Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday Review: A Trio of Summer Reads

Susan Mallery's books set in Fool's Gold is one of my favorite (and typically automatic) reads. This summer's selection includes: SUMMER DAYS, SUMMER NIGHTS, and ALL SUMMER LONG.

SUMMER DAYS is the one I read earlier this summer and I wasn't "in love" with the story enough to recommend it. The story itself wasn't bad; and the characters weren't "annoying" or one of the other colorful descriptions I normally have about characters I don't like. I think, looking back, my disappointment with this book is that the hero is basically a CEO (and I'm not a fan of CEOs, period) and the heroine is a girl who raises goats...and her name is Heidi. Which admittedly I was not a fan of that little literary joke. Again, I think this was a personal choice on my part. If Susan had managed to tie her characters to a Harry Potter reference, I would probably praise it for days. So in and of itself, not a bad story, but due to my personal prejudices, not one with my glowing recommendation.

SUMMER NIGHTS is the next in the series, which features a flirty librarian and a handsome cowboy with horses. This went much better for me. I mean, there's a gorgeous stallion (and I'm not talking about the hero) and I fell in love with the hero's horse. There was also a lovely substory where a little girl who had been burned in a previous book is taking riding therapy lessons--I love this sort of stuff in Susan's books. I love the town she has built. This book totally restored my faith in this series--and I was happily looking forward to the third in the series....

ALL SUMMER LONG is the final in the trilogy featuring these heroine friends and brother heroes. The firefighter heroine ends up falling for the ex-underwear model brother. The firefighter has an interesting backstory; she'd been raped in college (her virginity) and no one believed her because the guy was popular and good-looking and she was neither of those. Her sexual experience is extremely limited; and due to the assault, she is clearly loathe to get close to another man. Her transformation in the book is wonderful--I really loved how it was handled. The ex-underwear model is SO good. I think he's officially my favorite hero of Fool's Gold now. I'm tempted to re-read this one--and I've definitely dogearred some of the "special scenes" for later. Because they were really exceptional.

Anyway, now I'm all keyed up for the next trilogy for Fool's Gold. And the Christmas in Fool's Gold that's coming out this Fall.

What series do you most enjoy keeping up with? Do you keep going in a series even if one or two books isn't as great as the rest? What author do you enjoy reading that handles "real life" situations admirably in their writing?

31 comments:

TerriOsburn said...

You sent me some of these Fool's Gold books, but per my usual, I've yet to read them. I should though. Since I have no problems with CEO's, they all sound good to me.

MsHellion said...

I wonder if I would have gotten more comments if I'd titled it: "Susan Mallery discusses legitimate rape". It does deal with the very real issue when the woman is not believed, when her experience of the events is degraded and downplayed--by the police and rapist...and her own mother. I really love that book...and Charlie's interactions in the other books.

These three heroes (even the CEO) are all very dreamy heroes. The kind of men you want to know, who value and respect women.

Janga said...

I liked Summer Days better than Summer Nights. Although Heidi, the goat girl made me roll my eyes, I found Shane's behavior irritating to a jaw-clenching degree. I must admit his grovel scene was a winner. But I loved everything about All Summer Long. It's not only my favorite of the series but one of my favorite Mallery books ever--and she's written a lot of books. Clay and Charlie both are such likable, endearing characters, and the role reversal of firefighter heroine and underwear model hero delights me. I've already read A Fool's Gold Christmas, and it's a good one too. A bit predictable, but I can forgive that when I like the characters. And I like Evie, the Stryker bothers' sister, and Dante, the CEO's partner a lot.

I just read the Virgin River Christmas book too. I think it's #20 in the series. While none of the last seventeen have engaged me to the degree that the first three did, they've all been good reads. If Carr writes #40, I feel sure I'll be reading it. Sherryl Woods's long series are really uneven for me. I almost gave up on the Sweet Magnolias series, but free ARCs kept me reading. The last two have been strong books, the equal of the first books. The only series I can think of that haven't suffered from some unevenness are some trilogies and quartets. Nora's Quinn Brothers books are all excellent as are Eloisa James's Essex Sisters and Anne Gracie's Merridew Sisters. But even among those, I have favorite books.

irisheyes said...

The series I like to keep up with is Robyn Carr's Virgin River series. I know some are getting tired of it, but I still enjoy her voice and her characters. Her first three still remain the best of the series, IMHO. Each one dealt with real life situations and did a remarkable job.

The first one, VIRGIN RIVER, the heroine is dealing with her young husbands death in a violent senseless crime and trying to move on from that. The second book, SHELTER MOUNTAIN, dealt with spousal abuse and the very real danger present in domestic violence situations. The third book, WHISPERING ROCK, deals with rape and the victim's recovery. I can't speak to how realtistic it was (Thank God!), but it was an awesome story with a hero that was amazing. I always have a hard time deciding whether SM is my favorite or WR. I love all three, but those two are a notch above. The other thing I love about Robyn is that she can write abused, damaged heroines who also happen to be strong women.

I've read ALL SUMMER LONG, Hellie, but not the previous two in the series. I liked it a lot. I, too, thought Susan Mallery did a great job with Charlie's rape and handling the way Clay helped her recover.

irisheyes said...

LOL, Janga! Looks like we posted simultaneously!

fsbuchler said...

I read the latest Stephanie Laurens' Cynster Sisters trio this summer. I've been a fan for a long time, This series deals with the three younger sisters of two of the original male cousins. In each book one of the sisters is kidnapped and then rescued by thier hero. There is an overall story arc that culminates in the final book. I enjoyed them, and I know she puts a lot of research into the settings of her books, but there could have been a little less geographic information used in the books. It often bogged the stories down. Sometimes less really is more.

TerriOsburn said...

And it looks like you agree. LOL! I'm amazed that anyone could reach 20 books in the same series. But then I remember hating that moment I'd finish a Nora Trilogy and have to leave that place and those characters. So I see the allure for the readers.

Janga - I started a Sheryl Woods a couple nights ago. Waking Up In Charleston. I like her voice so far, though I've not gotten far. Some info dumping for the heroine and the book is HUGE, but I'm curious enough to keep reading and see if I like her voice. It's very engaging so far.

TerriOsburn said...

Could I use the word "far" one more time? Sheesh.

Flora - They all three are kidnapped and rescued? And that didn't seem like reading the same book over and over?

Maureen said...

Ahem. Well, uh...let me see. I've read all the Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher. I don't know how many there are. I'm presently re-reading the Miles Vorkosigan series by Loia McMaster Bujold...

Once upon a time I read all the Quantum Leap books, all the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Books, most of the Star Wars books, a big chunk of the Star Trek books...

Series junky? Me?

Romance wise, well, a few of the Nora series, Patricia Rice wrote a few sweet trilogies I enjoyed. (Sweet as in good, not sweet as in sex behind closed doors.) Eloisa is a given. There was one with three sisters and a candy store??? I don't remember who wrote it...

Longmire!

*giggle!

Yeah, I read a ton of series set in the same world, same characters. I read a ton of mysteries and man, most of them are a series anymore.

Oh, I have to mention Judi McCoy's Goddess trilogy...inspired me to mix magic with romance!

Janga said...

Terri, Irish and I nearly always agree about books, and obviously we are both big Robyn carr fans.

Flora, I think the Cynster series may be one of the longest-running in romance. Do you know how many books are in the series now?

irisheyes said...

But then I remember hating that moment I'd finish a Nora Trilogy and have to leave that place and those characters. So I see the allure for the readers.

That's it exactly, Ter!

I've only gone nuts over the next book in a series maybe a handful of times - JQ's Bridgerton books, LK's Wallflower & Hathaways series, EJ's Essex sisters, SEP's Chicago Stars books and Robyn Carr's Virgin River series. After I finished the first one I scoured the stores looking for the next and the same with the third one. Luckily for me they released in consecutive months, so I didn't have to wait too long. And she has consistently released at least 3 a year since then. They're huge comfort reads for me. I know what I'm getting - no surprises and it's always a good story (if not great every time) and sometimes I get a glimpse at old characters and their HEAs.

MsHellion said...

Janga, I do agree that Shane's behavior got a little old fast, but I don't think it was too dissimilar from Rafe's attitude toward Heidi in the first book, thinking she was trying to take them for a ride. Since the grandfather had done those things, not her.

But I agree that Charlie and Clay were very endearing characters!

It's hard not to pick favorites. :)

irisheyes said...

The new trend in romance seems to be the small town, multiple characters lots of story potential books. The funny thing is that I've tried a lot of other authors that are writing these types of stories and not a lot of them keep my interest like Robyn's do. Not sure why, really. I think with some of them, at least for me, the characters aren't as likable. I really like all the characters that Robyn has created.

MsHellion said...

Irish, between you and Janga, I'm going to have to look up the first three Virgin books. (Maybe they're like those cowboy Lorraine Heath books, eh?)

ALL SUMMER LONG was my favorite--so if you only read one of them, I think you read the best one.

Maureen said...

I wish I could remember the sweetshop series author... Three sisters, some super dooper cake recipe, I think... One runs the shop, the youngest is the big screw up...middle on... Dang...was she a musician???

MsHellion said...

Fsbuchler, you know I think I might be the only one who hasn't read a Cynster book! Holy cow. Do you have a favorite of that series?

MsHellion said...

Terri, I think there is a difference between 3 and 20 books. I always think 5-6 is a better stopping point to switch series. *LOL* OR have 3, but have the next 3 sorta kinda connected.

MsHellion said...

Mo, ah, McCoy! How is your story going? She was a great inspiration to so many writers!

MsHellion said...

Irish, if I look at books I like best, the biggest the cast of characters, the more I like it. *LOL* I could never do it...but it's my preference to read. AND to watch on TV. My favorite TV shows are laid out my favorite books.

irisheyes said...

I've been picking up book after book where the author feels in order to create conflict she has to make either the hero or heroine complete jerks. And I guess they just don't do a good enough job of redeeming them in the end.

I think we had this discussion somewhere recently where a really awesome author can take someone you really can't stand at the beginning of the book and make you love them by the end. I guess I'm not picking up the right books cause the characters are starting out with huge flaws and I'm not seeing the change towards the end, IMO. Then what started out as a cute, summer read is turning into a wallbanger cause you don't see why he/she is settling for Mr. or Mrs. Loser.

*Can you tell I've picked waaaay too many of these books. LOL*

MsHellion said...

Irish, we were referencing SEP--who seems to pick characters who are jerky in the beginning in a big way and turns them around to where you like them. I'm always shocked when I like her characters later. *LOL* SHOCKED I tell you!

But when it feels like all the books you're picking up are like this, it can get old. It's like you want to go, hey, I-spy aren't the only books who can have people who are NICE. Nice people can have sex.

irisheyes said...

If you pick up VIRGIN RIVER, I'm pretty sure you'd be able to tell by the 3rd or 4th chapter if it's for you, Hellie. She definitely has a distinct voice and way with characterization.

I'd be interested to see if you think it's as great as we do! LOL

Maureen said...

I do wish I could remember the author of the sweet shop series. There were three sisters...some incredible cake recipe that was a family secret... Younger sister who screwed up a lot... Really cute covers, too...

Maureen said...

Great, google said it ate my comment before and then published it anyway!

My Judi tribute story is slo-o-o-o-o-owly coming together...

irisheyes said...

Nice people can have sex.

That's how I feel! LOL And people who have commitment issues can be nice, so can people who have a rough childhood. It's like these (mostly guys) are total tools and use some past horror to excuse the fact that they're treating the heroine like dirt. I guess it all comes back to no character development. It's like a formula (bad childhood + cheating girlfriend = acceptable assinine behavior)

MsHellion said...

Riiight, so you should definitely skip the 2nd book in the series I listed above. *LOL*

quantum said...

I think Janga reviewed these books a while back with rather similar conclusions.

If two favourite lady authors fall for a male underwear model it just has to be worth a look. "All Summer Long" is already on my TBB for audio books! LOL

My vote for best series goes to Virgin River as well!

Janga said...

Maureen, Susan Mallery's Bakery Sisters series--Sweet Talk, Sweet Spot, and Sweet Trouble--fits your description. Claire is a concert pianist, Nicole runs the bakery and raises her younger sister, and Jesse is the former wild child. Gabe, the hero of Sweet trouble is another Mallery hero I want to hit.

irisheyes said...

LOL, Janga. I think I read some reviewer on Amazon complain about Mallery's heroes. Kind of implying they didn't have a whole lot of heroic characteristics. Maybe that's why I've avoided her books until now. I really liked Clay, though. So I know she can write a good one when she sets her mind to it!

I think I took a chance on this one because the storyline really pulled me in. I like the idea that the rape was in her college days and she's been a functioning adult in every other way except she's steered clear of men. I also remember reading someone comment that Clay was not a typical Mallery hero in that he was a truly good guy.

Maureen said...

Thanks, Janga! You nailed them. Interesting trio of sisters!

Janga said...

Irish, Clay may be the best, but Mallery has created some other great heroes. I like Dante, the hero in her 2012 Christmas book. He is fearful of commitment, but he doesn't engage in the asinine behavior of Gabe and some others. But Mallery does have more than her share of jerky heroes.

Ter, I like Waking Up in Charleston. In fact, I like that whole trilogy--The Backup Plan, Flirting with Disaster, and Waking Up in charleston. But trilogies are easier to sustain, I think. Woods's Chesapeake Shores series (nine books) and Sweet Magnolias (ten books) are the two I found most uneven.