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Read any good books lately? I have! Grab a cup of coffee or a beverage of your choice and sit back, relax, and have a peek at the books I've loved, the books I didn't, and the reasons why. Enjoy, and happy reading!

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This is the first of many exciting changes that will be happening over the next several weeks, so stay tuned for more news as OGBDA continues to evolve and grow, and as always, happy reading!

~Tracy

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Wicked Nights by Gena Showalter

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Angels of the Dark, Book 1
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 416 Pages
Formats: Paperback, Kindle



Almost Wicked Enough

Turning eighteen wasn't quite the awesome good time Annabelle Miller thought it would be. She woke on that special day to searing, blinding pain, and before she could think straight, saw her parents slaughtered, cut down by a monster out of a nightmare. A creature spewed from the pits of hell.

Happy birthday to her.

Convicted of their murders, Annabelle has spent four years in a nuthouse for the criminally insane, fighting off pervert doctors, bullying orderlies, and a never-ending wave of monsters that, despite heavy narcotics or maybe because of them, only Annabelle can see. She is alone, desperate, and afraid she's just as insane as everyone thinks she is.

Seeing the huge guy with the gorgeous wings pop up in her room one night after a particularly bad attack doesn't exactly disabuse her of that notion, either.

Zacharel has once again drawn his boss's displeasure. In his zeal to dispatch demons, he's been less than conscientious about the safety of the human race. Humans have died. Zacharel doesn't much care about collateral damage. His boss, however, does. In punishment...and as a last chance to keep his wings...Zacharel has been given command of a squad of warriors just as close to their final fall as he is and is ordered to deal with a demon infestation at an institution for the criminally insane.

Investigation leads him to the room of a desperate human woman who is clearly the focus of the demons' interest. Not that Zacharel cares. In fact, he has no conscience, no feelings, no passions or desires. He's unmoved by her plight. So he really has no idea why rescuing her becomes so important to him. Or why he would ever, in a million years, entertain the ridiculous notion that she could somehow rescue him right back.

~*~

I'm a Showalter fan from way back, and consider myself a LotU fan even though the last couple of them didn't quite rock my world. Still, I was happy to hear about this spinoff series, and think there's much in this kick-starter to like. The world is comfortingly familiar, and the sometimes conflicted relationship between Zacharel and Annabelle had moments that were rife with humor and a lot of fun to read.

But there were rough spots for me, too.

As much as I love winged romance heroes, those that are angelic in nature are either loved or hated based on the level of Christianity-based mythology included in the story. I try to keep religion as far away from my reading entertainment as possible, and I'm leery of having those lines crossed whenever angels are included. Doesn't make for the most relaxing read, even when my lines aren't crossed.

I was fine with the angel warriors as seen in LotU, but here they're the main characters, so their mythos will get a much broader focus with greater detail in this series. Thankfully, in this book things were mostly okay, but it could go still go either way. There were a couple of things that didn't thrill me, especially the Zacharel-touted concept that faith defines reality, but I didn't feel like I was being proselytized at the whole time, or hit over the head with the religion stick.

I'm going with tentative acceptance at this point.

I was slightly...not disappointed, really, so much as underwhelmed by the plot of the book, though. I've been alternately amused and intrigued by the emotionally bereft Zacharel since his introduction in LotU, so I was hoping for a bit more depth of character and story than the plot provided. It wasn't bad, but it was a bit two dimensional, and I found myself paying more attention to some of Zacharel's warriors and their backstory than I was to his emotional thaw and the demon trouble with Annabelle.

I liked Annabelle as a character. She was a fighter, a survivor. I liked that about her very much. I just wasn't crazy about her as the romantic heroine for Zacharel. Anabelle was only eighteen when her world exploded, just twenty-two when Zacharel gets her out of the institution, and that seemed painfully young and inexperienced compared to Zacharel's long life and jaded demeanor. It sort of messed with my comfort level with the romance in places.

The conflict with the demon who killed Anabelle's parents was, again, not horrible but didn't really wow me, either. It did provide plenty of action in the story, which I liked, but I thought the Bad Guy's identity was painfully obvious from the very beginning. That robbed the big reveal in the climax of the book of a lot of the impact it could have had, and it completely stripped one pivotal scene of the intended emotional angst, making what should have been a gut-wrenching choice feel more like a dull no-brainer.

As a spinoff series debut, this book got the job done thanks to the continuity with the LotU world and some of its characters. My favorite parts of the read, though, introduced and featured the angels serving (grudgingly as that may be) under Zacharel. They are so fabulously flawed and deeply disturbed. I look forward to catching up with them again soon.

Dangerous Territory by Emmy Curtis

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Alpha Ops, Book 0.5
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 112 Pages
Formats: Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Forever Yours publisher Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.




Surprisingly Robust and Sexy Novella

Three years ago an anonymous night of passion with a sinfully sexy man served as both comfort and solace to journalist Grace Grainger. Memories from that night have helped her weather three, year-long tours with combat troops in Afghanistan, so when she gets separated from her patrol and caught behind enemy lines, she expects those memories will help her get through another night until she's rescued.

What she doesn't expect is her rescuer to be the same man who helped make those memories.

That others may live. That is the pararescuer creed, one Master Sergeant Josh Travers has lived by for years. Then the rescue mission he's on goes sideways and Josh finds himself cut off from his team and stuck behind enemy lines with the last person on the planet he thought he'd stumble across in Afghanistan. He hasn't seen that face, those eyes, or that body for three long, hot, sweat-and-danger soaked years, but he's never forgotten her.

Now Josh has to do his job to the absolute best of his abilities and get them both the hell out of there, or those memories are all that he and Grace will ever have of each other...for the too-brief time they'll survive.

~*~

While military-themed romance and romantic suspense aren't truly favorites of mine, there are a few series with that theme that I have and do enjoy. If this prequel novella by Curtis is any indication, I will be adding the Alpha Ops series to that short list.

I can't say I was crazy about the beginning of this story, though. The introduction of main characters Josh and Grace wasn't to my personal taste. I struggled with Grace's deception about her identity and Josh's evasions with his, as well as the deliberate intention of both of them to hit it and quit it. It was all just a bit too impersonal and calculated for me to fully enjoy, regardless of the personal demons riding them at the time.

Thankfully, that's all I disliked. Despite the setup, I actually liked both Josh and Grace as characters. They felt refreshingly realistic to me, with flaws and peccadilloes craftily woven together with personal strengths to bulk up their characterizations and add impetus to the romance arc of the story. Maybe there wasn't as much complexity as I would hope to see in characters in a full-length novel, but for a novella, I was well satisfied and quite pleased by both of them.

It didn't hurt that Josh and Grace do a lot more than get groiny in this novella, and are more then the sum of their sex scenes. There's quite a bit of story going on around them, with both a war and a hostile environment threatening their lives constantly. It made for a tense, suspenseful read, and I loved that Grace had just as important a hand in their survival as Josh did. This wasn't a story about an uber-alpha warrior riding to the fair maiden's rescue. Grace more than held her own, often gave as good as she got, and I loved her for it.

There was actually quite a lot to love about this novella. Too often stories of this length are a crap shoot for me. Either they're too light on characterization and story and end up feeling superficial and rushed or they focus too heavily on the relationship of the characters and don't offer nearly as comprehensive an external conflict. This one had a very nice balance of both that ended up leaving me just as satisfied by the story as I was by the sexy good times.

In fact, Curtis obviously did significant research to flesh out her story and her characters, and the care taken with the military elements of the story in particular were a high point as a result. If she can write a novella that feels this authentic, robust, and complex, with characters who are more than cookie-cutter stereotypes, I honestly can't wait to find out what she can do with a full-length book. With the first of those, Over the Line, set to release in early October, I'm happy to say I don't have to wait long.

Ratings Guide

Here is a rundown of what the star ratings mean to me! It's not a perfect system, so you may see me add in a .5 star here and there if my impression of the book falls somewhere between these:

5 Stars - Loved it
4 Stars - Liked it
3 Stars - It's okay
2 Stars - Didn't like it
1 Star - Hated it

2014 Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Tracy has read 22 books toward her goal of 175 books.
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Tracy's bookshelf: read

Zero at the BoneHead Over HeelsLord of the WolfynIn Total SurrenderA Win-Win PropositionNorth of Need

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