Wednesday, April 15, 2015

TBR Challenge: Simply Irresistible

Simply Irresistible
Rachel Gibson
Contemporary Romance
Chinooks Hockey Team/Book 1
Avon/January 1, 1998

Georgeanne Howard leaves her fiancé at the altar when she realizes she can't marry a man old enough to be her grandfather, no matter how rich he is. Hockey superstar John Kowalsky unknowingly helps her escape, and only when it's too late does he realize that he's absconded with his boss's bride. This bad boy isn't looking to be anybody's savior but his own. Still, a long night stretches ahead of them—a night too sultry to resist temptation. 

Seven years later, Georgeanne and John meet again. She is on her way to becoming Seattle's domestic darling and he is past his hellraising days. Shocked to learn that he has a daughter, John's determined to be part of her life. Georgeanne has loved John since the moment she jumped into his car, but will he risk the wrath of his boss, and one final chance at glory, to prove that this time his love will be everlasting?

Another month gone and another book off the TBR pile. Yeah! At this rate ... well, I'll always have a TBR pile but it does give a false sense of accomplishment. :)

This month's theme was contemporary. While I have read a few of Rachel Gibson's books, I own more than I've read. Simply Irresistible, and the series as a whole have popped up as recommend numerous times, which no doubt is why I picked them up.

Now, I'm not much for watching sports. Mostly because I find them boring. Slow with lots of down time, except for hockey and soccer. Those I'll watch. Not necessarily a whole game but I've been know stop and watch a while when channel surfing. So I was happy to see the hero was a professional hockey player. Turns out the downside was there is little hockey playing going on. I would have liked to read more about the culture these often violent men live in.

At first, I found Georgeanne annoyingly southern. Nothing against southern women but Georgeanne seemed to exemplify all the southern female clichés. She played helpless and batted her eyelashes to emphasis her poor little me cliché. After her and John's night together, we jump forward seven years and Georgeanne has become more secure in who she is and her abilities to take care of herself. She was definitely more likable.

John was okay in the beginning. He had this gorgeous woman in distress practically begging him to save her. He's a guy so he helps her out. She drives him crazy with her incessant chatter but he decides to focus on her luscious body instead. He does point out her nonstop talking and how he doesn't care about the stories she tells about people he doesn't know. Georgie is a little offended but that doesn't stop her from having a one night stand with the hunky hockey player.

Seven years have past without any contact between John and Georgeanne but that is about to change. Georgeanne has done well for herself, becoming part owner of a catering business. John is captain of the Chinooks hockey team and has left his drunk and disorderly lifestyle behind. When John finds out he has a daughter he is determined to be in her life. He's also mad as hell at Georgeanne for not telling him. I don't blame him but he did leave Georgeanne with the distinct impression that he wanted nothing to do with her. So in her defense, I can see why she didn't tell John. Plus, he broke her heart.

So they come to an agreement to allow John to get to know Lexi, the little girl. Of course there are some bumps in the road as well as a few very large potholes before they get to their happy ending. The part before those big potholes was probably my favorite part, seeing them slowly becoming a family. But then everything gets messed up and John and Georgeanne are at odds with Lexi in the middle. I'd say Lexi is my favorite character in the book. I never did really warm up to John or Georgeanne.

There is a secondary romance which I would have liked to see more time spent on developing but it is secondary so no such luck. I have a feeling I might have liked the hero and heroine more than John and Georgeanne.

So, going on the blurb, it was a fairly predictable romance and while I liked some parts, it left me feeling a bit disappointed.

Side note: I did read the second book in the series, See Jane Score, over five years ago and liked it a heck of a lot better. Link to review is below.

Rating: C

Chinooks Hockey Team Series ~

Simply Irresistable
See Jane Score
The Trouble With Valentine's Day
True Love and Other Disasters
Nothing But Trouble
Any Man of Mine

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review: The Scribe

The Scribe
Elizabeth Hunter
Contemporary Fantasy/PNR
The Irin Chronicles/Book 1
Self Published/October 15, 2013

Hidden at the crossroads of the world, an ancient race battles to protect humanity, even as it dies from within.

Ava Matheson came to Istanbul looking for answers, but others came looking for her. A reckless warrior guards her steps, but will Malachi’s own past blind him to the truth of who Ava might be? While ancient forces gather around them, both Ava and Malachi search for answers. 

Whispering voices. Deadly touch. Their passion should be impossible... or it could be the only thing that will keep them alive.

A shout out to Kristie from Ramblings on Romance for recommending The Scribe. I might have missed this wonderful fantasy and missed adding Elizabeth Hunter to my list of authors to read. 

Ava Matheson has traveled the word, photographing some of the most beautiful and brutal scenes. She comes to Istanbul to meet with a doctor she hopes can help her. Ava hears voices in her head. It's hard for her to be around crowds for obvious reasons. She thinks she's crazy but still holds out a small hope something can be done to "fix her", or at least lessen the voices. What she finds in Istanbul is far more than she expected and leads her into a world she could not have imagined. The world Hunter has created is fascinating for its history as well as how the inhabitants exist in concordance with our world. 

It's through these revelations Ava meets Malachi, a man who shadows her moves and the others who stalker her. Malachi wants to keep her safe but has to earn her trust first. Their relationship is a jagged mess of misinformation made believable through circumstances. Malachi has a mission which doesn't include falling for Ava. All that is set aside when he realizes she is much more than he thought, not only to his fellow Irin brethren but to himself. 

Ava is a strong heroine. She is accustomed to being on her own so she knows how to take care of herself. Her intelligence is evident when she eludes the Grigori when the try to follow her. I found her to be very likable. She doesn't intimidate easily and can hold her own with Malachi and his brothers. Malachi is equally a strong hero. He gives so much of himself for his brothers and then for Ava. It was wonderful to see how the relationship between these two develops into to an enduring love affair. 

The pacing is kept tight with just the right amount of tension and mystery. As more is revealed about Malachi and his brothers in arms, we also learn about Ava's connection to the Irin and her importance to the Grigori. The Grigori are the ancient beings who prey on women, making them desire the Grigori until they will do anything they are told. Then, the women are used and discarded like trash. It is these evil men Malachi and his brethren fight. The long held hatred between the Irin and the Grigori only builds as Ava and Malachi search for answers about Ava's ability and how it plays into the future of the Irin.

The feel of the story takes on not only a suspenseful romance but an exotic tone filling the senses with the sights, sounds and smells of Istanbul. It is an exotic location and Hunter's writing makes the reader want to absorb every essence that is Istanbul. I've never been there, and you wouldn't find it on my top ten list of places I want to visit. But now, now it might just make that list. 

The Scribe is a wonderful blend of romance, suspense, action and paranormal. One word of caution - there isn't a Happily Ever After at the end of The Scribe. Rather, this is the beginning of Ava and Malachi's story and it continues into the next two books of the trilogy. 

Rating: A

The Irin Chronicles Series ~

The Scribe
The Singer
The Secret

Thursday, April 9, 2015

ARC Review: Last One Home

Last One Home
Debbie Macomber
Contemporary/Romance
Ballantine Books/March 10, 2015

Growing up, Cassie Carter and her sisters, Karen and Nichole, were incredibly close -- until one fateful event drove them apart. After high school, Cassie ran away from home to marry the wrong man, throwing away a college scholarship and breaking her parents’ hearts. To make matters worse, Cassie had always been their father’s favorite -- a sentiment that weighed heavily on her sisters and made Cassie’s actions even harder to bear. 

Now thirty-one, Cassie is back in Washington, living in Seattle with her daughter and hoping to leave her past behind. After ending a difficult marriage, Cassie is back on her own two feet, the pieces of her life slowly but surely coming together. Despite the strides Cassie’s made, she hasn't been able to make peace with her sisters. Karen, the oldest, is a busy wife and mother, balancing her career with raising her two children. And Nichole, the youngest, is a stay-at-home mom whose husband indulges her every whim. Then one day, Cassie receives a letter from Karen, offering what Cassie thinks may be a chance to reconcile. And as Cassie opens herself up to new possibilities -- making amends with her sisters, finding love once more -- she realizes the power of compassion, and the promise of a fresh start.

Last One Home is not what I would consider a straight up romance. There is a romance but the sisters' relationships and their attempts at reconciliation is the driving force of the story. The main focus is Cassie and her desire to get back in touch with her sisters whom she has not seen since she left home at eighteen. Years have gone by with little communication between the sisters but that's all about to change.

Cassie Carter has done a lot of hard growing up since she left home as a teenager. Her marriage ended in disaster and she was lucky to get away. Cassie moves to Seattle with her twelve year old daughter to give them a better life. She's close to her childhood home but distant enough to give her the fresh start she's dreamed of. Part of the new life Cassie envisions for herself and her daughter is their own home. That's were Habitat for Humanity comes in along with Steve Brody.

Steve Brody is a workaholic and has no patience for anyone he thinks is a slacker. He allows his first look of Cassie to set his mind to the type of person she is. He really should learn not to judge a book by it's cover - or in this case, a person. Cassie doesn't let Steve's surly attitude get to her and stop her from making her dream of home ownership come true. I understood how Steve's past colored his objectivity when it came to Cassie but being a jerk right off the bat didn't exactly endear him to me.

Cassie's sisters, Karen and Nichole started off as immature bitches. They were still holding grudges against Cassie and her leaving without knowing the full story. It turns out their lives were not as perfect as they thought. Cassie showed how much she had matured by moving beyond the past and welcoming her sisters into her life. There were times when I felt sorry for Cassie and how everyone was treating her. The people in her life assumed they knew things about her and judged her on those assumptions. Some of the scenes evoked such strong emotions for Cassie, it took me by surprise.

It's not only Cassie Steve becomes closer to but also her daughter Aimee. Cassie and Aimee are a package deal. Cassie would do anything for Aimee and I did enjoy their close relationship but there were times when Cassie needed to take charge and be the parent, not the friend. Aimee was too manipulitive when it came to getting her mom and Steve together. She pushed and Cassie should have taken charge of the situation but she didn't which left me frustrated.

I really don't know how Cassie found the time to work as a stylist, volunteer as a women's shelter, put in hours at Habitat for Humanity and raise her daughter. When did this woman sleep? Add in a new romance and I had to wonder how anyone could realistically keep this schedule. Good thing this is fiction!

The plot takes a few turns which were mapped out early on so no real surprises. There are some emotional moments but ultimately, it's an easy, predictable story.

Rating: C+

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

ARC Review: Vanishing Girls

Vanishing Girls
Lauren Oliver
Contemporary Young Adult
HarperCollins/March 10, 2015

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before – before Dara kissed Parker, before Nick lost him as her best friend, before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred.

Now the two sisters, who used to be so close, aren't speaking. In an instant, Nick lost everything and is determined to use the summer to get it all back. 

But Dara has other plans. When she vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl has vanished, too—nine-year-old Elizabeth Snow—and as Nick pursues her sister, she becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances may be linked.

In this edgy and compelling novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

The relationships between sisters can run the gamut of best friends for life to wanting to choke the life of out each other. With Dara and Nick, it runs somewhere in between. They are only eleven months apart with Nick being the elder. Nick also wears the title of perfect older sister to Dara's rebellious little sister. They each feel they have very defined roles in their family. There are a lot of underlying issues both sisters have with each other, not the least of which is resentment. Nick resents Dara for having to clean up the messes her rebellions make and Dara resents Nick for always being first and best.

The sisters' relationship is not the only one explored but it is kept central to the story. The secondary relationships allow the reader to see how Dara and Nick relate to the people in their lives. So much of the push of the story hinges on finding the truth of what happened on the night of the accident. Through experiencing memories of before the accident, we see how Dara and Nick's relationship had begun to deteriorate with neither one of them knowing how to fix the ever growing rift between them. I loved how even while you feel the animosity between them, there is still the underlying love they will always have for each other.

The plot twist took me by surprise and being surprised took me by surprised. (You know what I mean.) I usually, but not always, figure out what the twist is or at least have some clue before the big reveal but not this time. This time when I read the plot twist my reaction ran along the lines of "wait...what?" I had to re-read the section in order to absorb what had happened. A shrink might say I didn't see it coming because I didn't want it to be true. Whatever the reason, I didn't like it and I'll leave it at that.

Even after my reaction to the plot twist, I still enjoyed the overall story. Oliver can write, there's no denying it. She is able to make her characters feel an array of strong emotions all while conveying those emotions to the reader, making this story a page turner.

Rating: A-

Saturday, March 28, 2015

ARC Review: We All Looked Up

We All Looked Up
Tommy Wallach
Young Adult/Pre-Apocalypse
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
March 24, 2015

Four high school seniors put their hopes, hearts, and humanity on the line as an asteroid hurtles toward Earth in this contemporary novel.

Peter, the star basketball player at his school, is worried “they” might actually be right. Meanwhile Eliza can’t wait to escape Seattle—and her reputation—and perfect-on-paper Anita wonders if admission to Princeton is worth the price of abandoning her real dreams. Andy, for his part, ddoesn'tunderstand all the fuss about college and career—the future can wait.

Or can it? Because it turns out the future is hurtling through space with the potential to wipe out life on Earth. As these four seniors—along with the rest of the planet—wait to see what damage an asteroid will cause, they must abandon all thoughts of the future and decide how they’re going to spend what remains of the present.

This is a scenario which could potentially happen. We do hear about asteroids coming what science calls "close to earth", when in reality they are millions of miles away. But for the characters in Tommy Wallach's We All Looked Up, coming close isn't a factor. This asteroid is almost destined to make impact. It's a pity the characters and their story didn't leave a great impact on this reader.

The story starts out with getting to know these teens and their lives prior to the devastating news that will change their lives. What I found interesting is the different reactions to the news of the asteroid. Some people pull closer to their families while others rebel against everything and everyone. It makes you wonder if they are going against their nature or if the event is bringing out their true nature.  It's always good when a book makes you think.

The main characters don't have much in common at the beginning but band together and find some surprising commonalities  as they come to know each other. The pairings up would not have occurred in real life but this is a surreal life these characters are living, knowing their lives might be ending in a very short amount of time.  Might as well make the most of it seems to be the prevailing attitude.

If the plot had continued focusing on the main characters the story would have held my interest but instead we are lead into another direction. The world of drugs and crime populated by thugs left me caring little for the outcome of these characters. They continued to make poor, idiotic choices, wasting away the time they had instead of appreciating it.

In the end, while I wanted to care about these characters, about the changes they made prior to the asteroids impact, I felt a bit empty by the end.

Rating: C-

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

TBR Challenge: Once in a Lifetime

Once in a lifetime
Jill Shalvis
Contemporary Romance
Lucky Harbor/Book 9
Grand Central Publishing/February 18, 2014

SOMETIMES WRONG IS OH-SO-RIGHT

After a wrenching loss, Ben McDaniel tried to escape his grief by working in dangerous, war-torn places like Africa and the Middle East. Now he's back in his hometown and face-to-face with Aubrey Wellington, the hot-as-hell woman who is trouble with a capital T. Family and friends insist she's not the one to ease his pain, but Aubrey sparks an intense desire that gives Ben hope for the future.

Determined to right the wrongs of her past, Aubrey is working hard to make amends. But by far, the toughest challenge to her plan is sexy, brooding Ben - even though he has absolutely no idea what she's done...

Can this unlikely couple defy the odds and win over the little town of Lucky Harbor?

Aubrey is a former troubled teen and beauty queen but if you stop at that simple description, you would be missing out on a lot. After her latest, very public embarrassment, she's reforming herself. Aubrey has decided to atonement to everyone she's wronged. So she makes a list and checks it off as she goes but one name on the list is causing her a lot of problems.

Ben McDaniels' wife Hannah died five years ago and since then Ben has been making himself scarce in Lucky Harbor. Instead, he travels around the world, helping others. Ben works in dangerous places around the world, running from his memories in Lucky Harbor. But he keeps coming back because it's home and his family is there. When he finds himself back in Lucky Harbor he has no plans to stay long but those plans change when Aubrey Wellington runs across his path.

The chemistry between Aubrey and Ben is there but there is also reluctance on both their parts to give in to any desires. That reluctance doesn't last long and soon Ben and Aubrey have moved past their hesitancy into a not-so-serious relationship. It was believable but I didn't like the way everyone warned Ben away from Aubrey, implying she wasn't good enough for him. Ben garnered sympathy because of his dead wife and Aubrey was known as the town screw up but I think that had just as much to do with her mistakes as with jealousy over her looks.

Often there is a secondary relationship which can sometimes be just as interesting, if not more, than the main couple. In this case, the secondary relationship I enjoyed is between Ben and his cousin Luke. They are more like brothers, growing up together after Luke's mom took Ben in when he was left alone in the world. It's a beautiful relationship filled with love, laughter and mutual harassing of each other. I found myself wishing they had more page time which I can't remember ever happening with two straight guys.

Once in a Lifetime, the ninth book in the series, left me less than satisfied. There is a feeling of sameness to the stories. I know where it's going, which isn't always bad but there are few if any surprises along the way. Surprises are good, they keep our interest piqued. I do plan to read the rest of the series in the hopes there are still a few surprises along the way.

Rating: C

Lucky Harbor Series ~

Simply Irresistible 
The Sweetest Thing
Kissing Santa Claus novella in the anthology Small Town Christmas
Head Over Heels
Lucky in Love
At Last 
Forever and a Day
It Had to Be You
Always On My Mind
Once In a Lifetime
It's In His Kiss
He's So Fine
One In a Million

Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: Third Degree

Third Degree
Julie Cross
Contemporary/ New Adult
Flirt/March 25, 2014

I used to be “Isabel Jenkins, child prodigy.” As lame as that sounds, at least it was an identity. But now I’m not sure what I am. I just failed the most important exam of my life—the emotional readiness test required to get into a medical residency program—and it turns out my parents can’t stand each other. Now I’m trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces of my life, and that means re-enrolling as a college freshman, but this time I’m shutting the books and majoring in being eighteen.

But so far, my roommate hates me and I’m not into the party scene. The only good thing about school has been getting to know my insanely hot RA. Marshall Collins makes me wonder about everything I missed while I was growing up too fast. Pretty soon we’re hanging out constantly, but for the first time, I find myself wanting more than a no-strings-attached physical relationship. And the lesson I really need is one Marsh definitely can’t teach me: love. Because I’m going to be alone forever if I don’t learn fast.

Oh, this was such an enjoyable story! I'm surprised at how much the young me inside could identify with Izzy and it has nothing to do with her genius IQ. Izzy's an oddity in the world of medicine. An eighteen year old with her M.D., she is freakishly book smart but her life experiences are so limited when it comes to human interaction she stumbles and falls often.

After failing to get into a residency program, the genius Izzy heads back to college. Not so much for the traditional classroom experience but for the life experience. To help Izzy gain this experience is her R.A. (resident adviser), Marshall Collins. He's hot, funny and attracted to Izzy. He also genuinely likes Izzy for who she is. He does give her advice about tempering her need to diagnosis everyone as he helps Izzy learn to fit in.

Marsh comes up with a plan for Izzy to experience college life and teen life to the fullest. To experience what she has been missing out on while she was busy earning her doctorate when most teens were in high school. Marsh is playful, cheerful, mischievous and sweet and just an all around good guy. Yes, we females tend to be intrigued by "bad boys" but there is something to be said about the good guys.

Izzy and Marsh's relationship is running along fairly smoothly but we know it will hit a rough patch and it does. How they both handle it shows that maturity and intelligence do not always go hand in hand. Izzy begins to realize just how much she has missed out on because of her unconventional upbringing. She has had great opportunities but missing those everyday teenage activities has lead to her struggles to form healthy relationships. Cross does a good job showing this through Izzy's revelations about herself as she works through her new emotional side.

Third Degree is a smart, funny and adept look at how Izzy and Marsh cope with their challenges and how they learned to lean on each other's strengths.

Rating: B+

Monday, March 9, 2015

Review: Hard Time

Hard Time
Cara McKenna
Contemporary Romance
Penguin/April 15, 2014

My pounding heart went still, eerie as birds fallen silent in the wake of a gunshot.

He was big. Tall frame, wide shoulders-but not burly. His near-black hair was due for a cut, curling under his ears. Dark brows, dark stubble, dark lashes and eyes.

And he was handsome. So handsome it broke your heart.

A deck of cards was split between his hands, paused midshuffle. Some of the men wore navy scrub tops and bottoms, some navy tee shirts, a few white undershirts. This man wore a tee, with COUSINS stenciled on the front, above the number 802267. Those digits imprinted on my brain, burned black as a brand.

He watched me. But not the way the others did. If he was trying to picture me naked, his poker face was strong, though his attention anything but subtle. His entire head moved as I passed through his domain, but his eyes were languorous. Lazy and half-lidded, yet intense. A hundred looks in one. I didn't like it. Couldn't read it. At least with the horny jerk-offs, I knew where I stood. I wondered what the worst thing you could do and still only get sent to a medium-security prison was. I hoped not to ever learn the answer.

And I hoped to heaven inmate 802267 hadn't signed up for any of the day's programs.

So very different and so very good! It's not often romance readers get to see and experience the inside of a prison. As the story opens, librarian Annie Goodhouse is on her way to her first day at Cousins Correctional Facility. She, of course, is nervous. Who wouldn't be, knowing you will be in a room full of convicted criminals with only a handful of guards to protect you? But Annie wants to help and she's curious about the inmates. It's an environment not many outsiders have access to so there's bound to be some curiosity. There is also fear and trepidation. Annie has some doubts as to what she is doing and if she can really help any of these men.

Inmate 802267 catches Annie's eye right away. He stands out in a room full of dangerous men. It's the way he holds himself and the way he looks at her. Annie is very aware of his presence as Eric, inmate 802267, is very aware of her. Eric Collier has been locked up for five years on a ten year sentence. He's quiet, thoughtful but can be dangerous if pushed. I found Eric to be an interesting character but the interest, at the beginning, is more of how Annie reacts to Eric than Eric himself.

The first part of the story takes place at the prison while the rest takes place outside prison. I found the beginning to be more tense and intriguing. After the prison, the romance became far more similar to other "good girl/bad boy" romances. Annie believes in the good in Eric while Eric is still very aware of the bad in himself. It's not so much that he apologizes for himself but he doesn't think he's good enough for Annie and there were times when I agreed. He became less alpha and more subservient to Annie towards the ending.

The insight Annie give gives to her experiences in Cousins is revealing not only in what goes on in prisons but what an outsider is exposed to. Annie realizes some of her preconceptions are accurate while others, not so much.

Rating: A-

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review: Lovely Wild

Lovely Wild
Megan Hart
Contemporary Fiction
MIRA/November 25, 2014

Brought up in the savage captivity of her unstable grandmother's rural Pennsylvania home, Mari Calder once yearned for rescue. Now she struggles every day to function as an adult in the confines of normal society. Left with only a foggy recollection of her childhood, she's consumed with being a dutiful wife to her husband, Ryan, and mother to their two children.

But an unexpected twist of events returns her to that long-forgotten house in the woods. Soon, Mari is greeted with reminders of a past life, the clarified memories only inviting a new level of strangeness into her fragile world. To protect her family, she must find the beautiful, powerful strength hidden in her inner chaos. Because someone is bent on exploiting Mari's trauma, and as normal and wild begin to blend, a string of devastating truths force Mari to question all she thought she knew.

I don't always know what to expect from Megan Hart other than a good story. Maybe I should expect the unexpected? Lovely Wild is clearly a deviation from Hart's erotic romance roots but she still delivers her thought provoking writing and emotional punches in true Hart style. Don't shy away from this because it is not a romance. It's a story not to be missed and hard to put down.

I dare you not to feel sorry for Mari. She is different and she knows it which is why she is not always comfortable around people. There is little to no pretense with Mari, she says what she means and doesn't lie. But she doesn't always know what to say in "normal" circumstances. After getting to know Mari and her background, I didn't feel like Mari was less than normal. Mari makes you see how what is considered normal is often fake and insincere, which Mari doesn't know how to be.

As the story progresses, Mari finds her life circling around to where she started, at the house in the woods. It's here Mari confronts her past as well as how the past fits in with her present and future. Her children are the most important people to Mari but they are not the only family she has. It's family, in all forms, that Mari must deal with.

Seeing Mari back at her beginnings, it's eye opening. She has come so far but still has a ways to go. What I enjoyed seeing is how Mari interactions with her children. She may not have the traditional background of growing up with a loving mother but she is a wonderful mother. It's instinctual with Mari. So while she is having trouble in her marriage she continues to nurture and protect her kids.

One thing that sets this story apart is the different point of view. We not only get Mari's POV but also her husband Ryan's and her teenage daughter Kenda. This gave the story a different feel than it would have had it all been told from Mari's POV. While I didn't like Mari's husband, I wouldn't say seeing events through his eyes made me sympathetic towards him, it did help to understand why he made some real bad choices. Mari's daughter Kenda comes off as they stereo-typical self-absorbed teen but her observations show she is more aware than her parents think she is.

Towards the end is where the plot became less filled with surprises and more filled with predictability. Mari's world is not wrapped up in a pretty bow but ended up closer to normal than where it felt Mari should be.

Rating: A-

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: Closer Than You Think

Closer Than You Think
Karen Rose
Romantic Suspense
Cincinnati/Book 1
Signet/February 3, 2015

Psychologist Faith Corcoran is desperate to escape the stalker who’s made her life a nightmare for the past year—desperate enough to run to the one place that has been her nightmare far longer. Both boon and bane, her recent inheritance of her grandmother’s old house in Cincinnati offers sanctuary in which she can start her life anew, but requires that she face the dark memories that still resonate to this day. 

But she has no idea how close to home her fears still are. 

Two college girls have gone missing in the area, and FBI Special Agent Deacon Novak is called to work on the case. When his inquiry unexpectedly leads him to Faith, he finds a beautiful and brave woman he can’t help but fall for. Soon they’ll discover that this seemingly simple investigation is anything but. Reaching back decades into Faith’s own past, it will shatter everything she believes to be true and will give terrifying new meaning to flesh and blood.

The start of a new series from a favorite author can be exciting. While this is a new location and some new characters there are a few familiar characters, most notably the hero, Deacon Novak.

Deacon is a very physically distinct character but beyond his physical attributes, he is intelligent, determined and a risk taker. He's an FBI agent and while he follows the rules, he also thinks outside the box. It was good to learn more about Deacon, about his past and his family. It helped make him a more complete character rather than this shadowy form in a leather coat. I did find him almost ordinary but I think that was due more to the build up in previous books as well as his unique features. Was I expecting some type of superhero? Maybe. Turns out he's more of an everyday hero.

Faith Corcoran is an intelligent psychologist who is trying to escape her past. She has changed her name and moved in an attempt to be safe. Faith's intelligence is not hidden or downplayed in a false attempt to make her seem more vulnerable and I liked that. Faith certainly still has vulnerable moments, but through intelligence and sometimes luck, she survives. She also doesn't treat Deacon like a freak of nature but sees the allure of his physical differences.

I've always thought Rose can write some creepy, nasty villains,but this time she may have just outdone herself. Sick bastard sounds about right. Rose keeps the reader guessing as to who the villain really is. We are also introduced to some new secondary characters who added another layer to the plot. The plot itself is intrinsic to both Deacon and Faith resolving the struggles and suffering in their pasts.

Like many of Rose's romances, this one happens quickly but doesn't feel rushed. Along with the quick pace of the suspense, so goes the romance between Deacon and Faith. At one point I couldn't believe it had only been two days since Deacon and Faith met. It felt like they had known each other for years. It had to do with the way they clicked with each other. The suspense and danger do throw them together in stressful situations which only seems to enhance the attraction.

With the first book in a "newish" series read, I already find myself looking forward to the next book. I wonder who the hero and heroine will be? For now, only Ms. Rose knows.

Rating: B+

Cincinnati Series ~

Closer Than You Think