books

Book Reports (28-30)...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool).

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book [(R) means it's a re-read; [ ] means it's an ARC].



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***
Setting the Hook, by Andrew Grey -- recommended for fans of Andrew Grey, for those who like fishing tales, and for those who like male/male romance -- Dreamspinner Press, 5/17

(I didn't love this. The premise seemed really interesting, but it just didn't work for me. I'm not a huge fan of Grey's writing style, but it had been a while, so I thought I'd give it another try. *meh*)

***-
Designs of Desire, by Tempeste O'Riley -- recommended for those who like her writing style, those who like overcoming abuse tales, and those who like artists and insta-love male/male romance -- Dreamspinner Press, 7/13

(I'd gotten another of O'Riley's books but had forgotten why I disliked it so much. It didn't take long for me to remember with this one. She tends to keep all the important discussions and ideas off page, and it drives me crazy. She'll actually write this great chapter, with all kinds of build up, and then you turn the page, and days have gone by. Everything was resolved off page, and the reader is only left with a brief (and, for me, unsatisfying) mention of what happened. *blech* It's probably one of the worst writing styles I've ever encountered. That said, she gets some great reviews by her fans, so clearly many people love it. The story itself was okay. I liked James well enough, but Seth seemed arrogant and controlling, and I could NOT see the attraction, especially since James was coming from a background of abuse. I think it's safe to say this wasn't for me.)

****+
Late in the Day, by Mary Calmes -- highly recommended for those who like Calmes, those who like secret ops, those who like male/male romance, and those who like intriguing supporting characters -- Dreamspinner Press, 10/17

(This is classic Calmes, to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. AS with many of her books, I always want more, but at least Darius is interesting here. It's really a love story -- with flashbacks -- of how Darius and the only man he's ever loved meet up again. If that had been integrated a little more deeply with the on-going plot she's building (in this series and a couple of others), it would have been five stars for me. Still, I really enjoyed it, and I'm left wanting more!)

I've been re-reading other adult books too, waiting for some library holds to come in (and a new release to release -- next week!), but I'm not counting them here.
books

Book Reports (23-27)...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool).

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book [(R) means it's a re-read; [ ] means it's an ARC].



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***+
Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys), by Amy Spalding -- recommended for those who like teen drama, those who like friendship tales, and those who don't mind hints of cheating -- Poppy Books, 4/16

(This was kind of cute, but it annoyed me that Riley was so rigid about her views on how guys should treat her when she treated them in such a cavalier manner. She came across pretty hypocritical, and that weakened the overall story for me.)

***-
You Will Be Mine, by Natasha Preston -- recommended for those who like horror tropes, those who like a YA feel, and those who are willing to really suspend their disbelief -- Sourcebooks Fire, 2/18

(I don't love horror, and this wasn't graphic, imo, so I gave it a try. But I couldn't get past the numerous points where I had to just say, "Okay, I guess this is just fiction." In other words, it was so unrealistic that anyone could stalk another person like this without the police ever catching on. Plus, the characters were soooo one-dimensional. I'm kind of surprised I finished the book.)

****+
The Dangerous Art of Blending In, by Angelo Surmelis -- highly recommended for those who like overcoming abuse, those who like GLBT coming-out tales, and those who like friendship moving to love -- Balzer+Bray, 1/18

(This is one of those books which breaks your heart while you read it. I'm glad I did, but man, what a painful ride! I ached for Evan, who just couldn't catch a break. His mother is brutal (and yikes, I wanted to rescue him from the get-go), and his dad's bewildered distance was also hard to watch. I love the growing relationship between Henry and Evan, but even that was challenging at time. It's based on the author's own growing-up experience, which makes it that much more poignant and powerful, to me.)

****
[Out of Left Field, by Kris Hui Lee -- recommended for those who like unique voices, those who like teen waffling and angst, those who like friends-to-more, and those who like girls kicking butt in boys' sports -- Sourcebooks Fire, 5/18]

(I enjoyed this overall, but I will admit that the immaturity of the MC (Marnie) annoyed me a little bit. She has great heart, and I love her fighting spirit -- but man, she really struggled to be honest with those around her (and even herself). In some ways, it felt like the author was relying a little too heavily on the trope of miscommunication (and lack of communication) to build tension too. But all in all, it's a sweet story with many positives.)

****
[The Dating Debate, by Chris Cannon -- recommended for those who like sweet teen romances, those who like feisty heroines, and those who like multi-POV tales -- Createspace, 1/18]

(I liked the characters here, and I like their unique situations. I didn't like how rigid Nina was...her bias was definitely explained and had solid reasons, but it still annoyed me that she expected West to do all the changing. West, for his part, was a more sympathetic character to me, and I thought he went above and beyond to show Nina his feelings. So it was a little uneven to me but still made for a sweet story.)

I also re-read three mysteries (One of Us is Lying, Last Seen Leaving, and White Rabbit, all five-star reads from last year -- and I still loved each of them).
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books

Book Reports (17-22)...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool).

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book [(R) means it's a re-read; [ ] means it's an ARC].



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****
The Last Move, by Mary Burton -- recommended for those who like adult suspense, those who like serial killers, and those who like complex personal situations -- Montlake Romance, 9/17

(This was a little graphic in places for me, but overall, I enjoyed the suspense and the twists in the mystery. I also liked both Kate and Mazur and found the killer appropriately creepy. I like to try difference suspense writers when I can, and this was a nice change.)

****
Bait, by Karen Robards -- recommended for those who like adult suspense, those who like mob-influenced stories, and those who like secret identities -- Signet, 5/05

(This wasn't my favorite Robards, but I still enjoyed it. I liked the twists, but it dragged a bit for me in places. Still, I have another I will be reading soon. :) )

*****
Five Minutes Longer, Who We Truly Are, Beneath This Mask, by Victoria Sue -- highly recommended for those who like male/male FBI sci-fi suspense, those who like angsty romance, and those who like an on-going cast of characters -- Dreamspinner Press, 12/16-1/18

(I've discovered a new author and series that I *love*! This reminds me quite a bit of the THIRDS series by Charlie Cochet, but believe it or not, I like this one better. :) That's for a couple of reasons, but the main one is that this cast of characters isn't quite as similar to each other as Cochet's. Also, the regular humans here are truly average -- they're not like Dex (from THIRDS) who becomes just as strong in many ways as Sloan. Instead, Finn and Jake are just ordinary guys who are pursuing FBI work, and I like the added challenges that brings to the entire team. I can't wait for the next one to come out!)

***+
[Somewhere Over Lorain Road, by Bud Gundy -- recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like cold case mysteries, and those who like a lot of slowly revealed background -- Bold Strokes Books, 2/18]

(This wasn't as much of a romance as I typically prefer, and all the backstory, though interesting, really slowed down the overall pace for me. The feel was grittier than I usually like, as well. Still, I thought the characters were realistic, though I didn't get as much insight into each character as I wanted.)
books

Book Report (16)...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool).

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book [(R) means it's a re-read; [ ] means it's an ARC].



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****
[Fourth Dimension, by Eric Walters -- recommended for those who enjoyed the Rule of Three trilogy, those who like YA sci-fi, and those who like strong female leads -- Penguin Teen, 2/18]

(This was a fun read, and although not very tense, it flowed easily. I found all the characters likable, and the world situation is interesting (just as it is in Rule of Three -- it's the same incident and the same world). If there's another, I will definitely pick it up.)
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books

Book Reports (10-15)...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool).

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book [(R) means it's a re-read; [ ] means it's an ARC].



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****
Fragments of the Lost, by Megan Miranda -- recommended for those who like YA suspense, those who like teen relationship drama, and those who like complex characters -- Crown BFYR, 11/17

(I enjoyed this, although I've read a couple with similar plots in the past year, so I wasn't surprised at the 'big reveal.' Still, as always with Miranda's books, the characters are multi-layered, and the plot is engaging.)

*****
The Unlikelies, by Carrie Firestone -- highly recommended for those who like thoughtful contemporary novels, those who like sweet teen romance, and those who like a diverse and intriguing cast of characters -- Little, Brown BFYR, 6/17

(Yep, my first five-star read of the year -- I loved it! All of the main characters were intriguing people, complex and realistic. Sadie is a wonderful narrator, with humor, humility, and genuine good-heartedness. Firestone blends poignancy and tragedy well throughout, and the book has a very hopeful feel, regardless of the bleak issues a couple of the characters face.)

***+
Openly Straight, by Bill Konigsburg -- recommended for those who like teen self-discovery, those who like teen angst, and those who like male POV -- Arthur A. Levine, 4/15

(This was well written, without a doubt -- but I had a hard time with the learning curve of the MC. He'd long been out, but when he went to a boarding school far from home, he wanted to see what it was like to live without labels...which is a great idea, except for the fact that he labeled everyone! That frustrated me to the point that I skimmed a good portion of the middle, hoping he'd discover his hypocrisy sooner. He did finally realize some important things, but it was pretty near the end. There were some interesting things going one while he struggled with this, and those kept me reading.)

****
Now That You're Here, by Amy K. Nichols -- recommended for those who like YA sci-fi with some cool twists, a sweet love story, and some nice action -- Alfred A. Knopf BFYR, 12/14

(This was an interesting and fun read, leaving me wanting more at the end. There's a companion book (which I picked up), but it sounds like it doesn't have the *more* that I was hoping for. Still, this is a great choice if you like YA science fiction.)

***** (R)
One of Us is Lying, by Karen McManus -- highly recommended for those who like YA mysteries -- Delacorte Press, 5/16

(I read this as a galley early last year, and seeing it in my top reads made me want to try it again -- so I bought it! :D I still love it; it was just as good the second time around.)

***+
[The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton -- recommended for those who like fantasy, those who like bizarre yet lushly painted worlds, and those who like strong but sensitive heroines -- Freeform, 2/18]

(If you enjoy really unusual worlds that jump off the page, this is definitely for you! I found it really engaging as Clayton set up the society of Orleans, and I liked Camellia from the start. I did skim some of the middle, but the last 100 pages or so were so captivating I couldn't put it down. I will definitely pick up the next one!)
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books

Book Reports (6-9)...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool).

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book [(R) means it's a re-read; [ ] means it's an ARC].



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****+
Written in the Stars, by Alix Bekins -- highly recommended for those who like sweet male/male love stories (friends to lovers), those who like geeky boys, and those who like astrology -- Dreamspinner Press, 4/12

(This was fun and funny -- cute and sweet. I just liked Bailey; he was such an adorable geeky scientist, and his interactions with John were fun. Quick and entertaining read!)

****
[And the Next Thing You Know, by Chase Taylor Hackett -- recommended for those who like multi-POV, male/male romance, and somewhat selfish MCs -- Kensington, 2/18]

(I ended up like the overall story, and although the narrative style is pretty different (almost like they're giving a TV interview or something -- talking to the reader), it was fast-paced, for the most part. But it really bugged me how self-centered Theo was throughout most of this. Obviously he was physically attractive (cute/adorable, it sounded like), but his mannerisms were kind of obnoxious, and although Jeffrey goes out of his way to change and become a better person, Theo kind of...doesn't. :/ Still, it held my interest throughout.)

****
Banker's Hours, by Wade Kelly -- recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like 'opposites attract' ideas, and those who like quick-moving relationships -- Dreamspinner Press, 3/16

(I enjoyed this, for the most part, even though the two main characters end up getting married after a month of knowing each other. But the reasons for this are fairly realistic, and I liked that they had to work on their relationship instead of just having things flow easily. This was another one where one of the two was much more self-centered than the other, and that bothered me, as well. In fact, that was one of the less believable aspects of this story -- why on earth would Tristan ever fall for Grant? He really was unusually self-centered. *shrug* But I liked Tristan enough to read it all.)

****
Overly Dramatic, by Rebecca Cohen -- recommended for those who like humorous narratives, those who like male/male romance, and those who like the theater (stage acting) -- Dreamspinner Press, 8/15

(This was a fun read, filled with silliness (and crudity, in places). It was fast and entertaining.)
books

Book Reports (4-5)...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool).

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book [(R) means it's a re-read; [] means it's an ARC].



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****+
The Mystery of Nevermore, by C.S. Poe -- highly recommended for those who like literary adult mysteries, those who like male/male romantic elements, and those who like clever and stubborn heroes -- DSP Publications, 8/16

****
The Mystery of the Curiosities -- recommended just as above -- DSP Publications, 3/17

(I enjoyed both of these, though the second one had a couple frustrating aspects -- first, Sebastian was so stubborn, and he refused to see how investigating the mystery could not only hurt him but Calvin; second, Calvin is also crazy stubborn, and how he fights getting any help for his PTSD definitely annoyed me some. Despite these things, the mysteries are interesting, and I really like the complexities of the characters (I suppose the annoying aspects just make them more realistic, right?).)
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Book Reports (1-3)...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool).

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book [(R) means it's a re-read; [] means it's an ARC].



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****-
Worthy, by Donna Cooner -- recommended for those who like contemporary teen drama, for those who like teen romance, and those who like simplistic resolutions -- Point, 3/17

(This was definitely entertaining, but it bugged me by the end. It could have been so much stronger. *sigh* First, the idea that the worthy app only judged the girls was touched on as problematic, but no one ever really dug into that idea (which would have added some much-needed depth to the characterizations). Second, Linden wanted a guy who really appreciated and paid attention to her, but she didn't do a great job of reciprocating. And not only did no one call her out on that (specifically Alex), but Alex actually apologized for not giving her what she wanted (even though it would have meant him giving up something very important to him and his family) -- ack! I doubt I'll re-read this, even though I read every word. It was just too frustrating!)

****+
The Date to Save, by Stephanie Kate Strohm -- highly recommended for those who like unique narrating styles, those who like humorous teen contemporary tales, and for those who like sweet (though secondary) romance -- Point, 9/17

(This one, at least, was fun throughout. The characters are thoughtful and original, and I liked how the plot focused on issues other than simply romance (though it included a few nice romances). All in all, an entertaining read.)

****
Horizon, by Scott Westerfeld -- recommended for those who like tween thrillers, those who like a cast of characters, and those who like multi-POV -- Scholastic, 3/17

(This is younger than I usually read, but it was quick and pretty interesting. I have the second one, as well, and I suspect I'll read it too. It's probably almost upper middle grade.)

This year, I'm trying to report every weekend...we'll see how that goes. ;)
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books

Top Reads of 2017...

First, the top 9 (-ish -- two series) five-star Young Adult:


(These are such a fun series, and I'm hoping more will come. Jack is a great MC, and I love the thriller feel -- but mostly the relationship between Jack and Leo, GLBT.)


(Best fantasy of the year, hands down -- second only to Tamora Pierce, imo)


(I especially like the unusual eclectic style in these sci-fi thrillers, and I'm looking forward to number three (coming out in May).)


(This was a very enjoyable contemporary drama.)


(A great mystery -- GLBT romance)


(Another great mystery)


(Great humorous book -- GLBT)


(Very sweet romance)


(Another great mystery -- GLBT romance)

Five-star reads seem to be rare these days, but all of the above were truly excellent books, imo!

And here are my adult five-star reads (only 4):









(You probably noticed a trend in my favorite adult reads -- all romantic suspense! And three by one author...hm.)
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Book Reports (121-127)...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool).

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book [(R) means it's a re-read; [] means it's an ARC].



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****
The Switch, by Sandra Brown -- recommended for those who like romantic suspense, those who like twin tales, and those who like cults/power struggles -- Warner Books, 8/01

(This was fun, though I did find the whole cult side of it pretty unrealistic...but definitely entertaining.)

****+
Color of You, by C.S. Poe -- highly recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like brief but intense angst, and those who like synesthesia -- Dreamspinner Press, 12/17

(I really enjoyed this, even though the tension was pretty mild throughout (other than one brief moment). But the music and synesthesia combined made it especially enjoyable for me.)

****+
Kairos, by Mary Calmes -- highly recommended for those who like police stories, those who like strong families, and those who don't mind novellas -- Dreamspinner Press, 11/17

(This was good, as many of Calmes' books are, and it falls into a similar story-telling vein. It was a little short for me, as I wanted to see more of their lives -- but supposedly we'll hear from these two again, so that's promising.)

****
Regret Me Not, by Amy Lane -- recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like short-but-sweet tales, and those who like holiday stories -- Dreamspinner Press, 11/17

(This was a quick and mostly sweet read. There was some angst, but for Amy Lane, it was pretty mild. Again, it's a novella.)

****-
Sounds of Love, by Susan Laine -- recommended for those who like cop stories, those who like male/male romance, and those who like characters with disabilities who live strong -- Dreamspinner Press, 3/12

(I really liked Sebastian in this, but Jordan was truly annoying (and he was the narrator). His words and actions rarely fit together, and I found his blustering irritating. So it was kind of a toss-up for me, in the end.)

****+
Tried & True, by Charlie Cochet -- highly recommended for those who have enjoyed the THIRDs series, for those who like male/male urban fantasy, and those who like cop-like stories -- Dreamspinner Press, 11/17

(I enjoyed this conclusion to the series, without a doubt. My only complaint was that a good third of the book (the first third) had no real plot and was simply about Dex and Sloane and their upcoming wedding. But once things started moving (almost the halfway point), the book really picked up speed.)

****
His Needs, by Kris T. Bethke -- recommended for those who like family tales, those who like male/male romance, and those who like a holiday emphasis -- Dreamspinner Press, 12/16

(This was a sweet novella, but the tension wasn't really strong enough for my taste. Plus, things were resolved pretty easily, and I will admit that the imbalance of emotion between Travis and Noah bothered me a bit.)