February Reads

On Paper/eBook
Fish & Chips by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux – C+/B-  Once again, a strange read for me.  I’m quite conflicted about this series.  I wonder if it’s partly because I keep expecting there to be a lot more sex than there is.  Other books by these two authors are much more full of sexytimes and maybe I went in thinking this would be more the same.  It is actually structured more like a “mainstream” RS novel, but with 2 boys instead of a girl and a guy.  That said, the suspense plot didn’t make a great deal of sense for me and the ending was anticlimatic. In the end, I felt it was more about a way to get these two guys onboard a cruiseship and pretending to be lovers rather than anything organic.  The relationship between Ty and Zane progressed, with one of them admitting his true feelings and both of them in a better place emotionally.  Again, I enjoyed the second half better than the first as this is where the “emotional meat” of the story is.  If all of the book had been more like that, I would have been much happier.   I decided to have a break before I read Divide & Conquer which is the latest (and, I believe the last?) in the series.
The Commitment by Dan Savage B+ This book charts the course of Dan Savage and Terry Miller’s journey to a marriage ceremony in Vancouver around their 10 year anniversary.  There is a lot of discussion about marriage equality and family and it is delivered with Savage’s trademark humour.  I enjoyed it very much.  My only real quibbles were with some names and facts which seemed to have changed from the previous book (which were easily noticeable to me as I read them back to back).  For instance, Dan’s nephew was “Mars” in The Kid but in The Commitment he’s “Thor”.  I get that even in a memoir some names will be changed to protect the innocent, but I think there should be consistency or an explanation in the text for the change.  I can’t help it.  I notice details like that.    I saw an obituary for Dan Savage’s mother on line and it referred to various family members including Thor, so I guess that is his real name and it may be that the earlier name was because he was only a toddler when the first book was written?  The obit also had Terry’s last name as different to Miller which threw me a bit.  My curiosity is piqued but as it is most unlikely I will ever have the privilege of being actual friends with Dan and Terry (which I would love), I will probably never know.

The Best Mistake by Kate Watterson – C This sexy short novella had a very promising start – Lacey comes over to boyfriend Ran’s apartment late at night after getting back from an interstate trip.    For entirely believable reasons, it is Rick (Ran’s cousin) in bed and when Lacey gives him a “hey-honey-I’m-home” surprise, both are mortified.  I liked how Lacey’s reaction included that she had all but raped Rick – I liked the notion that she took responsibility for her actions and accepted that she did not have Rick’s willing consent.   It was a small point which didn’t need to be more fully explored really because Rick doesn’t regard Lacey’s actions as rape, but I’m glad it was in there as something which crossed her mind and for which she apologised.  However, after such a promising (and hot) start, the book took a steep downward turn for me when Lacey was basically ambushed by Rick and Ran (what’s with the two names anyway?  I was constantly getting them confused – maybe that was the point) into agreeing to a threesome.  Especially given that consent was something that had come up before, it just read wrong to me.  I would have much more appreciated Ran and Lacey HAVING A CONVERSATION about this privately and reaching agreement before Ran broached the subject with Rick.  This could easily have been done and would have made such a difference to my squick factor about this book.    To top it all off, Lacey decides to allow Rick to have sex with her WITHOUT A CONDOM and I thought this was, stupid, dangerous and frankly, icky.  The beginning was a B, the end was a D.  So, via the law of averages, I settled on a C for the grade.
Dirty by Megan Hart – A       Tempted by Megan Hart – C-
  Naked by Megan Hart – C-      Stranger by Megan Hart – B+

Go here for more information on my recent Megan Hart glomfest.

Rent-A-Stud by Lynn LaFleur – C-   This Kindle freebie was just all kinds of wrong for me.  The set up is this:  21 year old daughter sets up 39 year old mother with an escort for a special gala and specifically asks said escort to ensure that sex is included in the deal.  That’s WAY too much information for my comfort.  There’s a lot of mother/daughter interaction that I thought was kind of weird.  I don’t want to buy lingerie for my mum and I DO NOT want to see her model it.  I certainly DON’T BUY HER SEX TOYS (seriously, there was a whole box of “goodies” including anal beads and a butt plug!).  So, that’s the first bit of WTFery for me.  Then, as I said, he’s an escort.  He sleeps with almost all of his clients.  Nevertheless, they’re condom free by the end of the weekend!  I mean, Dude – really?!?.
There is plenty of hot sex (which was well written) but I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief to buy into the story.  The story graded as high as it did because the sex was pretty hot.
Also, Is it just me or is the dude on the cover super-hairy (and not in a good way)?
Paper Planes by M. Jules Aedin – A-/B+    ** pick of the month **  I really loved this one.  The author’s voice sucked me right in by page 2 and I was teary by page 3.  I love it when a book does that! 😀
Stuart’s lover Brendan was killed in a terrorist incident and Stuart has found himself a de facto spokesperson for gay rights as a result.  He’s still very much dealing with the grief of losing his partner.  He meets pilot, Dustin McDonough (who is of Korean extraction, which you would not expect from his name) and they commence a slow build of flirtation which eventually leads to a relationship and then their HEA.  It doesn’t sound like all that much when I put it that way, but the journey was just beautiful.    The story takes place over a fairly long period of time (there are gaps where nothing much happens and we skip ahead a few months, so it’s not boring) and the development of the relationship as Stuart becomes ready to move on is appropriate and timely and realistic.     There is also plenty of good lovin’ as Stuart and Dustin manage their long distance relationship – just because the story itself is kind of gentle, don’t worry – the sex is smokin’.
We don’t get Dustin’s point of view in the story, but there is enough to make it plain what he’s thinking and feeling and I didn’t miss it all that much.
Dustin is an above knee amputee as a result of an accident.  The way this is dealt with in the story is really good.  I don’t know much about amputations but it seemed right to me.  The disability is present, it is dealt with, the practical realities of only having one leg are there.  It is not fetishised or over dramatised or a cause of any great angst.  It just is, and they both deal with it.  I really enjoyed this aspect of the story.
Stuart begins the story at age 34 and Dustin is 48.  I liked the older heroes and I liked how it was acknowledged in the story without it being belaboured.  It was nice to read a book about a more mature hero.    I don’t think the cover picture looks much like Dustin – he’s older and I pictured him as a little more refined – he has silver hair at his temples.
What bothered me about this the most is that I didn’t get any idea what Stuart looked like – there wasn’t any description of him at all other than some idle comments from others that he was “hot’.  I know he was at least a little taller than Dustin but that’s about it.
The story did lack a bit by way of conflict – what there was was fairly gentle and it was time more than anything that Stuart and Dustin needed in order to get their HEA.  The bits with secondary characters Dan and Jay seemed unncessary and could have been left out I think.
Overall, though, I think I’ve found a new favourite author!  It’s a great book. I highly recommend it.  In fact, it’s my ** pick of the month **
Academic Pursuits by Lou Harper – C+  An entertaining enough read about Jamie, who is a rich, good looking man whore college student and Roger, a fellow student and sculptor.
There was plenty of sex, but most of it was Jamie with other people (not Roger) and the two main characters took too long to get together IMO.
The end was abrupt and I really needed a few more pages to seal the deal.  I wasn’t actually sure they were in a relationship by the end.  And, Jamie spent so much of the book catting around, I wasn’t sure that he could manage a relationship successfully anyway.  Roger, yes.  But Jamie?  Not so sure about that one.  Still, I enjoyed the author’s voice so I will watch out for more from her.
Lovegames by M. Jules Aedin – full review to come
Magic Gifts by Ilona Andrews – B+ Great short which the authors put out for free for a couple of weeks over Christmas.  Kate and Curran work together to save a child and Kate gets into it with the Guild.    Fans of the series will love it.  Mmm, Curran…

Batteries Not Included by JL Merrow – B Very funny short about a “special” Christmas present Sam gets from his flaky, witchy mother.

First Time, Forever by KC Burn – C+/B- Very readable book about a couple who’ve been together for 9 years.  Their son goes off to college and they try to reconnect.  I don’t usually like “big mis” stories but this didn’t annoy me as much as they normally do because both were trying to fix things even while they were not talking and being jerks and because (thankfully) the timeframe was short.  The sex was pretty hot too and I enjoyed the experience of reading the book.
The problem I had was that I found it difficult to believe that this couple would have only had vanilla, Saturday night lights out after-the-kid-is-in-bed-and-asleep sex for 5 YEARS and not imploded.  I also found it hard to accept that after so long together they would be so bad at talking to each other.  Those questions about the set up made it hard for me to completely buy the story.  I get Trevor’s concern about his son and the custody issue, but surely he would have relaxed a bit after 5 years?  Surely Luke had sleepovers from time to time?  I had a bit of trouble accepting that those 5 years would not have caused problems in itself.    I do like this author though, she has a great voice.

Song of Oestend by Marie Sexton – C+/B-  I’m a fan of Marie Sexton’s books. This one was a bit of a departure for her – not only is it set in an alternate universe where the wild west is full of Wraiths and it’s not safe to be out after dark, the writing in this book was more… spare than I have read from her before.  I didn’t mind the writing style, other than to notice that it seemed different to me.   The world building was interesting but there were things that threw me out of it and back into the real world from time to time which didn’t make it always comfortable for me (eg, use of morphine as a pain killer).
This is the story of Aren, a gay bookkeeper who heads west to Oestend to work on the BarChi ranch.  Deacon is the foreman at the ranch and has the Oestend equivalent to a native American heritage (as best I can tell).    Aren is not tall or particularly strong and Deacon is all that is manly and muscled.  Surprisingly then, it is Aren who takes the dominant role in their D/s relationship.  There was a threeway late in the book which I felt had consent after the fact and that bothered me a little but otherwise, the sex was pretty hot.  I liked Deacon and Aren but I guess I had a bit of difficulty sinking into the alternate world Ms. Sexton built here.  Overall, I liked but did not love this one.

On Audio

Christmas Eve in Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas, narrated by Tanya Eby B-  Here’s the review I wrote for the February ARRA newsletter:

In preparation for the upcoming release of Rainshadow Road, I listened to the novella which introduced the series, Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor this week.  This is a short audiobook – only just over 4 hours   Mark Nolan becomes the guardian of 6 year old Holly after the death of his sister (her mother) Victoria in a car accident.  He and his other 2 brothers (Alex and Sam) live on San Juan island off the coast of Washington state (and isn’t it nice the whole family have normal names?)   Because Mark doesn’t think he can raise Holly alone, he convinces Sam to let them move into Sam’s large house with him.
Skip ahead to 6 months down the track and Mark and Holly go into to the new toy shop on the island where they meet the owner, Maggie Conroy.  Maggie is a widow in her late 20’s and has moved to the island to make a new start.  There is instant attraction between the 2 adults and  Maggie also forms an instant connection with Holly.  But,  because Mark is seeing Shelby (who lives in nearby Seattle), it seems they are destined to be “just good friends”.
Holly wants a mother for Christmas and Mark starts thinking about whether he should marry Shelby, even as his and Holly’s friendship with Maggie grows.  For her part, Maggie, as much as she is attracted to Mark,  is wary of getting too close to anyone – after losing her husband to cancer, she is afraid to love anyone again.
Narrator Tanya Eby has a very pleasing-to-the-ear voice and the male voices are easily differentiated from the female.  The 3 brothers sound very similar, but there are enough dialogue tags in the story that it isn’t hard to work out who is talking.  Holly’s voice is appropriately childlike without being too “cutesy” and Shelby sounds like the socialite she is – not a bad person, but not really prepared for instant motherhood either.
I was really enjoying this book right up until the final 2 chapters when things suddenly became very rushed.  It did feel a bit like, “whoa, time’s a-marchin’, let’s wrap it up” and that was disappointing.  There was a relatively gentle pace set by the rest of the story but the final part was Speedy Gonzales.  The story could easily have been expanded into a shorter novel and would have, in my view, benefited from at least adding another couple of chapters.  As it was, Maggie’s very real fears about being in a relationship again and the risk that would entail, were barely touched upon and they disappeared too quickly given the build-up.
As disappointed as I was in the ending of this one, I am nevertheless really excited about the next story – which is a full length novel with Sam as the hero.   I really enjoyed Christmas Eve in Friday Harbor but I wished it was just a little longer!

Dangerous Passion by Lisa Marie Rice, narrated by Karen White – C  I reviewed this one for AAR.   Overall, I find LMR books better in print where I skim the navel gazing but enjoy the over the top schlocky goodness of her uber-alpha heroes.

Waking Up in Charleston by Sherryl Woods, narrated by Tanya Eby – C-.  I reviewed this one for AAR too.  Tanya Eby is a great narrator but this book was too sickly sweet for me and hero reverends aren’t my favourite.    The narration was enough to keep me listening but it didn’t make the book an overall enjoyable experience.   Too sweet, too many misunderstandings and secrets and they took too long to be revealed.  It was a very frustrating listen.  Also, THERE WAS NO SEX.  Too much sugar needs some spice is all I’m sayin’.

Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas, narrated by Susan Duerdin  – C  This is another I have reviewed by AAR.   The review will be up soon.

Lady Sophia’s Lover by Lisa Kleypas, narrated by Susan Duerdin – not graded.  Not being very well grounded in Lisa Kleypas, it was suggested to me that I try Lady Sophia’s Lover where Nick Gentry (Sophia’s brother) was introduced, before listening to this, Nick’s book.  I suspended my listen of Worth Any Price and started LSL.  I only got about 60 minutes into LSL and I gave up, at least for the time being.  The story, right from the start, sounded super dated – by which I mean Old Skool and I just wasn’t feeling it.  I decided it wasn’t that important to meet Nick early.  I don’t feel I can even grade LSL as I didn’t listen to enough of it.  I’m not sure if I’ll make my way back to it in future.  I’m doubtful, but, you know, never say never and all that.

Captured by the Highlander by Julianne MacLean, narrated by Antony Ferguson – DNF I only got a couple of hours in and it was just not holding my interest so I gave up.
I was thrown out of the story when the heroine, a proper English Duke’s daughter says “I’ll scream my guts out”. in 1716.
Then there was the bit where the ‘hero’ Duncan is mid kidnap.  He gets out a skirt and bodice and tells Amelia to take off the shift she was sleeping in and get dressed in the clothes he’s given her.  She refuses.  He rips it off her.  Then he GOES AND GETS ANOTHER SHIFT out of the drawer for her to put it on under the other clothes.  Um, Why??
Then there was the bit where Amelia overhears someone calling the Butcher of the Highlands (her kidnapper) “Duncan”. She thinks.  So the Buther had a name.  It was Duncan. *snort*  (I don’t think that was meant to be funny.
I had a problem with that Amelia was kidnapped by this brutal Highlander who’d just killed 5 men and she almost immediately is feeling all warm and tingly.  It just felt wrong, so I stopped listening.
The narration was okay, although I thought Mr. Ferguson sometimes sounded like he had a mouthful of marbles and he seemed to trip over some of the Scottish accent from time to time.  His female voice was quite good and the emotion was fine.  He seemed to have an odd habit of finishing a sentence and then realising the the sentence wasn’t finished yet and then reading the rest of it.  But, if the story was better, I would have kept listening and it wouldn’t have bothered me too much.
Maybe the story gets better.  I didn’t care.

The Search by Nora Roberts, narrated by Tanya Eby – B+ After the past few listens, I decided to go with a comfort listen with a story and narrator I could trust.  Fiona Bristow trains search and rescue dogs and was the only surviving victim years earlier of a serial killer.  There’s plenty of interesting information about search and rescue dogs, plenty of romance with hot furniture maker/artist  Simon Doyle and lots of suspense when someone (a copy cat?) starts killing new victims with the same MO as Fiona’s previous attacker and goes after Fiona again.  Very good book.  Great narration.  Highly recommended.  I feel better now. 🙂

9 comments on “February Reads

  1. Chris

    Paper Planes was so good – I have to get around to reading Lovegames soonishly. There are actually supposed to be more books after Divide & Conquer, but they'll just be written by Abigail Roux. We'll see how that goes.Yeah, the KC Burn book had some issues, but it was almost compulsively readable.

  2. nath

    Was this your first time listening/reading The Search? I'm glad you enjoyed it 🙂 I really liked it a lot. Loved the H/H, loved the suspense and loved the dogs LOL.Glad you also enjoyed the Ilona Andrews! Such a good novella in my opinion :)And looks like you jumped in for both Megan Hart and Lisa Kleypas. Too bad the results have been mixed…

  3. Tam

    *gasp* What kind of fan gurl are you not squeeing and swoon about Ty and what's his name? 🙂 To be honest, I skim finished the first book.Just didn't work for me but I seem to be in the majority on that one. I enjoyed Paper Plane and must get the next one. I haven't read Academic Pursuits yet. Batteries was fun but I haven't read any of the others. They aren't really calling my name. That mother/daughter book sounds hideous. I do NOT want to know about my kid's sex life (when she's older of course, now I'm hoping she doesn't have one) and I'm pretty damn sure she doesn't want to know about mine. LOL

  4. Kaetrin

    @Chris – I have my review of Lovegames going up later this week. I loved it until I didn't – the ending was so abrupt and (to me) unfinished that it cast a pall over the whole book. I'll be interested to see what you think. Paper Planes was a more complete book with enough loose ends/conflicts resolved and an appropriate ending. I do like this writer's style so I'm looking forward to more of her work.I really enjoyed Cop Out and I will definitely be looking for more from KC Burn but this one wasn't as good as CO was.

  5. Kaetrin

    @Nath – I've actually listened to The Search 2x now and read the book once also. It's a story I really enjoy with a great balance of romance and suspense. I really liked Simon!I'm reviewing Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas soon and I'm expecting to enjoy it. Generaly, I've found her contemps work better for me but I haven't got a lot of LK experience. Megan Hart has such a lovely voice but sometimes her stories are less "romance" and more "story" and those are the ones that (tend to) work less well for me. I do love my HEA.

  6. Kaetrin

    yeah, I'm a *bad* Ty & Zane fangirl! I do like the characters but the stories have gotten in my way. I had thought that you either love or hate them, but they've been more on the good side of "meh" for me so far. I don't know if I'll persist with the series. I have Divide and Conquer on my reader and presumably that's the book where there are mutual I Love You's but after that? Probably not.I'll be interested to see what you think of Lovegames when you read it. My review is up later this week.

  7. Mandi

    I thought Fish & Chips was heavy on the sex, compared to the first two in the series. But I find their relationship so emotionally intense I can barely stand it. LOL. These books just kill me!I now want to go read that first Lisa Kleypas book – I just finished Rainshadow Road and was very curious about Mark! I liked Rainshadow.

  8. Kaetrin

    @Mandi – I think Fish & Chips had more sex in it than the other two but it wasn't a complete sex-fest either. I'd compare it to one of the hotter RS type books out there but not, for example, Lora Leigh. I had read a little of Urban and Roux before (only a little though) and there was a lot more sex in the samples I'd read – think KA Mitchell a lot more! I think that may have skewed my experience. Of course, it could just be that I don't click with the series as much as others do. The last half of each of the books where the emotion of the story appears (and, it is true, most of the sex! :D) tend to be my favourite bits and are what has kept me going back but the first half? Not so much.I'm looking forward to Rainshadow Road – I'm feeling a bit impressed with myself that I managed to snag it for review (on audio) actually – the ladies in my review group can be a bit like sharks circling sometimes (and I mean that in a good way LOL) and I can be hamstrung by the time difference here so when I get in first, I feel proud. 😀

  9. Kaetrin

    Just to clarify – re the shark comment – I'm totally a shark when it comes to review picks too – it's just that I often get there late 🙂

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