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Momma Says to Read

Avid reader/reviewer and editor. I don't pull punches when I review, love it or hate it, you get what I think.

Dine with Me

Dine With Me - Layla Reyne

Lots of food, lots and lots of food. I like food, and I realize that Miller is a chef and Clancy is along for a food-filled tour, but more time is spent on the food than on the romance. I mean, this is technically supposed to be a romance, right? Nevertheless, the first half of this one revolves mostly around the food with a little get to know you conversation thrown in as Clancy attempts to get to know Miller, who is doing his best to remain closed-off to anything personal.
Things do pick up in the second half and given the circumstances, the emotions also pick up dramatically. This is where the focus is on Miller's diagnosis and his decisions about that. Despite my feelings about the lack of romance, I still really liked both Miller and Clancy, and this part of the book certainly tugged on my heartstrings.
In the end, Dine with Me is sweet, emotional, and a little bit steamy, but between the food tour and Miller's diagnosis and determination to follow through with his plan, I feel like the romance suffered. Yes, we're told that these guys care about each other, we get Clancy's distress over the situation, and they certainly have chemistry between the sheets. But, so little time was spent on the whole falling in love that it was hard to believe it when they finally professed those feelings. We do get an oh, so sweet ending to wrap things up, but for me, it was too little too late to entirely sell me on the romance.
The book is well-written, and I'm glad I read it, but it's not something I'll remember down the road in terms of recommended romances.

Maximum Security Book 2

The Deception (Maximum Security #2) - Kat Martin

I finished The Conspiracy undecided about whether I would continue with this series and remained on the fence until I read the blurb for The Deception, which convinced me to give it a try. This one has good suspense and action, but there are also several similarities between it and the first book in the series, so it has its good and bad points.
There is more of the same in Martin's characters here. The good guys are all pretty people, for lack of a better way to say it. I'll save the lengthy descriptions on both sides, but suffice it to say the bad guys are all the opposite of the good guys. Basically, in the Maximum Security world, there are no attractive bad guys and vice versa, or that's the impression it gives. All that accomplished for me was to make the characters almost caricature-like. That's not including our romantic couple, who of course, are both sexy and hard to resist. I did like that Kate is a strong woman, and she even though she does sometimes need rescuing, she can also take care of herself.
As far as the romance, there is a lot of back and forth about where things are going for both Kate and Jason, which is common in romance. However, the angst comes from the 'I'm not good for you, so I'm letting you go to protect you,' a trope that is tired at best. Kate and Jason do have good chemistry, and I liked them together, but I lost some of that when the romance is tested in that way. The story has some good intrigue, and there is plenty of danger for this couple so that extra angst just felt unnecessary.
All in all, The Deception had its pros and cons for me, but I did like it better than the first in the series.

Jesse Stone #18

Robert B. Parker's The Bitterest Pill - Reed Farrel Coleman

I've loved Jesse Stone's laid-back attitude, at least until it's time to be not so laid back, for years. I was introduced to him first in the movies with Tom Selleck, which led me to the books, and I was forever hooked. Jesse's story continues through the words of Reed Farrel Coleman, and I love that he holds true to the wonderful character first brought to life by Parker. There is one big difference, Jesse's sober now and trying to remain so. I realize that Jesse's sobriety is a source of contention for some, but I don't see it that way. For me, a character needs to continue to grow and evolve, and an honest effort at sobriety seems like a natural progression for the character.
I missed the last book in the series, so the addition of Jesse's son was new to me. That's where this book first got a little personal for me. I grew up in a situation very similar to Cole's, except I was older than Cole by the time I met my father. So, I'm always interested in how these situations play out on the page. Based on my own experiences, the interactions between Cole and Jesse ring true. They're still getting to know each other, and Cole is still learning to trust Jesse as well as learning that everything he thought he knew wasn't exactly how things were. I liked the progression for the father and son, and I enjoyed the addition of Cole's character.
The Bitterest Pill tackles the growing drug problem, specifically the opioid crisis and how it gets a hold on small towns everywhere. The web of players on that side of things was complex and held my interest as well as kept me guessing about a particular player in the game. There are red herrings, and there's also more than one possibility for who it could be. And here I will admit that I was wrong. I had my guesses, and while this one didn't exactly come out of nowhere, that person wasn't even on my radar. Of course, we get plenty of Suit and some of Molly as the case moves forward as well as Jesse relying on some help from a known criminal, which, again, rings true to the character.
In addition to a solid mystery and some page time with some series favorites, Coleman gives us a touch of romance for our favorite police chief. One that comes with some migivings, and we all know Jesse's penchant for wanting answers. I won't go into details on that so as not to give spoilers, but I felt like things happened the only way they could have given the circumstances.
In the end, there were a lot of players in this deadly game as the opioid crisis hits Paradise with a vengeance, and the story moves along with a steadily rising tension that explodes into an edge of your seat conclusion. However, I will add that when you think the dust has settled on this particular addition to the Jesse Stone series, it really hasn't. There's a bit more to the story. I don't know if there's another Jesse Stone book planned, but I sincerely hope so, and I certainly recommend this one.

The Long Call

The Long Call (Two Rivers #1) - Ann Cleeves

The Long Call turned out to be a really long read for me, mostly because I kept setting it aside for something more interesting. The writing is stilted and there are odd phrasings and some out of context sentences here and there that add to that stilted affect. Like one lengthy paragraph about Jen's kids and child minders that ends with a sentence about Jen still having sexy dreams about one child minder and his 'tight bum.' Umm... Ok, maybe that was an attempt at giving the reader some insight about Jen, but it just left me confused about its relevance to anything in the story, including the paragraph it accompanies.

This is a police procedural, so I didn't expect much in the way of those edge of your seat moments that make a good thriller, but I found most of this book just plain boring. It did have potential but most of that got lost in the slow pacing of the story. 

On a positive note, there is a lot of diversity, which is always a good thing as far as I'm concerned. That said, this one got a little over the top with the characterizations of people. The protagonists are all open-minded and completely accepting while everyone else needs an attitude adjustment because their beliefs are just wrong. I'm about as open-minded as it gets, but I realize that it's rarely so black and white where people are concerned. This book gives voice to the idea that there is no gray area, and it started to feel more like a soap box than a story. 

This is my first experience with Ann Cleeves, and I find myself quite underwhelmed. This isn't a story I would recommend and given my feelings about this one, I don't see any reason to continue with the series.

Milo Weaver Book 2

The Nearest Exit - Olen Steinhauer

After reading the first Milo Weaver book, I quickly jumped into this one. My hope was that the author was finding his footing and laying the groundwork for a compelling spy series and things would pick up with this book. Instead, I found more of the same, loads of lengthy dialogue, repetitiveness, and bits of action followed by page after page of slow-moving story. The story has great potential but seems to always stay just this side of the compelling read that it could be. I'm two for two now on this series that can't seem to cross over into something memorable, something that would make me want to continue on. As it stands, I'm on the fence about the series and its main character, so I think I'll be taking a break before considering the next Milo Weaver story.

Milo Weaver Book 1

The Tourist - Olen Steinhauer

It's been quite a while since I've curled up with a spy novel, so maybe I'm out of the loop on the genre, but The Tourist left me somewhere in the fair to midland range. There's a lot of dialogue and the story is repetitive at times, plus there are several things that seem to rely on everyone, including Milo, being either oblivious or not very bright, both of which seem out of sorts with a spy novel. In the end, The Tourist left me wanting more - more action, more intrigue, more tension, just more. It isn't a bad story, but it isn't a particularly great one either. 

The Whisper Man

The Whisper Man - Alex North

There has been a lot of hype about this book, and maybe I let that build up my expectations, maybe I've just read too many similar stories, or maybe it's just that this one wasn't for me, but The Whisper Man left me thoroughly underwhelmed. The premise is sufficiently creepy, but the story is dreadfully slow and repetitive. It does pick up a bit in the second half but all too soon, it slows back down. On top of the slow pace, it's also rather predictable. Again, that may be because I've read so many thrillers. There is an interesting touch of the supernatural that I would've liked to have seen explored, but we're just left with hints of that angle. I did finish the book but sat it aside several times, and it was a lot easier to set aside than to pick back up. In the end, I was bored more often than not and found this one severely lacking in the building tension of a good thriller. My opinion of this one is certainly far from the average, but it is what it is. I certainly liked the idea of this book much better than the reality of it. With all the hype and hoopla, it's darn near impossible to go into this one blind, but that would be my recommendation and hopefully you'll fall into the large number of readers who enjoyed The Whisper Man more than I did.

Shacking Up #5

Handle With Care - Helena Hunting

I've enjoyed each book in this series of standalones, but Handle with Care is my absolute favorite. Lincoln and Wren are so much fun! If you look up book boyfriend in the dictionary, I'm pretty sure you'll find Lincoln Moorehead's picture. He's a little grumpy, a lot sexy, and everything that his lech of a brother is not. The brothers are complete opposites, and our heroine, Wren, is charged with handling them both. And handle them, she does. In Wren, Helena Hunting has given us a leading lady who is strong enough to take care of herself while still projecting femininity. She knows how to get the job done and doesn't care to get her hands dirty to accomplish her goals. The story is high on wit and humor and low on angst, making it perfect for a relaxing weekend read provided anyone around doesn't mind the many times you burst out laughing. It's loaded with terrific characters that keep the pages turning. Even the ones you really want to punch in the mouth - Ahem, Armstrong! I love that we see a couple of past favorites from the series, yet the book still stands on its own. All of that makes for a great story, but the best thing about this one is our romantic couple. Even before they seal the deal, Lincoln and Wren are two of best characters I've come across in romantic comedy. Both are likable, they have great chemistry, and they just mesh. Even when they're butting heads over everything from haircuts to tuxedos, these two just work. I don't know if the author has another book planned for this series, but I hope to see our bad boy, Armstrong meet his match. Whatever she does next, Hunting has set the bar high with this one. 

Hopeless Romantics #1

On the Corner of Love and Hate - Nina Bocci

On the Corner of Love and Hate felt more like women's fiction to me than romance except that it's more fluff than fiber where the storyline and characters are concerned. That's not necessarily a bad thing, we could all use a little fluff from time to time, but the romance here is a slow burn - like the flame is barely there type of slow. I expected an enemies to lovers story, but I never really got that from Emma and Cooper. They do have some fun banter, and we're told that there were some sparks in the past, but I just didn't see much chemistry between them. They could've ended up just good friends, and I would've been fine with that. I do like small town stories and on that, this one delivers. The town is charming, and the characters are quirky and fun. I even enjoyed the politics and Cooper's double-dealing opponent made for an interesting bit of trouble in the mayoral race. I did have one pet peeve with this book, and that was the random 'Emma thoughts' that would pop up. At first they were amusing and even cute, but after so many, it was more distraction and started to wear at me. Fortunately, those do fizzle after a while and they don't happen as often in the last half of the book. In the end, this one wasn't quite what I expected or hoped for, but I did enjoy meeting the characters of Hope Lake, and I will check out other books from this author.

How to Love a Duke in Ten Days

How to Love a Duke in Ten Days (Devil You Know) - Kerrigan Byrne

How to Love a Duke In Ten Days opens with an intense scene that certainly pulled me into the story. From that point, I had to know what would come of Alexandra and what her future would hold. We do know a bit of that going in just from reading the blurb, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Kerrigan Byrne balances darkness and light so well, and she draws her characters equally well. There's no sitting back and watching this one unfold. The writing style pulls you in and makes you experience the emotions along with the characters. The chemistry between Alexandra and Piers is off the charts and I love that Alexandra is such a strong woman. The story is almost fairy-tale like, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. 

Because You're Mine

Because You're Mine - Rea Frey

I went into Because You're Mine really wanting to like it. The key elements are there, it's dark, and everyone has a secret. It's also way too slow for my liking, and it requires more suspension of disbelief than a story like this should. The only way this one works is if you go in thinking everyone is unreliable, and everyone has something to hide. That, in itself, wouldn't be a bad thing, but the only character I liked was Mason. He's adorably obsessive about his interests, and being a parent of a child on the spectrum, his lack of impulse control and the things he said felt real to me. The problem is the sheer amount of filler surrounding Mason. There are some things I just don't need to know and having page after page give me every detail of those things was more yawn-inducing than interesting. I would've much preferred a shorter story than all that filler. In the end, this story had promise, but it just didn't deliver. 

The Victim

The Victim - Max Manning

One carjacking, two possible scenarios - Fight or flight. That's where the story splits off into two different directions, one with Gem the warrior and one with Gem the victim. It's an interesting concept, and it did make for an intriguing storyline. That said, some things worked and some, well, not so much. The contrast between the two Gem's worked, but did get somewhat confusing as the story progressed, so I was flipping back and forth to keep track which Gem said or did what thing. I think part of that was due to a handful of other characters thrown in and of course, there actions and conversations were also different, depending on which timeline they were in. The chapters are labeled with the appropriate Surrender/Fight reality, but it's still a lot to keep up with. In the end, The Victim is an interesting story, a strange one at times, but interesting nonetheless. So, for me, it comes out somewhere in the middle. Parts were terrific, but others fell a little flat.

Things You Save in a Fire

Things You Save in a Fire - Katherine Center

I went into this book really wanting to love it, but I think I expected something much more serious than what I found. It does have its serious side, but this one was more cutesy, sugary sweet contemporary romance than anything else. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, and a good balance of light and dark can make for a great story. For me, this one was just a little more sugar than I care for. The book is well-written if a little bit scattered at times, and maybe it's just too much sweetness for my cynical self, but Things You Save in a Fire came in somewhere in the fair to middlin' range for me. I didn't hate it, but it didn't leave a lasting impression either.

Lost You

Lost You: A Novel - Haylen Beck

Lost You starts with a good pace as Ethan disappears, and I was all ready to settle in for a gripping thriller. Then the story moves into the past and everything that led up to the disappearance and one woman's claim that young Ethan is her child. That's where it started losing me. The pace slows down considerably, and parts of felt like a little too much of the mundane. There are elements of a thriller here, but most of the book is more domestic suspense or drama. The story does get very dark and one part in particular disturbed me to no end, but other than those few and fleeting moments, there wasn't much in the way of the gripping story I was hoping for. As far as the story itself, neither of these women are particularly likable nor are they what most would consider stable, which does lend itself to the suspense. The conclusion was about what I expected, but kind of fell flat for me. I suppose that tidy little bow that ties everything up was just a little bit too tidy if you know what I mean. In the end, this one comes in somewhere in the middle. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. 

How to Hack a Heartbreak

How to Hack a Heartbreak - Kristin Rockaway

I went into How to Hack a Heartbreak expecting a romantic comedy, or at the very least, something poking a bit of fun at online dating. I suppose in the latter, it does do that with its focus on nearly everything negative in dating apps. Fortunately, I couldn't say how accurate that focus is as I was married before those apps took dating by storm, but I can imagine that there is a fair bit of negative to poke fun at. Despite a couple of chuckle-worthy tidbits, this book clearly missed the mark for me. That could be because I prefer strong women, but I didn't care for Mel from the beginning, and she didn't do much to change that as the story progressed. That said, Mel wasn't the only part of this book that rubbed me the wrong way. Other than our weak leading lady, the characters lack enough development to really form much of an opinion of them. Her friends have some potential and do provide some comic relief, but they fit the cookie cutter group of friends that have been done and done again. We have the brain, the cynic, and the one in a committed relationship, and then there's the material girl roommate. While they do live up to those labels, I didn't know much more about them. As far as Mel's love interest, Alex, that's pretty much it. Alex is the love interest. He apologizes a lot, and he's the only nice guy at work. That's pretty much the whole of Alex. They obviously have sexual chemistry since they fall into bed a couple of times, but I didn't get a romantic vibe from either Mel or Alex. There is some telling the reader since they say they like each other and they do have a couple of meals together, but Mel is so paranoid over every action that her fears become the focus. Finally, there's Mel's job. Yes, I know that sexual harassment in the workplace happens. It happens much more often than it should, and it is a serious topic. However, I find it hard to believe that there is only one nice guy in a whole company of men. Granted, it's a small company, but really? Mel isn't just a victim at work, she's an enabler when she repeatedly takes it, and her attempts at vindication are weak and pitiful. I completely understand the need to keep a job when there are bills to pay, and Mel may very well have been the 'whipping boy' even twenty years ago, but this just goes way over the top. Finally, there's Mel's app, which may be amusing and in theory would be a good idea. What it turns into is just one more way to be negative online and one more thing for Mel to be paranoid about. I realize that my feelings about How to Hack a Heartbreak are in the minority, but it is what it is. For me, this was one eye-roll inducing story that took much too long to get through.

Keeping Lucy

Keeping Lucy - T. Greenwood

Keeping Lucy isn't normally my kind of read, but I remember the scandal that inspired this one, so it drew me in. The story absolutely broke my heart while simultaneously infuriating me to no end. I know that places like Willowridge existed. As I said, I remember the scandal, but that didn't make it any easier to read. Ginny's visit to Willowridge doesn't take up as much space on the page as I had expected, but her problems with getting Lucy well and reasonably fit do, and none of it was easy to read about. There were things that happened that bothered me - Marsha's actions and language even around children, Ab's father and his high-handed treatment of his family, that kind of thing - but the things that bothered me the most were Ab's and Ginny's actions at the beginning. I really wanted to give Ab a good shake and tell him to just man up, and it was equally hard to understand Ginny and the way she bent to Ab's wishes, or more accurately, Ab's father's wishes. And then there's Marsha. She's a little over the top in that she's almost everything we think about in a bad role model for children. So much so that she's almost caricature-like, which was the biggest drawback for me. Marsha aside, when I stopped to think about the generation of people here, I wasn't quite so upset with Ab and Ginny. I still wanted to shake Ab, but Ginny's action made a little more sense given the circumstances. The stigma surrounding children like Lucy was a huge factor in life in that time, and certain things were expected of people. That doesn't excuse any of it, but it was what it was, and I believe that stories like this one do have their place. We should always remember our history lest we repeat it. I think Keeping Lucy is going to be one of those books that you either like or you don't. I don't think there's going to be much straddling the fence on this one, especially in this day and age when we know so much more about what's good and bad for a child, or at least we think we do. In the end, I do wish there had been a little more peeling back the layers surrounding Willowridge, but the author has still written a compelling story that I found hard to put down.