Throwback Thursday [12]: Standoff by Sandra Brown

Grand Central Publishing
Hardcover, 224 pp.
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2000
Adult Fiction | Suspense | Romance
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

TV reporter Tiel McCoy is driving to New Mexico for a well-earned vacation when she hears the news on the radio: The teenage daughter of Fort Worth tycoon Russell Dendy has been a kidnapped. Immediately, she abandons her holiday plans to chase down what could be the scoop of a lifetime.

But in a town called Rojo Flats an innocuous stop at a convenience store thrusts her directly into the dramatic story–and a dangerous drama. For inside the shop two desperate young lovers are holding a half dozen frightened hostages … and a powder keg of a standoff is about to test Tiel’s courage, journalistic objectivity, and everything she has ever believed.

I didn’t think it was possible, folks. I didn’t think I’ll ever find a book by Ms. Brown that I didn’t like. In her defence, the book was shorter than usual, so perhaps therein lies the crux of my problem with this book. I have even considered not reviewing this book at all, but I felt like writing one anyway because I want to show you that  I can give bad reviews from authors that I greatly admire.

This story is once again set in Texas. This time, it features an ambitious reporter who found herself a hostage to a gun-toting teenager and his pregnant girlfriend. The kids aren’t in it to harm people, but circumstances have forced their hands. The girlfriend is the daughter of an asshat prominent business man who was against their relationship. He had made threats to separate them and give their baby up for adoption.  It’s as star-crossed as it could get. But as short as this book was, Ms. Brown still somehow managed to squeeze in a sub-plot in there somewhere. They’ll find out that they’re not only facing a squadron of FBI agents and the wrath of Russell Dendy, they also have to contend with a couple of criminals who make their money through human trafficking.

The book happened in a matter of hours. It reads like a complete novel, but I’m sad to say it was severely lacking in substance. I feel like the book wasn’t long enough in order for the reader to form any connection with the characters. Ultimately, that’s why I ended up not really liking this book. It lacked that signature heat between characters as well. And the story didn’t really develop. I was told all the hows and the whys in a deliberate manner. Bottom line, Standoff was not all that memorable. In fact, I’ve already forgotten about it.


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[566]: The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff

18910917 The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff
MIRA | Kindle Edition
September 1st, 2011
Historical Fiction | Romance
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Nineteen-year-old Emma Bau has been married only three weeks when Nazi tanks thunder into her native Poland. Within days Emma’s husband, Jacob, is forced to disappear underground, leaving her imprisoned within the city’s decrepit, moldering Jewish ghetto. But then, in the dead of night, the resistance smuggles her out. Taken to Krakow to live with Jacob’s Catholic aunt, Krysia, Emma takes on a new identity as Anna Lipowski, a gentile.

Emma’s already precarious situation is complicated by her introduction to Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking Nazi official who hires her to work as his assistant. Urged by the resistance to use her position to access details of the Nazi occupation, Emma must compromise her safety—and her marriage vows—in order to help Jacob’s cause. As the atrocities of war intensify, so does Emma’s relationship with the Kommandant, building to a climax that will risk not only her double life, but also the lives of those she loves.

This is my first Pam Jenoff book. I know very little about the kind of books she puts out other than they’re usually historical romance. I have been attracted to stories where the romance is inherently founded on hate. And there could never be a more contemptuous romance than that of a Jewish girl and a German officer.

Emma Bau has only been married to her husband Jacob for merely six weeks before the Germans invaded Poland. Forced to flee, Jacob severed ties with Emma for her safety. She found herself imprisoned in a commune with her people. There, she saw just the kind of life that was in store for them; where disease and hunger slowly killed them one by one. In the dead of night, she was taken by a member of the resistance to live with Jacob’s aunt. An upstanding Polish citizen who was clandestinely helping Jacob’s cause. Through one of her dinner parties, Emma meets the enigmatic Kommandant Richwalder.  The obvious attraction helped convinced the resistance to recruit Emma to their cause. By working with the kommandant,  she could monitor confidential messages that passed through the kommandant’s desk. As the monstrosity of Hitler intensified, so did the growing relationship between Emma and Richwalder. And she would do anything to help the cause, if only to save those that she loves.

The problem that I have with this book is rooted to the fact that Emma didn’t seem to have given much thought as to who Richwalder was. The instant attraction that she felt didn’t really make that much sense to me. There was no ingrained hatred, mostly passing thoughts where she had to remind herself how many Jewish people where dying in the hands of the Germans such as the kommandant. Other than that, it was instant lust all around.

In Emma’s defence, the kommandant seemed to be cut from a different cloth than those of the other officers. We see flashes of guilt, and distaste for what was going on in his watch. Perhaps that was why it was easy for her to fall into bed with him.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything gripping about this book. I did not hold my breath in suspense. She was tasked to retrieve documents that was pertinent to the cause, but the reader never did find out of the consequence of her missions. The most frightening thing that happened here was when she witnessed the pregnant wife of a Rabbi get shot. That was hard to take, but since it happened in the beginning of the novel, the reader had plenty of time to recover. Not that I looked forward to reading the atrocities of the war. I just felt like it was not a good representation of what really happened.

Still, this does not diminish my interest with her books. In fact, I picked up a couple of more in the same vein. I’m looking forward to reading them only to get a better grasp on her story telling. I really hope I’ll like them more than I did with this one.





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[549]: The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory


The House of the Four Winds / Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory

Let the record show that I will keep reading books from this genre until I find one that I can legitimately love. Today is not the day, however.

In the  tiny kingdom of Swansgaard, there lived 12 princesses and one prince. While it is wealthy by any kingdom’s standards, it is wealthy enough to provide dowries for all of the princesses. One day, the duke decreed for all his daughters to find their own adventures. This novel is the story of the first daughter to reach the ripe age of 18.

Clarice have always wanted to see the world. Determined to seek her own adventures, she disguised herself as a man on a voyage to New World. The captain of the ship was an evil man. He doled out whippings for every tiny misdeeds, and he didn’t care for justice. Soon, the entire ship was under mutiny. Clarice Clarence found herself the new captain’s first mate. Dominique was the exact opposite of the man whose title he assumed. He was kind, charming, and just. Clarice soon fell for him. In Assassino, she gets more than what she bargained for: an island under a spell, sea monsters,   ice voyage and treasures!

This book to me feels like I took a road trip with my excitable family only I didn’t get what there was to be excited about. I’ll tell you one thing, if I ever decide to tackle another fantasy book, I’ll make sure there’s not to be mention of ships, pirates, sea voyage, and salted pork ever again.

The initial draw of this book was Clarice’s role as a cross-dressing nobleman. The revelation was anti-climactic, to be honest. And if you’re expecting fireworks in the romance department, check that expectation by the harbour. You will not find it here. Bottomline, this was a sleep-inducing novel. The narrative was pretty dry, and the chemistry between characters was non-existent. The only thing I look forward to was the word, A C K N O W L E D G  E M E N T in the end.

GOODREADS SUMMARY | Tor Books | August 4th, 2014

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[540]: Anything Could Happen by Will Walton


GOODREADS SUMMARY | Push | Hardcover, 288 pp. | May 26th, 2015 | Young Adult Fiction | LGBT | Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Somewhere along the way, this book’s purpose got lost in the writer’s attempt to channel his inner teen. Somewhere along the way, I got distracted by Elle Goulding’s incessant Eeeeeh eeeeee eeee (don’t ask). Nothing much happened in Anything Could Happen. Besides the predictability of the outcome, this book was not as emotionally gripping as what you would expect from one that tackles such a socially relevant and important subject.

The plot meandered quite a bit. In an attempt to give Tretch more layers, it only prolonged what was an otherwise straight-forward plot. To be honest, this book was over by the halfway mark, because his lamentations about coming out to his family and friends didn’t really have a basis. I’m not trivializing it, because I can only imagine how difficult that must be. He just wasn’t a convincing character. It was not a good representation of what teens with the same issues go through. In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say, his fear of coming out was manufactured. As bad as that may sound, that’s how I perceived the character to be.

Also, there are family dramas that didn’t really do much to help the plot progression nor garner empathy/sympathy. What’s more, the family drama stole the limelight from the intended real issue (Tretch’s struggle with his sexuality). Which is unfortunate, because you can see flashes of Will Walton’s almost brilliant writing buried in the rubble of teen angst.

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[521]: Three-Day Summer by Sarvenaz Tash


GOODREADS SUMMARY | Simon & Schuster BYR | ARC Paperback, 286 pp. | May 5th, 2015 | Young Adults | Contemporary | Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

This is one of those instances when I wish I had enjoyed a book much better than I did. When I got the email from Simon & Schuster, I knew it was something that I could really enjoy. First, because I thought it would be a perfect summer read; and second, because the story is set in the era of love, peace and music, man. I mean, Woodstock! The music festival that started all music festivals. Iconic. Historic. It was fun to read about legendary bands and performers of the time: Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker – to name a few. A walk down the memory lane and all that.

It wasn’t only those music legends that whetted my appetite. The 60s is an interesting period of time for me. I’ve always been curious about the social and political climate of the times. In this book, the author glanced over the ideals that started Woodstock: camaraderie through music, brotherhood/sisterhood transcending races and blood. It was meant to be a peaceful protest against the war, which was on everybody’s minds. Kids were terrified of being drafted; drugs and free love went hand in hand. Also, hair; lots of hair and nakedness. It was the worst of times and the best of times, folks.

Despite of all that, I couldn’t rate the book any higher than the paltry two stars I gave it. I found the writing to be somewhat pedestrian. So much so that the characters sounded juvenile and lacking any personality whatsoever. Cora and Michael bored me; they were flat characters who had very little to offer as far as charisma and dimensions go. I don’t know, maybe because the story’s short  that it didn’t really leave much room for character development? I felt like they could’ve been so much bigger, more in depth than how I perceived them. Ultimately, this single blight is what dragged the book down for me. Characterization is such an integral part of a great story. This book needed a lot of work in that department.

If there’s one thing that I can appreciate from this book is that how the author expertly transported me to Bethel, NY. How easily I could imagine being amongst the crush of bodies writhing in mud whilst in the haze of musical oblivion.  It was so easy to picture how carefree and uninhibited the people were. Above all things, it’s a glimpse of shared sentiments and worry about the Vietnam war and their futures. While Michael didn’t know what the hell he wants to do with his life, Cora didn’t know how  to make her dream a reality.

So far, this book has been getting quite a few favourable reviews on Goodreads. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but I really thought this book had so much unrealized potential.



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[519]: Galgorithm by Aaron Karo


GOODREADS SUMMARY | Simon Pulse | ARC, paperback 310 pp. | May 5, 2015 | Young Adult | Contemporary Romance | Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

I like Hitch. Will Smith was funny and the advice he doled out made sense. It’s all about confidence, you see? And attitude. Respecting the object of one’s affection and a bit of hard work.  Shane was no Hitch though.

Shane is the dating guru of Kingsview High. Much like Hitch, he helps out socially inept boys who are clueless when it comes to dating. There is a science to it, or in this case, Algorithm.  It’s a formula he’d device to help out the geeks and nerds; the clueless and the hopeless.

I like the bare bones of the plot: Shane helps his peers get out into the world with some sage advice in girls, mannerisms, and fashion. His main goal is so that they’ll never have to suffer through what he went through in the hands of one cruel heartbreaker. There are usual teen hijinks and unlikely romances between what would’ve been impossible pairings in the real world. And yet somehow, it works. 

There are guys that needed to get their hearts broken a million times before learning the curve, but not Shane. It only took one, and unrealistically, he became an expert.  Shane is a smooth operator, suave for one who’d only ever experienced love once. He knows what to say to the ladies, and can anticipate their needs. He’s gained a reputation as a miracle worker. So much so that his Math teacher recruited him for help.

Books told in male’s perspective are rare in YA. Even rarer to find one that’s not quite as candid and enjoyable. In my experience, I’ve yet to find one that I didn’t like. Unfortunately, it sucks being inside Shane’s head. He didn’t have the right mix of pubescent maturity and ill-timed illumination that I find amusing in male POVs. Even his realization that he was in love with his best friend wasn’t convincing. I wasn’t convinced, and to be honest, they didn’t really have chemistry. 

It probably would’ve been sweeter to be in Jak’s head. She’s spunky; she’s got no filter which makes her even more hilarious. She’s the token best friend. They’ve been bffs since they were kidlets so they have a long history together. I like that she didn’t fall readily for ‘that guy’, even though it would only make sense.

Over all, Galgorithm was cute in some, but generally not that great of a read. I was really disappointed. If you’re looking for a quick, mindless read, this book is for you. But over all, I wasn’t impressed.

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[517]: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

DSC00101GOODREADS SUMMARY | Series: Red Queen, #1 |HarperTeen | Hardcover, 383 pp. | Published: February 10th, 2015 | Young Adult Fiction | Fantasy | Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Warning: By the end of this review, you will hate the words, annoyingsmirking, and WHY. ALSO, a bit of a rant ahead. 

The Selection? Maybe. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never read the books. Graceling? Why? Because they have powers? Possibly. Why don’t you just try and market the book on its own merits? Why are you setting me up for a sure disappointment? Because I freaking love Graceling, okay? It has a fantastic world, phenomenal writing, and women of great independence and power. This? This does not even come close.

It could’ve been good. But the amount of smirking going on drove me insane. To tell you the truth, this is the most annoying book I’ve ever read this year.  And all the claims that it borrowed bits and pieces of plots from books in this genre, is true. While I went in with an open mind and purely expected that to be the case,  it didn’t bother me one bit. But somehow, I still ended up feeling…gipped.

It had a great start. I love the concept right off the bat. I love reading about characters with superpowers. Granted, their powers didn’t really cover a wide scope (you’re either a fire starter, a mind controller, or in Mare’s case, an electrifier). I thought it was still interesting. But all that potential for greatness was eclipsed when I was introduced to all the boys vying for Mare’s attention. I’m more inclined to say, seriously? She’s not all that great. Why? Why?! And have I mentioned the amount of smirking going on in here? Thanks to this book, I can no longer stomach boys and girls who smirk. Staph. Just stop using this word.

Half the time, Mare’s thought processes were as incoherent and in-cohesive as this review.  She’s immature. She waffled between brothers, which again, is just annoying. And to be honest, neither boys were all that interesting and worthy. You have a younger sibling who wants to best his brother first and foremost; who hides behind his stature and who’s got questionable intentions and loyalties. Then you have the older brother, the apparent heir to the throne, who can’t decide whether or not he wants to save his kingdom or look good in front of Mare. Neither boys deserves her time and affection. Or Mare deserves both because well, I don’t really care.

Please don’t take my review to heart. You all know that I am not a fan of this genre. But sometimes, there are fantasy novels that changes people. In this instance, however, it just cements my dislike for it.  And that is the sad part, because I really want to have a change of heart. I want to be able to read fantasy without feeling like it’s a daunting task. Lately, the more I read books from this genre, the more I want to stab myself with a dull knife. Repeatedly.

All in all, this was not a good read. At. All. Sorry.

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[509]: Give a Little by Kate Perry

Phoenix Rising Enterprises | E-book from author
January 12th, 2015
Series: Summerhill, #7
Adult Fiction | Romance
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Beatrice Summerhill lives for the thrill of seeking out cutting edge investments and risking it all. But when it comes to the matters of the heart, she only knows how to run. Run away, and keep her sanity intact. They say you always compare every man that comes your way from your own father. And with the late, Reginal Summerhill as the ideal, it’s no wonder Beatrice would run for the hills from every man that knocks on her door. Some are easy to shake off. But Luca is the exception.

Luca may be a successful Formula One race car driver; one who lives for the thrill of speed. But nothing can compare to the thrill of chasing one, Beatrice Summerhill. The woman is as slippery as an eel.  When he’s given the opportunity to give her the world, he asks for a week to convince her that he’s the only one she would ever need.

my thoughts

I am a huge fan of this author. It’s not often that I get the opportunity to read and review her books. When I was contacted by her publicist to  read this, I grabbed the chance even though I’ve not read any of the books from this series. Which is primarily why I didn’t really enjoy this. I didn’t have a rapport with Beatrice. None whatsoever. That’s not to say reading the rest of the books would’ve improved this rating drastically. Not even one bit.

My major misgiving with this book, is the fact that the story moved at a break-neck speed. It was almost like Kate rushed the plot, and couldn’t wait to get out of the Summerhill’s respective lives. I was also frustrated with Beatrice, and felt sorry for Luca. The man was persistent and irresistible, but Bea’s fear of trusting anyone was her downfall. Sometimes, her hang-ups didn’t even make sense anymore.  But I suppose it’s how it is when you’re finding ways to tuck tail and run.

Even if this book was a bit of a disappointment, it at least whet my appetite for everybody else’s stories. I just know that this series will be the source of a brand-new addiction, and I can’t wait to meet the rest of the Summerhills.

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