This Week, I Read… (2017 #48)

Cry Sanctuary.jpg

#174 – Cry Sanctuary, by Moira Rogers

Slightly better worldbuilding than the last werewolf/shifter romance series I started, but not by much. I picked this up when I discovered “Moira Rogers” was the paranormal-romance pen name of the same writing duo as Kit Rocha, whose Beyond series I loved. But this seems rushed and unpolished by comparison, not so much a story as a teaser, and an excuse to get two lusty characters into bed with each other as quickly as possible without doing much to establish why.

I do not intend to go on with this series.

 Assassin's Apprentice
 #175 – Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb

High fantasy was most of what I read in my teenage years, and this was as good or better than any of my favorites from those days. Aspects of the worldbuilding here are introduced with such subtlety that the revelation of how Fitz’s powers work doesn’t come as a surprise or shock, but feels like a memory of something I’d already been told, years ago, but forgotten. He’s an engaging narrator who ages well throughout the story, who tackles his dilemmas with fortitude but also knows when he’s in over his head and needs to ask advice or help. Viewing the politics of this realm through the eyes of a bastard royal gives the story a realism that I hesitate to call “gritty”–a word that has come to encompass the excessive grimdark tone applied to something to create edgy appeal–but it’s definitely not the high-gloss shine that you’d get from seeing the story unfold about one of the princes of the line, instead, especially if it were Regal. (Which, as a side note, I have to say is a fantastic name–all the attribute names are, and as soon as the in-world explanation was given for them, they stopped looking silly and became as natural to me as any of my friends’ or family’s names.)

This was a fantastic read, and I’m greatly looking forward to getting my hands on the rest of Hobb’s works as soon as I reasonably can.

Insatiable

#176 – Insatiable, by Cari Quinn

While I’m totally on board for best-friends-to-lovers, I do require that my leads have at least basic personalities. Shawn and Rachel are so bland that after reading this I can’t tell you a thing about them except that they fight all the time. Neither of them seems to have any traits beyond a propensity to anger, jealousy, and near-constant horniness. And in those traits, they’re basically identical, which made this a tiresome read.

Cooking Dirty

#177 – Cooking Dirty: A Story of Life, Sex, Love and Death in the Kitchen, by Jason Sheehan

  • Read: 12/17/17 – 12/18/17
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

This kitchen memoir had a rollicking style that was engaging and easy to get caught up in. The only place I really stumbled was the three-page long transcription of a galley conversation conducted entirely in kitchen slang, which wasn’t given all that much explanation; I felt like I was wading through it, so I skipped ahead until regular narration picked up again. If the point was simply that kitchen slang is a different language unintelligible to the uninitiated, yes, I take your point, did you really need three pages to make it?

However, as quick and compulsive a read as it was, I don’t feel like I came away from it with any insight I haven’t gotten from a dozen other foodie/chef/gourmet memoirs I’ve read. It feels harsh to dismiss someone’s life experiences like that, but I already knew the culinary world is rife with drugs, alcohol, and sex, and reading Sheehan’s somewhat glorifying account of them disturbed me a little. It isn’t that he ever advises anyone to do drugs, or to work high or drunk, but more of the macho attitude that embraces the fact that not only did he do it, most of the people he knew did it, and they’re also crazy bad-asses who will work through any amount of pain and injury not to let the guys in their kitchen down.

Even though I was already aware of that too, he went into such detail about both the attitude and so many injuries that it turned my stomach at times, because I’ve been looking at taking better care of myself, and if I chop off part of my finger on a dinner shift, I’m not taping it back on and finishing the night–I’m going to get proper medical care and then going home. Clearly I wouldn’t hack it on the line, and I know that, but a certain derisiveness for even the most basic-self care permeates this work, and it’s never truly challenged as negative.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00062]

#178 – More Than Pancakes, by Christine DePetrillo

An incredibly rude and shallow woman resists falling for a backwoods country dude. I can see why the California Girl/Vermont Guy premise is appealing, but from the moment we meet Lily, she is nothing but flat-out condescending about everything to do with the Great Outdoors, the state of Vermont, and Rick’s business and entire way of life. Her drive to succeed at her own career and the shockingly high-handed things she says in pursuit of this takes this beyond a mere Opposites Attract trope straight into Enemies to Lovers.

But I don’t think that’s a good thing, here. There’s really not much redeeming Lily, who spends the middle part of the story internally reminding herself to hate everything about Vermont even as she’s softening up to it. Rick, as a hero, is pretty bland and inoffensive, not much to recommend him, but I still like him better simply because when he’s an ass to Lily, it’s because she provoked him to it–she’s an ass because she’s convinced her life must be better than Rick’s.

Why would I be rooting for these two to get together when Lily is so terrible? Nonetheless, I did finish the story to find out that her boss/former paramour Drew is even worse, since he’s insanely possessive and decides to try to save their failed relationship with the attempted murder of Rick. Which, given that Drew is an offscreen/on-the-phone character for most of the story, is a preposterous escalation towards danger. And it all ends happily with Rick not being dead, Lily leaving the career/lifestyle that apparently made her such a toxic person, and them deciding to go into business together. Because you can take the girl out of California, and also manage to take California out of the girl?

Can't Help Falling in Love

#179 – Can’t Help Falling in Love, by Bella Andre

What could have been a solid romance was undermined by heavy-handed action writing. A firefighter in a dangerous rescue isn’t a convincingly tense situation when half the scene is the author repeatedly reminding the reader just how dangerous it is. Show me the flames and the fallen bits of building, don’t just have the firefighter’s internal monologue running at full speed.

Once we got that out of the way, it wasn’t so bad. It did have actual romantic tension, with a fairly successful attempt at I’m Attracted to You But This is a Terrible Idea–the two leads did actually both honestly agree to stay away from each other. Out loud. It was an adorably awkward scene, even though their agreement obviously couldn’t last. It was cute that they tried.

Points for Summer, the daughter, being a devious but mostly well-behaved child, and Gabe liking her as much as he was falling for her mother; but overall, this was only a so-so story.

Hidden Depths
#180 – Hidden Depths, by Aubrianna Hunter

CHEATING IS NOT OKAY. CHEATING IS NOT OKAY.

I can get behind the idea of a person being with the wrong partner, feeling trapped, and admitting to an attraction to someone else. That part of the premise doesn’t bother me.

Even that first kiss, yeah, people make mistakes, and Josh was clearly deeply upset about it and didn’t intend to do anything more until his best friend encouraged him to (?!?).

Dry-humping your non-fiancee to orgasm may not be clothes-off, penetrative sex, BUT IT’S STILL OBVIOUSLY SEX. YOU JUST CHEATED.

Beyond that, while the two leads were fairly well-developed, Josh’s ex might as well be a wet paper bag, because he had no problem breaking out of their relationship and she had no problem with him then starting a relationship with her best friend. Of course there’s really no evidence that Gia and Deb are friends at all, because they rarely interact, even when the entire HUGE group of friends surrounding the leads is together, which is often.

Those other friends don’t have any personalities either. They’re set dressing and plot catalysts, warm bodies that are required to be in the story because people have friends, right? But they’re given no more thought than that.

Beautiful passionate couple of young people in love.

#181 – Bennett, by Chasity Bowlin

I’m disappointed by this, because it could have been so much better. The rich-girl/bad-boy basis had the extra wrinkles of a bourbon distillery business at risk of going under, a feud between their families, and another feud within her family, with the philandering and manipulative patriarch. Everything you need for some juicy high drama.

But the writing style was dull. It was mostly expository dialogue–“Let me shout at you in such a way that explains our family history/all my problems/all your problems/how furious I am about everything!”

What little action there was was so-so, and very few of the characters any displayed any kind of body language. Everything was talking heads.

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