Book Review: Known by Kendra Elliot

Known (Bone Secrets, #5)Known by Kendra Elliot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this tale of two people, Chris and Gianna, both with damaged pasts, coming together when a killer targets Gianna.

This book had a lot of tropes I like, such as the stranded in a snowstorm, the scarred/wounded hero, the intriguing suspense plot, and it was competently written.

I liked that Chris was a solitary loner; quiet, tense, and a little grumpy. He had scars from when he’d been kidnapped by a serial killer as a child, both internal and external. He was very capable and deadly. My one complaint was that his very serious, dramatic background as a child played no part in the current mystery. I would have liked that to have more impact on the current plot, because while it played a part in his character backstory, it felt like a very dramatic part of the narrative not to use more. I think, though, that this same plot may have been explored a little more in a previous book I haven’t read, which based on this book is about Chris’s biological brother and his adopted sister. (As far as I can tell it’s not incest-y, though).

I was also a bit disappointed that Gianna’s role as a medical examiner never came into play. She never even went to work on the page. It was, again, a shame to waste such an interesting profession, which could have been very relevant and useful in a suspense plot.

Another thing I didn’t like – but this is totally personal preference – was the scenes from the villain’s POV. I’m just generally not a fan of this, as it rarely adds to the overall story. The villain should be scary from the POV of the hero and heroine. We shouldn’t need to be privy to his thoughts in order to feel afraid of him.

I listened to this in audio. I thought the narrator was fine – I’d heard her narrate a different book, and she’s solid. However, and this isn’t something that’s the narrator’s fault, just something I noticed I think because I was listening to this book not reading it: the author overused ‘stated’ A LOT. As in, ‘he stated/she stated’. It drove me nuts. I finally understand the advice to writers about not overusing words other than ‘said’.

Overall, I would recommend this to people who like more low-key heroes with their suspense, and an intriguing mystery or two to go along with it.

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Review: Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole

This is my March book for my 2017 Reading Challenge. The theme was #OwnVoices.

2017-reading-challenge-min

 

Brief plot:

The power has been out for weeks, creating a kind of apocalypse. Unsure what’s going on, Arden and her friend John leave their apartment for John’s family home in the wilds outside the city. When they get there, Arden meets John’s brother Gabriel, and the two fall in love while trying to stay safe and figure out what made the power go out.

radio silence

My Thoughts:

I don’t usually go for first person narratives, but I’ve enjoyed a few of Alyssa Cole’s books before (Let It Shine and Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight).  Plus, it was post-apocalyptic! (Kind of). Who can resist that?

I did enjoy reading this, though the short word count made the beginning of Arden and Gabriel’s relationship focus a bit too much on the lust side of things. Insta-lust doesn’t particularly interest me as a reader.

I liked the ambiguity of what had happened with the blackout (that may be explored in the other two books in the series), and I liked that not everything was wrapped up neatly. Arden’s parents were still in California, with Arden having no clue as to their fate.

I also liked the diversity. Arden is African-American, and Gabriel and John (and the rest of their family) are Korean-American.

And Alyssa Cole is just a really good writer. I like her voice and the attitude she infused into Arden’s inner thoughts, and the vulnerability, too. The sexual tension between Arden and Gabriel was pretty hot as well. However, I did think that when the two of them first had sex, I didn’t quite buy the emotional transition from Arden’s misery (which had been so emotionally devastating a few paragraphs earlier) into sexytimes. I think more of a breather between those two scenes would have helped me get into the right headspace.

All in all, I definitely recommend this book.

Did I learn anything by reading this:

Don’t be afraid to dig deep into your character’s darker emotions. Mine them for all the emotion you can wring from them.

Would I read this genre again:

Definitely! I love post-apocalyptic romance, and I am always on the hunt for more Own Voices and diverse books.

Final thoughts:

Read if you like diversity, apocalypses, and want a quick, satisfying read.

What Own Voices books did you read this month?

Review: Forced Disappearance by Dana Marton

Forced DisappearanceForced Disappearance by Dana Marton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was okay. I enjoyed the survival in the jungle elements – I love that stuff. I liked that they had to think their way out of dangerous situations, and figure out smart ways to stay safe/fed/sheltered/etc.

I thought the hero was fine, if a little forgettable. I much preferred him during the survival in Venezuela part of the book. I liked his resourcefulness and persistence. But once they got out of the jungle and he turned back into the billionaire businessman I lost interest. Private jets and ridiculously unrealistic hotel rooms in Vienna (surprisingly) don’t do it for me at all.

I found the heroine’s wound to be a little inconsistent. Sometimes she couldn’t be with the hero because of her dead husband and child, and sometimes because of her Big Secret (which wasn’t connected to her dead family at all). It just made the heroine seem like she’d suffered an unnecessary amount of trauma. Otherwise, I liked the descriptions of her. I like that she was described as strong and lean and short-haired rather than ‘curvy in all the right places’. It was a nice change.

Plus, I listened to this in audio, and the narrator’s dialogue for the heroine sounded e-x-a-c-t-l-y like Lauren Holly, which was cool but distracting.

I’m interested enough in the set up for this company to read the next book, but hopefully that one has more of the survival stuff and less of the billionaire nonsense.

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Review: All I Am by Nicole Helm

All I Am (A Farmers' Market Story, #2)All I Am by Nicole Helm
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book a lot. Some of that was because it was just my favourite kind of dynamic – wounded, virgin, decent hero, and sexually experienced and kind (if a little broken herself) woman. But that’s not to take away from Helm’s skilled writing. She crafted two likeable characters, and I really enjoyed their journey.

Wes is a loner – a hermit, even. He hates people, and his gruff and grumpy demeanour keeps them away. It works out well for everyone, until Cara bursts into his life and starts turning everything around. But she’s got her own issues to deal with.

I don’t think this book will work for everyone. We spend a lot of time in the characters’ heads dealing with their issues. I didn’t mind it because I liked them so much, but I could see it being frustrating for some reasons.

I also wasn’t entirely convinced by Wes’s reasoning for keeping Cara away from his mother. It felt a little like the author was trying to force a ‘black moment’ for her characters.

All in all, though, I really loved this book. It’s everything I could have wanted from one of my favourite dynamics! I definitely found it a lot more enjoyable to read than All I Have by far. Mostly because the characters were more my thing, but also because we didn’t have to deal with such awful secondary characters (unless you count Cara’s “friends”). I did get very emotionally invested in Wes and Cara’s story, and did cry a bit at the end. A great book!

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Review: All I Have by Nicole Helm

All I Have (A Farmers' Market Story, #1)All I Have by Nicole Helm
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a really hard review for me to write. I wasn’t even sure how to rate this book. Based on my enjoyment level of it, it should probably only get 2-2.5 stars. But that was far more to do with what I brought to the reading, than the quality of the book itself.

Let me explain.

The story is that two people with competing market stalls at a farmer’s market – Mia and Dell – end up starting a relationship and falling in love.

It sounds like a fun premise, but the conflict and tension is high, meaning it isn’t as fun a read as the premise suggests. I already wasn’t primed to like this book. The virgin woman/sexually experienced man dynamic is one that I generally dislike, even by extremely skilled writers. It didn’t work for me here, either, but again that was because of my own preferences, not anything to do with the book itself.

The main problem I had is that so many of the characters were simply awful to each other, in really subtle, unpleasant ways. Dell bullied Mia, trying to put her out of business. I don’t care what his reasoning was, I thought he was a complete asshat.

Dell’s father was a dick to Dell. The two couldn’t have a civil conversation. One of the main things that gets me upset when reading (which I never fully understood until reading this book) is when a character simply won’t listen to what a protagonist has to say, or willfully misunderstands them. Dell’s relationship with his father was like this, and I found it deeply unsettling in their scenes together. Dell’s brother was honestly not much better.

Similarly, Mia’s relationship with her mother was smothering. The fact that the woman was horrified because her 26-year-old daughter was in a relationship – it was horrible judgey and made me deeply uncomfortable how guilty she tried to make Mia. It was so uncomfortable to read. I don’t care that they tried to make her have a sympathetic back story later in the book. The fact that she made her daughter feel so awful made her unforgivable in my book.

Obviously, since I was so upset by these things, I was not the right person to enjoy this book. I suppose what I’m saying is that if you like the virgin heroine/playboy man dynamic, and aren’t too fussed about people the protagonists love being awful to them, then you’ll most likely enjoy this book more than I did. However, I am already reading All I Am and thoroughly enjoying it. With the virgin hero, and no awful secondary characters, it’s far more my speed.

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Review: The Fixer by HelenKay Dimon

The FixerThe Fixer by HelenKay Dimon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Emery is looking for the man she thinks abducted or killed her cousin many years ago. She finds Wren’s name in her uncle’s files on the case and thinks he’s connected. Turns out, he was just someone that the man thought might help.

Wren becomes quickly intrigued with Emery and the case, and agrees to help her. Despite their differences, they realise they make a good team.

I enjoyed this. I love awkward heroes and while I didn’t quite buy that such a successful manipulator of people could be so clueless, I was willing to go along with it.

My only real complaint about the book is that I got quite frustrated by the circular conversations. Their conflict was almost entirely due to the fact that they couldn’t communicate – particularly in the beginning. So, one of them would say something (fairly obvious to the reader) and the other character would demand an explanation, which they may or may not end up getting. It got better towards the end because Emery began to understand Wren. But I don’t think he ever really learned to understand her.

Other than that, the book was fine. I thought the villain was a bit too obvious, but maybe that was just me.

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Review: Undecided by Julianna Keyes

2017-reading-challenge-min

I read this as my January book for my 2017 Reading Challenge/Book Club. The theme was ‘Read an Indie Author’, so I picked this book that got rave reviews and had been sitting on my TBR pile for a while.

Brief Plot:

A New Adult Romance about a young woman trying to atone for her wild first year in college. She moves in with the college stud – whom she happened to hook up with the previous year – but ends up falling for his best friend.

My Thoughts:

This is usually the kind of book I avoid. Firstly, I tend to hate first person POV. And secondly, angsty New Adult Romances generally have dickhole “heroes” and “broken” women that the guy can get protective over. But I’d heard that this book wasn’t like that – and they were right. Despite me being unsure at first, Crosbie turns out to be adorable. Nora is flawed, but determined.

Julianna Keyes is a skilled writer. I really felt all the pain and awkwardness of Nora’s situation and everything she goes through. I did think that she made too big a deal out of some things, and determinedly stuck to her course for a bit too long. But it was in character and consistent with what I knew of her. If I had one complaint about the book – which is so minor as to be insignificant – is that maybe I didn’t feel the joy as strongly as I felt all the pain.

This book overcame all my reservations and made me feel a whole bunch of things – so it gets 5 stars.

Did I learn anything by reading this:

I certainly learned what a difference a cover could make. I wasn’t interested in this book at all based on the first cover. And though I don’t love the second cover, it’s not nearly as off-putting. Mostly because it doesn’t imply a love triangle.

Would I read in this genre again:

In New Adult? Hmmm, probably only if the book is highly recommended by someone that really knows my reading tastes.

An Indie Author? Of course!

Final Thoughts:

Read it if you like beta heroes, college-aged characters, and feeling all the feels.

Which Indie Authors did you read this month?