively. It was nice to see this trope played with.

The mystery was a good one. It wasn’t too hard to figure the historic aspect of it out. It was pretty obvious, actually. But that obviousness just made the part happening in ‘real-time’ more interesting because you had this tantalising part of the puzzle that Dare didn’t. 

The writing and editing were both pretty good. I was a bit bothered by all the full names. Palladian is meant to be a pretty small town and everyone’s supposed to have known each other since childhood. So I can’t imagine they’d so often need a full name to identify someone. I also thought the author had a few catchall phrases she repeated (the plug & socket comparison, for example). But really these are minuscule complaints in the grand scheme of things. 

I’m feeling fairly torn about how I feel or how I want to rate this book. So, I’m splitting the difference with a 3 and a bit.