Mini-Reviews: The Last of 2011

Another batch of reviews cross-posted from Goodreads with additional comments in italics – this time it’s the final set of books that I read during 2011.  Be warned: it’s a long-ish post as it was a bit of an uneven reading month and I couldn’t figure out how to split them up without having a post all about “just okay” books.

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Men Under the MistletoeMen Under the Mistletoe edited by Angela James (m/m romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A really good collection of Christmas m/m romances – I loved the Josh Lanyon story (second chance romances always get me), the KA Mitchell contribution was funny-sweet-romantic, and Harper Fox’s story was just different and unusual. The only one that didn’t quite work for me was Ava March’s historical – it was a good read, but not a standout.

I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed by Carina Press’s Christmas anthologies, and this was a good one with three out of four contributors being favourite authors of mine.  

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Carol of the Bellskis (Bellskis, #1)Carol of the Bellskis by Astrid Amara (m/m romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An unexpectedly good read. I loved the inclusion of Jewish traditions in this story and found them fascinating. Romance-wise, I liked how Seth discovered new things about Lars and I believed in their relationship. A strong ending, and I just want to know what happens next now.

I think I have pretty much all of Astrid Amara’s backlist (though I’ve only finished her contemporaries to date). I really like her writing – I just checked as I don’t recall seeing any new releases from her lately, and found out that she’s been working on a romance set during an alternate-universe Crimean War.  Sounds very interesting. 

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McKettrick's Heart (McKettrick Men, #3) (McKettricks, #8)McKettrick’s Heart (McKettrick Men, #3) by Linda Lael Miller (contemporary romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A heart-warming story, though be warned, a bit of a tear-jerker. I did feel the climax was a bit of letdown after all the build-up, but a satisfying read overall. The relationship between Keegan and his cousins was hilarious, and I’ll be picking up their books.

I can go months without reading a Linda Lael Miller, and then I sometimes feel as though I need a LLM fix, even though she can be hit or miss for me.  I think I picked this off the shelves at random – it hit the right buttons. 

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Bad Boyfriend (Bad in Baltimore, #2)Bad Boyfriend by K.A. Mitchell (m/m romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After some slight confusion about exactly who was who, I got into the story – this was a romance with a nice dollop of angst, and there was a good build-up to a satisfying ending, though I’m not quite sure if Quinn’s relationship with his ex’s family had been properly resolved? Also, minor spoiler – click through to read.

I liked this, but not one of her standout books, IMO.  I’m hoping the new release works better for me. 

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Fate's Edge (The Edge, #3)Fate’s Edge by Ilona Andrews (paranormal romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I find the Edge world fascinating, and George and Jack, who play quite a large part in this book, pretty much stole the show whenever they appeared. As for the Kaldar/Audrey relationship, I liked them well enough and thought they suited each other.However, I never really got into this book – it may be that the writing just failed to capture my imagination completely. A good read, but not one of my favourite Ilona Andrews.

I bought (and read) all the Edge books, but they never quite worked as well for me as the Kate Daniels books.  I think part of it is because the world-building felt a bit more forced compared to the Kate Daniels’ alternate-Atlanta world.  It also may be due to the fact we get different h/h pairings for each book in this series – I certainly feel more invested in George and Jack as recurring characters… 

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Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner (Lord John Grey, #3)Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon (historical mystery)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book kept me occupied during a very long plane journey. While there was more Jamie than I expected, I liked how the book filled in some of the gaps in the main Outlander story. I really enjoy the relationship between Lord John and his brother Hal – it’s not something we’re often given the chance to see. And as with all Diana Gabaldon’s books, this book is jam-packed with entertaining historical detail. I’m always glad to revisit the Outlander world, and this was a solid read.

Diana Gabaldon did a Q&A and cover reveal on the upcoming Outlander novel, if you missed it.  Part of me almost prefers her “shorter” side-novels about Lord John, because they’re not the epic Claire/Jamie sagas where I have to remember this large cast of characters, but I’m glad we finally get to find out what happened next. 

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Fire and Ice (Buchanan, #7)Fire and Ice by Julie Garwood (romantic suspense)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m at a loss as to why something that I would think endearing (possibly?) in a historical romance doesn’t translate to contemporary. In the book, the heroine says/thinks something along the lines of “He loves her (her being the best friend, IIRC) and I love her therefore he is okay” (yes, I’m paraphrasing wildly but it’s been a while and I don’t have the book to hand). And I sit there and think “naive girl”. Whereas I swear I have read something similar in Julie Garwood’s historicals and probably went “Awww…”.

So that aside, FIRE AND ICE was okay, nothing special.

Ha. I did struggle with this one.

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Promises in Death (In Death, #28)Promises in Death by J.D. Robb (futuristic romantic suspense)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I ended up skimming through most of this book, to be honest. It was an impulse buy, and as with the more recent In Death books I’ve read, I didn’t really get into the story – it may be that I’ve read too many of these books and they’re all starting to come across as too similar. I did find it interesting to get to know Morris in more depth (I have to say he was not what I imagined him to be) and yay, Eve gets a new car! Apart from that, Eve was Eve, Roarke was Roarke, etc etc – no earth-shaking developments in this book.

I think I’ve pretty much given up on this series.  Unless I read a review that says Nora Roberts has completely shaken things up.

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Trio of Sorcery (Diana Tregarde, #0.5) (Jennifer Talldeer, #2)Trio of Sorcery (Diana Tregarde, #0.5) by Mercedes Lackey (fantasy)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was familiar with Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde and Jennifer Talldeer books and was keen to read more stories set in their world – they were good stories, but not particularly memorable. I did like how she explored “previous contemporary” settings in the first two stories – it brought a few nostalgic memories back. The third story featuring a new protagonist focused on computers (and I’m sure it’ll become “previous contemporary” quite quickly as well) – again, it was a decent read, but didn’t stand out. I’m glad I restrained myself and waited for the library request to come through. It’s possibly worth the price if you get it in paperback, but not worth the hardcover, IMO.

I remember being so tempted to get the hardcover for this one, primarily because of the new Diana Tregarde and Jennifer Talldeer stories. I’m glad common sense prevailed.  Nice to revisit these old settings though. 

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Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Gallagher Girls, #2)Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter (YA)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A fun, light read, but IMO, the book lacked substance and left me somewhat unsatisfied. I continue reading this series because it’s such a great concept (secret spy-school for girls!), but I’m not invested.

I keep requesting this series from the library because I want these books to click with me, dammit.  They end up being more mind-candy than anything else.

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A Stone Creek Christmas (Stone Creek, #4) (Silhouette Special Edition #1939)A Stone Creek Christmas (Stone Creek, #4) by Linda Lael Miller (contemporary romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not a massively memorable story – I bought it primarily because I was in the mood for Christmas stories. I think the talking-to-animals angle plus Kris Kringle required a suspension of disbelief that I couldn’t quite manage.

And this was a Linda Lael Miller miss.  Too cute-sy for me, IIRC.

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Legacies (Shadow Grail, #1)Legacies by Mercedes Lackey (YA urban fantasy)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have a soft spot for academy/boarding school type stories, so was pleasantly surprised to find out that this was one. But at the end, I wasn’t quite sure where the overall story was going and I didn’t feel invested in the characters. There wasn’t enough pay-off to make me interested in the next book.

It’s been a while since a new Mercedes Lackey novel really worked for me, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that this was no exception.  I noticed the final book in this trilogy is out this year, but I’m probably not going to bother. 

6 thoughts on “Mini-Reviews: The Last of 2011

  1. Thanks for these mini reviews. I agree with you about the Edge series. I read the first book and really liked it and the world they created, but I wanted to read more about recurring characters.

    • Yes! Which is funny because traditional romance series usually change h/h and I’m fine with that. Maybe because the world-building had so much going on in the background, I felt as though I wanted to stay with more familiar characters?

    • That feels like the general consensus, I don’t think anyone’s devastated the series has come to a end? Ilona Andrews has implied on a couple of blogs that they (or she at least) found writing the Edge books slightly hard-going – not quite sure which way the cause-effect goes, however.

  2. Woohoo, done with 2011. Now onto 2012, right Li? LOL.

    Ouch, rough end of the year, Li! I feel for you ^_^; Not a reading slump, but almost 😦 did you stop reading the In Death series?

    As for the Edge series by Ilona Andrews. I feel she never hit her stride with that series. It felt like a half-assed try ^_^; Ah well. More Kate Daniels!!

    • LOL – it’s actually kind of interesting doing it this way, because it reminds me of what I read over a year ago! It was a quiet end to 2011 really.

      I’m pretty sure this was the last In Death book I read. They just don’t interest me anymore, which is a shame because I remember when they were one of the very very few hardcovers I shelled out for.

      Re Ilona Andrews – I think they are releasing their online serial as an ebook later this year? I haven’t been following it online (serials are generally not my thing, though the John Scalzi serial proved to be an exception) so am looking forward to it.

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