Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Why Didn't I Like This Book?

I'm not sure who may have noticed, but I skipped out on posting here last week, except for my previously scheduled book review. My son was home from college, my high school student finished up exams and started the summer job, and I was crazy busy slammed at my day job with projects - 4 of them have a due date of this coming Friday, so I'm still busy.

But I missed ranting with you all, so here I am.

This week I read and reviewed a (young) new adult book that the first of a 5-book series (so far.) This author's last series played out to 10 books, so maybe there are more coming. But I won't be reading them.

Why not?

I read a few books by this author a while ago and when I saw her name pop up in my feed, I remembered it fondly. But having read this first book of the series, I have no intention of reading more. Don't get me wrong, the writing, the grammar, the editing... Those things were fine.

I don't often post reviews of books I don't enjoy, but I did on Monday. As I was writing the review it started getting rant-y, and I wondered why I was so annoyed. I decided it might be interesting to examine why I didn't like it, and why I agree with several of the thoughtfully laid out negative reviews of this book.

Oddly enough, there are over 300 reviews of this book on Amazon, and a pretty good all-around rating. And the author is a USA Today best selling author, a moniker I recently tried to achieve but ultimately fell short. (Next time, people, next time.) But the negative reviews of her book were the most thought provoking of them all. I read a bunch of the reviews, to see what other readers thought and felt, but the thoughts expressed here are my own.

The book is told exclusively from the point of view of the main girl, who despite being a smart sounding narrator, makes bad choices. Terrible, selfish, impulsive choices. Unlikeable choices. She keeps doing incredibly stupid things, and putting everyone in danger for no good reason. And then its not just one of the boys on her new team she flirts with and secretly kisses... It's each of them. But none of them know about the others. Each boy ends up under the impression that she wants him. Even the supposed bad guy, whom she actually seems the hottest for out of all of them.

How could this book be better? Lots of ways.

First and foremost, I have no problem with multiple boys vying for her attention. Some readers hate love triangles, let alone quadrangles or whatever mess this one is, but that's not my issue. I also have no problem where the heroine dates more than one guy... But being with a group of close knit friends and not telling any of them what's going on just seems underhanded and somehow dirty. And she knows its wrong but keeps doing it.

Romance -even new adult romantic suspense- should have better defined parameters to the relationships. There are rules. I know there are lots of popular love triangles and ménage stories... But these poor guys don't even get the chance to be jealous or lay down ultimatums, because no one knows what's going on. Definitely UN-satisfying.

Second, the heroine doesn't learn anything as the book progresses. In fact, she seems stronger and braver in the first chapter than she does in the last half of the book. Character arc is important not just as an abstract theory, but as a reason for readers to stick with your story. I kept waiting for her "a-ha" moment... except it never happened.

Third, if your main character is going to be weak, at least give me a kickass plot that holds up under scrutiny. A bad guy worthy of the title. There again, I kept waiting for the plot to resolve and explain itself, And I realize this is the start of a series but I need a standalone story arc to follow, for Pete's sake. There can be unresolved threads to make the reader want more, but a book needs it's own story.

I know I've ranted many a time about books in a series that just don't stand up or satisfy on their own. Even with the character issues, this could have been an okay read if there was a solid plot to cling to like a life preserver.

 No such luck.

So, bad romance etiquette, lack of character arc, lack of clear storyline... Three big writing no nos make this a "no," as in no recommendation. And like I said, I hate to be negative. Really. We've all been there and suffered from reviewers who didn't understand or appreciate our writing.


As I was saying to another author friend at an event earlier this month, sometimes its good to read a book you DON'T like all the way through, and think about WHY you didn't like it. WHAT mistakes were made that rubbed you wrong? HOW can you avoid them in your own writing?

Reading books from authors we love and want to emulate is a great learning tool. On the flip side of the reading coin, you can learn just as much - maybe even more - by reading a book you don't necessarily like. Because you're learning how to focus your own writing to avoid those mistakes.

Time to share... What books have you read recently that were GOOD examples of romance? What books have you read that you didn't like, and why? You don't need to out anyone if you're uncomfortable, but what makes you want to either throw the book across the room, or recommend it?

Okay, enough rant for now. Until next time, Happy Reading - and Happy Writing!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Monday Book Review: The Academy - Thief, by C.L.Stone

The Academy: Thief, by C.L. Stone
first Published by Arcato Publishing in 2014
(part of a 5-book series, that follows her first Academy 10 book series)

About the Book:

From USA TODAY Bestselling Author, C. L. Stone, read Thief, the first book in The Academy Scarab Beetle Series.
Kayli Winchester is a dirt-poor girl living out of a hotel, forced to be the parent for a drunken father and teenage brother who she's desperate to keep in school. The only way she scrapes by is to utilize her one skill: pickpocketing. But even though she's a thief she has a moral code: no kids or old ladies, only targets who can defend themselves. Not that they see her coming...

Thinking she's been working under the radar, Kayli has no idea The Academy has been watching and taking notice. Now a team that needs her skill has offered her a way out of her predicament and it's her last chance: work with them, or face jail time. Kayli resists at first, but slowly the boys reveal they can be trusted. With Marc, the straight man, Raven, the bad-boy Russian, Corey and Brandon the twins as different as night and day, and Axel their stoic leader, there's a lot Kayli can learn from these Academy guys about living on the edge of the law. If only she can stay on the good side instead of the bad.

Especially when the job they offer her is more than any of them bargained for. After it's done, the hunters have become the hunted and their target is now after Kayli. The Academy boys do their best to keep her hidden, but a thief like Kayli will never sit still for long.

Meet an all-new Academy team in Thief, the beginning of the Scarab Beetle series.

Warning: This is a new adult series. Readers of the other Academy series may need some caution as this series will contain mature sexual and violent situations and themes.

My Take:

While I applaud Ms. Stone for giving us a strong female lead, this heroine is not a smart person nor a good role model. She makes bad choices and others pay for her impulsive, irrational actions.

Wow, that sounds like I'm an old fart, doesn't it?

let me try again...

I didn't like this book. I read the whole thing, and the writing itself is fine. Grammatically correct, properly punctuated, good sentence structure, fast-paced dialogue and plot line. It's just....

I didn't like this book. She's a USA Today best selling author with her previous (and related) series. So how did she get it so wrong? How did her heroine end up such an unsympathetic, unlikeable character? It's not just the bad choices the heroine makes either - Ms. Stone makes enough bad choices that the book is ultimately unsatisfying. And almost makes me want to read the next one to see if anyone redeems themselves or some of the (too many) romantic plot threads untangle themselves.

But I'm not going to.

This is actually the second review I've sat down to write about this book. The first devolved into a teaching rant about romance structure so I'm going to post that for my Writing Wednesday rant instead. For now, I think this is all I'm gonna say. If I had to give this a star rating, I might say 2 - one as an acknowledgment that the author sat down and wrote an entire book. The second for, as I mentioned, being well versed in the craft of writing and getting all the details of the art form correct, at least enough so that I could finish reading the entire book without hurting my eyes or my brain.

But a third star would indicate I liked it. I didn't. A fourth star would indicate that I thought other people might like it too. Which I don't, even though there are plenty of 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon. A fifth star would tell you that I Loved this book, yes, the Big L, and that I was talking about it outside of reviews, recommending it to anyone who listens to me, you know, my neighbors, the people at the grocery store, friends at cocktail parties, the guy on the midnight shift at 7-11...

That's how my stars work. I should probably put that somewhere official, but I just wrote it out for the first time myself. Huh. Well, I'll get to that. For now, yeah, 2 stars. Not recommended. Tune in Wednesday for a more complete rant.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Book Review: A Warlock's Secrets, by Tena Stetler

A Warlock's Secrets (Demon's Witch Series), by Tena Stetler
Published June 2017 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:
Years ago, a sacred ceremony at the Dragon’s Moon Coven turned deadly. Son of the high priestess, Tristian Shandie’s life changed forever. With a price on his head and revenge in his heart, he has no choice but to follow in his father’s footsteps to a profession shrouded in secrets. Now his skills as an enforcer for the Demon Overlord are second to none. But dangerous secrets he harbors are a liability he can no longer afford.

A chance meeting with a woman he finds irresistible flips Tristian’s world upside down. Hannah is a cyber security specialist with secrets of her own. Bad boys never appealed to her until Tristian, who changes everything. In his darkest hours, she is dragged into his magical world.

If they survive, is she strong enough to heal his heart and tame the warlock? Or will their secrets destroy them?
My Take:

A Warlock's Secrets not only takes us back into the world and characters Tena Stetler created in A Demon's Witch, but also overlaps with that first story from a different perspective. This second book of the series can stand alone, but if you want the full picture, I'd recommend reading the first book as well.

The warlock from the title is Tristian Shandie,  the dangerous and mysterious older brother of Angie, the witch from Ms. Stetler's first title. Their parents were murdered when they were young, and he's been overprotective of Angie ever since. Between caring for his sister and his stressful job as a magical assassin, he's never had time for a real relationship, nor has he had any inclination.

Tristian is furious when he discovers that his sister is marrying a demon. Not just any demon, mind you, but the Demon Overlord, who also happens to be Tristian's boss. If you read the first book, you know just how angry he is, but you don't know why.

With this story, we find out.

Enter Hannah, who has her own magical secrets. When the two meet by chance the sparks between them fly. Could she be the woman to finally heal the warlock's heart? Will she be able to live with the secrets he's been keeping for so long? When is she ever going to share all of her many secrets with the warlock?

This is the fourth book by Ms. Stetler that I've read, and still find it interesting how normal and everyday she makes the magical world seem. Generally, paranormal stories are more fast-paced and action-packed, eager to make sure you know how out of the ordinary everything is. Which is why some readers don't go for paranormal romance. They want something more relate-able, I guess.

Stetler's witches, demons, fairies and warlocks eat, sleep, laugh and worry just like the rest of us. She weaves the magick in with the mundane as if these magical beings really could be hiding in plain sight among us. The pacing is slow and steady as we follow Tristian's journey of healing his family.

If you're looking for adrenaline-packed fast-paced paranormal, this isn't the book for you. However, if enjoy paranormal romance that gently mixes the magical and the mundane, give this author a try.

Find this book as well as her others on Amazon.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

RELEASE DAY for #HunkstotheRescue ! Grab a copy for #99cents!


If you haven't grabbed up a copy of this anthology yet - go get one today to help us celebrate!

99 cents buys you 18 heart pounding stories 
of both daring rescues and everyday heroes.


Buy Links (On sale 99 cents):
Hunks website and landing page:
Barnes & Noble: