Nicole Reads A Lot

so many books, so little time

Flying by Megan Hart

Title:
Flying
Author:Megan Hart
PublisherHarlequin MIRA
Publication Date:April 2014
Publisher's DescriptionEver hear of wanderlust? Every other weekend, Stella buys a ticket on the next flight out of town and leaves her life behind. Home is a place with too many memories, and departure is the sweetest possible distraction. As soon as she arrives at her destination, Stella visits the airport bar. She orders a drink and waits for the right guy to come along. A bored businessman, a backpacker, a baggage handler just off shift. If he's into a hot, no-strings hookup, he's perfect. Each time is a thrilling escape from reality that gives the term layover a whole new meaning. When Stella meets the enigmatic Matthew in Chicago one weekend, she hits some serious turbulence. Something about him tells her she's not the only one running from the past. The connection between them is explosive, and for the first time, one taste is not enough for Stella. But returning to find a gorgeous man waiting for her is the easy part& facing the reason she's there is a whole other matter.
My rating:***.5

flying

I really liked some of Ms. Hart’s earlier books, but couldn’t connect with her more recent offerings. Flying returns to what I liked best about her earlier books: her richly drawn worlds and the sense that everything about her characters, including their sexuality, is about them trying to make sense of the world. I like you learn about what Stella does before you learn why she does the things that she does, because by the time you get to the explanation, you realize that you knew the essential truth about her long before the “what”. Likewise, you understand a lot about Matthew before he reveals the specific reasons and events that keep him tethered to his old life.

If you’re looking for a happily ever after type of book, this probably isn’t going to be for you; Matthew and Stella have a lot to work through, and their story is far from over at the end of the book. Still, I found the sense of hope that I felt at the end of this novel to be more honest and satisfying than a lot of happily ever afters I’ve read.

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Invisible City by Julia Dahl

Title:
Invisible City
Author:Julia Dahl
PublisherMinotaur Books
Publication Date:May 6, 2014
Publisher's DescriptionJust months after Rebekah Roberts was born, her mother, an Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, abandoned her Christian boyfriend and newborn baby to return to her religion. Neither Rebekah nor her father have heard from her since. Now a recent college graduate, Rebekah has moved to New York City to follow her dream of becoming a big-city reporter. But she’s also drawn to the idea of being closer to her mother, who might still be living in the Hasidic community in Brooklyn.

Then Rebekah is called to cover the story of a murdered Hasidic woman. Rebekah’s shocked to learn that, because of the NYPD’s habit of kowtowing to the powerful ultra-Orthodox community, not only will the woman be buried without an autopsy, her killer may get away with murder. Rebekah can’t let the story end there. But getting to the truth won’t be easy—even as she immerses herself in the cloistered world where her mother grew up, it's clear that she's not welcome, and everyone she meets has a secret to keep from an outsider.

In her riveting debut Invisible City, journalist Julia Dahl introduces a compelling new character in search of the truth about a murder and an understanding of her own heritage.
My rating:****

icdahl

What happens when the stranger in the strange land isn’t exactly a stranger? In Invisible City by Julia Dahl, Rebekah finds herself navigating a lot of new waters at one time: journalism, New York City, and the Hasidic population of Brooklyn. When Rebekah’s barely-understood Jewish heritage unexpectedly gives her an in, she fakes her way through knowing more than she really does to keep the information coming. Along the way she makes some mistakes, uncovers details about the crime that would have been impossible for any other reporter to get, and tumbles headlong into a world that barely makes any sense to her.

Rebekah is smart and determined, and the missteps that she makes could be the result either of her youth or of entering into an insular world that she wasn’t raised to understand. At times she reminded me of Tess Monaghan, both because of her dual Christian-Jewish heritage, and also because of her attempt to break into journalism at a time when the newspaper business is tougher than ever. I liked this book a lot, and would definitely read the next Rebekah Roberts outing; the revelation at the end of the book makes me want to know more about Rebekah’s family. I love it when an author can leave me wanting more, without using an abrupt cliffhanger to achieve this effect.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Point of No Return by Tiffany Snow

Title:
Point of No Return
Author:Tiffany Snow
PublisherMontlake Romance
Publication Date:May 20, 2014
Publisher's DescriptionKathleen Turner wasn't expecting to fall in love when she came to Indianapolis a year ago, much less with two very different men. And not just any men. Brothers.

Blane Kirk, former SEAL turned attorney, is every woman’s dream man. A playboy who changes women as often as he changes his tie, trying to hold on to Blane could only break Kathleen's heart.

Commitment is a foreign word to Kade Dennon, assassin-for-hire and genius hacker, and safety is non-existent. A future with Kade would surely end in disaster—for both of them.

Past betrayals come to a head and the choice Kathleen makes could sign her death warrant. Everything’s at stake as Blane, Kade, and Kathleen reach the Point of No Return.
My rating:****

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I was so excited when this book appeared on my ereader at midnight! It was a great ending to a really enjoyable birthday.

Without going into too much detail, I will say that this book had what was, in my mind, one of the most satisfying resolutions to a love triangle that I ever read. First of all, all three of the participants made it out of the book alive, which isn’t always a given. Second, the guy I liked better won. That’s not always guaranteed to happen, either. What can I say? I always root for the underdog.

There are a few things that I found strange and the whole politics subplot required way too many explanations and exceptions to be believable.

For instance: Why is the US senator uncle so often in Indiana, when he represents Massachusetts? (Click on the blurred text to see potential spoilers.) Further, How would Blane, who’d previously run for governor of Indiana AND came from an entirely different political party, be able to easily step in an win his uncle’s seat? That bit of foolishness greatly detracted from this book.

I read to learn, and I really appreciate Ms. Snow letting us know that, at the heart of all anti-fracking activism is Russian money. Because fracking is totally okay and 100% nontoxic and not even kind of harmful to the environment. Sure, stupid people who blindly support environmental causes may have been duped into taking up the cause, but what they don’t know is that anti-fracking activism is largely funded by Russian money. Why, you ask? Because Russia’s greatest export is natural gas, they’re desperate to block all US efforts to cultivate American sources of energy. See? Fracking isn’t bad for the environment, it’s bad for Russia’s bottom line, and the dumb and/or greedy will do all they can to prevent Americans from ever knowing the truth about anti-fracking efforts. This is some Bond villian-level thinking, and I congratulate Ms. Snow on her healthy paranoia. Meanwhile, I think I just strained an optic nerve, what with all the eye-rolling I did through that part of the book. Between this and Kathleen’s singing an internal ode to 2nd Amendment rights in the middle of a gun battle, I don’t have to reach far to figure out Ms. Snow’s political leanings.

This story is a 4.5 star for me, easily. The action is great, the romance has depth, most of the players transcend easy classifications to achieve realness [except for the one-note bad guy(s)], and the ending works for me on many levels, including karmic. The political motivations at the heart of this story are a total joke, but I enjoyed the rest of the book enough not to care too much.

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A general note on love triangle resolutions

I don’t know if this trend has always existed and I’ve only noticed it the last few years, or if it’s new, but the “one guy dies” solution to love triangle strikes me as particularly evil. At this point, I’ve read enough books that employ this device that I can’t relax when I don’t have a sense of how a love triangle is going to be resolved.

From my perspective, it never feels like an organic ending to a story. The author spends so much time getting me equally invested in all three characters. I start to really believe in the female protagonist’s love for both guys. When the final book in the series reaches the 75% mark and both guys are still in the picture and still unattached to anybody but her, I start to get very worried. WITH GOOD REASON! Barring the type of 11th hour personality change that results in one of the men revealing himself to be a major dickhead, I know, I KNOW that one of them is going to bite it. Romance, Thunderdome-style: two men enter, one man leaves. Romance, Highlander-style: There can be only one. And for whatever reason, the one to die is always the one that the female protagonist is currently with. Like, way to go, loser: enjoy having her for a while, because you are totally going to die really soon and tragically.

The first book that I remember reading this in had a lot of other weird things happening that I didn’t like, so my reaction was more, “WTF? That was odd,” than anything else. The next time it happened, I was really pissed off. Seriously?? That was the best ending you could come up with? I find this to be a totally cheap plot decide, and feel that the author has written herself into a corner. She has made two viable HEA candidates for her character, and instead of crushing one set of fans or another, she literally kills one of the guys, meaning that there are no possible backsies, do-overs, or reversals. Maybe I’ll feel differently about this when I’m not a half hour removed from reading yet another series that ended this way, but UGH.

Stop it, authors.

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The Resistance by S.L. Scott

Title:
The Resistance
Author:S. L. Scott
PublisherSelf-published
Publication Date:April 28, 2014
Publisher's DescriptionYou don't choose when.

You don't choose where.

And you don't get to choose who you fall in love with.

The minute he opened his sexy mouth, Holliday Hughes should have known Jack Dalton was trouble. His smooth pickup lines, broad shoulders, and ridiculously handsome face charmed her right out of her clothes. She gave into her desires, the instant attraction blinding her to the obvious.

One night. That was all it took for Holliday’s world to be flipped on its axis. Jack Dalton was cocky. Smug. Volatile. Demanding. He ignited something deep inside her like no other, but there was something more to this brooding bad boy. There was a dark side to him she couldn't help but be drawn to.

Torn between what she knew about him and a mysterious side he tried to hide, could she walk away or was he simply too hard to resist?
My rating:****.5

resistance

So what gives? Although this blog is entitled “Nicole Reads a Lot,” this is my first post in over a month. Why???

The short answer is: I haven’t read anything that excited me in that time period. I have read a few books that seemed pretty terrible, and many more that were just meh, but nothing that I felt like writing about. Until now! I just finished The Resistance by S.L. Scott, and I can’t remember the last time I got this excited over a book by a new (to me) author.

The premise of this book intrigued me: Holliday unknowingly hooks up with a rock star. Secret famous people stories are maybe my catnip. Novels that feature this type of storyline tend to take me to my happy place. Dalton, who is more commonly known by his stage name of Johnny Outlaw, is a world-famous rock star who takes a chance when he meets a woman who attracts him and, equally important, doesn’t initially know who he is. He just wants to be loved, dammit!

This book reads like Ms. Scott reached inside my brain, saw what I liked, and wrote a book combining all my favorite things. Holli is a smart, sex-positive, successful businesswoman who makes no apologies for her success. Her business exists because she came up with a good idea, but if she hadn’t been a great entrepreneur, it would never have gone anywhere. She doesn’t have as much of a social life as she’d like, but she makes time for her best friend. She isn’t awkward around men, and is pretty much my hero. Unlike in some books where I don’t get how the heroine (hate that word) appeals to the hero (ditto), it’s pretty easy to see why a rich, famous, world-weary rock star would fall for somebody like her.

The secondary characters in this book really add to its depth. We get a better understanding of Dalton and Holli through their connections to the people in their lives. Danny and Rochelle, in particular, are well-realized, and I’d be interested in seeing what happens in either or both of their lives (did I just come up with something?)…

The only things that I wished Ms. Scott would have included in this book are more information about JD’s relationship with his family, and really any information at all about Holliday’s. Otherwise, this book was pretty much perfect for me.

Judging by the number of her books that are on sale at Amazon, Ms. Scott isn’t a new author, but she’s new to me. I’m really happy that she’s on my radar, and I plan to enjoy going through her back catalog over the next several weeks.

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