Tuesday, April 30, 2013

V.K. Sykes -- Fastball

V.K. Sykes - Fastball

Rated: ♥ ♥. ♥   {2.10}
Action: 1.0 / Emotion: 0.0 / Romance: 3.0 / Sensuous: 4.0 / Suspense: 0.0  //  Laughter: 0 / Tears: 0

Setting:     Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Era:           Present Day [2012]
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After receiving a Kindle as a Christmas present from my sister, decided to purchase the set of three V.K. Syke's e-books in The Philadelphia Patriots Series that were being offered for 99 cents.   First off, an apology is in order to the husband and wife team who wrote this book.   This book did not receive a high rating simply because Contemporary Romance (with strong Erotica leanings) is not my favorite genre . . . and I was concurrently reading a paperback historical romance book by my favorite author -- so, of course, this book lost out simply by default.   So please don't judge whether you will like this book simply because it did nothing to impress me.

As you can tell by the rating chart above, for a book to "work" for me, it should contain scenes of actions, inspire an emotional connection to the characters, should warm the romantic cockles of my heart while steaming up the windows with sensuality, as well as support an aura of suspense.   And for the book to really be a success, the author needs to bring forth peals of laughter and/or have caused tears to flow.

Sadly, the only feature in which this story excelled was the spicy, heated, very sizzling lovemaking scenes.   In fact this book was so spicy, that it seems it could almost be classified Erotica instead of Contemporary.   Not that that's a bad thing . . . it's just that the book needed to inspire more excitement, more emotion.   For Pete's Sake, it's about a baseball player . . . and that, in and off itself should have generated a bit of excitement.

The reason this book fell flat was because it was so "ordinary."   Sykes painted a picture of the common, ordinary everyday life of a sports reporter, Maddie Leclair, and the, supposedly, not so ordinary life of one of the Patriots' ballplayers, right fielder, Jake Miller.   Jake is called back up to the majors after having to recover from an injury and play in the minors until a position opened for him on the Patriots team.   Now the description of Jake was enough to make your mouth water . . . who couldn't appreciate not only a hot ball player, but smoking hot.   The kind of guy whose poster you buy to put on your wall to drool over.

Now, Maddie, who is supposedly a bit shy and reserved, wants to kick her slowly rising career up another notch by scoring an interview from the 'I don't like to talk about myself' ball player.   Not only is Jake hot, but he's a team leader, a man of integrity and a loyal friend.   So when Maddie approaches Jake for an interview, he grants her one if she will break the rules and meet him away from the watchful eyes of the front office.   Since Maddie has had a crush on hot Jake Miller for years, she agrees to meet him at a restaurant in La Jolla to conduct her interview.

Since Jake thinks Maddie is gorgeous and wants the interview to end up back at his hotel, he decides to open up a bit and tell Maddie about himself.   It was clear that Sykes was trying to draw forth sympathy and emotion from the reader by featuring Jake as a man who supported the very charity that causes Maddie to almost fall into tears because her mother is in a home because she suffers from Alzheimers.   But the empathy and emotion just weren't there.

However, the "connection" between Jake and Maddie was potent.   Yes, you could feel the 'I want to do you right here on this table' vibes coming through loud and clear.   But, it wasn't just the sexual attraction, but a personal interest in each other as well.   So Sykes did do a great job on the romance and sensuality portion of the book.

But Maddie was a control freak and put her career first.   So she refused to get involved with Jake because it could tank her career.   And then, she did the typical, ordinary, thing that we women do -- continued to dwell on whether she was passing up an opportunity at happiness with Jake because she wouldn't risk her career.   And, being female, Maddie had to talk to two of her girlfriends at depth about how much she wanted to be with Jake, but it was against the rules.

After listening to her friends, Maddie decides to take the risk (because she really is attracted to hot Jake Miller) and after shutting Jake down cold a couple of times, she opens the door to risk.   So they have some very hot and heavy sex (on the pages of the book) and talk long into the night (off the pages of the book).   Everything seems to be progressing at a fast pace towards commitment when Jake and Maddie have a big fight.   Both parties were stubborn mules, unable to see the other's point of view.

Sykes throws in a little bit of action and suspense where Maddie gets into hot water because of her hardheadedness and Jake (and his teammate Nate Carter) rush to her rescue, which gives the reader a smidgen of action, but didn't inspire an ounce of intrigue.   And then Sykes totally drops the ball with the rest of the story.   The story ends with the necessary I Love Yous, and 'I don't know how I would have lived if anything happened to you' hugs and kisses, but all the threads of the story were left unraveled.

After spending extravagant amounts of time worrying about the repercussions to their careers if the baseball world found out Jake and Maddie were seeing each other secretly -- wham -- the situation was resolved in the Epilogue.   No explanations.   No irate rampages from the front office or the editor about breaking the rules.   Nothing!

And what happened to Robbie Benton, the ballplayer responsible for causing the big fight.   He just dropped out of the picture, leaving the reader in the dark about what happened to him.   Yes, the reader has to assume Robby has tanked his life as a ballplayer, but where are the details tying up the loose ends?

So, all in all, Fastball, V.K. Sykes' first book in The Philadelphia Patriots Series is just too uninspiring to be a must read book.   It just doesn't have the deep character development and action and suspense to make it recommendable.
--Vonda M. Reid (Wednesday, April 24, 2013 : 10:14 p.m.)     [307]

Books In The Series: "The Philadelphia Patriots Series"
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.03-2012FastballJake Miller, right field, sluggerMaddie Leclair, Philadelphia Post sports reporter
02.06-2011HardballNate Carter, pitcherDr. Holly Bell, Pediatric Cardiac Surgeon
03.10-2012Bigger Than BeckhamTony Branch, British soccer heroMartha Winston, Philadelphia Post sports reporter
04.05-2013CurveballRyan Locke, veteran outfielderTaylor Page, Patriots Assistant General Manager
05.. . .. . . . . .. . .

Did Not Keep Track of the Characters For This Book ..........

"Fastball" Quotations

Why it was so easy to dislike Maddie:

2599For her to adopt such a rigid and self-righteous attitude completely threw him.   She'd obviously thought it necessary to appoint herself judge and jury -- and maybe even executioner -- before she even had all the facts.   (Jake)
2607she couldn't help but send and unmistakable signal that she was shutting him out.   It hurt that she would do that before giving him a chance to lay out his version of events, . . . (Jake)
2616"Robbie's always been a screw-up, and everybody lets him get away with it."   (Maddie)
2635"I have to help my friend, Maddie.   Call it a cover-up if that makes you happy, but I'd rather call it a rescue mission."   (Jake)
2635Jake couldn't believe her lack of empathy.   Did the rules really matter that much to her?   Then again, given her reluctance to break team rules by getting involved with him, he guessed he should have seen this coming.   Maddie liked the straight and narrow, and she wouldn't have sympathy for someone who wandered off into the weeds.   He supposed he could understand it, but it sure didn't sit that well with him.   (Jake)
2673"The way I was raised, friendship meant something.   It meant being willing to take some heat to help a friend in trouble.   It meant having compassion, even when that friend really [screwed] up.   I don't know any other way to be, Maddie."   (Jake)

"Fastball" Review and Information Links
Rated Posted Site Notes, Comments, Etc.
----V.K. Sykes's WebsiteAuthor
----V.K. Sykes's FacebookAuthor
----V.K. Sykes's TwitterAuthor
. . . . . . . . .. . .
4.17 average{23 reviews}Amazonas of: April 30, 2013
4.50 average{7 ratings}Barnes & Nobleas of: April 30, 2013
----Fict FactList of Books In "The Philadelphia Patriots Series"
----Fiction DBList of V.K. Sykes's Books
3.77 average{48 reviews}Good Readsas of: April 30, 2013
3.5003-16-2013Guilty Pleasuresmade some valid points that hadn't thought about
--{no reviews}Library Thingas of: April 30, 2013
2.50 average{3 reviews}Shelfarias of: April 30, 2013
C-05-31-2012Smexy Books--Mandi {great review} {agree}
--04-03-2012The Pop Culture Divasno review, lots of information and links
--04-04-2012The Revolving Book-- Joanna D'Angelo // no review, information and links
4.0 / hot08-19-2012Two Lips Reviewsa PR blurb, didn't really "review" the book
2.1004-30-2013Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, Fiction DB, Good Reads, Library Thing, Shelfari

♥   Disclaimer:   I Purchased This e-Book
♥   Very Subjective Rating
♣   Will add your Fastball review link to table, just ask

Friday, April 26, 2013

Beverly Barton -- Poisoned

Beverly Barton -- Poisoned (in: Love Is Murder) Rated: ♥ ♥ . ♥   {2.25}
Action: 1.0 / Emotion: 0.0 / Romance: 1.0 / Sensuous: 1.0 / Suspense: 3.0  //  Laughter: 0 / Tears: 0

Setting:     Florence, Alabama
Era:           Present Day [2012]
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Having read several books by the incomparable Beverly Barton, there is no doubt that she is quite accomplished at telling a chilling tale that can draw you in and kept you spellbound until you finish the book.   So it was not a hardship to turn to her very short story, Poisoned, part of the Love Is Murder Anthology.   Would also have to agree with Sandra Brown, the editor of this collection of short stories, who prefaced Barton's work with the words:

What a great hook!   How could you read the first sentence and not continue?   (Sandra Brown, page 53)

After completing Poisoned, the most obvious thought was, "what an original way to tell a story."   Barton quickly drew a bold, yet shadowy, picture of the heroine, Olivia Lynn Warren, struggling though a haze of pain, dizziness, and partial blindness because she was sure that Dalton Carr, the man she saw murder his wife, had somehow poisoned her.

Barton did a wonderful job of keeping a degree of suspense throughout the entire story because as Olivia stumbled through the streets of Florence, Alabama, she could not remember the details that led up to her wandering around a neighborhood she didn't recognize -- running from the man she loved, detective Jed Merrill.   As Olivia struggled to find someone to help her, she kept remembering bits and pieces of her life; like, {1} seeing Dalton kill Amber, {2} running from Dalton, {3} meeting Jed, {4} falling in love with Jed.

Although this quick read was entertaining, for some reason this story did not inspire fascination or a high degree of interest in the main characters.   Again, because the stories in this book are so short, there is no way an author can develop the characters to such a level that they can worm their way into your heart.   This holds true for Jed and Olivia's tale as well.   Although the tale is well-told and keeps you wondering about what is going on, it still did not inspire any degree of greatness.   It was just a story about the girl next door falling in love with the policeman who rescued her -- without any bells or whistles -- or emotional depth.

Oh well, on to the next one. . .
--Vonda M. Reid (Friday, April 26, 2013 : 7:10 p.m.)     [309]

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Characters Found In "Poisoned"
Character Description
Jed Merrill[Hero]: big powerful hands; baritone voice, Bourbon smooth and dripping with Southern charm (56) the man Olivia loved (58) soothing voice; striking blue-gray eyes; Lieutenant with Florence Police Department; investigating Amber's murder (63) good at tracking; good at figuring out what the other guy was going to do; police detective; Olivia's friend, lover, protector (64) kept his promises; man of honor and integrity (66)
Olivia Lynn Warren[Heroine] lived in fear for long time; watched her back; played it safe; afraid to trust (55) Olivia Lynn Warren: lived uneventful, vanilla, white-bread life; good girl from a good family; honor student; graduated magna cum laude; paid her taxes; went to church; obeyed traffic laws; never even got a speeding ticket (60) took self-defense classes (Jed insisted); Jed bought her a small handgun (65) mousy brown hair under blonde dye job (65)
. . . . . .
Amber CarrDalton's wife; hired Olivia's decorating firm; got along well with Olivia (61)
Dalton Carrin jail; Olivia to testify at his trial; he couldn't allow Olivia to live to testify (58) Amber's husband; wealthy businessman; 25 years older than Amber; multi-millionaire (61)

Locations Found In "Poisoned"
Location / Organization Description
Court Streetblock away from café where Olivia was sitting (64)
Downtown Interiorsfirm where Olivia worked (61)
Florence, Alabamawhere Olivia lived (59) typical small Southern city (60)

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♥   Disclaimer:   I Borrowed This Book From The Library
♥   Very Subjective Rating

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Carla Neggers -- Cold Moonlight

Carla Neggers -- Cold Moonlight (in: Love Is Murder Anthology)

Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥   {3.00}
Action: 1.0 / Emotion: 1.0 / Romance: 3.0 / Sensuous: - / Suspense:1.0  //  Giggles: 1 / Tears: 0

Setting:     Black Falls, Vermont
Era:           Present Day [2012]
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Well shoot!   Just read the incredibly short story, Cold Moonlight by Carla Neggers, published in the Love Is Murder Anthology.   The story was fun, entertaining, and interesting, but, dang it all, it was just too short.   And . . . it contains characters that I haven't met yet because even though I've read other books by Carla Neggers, The Black Falls Trilogy is still located in my monstrously large 'To Be Read' pile.  

Maybe this book of 'way too short' short stories is really a very clever marketing tool.   A talented author, such as Carla Neggers, includes a short story about characters she probably introduced in the first book of The Black Falls Trilogy, Cold Pursuit, and if a fan reads Cold Moonlight, she can't help but want to dig through her stack of books and pull out the trilogy and start reading.   (Or, if not yet purchased, go out and buy the trilogy.)

Because, naturally, now the intriguing, skilled Navy SEAL, Ryan "Grit" Taylor, the hero of this book, has captured the reader's interest.   Since he was apparently somehow involved with Elijah Cameron (the hero of book one) in the round up of killers operating in Black Falls, Vermont, it seems almost necessary to go get the book and read it to see what other information about Grit can be found in that book -- besides the fact that he lost the lower part of his left leg in a firefight in Afghanistan.

The same holds true about the heroine, Marissa Neal, the Vice President's eldest daughter and a high school history teacher, who makes a mean Molotov cocktail.   There is just enough information to snag the readers interest, but because this story is so short, there is no way any of the characters can be well-developed.   So, again, you have to wonder if Marissa's personality is better developed in Cold Pursuit.

Charlie Neal, Marissa's sixteen year old brother has one hoping that when he gets older, he, too, will have a book.   A kid with this much spunk and a genius IQ has to have a wonderful story hidden somewhere in the recesses of Neggers' imagination.   Neggers' displayed her talent when it comes to writing humorous dialogue, utilizing Charlie's lack of tact.

"I'd like you as a brother-in-law.   Two of my sisters are dating real dicks."   (Charlie to Grit, page 50)

One other character who appeared on the pages of the book that inspired incredible interest was the friend Grit lost back in Afghanistan, Michael "Moose" Ferrerra.   It was really clever the way Neggers included Moose in this story – like he couldn't leave Grit alone until Grit found his happily ever after with Marissa.   Marissa is not the only one who is interested in Moose's story!

One day Grit would tell Marissa about his friend Michael "Moose" Ferrerra and the good life he'd lived.   (Grit, page 51)

Even though this story was entertaining, it's brevity prevented maximum enjoyment.   The action was over in the blink of an eye, so you have no idea what really happened when Grit took out the bad guy, Brian Fenton.   There was no edge of your seat intensity as Marissa and Grit arrived at the ski house to face Brian.   Instead of suspense, Neggers was promoting the relationship between Grit and Marissa as they shared their feelings of love in the midst of their dicey situation.

As mentioned before, it seems a shame that our favorite authors are putting these tiny little narratives together and asking fans to buy stories that, 'In My Humble Opinion' should be provided as "extras" on their websites.   But I don't have to make my living selling my words as do these talented, gifted authors, so I could be wrong in asking them to gift these stories to their readers.
--Vonda M. Reid (Thursday, April 25, 2013 : 4:16 p.m.)     [308]

Books In The Series: "The Black Falls Trilogy"
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.01-2008Cold PursuitElijah Cameron, military, mountain rescueJo Harper, Secret Service Agent
02.12-2009Cold RiverSean CameronHannah Shay, Three Sisters Cafe
03.11-2010Cold DawnNick Martini, smoke jumperRose Cameron, search and rescue expert
1/806-2012Cold Moonlight [1]Ryan "Grit" Taylor, Navy SEALMarissa Neal, high school teacher
[1] Very short story found in the Love Is Murder Anthology, edited by Sandra Brown.

Characters Found In "Cold Moonlight"
Character Description
Ryan "Grit" Taylor[Hero] lost left leg below knee year ago in firefight in Afghanistan; prosthesis; Navy SEAL (37) moved with agility and smoothness; one of finest men Marissa ever knew (43) witty; sexy; ultra-competent; incorrigible; dark hair; wiry; quiet; quick wit; steadiness that took people by surprise; mix of Creek and Scots-Irish; kid from swamps of Florida Panhandle; always wanted to see the world (44) calm and steady in crisis (44) focused; listened with intensity; dark eyes (46) attractive in an understated manly way (48) Petty Officer (50)
Marissa Neal[Heroine] eldest daughter of President Neal, Vice President of US (37) eldest of five (38) high school history teacher (43) always cooperated with the Secret Service (44) unpredictable; totally herself (50)
. . . . . .
Elijah Cameron[Hero of Book 1] Special Forces soldier; with Grit night lost lower leg; hometown: Black Falls; never one to ease into a conversation (38) Cameron blue eyes (39) strength; determination (41) combat veteran (43)
Brian Fentonprivate military contractor; Marissa had dinner with him a few times before the election; wanted by the FBI; selling weapons, supplies, parts, whatever could get hands on in black market (47)
Michael "Moose" FerrerraGrit's friend; killed in Afghanistan (42)
Jo Harper[Heroine of Book 1] Elijah's fiancé; Secret Service Agent; Black Falls native (39)
Charlie NealMarissa's brother; youngest Neal; 16-y-o; meddling genius; only son; tendency to overreact (37) knew how to give Secret Service the slip (37) fair hair; confident (38) 180 IQ; liked to talk (41)

Locations Found In "Cold Moonlight"
Location / Organization Description
Black Falls, Vermontsetting of book (37)
Black Falls Lodgethe Cameron's lodge (49)
Green Mountainswooded mountain where action takes place (38)

"Cold Moonlight" Quotations
49She lifted her head and focused on the man she loved, standing in the moonlight.   (Marissa)
50"I'd like you as a brother-in-law.   Two of my sisters are dating real dicks."   (Charlie)
51One day Grit would tell Marissa about his friend Michael "Moose" Ferrerra and the good life he'd lived.   (Grit)

Links ..........

♥   Disclaimer:   I Borrowed This Book From The Library
♥   Very Subjective Rating

Monday, April 15, 2013

Brenda Novak -- Blood In, Blood Out

Brenda Novak -- Blood In, Blood Out

Rated: ♥ ♥   {2.00}
Action: 1.0 / Emotion: 0.0 / Romance: 0.0 / Sensuous: 0.0 / Suspense: 1.0  //  Laughter: 0 / Tears: 0

Setting:     Washington, D.C.
Era:           Present Day
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The only reason checked out Love Is Murder from the library was to read Rex McCready's "story."   Disappointment is too mild a word to describe the let down after spending time hunting down this book just to read Brenda Novak's very short story, Blood In, Blood Out.

First off, this story was published in June 2012, eight months after Novak finished The Bulletproof Trilogy.   Novak spent at least half of the seventeen pages which hold this story detailing events that were more explicitly portrayed in the first two books of the trilogy.   It seems one would need to read them to get a grasp on what was truly happening here.

Second, the chronological timeline of this story places it smack dab between book one (Inside) and book two (In Seconds) of the trilogy.   Anyone having read the trilogy already knows about the tempestuous on-again, off-again, relationship between Rex McCready and Laurel Hodges.   And because Laurel's story (In Seconds) was written before this puff-piece, this portrayal of traumatic events was missing from her book -- somehow making the story line feel a bit fractured.

This kind of minuscule story just does not work for me!   Having met and grown emotionally attached to Rex and Laurel while reading Inside and In Seconds, one would think it would be easy to become emotionally involved with them again as read this little "out-take" in the picture of their lives.   But, alas, Novak did not have time to make the reader "feel" the sadness, the fear, or the desperation Laurel and Rex were projecting in this story.

The only good thing about this entire "piece" was that Novak explained how Horse, leader of The Crew (prison gang that Virgil and Rex once belonged to), found them even though they were in the Witness Protection Program.   However, that is not enough to recommend Blood In, Blood Out to readers who enjoyed The Bulletproof Trilogy.

Perhaps, if one had read this short story before reading In Seconds, it would be easier to appreciate this brief view into the loving relationship Rex and Laurel shared.   But Novak had already revealed that Rex and Laurel do not end up a couple, so this short, short story seems to detract rather than add to the overall picture Novak had painted regarding the events that happened to Virgil, Rex and Laurel.
--Vonda M. Reid (Monday, April 15, 2013 : 5:03 p.m.)     [304]

Books In The Series: "The Bulletproof Trilogy"
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.07-2011InsideVirgil Skinner; wrongfully incarceratedPeyton Adams; Chief Deputy Warden
1/806-2012Blood In, Blood Out [1]Rex "Pretty Boy" McCready; ex-conLaurel Hodges, Virgil's sister
02.09-2011In SecondsMyles King; Pineview SheriffLaurel Hodges: aka Vivian Stewart; Virgil's sister
03.11-2011In CloseIsaac Morgan; wildlife photogrpaherClaire O'Toole; Pineview hairdresser
[1]   This very short story is found in the anthology Love Is Murder {edited by Sandra Brown}.

Characters Found In "Blood In, Blood Out"
Character Description
Rex McCready[Hero] in Witness Protection Program (WitSec) for 2 years (381) alias: Perry (382) loveless childhood led him into gang life and 8-year prison term (382) "Pretty Boy" (384)
Laurel Hodges[Heroine] Virgil's sister; Rex's lover and girlfriend; in Witness Protection Program (WitSec) for 2 years (381) trust issues; ex-husband hit her (382)
. . .. . .
Bettybartender; cute blond; Southern accent (383)
Jake [Hodges]Laurel's 7-y-o son (383)
Mia [Hodges]Laurel's 5-y-o daughter (383)
Horsein Los Angeles; owned illegal club; leader of The Crew; personal vendetta against Rex, Virgil (384)
InkThe Crew member who came after Laurel in Colorado; killed U.S. Marshal (388) devilish tattoos covering his face (389)
Moseman Horse sent to Washington, D.C. to find Rex, Virgil (384) heavily muscled man (385) shaved head; tattoos covering his forearms (386) 6'; 200 pounds; solidly built; dark eyes (391)
Brady [Skinner]Virgil and Peyton's new baby (394)
Peyton [Skinner]Virgil's wife; in Witness Protection Program (WitSec) for 2 years (381)
Virgil SkinnerRex's best friend, former cell mate, current business partner; in Witness Protection Program (WitSec) for 2 years (381) joined violent prison gang in prison; exonerated for the murder of his stepfather (382) "Skin" (384) received $700,000 for wrongful imprisonment (283)

Locations, Organizations Found In "Blood In, Blood Out"
Location / Organization Description
Bodyguards R UsRex and Virgil's business (381)
Hanley's Grocerystore where Laurel went grocery shopping (391)
Little Rock, Arkansaswhere Rex, Laurel Virgil, Peyton ran to (397)
Los Angeleswhere Horse lived (384)
The Crewgang Rex and Virgil joined; violent prison gang (382)
Washington, D.C.where WitSec placed Rex, Laurel, Virgil and Peyton (382)

"Blood In, Blood Out" Quotations
383 If they weren't having hot, sweaty, full-throttle sex, they were arguing with equal ferocity.   There was no middle ground where Laurel was concerned, . . .

Links ..........

♥   Disclaimer:   I Borrowed This Book From The Library
♥   Very Subjective Rating