Days Of Thunder

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My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Maybe I had Days of Thunder on my brain when I read this novel. Before you ask me what the hell I’m talking about, I’ll tell you. The scene with the moonshine and commuting across state lines and telling stories reminded me of home, and when the female trooper gives Cole Trickle a thorough frisking and then rips open the top part of her state trooper’s uniform, all I could say is “Damn!” Yeah, this novel was like that. Only it was 416 pages of bodice-ripping good times. To the point that I was lost in feelings and sensations and moments and more intimate moments and heat. Yep, there was plenty of heat here, thus the title HEATED, and yours truly had the sensation of flushed skin on more than one occasion.

If I didn’t already have a weak spot for cops, this novel would have set me on edge and caused me to develop a twitch in my right eye. The twitch was there, though, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Nor did I really want to. Maybe I need to get my wife a Halloween costume a wee bit early this year, but I suppose I could have worse problems.

Sloane Watson was one part cop, one part stripper, one part exhibitionist, and three parts curves and angles…and yeah, there was probably a holy wow moment or two or five. And Tyler Sharp may have had a rough life facing a past filled with serious consequences, but steel abs and a good heart made more than one woman drop her drawers. Even if he’s still a bit rough around the corners, he has laser-focused intensity and probably even a set of dimples to match.

The story may not have been wholly original, and the ending maybe even less so, but the characters made me want to stand up and scream for joy, or at least allowed me to forget who I was for a few hours or so. The sex scenes weren’t filled with crazy acrobatics, and the BDSM was probably a bit on the lighter side, but the fucking was as intimate and pleasure-filled as a hot fudge sundae. So, yeah, you may not want to read this novel in public, and certainly not if there are any children within 500 feet of you. Otherwise, you might find yourself being carried away by men in dark sunglasses.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Book Crack

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My Rating: 3/5 Stars

When your wife’s away, it’s nice to read about somebody getting laid. BACKSTAGE PASS, however, takes the term Boy Band Ass to a whole new level commensurate with flashing lights and gleaming beacons and beautiful girls in black lace bras and thongs. If that’s not enough to get your mojo running, there’s also a Human Sexuality professor who not only heightens the overall sexual experience to a mind-boggling level, she’s got the body of a porn star.

Had I read this book in my teens, I’d have probably dropped out of school to become a rock star, even though I’m devoid of all rhythm, can’t carry a tune to save my life, and have no inkling of any musical talent whatsoever. But the fans, man. The fans. You might have to play a few dive bars in a few dive towns and sleep on a couch and drink directly from a faucet and pee in the bushes when the neighbors aren’t looking, but that’s a sacrifice many a man would indeed make. Because the girls are young and uninhibited and filled with lust and love and starry-eyes and butts that could stand up to Jennifer Lopez.

The makeup might be a bit too thick and the eyes a bit too black and the skirts a bit too short, but that’s all just a part of the wonderful, inebriated experience. I’d have to say that this book might indeed be filled with crack, or some other illegal substance. Because the writing made me laugh out loud at times, the dialogue had a serious aftertaste and more than a little cringe to it, the plot lacked a certain amount of sophistication, and the characters felt a bit too stereotypical and one-dimensional. But I seriously couldn’t stop reading. I mean, seriously.

This might as well have been book porn, as the porn factor seeped through the pages and into my living room. It had the trademark bad dialogue, a lack of plot, and characters who probably needed a Happy Meal and a brain transplant (other than the sexually liberating professor). I had this entire list of things to do today. But none of that particularly mattered, as I read onward and upward with a glazed look in my eye and my mouth hung at a slight angle, as I waited with bated breath for the next scene to pound away at my senses. And I might have even stood up and cheered if I wasn’t already glued to my seat.

When I need some more book crack or book porn, I’ll tear off another jacket or miniskirt and hold on tight for the wild ride. In the meantime, I plan to get as far away from romance novels as possible for the foreseeable future, otherwise there’s a more than good chance I’ll spontaneously combust, and my wife will be picking herself up from the airport.

Suck My Soul

13068332 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

If you’re packing a pair of DDs beneath your peek-a-boo blouse, you may want to keep the following in mind: “With great breasts comes great responsibility.” Or so says a t-shirt. That I briefly considered acquiring simply for the amusement factor alone. Maybe I could get my wife to wear it. Although there’s a more than good chance she probably won’t find it nearly amusing as I did. Just as I’m convinced some of you (and I can’t imagine why) won’t find SECOND GRAVE ON THE LEFT nearly as amusing as I did. And if you don’t—let’s get this out of the way right now—I’m sorry but I can’t help you. Because this is some highly entertaining shit. I mean, the voice and zingers and main character are more than worth the price of admission, and I just happen to have a stack of ones at the ready.

When I die and float up to the big house in the sky, I want to pass through Charley Davidson, the hottest grim reaper in seven continents. She has a mouth on her, doesn’t like mornings, is as stubborn as a loan shark chasing after a man with a gambling addiction, and may, or may not, have somewhat questionable taste in men, but she’s got a juicy ass and a seriously enlarged chest area. If you’re a guy, it kind of makes you want to cry (in a good way). At least if you’re into that sort of thing. Which for the record, I’m going to go ahead and say it right now “I like curves, damn it!”

It’s really hard to say if I liked the story as much as the first one. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say probably not. It just seemed a bit too contrived to me, but crap on a cracker, Charley’s welcome in my world anytime she wants to stop by for a visit. Given the right temptation, I’d probably even let her suck my soul from my body with a straw.  Who knows? I may not even need it anyway. And if I do, I can tell the big boss “Woo-eee, I had one hell of a ride!”

And that, my friends, is probably the best way I could ever possibly sum up this novel. I can’t wait to come on back for the third installment. I’m thinking I’ll need a fix again real soon.

Heart Palpitations

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My Rating: 4/5 Stars

The start of this novel might have caused me several heart palpitations, with characters that seemed to move backwards instead of forwards, and an unlikeable cast of misfits and miscreants. Had I developed a bit more sense, I might have shoved the entire story aside and moved on with my life. But curiosity kept me flipping pages like I was flipping shirts into a suitcase ready to take the next bus out of town. Instead of ending up at the train station, I stopped about halfway there, and turned my butt back around.

The beauty of HEARTBEAT took a bit longer to arrive than I otherwise would have liked, but I did find it, and there was a leprechaun at the end of the rainbow, guarding the pot of gold with a heart monitor and electric shock treatments. He might have had a grin on his face, or it might have been a smirk, but either way it was present and accounted for, along with his scrubs, and his slightly cynical outlook on life.

Emma might have taken the fast-track to her seventeen years, with the pedal to the floor and her arm sticking out the window, while Dan, the diligent stepdad, offered up a smile and a nod in her direction. The direction of her life was headed on the downward slope, sinking faster than a person in the middle of cardiac arrest without a single doctor in sight. Caleb might have been the bad boy who had an extra dose of wicked in his lifestyle dysfunction with a hard heart and an ability to sink cars.

But this is one story that made me want to cheer, even if I had to accomplish said task from a sitting position. And my fortunes do feel just a bit brighter after having finished this novel. This was one quick read that left me blinking ever so slightly in surprise as the events unfolded right before my eyes.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Cringed On Multiple Occasions

15748618 by
My Rating: 1/5 Stars

While I can’t guarantee I will honor all fan requests, I was certainly intrigued and rather humbled with my second piece of reviewing fan mail, and the first one with a request for a specific novel which sits in my TBR queue. In this case, a fan wanted to know my thoughts on BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. Like the great quarterbacks, I rather enjoy pretending when I sit down to write a review that I’ve never written one before, that no one actually reads this crap, and that I’m only entertaining myself (most of the time) and my wife (some of the time). Selective amnesia helps me stay sane, and it prevents the writing well from turning as bone dry as Albuquerque, New Mexico.

So why did I choose to honor said request? To sum up (and I’m paraphrasing), I was called a genius and one brilliant sonofabitch. With that kind of support, it was hard to say no, even though I now feel as though I have this tremendous responsibility to write even better and more appropriate reviews in the future (so we’re back to that wonderful selective amnesia), and now we’ll move forward with this review.

I’d say the best way for me to sum up this novel is I don’t understand the hype. No, it goes deeper and extends further than that. I actually cringed on multiple occasions while reading said novel, and I might have started viewing “Trav” as a four-letter word much worse than the usual conglomeration of four-letter words, and I started using epithets left and right that shall go otherwise unnamed for fear of constant reprisal. I probably would have tossed my Kindle through the nearest open window if I hadn’t learned how to control my emotions, and still there were probably one or two close calls. And it was a good thing I had learned this basic function because neither Travis nor Abby had, and multiple therapy sessions, a straightjacket, and a room filled with padded walls still wouldn’t have solved their problems.

Even a chipmunk who had consumed one too many acorns could see where the storyline was headed. The billboard was neon red and flashing from about three miles away. The predictable romantic roadblocks and turns ensued with neither individual offering up much in the way of intelligence or even reasonable competence. *BEGIN SPOILER* Instead of the happily ever after ending, a more fitting finale would have been for the romantic partners to get hit by a Mack truck, followed by a bullet train, and then whacked by the propeller of the nearest helicopter. *END SPOILER*

The dialogue made me want to pass out a thesaurus instead of cotton candy, while the prose was peppered with exclamation points, cringe-inducing language, a wishy-washy in need of a backbone heroine, and way too many people to hate within the confines of one novel.

Sure, I made it all the way to the end, but that was due more to my perseverance and thoughts of writing a review to expunge my feelings than it was to a favorable plot, charming characters, and winning prose.

Side note – I didn’t know about all the hoopla surrounding this author and novel until more recently. I must have stuck my head in a cave for more than a few days. Had I known about it, it wouldn’t have changed my decision to read BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, nor would it have changed my opinion of said novel. But it’s hard not to be disappointed in my author brethren for the immediate and scathing backlash about a reader’s opinion. Last I checked this wasn’t North Korea, and everyone is still entitled to his or her opinion, but maybe my few days in a cave was much longer than I realized. Either way, I’ll continue to support my fellow Goodreads reviewers the only way I know how…with my writing.

Overhyped, Undeserving

8117665 by
My Rating: 1/5 Stars

Where’s the payoff? I’ll tell you: It doesn’t exist. For three books, I followed and even bought into the relationship between Bella and Edward. All the heavy petting, French kissing, and whispers of you’re the one filled the pages to the point of seeping out of its edges, and yet I continued to read, because I believed there was a prize at the end of the rainbow. A prize worth consuming four books, countless hours, and pouring over nearly 2500 pages worth of teenage angst. And what happened? Nothing. There was a buildup to “the moment” about as large as a tidal wave ready to take out Charleston, SC, but when the moment was finally upon the two young lovers, the door slammed so hard in my face that it rattled the walls. And then there were more “moments” and on each occasion, the door slammed so hard that the foundation nearly cracked in half. Sure, Stephenie Meyer described the sex that took place after the fact, but I felt like I was on the outer edges of the horizon waiting to break through the atmosphere.

After the first lack of production, I nearly tossed my Android out my window. And the other scenes, or lack thereof, only led to more disheartenment. Was I a bit overzealous? Possibly a bit too overeager? Probably. But I bring you back to that number again: 2500. Did Stephenie Meyer need to go into pornographic detail? Absolutely not. But if this was a relationship that changed both Bella and Edward and their entire families, and a relationship worth confronting the Volturi over, then I wanted more than a bit of French kissing, longing glances, and heavy petting: I wanted a peek inside the walls of the bedroom. In fact, I feel like I deserved more, so BREAKING DAWN ended up being one giant letdown for me. I’d even go so far to say it was the mother of all letdowns.

But what scares me even more than that is that this is a book (and a series) marketed toward teenagers. What kind of a message does it send when your baby eats you from the inside out? What kind of a message does it send when Bella was meant to be a vampire? She literally transforms from an awkward, uncoordinated teenager to a perfect vampire with grace, precision, and poise in a matter of days, completely capable of controlling her thoughts and thirst. Every other vampire and every other vampire series places much more emphasis on the control factor (control of thirst and desires), and that it is never really under the vampire’s complete control, and yet here we are with Bella, the perfect vampire. It’s almost laughable in its utter simplicity.

But yet why did I have such a hard time buying it? People and society aren’t perfect, so this whole concept seems a little too perfect for me. What message does this really send? That if you just become a vampire you can have it all: you can walk out in the sunlight (as long as it’s cloudy outside), you can have the perfect daughter, you can be more graceful and controlled than you ever thought possible, and you can have gifts that you couldn’t have in human form. Let’s sign up right now because I want in on this shit.

I mean, it’s gotta be better than the imperfect life that I’m leading right now. As for all those teenage readers that have consumed this series, let’s face it, being a teenager is a rather imperfect life. All those awkward moments, awkward situations, and that never-ending series of first times…these four novels say let’s skip right to being a vampire, because that’s where the promise land is baby. And that’s one promise I’m not really buying into.

Dichotomy Dilemma

6064173 by
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

When I finished ECLIPSE, I felt empty inside, like I was a seashell sitting on the beach, trying to become one with the waves. Sure, I had been entertained by the story itself and by the surrounding beachcombers, pedestrians, and dogs playing on the shoreline, or in this case, the vampires and werewolves and otherwise normal individuals who constitute the pages of Stephenie Meyer’s tale. But I felt less than fulfilled as I flipped the pages at a furious, breakneck pace.

It’s hard for me to explain the dichotomy because I don’t really understand it myself. The pace of the novel never really slows, but at the same time there’s not a whole lot that has happened in ECLIPSE or the two previous installments. Again, I really have no doubt that there is talent at work here: talent at world invention, character creation, and a unique approach to a rather traditional storyline. This novel, like the others, is filled with a certain amount of promise. But at the same time, this promise seems to go unfulfilled.

But do I want to keep reading? Absolutely. However, I do think the empty feeling will continue all the way to the end. And it’s hard not to feel a bit disappointed by this result. So the dance continues Stephenie Meyer, as I both admire and loathe you in equal parts, and if I ever figure out the answer to my dichotomy dilemma, I will have solved one of the great mysteries of the universe.

Mountain Of Empty Calories

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My Rating: 2/5 Stars

After reading NEW MOON, I feel like I ate a mountain of empty calories without any real payoff at the end. Sure, it was an enjoyable read, written for a particular audience, and done very well in that regard; sure, it had a steady pace like a racehorse destined for some sort of glory; and sure, there was no point where I wanted to put the book down, toss it across the room, or throw it in a garbage can. But I feel like Stephenie Meyer could have offered us so much more.

The basic plotline is this: Edward leaves, Bella stays, and then Edward returns. As a teenager myself, once, I like to believe I offered the world slightly more depth than what this particular story entailed. Of course, maybe that is just wishful thinking on my part. But it doesn’t mean I will stop this particular saga in midstream, nor will I postpone the third book.

Since TWILIGHT offered the reader a bit more than this one did, I suppose I had set slightly higher expectations for this one. Not grand expectations, mind you, but I did hope to be dazzled a bit more than I was, especially since there is talent at work here.

I am curious to see what happens to these two ill-fated lovers, but I hope the next two novels prove a bit more interesting than this one did. If you thoroughly enjoyed the first book, or even if you’re just curious to see what everyone is talking about, or if you happen to connect with these particular relationships on some level, as I did, or you’re using this series as a marketing study, you probably won’t want to miss this one. Otherwise, you may feel a little disappointed at the end.

Flapjack Connoisseur

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My Rating: 3/5 Stars

So what can I say about TWILIGHT that hasn’t already been said? Honestly, probably not a whole hell of a lot. But has that ever stopped me? No way. But I realize I’m coming to the party after the house has already burned down, the cops have shown up, and they’re proceeding to take witness statements from a bunch of half-stunned, half-drunk teenagers. On the other hand, that’s not so bad either. Reviews are all about honest opinions, and I certainly have one of those.

Let’s get this out of the way upfront: Like many folks by now, I have friends that love the series, friends that tolerate it, friends that hate it, and friends that will never read it. But with any book worth its mashed potatoes and gravy, it will have devoted fans, passionate enemies, and folks that politically resemble Switzerland and Canada. When it comes to books that have reached a broad audience, it’s the circle of life. And for the amount of money Stephenie Meyer now has shoved down the front of her jeans, she’s probably not going to complain too hard.

So what’s my take on the series? I did my best to reserve judgment until after I’d read TWILIGHT, which by the way wasn’t easy, since it has only managed to spawn four novels and five movies, the first four of which have grossed a little over a billion dollars domestic. And I’ll give you the bottom line, in case you want to stop reading sooner rather than later: I wouldn’t call it a well-written series, but I was absorbed in Bella’s world from the very beginning, and I found myself flipping pages like a flapjack connoisseur at the local Denny’s. I really wanted to know where Stephenie Meyer would take me, and I was more than willing to hop on board and go along for the ride.

So why does the series work? We can spend all day analyzing it from a multitude of different angles, but here’s the one undisputable point: She connected with a large group of readers who had either experienced a teenage crush firsthand or knew someone who had. Depending on how you look at it, I was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have an all-consuming, all-encompassing relationship a number of years ago. Am I a better person for it? It’s really hard to say, but I ended up learning a hell of a lot from that relationship, and I wouldn’t be where I am now had that relationship continued on its sea bound voyage. So in the end, I could relate to Bella and Edward, and the devoted Twihard fanbase.

As for the rating, I feel like I should provide a slight explanation. I debated hard about giving it more than three stars, but in the end I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It’s a good novel, and a rather light read, but there was nothing great about it. Nothing that really made it stand out for me. Now I know there are probably quite a few people who will disagree with me wholeheartedly about my previous statement, and like Ms. Meyer, I’m okay with that.

Identity Crisis

18859308 by
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

I know I shouldn’t complain about free books, but just over three months to approve a NetGalley request and nine days after the book’s release date. Excuse me…what? Now my reviewing queue is all out of whack, and I feel like I’ve been hung from the rafters by my ankles by a former NFL linebacker.

I suppose I should have counted on the fact that my request might have been approved, but I’m a writer, and I know how rejection works. If you don’t hear anything after a month or so (sometimes longer), you mark that particular request down as a no, and you move on with your life. I know I did. But I was tossed back in the game. So here we are you and I.

Before we stroll too far in this particular endeavor together, though, I should mention this novel is Christian fiction. So if that ain’t how you like to spike your punch bowl, then you might want to exit stage right, or duck and cover. I won’t be offended, but Jesus might.

All this novel needed was a funeral. *BEGIN SPOILER* I mean, we have a wedding and an arranged marriage and painting and coins and kidnapping and running and an identity shift and a fake name and competing plotlines and a multi-billion dollar inheritance (wouldn’t that be nice?) and charitable giving and are you confused yet? Because I sure felt like I was headed in that direction, if I didn’t already find that particular exit. *END SPOILER*

Faith reminds me of a blanket wrapped tight around you. It’s beautiful and comforting and wonderful and protecting. It fills your life with purpose and hope and promise, and it points you in the right direction, guiding you along a path better than the one you could have chosen for yourself. But it can be a thin veil, and when it shatters or tears apart, it’s completely ripped to shreds, and those wonderful, comforting feelings disintegrate into a cloud of dust. Charlotte is broken, and UNSPOKEN covers her journey to find her way back.

This book felt like it had a bit of an identity crisis. Sure, there was suspense, and there was romance, but I never felt like the two blended together as seamlessly as they should have. Instead of peanut butter and jelly, it was more oil and water.

I didn’t hate it, but I can’t say I particularly liked it either. In the end, I just sort of shrugged my shoulders and set the book aside, as I moved on to the next one.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.