Tour’s Books Blog

December 10, 2011

Happy Holidays and Short Reviews

Well, between work, reading, and football, life has been busy – yet somehow I seem to have little to show for it.  Except a pile of finished books.  Honestly, I am such a book hog.  It’s amazing how quickly time passes these days.  First days seem to fly by, then weeks, and before I know it, Christmas is almost here.  So dressed in my holiday best, here are some very short reviews on a few of the books I’ve plowed through.

  • Title:  The Ideal Man
  • Author:  Julie Garwood
  • Type:  Romantic Suspense
  • Genre:  Lightweight romance with some suspense and weird family
  • Sub-genre:  Brilliant woman doctor with stalker meets hunky FBI agent and chasing a killer arms dealer
  • My Grade: C- (2.8*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Novel – about 90,000+ $7-17 (used to new)
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores, online, and used
  • FTC Disclosure: rec’d through an online book swap site

Julie Garwood made her writing bones with Regency romance novels with unusual, plucky heroines.  The settings have changed with the clothes and technology, but the plots remain the same.  Competent, intelligent woman meets big, protective man who wants to save her ….. and basically just wants her.  Light on plot, Garwood, as always, uses characters rather than research to drive her stories.  The results are pretty predictable, basically, you read one Garwood book, you’ve read them all.

As a child, Ellie Sullivan was a prodigy that ended up stalked and nearly killed by the son of a wealthy couple who managed to get him off of attempted murder and declared insane.  After the last time he assaulted her and left her for dead in a shallow grave, Ellie’s parents sent her to live with people in the mid-west to keep her safe while they and her twin sisters stayed back in her hometown.  (I know, why didn’t the whole family go, huh?)  Anyway, she goes from prodigy to crime victim, to being raised by caring strangers who became her surrogate parents, to brilliant trauma surgeon.   Nearly finished with her fellowship, she plans to return home to Winston Falls, SC for her sister’s wedding to Ellie’s ex-fiance. A trip she just isn’t looking forward to for multiple reasons.

Having just ended a brutal shift in the ER, Ellie goes for a run and ends up witnessing the shooting of an FBI agent and then saving his life, first by stabilizing him in the park and then by doing his surgery.  Max Daniels can’t figure out why some high school kid is in the park helping his partner, but He quickly adjusts his dismissive opinion of Ellie.  His interest isn’t entirely professional, and when Ellie becomes the target of a contract killer, he sticks around to protect her.

Back in Winston Falls, things fall apart rapidly between Ellie and her clueless mother.  She becomes a target for both her old crazy stalker and a second hired killer out to eliminate a witness.

Sounds better than it reads.  My rating is C- (2.8*) and a book that can easily be missed.  It’s a way to pass a couple of hours if you get it free.

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  • Title:  It’s All Greek to Me
  • Author:  Katie MacAlister
  • Type:  Contemporary Romance
  • Genre:  Lightweight romance with some a completely silly ploy
  • Sub-genre:  American author meets Greek billionaire and instant attraction
  • My Grade: D+ to C- (2.5*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Novel – about 90,000+ $7.99
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores, online
  • FTC Purchased from an online bookstore

Here’s a book determined to make you laugh, despite the improbable lightweight plot, a elements that will absolutely enrage some – with just cause.  Katie MacAlister is known for her light, frothy, humorous romances.  She isn’t deep, angsty, or especially innovative.  That’s OK if fluff is nice break break from the blood, gore, and intensity of action thrillers, serial killing mysteries, and bloody urban fantasy.  Who wants grim around Christmas?  That said, Ms MacAlister made two horrible missteps with her plot, missteps that frankly should never have happened as they did.

The first big plot problem is in the opening pages where our 30-something heroine is fetched to the scene of a hysterical, sobbing 18 year old woman, Cyndi, that accuses the younger brother of the billionaire host of sexual assault.  OK – what’s wrong with this??????  Start by playing this for laughs and making the young woman an absolute idiot – not to mention the ‘victim’s’ real issue is the brother decided he didn’t want her and stopped his so called assault.  The other issue here is the over-the-top farce this turns into with Elegantine ‘Harry’ Knight and Iakovos Papaioannou squaring off while the Cyndi continues her histrionics. The story, reiterated several times, is Cyndi decided Theo was sending her ‘signals’ he wanted her, so she stripped to the buff and climbed in his bed.   Finding a naked willing female in his bed, he starts taking advantage, then stops and orders her out.  Cue her hysterics.

First, this is no place for humor, accusing a person of sexual assault is a serious issue, and the idiot girl is absolved of everything because ‘she’s just turned 18’.  Hello – 18 year olds vote, are given uniforms, guns and trained to kill by the military, and are legally ADULTS.  Not only is this tasteless, it’s sure to make any real assault survivor, or any man accused of something he didn’t do, see red.  It’s just wrong on every level.  It’s also a poor way to have a supposedly mature woman behave and a nasty way to introduce romantic partners.  I read the scenes and was confused by the way everyone was behaving and indulging a drama queen and how this led to Harry and Iakovos landing in bed together.  It made zero sense.

The other issue is the way Theo’s drinking is handled – actually, his alcoholism – and his REAL attempted assault on Harry are glossed over.  Theo is a nasty drunk and aside from banishing him to a project in Brazil, his much older brother is in a kind of denial, though he is smart enough to know a drunk cannot be saved until they WANT to be saved.  Their father was an alcoholic, so he knows that much by experience.  That said, the handing of the Theo character was just wrong.  The last big plot error was Harry’s habit of punching people, which also got out of hand as a plot device and became so not funny.

For the romance part, well there was a lot of sharp, funny dialogue, but the whole thing was just so damn preposterous, it was silly.  Yes, there were some laugh out loud moments, but they couldn’t hide the book’s fundamental flaws.  The polarizing effects of the opening chapter remind of the far better written Whitney, My Love – known to many as ‘Witless, My Love’-  featuring the worst alpha-hole in romantic fiction and a REAL rapist/sexual abuser.  People love/hate that book.  It’s All Greek to Me is too fluffy to manage the enduring feat of Judith McNaught’s classic, but it is doomed to wildly opposing reviews depending on readers sensitivity to the issues so blithely disposed of in the plot, or more accurately, the lack of coherent plot.

Is It’s All Greek to Me worth $7.99?  Not really.  If you set aside the opening, the body of the book is just off track.  It reads like individual stage sets strung together by fairy floss and just lacks heart and heat.  Not to mention common sense.  My Grade is D+ to C- (2.5*).  Be aware, that many will buy the fantasy and enjoy humor enough to give the book a much better rating.

**********************************************

  • Title:  Death By the Dozen
  • Author:  Jenn McKinlay
  • Type:  Cozy mystery
  • Genre:  Bakers in Scottsdale keep dealing with bodies
  • Sub-genre:  Scottsdale food fest is deadly for one judge
  • My Grade: B+ to A- (4.5*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Novel – about 80,000+ $6.99
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores, online
  • FTC Purchased from an online bookstore

I can admit I was wrong on this one, so mea culpa.  I hesitated to try this series.  OK, I more than hesitated.  I wrote it off as one of those annoying cozy clones that drive me nuts.  It isn’t.  It’s clever, well written and has interesting plot.

Melanie ‘Mel’ Cooper, a classically trained chef, has partnered with childhood friend Angie DeLaura to own and operate a cupcake bakery in Old Town Scottsdale – one of my favorite spots in the Phoenix area.  They are entering the Scottsdale Food Festival and have been practicing including ‘secret ingredients’ from parsnips to chili peppers into innovative desserts.  Arch rival, and frequent winner, Olivia Pluckett, is determine to stop them.  She goes as far as to physically trying to block them from entering the office where they are almost late for the deadline to enter.

This year the festival is making it as a Food Network special and the host is a thinly disguised Guy Fieri.  Overloaded with festival prep and business, Mel calls the technical high school for an intern.  The young man to help out, and despite appearances, he is a gem.  But Mel is even more thrilled when her mentor and favorite chef instructor from her culinary school days, Vic Marzotta, shows up in her bakery early one morning, samples her parsnip dessert, correctly identifies the ‘secret ingredient’ and tells her he’ll be one of the judges.  She thought he was in India filming his Food Network show!  But Vic isn’t alone, he a very young ‘assistant’ with him, and Mel is both shocked and embarrassed by it, especially when Vic’s wife/manager walks in to remind him he’s late for important appointment.

The first day of the dessert contest comes and Mel and Angie are shocked by Vic’s absence from the judging table.  Then Vic is found by a bartender getting ice, inside a freezer truck, very, very dead.  When Angie is poisoned, Mell is ready to quit the festival, but with the help of her talented intern, and Angie’s brothers (the oldest, a DA is her boyfriend), they carry on.  The ending is really entertaining and I can only hope the real Guy Fieri is as personable as his fictional clone.

The plot is well developed and the characters engaging.  I really enjoyed the mystery, and Dame Agatha would have been happy to see Miss Marple’s modern counterparts are still figuring things out and finding the basic truths in life.  There are even recipes at the back, something of a tradition in foodie mysteries.  That is, unless you’re Rex Stout.

Is Death by the Dozen worth $6.99?  YES!  Go buy and enjoy this one.  I’m already getting one of her earlier ones through a book swapping site, it was that good!

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  • Title:  Shaedes of Gray
  • Author: Amanda Bonilla
  • Type:  Urban Fantasy
  • Genre:  An assassin who moves through shadows
  • Sub-genre:  A woman twice abused and lied to transforms yet again with her strength and love
  • My Grade: B (4.0*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Novel – about 90,000+ $7.99
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores, online
  • FTC Purchased from an online bookstore

A first novel by author Amanda Bonilla is an interesting read.  This appears to have struck a nerve for several readers on Amazon, I’m just not sure why, though they seemed to find the heroine reprehensible.  I certainly didn’t.

Darian was a woman of her times in the late 1800’s.  At 21, she married a doctor who seemed to be just what she wanted, a man to love and cherish her.  Instead, he beat her constantly because of his frustrated sexual desires (he was gay at a time such men were shunned) and her parents were indifferent to plight.  Never taught to defend herself, she just lost hope and withdrew into herself, only to be ‘saved’ by Azriel – a mysterious, handsome man her husband brought home to dinner, only to have him concentrate on Darian.  Azriel leaps to her defense, kills her husband and takes her away.  They lived together and Azriel made a kind of living as an assassin.  When he disappears, leaving Darian without skills to take care of herself, she takes up where he left off and becomes assassin herself.

Over the years, Darian has learned to live alone, unwilling to allow another into life and assuming no others of her own kind existed.  Then came Tyler.  He arranged her ‘business’ matters.  Handsome, charming, and oddly comforting to have around, she dismisses him as human, a word that has become a derogatory term to her as it holds all those fragile, frail things she used to be over 100 years ago.  But Ty ignores her jibes and she is unnerved by him in a way that makes her lash out, trying time and again to drive him away.  It’s how she’s learned to protect herself from pain of being abandoned and betrayed again, as she is sure she will be.

But everything she thinks is true comes crashing down when she learns that she is far from the only one of her kind – and there are many other supernatural creatures out there as well.  Alone so long, thinking she always would be, she’s furious at yet another deceit.  Yet they still keep coming.  A cycle if lies and half truths.  Until the one enduring truth is revealed.

As a reader of UF, action thrillers featuring assassins, and books with ambiguous heroes, I found this a really good read.  Not a romantic paranormal, as so many are today, so if that’s what you want, give this a miss.  It’s a walk on the darker side where morality is gray and survival is the best outcome.  There was some level of ‘ick’ with Xander’s interest in Darian – I found that kind of creepy and wrong on a certain level for several reasons, but mostly because he was a using SOB.  Darian is not a warm and lovable heroine, but I found her character believable and liked her growth.

Was Shaedes of Gray worth $7.99?  Yes.  If you like the harder UF, give this a try.  If you’re looking for the next Cat and Bones series, you might want to give it a miss.  It will not appeal to you.  I have the next book in the series on pre-order.

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2 Comments »

  1. Do you do e-book reviews by request perchance?

    Jessa Callaver
    (jessa_callaver@aol.com)

    Comment by Jessa Callaver — January 1, 2012 @ 10:14 pm | Reply

    • I do upon occasion. I’m reading some ebooks now, but they are ones I purchased.

      Comment by toursbooks — January 12, 2012 @ 9:18 pm | Reply


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