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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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~Tracy

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A Package Deal by Mia Kerick

Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Series: N/A
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 265 Pages
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided to me by the author for review. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.



An Emotional Journey

It started with a girl.

Grad student Savannah Meyers seems exactly the sort of complex and beautiful young woman that most reliably catches the eye and holds the interest of contractor Robby Dalton, and Robby is thrilled when she agrees to meet him for coffee.

It turns out to be a really good date. Sort of. At least, he thinks so. Honestly, Savannah's a little hard to read, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Besides, she agrees to see him again, so Robby's very optimistic. And interested. Of course he's very interested.

He just wasn't expecting their next date to include another guy - one who obviously has a history...and a present...with the pretty Savannah. After that curve ball, a little confusion is perfectly understandable, right? Or a lot...given Robby's utterly stunned, mostly uncomfortable, yet undeniable physical reaction to the gorgeous and haunted Tristan.

After all, Robby's not gay. It's all about the girl. Really. Even if they're a package deal.

~*~

My feelings are so conflicted about this book. It's definitely like nothing I've ever read before, and I liked both the uniqueness of story and the wealth of emotion Kerick stirs with the personal journeys of main characters Robby and Tristan, with Savi's unconventional assist. It was gripping in places, heart-rending and painful. Other parts were soothingly, gently hopeful or sweetly, charmingly romantic. A good part of it was tense and a little confusing - in that totally good way of reading a story that's drawn you so deeply into a character's life that his or her perplexed discomfort becomes your own.

Then there were the parts that infuriated and frustrated me, both on behalf of the trials Robby and Tristan face (a testament to how affected I was by them), and in a less positive way at the story itself, which had a few elements that didn't appeal.

For the first three quarters of the book I was totally hooked. I absolutely loved this unusual, touching, emotional story. I loved Robby, with his befuddlement and earnest social awkwardness in the face of his complex and confusing reactions to both Savannah and Tristan. His journey locked me into this book and refused to let me go. And Tristan, the sweet man-child with a gentle soul and horrific past, made my heart ache.

He is such a broken young man, our Tristan, so fragile in so many ways, and yet there's such a guileless innocence and decency in him that I just wanted everything to work out for him, because he desperately deserved happiness, peace, and unlimited love.

It didn't matter to me in the slightest that the unconventional relationship between Tristan, Robby, and Savannah wasn't to my taste for romance. Frankly, the dynamic between Robby and Tristan didn't work for me in that regard, anyway, so I just stopped expecting any sexy M/M romance from the story early in. That helped tremendously.

In fact, this read much more to me like a coming of age story than anything else...except that all parties are already of age (despite the kid's card games and boyish nicknames). It was just far more effective for me as an emotional journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and healing than any sort of romance.

That's generally not something I like to read, but for the first three quarters of this book I was utterly and totally captivated by the characters and their lives. I loved everything about it. Well, okay, I loathed Robby's friend Mikey. From his introduction he did nothing but disgust me. That wouldn't have been too big a problem, though, if it didn't also draw Robby's strength of character into question for putting up with him for so long.

Still, I was dealing with that well enough right up until the incident between Mikey and Tristan. That's where the story started to stumble for me. The aftermath of that scene did more than draw Robby's strength of character into question. It obliterated it, as well as any respect I had for him as a human being for his response - or astounding lack thereof - to what Mikey had done. But it got worse, because there was also Robby's father.

Again, the problem wasn't that Robby's father wouldn't be winning any Father (or Husband) of the Year awards. He's a controlling, close-minded homophobe, but I expect to encounter at least one in stories of this type, so while I detested him, he was not the issue. No, it was Robby's choices and actions after the inevitable face-to-face with the man that derailed the story for me and put another series of large dents into Robby's knight-in-tarnished armor.

By that point in the story, I was hating on Robby almost as much as I was on his dad and Mikey. Fortunately, it was relatively near to the end of the book. Unfortunately, the too-abrupt resolution to everything didn't quite redeem Robby to me before the story ends, so in general the book ended in a less positive place for me than it was throughout the first three quarters of the story.

It also begs mentioning that the book's cover art, which practically oozes an implication of hot, sexy, mature content, utterly fails to reflect the New Adult tone of the story and the extremely tame (mostly glossed over) sexuality in the two brief scenes in which sex occurs. The cover is sexy and beautiful, no argument there, but that art shouldn't be on a book with a story that refers to a man's dangly bits as his "privates" during the only moderately descriptive sex scene in the whole book. Fortunately, it didn't affect my opinions of the story, but that's only because I didn't see it before I finished the book.

Bite Me by P.J. Schnyder

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: London Undead, Book 1
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Length: 89 Pages
Formats: Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Carina Press via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.


Lots to Devour in this Small Bite

The scream that rips through the night while Seth is on patrol is, sadly, not an uncommon sound for the werewolf shifter and London pack's Alpha. Not since the zombie outbreak turned London into a literal dead zone. As common as it may be, though, Seth has no intention of letting it go unheeded. Chasing the echoes of the scream into the nearby park, Seth is stunned to see a pretty human woman standing over a small family, fiercely protecting them, her guns blazing at the horde of walking dead attacking them.

Maisie knows she's in a world of trouble. Her ammo is running out, the people she's trying to save are so petrified they can't even help themselves, and the zombies attacking aren't acting like the zombies she's depressingly familiar with. These are faster, their attacks coordinated.

The huge, half-shifted werewolf that suddenly appears and starts tearing through the zombies with brutal efficiency startles her at first, but Maisie can hardly complain about the much-needed assist. Maybe she'll live through the night after all. But if these new, faster, more intelligent zombies are indicative of a shift in the zombie population, it's going to take more than a sexy alpha werewolf and a tough chick with guns and a limp to save what's left of London. It'll take a miracle.

~*~

Wow, this was such a fun read. Frankly, I wasn't expecting to like it nearly as much as I did. I'm not a fan of zombies, so I tend to avoid books that feature them, but I was curious about the mix of shifter romance and zombie apocalypse in this novella. I thought I'd give it a chance, but my expectations weren't high. By the end, every one of those expectations were greatly exceeded.

Despite the short length of this novella, there is an abundance of world building, plenty of action, and enough depth of character that both Seth and Maisie were more well-rounded than I'm used to reading in stories of this length. And the tale is written with a fast, engaging style and has a healthy serving of humor that appealed to me, despite the bleak post-apocalyptic London setting and the zombies that made it that way.

Both Seth and Maisie were quirky, completely likable characters, especially the indomitable Maisie, who I adored, and their chemistry was off the charts.

The relationship between them built up a lot faster than I normally prefer in my romance, as the entire story timeline takes place over a couple of days, but Seth and Maisie acknowledge that in the narrative, and that, along with the fact that Seth's werewolf nature allowed for a bit more leniency from me about that, served to mitigate any serious issue with how quick they get to their Happily Ever After. Or...well...potential HEA, as the Ever After in the story is fairly dependent on those zombies being dispatched sooner rather than later.

One of the things I liked most about this story was the wealth of emotional baggage each character is dragging around. Seth has the weight of his responsibilities as pack alpha and the lingering damage from his former lover's betrayal. Maisie is still struggling with the guilt from surviving the zombie attack that killed her family and has a damaged leg and a permanent limp as a daily reminder. Neither one of them were exactly normal and well-adjusted, but both of them were just three dimensional enough to keep from coming off as cardboard cutouts of real people.

There were a surprising number of twists and turns in the plot given the story's shorter length, but I do wish there had been a bit more attention given to fleshing out and better defining the external conflict of the story. That particular plot element was fairly thin, with so much of the story space having already been allotted to building up the foundation of the world and the characters themselves.

It actually took me awhile to recognize that there was a specific thread of external conflict going on in the unusual zombie attacks occurring around the city. There was just so much else to focus on that it didn't even occur to me that the tidbits of information about them were being woven into both this particular story's arc as well as the larger series arc until the story started cresting into its climax. Because of that, the end of the story seemed a bit rushed to me and didn't quite answer all the questions I had, nor resolve all the issues.

Some of that is understandable as part and parcel of being a series debut, but given how everything else was given such perfect attention, I felt the loss. But because everything else was given such perfect attention, and Seth and Maisie did such a good job stealing my heart, it was a loss I can easily live with.

I wish this had been a full-length novel. And not because I would have liked seeing one or two elements have a bit more room to really be explored in the story...though that is part of the reason. Mostly, though, I just wasn't ready to be finished with Seth and Maisie's story. I loved them so much as characters and a couple that I wanted to spend more time with them both. On the bright side, if Schnyder's goal, like P.T. Barnum's, was to leave them wanting more, Schnyder achieved the hell out of it. I want more from her as an author and more of this series.

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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