Fall cannot come soon enough for me. This summer seems to be dragging by in excruciatingly slow misery. Heat, humidity, illegal fireworks, shady neighborhood goings-on, personal physical discomfort, and – on top of all that – one dissatisfying read after another. I don’t know whether the fault lies with me, the season, the societal climate, or the actual quality of the books themselves, but the majority of the books I’ve read over the past couple of months have left me feeling disappointingly flat. The only stand-outs to wake me from my apathetic stupor this summer have been Peter Darling by Austin Chant, The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel, The Imperfection of Swans by Brandon Witt, my binge read of Sarah Addison Allen’s entire back catalog, and R. Cooper’s newest novella, For Better or Worse. I’ve read over 50 titles so far this summer and only eight of them have captured my full attention.
So for this month’s TBR Challenge, our mission was Series Catch-up. This is where we pick back up on a series we were behind on and I had several to choose from. You see, I have a bad habit of growing bored with a series that follows the same couple over more than one book. I prefer series that feature a different couple for each book in the series. The only exceptions to this are the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon (and even with this I am still behind because I stopped reading partway into the fifth book — but more about that next month!) and The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.
It took me two tries before I was able to meet this month’s challenge.
Rusty Nailed by Alice Clayton
In this sequel to Wallbanger, fan favorites Caroline Reynolds and Simon Parker negotiate the rollercoaster of their new relationship while house-sitting in Sausalito.
Playing house was never so much fun—or so confusing. With her boss on an extended honeymoon, Caroline’s working crazy-long hours to keep the interior design company running—especially since she’s also the lead designer for the renovation of a gorgeous old hotel. And with Simon, her hotshot photographer boyfriend, gallivanting all over the world for his job, the couple is heavy-duty into “absence makes the heart grow fonder” mode. No complaints about the great reunion sex, though!
Then a trip back east to his childhood home has Simon questioning his nomadic lifestyle. He decides to be home more. A lot more. And he wants Caroline home more, too. Though their friends’ romantic lives provide plenty of welcome distraction, eventually Caroline and Simon have to sort out their relationship. Sure, more togetherness is a good thing—but does less traveling and working have to mean the other extreme? Apple pie and picket fences? With this second book in the Cocktail series, USA TODAY bestselling author Alice Clayton delivers another delicious, frothy confection of a book, shaking up her characters, stirring in laugh-out-loud humor, and serving sizzling romance straight up!
My first attempt was to read Rusty Nailed (The Cocktail Series Book 2) by Alice Clayton. Let me just say that I loved Wallbanger, the first book in the series. It was hilariously fantastic and I loved every minute of it. Which is why I’ve been reluctant to read this second book. It’s just been sitting on my Kindle for three years. So, I tried reading it for this month’s challenge and I only made it 15% into the story before I couldn’t bring myself to read any more of it. As I said, revisiting characters who have already achieved their HFN in a previous book is not something I enjoy or something that comes easy to me. I find it difficult to care about a couple the second time around and I find 9 out of 10 of those type of stories tedious and disappointing and this was no exception. It felt disjointed and forced. The beginning was choppy and rambling and I just couldn’t get into it. Maybe someday I’ll go back and finish it. Maybe I won’t.
Swear (My Blood Approves Book 5) by Amanda Hocking
In the final book of the My Blood Approves series…
Alice has moved on and is settling into a new country with a new career as a vampire hunter. Finally, she’s created a stable, happy life for herself and her family, including her boyfriend Jack. Or at least as stable as her life can be, especially with a dangerous vampire cult resurfacing.
But everything she’s worked for is put in jeopardy when she receives a disturbing message – one that sends her on a quest that delves into a tragic mystery that has haunted Peter for years.
When I first discovered this series five years ago, I binge read the first four books in less than a week. I hated the way the fourth book ended. It left me feeling betrayed. I know better than to read books containing love triangles. They never turn out well for me. Hell, I’m still pissed off about Bella choosing Edward in the Twilight books. Needless to say, I would have made a very different choice than Alice made. I was so disappointed that I was grateful Amanda Hocking kept delaying the fifth book. I wanted to forget about this whole series. But while I was updating my Goodreads account at the first of this year, I discovered the fifth book was finally published last November and I caved in, adding it to my TBR. I had to know if maybe Alice changed her mind or if fate stepped in and altered the outcome. You have to understand that I was really rooting for the other guy. He was the obvious choice to me and I was particularly fond of him. Unfortunately, I was disappointed yet again. But I do, at least, feel like I have a sense of closure now that I did not have at the end of book four. I still don’t like it, but I do understand the author’s choices and respect them. Even if she did rip my heart out at the end of this book.
Now, this book wasn’t as well-written as the first four books. It was set five years from the end of the last book. The story felt rushed and the copy was very sloppy. When I spend hard earned money on an ebook, I at least expect it to be a clean copy with all the words present and in the right order. Grammatically, this read like a rough draft. A lot of missing words in scrambled sentences. The more I have to work at deciphering the text of a story, the less likely I am to sink into that story. This also read as if the author had lost touch with her characters, or just wasn’t interested in them anymore, and just wanted to be finished with this series, once and for all. The plot was relatively straightforward and uncomplicated, with most of the big reveals telegraphed well in advance. All in all, my opinion about the characters aside, it wrapped up all the loose ends and tied up all the dangling threads with a satisfactory conclusion to the series.
But that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it. Just feeling less betrayed than I was at the end of book four and heartbroken for an entirely new reason.