Getting Schooled by Emma Chase
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Honestly, this one was disappointing. I mean, it was steamy and all, but it was so sweet as to be boring. I wanted some kind of conflict at the beginning, something keeping them apart. Even if the author wanted to have them on good terms, some external source of conflict would have been good. But this book was just so sweet, Garrett and Callie jumped right back into their relationship from 17 years prior (which we never got to see). We don't get to see the relationship develop, we don't get to see their characters develop with each other, and we have no real push to move forward because we don't ever question that they'll end up together. Nothing really happens to them, and the one little blip, the one moment when I thought that there would be a juicy fight, it fizzled out immediately. I was hugely disappointed.
Additionally, I'm not accustomed to reading first person POV narratives, and I had difficulty getting used to the lack of scene-setting/world-building. I don't think I'll read another of Emma Chase's books, as while I imagine that there are superior stories to this one, I just can't get used to the style of writing.
I also can't quite see why this book was titled this way. There was no lesson for our hero or heroine to learn, so the "Schooled" part doesn't seem to fit, aside from the fact that they are teachers. But here, it implies that they're being taught a lesson. I don't know, I thought that the title sounds far more exciting than the book actually is, but that's probably just me.
That all being said, I like the little everyday bits that the author added into her writing, such as the interactions between the other teachers, Ollie, and their families. I also liked the parts with Snoopy, and W, and I liked that we got to see some of their lives in the epilogues (even though I was surprised that there was more than one).
If you're looking for something super sweet and sexy with basically zero conflict, this is the book for you.
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I'd reached 34,000 words before it clicked in my brain that NaNoWriMo wasn't for me, and why. Now, I'll not dispute that that 34,000 words is likely more than I would have written had I not participated, but, for me, it's going to lead to a lot more work than I'm accustomed to.
As you all probably know, there are many different types of writers. Some plot out their whole novel in detail before they begin writing, while others like to start writing with nothing planned out beforehand. And, of course, there are a variety of writers in-between (which is where I fit in). There are likewise writers that make multiple drafts of their work before the final product is achieved, while others (like me) edit while they write, so that the first draft is the only draft.
Therein lay my problem. Being on a one month time crunch for 50,000 words, and being unable to re-read and edit what I'd written while I was writing it was causing me a remarkable amount of anxiety. It was beginning to impact my sleep and my ability to write anything new, as I had this continuous "frazzled and panicked" feeling when I went to put my hands to my keyboard. It took some reflection, but it quickly became apparent that this was not the competition for me.
Ultimately, I put my manuscript aside, and I turned my focus to the holidays and spending time with my kids and my family, knowing that once I do return to Fear and Fortitude, I will have to do a great deal of editing before I can resume writing. Now that we're nearing the end of the year, I'm feeling ready to tackle this project once more. In fact, I'm excited to get started, because this plot is something new and fun for me.
So this, my friends, is why I failed NaNoWriMo, and why I'll likely fail again. But that's ok. I accept my failure as a lesson, and honestly, I did get several genuinely good chapters out of it. Overall, I'm happy. Now, to get to re-reading my WIP and making some necessary changes.
I hope that you all had a lovely holiday season, and that you have a great New Year's Eve tomorrow!
The Magician Murders by Josh Lanyon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This one was so close to being four stars, but there were a couple of issues that held me back.
As with every Lanyon book that I've read, there wasn't any romance. One sex scene, yes, but definitely not your average M/M romance. Especially the ending (which I have issues with in general); Sam and Jason's emotional aspect of the story ended very suddenly, much like everything else. We didn't see them part ways, but it was mentioned in retrospection. I found this frustrating.
On the topic of the ending, it was completely dissatisfying. I get that sometimes cliffhangers are necessary, but this whole book seemed like a means to put off the next book. It began and ended with the lead-in to the next in the series, with the little magician mystery thrown in the middle of it, sort of like a side mystery. In that sense, it just felt like the book was incomplete, rather than it being a cliffhanger.
Additionally, the way that the "mystery" was wrapped-up was very perfunctory. What happened with the art theft? Were they going to do anything with what they learned? And what of the killer? What was the motivation? I feel like it everything was brushed over so quickly that I didn't get a sense of a solid conclusion to any part of the mystery.
One more thing, why was Jason left alone at the end when it's well known that his life is in danger? Is this just for the purpose of the cliffhanger? I found this very aggravating.
What I *did* enjoy were the little interactions throughout the novel. There were some moments that were nice, and others that were exciting. Overall, it was decent, and I'll read the next in the series.
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Every author has their own method of writing, and preparing to write. Some authors might just put their hands to the keyboard (or their pen/pencil to paper) and let the words flow, the characters and story taking shape as they go, while others thoroughly consider every single nuance of the yet untold story before they finally write it down. And naturally, there are varying degrees of authors that fit in-between.
For me, I generally have my beginning and ending solid in my mind, and I've plotted out some key moments that I know must happen throughout the middle. I have my characters' outlines, I have places and descriptions, visual inspirations, and research at the ready before I put my hands to my keyboard. Aside from those few plot points, I generally let my hero and heroine tell me where they want to go. I write out detailed plot points roughly a chapter at a time as ideas come to me, but even those notes are largely dictated by my characters. I've never truly been in control of a story, and when I've tried, my characters have rebelled, and my writing went to a stand-still while I attempted to sort out what I'd done wrong.
As some of you might know, this is my first time participating in NaNoWriMo. It'll also be the fastest that I'll ever have had to write a novel, which is troubling. What I've come to realize, is that I need to pre-plot the novel in more detail so that I spend less time considering what my characters want. My challenge, therefore, is figuring out how to control the story without my characters jumping in the way while I'm in the middle of writing during November.
That's where I'm currently at. Still doing my other work, but also trying to sort this out before I submerge myself in the spirit of NaNoWriMo. I'd genuinely never considered how much preparation went into it before now, and I feel like I really should have known. I have a huge amount of respect for people that do this every year. This is a big, big deal.
The Gentleman and the Rogue by Bonnie Dee
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
DNF at 77%. I'll be quick, because I genuinely don't want to dwell on this novel any more than I have to. I had to force myself to read this far because I bought the thing and didn't want to waste my money, but I just can't go any further.
The sex scenes, while plentiful, are almost mechanical and a bit blasé. I wanted to see some heat, some passion between these two, but just like Alan's character, his sex was dull as dirt. What it really needed was some emotion. It felt devoid of feeling, entirely, and even though this was bordering on a historical erotica novel, I did still want to be romanced. Jem might have been hired as a whore, but with Alan he shouldn't have been acting like one, at least not after that first night.
Alan was a two-dimensional character that did absolutely nothing for the book. Jem was honestly the only thing I liked about this story. He was bright and vibrant, and I genuinely couldn't see what he saw in Alan. So much more to say here, but I just don't want to bother getting into it. Put simply, there was zero chemistry, zero emotion, and that left me with zero interest.
The plot, like the sex, was mechanical and predictable. It was so dashed boring, I fell asleep reading it several times, and the only time that's happened before was over a decade ago when I was in university studying for tests late into the night. It felt like the plot about the girl and the doctor was brought in because the authors couldn't think of any other way to get the heroes to do something that's not sex together. The villain was two-dimensional, and the little sprite was the only female in the whole book that gets a line.
This was a big disappointment, because the blurb was promising.
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Nightingale by Aleksandr Voinov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I struggle to know where to begin with this review. I've never read anything by Aleksandr Voinov before, but based on my experience with this novel, I'm absolutely certain that I'll read another.
I feel like this story was important, that it needed to be told. So much of it rang true that I imagine a lot of research went into writing it. I have a lot of respect for Voinov for that.
What I'm struggling with, is how to put into words how I feel about the story. There was so much that I liked and that I found necessary, and yet there were some aspects that felt slightly incomplete. I understand that the passage of time was required, but I found that time was fluid in this novel, and I couldn't quite keep track of how much time was elapsing. How long was Yves with Heinrich and Falk? We see their first romantic encounters, and then all of the sudden, months seem to have passed with very little explanation. I found this a bit frustrating, most particularly when Yves and Heinrich's relationship began to cool (because we didn't see much in the way of their intimate relationship to begin with, and I couldn't tell the difference when they'd begun to lose interest), and it suddenly felt like months or years had passed, but I had no way of knowing.
Following along the last note, I also wished that we would have seen more of Falk and Yves. I adored how they interacted, and am ultimately disappointed that I didn't get to see more of it. I realize that the romance wasn't the purpose of this novel, and that's fine, but a bit more than those few blinks of romance would have been nice.
My frustration aside, this was a brilliant novel. It was heart-wrenching and painful, but also so artfully written and romantic. It might have been fiction, but with so much fact and history put in, it really felt like it could have been real, which made it all the more painful.
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The Governess Game by Tessa Dare
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I have qualms about this one. Chase's character wasn't entirely believable; on the one hand, he was supposed to be a heartless rake, unwilling to commit to a woman, not only because of his rakishness, but also because of his painful past. On the other hand, however, he was charming, caring, and downright wonderful with Alex and the girls, which totally undermined the other part of his character.
Now, I've read novels that only have one or two sexy scenes, but I found that the marketing with this one built up how much steam there would be "between the sheets", and it rather fell short for me. Not only that, but Chase, himself, spends so much time boasting about his prowess in bed, that I expected those scenes to be far better than they were.
Alex was a delight. She was spunky, unique, and entirely charming. I loved her backstory, and that we got to see more of her friends from Book 1 (including the wonderful Ash). I only wished that she fit better with Chase.
Lastly (for characters), the girls were adorable, and though they might have taken up a bit too much of the plot, I enjoyed the interplay between them and Alex.
I mentioned that the steam level just wasn't "as advertised" for me, but what bothered me most, I think, was that the story seemed to drag. I enjoyed the fist 1/3 of the book, and then the second 1/3 seemed to recycle the same excuses/reasons for them not to be together when they were very clearly already together. I kept waiting for something more to happen, but that seemed to wait until the very last two chapters, and by then I felt like it was too late.
I loved the first book in this series, and enjoyed Alex's parts of this book, so I fully intend to read the next in the series, with the hope that it's another enjoyable one. This book, however, just didn't quite hit the mark for me.
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It's nearly my kids' bedtime on September 3rd, and tomorrow is Part 1 of the "first day" of the big year. That doesn't really make sense, I know, but in my children's school, the kids in grades 1 through 7 start school on Tuesday after Labour Day long weekend, and the little Kindergarteners start on the Wednesday.
Well, this year is our big year. My oldest is starting his first year in the Intermediate grades (Gr. 4-7), my middle son is going into Grade 3, and my twins are headed into Kindergarten. That's right, I'm going from having two children (minimum) at home all the time to having none during school hours.
We've done the back-to-school shopping, their school supplies have been pre-ordered online since June last year, and we've done our big before-school grocery shopping trip. So, we're ready. Yes, we're ready. I'm going to have time to dedicate to work, I'll get writing done, make bath products, work on Acquisitions, and all while my kids get a great education and make friends. Ready... Ready.
Ok, you guessed it. I'm not ready. After our third pregnancy, I knew I wouldn't have any more children. We were just incredibly fortunate enough to have twins. Four babies, three pregnancies! And now, my babies are going to Kindergarten. I'm happy, truly, and I won't be a hovering parent that lingers at the window and watches them while they're trying to socialize and learn, but with every step that I take on the way home, my heart will be breaking just a little bit more.
I've been encouraging the kids, telling them how amazing it will be, but inside, I've been wanting to squeeze them extra tight. My babies are growing up. Someday, I'll blink, and they'll all be teenagers, and then they'll all be adults... But, right now, it's Kindergarten. And I'm not ready.
Kidnapped by the Pirate by Keira Andrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have a feeling that Keira Andrews will very quickly become a favourite author of mine. I loved the voice, the writing style, and her smart, snappy dialogue.
The age difference between the heroes was a deliberate trope, and I realize that many readers love it, but it's something that I just can't get into. There's a 23 year age difference between these two, and maybe it's because I had my first child at 23, and to me, it's like being with someone my child's age, but it just felt a bit icky. So, in order to better enjoy the book (instead of cringing every time they touched or thought intimately about each other), I pretended that the age difference didn't exist.
Aside from my one hangup, I very much enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading more of Keira Andrews' work!
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Award winning historical romance author, Acquisitions Manager for Pandamoon Publishing, wife, and stay-at-home mom of four. Chocoholic, nerd, & bath bomb enthusiast.