Category Archives: books/book review

Review of Haunted, by Shari Nichols

Author Shari Nichols sent me a paperback copy of Haunted.

Description from Goodreads:

When medium Karly Matthews agrees to move into a haunted inn, she’s not sure what’s more dangerous, the ghost or the sexy innkeeper she tries to resist. She’s can’t deny the intense rush of desire she feels every time he’s near. When she agrees to embark on a no-strings-attached relationship, she finds herself thrust into a world of mind blowing pleasures. Now she must face the aching truths of her past.

Hotel heir Thayne Harper has a laser-like focus on success that doesn’t include the help of his family. He’s always been the black sheep, living in the shadow of his dead brother. His dreams are put to the test when a supernatural entity threatens to ruin everything. The one bright spot is the woman who intrigues his mind and heats his blood.

If only he can convince her that, despite his bad boy ways, he can change for the good. Her love becomes his only salvation. Passion burns white-hot as a dark threat looms. The ghost doesn’t want them to be together and sets her sights on Thayne, luring him to a place that goes beyond death. Will Karly be able to save him before it’s too late?

Review:

This was ok; certainly, the writing was readable and I didn’t notice any particular editing issues. I just think it wasn’t really my sort of book. I thought the lust and then the love were too instant and there wasn’t anything to support it. Further, I thought the manner in which Thayne pursued Karly felt more like a skeevy come-on artist than legitimate feels and the way, no matter what scene was happening, sexual thoughts were interjected cluttered the narrative.

I don’t actually mean to suggest it wasn’t a good book. I just think there are plenty of people who will enjoy it more than me. I was pretty so-so on the whole thing.

Review of The Raven’s Ballad (The Otherworld #5), by Emma Hamm

I’ve been very into Emma Hamm‘s books lately. This is book five in the Otherworld series. However, books one and two are a duology, as are books four and five. (I’ve not read the standalone third book). I borrowed this fifth book, The Raven’s Ballad, through Amazon Prime.

Description from Goodreads:

Once upon a time…

A curse can only be broken by luck or an impossible feat, and Aisling has tried numerous impossible feats. Every morning she changes into a swan. Every dusk she has a few moments with the man she loves, only to watch him forced into the form of a raven by the same curse.

When it becomes clear the curse is directly connected with an ancient, awakening evil, she sets off into the depths of Underhill to find answers. Unfortunately, this is a journey that must be made alone.

Bran refuses to believe there isn’t another way. Split off from his queen, he joins forces with the Seelie Fae and the Druids. Darkness spreads throughout the Raven Kingdom. Both king and queen fight to protect their people, their home, and the love they have for each other.

Review:

As I said, this is the fourth book by Emma Hamm I’ve read and I have to say it was my least favorite. That isn’t to say I didn’t like it, just that it wasn’t as strong in the things that made me love the others. Also, it’s the only one I got in kindle instead of audio. So, I suppose there’s a chance that the lack of Siobhan Waring’s narration affected me. Though, I don’t think that was the case.

The reason I say I didn’t love this one as much, is that what I liked about the previous three books in this series is that Hamm subverted a lot of the expected tropes, especially around women. Here she played into them. While this still made a readable story that I enjoyed, it didn’t light me up as much as it would have if she hadn’t. As examples (and this is a spoiler), the female villain is trying to destroy the world because she was spurned by a man. This has to be the number one most common reason women in fiction go bad. *yawn*

Also, what I most enjoyed in The Faceless Woman (the beginning of this duology) was the banter between Aisling and Bran. They spend 95% of this book apart and I missed them as a couple, even if I understood why it had to be that way.

Lastly, I noticed several copy edit mistakes. For example, ‘she’ is ‘se’ at one point and Aisling came out AIsling more than once. None of them disrupted my reading and they aren’t super common, but they are there. They may be in all the previous books too. But as I said, I listened to them, rather than read, so I wouldn’t have noticed.

I did appreciate the presence of a strong M/F platonic friendship. Neither character was even gay, thereby prohibiting a romance. Two people of opposite genders were simply allowed to love each other as family, despite there being no blood between them. I wish we could see that more often. (As a side note, I would love to see a gay pairing in this universe somewhere. I don’t even understand why creatures like the fae would conform to heteronormativity. I mean, that just seems so human and beneath them. *shrug*)

I also still liked Aisling and Bran as characters and recognize how much they grew as people, especially Bran. I look forward to reading more of Hamm’s writing.

Review of The Boys of Lake Cliff (Boys of Lake Cliff #1-5), by K. Sterling

I grabbed a copy of The Boys of Lake Cliff, by K. Sterling when it had a free day back in 2018. I didn’t really remember than when I accepted an Audible copy of Hide and Keep recently. But having finished that first book I was please to the rest it hidden in my kindle.

Description:

Welcome To Lake Cliff

K. Sterling invites you to Lake Cliff to meet her most beloved heroes in this anthology of her Lake Cliff books.

Detective Lane West doesn’t do complicated. Especially when it comes to his personal life. Dr. Aiden Sharp is complicated. Complicated in ways Lane can barely get his mind around when he’s forced to babysit Aiden as a favor for the District Attorney. After that, things get very complicated.

Sage Bradley wants to make the world a better place. He’s handsome, smart, wealthy, a talented artist and always follows his heart. Unfortunately, someone wants him dead. Fate brings a mysterious man to Sage’s door and a romantic night turns into a tangled web of passion and danger.

Can you domesticate an international assassin? Can a criminal be reformed and play well with others?

Happily Ever After doesn’t always happen right away or as easily as you might imagine. Lavender must decide how much he’s willing to sacrifice for love and if he can make peace with his past.

Despite his hopes, fate isn’t ready to let Lane West settle into his own Happily Ever After peacefully. A new threat comes to Lake Cliff and he’s forced to team up with his worst nightmare.

This series begins with Aiden and Lane then switches briefly to Sage and Lavender before merging into the Lake Cliff books with all four characters.

Reviews:

Overall, this is one of those series that you academically understand isn’t great. The writing is passable, but the editing is a mess and nothing is believable in the slightest. But you somehow still want to know happens what next. Below are individual reviews.

Hide and Keep:*
This started out roughly for me and I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. However, it quickly smoothed out and found its rhythm. I enjoyed it a lot by the end.

Granted, I have a strong suspicion that the representation of Aspergers Syndrom isn’t at all accurate (and I feel like that is a term not used anymore). But I also don’t feel like it represented people with Aspergers in any sort of derogatory way. So I chose to accept that this is a fictional book with a fictional representative. Much as I did with the detective and forensic expert aspect of the book. Neither was well developed or integral to the plot.

I also felt the book went on a few chapters (and an epilogue) too long after the story came to a natural conclusion, and other reviews say there are editing issues. I can’t say I noticed them in the audio version I listened to. All in all, this isn’t a perfect book, but I’m awful glad to have a compilation of the first five books.

Safe and Sound:
Meh. Felt very much like an interlude between two books or the beginning of something, but not a story in its own right. If the latter, why break it off into a separate work? I also found it repetitive. I still like the characters, but that’s about all.

Spark and Flame:
Again, meh, only ok. I still like the characters, but the editing is a bit rough and the plot bounces around and doesn’t flow particularly well.

In the Kill:
This was disappointing. It had what could have been two interesting characters, who just weren’t and what could have been a fun plot, but wasn’t. The editing is subpar and the writing feels very much like someone who knows how to plot and structure a novel, but just couldn’t be bothered. Everything about this is perfunctory. Only one character has even a veneer of backstory, the other is a cardboard stand-in. The sex is matter-of-fact and uninteresting; this after the insta-attraction. Nothing invites the reader to feel invested in it, not the story, the characters, the romance, the sex, nothing.

Hide and Kill:
I have to admit I enjoyed this more than all of the others, except for the first one. The reason is mostly because of the banter between Lavender and Lane. I found it implausible but humorous. Actually, the whole plot is ridiculous–the idea that the Chief of Police is willing to work with and stand beside an assassin, as he kills people, is absurd. Nothing about the plot felt natural. But I still laughed as two alpha men needled each other.

That’s about all the book has going for it though. This plotline official killed any belief that Lane is a good Chief of Police and therefore a lot of his credibility as a character. And in doing so, literally whittled all four characters down to sexual partners. Which is especially frustrating since all the sex felt like place holders, even more now that there are two couples for Sterling to give sex scenes to. They held no emotional impact and felt redundant.

Further, both Aiden and Sage are becoming progressively more child-like as the series goes on (Sage especially). What’s more, he reminded me of no one more than Shaggy of Scooby-Doo. So, not particularly sexy even.

Lastly, (and this is a spoiler) the book incorporates one of my most hated tropes. Readers, FYI, if someone in your past (even family) has been toxic and hurt you, you are not required to forgive them. Authors, if a family has abused or abandoned a character in the past, they don’t deserve a redemptive arc. Having that family show up all tears and apologies puts the obligation of forgiveness on the shoulders of the victim. This can be re-victimization a lot of times. And the fact that Sterling had this drop on Lavender out of nowhere and he responded positively, instead of simply saying, “Get them out of my house,” before walking away, felt out of character and unrealistic. From the very first words of the chapter in which I realized this trope was coming, I was angry and I finished the book angry when they were at the wedding. I hate this. It’s too often included for cheap feels (and I think it was here) and doesn’t give due diligence to the painful history of trauma.

Bleed and Seek:
Ah, what am I going to do with this series? It’s always been ridiculous but it just seems to get more so as it goes one. The writing quality is deteriorating and the editing has always been questionable. And with two couples to try and give time to, the sex scenes have become formulaic and redundant. (I skim them at this point.) But despite all that I live for the interaction of the men, or rather Lavender with Aiden and Lane. (That’s Lavender and Aiden or Lavender and Lane. Only in pairs, it seems.) I don’t feel Sage has ever been developed to the same degree. Though the next book looks like it’ll focus on him, so maybe that will change. I am interested in knowing what happens, but not rushing out to buy more.


*I technically reviewed this a few weeks back. But I’ll copy it in order to keep all the reviews together.