So, I read. A lot. At both of my previous gigs I handled the book sections and I occasional still do reviews for one of the publications I freelance for. So, I thought it might be cool to let you know what I've been reading. I'm not gonna lie, it's weird to "critique" books since I've started publishing myself, particularly from indie authors. I say that to say, I'm not really critiquing.... these are just my thoughts on what I read last month. If you're inclined to purchase any of the books (they are all from indie authors) please leave them a review as a way of showing support. Reviews really, really help indies.
Anyway, I think these are all of my February reads. I didn't include the graphic novel I reviewed for Creative Loafing, March by John Lewis which is absolutely a must-buy.
Here are my February 2015 reads:
Maureen Smith's Wolf Pack Series.
Here's the deal. I don't really like Kimani/Harlequin-style romance. I find the books to be too formulaic, the characters thinly developed and the books to be too short. I don't mean that as a total diss. I started sneaking Harlequin books when I was like 11 and have read tons of them, but by the time I hit my late teens/early 20s I was pretty over them. The insta-love, the quick/unrealistic resolution to conflicts, the contrived conflicts, the totally always amazing sex, the overuse of the alpha-male, the half-naked muscle-y covers... yeah, not really a big fan. I suppose that's weird since I write romance, but yeah. Anyhoo, I say this because even though Maureen Smith writes for Kimani (though she did self-publish several titles in the Wolf Pack series), her writing so good, I don't mind the things I normally find to be very annoying. Smith writes with purpose and her characters are well-developed even when the books are on the short side, which turn ordinarily routine plot lines into something interesting. Basically, even though the plot lines are pretty predictable, I'm invested enough in the character's to not care. That's some good writing. In fact, after I randomly decided to read Taming the Wolf, I flew through pretty much the entire series in like, four or five days. I haven't done that with a writer since I discovered Nia Forrester's Commitment series back in late August. I know I'm extremely late to this party, but here's a quick rundown of the Wolf Pack books I've read and my thoughts on them.
•Taming the Wolf
Read It? Yes.
Thoughts: I really enjoyed the chemistry between Marcus and Samara. Their shared mommy-issues added a layer to the story as well. Samara's sassy, self-confidence was refreshing to read about in a heroine.
•Recipe for Temptation
Read It? Yes.
Thoughts: I thought Michael was sexy as heck, and enjoyed Reese when she wasn't being indecisive. However, I didn't really buy into the conflict for this couple, with Reese having an estranged boyfriend because it was clear from the beginning she didn't even like dude, so for him to continue being an issue throughout the book seemed a little extra for me.
Read It? Yes.
Thoughts: Although the conflict between Prissy and Stan were eye roll worthy (the treacherous woman who is after the hero and has no sense of self-worth and a husband who despite being incredibly connected to his wife hides a "secret" that frankly, wasn't that deep or exciting), Smith does a good job here making a couple that's been married for fifteen years remain steamy-- something I haven't read often. Also, the subplot with their fourteen year-old, Manny and his love interest, Taylor was fantastic and really saved the day for me.
•Tempt Me at Midnight
Read It? Yes...probably my favorite of the series so far.
Thoughts: I loved this friends-to-lovers story. Quentin and Lexi were great together---neither one of them annoyed me and I found their issues to be realistic. The ending was a little rushed but not enough to take away from the story.
Everything is Everything by Pepper Pace
•Read It? Yes.
•Strongest Point: Plot was tight, characters were extremely well-developed.
Thoughts: Pepper Pace is another author whose name I've seen around but never read. After reading Everything is Everything I have to say she's one of the most talented indie authors that I've come across... and I read a lot of indie authors. Pace's pure storytelling ability is probably her best asset. She draws you in from the very start and even if you don't like the story she's telling, it's so compelling you can't help but crawl into her world and remain there. You don't feel like a visitor in her world, you feel like a tenant. That said, this book is dark and moody and sometimes skates on the line of being almost overbearing, though it thankfully never quite dips into that territory. If you're looking for something uplifting or light, this book ain't it. But it's a great read that'll have you thinking after you've read the last word.
Maybe Baby by Kim Golden
•Read It? Yes.
•Strongest Point: Laney's voice was strong and relatable throughout the story. Excellent descriptions and world-building.
Thoughts: I read the Kindle sample of this book a while ago and kept meaning to purchase it because I could tell immediately that Golden was talented. Glad I finally read this story. I stayed invested in Laney's journey and even when I didn't agree with some of her choices, I understood why she made them-- which is the mark of a good writer for me.
Kyland by Mia Sheridan
•Read It? Yep.
•Strongest Point: Sheridan does an excellent job weaving Kyland's world and making you hurt for the characters.
Thoughts: Mia Sheridan is hands down one of my favorite indie romance authors. One of the things I love the most is Sheridan's ability to tell unique stories, which she does throughout her Signs of Love series. Archer is about a mute man working through family and self-esteem issues, Stinger is about a male porn star who after a meaningful but wild weekend has to re-evlaute his life, Finding Eden/Becoming Calder is a two-part series about two kids who unknowingly grow up in a cult. See what I'm saying? These aren't your average romance stories. Kyland is about two kids who grow up in the Appalachian Mountains who are dirt poor. Both Kyland and Tenleigh (yes, that's her name) want nothing more than to escape their environment, but the chances are doing so are limited, and Kyland is afraid that Ten will unwittingly end up distracting him from his goal of leaving their town. The only thing about Sheridan's work is it has a tendency to get melodramatic toward the end (I've noticed this with a few of her books) and occasionally gets a bit corny with the lovey-dovey dialogue. But all in all, this was an enjoyable read and a solid addition to a great series.
Worth the Fall by Caitie Quinn
•Read It? Depends on your sense of humor.
•Strongest Point: The story is sweet and light.
Thoughts: I've never read this author before and would maybe read her again. My main gripe is that she was trying to be funny and witty throughout the entire book and it distracted from the story, which was cute otherwise. I say "cute" because that's the best way to describe the light banter, the way the characters meet and the way they get together. Not bad but not necessarily a must-read.
Fall in Love Again by Christina C. Jones
•Read It? Absolutely.
•Strongest Point: The relationship between Nixon and Charlie was authentic and relatable.
Thoughts: This is the third installment of the very enjoyable Serendipitous Love series and the strongest of the three, I think, mostly because the development of Nixon and Charlie's relationship felt more thorough than the relationships in the other two books. The conflicts presented were real and this book gave me the warm and fuzzies. I almost see color when reading this series-- warm peach and brown hues. Okay, that's admittedly weird but it's true. All in all, great read.