Naked in Death (In Death, #1)

Naked in Death by J.D. Robb

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


DNFed, for 2 reasons:
1) There’s something very un-likable about the main character from the first pages. Like she is trying to be cold and professional, but actually looks like she is trying to be nasty on purpose.
2) This whole book is like a string of predictable clichés one after another. And not even nice ones.

The whole book is soaked through with the feeling of “let me show you something vile, because I think it’s cool”.
It’s everywhere: in the word choices (I find the whole ‘our boy’ talk about the killer distasteful and trying to hard, like children trying to play at ‘badasses’; and the distasteful sex talk everywhere), the victim choices (because of course prostitutes shot in face and genitalia, what else is ‘cool’?), the side characters (pompous sexist senator with gun obsession, flaunting beauty salon worker, … and other stereotypes that hardly require any imagination); dominance games; and so on and so forth.
Also, the mind-hopping writing doesn’t do this book any favours.
Then the “mysterious, tall, dark, handsome, and rich” couldn’t have been a bigger cliché if we all tried together.
The expensive presents, the coffee mania, the insta-lust, the prostitutes,… every single thing about the part of this book I read felt like the most overused elements you can find stuck up your nose. With a constant unsavoury undertone to boot.

This book is trying to be a serious futuristic crime suspense…but it stops just there. At trying very hard.



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The Grendel Affair (SPI Files, #1)

The Grendel Affair by Lisa Shearin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This book has an interesting enough setting and idea, but it simply failed to grip me.
I attribute it to the fact that writing was dry, and repetitive. Sometimes it almost seemed like every chapter was written separately for people who didn’t read the rest. Seriously though, while people with attention span of 30 seconds might appreciate it, it at times felt like readers were treated like idiots who aren’t able of remembering that main character is as a seer and what it means for longer than 3 pages.
A pity, really, because it feels like I could’ve really like the characters and setting (and Stat Trek references) if the prose just didn’t feel like such a snooze fest…




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Breathe (Colorado Mountain, #4)

Breathe by Kristen Ashley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book was not what I expected. Especially the beginning. The way it begun you would’ve thought it was some kind of modern thriller or heavy-crime-shit drama, instead of a romance.
There’s a lot of heavy and nasty themes here, and if people pick it up thinking they’re getting some light time with a contemporary romance they might be disappointed.

I didn’t like everything about it.
The writing is a bit too heavy on reflection and looong paragraphs of over-explaining and thinking back on things that already happened. Also, weird time skips, just to spend half of the chapter to recount what happened during the time that was skipped (two-steps-forward-one-step-back style). It also is very heavy on bad language and swearing.
I personally never been anywhere even close (as in on the same continent) as Colorado Mountains, so I don’t know how natural the speech in this book is, but it bothered from time to time. As in Chase’s manner of speaking did tend to get annoying. I couldn’t tell how much of it seemed too condescending because he was too condescending, and how much of it was just his speech manner.

Even with the points above and some other issues, I’m still going to give this book 5 stars, because it has some very good things going for it. The main relationship is about things that are very right. There are a lot of right things said, and the characters are written very well. You don’t need to like a character to know that they are written thoroughly and consistently.
This book also got better and better towards the end.
Since this is a romance, the beginning actually of the book makes you expect more of the ‘gory real-world-crime-shit’ that there actually is. Not to say that there still isn’t enough of it, some of it quite dark and gory. There isn’t too much, and it does take a background role. I also probably have a talent to imagining worse developments.
What I really appreciated about this book is how multiple characters got to ‘set the record straight’ by explaining to other people how things should be and what is right, and it actually got through. It’s not often that I find a book where I can not only breathe happily when people make logical arguments at length, but also don’t have to get all annoyed because no one listens to them anyway.
Also, humour. And geek humour, none the less.

Not what I expected from this book when I got it, but a good lengthy read that will go on my ‘favourites’ shelf.



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Tempting Danger (World of the Lupi, #1)

Tempting Danger by Eileen Wilks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


There is just something about this book that prevented it from grabbing me.
Maybe it was the world setting where the werewolves can only be male and like to walk around topless.
Maybe it’s the too many levels of political games (and dominance) and players.
(Clans, sorcerers, cults, police, various government agencies, etc; and the pissing contest within each one and among them all. Too much of boring and unpleasant to labour through it all.)
Maybe it’s the ‘all self-important’ (prejudiced, judging, I-know-better, and ‘I have to be this way to be taken seriously, so don’t expect me to get off my high horse any time soon’) side to the main character.
Maybe it’s all the ‘free sex’ and poly-amorous themes and sexualised imaginary everywhere (right until they are forced into insta-lust and monogamy by the powers above).
The content of this book just kept balancing on the very edge between ‘okay’ and ‘don’t like’ for me constantly, and I couldn’t really get into it.



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Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor (Friday Harbor, #1)

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Am I the only one who sees a big fat problem with the central idea of this book that has a 6 yo child who just lost her mother making a wish for ‘a mother for Christmas’?
A part from an unbelievable child and a throw-away character of Shelby, who just shouldn’t have been in the book in the first place,
it’s a perfectly ordinary contemporary romance story with attractive characters, food, coffee, and an ugly dog.



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Kitty and the Midnight Hour (Kitty Norville, #1)

Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


DNFed.
This book lost me somewhere between mleh and disgusting.
A weak (in more than one sense) main character who surfs through the story on sheer dumbness and luck. It’s likely very subjective, but there just was nothing to like about her. The whole ‘Secret world of supernatural creatures? Hear me talk about it on the radio! A hired gun is coming to kill me and he needs to do it on the air? Of course I can’t quit the show and save my hide, the show is more important!’ way of thinking is just something I can’t get behind.
Her attitude towards everyone and everything is just..too dumb.
Then, even setting the protagonist aside, the whole “supernatural world” of this book is too immoral and distasteful. It’s all about dominating, bullying, and abusing each other. Mated alpha practically raping anyone he wants and she still wants to hide behind him and have him protect her? Main character’s close friend questioning her why she would protect herself from being raped by the guy who turned her against her will and telling her she’s “getting too cocky”? The main character in turn then deciding she would enjoy it to become a bully herself instead?
No thanks.



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Dead Man Talking (The Happily Everlasting Series, #1)

Dead Man Talking by Jana Deleon

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Very simple and very slow slightly paranormal story.
Speaking kindly.
Speaking truthfully, ‘boring’ might be more the word.
This book feels weak on practically every aspect, including writing quality.
The little things, really. How there can be several paragraphs in a row where the main character would only be referred to as ‘she’ in every sentence. A lot of too glaring dialogue short-cuts. Uncomfortable flow of the text.
Also…”Towel that felt like Kleenex against the skin”? Is that supposed to be a good thing?





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Inquisitor (Witch & Wolf)

Inquisitor by R.J. Blain

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I have to say I wasn’t sure I really liked this book for 90% of it.
It was the feeling of constantly not knowing if every character with exception for the protagonist would die the next minute or betray her. It felt like there was not enough to grasp on, not enough solid ground. I suppose in some way it is actually consistent with the life the main character is living—disappearing and re-eventing herself, watching everyone die.
Also, too many innocent people dying left and right might have something to do with that.
Usually, ‘mind games’ is one of the themes I try to avoid in books.
But I was also pleasantly surprised by the ending, which took me right back to being excited to continue reading this series.



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Must Love Otters (Revelation Cove #1)

Must Love Otters by Eliza Gordon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


A well-written realistic contemporary romance. There are details, imagination, well-built characters, self-deprecating humour.
While the writing is above average, the content itself…is 50/50 at best. The main character inspires more pity, than sympathy (although I do believe the book is self-aware of the fact), and definitely a lot of ‘why do you need to be so stupid’ thoughts. She is also a bit too venomous and judgemental towards her surroundings (in a cowardly way), for my comfort.
A lot of developments were very predictable, which only made the main character’s bad decisions seem even more stupid. And then, the drama in the end seemed a bit too ‘dragged in by the ears’…as in, too convenient and suddenly very not realistic, compared to the rest of the book. …It is likely, however, that it was necessary because nothing less would ever shake this main character enough to change something.
The writing does save this book though, it makes it enjoyable regardless.



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Friends Without Benefits (Knitting in the City, #2)

Friends Without Benefits by Penny Reid


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Everything about him at that moment made my internal organs bleed hearts and flowers and puppies and kittens and hot chocolate and hot apple cider and red wine and campfires and Star Trek and yarn—my favorite things.



(It’s so much easier to read these romantic comedies when the female part of your brain doesn’t push you to try to over-identify and empathise with a character just because you identify with some neurological characteristics.)

Yes to the humour, to the tone, to the sarcasm, to the Star Trek Voyager references, to the characters, to the “it has always been you” kind of love. I enjoyed reading this book much more than I expected myself to.

Though, as with the first one, there were also some moments that felt ‘just…no‘… Mainly everything to do with the TV show (including the whole scene in the end). And the fact that the ‘villain’ part, the non-romantic comedy part of the world, felt too half-baked.

If not for the tv show thing, Nico’s character could really be that perfect kind of romance hero.
I really don’t get this part of this book and the insistence on trying to make something trashy and sleazy sound like it’s not.



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Second Grave on the Left (Charley Davidson #2)

Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


My impression is that this book felt a little too dragged out. A lot of circling around the same questions without actual developments. A lot of back-and-forward on relationships.
A lot of interesting side character, but so many questions…
Even the humour felt sometimes laid too thick and forced sometimes.
Also, …mostly frustrating and unsatisfactory ending.
Hoping for swift improvement in the future books…




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The Secret of Clouds

The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Close to 1.5 stars, 2 only because I managed to make myself finish it (it wasn’t easy).
The publishers and other people who wrote all the comments and praise words on the cover of this book tried very hard to make me believe I was about to read something special and heartfelt. The book didn’t deliver.
The impression I got from this book, is that if I could gather it up and squeeze it in my hand, once I opened my hand only sand and dust would seep through my fingers. There was nothing inside. Perhaps it’s a mean thing to say…
But, imho, a book of contemporary literature like this, which picks and focuses on ordinary lives of a small number of people out of the millions living on this planet, has to either show something you won’t forget, or tell its story using words you won’t forget. This book fails to do either.
The writing is simply weak. The ‘fragmented’ structure of the text can be interesting when it’s used with a good reason, but here it unfortunately serves only a single purpose—to make it easier for readers to get through the text that has no powers to grip their attention otherwise. When a pause/space is inserted where neither POV not the scene have changed, the only reason it is there is to hide the fact that if you reconnect paragraphs in your mind, the flow of text would just be jaw-numbingly boring.
It’s mostly dry listing of every detail in sight.
Predictable reactions spelled out over and over.
Astonishingly stale dialogues.
Some of the sections consist of nothing but 7-10 short sentences beginning with the word ‘I”.
And even when it tries to express something ‘deep’, it somehow just doesn’t sound sincere.
Considering that this is a story of an English teacher with love for books and writing…all I can say is “…Really?”
Overall, the narrative bits mostly left me with a lot of unpleasant aftertaste.
The Ukrainian bits were slightly better on emotional level…if not for all the frustrating details—like the fact that people don’t wear shoes in houses in Ukraine, or how it’s always kielbasa everywhere, even when it’s not, or verb tense switching constantly back and forth. These parts would me marginally better is they made an effort to not be so Americanized. Figuring out kolbasa (not kielbasa), pirozhki (not pierogi), kasha, and what they actually are and their actual uses (as in, no kind of kolbasa would go into hotdogs, and that there’s no such thing as ‘just kasha’), as well as the proper shapes for paskhas, would be a good start.
The disturbing part is that I can’t really tell if the author didn’t have the knowledge, or did have it but chose to not put it in and over-Americanize it for ‘simple readers’ on purpose. Either way, I do wish authors would stop mangling other cultures because they’re either too lazy to do proper research, or, when they do, think they need to ‘localize’ and over-simplify everything for American readers.
Overall, food issues aside, the minds of people living in Ukraine in the last days of the USSR are not represented believably anywhere on these pages. These are just Americans in costumes with Polish kielbasa in hands pretending to act Ukrainian (just as they would be in any Hollywood feature, I suppose).

In terms of story, it’s just…nothing we really haven’t seen before? Picking up a sad story to tell doesn’t magically make it into a good book. Mixing in boring broken relationships makes it even worse. Everything is entirely too predictable, nothing really grips the heart strings. The main character is practically impossible to like. On top of which, most of the side characters feel very bland and empty. “Katya” especially feels like an over-simplified empty shell, where she should have been the core of emotion here.
The cliché doomed relationship of the “and why they were tougher to begin with?” variety, where from the first pages the empty character if the boyfriend is written in completely negative light (with the whole “sully my happiness with his pub breath”), while the replacement is better from every angle in comparison, perfect overall, and is praised with every word and description so much its nothing but ridiculous… Was this a necessary part of this book?

Long story short, even if this could be a good story, it is thoroughly spoiled by being told from a perspective of an mentally immature, unreliable, overly subjective, and too self-centered narrator…in bad prose.

P.S.
I also do believe it is morally wrong for a teacher to actually read the letters “to future selves” she asked her students to write. They should have been private. But then that would have defeated the main point of this book, wouldn’t it?



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Neanderthal Marries Human (Knitting in the City, #1.5)

Neanderthal Marries Human by Penny Reid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Just as the previous one, this book continued to do this weird thing of hitting precisely the points I find very close and like a lot (the ostrich behavior, the structure of the relationship between the main characters, the unconditional love-friendship importance, Kitten, ASD qualities, etc.) and precisely the points I really hate very much (stilettos and women’s shoes, stockings, men who try to dress up women, women who find idiotic reasons to care about people opening doors for them, etc.).
Similarly to constantly randomly mixing things I love and hate, it also constantly mixes elements that could belong in a silly-almost-childish ‘girly’ fiction (wedding, fashion, girlfriends…not as much the topics as the way they are written about) with things belonging in more serious adult fiction (crime, mental disorders, broken families, real-life assholes).
It’s a fun and uplifting book on one side. The relationships are written especially well, and there are many things here that are worth stopping to think about for a few moment.
And I’m giving it 4 stars on my bookshelf because of it, …though, if I am to be really honest and remember the number of times the ‘female’ stuff in here made me gag (practically every time fashion and clothes/shoes came into focus, and the whole discussion of men opening doors for women, plus some of the behavioral decisions), I’d probably end up rating this book much lower. Good thing I’m so good at pretending that things I didn’t like weren’t there.



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