Thursday, December 14, 2017

Two portuguese books

Comment: The books whose covers I included here are from Portuguese authors and I got them at the library the last time I was there.
The books are non fiction and to be honest, I had no idea they existed but they caught my eye and I thought they would be at least interesting to entertain me. I'm just leaving a small comment because they are part of this year's reading, for sure.

The first, the one of the bluish cover, is a sort of project about national TV and how the three main channels we have in Portuguese television work for and create the 8pm news cast. This is probably the most seen television program because it includes the news and information all age groups are aware of. The "study" was done by the author when he was overseeing how everything works and how directors or coordinators decide what to do, how to present each piece of news and why some should be more important than others.
I liked the book, overall, but I confess I expected even more real life cases and situations and examples about everything. Part of the book was also the reference to academics and  experts and that wasn't always as interesting for me. 
Grade: 7/10

The second book, the greenish cover, is a set of blog entries, newspaper articles and alike pieces the author  has published during part of his career. His style is harsh and said to be too direct, which means he often seems to be bad mouthing some of the people he addresses and some of his sentences look like he is too negative.
The majority of the compilation in this book is from literary critiques he has done, especially to Portuguese authors, some considered as part of the "best" or more "popular".
I can't explain what I felt about this book, I liked the reasons why he was critiquing, despite the harsh style. But since I only read one or two books, it was funnier to me rather than negative.
The texts included which aren't critiques show a well structured writing and thought but I wasn't impacted enough by them. It was just interesting to read, that's all.
Grade: 5/10

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Julie Klassen - The Silent Governess

Believing herself guilty of a crime, Olivia Keene flees her home, eventually stumbling upon a grand estate where an elaborate celebration is in progress. But all is not as joyous as it seems.
Lord Bradley has just learned a terrible secret, which, if exposed, will change his life forever. When he glimpses a figure on the grounds, he fears a spy or thief has overheard his devastating news. He is stunned to discover the intruder is a scrap of a woman with her throat badly injured. Fearing she will spread his secret, he gives the girl a post and confines her to his estate. As Olivia and Lord Bradley's secrets catch up with them, will their hidden pasts ruin their hope of finding love?

Comment: I've been interested in this book for a long time. This past September, I was given this as a birthday present and I was quite happy to finally have a book that probably would be one of those I'd never hurry to get but eventually would. I'm glad to have gotten it much sooner than I expected!

This book is focused on Olivia Keene, a young woman who is traveling to find a post as a teacher. The problem is that Olivia is actually running away from a situation that makes her both fearful and regretful and she only knows she needs to arrive at her destination so her mother can reach her later on.
On the way, Olivia stumbles upon a place that offers her a bit of help when she needs and before moving along, she decides to visit the grounds of a property setting things up for a party. Everything is beautiful but Olivia inadvertently hears a conversation she shouldn't. Before escaping the property fully, Olivia is captured and attacked and later on, saved. The responsible for the house then offers Olivia a post so she can keep quiet about the secret she heard but as the time goes by and new things happen, Olivia starts to be fond of everyone and even the lord of the house starts to become someone she cares about. But Olivia is running from a secret as well...

This is not the first book I read by the author but I think it became the one I liked best so far.
I really appreciated how rich and detailed this story seemed to be and how interested I felt through it all. 
The plot isn't that unlikely to have been close to reality even if some details could be seen as a bit too imaginative.

What I liked best was how sweet and captivating the stay of Olivia at the new house looked like. She was only the help but she provided a very good aid to everyone. Her interactions with most characters were always interesting and each chapter seemed to have useful content.
I liked Olivia as well. As a child she would impress others with her math skill, encouraged by her father but one day things changed and Olivia has always had a different perspective on her relationship with her father because of that. How interesting it is to realize we can't truly rely in our childhood memories when it comes to what others feel as well, things change with time...

The relationship between Olivia and lord Bradley, her love interest, is cute. Nothing really happens except a kiss at the end, since this is an inspirational story. Obviously, however, we are supposed to focus on the rightness or the credibility of their feelings and the fact they don't embark on something before they have the certainty they are taking the right step. I liked their interactions and how small scenes and gestures implied a huge meaning every time they talked or thought about the other.

Lord Bradley has a complicated situation going on and I did feel for him, for the fact he was worried and wanted to do the right thing. The plot devices around him and his personality (because he was fair and wanted to make things right if needed) provided interesting conflicts and problems from being too easily solved or ignored. I liked the emotional aspect of this, and how the male protagonist had as much issues to solve as the heroine but he wasn't an "alpha type" trying to do things his own way. Again, an inspirational where the hero is meant to think about his attitude and so on, but the romance/emotional content was well balanced, I'd say.

There are some twists, I wouldn't say out of this world, but they were suitable for the plot. Other things not as much but nothing is ever perfect anyway. I particularly didn't appreciate how a certain issue ended up being explained but...
All in all, this was very good, entertaining, I had a great time reading. This makes me more eager to read the other titles by the author too, even those I wasn't thinking about getting.
Grade: 8/10

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Signing Up for a new year of TBR Challenge

We are getting close to the end of the year and lots of action seems to happen at this time of the year in people's blogs/sites. Lists, projects, summaries.. all seems to be given special treatment around mid to the end of December or in the beginning of January.
Of course also have some of these things to write about...

I'm signing up to another year of the TBR Challenge, hosted by Wendy, the Super Librarian.
This is this year's pic and list of themes. I'm already looking at my monthly lists for 2018 to see which one might be my pick for each month!
Join in! You can comment on a blog, on GR, on Wendy's blog... it's fun!

(image belongs to Wendy)

January 17 - We Love Short Shorts! (shorter reads)
February 21 - Backlist Glom (author with multiple books in your TBR)
March 21 - Sugar or Spice (closed door romance or spicy romance)
April 18 - Kicking It Old School (original publication date older than 10 years)
May 16 - Contemporary
June 20 - Comfort Read
July 18 - Favorite Trope
August 15 - Series (book that's part of a series)
September 19 - Historical
October 17 - Paranormal or Romantic Suspense
November 21 - Cover Girl (a book with a pretty cover - or a horrid one)
December 19 - Holiday (any holiday!)

Lavinia Lewis - Luke's Surprise

When werewolf Luke Morgan runs a simple errand with his brother Kelan, the last thing he expects to find at their neighbour’s ranch is his soul mate. The incredibly sexy ranch foreman Mark Malone is every gay man’s fantasy. The only problem? Neither Luke nor Mark is gay.
Unable to deny the attraction they feel for one another, they decide to try and make things work between them. The relationship at first seems all they could hope for but trouble in the guise of Ethan Walker, a werewolf who has his sights set on Luke, threatens to destroy their newfound happiness and the future they have planned together.
When Ethan’s threats turn to physical violence, will they still think the mating bond and blossoming love between them is worth risking their lives for?

Comment: I've had this book in the pile to read for some years but at some point, it just got out of my mind. Last month I remembered it and added it to my December list so here it is. Sometimes, we regret not reading something right away, so good it ends up being, but then there are times we just realize it was not worth the wait and, to me, this book turned out to be one of these cases.

In this book we have the story of Luke Morgan, a young man who happens to be part of a wolf shifter community and his older brother Kelan is the alpha. The brothers have another sibling who lives away but they can manage to deal with the work in their ranch and the neighbors seem to like them and their work.
The story begins, basically, with Luke finding out his mate and he is shocked to realize it's a man and not a woman, since he is not gay.
Mark Malone was about to start a job as foreman in a ranch when the neighbors come by and he realizes his mate is approaching. He is as surprised as Luke because he isn't gay either but after a slight mishap, they decide to give it a go. Others don't find this as fun and the guys can't seem to have an easy time. But will they be happy together?

I still remember that when I first started reading m/m stories, because many were released by specific publishers, the work could be very good and innovative or it could follow a type and trend that wasn't appealing to everyone. Nothing ever is, but if one buys a book from a certain publisher, some expectations exist, mostly because we know what kind of work a certain publisher provides.
Then there are the authors. Some we tend to like, others not so much and so on. This is the first book I tried by mrs Lewis but along with the publisher, I had good hopes for the story. However, as the pages kept going, I got more and more disappointed. 
I realized this book was "inserted" if one can use this word, in the type of M/M books I don't appreciate much, the ones where the plots are simple but underdone and where the characters don't seem as complex as they could.

I think the story wasn't done well. The two guys meet for the first time, realize they are mates but they don't seem to have any kind of visible awkwardness or issues besides a very basic initial "maybe we should just forget this" idea that soon is changed and they go straight to be in so much lust they are immediately perfect to one another.
Besides the fact it's not believable two strangers, no matter how strong the mating bond can be, wouldn't just do something just because, where is the getting to know each other, where are the personality layers that would make these two guys try for something they never had contemplated?
The relationship is too perfect, too easy, there's no sexual tension based on conflicted emotions and the situations surrounding them aren't intriguing enough - or portrayed well by the author - to make this an unforgettable plot.

The elements of the story have several points that will certainly be addressed in the future (the other brother, the pack's members, the community) but although a glimpse here and there would have been great, I don't think having it all at the same time alluded to was a good move. The story feels populated but there are too many things left in the open and this makes for a confusing plot, with elements to explain and under developed.

I think that the word I'd use to describe this story is "superficial". Even having interesting details, and even loving shifter stories like I do, this one is weak, has boring situations/parts and why I should care about the characters isn't there, the characterization felt very weak.
The world created by the author just doesn't seem interesting or engrossing. I confess I don't feel bad about not reading more in the series.
Grade: 3/10

Monday, December 11, 2017

Alison Packard - Breaking His Rules

Losing fifty pounds is an incredible achievement. But for Melissa Atherton, progress doesn't come with praise--a scathing comment from an evil cousin at a bridal shower threatens to crush her new self-esteem. Who will she bring to the upcoming wedding? Showing up without a date would be humiliating. It just isn't an option.
Personal trainer Jake Sawyer was attracted to Melissa before she lost weight, but her progress has him floored. When she admits she plans to hire a male escort--and why--his heart all but breaks. Melissa's come too far to be knocked down, especially by her own family. He'll go as her date...and figure out a way to keep his hands to himself.
But when a steamy hotel room encounter takes them both by surprise, Jake balks. He's sworn never to date one of his clients, not again. And Melissa can't bear to be just friends with the man who treated her so tenderly, even if it was only for a weekend. Jake's helped her see she's strong enough to stand up for herself, but will she find the strength to pursue the only man who's ever seen the real her?

Comment: When I got the first book I've read by the author, I liked it, so I also got the sequels, including the one I've read last month and this current one. I must say I haven't been much impressed by the following books...I suppose the other one was novelty enough or maybe it was just the best of the bunch...

In this story we have the romance of Jake (brother to the hero from Catching Heat) and Melissa, a woman who started to attend his gym.
Jake has been very strict about his personal rules when it comes to date clients. He has had a bad experience and now he only wants to keep things as professional as possible. The problem is that Melissa isn't just a client, she is a person he cares about, a woman he likes to spend time with and her motivation to treat her body better a plus in what he sees in her. He was already interested before she started losing weight but now her own perception is different, she seems even more attractive. Can he put his own rules side just one more time or is he doomed to repeat the same mistakes?

As a whole, I can't say this is a bad romance. I liked the personal stories of both Jake and Melissa, as individuals and their relationship wasn't too bad. I think my biggest disappointment comes from two things, one that probably only I would think of and another associated with the end of the story, when the HEA is about to happen.

First, a good element: I did like how Melissa wasn't portrayed as a woman only focused on losing weight. She had a believable reason to do it, she went about it in a positive way as well and  liked how she got to a certain point and decided she was feeling ok that way and she wasn't going towards a goal that would be too difficult and discouraging. She was feeling well and often that is a goal not many can admit, so I liked this aspect of Melissa's path and choices.

Also interesting, and slightly connected to the above, was Jake's impression of Melissa as a human being, as a person before she got to be a woman he was attracted to. Although this seems a little too sweet to be realistic, the idea is so cool I liked imagining Jake thinking of Melissa as a great person who was doing something she as not only entitled to but she was smart enough to do it correctly. 
Part of me has created a very personal image of how their relationship has evolved but overall, it was well done.
I also liked how professional Jake was when Melissa started attending - who is the obese person who wants to be ridiculed when trying to join a gym? - and also when she started to look like a woman he liked and not just a person he genuinely wanted to help and see succeeding. 

The biggest problem for me was closer to the end of the story... I think Melissa is a great character, she embodies those who want to change and are so totally in the right to do so but... is it truly believable the process is that easy? I understand, for the story's purposes she had to be confident enough but... I don't know, this part felt a let down, I wanted to see her personality accept the change as well, she sounded a little too perfect.
This meant the romance up to the end was amazing, when they have a conflict things get weird and the resolution was too weak and not romantic enough for me. Some situations related to this were also a bit silly, like how the contrast was done with Jake's former client, the one he had a bad experience with. Things could have been done differently and much better too.

The second little detail I would change is how Melissa and Jake finally give in to their feelings. It was too obvious, too premeditated. I wanted something a bit more magical and maybe Melissa would need to think twice about it, considering how emotionally the whole process had to affect her. Or maybe I' just being picky.

All in all, this wasn't too bad but I still hoped for more. I'd definitely change some details to better suit what I'd want to see. This means the story wasn't as perfect as I'd have like it to be. 
There's one more story in this series but I don't have the book and so far I don't really feel like reading it so... maybe one day.
Grade: 6/10

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Val Roberts - The Nobinata Gambit

Shakiro Nobinata wakes from life-saving surgery to discover he is paralyzed from mid-chest and re-growing several organs as well as his spinal cord. Lilo, who it turns out is really named Yuki Karaguchi, has been tasked with “assisting with recovery” by Shakiro’s father, Clan Lord Feng Nobinata.
Shakiro's parents ask him to come home to the Empire of Nippon and Allied Cultures for his convalescence. He takes Yuki and her terminally ill mother (the original Agent Karaguchi) with him, only to discover his father’s true motivation is a mysterious disappearance of a distant relative of the emperor; Nobinata is the clan in charge of Imperial Security, so any missing member of the royal family is a big problem. And the Emperor himself is coming to the planet in a few weeks.
So Shakiro has to learn how to walk again, convince the intriguing woman who has seen him at his worst to stay with him, find a traitor to the empire, and plan a Buddhist funeral, all in the few weeks before the Emperor arrives for his Golden Jubilee celebration…and possible assassination.

Comment: It's been more than an year since I've read the first book in the trilogy Human Diaspora by author Val Roberts. I confess I don't remember much besides the basics but I still remember I liked it so, after months of looking for it, I got this sequel and it ended up being my first read of December.

In this sequel, we follow Shakiro, a character that was present in the first book and who helped Tasha (heroine from book 1) survive an attack. In the process, Shakiro got injured and now he must deal with his recovery. He is also "invited2 to go back home to help his father, the person he thought didn't want him around the family anymore, to solve a problem without much publicity.
In his recovery process is included Lilo, an agent from the Nippon empire who gets the task of aiding him, and since her mother is also ill, they all travel to the empire for their own reasons. But Shakiro gets used to Lilo and starts having difficulties imagining a life without this woman who so much fascinates him...

I admit I didn't enjoy this book as much as the first one but it was still an interesting read.
I think my issues here were mostly due to the fact the plot seemed to move at a weird pace, and some scenes jumped very quickly without much development so... everything seemed rather rushed and without much purpose than just the solution of a problem.

Of course some of the best aspects of the book are intertwined with the bad: I didn't understand some steps taken in the plot but it was certainly fascinating to delve into Nipponic culture and procedures and why some notions seemed so important. In fact, the fact some characters are clearly Japanese is what makes this interesting. No matter how much one can know, it's always absorbing to read about Japanese things and people.

The plot was ok, I'd say. I was a bit lost on why certain things happened but for the most part, the fact the two main characters interacted a lot at first made it more believable for them to be in love later on. I still think the romance was a bit too subtle, I can't say if it was to "obey" the Japanese more private course of action or if it was a pacing issue but I could have used more  sexual tension before they told one another their relationship could evolve. It could also have used more romanticism.
After they arrive on Japan, things progress in a weird way, I still don't feel convinced the plot was done in the best way and the character interactions wasn't was smooth and understandable to me. But I also think this might be just a personal impression rather than a narrative problem.

I also think the story was very short for the amount of issues being dealt with.Nevertheless, it was a good enough story to entertain and some elements were engaging and interesting but yes, I sort of hoped for a bigger impact on all levels, especially emotionally and plot wise.
Grade: 6/10

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Ernest Cline - Ready Player One

It's the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We're out of oil. We've wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty, and disease are widespread.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes this depressing reality by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be, where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade is obsessed by the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this alternate reality: OASIS founder James Halliday, who dies with no heir, has promised that control of the OASIS - and his massive fortune - will go to the person who can solve the riddles he has left scattered throughout his creation.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based in the culture of the late twentieth century. And then Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle. Suddenly, he finds himself pitted against thousands of competitors in a desperate race to claim the ultimate prize, a chase that soon takes on terrifying real-world dimensions - and that will leave both Wade and his world profoundly changed.

Comment: This book has had good critics by some friends of mine and I got interested in reading it as well. I don't love sci-fi as a true fan does but I tend to appreciate a good story and I fully expected this one to be so.

The setting of this book is an American city in the year 2044, a time where the planet is more and more devastated by the environmental issues and problems caused by human action. Most people struggle to survive and pay for the things that seemed granted decades before.
However, in the era of scientific and virtual reality developments, there is one thing almost everyone gets immersed in to escape the harshness of their real lives, the online game OASIS, a well thought shared community people can access and live a double life. Everything is possible, there is something for everyone and there are countless "worlds" people can be part of. 
The problem is that the creator of OASIS has died and in his will he left everything, including the rights for OASIS to the person who can win a game of looking for and finding a secret he left somewhere in the vast universe of his game. For years people have tried to find at least a clue but only now someone has found something...Wade. 
The difficulty is to stay away from the IOI, a company that ruthlessly wants to take over the millions of OASIS but that would be the end of the free membership... can Wade and a group of friends defeat the all powerful IOI before the beauty of OASIS is lost for those who rely on it?

Honestly, the best element of this whole story has to be the amazing imagination of the author by picking so many possibilities and turning them into meaningful steps to create such a virtual reality concept as is the OASIS. I'm not a gamer myself so the conversations about how to best play a certain game online and related issues didn't really interest me. But the fact the OASIS is like a whole society one can access online seems quite likely when one thinks about social media and networks like we have already. In the story things are just taken several steps further and there's a complete set of worlds. I specifically liked how imaginative it was to create an online school where the students avatars go to virtual school and that is acceptable and legal.

Another interesting aspect is how the author used the 80s as his play field and there are countless references, quotes, notes and so on about the decade. It's also a very important feature for the quest the characters need to embark on, so I think the author did a very good job in mixing what can be the next step in gaming and online activity and what it was when it first started to be part of people's lives. I admit I lost some references but they do seem well inserted in the plot.

Of course we have the "moral lesson" content, which is shown two ways: how being online all the time can be negative to real human interactions and how the world is setting things up to allow it and, at the same time, and how greedy but powerful companies acquire the control of everything,  making people a sort of online slave.
Of course the first point is a given and the author doesn't try to influence the reader (I didn't feel it, personally) which I thought was a good way to let everyone have their own minds. On the second point, it's clear we are supposed to think beyond what marketing let us be aware of...all big companies rely on control and when just one person or group has the majority of that control over anything, how can it be truly fair for the common person? Although this aspect wasn't presented as aggressively as one could expect, it's there and (to me) the biggest conflict in the book is how fair and legal can things be when only one entity benefits from it. Even in real life, it an be scary how much of our life depends on one or a set of groups...

I think the little lessons in friendship and self awareness and even how to be a good person are details to be expected and the author didn't disappoint. I had fun reading this, it's not a overly violet book, it does make you think but I also would say some steps were a bit too much while some descriptions lost me. 
I suppose for hard core fans of science fiction and dystopia or even 80s revivalists and gamers it presents several issues but for me, who only read it for the different plot and story, it worked out pretty well.
Grade: 8/10

Monday, December 4, 2017

Charles Martin - The Mountain Between Us

On a stormy winter night, two strangers wait for a flight at the Salt Lake City airport.  Ashley Knox is an attractive, successful writer, who is flying East for her much anticipated wedding.  Dr. Ben Payne has just wrapped up a medical conference and is also eager to get back East for a slate of surgeries he has scheduled for the following day.   When the last outgoing flight is cancelled due to a broken de-icer and a forthcoming storm, Ben finds a charter plane that can take him around the storm and drop him in Denver to catch a connection.   And when the pilot says the single engine prop plane can fit one more, if barely, Ben offers the seat to Ashley knowing that she needs to get back just as urgently.   And then the unthinkable happens.  The pilot has a heart attack mid-flight and the plane crashes into the High Uintas Wilderness-- one of the largest stretches of harsh and remote land in the United States. 
 Ben, who has broken ribs and Ashley, who suffers a terrible leg fracture, along with the pilot's dog, are faced with an incredibly harrowing battle to survive.   Fortunately, Ben is a medical professional and avid climber (and in a lucky break, has his gear from a climb earlier in the week).  With little hope for rescue, he must nurse Ashley back to health and figure out how they are going to get off the mountain, where the temperature hovers in the teens.   Meanwhile, Ashley soon realizes that the very private Ben has some serious emotional wounds to heal as well.  He explains to Ashley that he is separated from his beloved wife, but in a long standing tradition, he faithfully records messages for her on his voice recorder reflecting on their love affair.  As Ashley eavesdrops on Ben's tender words to his estranged wife she comes to fear that when it comes to her own love story, she's just settling.  And what's more: she begins to realize that the man she is really attracted to, the man she may love, is Ben.

As the days on the mountains become weeks, their survival become increasingly perilous.  How will they make it out of the wilderness and if they do, how will this experience change them forever?

Comment: I got interested in this book before realizing it would be turned into a movie. I guess I can understand how this would appeal in a movie theater  - I'm sure lots of things will be changed too - but to be completely honest the story felt quite underdone.

In this story we meet doctor Ben and writer/journalist Ashley when they first see each other in an airport. The flights are being cancelled and postponed continuously due to the bad weather so when Ben sees the sign for private flights in a small aircraft, he decides to ask Ashley if she wants to join him. Both have important deadlines in their lives - Ben's work as a surgeon and Ashley's wedding - so they agree to go with expert pilot Grover.
The problem happens because Grover has a heart attack mid air and although he can make things in a way that the end isn't as serious as it could, they still suffer a crash and Grover, sadly, dies. Now Ben and Ashley are alone with Grover's dog and the snow and the wild nature...will they be rescued on time to save their lives?

I admit I had some expectations about this book. I expected a love story among adversity done in a way that would leave no room for doubt about the commitment of the two protagonists in saving themselves. The problem, for me, was the fact the story doesn't properly focus on these things as much as it did on Ben's issues and feelings...

I actually liked this idea Ben is the main focus of the story and he is the narrator. Well, at least at first, because as the story moved along it was more and more restrictive to only have Ben's POV and not Ashely's as well. My conclusion is that the emotional journey we were supposed to follow is Ben's and ok, this is fair, but terribly limitative! Obviously, not having a more dramatic relationship between Ashley and Ben makes this not a real romance story but one where emotional redemption is the main feature and, sadly for me, this meant the book lost a lot of the impact it could have had. I was hoping to see how the crash situation would affect the two of them, how they would react (despite the injuries), how they would come together and deal with the fact there were other people in their romantic lives... I wanted to be convinced of their developing relationship despite the adrenaline wasn't so.

Obviously, the key point here is Ben's emotional journey. He has some things to deal with, things we start understanding the more the story moves along because of the italic sections where we have Ben's monologues about his life, his past, his family... I get this but I really thought we would be getting a romance and not a personal description about the things we wish we could have said.
The situations described, when it came to the survival of the main characters, were quite vivid and impressive but slightly difficult to imagine. I suppose the movie will help with this detail.

I feel the reader is also a little bit "under serviced" by not having more on Ashley. I feel Ben's character is more developed and worked on - thanks to being the narrator - but Ashley just seems to be an extra, only useful to explain why Ben changes his thoughts and decides to be a different person somehow. I think Ashley isn't a good enough character and we only get some glimpses of her personality...sure this is interesting but not enough, all things considered.
This also means the romance isn't believable. Well, it wasn't for me. I do understand the message and why the story is told the way it is but I wanted the relationship between Ben and Ashley to feel real and strong but the end just...well, again I go back to the word "impact" because I felt the end had none and the supposed message we get when the book ends is kind of lost because the romance didn't feel well done. It seemed to have a promising start but it didn't end up in anything at the end...

All things considered, this book has its good elements, I liked reading it but when I turned the last page I was left wondering what I could do to make it more to my tastes so... it's not bad but not amazing either.
Grade: 6/10

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Nicki Edwards - Intensive Care

On the surface it looks like busy intensive care nurse Kate Kennedy has it all: a long-term relationship, a great career and a sleek inner city apartment. But appearances are deceiving, and in one fell swoop everything comes crashing down around her. In a moment of spontaneity, Kate leaves her city life and takes a new role as Nurse Unit Manager at Birrangulla Base Hospital, but her dream move proves harder than expected.
Local café owner Joel O'Connor finds himself increasingly drawn to the gorgeous new nurse, but like Kate, he's been scarred by love and isn't looking to jump into anything. Yet their chemistry is hard to deny and after a near fatal incident, Joel and Kate find themselves opening up to one another.
Just when Kate thinks she's found love again, their fragile relationship is thwarted by their pasts. Can they both let go of their guilt and grief to move on to a bright new future?

Comment: Another book I can't really remember why I added to my reading list but probably had something to do with an opinion somewhere about how interesting it was and that it featured a small town romance of sorts. However, I must say I was disappointed.

In this first installment in the series Escape to the Country, author Nicki Edwards created a story based on medical experts (mostly nurses) moving from a big city to a rural one. 
In this first book, the heroine is Kate Kennedy, a nurse who finds out her boyfriend cheated on her so she decides to turn her life around and she leaves the big city for a distant rural location where she hopes to start a new life.
Before moving, Kate briefly met a man at the hospital she worked in so it's quite a surprise when she finds him in the new place, he works at a coffee shop owned by him. Kate and Joel start as friends and they help each other when necessary but can Kate keep her feelings neutral? Will Joel ever feel the same for her?

My expectations for this book weren't the highest ever but they were considerable and I wanted to read a good contemporary, even more so because the setting is Australia, a country everyone knows something about but which is (especially geographically) far away and not easy to see with one's eyes how close reality is. 
For me, in Europe, the US is as distant but the movies and pop culture so heavily set on America do help in creating an idea. When it comes to Australia, it's not the same, so the little facts about the country, the different areas were interesting to read about, even if that wasn't the main point in the story.

The story had its interesting moments, for sure. The idea of stating over in a new place has an appeal many people would enjoy, in particular if they were confident professionals and knew they would be successful. I also liked how plenty the medical situations were, so the author investigated medical procedures, why they happened and how they would be treated.
The problem, as it was with mostly everything, is the writing itself.
I think the writing style isn't very captivating, it's both descriptive but rushed which means the plot doesn't feel like it's flowing very well. For instance, we would have many medical descriptions like I said but they would come out of nowhere, a patient would arrive and things jumped from there. The link between one scene and whatever was happening before and then after just doesn't fit the pace and often I would wonder if some scenes were there just to fill up some space or if the author didn't know how to incorporate them into the plot.

The plot had several situations I found weirdly done or without much realism.
Some examples:
Kate finds out her boyfriend cheats by seeing a text message. She asks no questions, she demands nothing, she just leaves everything behind and starts over. Not even a phone call/message to demand an explanation at least.
Conveniently, Kate finds a new job in a matter of hours.
Kate's new co workers are all a bit mean to her for who knows which reasons (the explanation didn't convince me).
Kate and Joel are an item, they want to (and do) take thinks slowly but their relationship isn't very passionate (ok, not a real issue but it was so lukewarm I lost interest in them together).

Kate is an interesting character but some of her attitudes seemed a contradiction. She says at first she hates confrontation but she does let her inner fighter out many times...I liked some aspects of her personality but as a whole she didn't win me over.
Joel is very intriguing but his behavior isn't easy to understand all the time. Oh well.

All in all, this was pretty much a boring story, there are several situations that seemed compelling but the execution left a lot to be desired in my opinion. The emotional side was done well in parts but where most readers would want it to - the romance with Joel - it just felt so...simple and without enough punch. Perhaps the balance wasn't met, I'd say but to be honest I don't feel intrigued enough to read the next ones to find out if the writing gets better.
Grade: 5/10