Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Catherine Anderson - Annie's Song

Annie Trimble lives in a solitary world that no one enters or understands. As delicate and beautiful as the tender blossoms of the Oregon spring, she is shunned by a town that misinterprets her affliction. But cruelty cannot destroy the love Annie holds in her heart.
Alex Montgomery is horrified to learn his wild younger brother forced himself on a helpless "idiot girl." Tormented by guilt, Alex agrees to marry her and raise the baby she carries as his own. 
But he never dreams he will grow to cherish his lovely, mute, and misjudged Annie; her childlike innocence, her womanly charms and the wondrous way she views her world. He becomes determined to break through the wall of silence surrounding her; to heal... and to be healed by Annie's sweet song of love.

Comment: I've had this book to read for years. I'm slowly trying to go through the books that have been the longest in the pile along with things that catch my eye now but it's a morose battle, let me tell you...

This is the story of Annie Trimble, the town's idiot, or so people say, and how she learns that all she needed was someone to pay attention and help her.
One day Annie is attacked and raped and ends up pregnant. Her parents don't always seem perfect but they do get concerned and they try to do something, even if it means to let Annie have her baby and then giving him up.
Eventually, Alex, the brother of the man who raped Annie offers to marry Annie so he could keep his nephew, this after sending his brother away to fend for himself after all the despicable things he did.
At first, Alex thought Annie was indeed slower than most and he only wanted her near so he could help her and the baby but after knowing her better, he realizes how Annie has been misdiagnosed by everyone and his feelings start to change...

This ended up being a good story, one I felt interested in reading but it wasn't as perfect as some readers seem to think. I wonder if my vision of things hasn't been colored by my impression of other books by the author.
It almost seems as if her voice here has a tone and her voice in more recent books has another. I understand why, religion has played an important role in the author's recent years and that shows in her work. In a way I prefer her older work simply because if feels more open to interpretation rather than having an idea being told to you.
Maybe I'm being picky...

The plot of this story was interesting, the author does put her efforts into portraying or putting disabled characters as the protagonists and here we have a deaf woman who has been considered everything but that. This is an historical, so it's not so unbelievable but it can get to a unreasonable point if we think how old Annie is.
Nevertheless, part of the interest is to see how much improvement Annie can get by staying with people who will treat her well and by being challenged and heard despite her difficulties. Considering the lack of contemporary means to help her, I think Annie was quite lucky she had someone like Alex who would help her and be interested in what she was being able to do and understand.

Part of the help were their feelings for one another. Apparently this is very romantic for some, but I honestly think it wasn't as romantic, but more in the lines of sweet. This is obvious but Ale and Annie's relationship didn't feel as powerful as it can be and the last scenes when a certain conflict arises only to prove a point that I feel didn't have to be proved as too much and ruined part of the story for me. I guess I'd have liked to see better scenes between them at a point where they were still suspicious of one another and not unrealistic sugary moments following their confessing their feelings.

I think Annie's disability wasn't such an issue as we are led to see by others reactions to her. Ok, again, the setting has an important role to play here but I guess I'd want to see Annie try more on her own to be understood rather than being settled in her notion others wouldn't always understand her. This is not the purpose but it was the idea I got up to the point where she finally communicated with someone. I know I might not be fair and I wouldn't know how difficulty such a thing can be, but for fictional and romance purposes, it made things look too slow and lacking impact. To me, at least.

After considering everything, of course this is a good book. But I wasn't blown away by it or its content. I don't consider this a tearjerker, something in the interactions between the characters didn't move me that much. Yes, it's emotional and sad at times and beautiful at others but overall, it's not as strong as I imagined. It just lacks something for me. I don't know if it's the writing, the characters themselves, something in the plot, but although I liked it, I don't feel the need to re-read or the notion I'd do it in the future.
Grade: 7/10

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Bookworm dilemmas

Here is another list of book related stuff.


I saw this list, again, at BookBub and I thought it pinpointed many of my thoughts about reading, which I'm sure more readers would agree on.

I think all dilemmas represent me, #1 and #2 are spot on, but I especially liked dilemma #6: I do tend to make pauses when things turn into complicated situations within the plot and then I do something and go back to it!

Well, I hope you all like the list.
Happy reading!!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Lisa See - Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Lily is haunted by memories–of who she once was, and of a person, long gone, who defined her existence. She has nothing but time now, as she recounts the tale of Snow Flower, and asks the gods for forgiveness.
In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu (“women’s writing”). Some girls were paired with laotongs, “old sames,” in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.
With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed and they become “old sames” at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, through famine and rebellion, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

Comment: I got this book at a used books bookstore two years ago. I had heard good things about the author's work and as soon as I saw the book - in perfect conditions, should I say - I immediately saved it and bought it. I didn't know the story but the author's name was enough to convince me. Despite that, it has been waiting and waiting until this month where I finally added it to my reading list.

This is the story of Lily, a young Chinese girl who is destined to have a great future but to have that she will endure pain and sorrow and learn all the lessons only time can teach.
Lily lives during a time where respectful and decent girls had their feet bound to make them small and more attractive to possible husbands. She comes from a poor family but she is given the chance to enter a lifelong friendship with Snow Flower, a girl from a richer region and thus making her more interesting as a wife.
This is a story about customs, preconceived ideas, indecision between what's right and what's expected and the idea that there are things more important than appearances. But can Lily be the person everyone thinks she will end up being?

I was quite impressed with this novel. It's not easy to read when one compares to our own customs and way of life. It almost looks unbearable and tragic to think people used to believe that foot binding would make someone look more beautiful, especially if we think about our contemporary societies. I guess that, in one way, this was what stayed with me the longest...how something was considered important when people didn't have all the knowledge we do now and used that as a rule for something that shouldn't be that important.

The story is told from Lily's POV and some things aren't shown to us, but when Lily knows or learns it, we do to. I liked Lily as a narrator but it becomes obvious Lily isn't the most expressive of people and by her descriptions of her daily life and the difficulties she meets and deals with we realize she is the type of person to follow the rules in general. I usually like people/characters like her because to me the purpose isn't to see them change radically, but to be surprised by good things and how that can make them sweeter or stronger. In Lily's case, her need to be recognized by her value and "good deeds", even if against what common sense dictates, make her sometimes too rigid. I understand why and how the author wanted to make her the focus so we could judge everyone else according to her, while Lily isn't perfect herself. But often her attitude seemed superficial and I felt like telling her to smile more, to embrace the good things she had, even if to her they weren't many, or at least I wanted to see her be glad she was having all those feelings. But she was too narrow in some of her thinking.

Of course all this is connected with the plot and how her life long friendship with Snow Flower, someone to balance her, but who has different feelings, is living a different situation in terms of social context... I liked the relationship of the two, how close they were, and how beautifier some things are in a real friendship but the main purpose of this book is too evidence how apart people can be when they let their personal feelings interfere with things out of their control. I can't help thinking the pot could have been much happier and positive if only! But the point is to highlight the bad things, I think. When you simply bow to the pressure of living in a time and place where you had no rights. I think that if one can put aside all the rich historical aspects, the feminist in any woman would scream at what happening to those girls...

All in all, this was a great novel, it makes you think and wonder what would we do but the context is so far apart from anything we are used in our occidental and contemporary society that it almost reads like a fantasy. But it was a reality, it was part of China's History as a country and a society and that is shocking how people simply believed in things today we can't accept as anything but torture.
I'll be thinking about the plot a lot, because some situations were avoidable, but the goal here to to show us one possible outcome of what it really meant to be a free spirit in dire circumstances and not being able to simply move along....
Grade: 8/10

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Mary Balogh - Slightly Married

Meet the Bedwyns…six brothers and sisters—men and women of passion and privilege, daring and sensuality…Enter their dazzling world of high society and breathtaking seduction…where each will seek love, fight temptation, and court scandal…and where Aidan Bedwyn, the marriage-shy second son, discovers that matrimony may be the most seductive act of all.…
Like all the Bedwyn men, Aidan has a reputation for cool arrogance. But this proud nobleman also possesses a loyal, passionate heart—and it is this fierce loyalty that has brought Colonel Lord Aidan to Ringwood Manor to honor a dying soldier's request. Having promised to comfort and protect the man's sister, Aidan never expected to find a headstrong, fiercely independent woman who wants no part of his protection…nor did he expect the feelings this beguiling creature would ignite in his guarded heart. And when a relative threatens to turn Eve out of her home, Aidan gallantly makes her an offer she can't refuse: marry him…if only to save her home. And now, as all of London breathlessly awaits the transformation of the new Lady Aidan Bedwyn, the strangest thing happens: With one touch, one searing embrace, Aidan and Eve's “business arrangement” is about to be transformed…into something slightly surprising.

Comment: This is a book I've had to read for some time now. I've heard a lot about this author and I did read a book by her years ago but it's one of her oldest books, so her style definitely changes and improved with time. I had high hopes for this novel.

In this novel we meet the Bedwyns, a family of six siblings, all different but sharing many things , especially the fondness and love for one another, even if not always in an obvious way.
Aidan is the second oldest brother and he is an officer that, at the deathbed of one of his friends, makes the promise to help in any way possible his friend's sister. When he has the opportunity to share the terrible news with her, he realizes he might need to stay close because lady Morris apparently want nothing to do with him.
Eve Morris only wants to secure her home for all the people she has helped with time, something impossible if cousin Cecil takes over. By marrying lord Bedwyn she will have the answer to all her problems but what should be a business deal quickly changes when she meets the other Bedwyns and her relationship with Aidan becomes unexpected...

One of the main things people say about this author is how her work has a certain serious tone that makes her stories look more mature, well thought and structured. This was music to my ears because I really like stories like that!
However, I also like romance and sexual tension and, sadly, I think the romance wasn't passionate enough and the switch from partners in a situation to lovers wasn't as smooth or romantic as I expected. These are actually my biggest complaints about the book, I kind of wanted more romance. It almost looks like the romantic parts or the less than serious scenes don't seem to belong in this plot, because everything else is too strict. I guess no one is ever satisfied and in reality the story isn't bad but while I love serious writing, I also like the surprise of a romance, of feelings making you unsure of what you're revealing when you're talking to someone and I didn't have this here.

I liked the pace of the book, the way the plot developed structurally well and well done. Things happen in a believable way and makes it look like there was thought in doing this and there's a special touch in executing the ideas.
I especially liked how we got to know pretty well both the hero and the heroine. Both were similar in some things but neither were reckless or childish or annoying. Yes, it seems I switch my own logic when I say this, but I just wish they could act a little less serious when it came to their feelings for one another. I wanted more romance.

Both Aidan and Eve are realistic characters. I think some situations were too obvious for them to act, meaning, they didn't seem the same people but I guess something had to Papen to make things move forward. Their personalities match and it's fun to see them fall in love but there were way too many subtle layers in the whole process and that makes the sugary end a little bit forced in my opinion. Nevertheless, I obviously loved it that they found their HEA!

The secondary characters are interesting, especially the Bedwyn siblings. I can see why readers like Wulf!
The dialogues and descriptions are well done, the writing shows in this book and it's obvious the author has improved, which becomes clear for readers who compare what she wrote in 1985, like the other book I've read by her, and something more recent like this.

All things considered, this was a good novel, well structured, well developed, captivating, a good main couple. I just wished for more romance but I was impressed and will keep on reading these books in the future.
Grade: 8/10

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

TBR Challenge: Courtney Milan - Trade Me

Tina Chen just wants a degree and a job, so her parents never have to worry about making rent again. She has no time for Blake Reynolds, the sexy billionaire who stands to inherit Cyclone Technology. But when he makes an off-hand comment about what it means to be poor, she loses her cool and tells him he couldn’t last a month living her life.
To her shock, Blake offers her a trade: She’ll get his income, his house, his car. In exchange, he’ll work her hours and send money home to her family. No expectations; no future obligations.
But before long, they’re trading not just lives, but secrets, kisses, and heated nights together. No expectations might break Tina’s heart...but Blake’s secrets could ruin her life.

Comment: Here we are in another TBR post, this month the theme is a Random Pick, which basically means anything we want or anything we were up to. I had several books I'd enjoy presenting as my choice but I ended up with Courtney Milan and her first contemporary novel. 
I had this book in the pile for some time and I've enjoyed the historicals I've read by her, some more than others but I do plan on going through her back list (2017 project, humm...), so I was glad to try her contemporary work. I was even more pleased when I realized the heroine was Asian. I mean, I don't particularly look for Asian heroines but I was very curious and Courtney Milan does justice for her unusual heroines so...decision made.

In this book we meet Tina Chen, a young woman who wants to get her degree and finally make it possible for her parents to live freely without worrying about the bills. Her life isn't easy, she has to work twice as hard as any fellow student because she works and lives away from college but she's doing it. What annoys her the most, however, is how other students seem to think poor people are simply lazy and one day in class she gets into a discussion of this with Blake Reynolds, a very wealthy guy, the son of a powerful man and part of Cyclone Technology, a very conceited company.
Because of their fight, he ends up talking to her and later she has an offer from him, to trade places, each one will do what the other does for a limited time, simply as that.
Tina and Blake are very different but with this experience they learn that attraction and true feelings don't care about money or parents....

The first thing that really made me eager to read this story was the difference in classes between Tina and Blake. It's one of my personal preferences to read about heroines in dire situations but with work and humility they can try to overcome their situations. A little help from the hero is great but the best thing is for her to be worthy of any good things that might appear in her path. I don't know, this trope calls to me.
Also great was her origins and I was quite curious how the fact they come from different backgrounds would matter to their relationship. I think the connection between them was pretty convincing even if the idea that brought them together - the trade - doesn't sound very realistic in terms of jobs and professionalism behavior.

The romance is slow paced but the author is very talented in portraying this, so I was sold on them when the book ended. It never seems they simply want to act, both think and weight what they do, what the consequences can be...I guess this makes the plot rather plain but I like when characters act as grown ups. Despite this book being labeled NA - for their ages mostly - their maturity and behavior speaks to me, because they act as adults and they know how much importance the things in their life have and nothing is superficial or vain.

I liked them together, how each one could let their guard down in order to fall in love and trust and take some strength from the other.
The best thing was their personality and how we got to know them as individuals. Both had weaknesses and I was surprised to see the path the author took, especially when it came to Blake. It's not often we see his problem in real life, much less in fiction.

If there's one thing I can complain about is the subtlety. At some points, certain ideas are conveyed and we do have explicit scenes and parts when it comes to them as a couple but I guess I miss more romantic things, yes their relationship was great and sweet but a bit more emphasis on that would have been great. I just think some things weren't as obviously romantic as I would wish for.
Another thing is that there are situations that seemed a little bit too over analyzed. This means i, as the reader, had to follow that way of thinking or idea to a point where it stopped being as interesting or where I no longer had to wonder because it was explained too much or not believably. This is not bad, only something I couldn't help noticing at some point.

I like this author took time to develop the characters in a believable way. All secondary characters have a distinct personality and they seem complete, meaning they aren't there just filling space, there's a purpose to everything and every character in the page. I like how the author picks something or someone and develops that idea until the end, we can see a growth in everything, a substantial development to what surrounds the main couple. I think this makes the story look more mature and well thought, which gives it a very rational vibe, completely opposite the usual NA stories more focused on sex, lust and silly behavior.

I think this is a successful story, one I was glad to read and it made me curious about what is to come next. No subject was simply addressed here, there are themes that aren't easy but we got glimpses of them and what can possibly be done. I foresee interesting possibilities for the future.
The next book must be amazing, considering the heroine. I think the author has captivated me enough to make me read, at least, one more book in the series.
Grade: 8/10

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lily Rede - Safe From the Dark

Nursing a broken heart and a couple of bullet wounds, no-nonsense Evie-Asher leaves her career with the NYPD to move into her grandmother's old house in a small New England town in the middle of nowhere. She wants nothing more than a new start and a chance to forget the mistakes of the past and get her life back on track, minus the shootouts. Her plans are shattered when her new neighbor, the town's hunky young mayor, starts receiving death threats from a dangerous stalker. Evie is unwillingly drawn back into a world of peril, and while her bruised heart tries to resist the out-of-control sparks that zing between them, she is forced to stay close to keep him safe as the stalking quickly turns to murder...
Colin Daniels has his hands full running Bright's Ferry as their popular and busy young mayor. He doesn't have time for stalkers or threats, much less a lovely gray-eyed cop with control issues who insists that the stalker is a member of the community, someone he knows and loves. When the situation takes a deadly turn, Colin finds that he has no choice but to give up some control himself and rely on Evie to protect him until they can unmask the killer. Passion sizzles between two stubborn hearts as they clash over the best way to handle a dangerous situation, but can they keep each other safe as the dark closes in?

Comment: I got this book several months ago in hopes this would be a great read. I've decided to get after seeing some good comments about it somewhere. Although I didn't end up as impressed as I convinced myself I would by the blurb alone, it isn't such a bad book. It's simply not executed to perfection.

This book presents us Eve Asher, a young woman who has had a bad goodbye with the police where she worked because of a scandal. She went away to Bright's Ferry in hopes to run from that and also because her late grandmother left her a house there. Eve only wants to run from her troubles and start again but her attraction tot he town's mayor and the fact a stalker might be after him, makes it all up become a mess again. But can Eve have found a community she can be part of and people who believe in her?

At first sight, this has all the ingredients to be a good story and to make it look interesting for us to read but the reality is that there are two things that didn't impress me much.
First, we have the execution of the novel, I just think the author is still trying to see what works or not and some parts didn't feel as fluid or well done.
Second, the fact this story is also labeled erotica adds some interesting but needless layers to it. I just think this would have been a much better and consistent story if not erotica also.

The plot is easy enough and the concept is there, I was really curious to see Eve, someone apparently tough and who was sort of betrayed comes to a smaller town, she knows she needs another chance, she wants to prove herself but the way things are written doesn't seem to flow very well. I have the feeling this is a case of many ideas, not enough room to make them all be necessary and at the same time too much rush to insert as many as possible. Some of the ideas wee interesting but then the author went to a path I think only made things worse. The relationship obviously makes the story more interesting, the small community vibe is attempted to makes things work too but the murders and suspense parts were too much. Or, if this is really how the author wanted to make things, then the care for detail and the focus should be elements better done and thought over.

The romance between Eve and Colin clearly matters a lot, after all this is primarily a romance. But the fact this has the added layer of being erotica only made things worse. The plot takes space, we get to see certain things and then some pages of sex, which wouldn't be a bad thing on its own but often we get distracted and it cuts the flow of the story when we are more interested in other things. Basically it doesn't seem to fit the book. Then another thing: Eve is coming to Bright's Ferry to escape a sexual scandal, not her fault. But wouldn't we think that, after a scare and a betrayal of sorts, Eve should be more concerned about fighting her attraction and not becoming "sexually addicted" to someone else so soon? I feel disappointed, and is she supposed to be considered a grown up, someone to be look up to?
I understand why this element was added but sexual tension would have done the trick much better and I bet the romance would have been more realistic and interesting.
Colin has interesting features but I can't help thinking about him as too much of a player for his feelings to be considered believable. Then the focus isn't on their emotional growth nor the emotional bond between them, so...

The suspense parts were ok, I guess, but the writing is very distracting and some scenes don't seem to follow up.
The secondary characters were also ok but I confess I don't feel the need to read more about them right now. Maybe one day, in the future.
I think the author had too many ideas and the book isn't well paced or structured well enough for it to be a complete success. At least to me. But it wasn't totally bad...
Grade: 6/10

Friday, September 16, 2016

LaVyrle Spencer - November of the Heart

Set at the turn of the century, November of the Heart tells of Lorna Barnett, a young woman from a
wealthy Saint Paul family, and Jens Harken, the ambitious dreamer who works in the kitchen of her family’s summer estate. Lorna’s father, Gideon, an avid sailor, is determined to claim victory for his own White Bear Yacht Club in the next summer regatta. Having recently suffered defeat at the hands of the rival club, Gideon is willing to do almost anything to win back the prize he sees as his.
Jens, pressed into service as a waiter as an elegant family dinner party, overhears Gideon’s lament, and is sure his boatbuilding skills can be put to use on behalf of his employer. Brazenly crossing the boundary between servant and master by offering to design and build a boat that is sure to win the race. Jens incites Gideon’s ire but piques his interest too. With Lorna’s help, he convinces Gideon to finance the project.
Grateful for her intervention yet wary of jeopardizing his chance to build the boat of his dreams, Jens nevertheless is powerless to face of Lorna’s growing interest in the boat and him. He soon finds himself eagerly awaiting her visits to the boatshed, and stars teaching her about the craft of boatbuilding, as well as the craft of love.
Despite the rigid caste system which keeps them apart, Lorna and Jens are drawn inexorably together, and begin an affair as fresh and innocent as the summer itself. But the repercussions of their passionate idyll soon separate them against their shame to endure loneliness where it is always “November of the heart.” 

Comment: This is another of mrs Spencer's books I've had in my TBR list. I'm not very fond of boats as a rule when it comes to their interest or importance in romances and that was why I never felt the need to read this book but this month there it was and I picked it at last.

This is the story of Jens Harken, a young man who dreams of building and racing the fastest boat he can have. He is actually just a kitchen helper at a wealthy family's summer house but he has bright plans for his future. When the opportunity presents itself for him to suggest his employer he can build him a fast boat to win the races in the country club to which mr Barnett, the employer, belongs to, Jens takes it, almost ruining everything.
Somehow, help comes from Lorna Barnett's Jens' employer oldest daughter. She is a free spirit and loves sailing but she knows she won't ever be allowed to race with the men. She helps Jens because she wants to be part of the process even if not directly. But what started as only a shared interest develops into something quite serious between the two of them and their relationships soon escalates and flourishes. But what will happen when Lorna's parents discover the truth? Can Jens and Lorna fight for their relationship, despite the obvious difference in classes?

I ended up enjoying this story, at least I often had to keep reading in wanting to know what would happen next. But yes, some parts were rather slow paced or even lacked interest to me, especially the boat's and race's descriptions.

One of the book's themes is clearly the different classes, because Lorna is rich and Jens is not. This trope is often sued in romances and it can have good or less good outcomes. I'm not a particular fan of this but I confess I don't mind when it's the other way around, I feel the rich element is always the one who has to make more changes, even if it's the poorer one who moves away or who learns or whatever. But I feel a poor male protagonist always battles a lot more to be recognized and he must always become better somehow in order for the story to match what we usually expect of it. When it's a rich man the story doesn't need to develop that way.
In this book, of course Jens wants to be someone better and I applaud that but it almost feels he needs to change more because he's the man and he must provide for the woman, who has always been rich... it just strikes me as a more difficult trope and one I struggle more to believe in.

The romance was good, I liked how things happened, how the author took time to slowly make them become friends, then interested in one another, then falling in love. The obstacles in their path were harsh and almost bordering on the dramatic but in real life it wouldn't have been easy either. The notion that what they were doing wasn't something they should and that society condemned them was heavy in the air, made the story feel more dramatic yes, but also realistic. The readers always has a feel something bad will happen and when it does yes, it's bad and hurts them, but eventually they overcome everything and a HEA happens. I guess I wish it could have been more romantic, as it has happened with other books by the author, but at least it happened.

The secondary characters were interesting, offered the opposition the couple needed to shine but the focus was always too much on them, even if we got glimpses from the others here and there.
Lorna was a captivating character as was Jens and it was good to see them together. When bad things happen and they split before the HEA happens, well, I just think the way things were dealt in that period were weird. I liked Lorna, I felt her hopelessness and her need to believe in something, even if it was guilt but I think Jens' character was too obnoxious in certain situations. Still, this is an historical so some things today would have been solved quickly and at the time weren't.

All in all, this was a good novel, I liked reading but there's something in the pace and eventually in the relationship of the main couple as a whole that made me not always marveled by everything. This is a more than average story but not as wonderful as others by the author.
Grade: 7/10

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Vanessa North - Blueberry Boys

Connor Graham is a city boy—a celebrated fashion photographer in New York. When his uncle’s death drags him back to the family blueberry farm, all he wants to do is sell it as quickly as he can. Until he meets his uncle’s tenant farmer.
Jed Jones, shy and stammering, devout and dedicated, has always yearned for land of his own and a man to share it with. Kept in the closet by his church, family, and disastrous first love, he longs to be accepted for who he is. But now, with his farm and his future in Connor’s careless hands, he stands to lose even the little he has.
Neither man expects the connection between them. Jed sees Connor—appreciates his art and passion like no one else in this godforsaken town ever has. Connor hears Jed—looks past his stutter to listen to the man inside. The time they share is idyllic, but with the farm sale pending, even their sanctuary is a source of tension. As work, family, and their town’s old-fashioned attitudes pull them apart, they must find a way to reconcile commitments to their careers and to each other.

Comment: I got interested in this book after reading some positive comments and seeing how well graded the book was in certain places. I got it in my radar and now it was time to get to it. I have to say I wasn't as marveled by it as some other readers seemed to have been.

This is the story of Connor Graham, a young man who returns to his family's farm after his beloved uncle dies. Connor is a successful photographer who hasn't many good memories of his childhood and whose relationship with his brother isn't perfect, mostly because he's gay and successful. The farm, however, has a tenant, Jed Jones, and he has a two year lease yet. Although Connor doesn't plan on owning the land for long, after all, he only wants to leave bad memories behind, can he really make a decision that will affect Jed's livelihood? And does he have more in common with Jed than what he thought?

I understand why this story was successful with many readers. The main characters develop an interesting relationship, share confidences and there's an HEA and hopeful positive changes in their future. Many things to enjoy and I liked that.

However, the story didn't make me eager to read nor amazed by how things were developing. The relationship between Connor and Jed, one of the obvious strengths of the book, wasn't as compelling as I imagined it would.
It was great to see the two guys falling in love but it was at the same time too lacking in passion and too focused on the wrong elements for it to be perfect for me. I mean, the way they fell in love wasn't strong enough in terms of chemistry. I think the way things happened wasn't meaningful enough. I believe they were developing feeling for one another but the way the author wrote it didn't make me think it was as special as that.
The fact we got the focus on several aspects, that should be rightfully the ones they had to bear in mind of course, didn't make their relationship as amazing as I wanted. Yes, they got together, they had to put aside memories but there was no spark in the way we are told things that it almost feels unimportant.

The plot had its moments but the photo shoot at the farm didn't seem realistic, or should I say, didn't strike me as anything else besides a means to make Connor and Jed interact in a situation that would make Jed decide what he wanted. I guess it lacked some harmony in terms of how it was placed in the plot.
The same thing happened with the decision Jed makes towards the end. I get it it has merit but at this point I was still not convinced they meant to be together for it to become more meaningful.
Overall, my sense of this story is that the author didn't put what mattered in evidence and that means that, to me, the story is too bland and almost boring here and there.

There's a religion topic here and I understand how that would influence Jed in his decisions but honestly I couldn't read much interest into it because it just seemed, again, another way to insert feelings and stuff when it wasn't truly well thought.

The secondary characters have their interest but, once more, I wasn't obsessed with none of them and like other readers, I finished the book and immediately thought about the next so, in reality, this didn't leave such an impression. It was the first book by the author I read and perhaps I'm being unfair but I don't feel the need to go and read more of her work.

The HEA was sweet and I liked it, which sort of saved the book, I think it takes guts to just decide something so, great for Jed. But all things considered, this was too plain and too bland for me to keep it in my everlasting memories of a great book...
Grade: 5/10

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Lara Adrian, Tina Folsom - Cut and Run

Darkly gifted and dangerously skilled, they were once the nation's most powerful asset. Betrayed by
unknown enemies, unable to trust anyone--not even one another--the Phoenix hold the key to unmasking a conspiracy steeped in blood and fire. To survive, they'll have to solve . . . The Phoenix Code.
CUT by Lara Adrian
Community college professor Ethan Jones is living a lie. A precognitive agent known as Zephyr, Ethan is accustomed to subterfuge and deception, but when the Phoenix program is betrayed, he’s forced to cut all ties to the life he's made and everyone in it—including smart, beautiful Tori Connors, the one woman who tempted the cold agent to let down his impenetrable facade.
A chance encounter years later and thousands of miles away thrusts the lovers together again, and this time Tori refuses to let Ethan deceive her. Although he is a dangerous enigma, Tori still desires him, and soon their inconvenient reunion becomes a temptation too strong to resist. With assassins closing in, Ethan and Tori embark on a desperate race for their lives—one that will put their tentative trust to the ultimate test.
RUN by Tina Folsom
Motorcycle mechanic Scott Thompson isn't the laid-back loner he makes everyone believe. Three years ago, he was known as Ace, one of an elite group of agents in a top secret CIA program. However, the preternatural ability that made him invaluable to the government could now be his downfall, when his skill alerts him to a disaster bound to kill dozens of innocents unless he intervenes.
Journalist Phoebe Chadwick needs to persuade her editor to spare her from department cuts that threaten her job. When a mysterious stranger prevents an accident that would have killed her and many others, Phoebe goes after the story. But bad boy Scott is a reluctant hero unwilling to answer her questions, despite the sizzling chemistry that ignites between them. As his enemies hunt him down, Scott must decide if he can trust Phoebe—and how far he’s willing to go to keep her safe at his side. 

Comment: This book was chosen for one of my book clubs. I've read books by Lara Adrian before and the concept of the books was interesting enough so I decided to give it a try.

Cut and Run are two stories where we meet characters that have a mission and a goal but whose identity we only learn one book a time.
This is the first book in a series by Lara Adrian and Tina Folsom featuring a secret CIA department with operatives belonging to a special unit where all members have psychic abilities, like foreseeing what will happen at a given moment, etc.
However, the operatives were living under secret identities and their team was compromised and their leader killed. Now they need to find each other again so they can hunt the responsible for the death of the man they respected and who wants them dead.

The books contain two stories, one by each author. Each story presents a different main character and the person they fall in love with. Apparently the stories follow one another in terms of chronology and characters from one book will show up in the following one. I was curious enough about both of them, especially Lara Adrian's, an author I'm familiar with but from a different genre. I was very curious to see a more contemporary setting and concept from her.

Both stories have interesting elements, I confess, but at the same time there were some flaws I could find and couldn't put aside while reading. The first, common to both is the length vs development. I just found the stories too rushed. I know, each story is more novella size than a full length book so the authors had to move things alone quickly, even more so when we know the main characters are in a run from an enemy but... it seems unlikely certain situations could happen that way, romances in particular.
But I'll mention each story alone.

Cut is the first story where we introduced the main idea and the first couple. Sadly, this was a lovers reunited plot and I dislike those in general. I was not convinced otherwise with this story, though. I understand this is a quick way for readers to accept the couple's relationship but their connection was never something I loved reading about, which made the story not totally successful for me. 
The development was interesting enough but the sort of emotional and family baggage the secret agents have isn't something to be easily dealt within a novella sized story, I think. Ethan seemed interesting and he was everything eh needed to be a good hero but I never connected with him. Tori was slightly better but again, I didn't care much for her. In the end, it was ok to see them together and looking for ways to help Ethan and prevent chaos but I was surprised by how this was written and I wouldn't say it was Adrian's work. I can't say if this is good or bad.

Run is the second story, following the action from the first one and it was my first book by author Tina Folsom. I suppose most novellas belonging to a series sort of feel the same, so this was easy to go through but there wasn't any detail in it that made me eager to keep reading. Maybe this is not the author's best sample...
I liked this story more, simply for the plot alone but of course the romance wasn't very convincing because it happened too fast. If only author would take a chance on the possibilities, the sexual tension even without love declarations, things could look more realistic.
Scott was an interesting character, I liked him better than Ethan and I was curious about him and his life. I think the author convinced me to be interested. Phoebe I also liked more than Tori, I wish we could see more of her and, as a couple, they were more vibrant and captivating to me. But most of my issues with them were the same with the others, not enough time to develop them and their relationship as well as it could.

Overall, both stories had interesting scenes but I think authors (whether they want or publishers or whomever decides that does) take too long with sex instead of really developing the stories or adding more emotional depth to the characters. I like it they are intimate and bond that way but that doesn't make the plot move along and occupies precious pages where we could see better character development.

I honestly don't feel curious enough to keep reading. Thinking about both stories, they have good points but I spent more time wishing this or that was different.
It was still interesting, though, to be able to know another author and have a new light on a known one.
Grade: 6/10