4/11/19

Review: The Time Collector by Gwendolyn Womack

Format: Trade Paperback
Pub Date: April 16, 2019
Publisher: Picador
Length: 386 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Way back when, in the days before college burnout, I was going to be a history teacher. Even though that never worked out, my love of history has never waned. This book made that nerdy bookworm happy, with its vignettes of various historical events and people.

Roan West is a psychometrist. He can see and experience the past of objects he touches. Sometimes he makes money with it, sometimes he uses it to return lost family heirlooms to their rightful owners. His friend, Stuart, has gone missing, but he gets sidetracked on his quest to find him by a viral video of a young woman just discovering her psychometry talents.

This is a genre-bending book. It has romantic elements, a mystery/thriller element, a historical fiction element, some mild paranormal themes, a quest...Pieces from all kinds of stories are woven in here, but I particularly liked how vivid and well researched the historical "flashback" scenes were. The author chooses some particularly painful events to tie to objects, and doesn't shy away from showing those events with unflinching honesty.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I did feel like the romance was a little shoehorned in. The author tells us the two characters are attracted to each other instead of showing us. I wanted some more emotion there on the page, because while this isn't genre romance, it is a book about all kinds of relationships, and the emotional connection just seemed muted.

My Grade: B
The Blurb:
Travel through time with the touch of a hand.
Roan West can perceive the past of any object he touches. A highly skilled psychometrist, he uses his talents to find and sell valuable antiques, but his quiet life in New Orleans is about to change. Stuart, a fellow psychometrist and Roan's close friend, has used his own abilities to unearth several "ooparts"―out-of-place artifacts that challenge recorded history. Soon after the discovery, Stuart disappears, making him one of several pyschometrists who have recently died or vanished. When Roan comes across a viral video of a young woman who has discovered a priceless pocket watch just by "sensing" it, he knows he has to warn her―but will Melicent Tilpin listen? And can Roan find Stuart before it's too late? The quest for answers will lead Roan and Melicent around the world, bringing them closer to each other and a startling truth.

4/4/19

Review: Block Shot by Kennedy Ryan

Format: ebook
Pub Date: September 2018
Publisher: self published
Length: 444 pages
POV: Alternating 1st/present
FTC: Borrowed via Kindle
CW: Cheating, chronic illness, self-image/weight issues

As angry as I was for reading Long Shot by this author without being warned it was a book about domestic violence, the book itself was compelling enough to get me to try again. Because despite my well known aversion to present tense, I found Ryan's voice fantastic. But this time, the potentially "nope" content was out there and being publicly acknowledged by people on Twitter, so I knew going in that cheating was part of this book. And that's something I normally avoid. (The official blurb does not have a content warning at all)

Since I'm not skilled enough to make a clickable spoiler tag for the blog I'm struggling to find time for, if you'd like to see how cheating is involved, specifically, please scroll all of the way down to the bottom. It is not between the two main protagonists.

The blurb says this is an enemies-to-lovers story, but that's not really accurate. Banner loathes Jared, for extremely good (if mistaken) reasons. Jared doesn't hate Banner, though. She's always been his obsession. He needles her whenever they interact, which up until this book starts isn't often. He hasn't been able to convince her that what she believes happened, didn't actually go down the way she thinks it did, but that doesn't stop him from admiring everything about her.

If you prefer your romance without ethically or morally dubious stuff, this book isn't for you. Because while Banner is a good person (the agent with the heart known for her loyalty) Jared isn't. He is completely and utterly ruthless about everything. Even with his POV scenes, he's hard to really like. Possible sociopath. Definitely not caring about anything or anyone except for Banner and maybe his immediate family.

That being said, I was completely sold on this romance. I know nothing about sports, and less about sports management, but the emotional punch and the depth of conflict here is terrific. The chemistry is completely off the charts. I really liked it, despite my reservations.

My Grade: A


The Blurb:
A STANDALONE second chance, enemies-to-lovers romance set in the cutthroat world of sports management.

They're two sharks in a fish tank...
JARED

If I had a dollar for every time Banner Morales made my heart skip a beat...
The heart everyone assumes is frozen over.
Her anger is... arousing.
Every glare from those fire-spitting eyes, every time she grits her teeth, gets me... well, you know.
If I had a dollar for every time she's put me in my place, I'd be an even richer man.
I'm a successful sports agent because I assume "no" means you'll think about it.
I'm sure what you meant to say is "Coming right up."
They say even rich men don't always get what they want, but those men don't know how to play the game. The trick is to keep them guessing.
Take Banner. She assumes she's winning, but this game?
She doesn't even know how to play.

BANNER

If I had a dollar for every time Jared Foster broke my heart, I'd have exactly one dollar.
One night. One epic fail. One dollar... and I'm out.
I've moved on.
I've found success in a field ruled by men.
Anything they can do, I have done better.
They can keep the field while I call the shots, blocking them when I have to.
And Jared has the nerve to think he gets a second chance?
Boy, please. Go sit down. Have several seats.
I'll just be over here ignoring the man carved from my fantasies with a lust-tipped chisel.
Oh, I didn't say the struggle wasn't real.
But I've got that one dollar, and Jared won't have me.


***Spoiler***




Banner is in a committed relationship with her client. Someone she has been friends with for a decade, but recently made the switch to romantic. She's not really sure whether she's made a mistake, because she is pretty sure she's not in love. Jared knows she's involved, and despite her protests, uses their attraction to basically override Banner's usually strong loyalty. Banner had intended to end her relationship prior to sleeping with Jared, but that's not how things shake out. She immediately confesses to her boyfriend upon his return to town. It's out of character, and for me...I know real life examples of this, and Ryan manages to...if not excuse it...then at least make it understandable about how it could happen and why that infidelity wouldn't happen again between Jared and Banner.

4/1/19

Review: SPOILERS!!! Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan

Format: ebook
Pub Date: March 20, 2018
Publisher: self published
Length: 460 pages
POV: Alternating 1st/present
FTC: purchased myself

I am a not a fan of 1st person, present tense. I am not a NA reader. I have noped out of so many books because they're present tense. I am also not someone for whom highly buzzed books works. I'm just that way. Born to be contrary. I am also not someone usually bothered by problematic or troubling content. Content warnings are usually wasted on me, because I can usually stomach just about anything. THIS BOOK BOTHERED ME. ***scroll down to the very end if you're looking for how the story ends.***

Before going further, please know that even the descriptions of what happens in this book may be triggering for some readers. It's THAT awful. And I don't normally write reviews with spoilers or plot synopses, but I am so angry right now that nothing in the description or the reviews specifically warned readers of the type of content in this book. It's hinted at, but hidden behind euphemisms.

This book contains graphic details of emotional and physical domestic violence, firearms, and sexual assault/rape. And it's not just at the beginning. It is the bulk of the conflict of the novel. So this isn't something you can read and move past to enjoy the rest of the story. IT IS THE STORY.

3/5/19

Review: Ready to Run by Lauren Layne

Format: ebook
Pub Date: August 22, 2017
Publisher: Loveswept
Length: 215 pages
POV: 3rd past
FTC: Purchased myself

I binged my way through Lauren Layne's backlist last May, but stopped when I found books that were written in first person, present tense (a combination I cannot stand). I had seen this one, but discounted it because I personally despise reality television and this book seemed entirely about a TV show based on the blurb.

It must have been on sale, because I finally caved and purchased the book. Most of the Lauren Layne books I've read in the past were set in the big city. This was a bit different for me. It's a city girl visiting a small town. Classic fish out of water. I was pleasantly surprised by how well Layne's voice works in the small town romance.

I had a few issues with the unevenness of how some characters are dealt with. We spend quite a lot of time with the first two brides, and none with the third. There's a spoiler-y reason for this, but it still feels a little weird how that entire situation is dealt with. Also missing are any real details about Luke's job. The small town setting seems sketched in, with only broad strokes.

The standard group of non-catty girl friends that often appear in Layne books is present here, too, which I liked, but I felt like we almost spent too much time with the secondary characters. This wasn't my favorite Layne book, but it was a quick, easy read.

My Grade: B-

The Blurb:
Jordan Carpenter thinks she’s finally found the perfect candidate for Jilted, a new dating show about runaway grooms: firefighter Luke Elliott, a known player who’s left not one but three brides at the altar. The only problem? Luke refuses to answer Jordan’s emails or return her calls. Which is how she ends up on a flight to Montana to recruit him in person. It’s not Manhattan, but at least the locals in Lucky Hollow seem friendly . . . except for Luke, who’s more intense—and way hotter—than the slick womanizer Jordan expected.

Eager to put the past behind him, Luke has zero intention of following this gorgeous, fast-talking city girl back to New York. But before he can send her packing, Jordan’s everywhere: at his favorite bar, the county fair, even his exes’ book club. Annoyingly, everyone in Lucky Hollow seems to like her—and deep down, she’s starting to grow on him too. But the more he fights her constant pestering, the more Luke finds himself wishing that Jordan would kick off her high heels and make herself comfortable in his arms.

2/20/19

Review: Blood is Blood by Will Thomas (Barker and Llewelyn)

Format: Hardcover
Pub Date: November 2018
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Length: 308 pages
POV: 1st person, past
FTC: review copy courtesy of the publisher

I haven't read a lot of historical mysteries in 1st person, so this was a bit of a change for me. This book is also in the middle of a series, so I'm not sure I'd have had the same reading experience if I'd been following the series all along.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I really liked the overall mystery and the setting and characters. On the other, I felt like it was missing some emotional depth, which is likely because I'm a character-centric reader. I want their thoughts and feelings on the page, and the emotions in particular were largely absent here, which I found weird considering the emotional events that form the focus of the book.

I have never read Will Thomas, nor had I heard of this series before, but I love historical mysteries and decided to give it a chance. The book begins with a bit of the Monday blues and an absentminded groom-to-be not listening to his fiance, then promptly devolves into chaos as the office of Barker Private Inquiries is blown to smithereens.