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The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy #1) by Nora Roberts

The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy #1) by Nora RobertsThe Next Always by Nora Roberts
Published by Berkley on November 1, 2011
Genres: Romance
Pages: 353
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
dnf

The historic hotel in Boonsboro has endured war and peace, changing hands, even rumored hauntings. Now it’s getting a major facelift from the Montgomery brothers and their eccentric mother. Beckett is the architect of the family, and his social life consists mostly of talking shop over pizza and beer. But there’s another project he’s got his eye on: the girl he’s been waiting to kiss since he was fifteen.

After losing her husband and returning to her hometown, Clare Brewster soon settles into her life as the mother of three young sons while running the town’s bookstore. Busy, with little time for romance, Clare is drawn across the street by Beckett’s transformation of the old inn, wanting to take a closer look . . . at the building and the man behind it.

With the grand opening inching closer, Beckett’s happy to give Clare a private tour - one room at a time. It’s no first date, but these stolen moments are the beginning of something new - and open the door to the extraordinary adventure of what comes next . . .

I would feel bad about this if I wasn’t prepared for this exact outcome. I was initially going to read this trilogy along with a friend who bought all three books. She’s also the friend who always prods me to keep reading the In Death series that Roberts writes under JD Robb as well. I was worried this book would not work for me (it didn’t) but since I do love reading HGTV Magazine and other magazines dealing with decorating I didn’t think it would be too bad. I was wrong.

I had to stop reading at the 20 percent point when I realized that the majority of this book was just a plug for real life businesses that Roberts own. She owns an inn at Boonsboro and it also sounds like the pizza place and bookstore are also owned by her as well. Which just makes the book a weird brochure to stay at this inn and go to this town to eat at this place and also buy books there. I honestly think this could have worked if Roberts had included pictures of the inn and the pizza shop and bookstore in this book. Or did something like have a character designing a website and talking about setting it up for the inn and then readers could click on it and it would take you to the site. I did like the first page which showed a diagram of the town and the locations of the other places (pizza shop and book store) so I think something like that could have made the book more fun. I guess I am just used to looking at graphic novels and comics on my Kindle Fire now that I am in love with anything that has illustrations these days.

The hero and heroine in this one (Beckett Montgomery and Clare Brewster) were dull as dishwasher. I don’t even know why Beckett was attracted to Clare since there didn’t seem to be anything about her that stood out to me. Roberts depicts Clare as a widow with three young boys and honestly the first thing that stood out for me is that she made her a younger version of the character in Black Rose (In the Garden #2) Rosalind Harper. Rosalind was also a widow with three sons. I also saw mixes of Zoe McCourt from Key of Valor (Key Trilogy #3) as well. I maybe rolled my eyes at Clare being widowed after her husband was killed by a sniper in Iraq. I honestly had to stop reading some of Macomber’s books for a while since every heroine was a widow and her husband died while working for special forces in Afghanistan. My friend who got further than I did let me know that some random dude appears and starts to stalk Clare so I guess that was what Roberts threw in between the long descriptions of rooms, decorations, and how people smelled.

Most of the men in these books fit one of three archetypes (nerdy guy who is deep down a very sexual being though you wouldn’t know it, the guy who is uptight who also may be afraid to commit/is ready to commit, and the bad boy). Sometimes the male characters are all three at once, but not usually. I guess that Beckett (the name alone people) is going to fit archetype #1. I honestly thought he was interested in the owner of the pizza shop first since he had more to say to her and noticed her changing the color of her hair. But when Clare was introduced, I had to go back and double-check she wasn’t the pizza shop owner.

There really wasn’t enough that I read for me to comment on other characters. Beckett is one of three boys so his other brothers Owen and Ryder. Based on the names alone, who do you think is what archetype? Owen seemed humorless to me and Ryder was a smartass. That’s all I got.

The writing was just one big love letter to the inn. Once the ghost entered the picture I was out. Once again, I saw shades of In the Garden and felt too annoyed to go on after that piece. The flow was hampered too since we would just randomly have one character talking about furniture or decorations and my eyes would glaze over.

I have to say though, that starting this book and DNFing it made me think about the In the Garden trilogy which honestly was the last trilogy I really enjoyed. I think I am going to go and re-read that soon.

dnf

Survivor in Death (In Death #20) by JD Robb

Survivor in Death (In Death #20) by JD RobbSurvivor in Death by JD Robb
Published by Berkley on August 30th 2005
Genres: Romance
Pages: 360
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
five-stars

The only thing that kept young Nixie Swisher from suffering the same fate as her parents, brother, housekeeper, and young sleepover companion was the impulsive nine-year-old's desire for an illicit orange fizzy at 2 a.m. Taking the bereft girl under her wing, Eve is determined to make sure the killers don't get the chance to finish their lethal job. From the first, however, the investigation is baffling. The Swishers were a nice family, living on the Upper West Side in a house with an excellent security system. Ordinary almost to a fault, they seemed unlikely victims for this carefully planned and executed crime. Valuables at the scene were left untouched, there was no sign of vandalism -- just the corpses of five people murdered in their sleep.

Honestly there is not a lot to say here except that this is one of my favorite “In Death” books. There are a couple of scenes that I found too outrageous to be believed (the ending with Nixie), anyone allowing Dallas to take a kid to live with her and Roarke instead of having her in foster care, etc. But I found that there were some wonderful callbacks to earlier cases that Eve had worked.

“Survivor in Death” opens up on a loving and happy family being murdered in their beds. Nixie Swisher, who is 9, ends up being the lone survivor. Due to Dallas and company not knowing why the Swisher’s were attacked and if someone out there may be looking to finish the job with Nixie, Nixie is then moved in temporarily with Eve and Roarke.

We actually in this book get to see how would Eve be with a child of her own (honest, probably to a fault, still loving, but not outwardly so) and we get to see how much Roarke desires to one day have children (yep plural) with Dallas. And I can honestly see how easily a child could fit seamlessly in both of their lives. Heck, if you don’t think Roarke would not be a stay at home dad and or taking the kids to work with him, you have not read an “In Death” book before. I can also see Summerset happily babysitting whenever they needed him to.

We do get several moving scenes in this one (seriously have a box of tissues nearby) and I did cry a few times while reading. This book brings up a lot of memories for Roarke and Summerset (we all know that Summerset’s daughter was kidnapped, raped and murdered) and Summerset especially becomes more developed in this one. The scene when he is rocking Nixie to sleep and telling her about a garden…sigh. I can’t even type it since I am welling up. I do have to say that I wanted to snap at Dallas a few times though. She acted like a jerk to Summerset and I was annoyed by it.

We get appearances by Mavis and of course Peabody, McNab, etc. What I thought was cool though is that we get reappearances by Richard DeBlass, Elizabeth Barrister (both in Naked in Death, #1-the case that brought Eve and Roarke together), and their adopted son Kevin (Vengeance in Death, #6)

The writing is top notch in this one I think. Robb definitely manages to hit your heart strings. The flow worked too, up until the end I thought. As I said above, I thought the ending was a bit too much to be believed.

five-stars

Visions in Death (In Death #19) by JD Robb

Visions in Death (In Death #19) by JD RobbVisions in Death by JD Robb
Published by Berkley on January 25th 2005
Genres: Romance
Pages: 354
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
five-stars

On one of the city's hottest nights, New York Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas is sent to Central Park-and into a hellish new investigation. The victim is found on the rocks, just above the still, dark water of the lake. Around her neck is a single red ribbon. Her hands are posed, as if in prayer. But it is the eyes-removed with such precision, as if done with the careful hands of a surgeon-that have Dallas most alarmed.

As more bodies turn up, each with the same defining scars, Eve is frantic for answers. Against her instincts, she accepts help from a psychic who offers one vision after another-each with shockingly accurate details of the murders. And when partner and friend Peabody is badly injured after escaping an attack, the stakes are raised. Are the eyes a symbol? A twisted religious ritual? A souvenir? With help from her husband, Roarke, Dallas must uncover the killer's motivation before another vision becomes another nightmare...

After reading the latest In Death books, I went back to my bookshelf this weekend and re-read some of my favorites. It was nice to see what drew me to this series and what I hope to see again one day.

“Visions in Death” follows Eve and company as they try to track down a serial killer. I really do love this one because we get to see the friendship of Eve and Peabody come full circle. We have fan favorites like Louise and Charles show up too (I love Charles). We have Feeney, Summerset, and Mavis. Heck, we even have Nadine. For once the huge cast of characters does very well together, though there were a couple of minor things that happened that took me out of the story. And what I really love is that Robb threw in a twist in the ending too. You think you know what went down til Eve reveals all. I will give Robb crap for that though since I wish we had seen clues of this in the book. I am not a fan when a mystery writer hides the clues so to speak to give a surprise ending to the audience.

Eve in “Visions in Death” is doing her best to track down a serial killer. The man leaves women dead, taking their eyes with him (shudder). As more and more women start to pile up, Eve is actually reluctantly inclined to involve a psychic in the hunt for the serial killer. What I do love about the “In Death” books which I wish that Robb would go back to more, is that men and women who are psychic or have the ability to read people are prevalent in this world. No one is mocking it and not saying it’s not real. And in one of the earlier books, Robb mentions that Dr. Mira has a daughter who is psychic.

What I really do love about this book is that we see a transformed Eve in this one. She opens up to Peabody and lets her know about her past. Because of what the revelations about Eve’s past could do to her current position on the NYPD, not a lot of people know about what happened to Eve as a child and also what she ended up doing (if you have read this series before now, you know that she murdered her father when he was about to beat and rape her again). Having her tell Peabody about that felt right. And Peabody’s reaction to the news confirms what she had started to suspect regarding Eve and her empathy for Eve breaks you a bit when you read it in print.

Roarke is Roarke in this one. He is juggling his billion dollar a day businesses while helping Eve in her hunt for this killer. When someone close to them gets injured, Roarke is all in to bring the person down. We also get to see Roarke in the end with Eve and they actually have a serious talk about what they want done if they die (it’s grim, but believe me when you read that scene you get it).

As I said above, we also get welcomed appearances by many in the “In Death” family. They are introduced organically and do not wreck the flow of the story at all. I really do wish at times we could go back to the earlier books when we didn’t have so many people to keep track of. Ah well.

The writing is top notch Robb. This is one of the earlier books and the payoff of 18 books and novellas at this point is really worth it. I did think the writing got a bit too much at one point when Eve is interviewing someone (no spoilers) and the person went from being out of it and high as anything due to meds being pumped in to being able to give a report to Eve in five seconds. Apparently in the future, meds work really fast.

The flow as I said earlier works.

The setting of the crimes takes place in Central Park. I have never been there, but Robb manages to capture the location and the many people/women in this story brilliant. I have said before, Robb does a good job with tertiary characters in this book I found. She manages to make them feel real to you in just a few short paragraphs. I have always wondered what happened to people after Eve no longer is investigating. In some of the books they do pop up again which is nice.

As I said, this book has a twist thrown in that when I first read it years ago I remember had my mouth hanging open. I was surprised as anything. Of course now re-reading this, I already knew that the twist was coming. But I have to say, that even though Eve lays everything out to you. I wish that we as readers had gotten more clues our way that this was an option.

five-stars

Apprentice in Death (In Death #43) by JD Robb

Apprentice in Death (In Death #43) by JD RobbApprentice in Death by JD Robb
Published by Berkley on September 6th 2016
Genres: Romance
Pages: 375
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
two-stars

Nature versus nurture...

The shots came quickly, silently, and with deadly accuracy. Within seconds, three people were dead at Central Park’s ice skating rink. The victims: a talented young skater, a doctor, and a teacher. As random as random can be.

Eve Dallas has seen a lot of killers during her time with the NYPSD, but never one like this. After reviewing security videos, it becomes clear that the victims were killed by a sniper firing a tactical laser rifle, who could have been miles away when the trigger was pulled. And though the locations where the shooter could have set up seem endless, the list of people with that particular skill set is finite: police, military, professional killer.

Eve’s husband, Roarke, has unlimited resources—and genius—at his disposal. And when his computer program leads Eve to the location of the sniper, she learns a shocking fact: There were two—one older, one younger. Someone is being trained by an expert in the science of killing, and they have an agenda. Central Park was just a warm-up. And as another sniper attack shakes the city to its core, Eve realizes that though we’re all shaped by the people around us, there are those who are just born evil...

Well this is probably going to go down as one of my least favorite “In Death” books.

I think the main reason is because after reading a lot of Jeffery Deaver and Michael Connelly the past two months, reading a JD Robb mystery/crime/romance novels is just not going to ring my bell. Usually I’m all for watching Eve, Rourke and their friends tracking down the bad guys. however, this book tells you who the perpetrators are at about the 24% point and then a major part of the book is just trying to catch the bad guys. I just lost all interest. And we all know that none of the main characters are ever going to bite the bullet so I wasn’t running around freaked out that somebody close to Eve was going to die like Eve did towards the tail end of this book.

I was honestly bored by Eve in this book. There was once again a nonsense fight per usual between her and Roarke in involving Summerset that was just really dumb. I felt like yelling at all parties concerned that maybe their petty little crap can wait till later considering the fact that they were standing around after at least 20 people had been killed. Also Eve hating the new bone doctor needs to stop, I’m over it, she’s acting proprietary over someone that she has no business acting that way towards.

And Roarke irked the crap out of me. There were two separate scenes where Eve was injured in a minor way and he didn’t give a s*** and wanted everybody to drop everything and attend to her and it was just…Lord I wanted to slap him that’s all I got.

I am going to say that Eve, Roarke, Peabody, McNabb, Dr. Mira, Baxter, Trueheart, and others were just the same characters that they’ve been playing throughout these many in death books. So there’s really no surprises there. I honestly just felt kind of bored by the sameness. I really do need to just see something different soon before I just lose all interest in this series. I don’t want to see a death happened just to have a death happened. But maybe Peabody goes off and works elsewhere. Maybe Peabody and McNabb get married and have a baby. Maybe Mavis moves away.

Something has to give soon because unlike with other mystery crime novels, these books are getting super stale like The Women’s Murder Club and Stephanie Plum series. Deaver and Connelly keep me engaged even when I’m yelling at the main characters. Also Deaver and Connelly are not afraid to let their main characters mess up and just be wrong. It’s boring having Eve always be right and or having a psychic dream or something that leads her to an answer.

I think the writing wasn’t as great in this one just because the book didn’t know what it was trying to do I think. We have Eve investigating these two snipers throughout this book, but then there are scenes with Rourke telling Eve about how a bed he wants int heir bedroom has a mysterious take behind it and tells Eve about it. Rourke also stop s the show to show Eve potential designs of her new office. I literally could not give two craps what Eve’s office and/or her bedroom looks like. And it also felt a little heartless that they were thinking about that with the whole city afraid because there was mass shootings happening. And all it did was remind me of how annoyed that the last book even had this whole Eve office redesign be a fight between Eve and Roarke.

Also speaking of the writing, JD Robb needs to figure out what is going on with the continuity in this series. At this point it’s maybe been a year and there’s been about 20 plus books in that timeframe. That means that there must have been a murder that Eve was investigating about every other week in the past year which makes absolutely no sense. At this point everybody should be fleeing from New York because you’re going to die since that seems to be were all the serial killers go. And maybe that would not have bothered me so much except the last three books based on the timeline have maybe happened just a couple days apart. At this point Eve should be burned out, exhausted, tired, and/or somebody else should be driving her caseload. I’m still unsure how she always keeps catching all these high-profile cases and none of them seem to get shuttled off to other lieutenants in the department.

I think the flow was not thay great in this one due to them going back and forth between scenes of mass shootings, to Eve investigating, then Eve consulting with Dr. Mira (who really didn’t add anything at all to this book) to romantic scenes with Rourke, to Eve and Roarke talking about the redesign of their bedroom and other rooms, then to Bella’s first birthday party, and then back into interviewing the suspects it just felt bizarre.

I thought that the ending was kind of blah and even though I already have a hold on “Echoes in Death” I’m kind of not looking forward to it. Here’s hoping that one is much better than “Apprentice in Death.”

two-stars

A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock #1) by Sherry Thomas

A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock #1) by Sherry ThomasA Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
Published by Berkley on October 18th 2016
Genres: Retellings, Historical Mystery, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 336
Source: Borrowed: print book
Goodreads
three-half-stars

With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

Wow. I can honestly say that after reading “Stalking Jack the Ripper” I was hesitant to read another historical. My big pet peeve is when authors write something taking place in the Regency or Victorian era and have their heroes and heroines pretty much come ripped out of modern times with their thinking and speech. Those worries quickly vanished as I started “A Study in Scarlet Women.” Based on reviews Thomas is a prolific historical romance author and she definitely has her time period nailed down. Do you know now happy I was to read a book where the heroine did something stupid (IMHO) and that she had to pay the consequences for it? That no one was all well you are so modern and awesome in your thinking we are going to totally pretend that you would still be accepted in Polite society.  That said, there were still a few issues I had with “A Study in Scarlet Women” which is why I was only able to give it 3.5 stars.

The book starts off with Livia Holmes thinking of her sister Charlotte and what a strange child she was. What comes through with this though is that Charlotte Holmes is very good at figuring out things about people just based on how they talk, what clothes they wear, and even the way they hold their body. And then we are giving more glimpses into Charlotte Holmes when based on her deduction skills she is able to figure out what a Lothario her father is and why her mother is always angry.  It quickly comes out though is that the Holmes girls (there are four of them) are lonely and Livia and Charlotte only have each other.  The story shifts and move and then Charlotte Holmes is found having relations with a married man by the man’s wife and mother. Due to one of the ladies being a huge gossip everyone quickly knows about Charlotte and when she is taken home her mother and father are also told.  This leads to an ultimatum being issued to Charlotte that she is to be hidden off in the country somewhere which prompts her to run away from home, determined to get work.

From there the book moves onto a character named Inspector Treadles who is concerned that a man he has come to rely on while investigating cases, Sherlock Holmes, is suddenly ill and is not able to respond to entreaties made by him. Treadles uses a Lord Ingram as a go between for Sherlock Holmes and greatly admires both men. We may wonder why in the world Treadles is even in this book, but we quickly find out when it comes out that the mother of the man that was found with Charlotte Holmes is dead and this was after an argument between her and Livia Holmes. Livia is under suspicious when Sherlock Holmes announces this death, and two other ones are connected.

Is that a lot going on for a first book in a series? Yes it is. I also got why some readers ended up DNFing this thing because the first couple of chapters were so slow I found myself bored. Switching perspectives didn’t help matters any either. I also didn’t like that a lot of scenes happened off-screen. We had a lot of things referred to later that I would go, wait a minute, did I miss that?

I found the character of Livia okay, but we don’t spend much time with her after the first initial chapters, we just get her letters that are sent to Charlotte after Charlotte escapes their home. We are then provided information about Livia in the last chapter of the book (she loves to write stories) and after finishing the book, I can see how that is going to play out in subsequent books. I wish we had some hint of that in earlier chapters, or heck since Thomas had so many shifting perspectives, she could have just went back to Livia at some point. Livia, just like Charlotte though has some of the same talent that Charlotte has for deduction, even though she is not as gifted. I would say though that Livia definitely reads people better which is what surprises me about Charlotte later.

Charlotte was written in such a way that many things contradict the character. Since Livia sees her sister as cold and due to her sister’s talent odd, readers may first see the character that way. However, when the book shifts perspectives to Charlotte, we find out she is none of those things. She cares about her sisters, Livia and Bernadine, and is upset that her father broke his promise to her which caused her to seek retribution for that in a really stupid matter. Probably the big reason why I cheered this story though is that Thomas doesn’t sugarcoat how the world is viewing Charlotte know based on her actions. And I for one thought that since Charlotte was so smart, she should have seen the flaws with her plan. Charlotte though great at deductions is also terrible at reading people’s motives or even some people I found. So we get a really flawed Holmes in this one. And instead of addiction to drugs, we get one that is addicted to food which I am going to say, not a real fan of that whole thing at all.

Lord Ingram I found to be an intriguing character, and based on hints throughout the story and then the ending, I can’t wait to see what adventure is coming up for the sequel. I wish that his backstory had been told in a straightforward way, I usually don’t care for books that hint around about people and since the book flow was not great in this one, I think some people may have skipped over things.

I am going to say that the character of Inspector Treadles needs to be cut way down in subsequent stories. Even though this is supposedly a Lady Sherlock book, he took up a good portion of the story (at least 50 percent I would guess). We follow Treadles as he starts his investigations into one mysterious death that looks accidental and tries to tie two other deaths together based on what Sherlock Holmes has sent him in a letter. I do applaud this section of the book though, because it read like a very good Agatha Christie mystery. However, once again, it’s supposed to be a Lady Sherlock book, so having Treadles investigate, go back to Ingram, and then we have a convoluted set-up to information being given to Treadles (which once again makes sense, because the police in this time period would not be listening to anything said by a woman) and then he is off to investigate and interview again. I just felt like I was reading two very different books and nothing really comes together until the end. And the book all of a sudden does show Treadles to be kind of…annoying when he realizes that maybe his wife had other dreams than just being his wife (I know, women with our passions and wishes) and acts as if his whole world changed.

We have other characters in this book that intrigues me, and guess what we do get a Moriarty reference that made me happy. We also get to meet our “John Watson” and I loved that character so much I maybe lost my mind a little bit last night and clapped.

The writing I found to perfectly match the time period in which the story takes place. I found that the characters in the book also reacted as many would in this time and place and I was happy to actually have some nuance showed for how people who were Lords and Ladies were treated very differently than people like the servants depicted in this story.

I am going to flat out say though that the flow for future books needs to be improved. The book had so many shifting perspectives at first that it was a little hard to understand what was going on. We start off with Livia Holmes, we are then introduced to a Lord Ingram who is friends with someone named Sherlock Holmes who has been a prime resource for an Inspector Treadles at Scotland Yard. Then the book focuses on Charlotte Holmes, and then we shift back to Inspector Treadles for a good long while, and then we jump back to Charlotte Holmes. And we also go back to mini-cases that are being investigated by Sherlock Holmes. It just didn’t work at all. Any next books just needs to follow Charlotte and her “John Watson” in future books. Heck throw Livia in there if you must, but let’s keep things to a main plot, with few character asides and it will work.

The setting of the story was perfect and everything definitely makes sense for that time period. I do wish though that we got more information about certain members of the ton. We read references to a good many people that I was able to keep straight, but as I said, there was a lot going on in this first book that I can see why some people decided to just step away from the book.

The ending provided a shocker (at least to me) and I thought the letter aspect confessing all was a little meh though. I found that due to the mystery aspect of things, we find out though Sherlock was right about things, the why was a little harder to get to, and I would think if this was a typical Sherlock Holmes book, he would have found out all in short order. But, I get why in this case why things were hampered by the fact that our Sherlock is a woman who really cannot investigate alongside the police. And i will say that the final reveal may be a bit much for some readers because it refers to some things that may be hard for some to read about.

Based on the last few lines in the book, I have a sneaking suspicion that the next book is going to be taking on the plot of “A Scandal in Bohemia” and I for one, cannot wait for it.

three-half-stars

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