Friday, April 11, 2014

Tom Wood - Victor the Assassin #4

Better Off Dead
Kindle Edition, published April 10th, 2014
There’s nothing worse than not being able to say no to someone or something. Hold on. Maybe there is. Realizing you want to and don’t want to say no at the same time; knowing full well things will get messy and any prior worst –case scenarios will surely seem like a walk in the park. Oh joy! Victor’s answer is yes nonetheless. Fortunately, he isn’t one to dwell on decisions made and instead, focuses all his considerable talent and skills on completing his latest…obligation.
Painstakingly accurate. Clinical. Free of emotion. Deadly.
Victor hasn’t lost his touch in the slightest, but he’s definitely out of his element this time around. No assassin “without a past” likes to be slapped in the face with the very past that wasn’t supposed to exist. Well, at least Victor would’ve preferred not to be reminded of a certain betrayal. Of course these circumstances were exactly what made Better Off Dead a great read.

Pretty much right off the bat it felt like Wood used a different approach to plan/develop the storyline as a whole. I could be completely wrong, but that’s the impression I got. The plot or rather the conflict was easily grasped if not to say basic in nature. A really good choice in this case, if you ask me! Why? Here goes: Not once was I confused about what Victor was supposed to do (looking at the big picture) and that’s exactly what paved the way for a more personal approach; personal because of Victor’s reasons to grant a favor in the first place, personal because said favor required quite a bit of rethinking in terms of not being the aggressor and simply executing a kill, but protecting another human being. Victor doesn’t protect and Victor certainly isn’t used to being considerate of someone. A challenge he had to face on top of trying to solve the problem - preferably by keeping his charge and himself alive (it was also refreshing to see Victor “miss a step” for lack of a better word; maybe especially so because he is not in the habit of repeating his mistakes).

So when I call the conflict in itself “basic” (the surprises unraveled as I read along) what I mean is it provided the necessary wiggle room to let the “unfamiliar” play out the way it needed to. And boy did it play out. Fear not, Victor didn’t lose his ruthlessness – cross double-tap (to) my heart.
It wasn’t an easy task for my favorite assassin to accomplish and thankfully so because I was looking forward to my action-fix. Got it and then some! I could go on and on about the thrill, the bad “guy”, the incredible movie-like fighting, but I won’t. I’ve said it all before in my other reviews. It ALL goes for Better Off Dead as well. I’m raising my hat to Wood.    

As for the writing (syntax, variety, pace and so on), I have to say that it’s probably Wood’s best work to date. Smooth-flowing and well-structured and I literally not once had to reread a paragraph or stumbled over a word / phrasing that should’ve been avoided. Not. once.
New editing process? New editor? I have no idea, but the positive result stood out although I honestly didn’t have anything major (or at all :-)) to complain about with the other books either.
Fantastic job! My favorite part? I have many to choose from, but if I had to pick just a one…how beginning and end fit together so brilliantly.
Whew, I'm a bit rusty...haven't written a review in quite a while. Can you guess my rating, my fellow thrill-seekers?
Beware of Spoilers! 
A few of my favorite quotes for those of you who are interested: 
° “Not only was he reputed to be an exceptional killer, he was proving exceptionally hard to kill.” 
° “...a solitary bullet was the sum total of all the power any enemy would ever need.” 
° “What do you see when you look in the mirror? – I see the specular reflection of light.” 
° “You’re asking me to risk my life for someone I’ve never met on the request of someone who conspired to have me killed.” 
° “No one drinks alcohol [...] until this is over. – Gisele looked at him. Wow, you’re a party animal, aren’t you?”

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Kristen Ashley - Colorado Mountain #6

This ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Publish date: February 4th, 2014 Fiction: Contemporary Romance
Grand Central Publishing – Forever
Sometimes you are certain things just aren’t meant to be no matter how much you wish it were different. And then, suddenly everything changes. It’s so unexpected that your brain can’t process it right away. Your emotions are all over the place and you end up standing in your own way. Emmanuelle Holmes never thought she’d have anything more than Jacob Decker’s friendship. After all, he was her best friend’s boyfriend.
Fast forward nine years. PI Jacob has a hard time linking present-time Emme to the girl he once knew. He realizes that friendship simply won’t be enough this time around, but stopping her from running scared might just be his biggest challenge yet.
Kristen Ashley has a gift for bringing characters to life and I wasn’t disappointed this time around. I was able to feel what Emme was feeling. I could literally hear her thoughts and had no problem understanding her actions. Wanting to reestablish her friendship with Deck and acting accordingly (welcoming him with open arms) came naturally to her. She had missed him and even though they hadn’t seen each other in a long time she knew that deep down he was still a good guy; someone worth spending time with. Ashley made sure to skillfully weave enough background info into the very first chapters and their chance meeting in turn played out exactly like I imagined it would be. Normally I love an unexpected turn of events, but considering the characters shared past I needed a drama free reunion. Drama free in terms of that so rarely experienced underlying feeling of genuinely liking someone. Of course there was tension as well, we are talking Kristen Ashley here, but it stemmed from another factor or rather person, that is.

I loved that Deck was so sure about his feelings towards Emme and wasted no time in communicating them to her. The conflict, the hurdles along the way weren’t a blown out of proportion type misunderstanding but understandable fears and insecurities instead. Deck recognized the situation for what it was. I felt so bad for him. He knew the inevitable would happen at some point. Paired with their chemistry as friends, as an item, as human beings with good intentions…their story was a huge win for me. I enjoyed it very much.

On to the one aspect that frustrated me to no end. I came to obsessively love Ashley’s plots; not just the romance, but the splash of danger and mystery. The angst and hold your breath moments. She’s so unbelievable talented at bringing it all together by way of ripping it to shreds first. The result: the outcome will be that much sweeter (in every possible sense of the word). However, Kaleidoscope was missing that special final ingredient. Dare I say the suspense was more –ish than anything else and definitely predictable. It had a contemporary feel to it. Now, what’s so bad about that you might ask yourself? It’s not bad per say, but I have never once thought of Ashley’s work as “just” contemporary. 
While the romance had a lot of emotion and depth to it the rest of the storyline fell flat. I asked myself why (let me try a football analogy even though I’m a newbie-fan) a two-point conversion was not attempted. Why not risk it instead of only going for the “sure” extra point? If I wanted a sure thing I would have bought a run-off-the-mill contemporary romance. Bottom line, I enjoyed the book and was rooting for the main characters, but caught myself skimming other parts. Ashley will remain on my auto-buy list, but I hope she’ll get back to her The Gamble / Sweet Dreams level of brilliance. 3.5 stars to Kleidoscope by Kristen Ashley.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Toni Aleo - Assassins #4

Blue Lines
This ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Publish date: December 9th, 2013 Fiction: Romance
Random House - Loveswept
You can’t help who you fall for. But it would make things much easier if you could.
Piper Allen wasn’t able to resist Erik Titov’s charm. For once, she took a chance and made her fantasies come true.
Two blue lines on a stick and a bad boy hockey player on the run from commitment later and her world will never be the same.
While Erik feels an almost overwhelming desire to fall back into Piper’s arms, he is hell-bent on never ever acting on it again. Breaking her heart after one night together was hard enough. He is not the man for her.
It remains to be seen if the consequences of their actions will pull them farther apart or bring them together.
Unfortunately I couldn’t get into Piper’s and Titov’s story. Mostly it was because I didn’t like Titov and couldn’t for the life of me understand what Piper saw in him. Usually I love reading about a tortured hero. I have no problem with the whole one-night-stand scenario followed by the hero’s womanizing ways to get away from his emotions and feelings. However, in order to connect with a story and its characters I need to see something in them; something good and strong – even if it’s buried deep.  When it came to Titov, I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities; neither in his words, nor in his actions. 

As for Piper, I understood where the author was going with her heartbreak and confusion about having fallen for “such an ass”. Then again, if there is no character development (no real apologies, no heartfelt sorry, no change in behavior), it all becomes hard to believe. It made Piper look stupid, naïve and utterly spineless. The way she let Titov treat her was appalling. Maybe a prologue from Titov’s perspective as a child (suffering abuse) would have helped me connect to him right away and in the process lessened the impact his asshole-behavior had on me, but as it was, the big revelation as to why he was acting the way he was just didn’t do it for me. Too little too late. Instead of an explanation it turned out to be one big cliché moment.

Same goes for the details about their night together. Lots of talk about how different he was with her that one night, but the details came too late for me to change my opinion of Titov. I had already made up my mind. And while he became a tiny bit more likeable at around 60 % into the book, that just wasn’t enough to make up for what he had done by that point.To sum it up, the biggest problem for me was the timing of when certain aspects of the story were included. One hit and miss after another.

To top it off, the heroine telling the hero to stop repeating himself (“I don’t want to hurt you”) doesn’t make up for literally killing me with the frequency this little sentence was thrown around. And again, if I had glimpsed something lovable about Titov sooner (depth to him and his past) I most likely wouldn’t have been bothered by his “I don’t want to hurt you” ramblings. 
The only moment / part I really liked was Piper’s short monologue (Location 523-26 “You jerk! I’m not like…”). She stood up for herself. 1 star to Blue Lines by Toni Aleo.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Got that Thing!

° Kristen Ashley
Colorado Mountain #5
I love Kristen Ashley's books. They rock, they seriously, absolutely and totally rock.
Go and read this series if you haven't already. I'll write and post a review of this masterpiece soon.

° Help that Thing!
I need help guys! Can you recommend any contemporary hea books with
° a tomboy heroine and a hot / badboy / popular hero?

Until then my lovelies,
enjoy your Sunday

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Linda Kage - Price of a Kiss

Price of a Kiss
This copy was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
ARC, publish date September 4th, 2013
Linda Kage
All Reese Randall really wants to do is live a life until she can go back to living her life.
Oh my hotness, never would she have thought that a life could have its perks that are better left alone - in an unattainable forbidden fruit kind of way. Of course she cannot resist and in the process of doing just that, not resisting, she makes someone question the life he’s been leading to the point of no return. Change isn’t always for the better, but in their case…it’s their only hope.
Oh my hotness indeed. My thoughts exactly! Don’t you just love a hero that captures your interest and heart from the very beginning? Mason Lowe’s introduction was done via prelude and I love Kage for it. At first I was afraid he’d be too inexperienced or rather afraid he wouldn’t be manly enough for my taste, but I’m beyond glad I got a glimpse at this particular version of him and his surroundings before jumping right into the thick of things. It gave me a good understanding of why he was doing what he was doing. Let’s just say that the first chapter will have you dying to know what’s going to happen to him; what consequences will await. His situation will also remind you how sometimes you can’t help the cards you are dealt.

Early on Kage’s writing; especially the characters’ actions and decisions provoked a strong emotional response from me. She did not?! She really did! My eyes popped out of their sockets. I connected to Mason on both a physical and an emotional level. I felt his hopelessness and wished for someone to come and turn his world upside down. Make a wish and you shall receive; … as in Kage delivered on all accounts. Reese certainly wasn’t prepared for Mason, not even for him to just stand around campus minding his own business. My Kindle said: “Your battery is running low.” My brain responded: “Oh but MY battery is just about to heat up. Hot damn!” Kudos for the name picks by the way. Sometimes it’s the little things that do it for me big time. Reese and Mason – approved. Very much so!

Another random thought I have to share would be how grateful I was, still am, for a synopsis that didn’t reveal too much. What I mean is that it didn’t ruin the surprise for me. Shutting up now - I won’t ruin it for you either.  

Kage has a way with words. I find myself humming while reading her books.  Whenever that happens the writing has a certain flow. An exceptionally good one, that is. In combination with a well-thought-out plot with unique elements (a splash of cliché, but aborted before it becomes too much), she made it onto my auto-buy list in a jiffy. Price of a Kiss definitely had its unique elements! For example, many contemporary / new adult reads start off with a sizzling glance between hero and heroine and take off from there. In this case there, too, was a sizzling exchange of looks and off the charts chemistry happening, but then came what I’d call a “dismissal interlude”. The best matches don’t always recognize right away how perfectly they’d fit, how much they’d make sense together.

Two major obstacles stood in the way of Reese living her life and Mason changing his for the better. To be honest, Kage walked a fine line between genius story line and over the top twists. She did a fabulous job maintaining a healthy balance even though I would have liked to get a bit more background on the legal Whys and Hows as to how a certain someone could still pose a risk to Reese. It was also hard to believe that the police was in the dark all this time regarding Mason’s not-so-legal actions. Last but not least I absolutely didn’t like the role Reese’s cousin Eva played in all of it. Her character traits flip-flopped uncontrollably. It felt inconsistent (character development) when it should’ve come across as a surprise instead or at the very least should’ve become apparent that the reader has misjudged her true intentions up until the end. What made up for it to some extent was another secondary character that was almost too closely connected to the main storyline to be labeled a mere secondary. I’m talking about Mason’s little sister Sarah. She held a lot of power in terms of bringing these two together.

As for Reese, let me tell you, I loved her trains of thoughts, her awkwardness, her clumsiness, her missing brain-to-mouth filter… The list is endless. I literally chuckled through a lot of scenes. It was hilarious and fun to witness (don’t get me started on her interacting with Mason). I had to stop myself from reading too fast. I was super excited for what was about to happen and at the same time wanted to get the most out of every single sentence. Otherwise I wouldn’t have caught on to Mason’s dry humor as well as the weird yet sweet and oh so fitting compliments he kept handing out…oh, and let’s not forget Reese’s sarcastic streak. Brilliant! Hero and heroine rocked on their own, even though I really could have done without Reese blabbing Mason’s private business to Eva (so not cool), but together they blew my mind. “Holy salted tomatoes, Batman.” 

A fun time! Satisfied reader: check! Its minor shortcomings aside, my heart skipped all over the place, I felt giddy and had a dreamy look on my face throughout the read. More please! 4.5 stars to Price of a Kiss by Linda Kage.
Beware of Spoilers! 
A few of my favorite quotes for those of you who are interested: 
° “...had this gut feeling deep inside that his smile was an absolute heartbreaker. It was breaking my heart that very second.”
° “...he’d probably burn me with one of his deadly testosterone rays.” 
° “I was much more prone to moments of horrified blushing than feats of extroverted greatness.”
° “From fifty yards, he’d taken my breath away. From ten feet, I’d been ready to have his babies.” 
° “You’re cute, Reese. Cheerful. Optimistic. Funny. But completely deluded.”
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