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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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Three Days to Dead by Kelly Meding

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Dreg City, Book 1
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 418 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle



High-Octane Series Starter

You think dying is hard? Resurrection is a killer.

Dreg Bounty Hunter Evangeline Stone's memory is hazy about the events leading up to her death, but what she does remember isn't exactly chock-full of warm fuzzies. Genocide, betrayal, pain, loss. Hunted as a traitor, her team murdered, the friends who gave her shelter mercilessly slaughtered.

It was a nightmare she didn't survive.

Now she's been brought back, waking up in the morgue in a stranger's body with no clue who to trust and far more questions than she has answers. The one thing she does know is she's screwed either way. Being brought back is not without its consequences, after all, and she has only three days to solve her murder and figure out who betrayed her team, because as if resurrection wasn't complicated enough, it also comes with an expiration date.

In three days Evy will be dead...again.

~*~

Meding hits the ground running with this action-packed, ass-kicking series debut. The story drops readers into Evy's world just as she's been resurrected, then takes off at a sonic pace from there with an ultra-quick and dirty glance at the world and the events that preceded her death just pages before the plot really starts to get going. Once that happens, you pretty much have to hang on by your fingernails just to keep up as the time ticks down on Evy's new-life expectancy. There's certainly no rest for the weary as she races around searching for answers, trying to keep one step ahead of the people who are still trying to make her dead.

I enjoyed the world Meding created for her characters and the series. At least the glimpses I got of it. The break-neck pace of the plot didn't allow for a lot of in depth world-building...or much character depth, definition, or development either, actually. Maybe it's better said that I liked the idea I got of the world as it raced by my reading window. I can't say it's the most unique world I've ever read, as it resembles several other urban fantasy series in one way or another, and the heroine Evy is fairly interchangeable with those in other books, but that has its own comforts when it's a book in one of your favorite genres. And there were a few points of originality and elements based on a unique premise.

The first chapter or so seemed a little odd to me, though. The memories of Evy's life before she died were revealed in her first person narration in such a way that it made me feel like I'd missed an earlier book or a prequel or something. On one hand, I suppose that's a compliment to the author, for taking story building blocks and turning them into what felt like visceral memory for the character, but I found it jarring. And the echoes of those issues, with the ramifications of events in the past having an effect on the current events of the plot, were sprinkled throughout the narrative, shaking me out of the story now and then all the way through the book.

It was an ambitious, complex plot with a healthy number of secondary and ancillary characters, but because of the pacing, I found it hard to really feel connected to what was going on and to whom. My emotions didn't engage in the read as I was hoping they would. And like I said, there wasn't a tremendous amount of character depth or room for a lot of character or relationship growth. There was a thread of romance that wended through the plot that I appreciated, and I enjoyed Evy and Wyatt together, but there was so much going on around them that even the romantic elements weren't completely satisfying for me.

Evy handled herself well as the kick-ass heroine, but I can't say I was always thrilled with her as a character. There were moments when I found her a little unlikable, but then she would pull it back or shift gears and I could enjoy her more for the take-no-prisoners fighter that she was. I didn't have any such problem with Wyatt. I enjoyed him throughout the story. His strength and commitment to Evy, what he did for her and how he handled her and why, made me all mushy for the guy.

I do think the plot sort of got away from Meding late in the book. Not a lot, but just enough to muddy the waters a little, making it hard for me to keep solid track of everything that was going on and everyone it was affecting. With such a fast-paced tale, the characters don't have a lot of down time, and plot points are shot at you like bullets from a Tommy gun, which made it was hard to focus on the big picture sometimes. The final conflict and subsequent resolution were strong, though, and it definitely set up the following books in the series well.

There were several good things in this series debut, and while I can't say my issues with the lack of world-building and character definition, or my trouble with the emotional disconnect, allowed me to be completely satisfied with the read, it was better than an okay read. It served well as an introduction into a world with characters that I could probably really start to care about with more time invested. And it definitely had other points in its favor. With Evy in the driver's seat, new life-threatening or world-ending danger can't be far behind, and her and her friends and tentative allies have a lot of potential to stand out in a crowded field.

Can't Buy Me Love by Molly O'Keefe

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Crooked Creek Ranch, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 368 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Bantam Dell publisher Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.



Not What I Was Expecting

To say that NHL hockey star Luc Baker was loathe to return to his father's home would be a gross understatement, but when the bastard sends him and his sister a wedding announcement that includes a picture of the...bride-to-be, a tarted up twenty-something floozy named Tara Jean Sweet, he's left with little choice. If he doesn't put an end to this farce of a wedding, his sister and his nephew could lose everything. Again. Luc refuses to let that happen. And considering he's spent a career handling some real bruisers on the ice, dealing with one trashy chick with dollar signs where her heart should be will be a piece of cake.

Tara owes Lyle Baker in ways that she can't - and won't - explain, so doing this favor for him, playing a questionable part in getting his grown children back to the ranch before he dies, is the least she can do for the man she's come to care for. She wasn't expecting the reality of a furious Luc Baker getting in her face, though. Sexy, intense, and as cold as the ice he skates on, everything about the man puts her back up and makes her wish she'd never agreed to Lyle's Machiavellian scheme.

His presence threatens everything she's been working towards for years. Her existence is a risk to the two people he most cares about in the world. And the sparks that are ignited while they battle it out threaten to melt more than their determination and burn brighter than either are prepared to handle.

~*~

Never, ever judge a book by its cover. Trite, maybe, but in this case, extremely apropos. I was expecting this book to be a sexy bit of brain candy. I mean seriously, do you see the abs on that cover model? Yum. The reality of the read, though, was something else entirely.

Luc and Tara's story is a deep, intricate, emotional journey of two damaged and broken souls. Parts of their tale were ugly and gritty (so were some of the characters, for that matter), and the ride to their HEA was fraught with self-loathing and angst. It was all much more than I was expecting. More, really, than I wanted at the time, regardless of how well done it was.

There were some lighter moments, thankfully, that helped balance out the narrative. Both Tara and Luc were at times sardonic and witty, sometimes wacky and fun, and all of it necessary for lightening the more complex and tortured elements of their characters. I enjoyed them both, and enjoyed the depth and detail in their character definition.

What impressed me most, though, was how deftly O'Keefe managed and maintained the two faces of Lyle Baker, Luc's father. On one hand, he was a hard, brutal man who should have been shot for how he treated his children when they were young. Even as he's dying he's wily and manipulative, unforgiving and cruel. On the other hand, he was a savior to Tara, and took care of her in ways that went far beyond what anyone would expect. As a result, Tara's feelings for Lyle and Luc's feelings for him were about as diametrically opposed as could be - and the reasons for both were equally valid.

I loved that.

Luc's sister, on the other hand...

I loathed Victoria. I didn't actually think it was possible to have as little respect for a character as I did her. She spent most of the book coming off as helpless and weak in a way that pushed every single one of my buttons. At one point, when she was thinking about how she had no identity without a ring on her finger, and she liked a man because he could take care of her and her son, I would have cheerfully read that a house fell on her. Twice.

I get that her book is the second in the series, and imagine her journey to self actualization is going to be part of the arc of that story, but damn, I found her revolting in this one.

Unfortunately she was a significant enough secondary character with enough of her own page time that my feelings for her impacted my enjoyment of the overall read. That, along with the initial mistaken impression of the nature of the book, kept me from loving this read. I was expecting light, fluffy, and sexy. I was in the mood for that sort of brain candy. That I didn't get it threw me off, no matter how great a story this actually was.

Quotables:
"Have a drink, Eli." He checked the ice bucket, hoping for the best, only to be disappointed. "Is there no ice in Texas?"

"It's one in the afternoon, Luc."

"The ice only comes out at night?"

He was going to give this headache a name, try to befriend it, because as an enemy, it was kicking his ass.

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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