Sam's Reading: A Work in Progress

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Luck of the Draw - Kate Clayborn


That's my official: akduirka;mv;l.

I just love stories of people with vulnerabilities and this has it in spades. These main characters moved me all on their own, and as a couple, I have to be honest--I loved them there too. I highly recommend the first in the series for the same kind of multi-layered, complex characters. For me, this one was so close and at times exceeding my feelings for the [book:Beginner's Luck|35717661]. It very much teeters on 5-star range. Sometimes the inner thoughts of the two of these characters made my eyes sting, which isn't easy. It was just that intense. The characters both were dealing with heavy grief and failed expectations of their own, thrown together as a result of Zoe trying to make amends for her prior evil corporate lawyer gig. What results is a distant, grieving brother thawing and being chipped away and a former corporate lawyer looking for adventure learning to forgive her past mistakes as part of herself. What I loved about Zoe is how hard she tried-always. Aiden was harder to pin down to just one thing other than his intensity. I felt Kate Clayborn deftly and successfully built a dynamic and intimacy between the characters without being heavy-handed. It was just a joy to watch unfold.

Really, as with the review for Beginner's Luck, I feel like this is just rambling gushy-ness. I really appreciated the slow growth for the characters as well as the relationship, and the sexy-times did not hurt matters one bit.


Thanks to Netgalley for the free copy of this book. 

In Harmony - Emma Scott
And thus concludes my February reading list. WHEW. Take a breath.

That book was...*eyes search brain for words* long?

Yes, long. It was long, okay? I really loved Full Tilt but part of me wonders if it was just kind of fresh teenaged crush of mine or if it was real, everlasting love.

Emma Scott does angsty plot lines better IMO opinion than a Mia Sheridan or similar. And I was rooting for these two. Really. Broken girl meets broken boy. Both shit families. Different sides of the track. A tale as old as time. It was very sweet, and I did like Isaac as a hero. (And Willow as a heroine) The secondary characters were pretty kick-ass, though I would've loved a decent nice guy vying for Willow as well instead of just douches. I thought the date rape background was actually very excellently done, though maybe at times too much of a focus. So all that said, it was too heavy-handed at times. And at times, it was nicely subtle (if Hamlet talks too fucking much & his fatal flaw was inaction, well, Isaac is the opposite for example). Though that is true, the play off Hamlet (or any other play) became too conveniently parallel, and frankly kind of annoying. Give these guys their own story.

I think you get the picture. I enjoyed the angst-fest, but not too much because some of it was just simply too much. Overall, it was a sweet, diverting read.


Binti - Nnedi Okorafor

I struggle a bit with novellas. Especially novellas that have intense world-building. I enjoy Okorafor's style quite a bit, and adored Who Fears Death, but this one felt a little spare for me. Which is weird, because it wasn't lacking on details or characters-or parallels to our own planet. I can't quite put my finger on it, to be honest.

What I will say, however, is that I do want to read Okorafor's installments of Black Panther. I could've loved this as a graphic novel as well. 


Someone like You - Lauren Layne



Lincoln's book was the one I was most looking forward to. It had so much potential. Layne did a great job with the build-up, creating his charming devil-may-care facade who you knew had deeper issues. What I experienced with this book was a full let-down. I won't get into it too much, but the plot was somewhat complicated, the protagonists were equally so, and it was frankly underdeveloped. 


I don't want to get into much detail, there's so much big reveal stuff in this book, and I will acknowledge one scene struck me as super emotional. However, this book relied on prior characterizations of Lincoln and tiny bits of his POV to for his growth, and it just failed spectacularly for me. I didn't understand the heroine's growth well at all. It didn't feel like they earned their HEA in many ways; admittedly, this book has 2.5 stars simply for the friendship portion. I quite enjoyed that.



Once Upon a Christmas Eve: A Maiden Lane Novella (Kindle Single)

Once Upon a Christmas Eve: A Maiden Lane Novella (Kindle Single) - Elizabeth Hoyt It was....ok.

That's all I got.
How to Date a Douchebag: The Failing Hours - Sara Hassinger Ney, C. Marie Mosley

Well, well, well...


New Adult is a tricky genre, to be sure. When it's done right though, there's nothing that can make me as teary-eyed. I know, I don't get it either. I think it's just the intensity of that time.


This was New Adult done right, yet again. I love assholes. And I don't just mean the jerks that say the wrong thing now and again or are insensitive. I mean the real jerks. The sharp, insecure ones that don't let anyone close. Zeke was one of these, without a doubt. And though his backstory was one I don't particularly connect to-poor little rich boy-it was actually more compelling than others I've seen using this defense mechanism. Now, I fully realize I'm in a category of weirdos when it comes to these heroes. Ben from Truly by Ruthie Knox. Love him. Jimmy from Lead by Kylie Scott. He's my favorite hero of hers. These don't seem to be wildly popular opinions. The problem is that it is so easy to go wrong here. An asshole can quickly turn into a dark, terrible, controlling, alpha-hole. I was breathing sighs of relief at the fantastic way Sara Ney avoided this trap. 




It was evident from the grocery store scene how subtly Zeke was caring for the people around him. Unfortunately, it wasn't clear if he meant to do it, or if he just filled the gaps.


As we figure out he quietly helps people out without destroying making them ask or destroying their pride. And as Jameson figures him out in this scene, how he's irritated with her for beginning to see through him. 


The use of the little brother  (Kyle) relationship. Yep, he was rough around the edges-clueless really-with the kid, but also steady. And dear god I almost sobbed when during their conversation in the car when he let him know it wasn't Violet that helped him, but Kyle. 


And for me, this piece was also very important (Him and Violet after the big fight): 

"I'm... I can't explain why I acted like an ass, and I feel like a bigger asshole for apologizing; it makes me feel like one of those pricks who treat women like shit. I'm not that guy." 


Her hazel eyes regard me thoughtfully. "If you're not careful, you could be." 


Honestly, whoosh. I thought that was so important for both of them. And I haven't even gotten to Violet, who I absolutely adored by the way, and I'm not sure I can do her justice. I loved the way Zeke saw her, but I also loved how she saw herself. She's the self-aware one, where he's resigned himself to being an asshole. Anyway, the scene in the study in the library is the piece that makes some NA so emotional for me (and why I love it). Violet was willing to accept him, love him, challenge him to be better--up to a point. And her point was a very reasonable one. When he basically denies her in the library in front of his friends and he seeks her out to explain, she lets him have it so good, and so clearly that I could hurt for both of them. And wow, his broken apology kind of undid me in that scene. (I'm married to a non-apologizer, friends. They exist. Big time. Apologies from them are not reactions like for others-and I'm in the midwest where I think it's even worse. Big Deal.)


(show spoiler)


Anyway, they were lovely complements to one another, with Violet's quiet and accepting strength and love pitted against Zeke's fear and armor. 





As I stated in an update, intense broken heroes are my jam, and this is no different. I was really pleased to see Violet bring what she did to the to the table as well.

It was going so well...

Seduce Me at Sunrise - Lisa Kleypas

first off, if somehow Lisa Kleypas could've rearranged the storylines, the first would've worked better for me. This was so much richer and better in the family aspect. I have to admit, the family is the reason I'm liking the series so much better than the individual installments. 


This was undoubtedly sweet, and I thought the beginning was going to make this add up to a standout of hers for me. It was still really, really good, and I really liked Win, but the secondary characters stole the show for me--particularly Cam and Leo. What a bummer. I love the carrying-a-flame / unrequited (or assumed unrequited) trope, but I tired quickly of the back and forth. And here's what kind of fell apart for me....


If Kev was so concerned for Win's safety and what was best for her, yet controlling, how could he ever trust another man to that? In the middle with all the Julian stuff, I really felt like his character felt too inconsistent and reluctant. He would absolutely never leave her to this. I also have trouble with the self-sacrificing, know-what's-best hero being ever so reluctant.  I did love how Win broke through to Kev and was the only one who could do it-this is the case with many of my favorite romances, I just didn't buy the middle part.


Luckily, it smoothed out for me at the end. The scenes with Cam in the field were vivid and really well done IMO. Oh, but one minor annoyance -- 


Does he have to be an heir. My goodness. 

(show spoiler)




Claiming Her - Kris Kennedy



I am a sucker for a book of political intrigue and the like-not just in romance but I am finding it especially fun in romance. 


This book was set in the 1580s and it was so lovely and frankly exciting. This was one of those best types of couples, well-matched, lovely, funny, and let's not forget, lusty.  The secondary characters in this were equally compelling and lively. One of the things I really enjoy in characters is an element of loyalty and it was lovely to see how it played out here in a somewhat complicated, yet wonderful way.


I guess I don't have much to say other than I really enjoyed this and look forward to rereading.  

Roomies - Christina Lauren

After the trying-to-do -too-much-and-not-quite-executing Dating You/Hating You, I wondered if my run with Christina Lauren was over. I typically REALLY enjoy their books. In Roomies, they return to the straight-up romance that kept me coming back to their books.


So I just went ahead and read this in one sitting. The book's about a couple of sweethearts, surrounded by supportive people, struggling in New York. After reading a book with a similar set up yesterday, someone pining after a stranger and therefore going out of their way to see said stranger and having it not only not do it for me, but fail spectacularly, this was like a revival for the fire burning from that experience. 


I really just think this book is about sweet people. Ultimately, I'm not sure I feel as strongly about this match as I did Hannah/Will for example or Oliver/Lola (fans self) to name just two couples, but I thought it was realistic in communication and lack thereof, how they were woven into the tapestry of each other's lives, and - this is important - it had that ingredient that I think "alpha" heroes often lack which is acting as the person who "rescues" the other by helping them see themselves clearly, by propping them up, by acting as a mirror. I'm not sure I'd call Calvin an alpha, but he was an intense, focused, sweet, and fun hero. Holland was on a journey to find herself, the pure certainty of everyone around her having their life figured out acting as the backdrop to her uncertainty.


Again, this wasn't my favorite, but it was a relief to see that I can probably count on them to continue to deliver me characters and relationships I can root for. 


Side note, I don't know what color his eyes and hair were. Consistently described as green and light brown respectively, there was one point it turned to "amber" and "russet"


I was just confused. 


Another side note, I think they do dual POV better than this.

Love Over Lattes - Diana Hicks

Well...what seemed promising led me to...
checks notes...

eyes blur, sighs.

This book was engaging. Valentina is a down-on-her-luck 24 year old mother trying to finish school and get her and her son into a home with stability. Woman in tech? Check. She works her ass off, starting everyday at a little coffee shop where she sees Derek (or Cole) daily. They don't acknowledge each other until Valentina clearly receives bad news, which Cole tries not to interfere. He sees her crying, melts, knowing he's - as a recent divorcee and currently unemployed day drinker - needs to stay away, but he can't help himself. The tears are just too much to ignore. 

Guess what, Cole is like a gazillionaire. While I kind of loved the premise of this book, down-on-his-luck gazillionaire meets self-made almost graduate, its execution failed spectacularly for me. 
Below spoiler tags, I will list the reasons for this:


Valentina, upon needing a place to stay, agrees to see Cole's cottage. Cole, however, doesn't reveal it is on his property. Creepy. Valentina, it is later revealed, suffered through domestic abuse when revealing her pregnancy to her ex. So when she rolls up to Cole's home, quickly realizing it's his, she agrees to look at the cottage because she just has this great feeling about him. The cottage is destroyed. Cole admits it was him, when he found his soon to be ex-wife in here with her boyfriend. He punched a hole in the wall, tore the place apart, ripped off the shower head. Valentina cries for him, reaches for him, but you know what I'm thinking? GET THE FUCK OUT. You are on the property of a man who didn't tell you the rental was within his property, who destroyed said property, and you have a son.

Their sexual chemistry is off the charts and I honestly kept reading because I wondered how they'd address his rage (I've seen books do it so well!) - they didn't, even when it turned on her. I wondered how they'd address his manipulation of looking up an employee on the system to learn about her. Never done. It's all so flattering when someone's hot and rich, you know. When she tried to leave cause it looked like he was cheating, lots of arm grabbing dramatics but she was forced to listen to him. What about his day drinking? A big FAT NOPE.




(show spoiler)


Look, this book had issues that were intolerable for me. I wouldn't root for this couple. I was rooting for the characters in a sense, and I thought that could be really interesting. But all the major issues and minor ones were glossed over with orgasms and lust turned love. I thought Cole was impossibly interesting as a character, but this was just a book that moved a plot along and the character magically resolved the major conflict and somehow, though we'll never know how, got over all the big issues he was facing. There was real potential here, and it was squandered by relying on the plot marching on and not having the characters face their own demons. And I don't buy the Love Conquers All. (Nor did I particularly buy their relationship development, horror of all horrors)


Thanks to NetGalley for providing me the review copy of this book. 

Pipe Dreams - Sarina Bowen

So, according to among my friends, I'm a bit of an outlier here. 


I thoroughly enjoyed this second chance. It was a total mess of a real life-type second chance. None of the characters were perfect, and the story itself was crafted well enough to wrap around me like a hug. It's isn't the best romance, but in terms of Bowen, this hits a higher note on my scale. 


The solidly mature hero, who made a huge mistake, but was open, honest and loving was a huge selling point. The prickly heroine who had a heart of gold and worked her ass off wasn't too shabby either. 


Sure, a couple of points pissed me off. And yes, at times I felt Mike was out-of-bounds in his pursuit. Just like I felt Lauren looked a bit unreasonably reluctant. What do I like though?

+Lauren makes friends. Yay for gal pals

+Lauren and Mike are reasonably open and adult with each other

+There was no malicious feelings toward the "others" in their complicated relationship. And each person seemed to own up to their failures and take responsibility. 

+I really did feel for Lauren; her hurt was deep and didn't just disappear upon further explanation.


Another Incredible Meredith Duran romance

Sins of Lord Lockwood (Rules for the Reckless) - Meredith Duran

First and foremost, I'd like to thank the many fans who apparently asked for this book. I can't believe it wasn't all part of the plan. Since I have only been reading Meredith Duran and historical romance for a very short time, I'm so thankful she listened to your pleas!


I was absolutely riveted by Lockwood from the first introduction in The Duke of Shadows.  A strange, dark charm...I actually didn't realize till late in the book that her new release was to be about him, and I was so happy to hear it. 


Now onto the review of this book....


It's almost not fair. What kind of brilliance does it take for an author to understand the human condition, make us understand and empathize with both characters nearly in equal measure, hurt and hope with them, and fall in love with them? A Meredith Duran level of brilliance. I know I haven't been reading romance long, but having read #1, #5,#6 from this series I unreservedly say that she is the one of the best that romance has to offer. Her books are instant classics with their meaty plots, incredible but not miraculous character development, and beautiful words. (Which I'll share upon a second reading).



I am realizing my reviews of her books are far less than adequate. I intend to reread and more heavily review this rich examples of romance. I can tell you in so many ways this book pushes you to the edges of your capacity to understand and creates a little fissure that eventually becomes something you can identify with. Though I still favor Duke of Shadows, this is equally poignant. She's taken flawed characters and made us love them more for it. 


I shall stop with the gushing...well through writing, I still have a lot going on my up in my brain over this stunner of a book.


Thanks to Netgalley/publisher for the advanced copy of this book. 

Once Upon a Maiden Lane

Once Upon a Maiden Lane - Elizabeth Hoyt, Ashford McNab Cute, refreshing. I was pretty impressed by the ability to get a sense of the characters in such a short time.

sigh. Novellas.

Mine Till Midnight

Mine Till Midnight - Lisa Kleypas meh.

I don't like superstitions, ghosts, and the like...all that talk just didn't really do it for me. Cam didn't really do it for me. Parts of him were sexy and sinful and other things were just super annoying (a little too masculine for me or something)

And I kind of just didn't feel a connection between them, or with amelia.

That's all I've got for now.

Hooking Up

Hooking Up - Helena Hunting So this was a sweet story about a missed opportunity that came back around in a really awkward way....

I loved the hot beachy getaway part; the jilted bride (or wife, as it were) was also exceptionally vivid for me. I loved the hero-sweet and dirty....

But the boys in this book resorted to fisticuffs so much it didn't even feel tolerable. And by the end, the villainous character was essentially a cartoon, but stalker. I guess what I thought began as a sweet and sexy (and fun and dirty) romp ended up being downgraded by the need to exhibit alpha-ness and add drama that didn't feel like it made the plot or characters progressed--Something my friend, Gaufre, has told me is called "trouble" rather than conflict. 2.5 for the unraveling, waste of a good set-up, end.

My Man, Michael

My Man, Michael - Lori Foster Oh no.

I would love to say that I followed through on this buddy read with the lovely WhiskeyintheJar/kryaryker but I reallllly just can't.

If you want reasons, here they be-mostly from her-since I went between lazy and exhausted on my comments. lol

Frankly, the book doesn't deserve more of my time, so it is what it is. I will say, however, I recall that this author had a vile hero (and maybe even heroine ?) in another book I read of hers, so never again. Unless I am really convinced otherwise. By some miracle.

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