I soooo want to get back on track. Not only do I want to re-establish I Just Finished Reading as an active review blog, I want that pleasure that comes from chatting up an engaging book. And therein lies the crux of my problem these last few months…I’m reading less AND feeling disengaged. For example, in a minute, I’ll pick up my handy pocket calendar listing my July and August reads and, when I attempt to resurrect my thoughts on each title, I will have to Google some JUST to remind myself of their storylines. Pathetic. And the problem is me, not the books. Too damn distracted to really lose myself in a book, any book. No idea how to get the romance back in my reading life (if you have any ideas, please let me know, LOL), but I vow to try.
Before I can move forward though, I have to clear the decks. So here goes:
Thank God for short, ebooks. They bump a girl’s reads to a respectable number. Unfortunately, they are the least engaging of any type or genre of book I read. Every Last Fantasy by Shiloh Walker started me off. I thought it well written, sexy (to the submissive lurking beneath my skin) and clever. Like many erotic romance titles however, it suffered a precarious balance between sex for story advancement and sex for sex sake. It was also too short for my tastes. Walker executed the story just fine for its short format; it’s just that I prefer more time with my characters.
Walker’s Her Best Friend’s Lover was better on length and balance. Good overall, but less clever in that it is an age-old, often-done story—best friends to lovers—with fairly stereotypical characters. I’m a stickler for books that are well written and both of these books are definitely that. I read every word, beginning to end in both. But to be honest, I am finding that even the most well written stories won’t appeal to me if they are “remakes”. I don’t watch movies more than once and I rarely, rarely read the same book twice. So, in another of those I’m-a-big-girl-now moments (like the one that came with my first DNF), I credit Ms. Walker with writing a good story but acknowledge that it just wasn’t for me. And not to appear contradictory, I will be reading more from her though, starting with Through The Veil. Widespread blogger buzz usually means a good read for me.
From Trixie Stilletto, I had The Blackout and Destiny’s Escort. The first was essentially one scene, albeit tightly written and believable. I read it. The second was about an older woman set up to tangle with a younger man, a friend of her grown son. I put that one right down, but only because the story’s premise turned me off. Googling Ms. Stilletto, I see she remains firmly entrenched in short-format, erotic romance—largely from Amber Quill Press. Again, just not for me.
I also read Playing The Game from Megan Hart. This one was tightly written with solid characterization. It engaged. And embarrassing as it is, I will admit to having mislabeled this one, believing it to be a Stilletto title. So when I sat down to comment, I went on and on about this gem amidst Stilletto’s ebooks, not realizing until I Googled Stilletto that this one was not hers. Learning that it belonged to Megan Hart put order back into my world. Duh. I have GOT to get my TBR, backlist and new release lists current and top of mind. Not only did I fail to recognize this as a Hart title, I now see that I missed her last release, Reason Enough. Argh.
Death Angel by Linda Howard. Ok, more embarrassment. Have to Google it. Be right back.
OMG, I loved this one! Her dark, commanding, can-he-or-can’t-he-be-redeemed hero harkened back to the days when I first discovered Howard. Much like Anne Stuart, I thought Howard pushed the edge of the envelope in those days. And returned to it here, especially with that first encounter between hero and heroine. Wow. Palpable tension throughout this one. The only drawback was that bit about going to some version of heaven and meeting her son, getting a second chance and the gift of future sight, etc. Dampened the Wow factor for me a little. Gorgeous cover.
Let’s see, what else don’t I remember? LOL
I do remember Breathless by Laura Lee Guhrke. Recommended by Wendy, this one was fabulous. All about its characters, with engaging dialogue, wonderfully dry wit and heartfelt emotional conflict. Making a mental note to research Guhrke’s backlist more thoroughly.
Also remember Grimspace from Ann Aguirre. First person narrative is my absolute favorite thing right now. I wish I could find more like this one. Now THAT would cure me of my inability to engage or connect with a book. Grimspace was the wild, non-stop ride my reading girlfriends promised. Worthy of its own review—maybe I’ll do that when I read Wanderlust, second in this series. Soon.
Do not remember the exact storylines from Janelle Denison’s Wilde books, but see that I read three of them and DNF’d a fourth. Sometimes that happens. Some thread or tone in a less-than-stellar book one soothes or amuses me and I pick up subsequent titles looking to prolong the feeling. Then, as soon as I tire of the repetitiveness—in prose and premise—I drop the series like a hot rock. Moving on.
Liked Not Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson. Fun and light, with a sexy and charming southern hero. I’m unusually susceptible to well-built men oozing charm in every twang. It also helps that Gibson’s characters do not spend an inordinate amount of time over-thinking their dilemmas. In Denison’s books and in Susan Anderson’s Cutting Loose (which I just finished skimming), the characters spend pages and pages berating themselves over feelings of lust, love, etc. Tiresome. Gibson keeps it all moving along nicely, through characters that are in motion. Like her stuff a lot and will continue to snag a backlist title here and there and keep up on new releases.
Unlawful Contact from Pamela Clare was also good. Exactly what I expect and enjoy from Clare’s romantic suspense titles.
And Sam’s Creed from Sarah McCarty filled my need for a McCarty erotic western. I truly loved Sam—another southern man all laid back and casual, with a gentleness that belies the steel underneath.
Also picked up a trio of re-issues from JoAnn Ross. The first two, Out Of The Mist and Out Of Control were good. Haven’t read the third yet. Ross has been a pretty good bet for me. But again, I have to admit to too much repetitive internal thought from her characters. Not enough to slow the story, but enough to stick in my mind.
In fact, in all of my July and August reads, I can point to some level of this, and frankly, it’s annoying and distracting. So maybe it’s not all me. Maybe I’m just tiring of characters that think about themselves, their own motivations too much. Do you do this? Self analyze? I don’t. Am I off in thinking that this kind of repetitive self-reflection is a weak tool employed by authors to show motivation? Or at least an overused one? Tell me.