books

Book Reports (85-99)...

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; DNF means *did not finish*].

****+/*****
Tracers books, by Laura Griffin -- highly recommended for those who like romantic suspense, those who like FBI/police involvement, those who like dual POV, and those who like a good blend of romance and mystery -- Gallery Books/Pocket Books -- 2009-2017

(Clearly I'm going through a phase. :D I really like Griffin's writing style. I think it's partly the dual POV and partly the balance she has between the mystery aspects and the romance. Plus, she's not overly graphic (in either romance/sex or violence). My only nitpick is that she could tie the books together a bit more (ie, she could mention past characters more than she does). Also, every now and then, she doesn't quite tie up all the loose ends -- all the big stuff definitely gets resolved, but she'll bring up tiny details along the course of the investigation without always letting the reader know about those. But really, these are minor complaints, and overall, I'm really enjoying having discovered a new-to-me writer!)

****
Alpha Crew series, by Laura Griffin -- recommended for those who like romantic suspense, those who like military special ops, and those who like plucky heroines -- Pocket Star, 2016/2017

(This isn't as strong (for me) as the other books, mostly because they're not as well balanced between romance and mystery. The first one (two -- two novellas which tell one story), especially, was much heavier on the romance. Still, it wasn't too graphic for my taste, and the second one was much better.)

***-
The Prey, by Allison Brennan -- recommended for those who like romantic suspense, those who like multi-POV, and those who like graphic sex scenes -- Ballantine Books, 12/05

(So I picked up this one because she's co-written a series with Laura Griffin (which I haven't read yet, btw). But although the premise was pretty interesting, I didn't like her characterizations much at all. Everyone in the book reacted to life like a toddler would -- there were no deeper introspections, no wisdom, no life ponderings. On top of that, there was a LOT of sex, and it was much more graphic than I personally prefer. I read one review that called it borderline porn, and I'd personally agree (mostly in the terminology Brennan uses). Anyway, just because it's not to my taste doesn't mean it won't work for others. :D)

****
The Zozobra Incident, by Don Travis -- recommended for those who like noir-style mysteries, those who like a hint of romance (male/male, in this case), and those who like New Mexico settings -- DSP Publications, 11/16

(This is a slow read for me, but I'm enjoying it. I like BJ's narrating style, I like his low-key romance with Paul, and I like the details about New Mexico. I don't know that I'd want to read a bunch of Travis's books in a row, but once in a while, it's a nice change of pace.)

**
Wild Ride, by Julie Ann Walker -- recommended for those who like secret ops, those who like romantic suspense, and those who like motorcycles -- Sourcebooks Casablanca, 4/17

(This wasn't really to my taste. I did like the emotional angst Walker puts us through (it's dual POV), especially with Ozzie. But I found Samantha rather annoying, and the extremely slow pace of both the mystery (which was not as much of a focus as I would've liked) and the romance. Meh. It just didn't work for me.)

**
Hot as Hell, by Julie Ann Walker -- recommended for those who like short romances (it's a novella), those who like dual POV, and those who like military involvement -- Sourcebooks Casablance, 6/16

(So I tried this because I liked the emotional interactions in the book above, but this was basically just a romance, which is not my thing.)

***
Any Closer, by Mary Calmes -- recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like novellas, and those who like Mary Calmes -- Dreamspinner Press, 6/11

(This simply wasn't long enough for me. I felt like I'd just gotten a taste of the characters and their lives when the books ended.)

DNF
Fish out of Water, by Amy Lane -- recommended for those who like male/male romantic suspense -- Dreamspinner Press, 7/16

(I've enjoyed other Amy Lane books, and when I saw she had a mystery/suspense, I figured it would be great. But it didn't work so well for me. The violence was a little more graphic than I prefer, and the romance between the main characters wasn't as strong as I'd like. *shrug* It just didn't work for me, and I gave up about halfway through.)

So I have about 20 books on my TBR pile (sadly, not much of an exaggeration), but I'm so pressed for downtime right now (the day job is keep me crazy busy -- especially combined with two teens in high school) that even when I have a chance to read, it's hard to then report back. But I will do my best, especially since I like to have a log of what I've read.
books

Book Reports (77-84)...

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; DNF means *did not finish*].

****+
Tracers series, by Laura Griffin -- highly recommended for those who like romantic suspense, FBI/police MCs, DNA-type clues, and a nice balance between romance and the rest of the story -- Pocket Star, 11/09-(present)

(So yay, I discovered a new-to-me author! Like any author, Griffin isn't always spot on, but of the five I've read (in order) so far, I've really liked all of them and loved a couple of them. My only minor complaint is that she doesn't always follow through on some of her characters. For instance, the first book in the series is about Alex Lovell, and she only appears in two of the next four -- and only peripherally, at that. There were definitely some opportunities to have her join the work at Delphi more often, but Griffin didn't take advantage of it, and that was a minor annoyance for me. But I definitely like the heroines and the relationships they build with their male counterparts, and the actual mysteries are very interesting and not too graphically revealed (the violence), which I also prefer.)

****
She Was the Quiet One, by Michele Campbell -- recommended for those who like psychological thrillers, those who like boarding-school settings, and those who like slow builds -- St. Martin's Press, 7/18

(This was very intriguing, though I found myself really frustrated with one of the characters for holding her silence when she could clearly see issues...and she held back long enough that people were hurt (well, yeah, since someone was murdered). In the end, another of the characters comments that everything was hardest for the above character (other than the victim, of course) and she therefore deserved the most sympathy, but I'm not sure I agree. It's true that she had the most challenging time after all was said and done, but she could have avoided so much if she'd just acted rather than letting things slide. However, this is part of what makes the book so compelling -- would *I* be strong enough in her position to speak up? Hm...)

****
Tequila Mockingbird, by Rhys Ford -- recommended for those who like the series (Sinner's Gin), those who like male/male romance, and those who like angsty/gritty character backgrounds -- Dreamspinner Press, 6/14

(I definitely liked this one better than Sinner's Gin, mostly because I liked Forest better than Miki (I like all the Morgan family members). Even though Forest also had a depressing and almost over-the-top horrible childhood, it wasn't as present in his current life as Miki's had been, and that made it more palatable for me personally. I suspect I'm done with this series after only these two, however. I'm all for creating challenges for your characters, but the circumstantial pummeling of these boys is a bit much for me, and even the Morgan family doesn't make up for it.)

****-
Spirit, by John Inman -- recommended for those who like paranormal mysteries, those who like humor, and those who like male/male romance -- Dreamspinner Press, 3/14

(This was a fun and quick read, but I will admit that to me it seemed to struggle to find the balance between paranormal and realistic. In other words, Jason appeared to fight against the possibility of a ghost for too long, and because of that, he also fought what must have happened in his home for too long. I guess I got tired of him constantly saying it couldn't be true, even though everything happening around him supported it. Also, we didn't get much of a build-up of Sally's and Jason's background, so I didn't feel like I knew her at all. She was very one-dimensional (and so was Jason, for that matter). Timmy also wasn't that realistic for a 4-year old (perhaps Inman doesn't spend much time around children?), though that could also be because of the ghost and how he affected Timmy. All in all, I did enjoy it, and I liked the relationship (surface-y though it felt at times) between Sam and Jason. As an aside, the humor was one of its greatest strengths, and if another of his books had a more solid plot, I *would* pick it up, just because of the humor.)
books

Book Reports (69-74)...

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; DNF means *did not finish*].

DNF (stopped around 20%)
Stillhouse Lake, by Rachel Caine -- even though I didn't finish this, I think it will appeal to those who like psychological suspense; it's definitely filled with tension -- Thomas & Mercer, 7/17

(I really prefer more romance in my romantic suspense novels, and this was pretty much missing that aspect. That said, the writing is solid, and I found the premise intriguing. Also, because I stopped so early in the book, it's possible the romance was still to come (though the ending -- which I always read, of course -- didn't really seem to follow that idea).)

**-
The Color of Love, by Sharon Sala -- recommended for those who like romances along the lines of Sleeping with the Enemy, those who like books with strong settings, and those who like vignette-type stories -- Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2/18

(Ironically, this one was too much of a romance and not enough (not really any) of the suspense. I skimmed to the end, but it's definitely not to my taste. I don't really like the abused-wife trope, and although I *do* like strong setting and vignette tales (ala Fannie Flagg or Maeve Binchy), this one just didn't work for me.)

**
The Dry, by Jane Harper -- recommended for those who like stories set in Australia, those who like small-town settings, and those who like grit and mysteries from childhood -- Flatiron Books, 1/17

(This one was a rec, and I should have known it wouldn't really be to my taste. Many of my friends like more literary books, and this one definitely swings in that direction. I *don't* like literary books, so this just didn't work for me (though the writing is good).)

****
Shift's End, by A.R. Barley -- recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like firefighter tales, and those who like some suspense/mystery -- Carina Press, 8/18

(I enjoyed this. It's a fun read -- not necessarily fantastic but definitely enjoyable.)

***
Alpha Unit One, New York, by Chris T. Kat -- recommended for those who like shifter tales, those who like law enforcement MCs, and those who like insta-love -- Dreamspinner Press, 7/18

(Hm...the premise to this was intriguing, and I read the entire book (though skimming was involved)...but I was *really* frustrated by the end. I think if I used stars to determine my level of enjoyment, this would get only 2 stars. :( My main complaints: the insta-love (yuck), the majority of the story took place off-screen (it was very confusing; I kept thinking there were chapters missing or something), and a premise (baby shifters) that was fairly original but just didn't deliver. I don't know if I'd pick up another by this author or not.)

****
Stalking Buffalo Bill, by J. Leigh Bailey -- recommended for those who like shifter mysteries (male/male) and those who like unusual settings (Cody, WY) -- Dreamspinner Press, 9/17

(This was another fun (though not awesome, necessarily) read. I liked the characters, I like the unusual shifter (buffalo? :D), and I loved the setting. I thought the romance was sweet and not too ridiculous (though any shifter romance with 'mates' has that insta-love feel, I think). Quick and easy. :) )

It's been kind of a dry spell for amazing books, sigh. I've been resorting to a ton of re-reads, and while that can be fun too, it's also frustrating not to find anything new to really *love*. Here's hoping things will pick up soon!
books

Book Reports (64-67)...

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].

****+
A Merciful Silence, by Kendra Elliot -- highly recommended for those who've read the rest of the Mercy series, for those who like unique situations (like Sovereign Citizens), for those who like an intriguing mystery, and for those who like established relationships and continued romance -- Montlake Romance, 6/18

(I really like this series by Elliot. She has some crossover with her other series, as well, and though I liked one of them (Targeted), the other was a little more gruesome than I prefer. This book also got a bit gruesome (losing 1/2 star), but I still like Mercy and Truman SO MUCH that I will continue on!)

***+
Auld Lang Syne, by Tia Fielding -- recommended for those who like ranch settings, those who like sweet (though brief) male/male romance, and those who like low-to-little angst -- Dreamspinner Press, 7/11

(This was sweet but a little shallow for my personal taste. It was a snippet, really, and although I liked both Jack and Blair, it didn't really delve into their characters enough for me to feel I knew them well.)

****
Thank My Lucky Scars, by Tia Fielding -- recommended for those who like UK settings, those who like sweet/sincere MCs, those who like dual POV, and those who like low angst -- Dreamspinner Press, 4/12

(Though it's the same author, I connected more with both Nick and Matty here. I think the dual POV helped with that. Plus, although it's a short story, a greater time period is covered, and even though some of it is definitely *telling* rather than *showing*, I still enjoyed seeing how they conquered their distance issue. It was sweet, and I'm more likely to re-read this one than the other.)

****-
Sinner's Gin, by Rhys Ford -- recommended for those who like gruesome, angsty tales, those who like male/male romance, those who like big families, and those who like cop tales -- Dreamspinner Press, 12/12

(So I got this one because I'd read about Kane and Miki in one of Mary Calmes' books, and I was curious. I especially liked the sound of Kane's huge family, and I *did* like that aspect. But Miki's background was so awful, and the graphic descriptions of the gore weren't to my taste, either. Plus, Kane falls so quickly for Miki -- like immediately -- and I couldn't really get what drew him in (even though he explains it to his partner near the end in a nice way...a way that I got even, but am I just supposed to take the author's word for it that this is why?). In other words, Miki's character was incredibly broken and rude and difficult, and I didn't ever *see* him behaving in the way that Kane said attracted him. *shrug* So I didn't love it, and I might pick up the next one (about Kane's older brother), but I suspect that will be it for me with this style.)
books

Book Reports (59-62)...

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].

****
[Lies, by T.M. Logan -- recommended for those who like psychological thrillers, those who like British settings, and those who like male narrators -- St. Martin's Press, 9/18]

(I got this ARC in the mail, and I read it in one sitting. It's definitely chilling (as advertised on the back copy), and the person behind it all was a surprise. Perhaps because it's written by a male (and has a male narrator), there's not a ton of emotional angst, but I still enjoyed the pacing and tension throughout.)

****+
The Moscow Deception, by Karen Robards -- highly recommended for those who read the first one (The Ultimatum), for Robards fans, for those who like romantic suspense (though the romance is fairly non-existent in this), and those who don't mind cliff hangers -- Mira Books, 6/18

(I definitely enjoyed this (and have been waiting since I read the first one for this to come out), but *another* cliff hanger?? Yeesh...still, Bianca is nice and feisty, and even though it seems unlikely that she could really pull off all she does, what do I know about thieving? :D And I think Colin will eventually make this romantic suspense, so I'm willing to wait and see.)

****-
A to Z, by Marie Sexton -- recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like Colorado settings (yay!), and those who like oblivious love interests -- Dreamspinner Press, 3/10

(I enjoyed this, for the most part. I will admit that Zach's cluelessness started to irritate me by the end, though. Also, he went from being a total doormat as far as relationships are concerned to suddenly knowing his heart and deciding he was completely in love with Angelo...hm. That part just didn't seem realistic to me, I guess. There's a whole series about these two, and apparently their relationship turns into an open relationship -- and that's not really my thing. So I liked it but didn't love it.)

****-
BAMF, by SJD Peterson -- recommended for those who like male/male romance, those who like pseudo-mysteries, and those who like libraries (ha) -- Dreamspinner Press, 7/14

(I also enjoyed this one, though the actual mystery portion wasn't much of a mystery (and 99% of it happened off page). I also found it a little unrealistic, but again, I'm not an expert in witness protection and all it entails. Still, the romance is sweet, if a bit insta-love, and I liked the half-hearted attempt at making the library a setting (um, not that it was half-hearted but they she at least tried).)