Tag Archives: Skylar M. Cates

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Book Review: The Christmas Lights Battle, by Skylar M. Cates

I picked up a copy of The Christmas Light Battle, by Skylar M. Cates from Amazon on one of its freebie day. I read it as part of my Christmas Reading Challenge.
the christmas lights battle

For a single dad and his neighbor, the Christmas competition is on!

Julian Moss wants to give his children a happy Christmas. Since his divorce, Julian has no time for a social life; he’s been doing the tiring work of two parents while his cheating ex-husband dodges his responsibilities. If that isn’t stressful enough, he has to deal with his new—and ridiculously good-looking—neighbor and his noisy dogs. Christmas used to be Julian’s favorite holiday, but lately all he sees is the cost. Then Julian’s young son tells him about a Christmas lights competition with a much-needed prize.

Leo Adams is going to be alone for Christmas…again. All he’s ever wanted is to be accepted by his family, but he knows that will never happen. Deciding to focus on his career as a personal trainer, Leo develops a boot camp program on the beach, but he needs publicity. The lights competition offers Leo a way to get some free press, and if it annoys his snooty neighbor Julian—all the better.

The battle is on, and both Julian and Leo want to win. The stakes are high, the reward is great, and the neighbors are in it to win it. There’s nothing like a little competition to make Christmas at Shelby Beach extra merry and bright.

my review

On one hand, I thought this was super sweet. I liked both Leo and Julian. I liked that they healed one another and there was very little drama and/or angst between them. I appreciated the children and the presence of a supportive family and community. On the other hand, I thought there was some repetition and over-stressing of some elements. I think we’re told about a million times that Julian is a single parent and his children are the most important thing in his life, for example.

Additionally, I think I have to give one of my least favorite literary criticism here. I hate the dictate to show, not tell. Not because it’s wrong, but because it’s become so ubiquitous that it’s tossed out like confetti. But here I felt it’s truth. It seems like a lot of this book is told, instead of shown—especially in the beginning—and it created a distance between me (the reader) and the characters that didn’t need to be there.

Lastly, the ending felt a little rushed. Generally, however, I thought this a perfectly enjoyable Christmas romance.

the christmas light battle photo

Other Reviews:

Dogeared Day Dreams: Review Christmas Lights Battle

Recent Release Review: The Christmas Lights Battle by Skylar M. Cates

Come back this afternoon. I’ll be reviewing Dreaming Of a White Wolf Christmas, by Terry Spear and tomorrow, when I’ll be reviewing Solstice Surrender, by Tracy Cooper-Posey and Charley’s Christmas Wolf, by C.D. Gorri. Yep, I’ve started having to double up to fit all the reviews in by Chrismtas.

The Guy From Glamour

Book Review of The Guy From Glamour (The Guy #1), 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.