Monday, April 23, 2018

The Book Lover's Den No. 24: Books That Give Me Mixed Feelings, Part 2

Welcome to my renewed literary musing feature! I have decided 
to post it on Mondays now!

In each weekly post, I explore 
my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.

This Week's Topic
Books that give me mixed feelings,

Having explored my thoughts and feelings on this topic last week, I've decided that this week, I will feature some of those books that gave me mixed feelings, as well as explain the reason(s) for these feelings. Should anyone be interested in more details, I will also include links to my review of each book. All of them are YA novels. I might do a third post, dealing only with adult novels.

So here they are, in alphabetical order, by author. Click on each cover for the Goodreads page.

This book does have a VERY beautiful, romantic cover. For the most part, the plot was very appealing. However, I did not love it as much as I could have. What bothered the most was that Bethany, the angel, was not depicted as being as powerful as an angel would be expected to be. Furthermore, throughout the novel, she acts more like a human teen. Here's a quote from my review: "Her angelic powers are rarely in evidence, except for the scene in which she reveals her true nature to Xavier, her body glowing as she flies off the edge of a cliff.  The rest of the time, however, the reader would think this was a typical, non-paranormal YA romance." Mostly, I did like this novel, as there were other elements I did enjoy. However, I was expecting Bethany to be a kick-butt angel, and she most definitely was not! Neither was Ivy, a more mature female angel who was also part of the plot. For the full review, click HERE.
As an obsessed Twilight fan, I looked around frantically for similar books after I had read The Twilight Saga twice (there was a third reading later on, lol). I thought I had found what I was looking for in this series, but nope! Yes, the plot was very imaginative, even exciting. But..... What REALLY bothered me about this book was the marked anti-Christian bias, as well as that one instance of oral sex was mentioned, early in the book. Excuse me, but oral sex, in a YA NOVEL? UGH. Although there were no graphic details, the mere mention was totally inappropriate for YA, and really didn't contribute much to the story. 

To make matters even worse, there were quite a few "F bombs" sprinkled throughout the book, which is unusual for the YA genre.

Another problem was that some of the characters were stereotypes, such as The Mean Girl and her Gang. As for an example of the anti-Christian bias, here's a quote from my review: "What is most offensive, however, is the characterization of all Christian men as “pedophiles”.  Here’s the actual quote, from page 27 of the book, so anyone who doubts me can look it up for themselves: 

'…by another equally hysterical call that would activate the dreaded People of Faith prayer tree.  Within thirty minutes our house would begin to fill up with fat women and their beady-eyed pedophile husbands.'  (emphasis added)" 

By the way, the name "People of Faith" refers to Christians. I guess the authors figured that, by NOT using the word "Christians", no one would feel they (the authors) were unfairly stereotyping and judging ALL followers of Jesus. Well, that sure didn't work, because, if I picked this up, it stands to reason that other readers would, too. For the full review of this book, please click HERE.

One of my biggest complaints with this one is that the characters didn't seem as vivid as they were in the first installment. Also, the pacing was much slower. Cavallaro took a bit too long to set up the story, and the mystery was not as page-turning as the one in the first novel. 

Although I did enjoy finding out more about Charlotte Holmes's family, one thing that REALLY bothered me in this book was that Watson began to try doing detective work himself. Here's a quote from my review regarding this: "I also disliked that Watson kind of began to eclipse Holmes in this book, as he attempted to do some brilliant sleuthing of his own. That struck me as a bit of a sexist, male chauvinist type of attempt on his part to somehow be 'worthy' of someone as brilliant as Charlotte Holmes." Click HERE for the complete review.

This novel had been SO 'hyped up' by the time I got to it, I was SURE I was going to LOVE it! Not so! Although there were some similarities to The Twilight Saga, I did like the two MCs. The novel's pervasive darkness finally got to me, though. I just had this overall feeling of OPPRESSION as I read this book. I didn't like most of the other characters, although I did like the storyline itself, as well as the love between the two MCs. 

I also disliked that some of the characters were stereotypes. 

Basically, though, this story and its setting were just much TOO creepy for me. This book comes very close to belonging in the horror genre. Not for me at all! If you're interested, you can find the full review HERE.

This book was very interesting -- at first. It had to do with the Salem witch trials, although there was a modern storyline, as well. Ultimately, however, the book fell flat. There were the usual Mean Girls involved, and the romance was not all that exciting. 

I also had some issues with Abby, the female MC. Here's a relevant quote from my review: "Yet, once she discovers she's a witch, she decides to use magic to win her old crush's adoration, because she wants to exact revenge on the mean girl who has been making her life miserable, and happens to be Travis's girlfriend. This is not the type of thing a protagonist should do, if an author wants her readers to identify with this character." Check out the full review HERE.

Although I did like the main characters in this novel, they were a bit too much like the MCs in The Twilight Saga. And Ever, the female protagonist, has issues with self-esteem, just like Bella does in the Twilight books. 

One thing I did like about this book was the male MC's interactions with historical art figures, such as Van Gogh and Picasso. That was really fascinating! 

The villain in the book was defeated much too easily, in my opinion. However, I did enjoy the writing and the plot.

Here's a relevant quote: "I thought it was very well-written, the plot did keep me in suspense (I managed to avoid the temptation to read ahead), and the characters were very engaging, although somewhat flat -- especially the villain.  The romance was pretty good, too, although I think it could have been even better." For the full review, click HERE.

So here they are -- six books that gave me VERY mixed feelings. Thus, I could not wholeheartedly love them. With some, the writing style was what first hooked me. There were other elements, though, that spoiled my reading experience. I am not at all tempted to go back and re-read these books, except for one -- The Last of August. I'd like to give this one "a second chance". Maybe I missed something the first time..... Lol.

By the way, have any of you read any of these books? I'd love to know what you thought of them!

What are your thoughts on
 this topic?
Please leave me a comment
and let me know!

Sunday, April 22, 2018



This giveaway was 
It started at midnight, 3/17/18, 
and ended at
midnight on 4/18/18!!!

And the winner is.....
Megan @ Book Birds!!!
She has already claimed her prize!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you to everyone who participated!! Please stay tuned, as I have giveaways going on ALL THE TIME, whether my own, through blog tour companies, or as a member of a giveaway blog hop!!

Be sure to check out my current
blog tour giveaway!!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Buddy Read Time!! Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation
(Dread Nation, Book 1)
Justina Ireland
Hardcover, 464 pages
Bilzer + Bray
April 3, 2018
African-American Fiction, Alternative History, American History, Diverse Reads, Fantasy, 
Feminist Fiction, Historical Fiction,
Horror, Humor, Paranormal Fiction, 
Social Justice, Southern Gothic,
Young Adult Fiction

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

Wellllll...... I NEVER thought I'd see the day when I would actually, and WILLINGLY, be reading a HORROR novel!! Any reader who has been following me for several years is well aware that I DETEST the horror genre! (And no, I do NOT consider The Twilight Saga as belonging to this genre. Ditto for the Vampire Academy series.) might be asking yourselves right about now, WHY have I picked up this particular novel, which features those fictional paranormal creatures I thoroughly HATE and fear -- ZOMBIES?! Have I gone off my rocker?!

So here I am, embarking on a buddy read with fellow book blogger extraordinaire, Barb @ Booker T's Farm -- Books and Nails and Puppy Dog Tales! In fact, that's the blog where I first saw this book! Barb featured it in one of her "Can't Wait Wednesday" posts, and I was really intrigued... 

Now, I have visited her CWW posts on many occasions, and, every time she's featured a horror novel, I have told her that I am too much of a BIG CHICKEN to read it. Lol. The horror genre is one of her faves, so she has published posts about some REALLY CREEPY novels! 

Something made a difference to me in this case, folks! Read on!

This is the question Barb is asking me, and which I'm answering here:

"I know you're not a horror reader, and even though you visit my blog regularly, I know some of the books I post about you'll never pick up. So what was it about Dread Nation that made you take the plunge? And how do you feel about venturing into unknown territory?"

My answer: Barb, I know how much of a SHOCK this must be to you, lol! But you know, I am comfortable reading paranormal romance and urban fantasy, which are sort of cousins of the horror genre. I can tolerate these pretty well, as long as they don't get TOO creepy. So this is not exactly unknown territory to me. However, there's something about the horror genre, though, that just scares the you-know-what out of me! And ZOMBIES?! OMG!! They are such detestable, disgusting creatures! 

Okay, so here's why I have made an exception in the case of this novel. First off, that cover. There's a very dynamic-looking, obviously kick-butt female African-American on it, holding a blood-covered sickle. Normally, that blood would put me off, but here, it just makes it abundantly clear that hey, you just do NOT mess with this woman! In fact, it sure looks like you had BETTER tread VERY carefully with her. So there's also feminism involved here! Plus, she's got Old Glory in the background, which means she's as All-American as Captain America. Then there's the plot. I LOVE alternative history novels, although I haven't read that many of them in the past. Well, I intend to do something about that from now on! And an alternative history in which African-Americans are pictured as doing something BAD***, well, all I can say is, we need MORE such novels!! Give me some SOCIAL JUSTICE here!!

Another very important reason I decided to "brave" reading this book is that, since it's Young Adult Fiction, I figured the horror aspect wouldn't be as bad (in other words, there would be MUCH less blood and gore) as it would be in an adult novel.  I'm crossing my fingers that I'm right..... Interestingly, too, from several reviews I've read, it seems that Jane McKeene, that AWESOME MC, has quite a snarky sense of humor. Looking forward to that! One more thing: any MC named "Jane" will be sure to get my attention, as I'm a HUGE "Jane Eyre" fan!! 
:)  :)  :)

So there you have it Barb, and the rest of you, my readers! I am more than willing to brave those slavering zombies in order to enjoy a book in which someone who would not usually be depicted as a heroic protagonist is featured saving the world! It also helped to know that this novel had been, for some time now, one of the most highly anticipated books of 2018! 

Today, Barb and I are launching our buddy read! You can all look forward to our posts about this terrific read that promises to be a highly-rewarding one!

Be sure to check out Barb's buddy-read launch post HERE!

You can find the "Can't Wait Wednesday" post where I first saw this novel, on Barb's blog, HERE!


Justina Ireland enjoys dark chocolate, dark humor, and is not too proud to admit that she’s still afraid of the dark. She lives with her husband, kid, and dog in Pennsylvania. She is the author of Vengeance Bound and Promise of Shadows.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Book Review/Giveaway!! Hero's Return, by B.J. Daniels

Hero's Return
(The Montana Cahills, Book 5)
B.J. Daniels
Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
March 27, 2018
Contemporary Fiction, Romance,
Mystery, Suspense

The prodigal Cahill is back—and ready to confess

Tucker Cahill disappeared from Gilt Edge, Montana, hoping to escape a secret that has haunted him for nineteen years. Then, when a young woman’s remains are found in the creek near his family’s ranch, he has no choice but to face his demons. The truth that sent him running years ago could take away his freedom now.

Kate Rothschild came to town looking for vengeance—and Tucker Cahill. What she finds is a tortured and irresistible man who’s more than meets the eye. Caught up in the past, they are drawn deeper into a twisted game that’s not over yet. And the consequences could prove fatal for them both

The author provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honestly enthusiastic review!

This is my second B.J. Daniels book, and she is now an auto-buy author for me! Her skillful mix of romance, mystery, and suspense have made this reader stay up very late, frantically turning pages until the totally satisfactory ending was reached! Besides, these novels read like movies! This is especially true of the chapters dealing with the edge-of-your seat struggle between the heroes and the villains. I am adding more of the Montana Cahill books to my Goodreads shelves, as they are really exciting!

I've never read anything quite like these novels before, to be honest. They have an undeniable Western flair, as they all take place in the fictional town of Gilt Edge, Montana (there is actually a mining ghost town by the same name, interestingly enough). There are no ghosts in these novels, though. Instead, the romance novel fan will find cowboys -- gorgeous, wonderful cowboys with a heart of gold. (I say this in spite of how dorky it might sound, because it just happens to be true.)

This novel, like the one I have previously read (Cowboy's Legacy), tells the story of one of the Cahill brothers. This brother, Tucker Cahill, really stands out in the family because he mysteriously disappeared from Gilt Edge nineteen years before this novel starts. Events begin to flow rapidly, one after the other, as soon as he returns. But why did he escape from the town? And why has he chosen to return now, after nineteen years? The answers unfolded in an unforgettable tale that made me yearn to pull up stakes and move to this Montana town, surrounded by beautiful mountains, and yes, I need to say it again -- beautiful cowboys! Lol. 

Tucker soon meets an indomitable woman -- Kate Rothschild, scion of the very political Rothschilds, and investigative reporter. She, too, has a connection to the mysterious events that had taken place nineteen years before. What's more, she has a very personal interest in these events, and won't be deterred from finding answers, even at the risk of her life. 

Of course, sparks fly between Kate and Tucker, and they inevitably become a team as they search for these answers. Their impromptu investigation takes them to other Montana locations, and they find themselves digging into the past, even having to visit a cemetery....

Although the romance is definitely part of the plot, Daniels skillfully interweaves it with a story that has more twists and turns than a bucking bull trying to throw a cowboy off its back! Just when the reader thinks they've guessed what's going to happen next, Daniels throws the proverbial monkey wrench into the works, making it hard to put the book down for even one whole minute. 

The characters are solidly vivid, and very easy to relate to, as well. I loved Tucker, of course! He's such a sweetheart! Besides, he admires Kate, and wants to help her find her own answers. As for Kate, she's extremely independent, eager to shake off her prominent family's political heritage, and strike out on her own. She is brash and outspoken, and yet, soon falls under Tucker's undeniably charming spell. 

As for the secondary characters, I loved them all, and now want to read about their own romantic adventures in the previous novels! Darby and Mariah, Trask and Lillie, Billy Dee and Henry -- all of them form a warm, cozy family where every family member is unconditionally accepted and loved. Last but not least are Flint and Maggie. The latter appears only briefly in this novel (her story, as well as Flint's, is told in Cowboy's Legacy), but Flint does play a bigger part in this novel. He is, after all, the town sheriff, and his brother's strange connection to the skeletal remains discovered near the town creek worries him.  It is his duty to investigate, and he hopes his brother doesn't have a sinister connection to those remains.

In regards to the secondary characters, I loved the subplots they were involved in! Three of the Cahill brides are pregnant, with two of them about to give birth, and probably on the same day..... Another of these characters is also involved in a very poignant search for the daughter she had given up for adoption years before. The denouement of this subplot is a bittersweet one. However, there are also hints of yet another romance in the works, which made me sit up and take notice. I need to keep track of this! 

As for the villain, that person is very well drawn, and utterly Machiavellian in a totally insane, yet believable, way. In fact, when this person was fully revealed, I was reminded of a Hitchcock movie. There was that element that bordered on terror.....that feeling that, if something went wrong, tragedy would ensue. 

I love the pacing of this novel, too. This is a very important component of plots dealing with mystery and suspense. Happily, Daniels makes sure that the reader's interest never flags. Even when she deals with the budding romance between Kate and Tuck, she still manages to connect it to the mystery of the unknown body found near the creek. Their relationship develops even as they strive to uncover clues to the mystery that began so long ago...

Eventually, it becomes all too clear that the whole affair related to the skeletal remains is a sordid one, involving murder and blackmail, as well as the rather sinister religious fanaticism of a very, very strange family.....

I have nothing but great things to say about this novel! You can almost breathe in that clear Montana mountain air, while you sit down to eat Billy Dee's chili, and ponder the conundrums of the Cahill clan. And then you just NEED to follow those Cahill boys around, poking into mysteries until the bad guys (and/or gals) are dealt with, and everyone can mosey on over to the family-owned bar and eatery, and celebrate yet another wedding and new baby arrivals! So treat yourself. Get cozy, wherever you might happen to be (preferably all tucked up -- pun intended -- in bed), and plunge into this wonderful, bigger-than-life romance, mystery, and family drama, all rolled up into one!

Purchase Links


You can WIN a mass market 
paperback copy 
of Outlaw's Honor, Book 2 in the 
Cahill Ranch series!!

This giveaway starts at midnight today, 4/17/18, and ends at midnight on 5/9/18!


You must be 13 or older to enter,
and actually perform the action
for all the entries selected.

You will have 48 hours to reply to an
email notification of your win.
After that, another winner will be chosen.


B.J. Daniels' life dream was to be a policewoman. After a career as an award-winning newspaper journalist, she wrote and sold 37 short stories before she finally wrote her first book. Since then she has won numerous awards including a career achievement award last year for romantic suspense.

She lives in Montana with her husband, Parker, two Springer Spaniels, Jem and Spot, and a temperamental tomcat named Jeff. When she isn't writing, she snowboards, camps, boats and plays tennis.


To access the complete tour schedule, just click on the button below!


Monday, April 16, 2018

The Book Lover's Den No. 23: Books That Give Me Mixed Feelings, Part I

Welcome to my renewed literary musing feature! I have decided 
to post it on Mondays now!

In each weekly post, I explore 
my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.

This Week's Topic
Books that give me mixed feelings.

This is something I am reluctant to admit to, especially when it concerns a book that lots of other readers have raved about. But this is a topic that simply stands as evidence that not every reader is going to like every book that manages to reach publication, whether through traditional publishing or self-publishing. It's inevitable. "It is what it is", as this now ubiquitous saying goes....

There are those books that I have even hugged to my heart, and then there are THOSE books, the ones I would truly want to LOVE, the ones I almost DO love, but just.....can't, for one reason or another. These are the books that have disappointed me, that I look at sadly, shaking my head, because I can just feel how much BETTER they could have been, how much MORE they could have enchanted me. 

With several of these books, things started out beautifully. The prose flowed like a river swollen by spring rains, the characters were living, breathing, human beings whose stories I was immediately interested in, and just as immediately found myself immersed in. 

And then....SOMETHING, or sometimes, NOTHING, happened. And the book fell flat on its face. And I felt like, like.....shaking the book, and asking it, in a very hurt voice, "But what's WRONG with you?! WHY have you turned out this way, this very bewilderingly not-what-I-wanted-or-expected way?! WHY have you disappointed me, after we started out as such GREAT friends?!"

And so, when such a thing unexpectedly happens, I just lay the book aside, and stare off into space, just numb with shock. 

Then there are the books that are a struggle from the very beginning. I keep hoping agaisnt hope that "things will pick up" somehow, and that I will start liking the book, that it will suddently turn into one of those that keep you up until the wee hours. Except that it just doesn't. And so finally, regretfully, I lay this type of book aside, too. And I sigh for what could have been....

I find these books very easy to get rid of, though. Furthermore, these are not the ones I'm really referring to in this post. It's the others, the ones that ALMOST make me love them, but don't, that I have trouble with. I wait for a long time before I actually do get rid of them, even though I KNOW that I will not want to pick them up again. But then, suddenly, one day, I do indeed get rid of them, taking them over to Goodwill. And yet, it is with a pang of regret that I turn such a book over to a Goodwill clerk. My hope, at that point, is that the book will find its way to a reader who can appreciate it. I certainly haven't been able to. 

I can't but feel that perhaps I missed something, or didn't get something.... But then there are the times when I am actually indignant that a book, especially one that had gotten "a lot of hype", has been a disappointing read, or rather, has disappointed me, for I am one of those people who firmly believe that books are living creatures. 

So I sadly turn away from these reading experiences, and try to take my mind off the feelings of disappointment and dismay. It's not very easy for me to do this, however. I find myself going over the book's plot, analyzing it. Was there anything the author could have done differently? What about the characters? What was it about them that let me down? And so on.... With most of these books, it's pretty easy to pinpoint exactly what went wrong for me. In my next post, I will refer to some of these books, and hint at what I think turned off to them. 

The interesting thing here, I have discovered, is that sometimes it's not the plot or the characters that make me have mixed feelings about a book. It's the author's belief or value system, which of course underlies the story, that bothers me. If an author callously disposes of a character, or badly humiliates another, it really bothers me. It disturbs me. It could be the author's too-meticulous attention to blood and gore. Or it could be that a character who had acted in a noble manner throughout most of the book suddenly acts in a totally evil manner. 

Sometimes what really galls me is that an evil character should NOT have gotten something good, or vice versa -- a good character should not have suffered the horrible thing they have suffered. I realize that this is probably too idealistic, even for books, but there it is. I can't help feeling the way I do. 

And here I come to the crux of the matter. Books make me feel a certain number of ways. Of course, this is nothing new; it happens to every reader, especially those who read fiction. However, with these books I'm discussing here, there's a terrible clash of feelings, and they're frequently opposed to each other. I might simultaneously feel elated and depressed, bored and enchanted. These feelings are not necessarily always present together at the same time, however. I might start a book feeling elation, only to feel more and more depressed as I continue to read. Or the feeling of enchantment makes me blissfully ride along, getting into the story, only to come across something that makes me feel angry. Again, it could be that a character simply should NOT have acted the way they did, given the values they supposedly hold, according to how they've been presented in the story. Or it could be something else. 

The thing about these books is that I can't quite bring myself to hate them, and yet, I don't like them -- AT ALL. 

In the past, I have sometimes reviewed these books. Sometimes, I have simply decided not to bother doing so. When I do review them, I usually give them no more than three stars. Sometimes, however, I give them two. If the prose style is superb, I reluctantly give them four stars, feeling that I can't in good conscience give them five. 

When reading five-star reviews of books that I have mixed feelings about, I am always puzzled. Did these people read the same book I did? Well, the cover might be different, as they could be reviewing a different edition. The plot, however, is the very same, the characters the same. Yes, we read the very same book. Incredibly, we read and saw and felt very different things. They rave, in their review. And I just feel the crushing disappointment..... And, at the risk of being redundant, I will again ask: did I miss something? At other times I am VERY sure that I didn't miss a thing, that the book was indeed lacking in some way. Then I ask myself how it is that these reviewers didn't feel or see what I did. How is it that they totally LOVED a book I can't be enthusiastic about?

I have also discovered that a series that started out well has become a HUGE disappointment as later volumes have been published. However, I am not alone in this, I know. Other readers have referred to this sad phenomenon in their GR and Amazon reviews. It's just that we might be referring to two different series!

Bottom line: each book is an adventure, especially in the case of fiction (and even with some nonfiction, unless the subject matter is something boring like "theory of statistics"). Unless a reader has peeked ahead (and what reader hasn't at times committed this literary "sin"?), or found out the details of the plot through Wikipedia or a review with way too many spoilers, a book essentially remains an unfolding mystery, surprising and delighting (or not delighting) the reader as the pages are turned. (Hmmmm.... "As the Page Turns"....sounds like the PERFECT title for a bookish soap opera....) At times, the adventure leads to great enjoyment and exhilarationl; at other times, it just peters out somewhere along the way. So reading entails some risk, albeit not of the type that will result in real, bodily injury. That there IS some risk, though, is undeniable. There's the risk of being disappointed. There's the risk of feeling SO mad at the author that one wants to do violence to the book (as I stated in a previous TBLD post, I would NEVER go that far). There's the risk of wasting one's money and time on a book that will never be a beloved member of one's personal library. 

Are these risks worth taking? Absolutely. Because we addicted bookworms keep picking up books, in the eternal hope of finding one that will click with us, that will make us sing for joy, even if only in a low voice, or in our heads. And so we continue to "take the plunge", to open those covers and dare to see what lies beyond.... We risk it all, we risk the chance of sighing, "Meh....", in hopes of coming across a book that will make us say instead, "Now WHY hadn't I read THIS one before?!"

What are your thoughts on
 this topic?
Please leave me a comment
and let me know!