Wednesday, August 19, 2015

#TBRChallenge 2015: Beware the Ides of Impulse

I often tell TBR Challenge participants that the idea behind the challenge is "fun."  You don't need to read to the monthly theme.  You can skip months without feeling guilty.  And you can DNF.  DNFs are totally allowed.  In a bid to "practice what I preach" I thought I would detail the long, sad strange trip that this month's Impulse Read theme sent me on.  Four DNFs and, finally, a novella I managed to get through.  I'm ready to stick a fork in this theme and declare it done!
I love historical westerns, and have impulse bought a lot over the years to "support" the sub genre.  I had the epic (see left) Dorchester Leisure print edition of After the Ashes by Cheryl Howe in my TBR, but it's since been reissued self-pub by the author.

Post-Civil War the heroine leaves Kentucky to live with her baby brother in New Mexico, the only family she has left.  The hero, a bounty hunter, shows up looking for said brother thanks to a stagecoach robbery gone bad.  Heroine just knows there's some mistake, because baby brother is a precious snowflake.  Hero leaves, baby brother returns, and convinces heroine to go into town and "sweet talk" the hero into letting him be.  Yes, dear baby brother suggests the heroine whore herself out - although not in so many words, and she....goes to town.  OK, not figuratively.  They don't actually "do it."  Then her and hero return to cabin only to discover baby brother has run off with what little money heroine had to her name.  Then a deputy shows up, a man the hero doesn't like, and in full Protect The Heroine mode, he tells the guy they're married.  Another heroine who will walk through fire for a relative who doesn't deserve it, plus for someone who managed to survive living through the Civil War - she was just too naive for my tastes.  It wasn't horrible, but I wasn't engaged.  DNF'ed after about 50 pages or so.
I picked up Wicked As Sin by Jillian Hunter at RWA 2008 - which I drove to.  Not having to ship books home = Wendy takes every book not tied down.  This starts out OK, but lost steam for me and I DNF'ed after 75 pages or so.  Hero is a former soldier and gambler who wins stately manor in poker game.  Stately manor is located in the town where he grew up and developed his wicked reputation.  Heroine is next door neighbor, pleased to be a spinster thanks to a fiance' who "took advantage" of her before he left to fight Napoleon.  Thankfully he had the good sense to get himself killed and now everybody thinks she's consumed with grief over the death of her beloved fiance'.

The mix of banter and humor juxtaposed against angsty backstory didn't always gel for me.  It was like this story didn't quite know what it wanted to be.  Also, it's the eighth book in a series, and while that wasn't a problem in the early chapters, I could see it heading down the Past Couples Showing Up road and I just wasn't in the mood.  The final nail in the coffin though was that the heroine's almost-brother-in-law shows up acting all skeevy towards her, although with more subtlety than his brother.  He drives all the way out to country to say, "Hey I know what my brother did to you, he was so uncouth and lacked finesse - you should totally be MY mistress!"  Really?!  It didn't work for me.  So, moving on.
Category romance, besides historical westerns, is one area where I happily impulse read.  I'm sure I picked up The Officer's Girl by Leigh Duncan at an RWA conference, but not sure which year.  Heroine is taking temporary job assignment in Florida and has rented a house on Cocoa Beach, which the Realtor assures her NEVER gets hurricane action.  Except a hurricane is on it's way, but the heroine is just SURE it's no problem.  The barrier island is literally evacuating, but she apparently fails to see people leaving town in packed up cars or homes with storm shutters and boarded up windows - so she pulls in, unpacks her boxes and is angry that the cable guys are late in arriving.  The hero is a cop driving around making sure everyone is evacuating like good little monkeys, when he spies the heroine.  He starts telling her she needs to leave.  She's dumbfounded.  He decides to slap the handcuffs on her to get her to listen.  I mean, really - what did he expect?  There she in all polished, put-together, in her designer clothes and fancy manicure.  She's totally a "me me girl" (literally, his words). Selfish and self-absorbed.

So first impressions?  She's a moron and he's an asshole.  I couldn't DNF this one quickly enough.
Hearts Are Wild by Laura Wright was either an impulse used bookstore purchase or library book sale find.  It's amazing how dated 2002 is now.  Heroine is starting her own matchmaking business (which includes videotaping clients "My name is Sharla, I like puppy dogs and long walks on the beach...."), and in walks the hero, with his leather jacket and his motorcycle out front.  He claims to be her new roommate and he's there to pick up the keys.  Seems Dear Old Granny rented him a room before she went into assisted living.  Heroine says, I can't live with you.  He says, I signed a lease.  She says, I don't care.  He says, too bad.  Then she says, hey give me four weeks to find you the perfect woman/match and I'll give you the keys and let you stay in the house. Um, sweetie?  HE'S SIGNED A LEASE.  Frankly I'd be torn between kissing Dear Old Granny on the lips (leather jacket wearing hunky hero on a motorcycle is cliche, but hello nurse!) or smothering the old bat in her sleep.  Decisions, decisions.

I love category romance and I'll obviously read a lot of wacky plots (amnesia, secret babies, boss/secretary romances) - but this meet-cute strained considerably for me.  DNF.
 I normally like to focus on "older" books in my TBR for the Challenge, but I was desperate to not end this month with a string of DNFs.  Plus, time was running out which means....novella.  I picked up a print copy of Snapped by Christine D'Abo in the Goodie Room at RWA this year and while it wasn't a smashing success, I managed to actually finish it.  I should probably give it a resounding A for that reason alone.

Heroine is the business brains of a small interior design firm she has with her BFF (the creative talent).  They're based out of Toronto, but have gotten roped into being judges on an interior design reality show.  The heroine's "job" is to be the bitch, which is a role she knows how to play.  While in New York filming, she's also gunning for a contract that they desperately need to stay afloat.  Too bad she's getting distracted by the hero, the assistant director, and a man she had a relationship with three years ago before it imploded in spectacular fashion.

This was a quick, sexy read and the first person narration really helped me find a reading groove after four DNFs in a row.  I also like the reality show setting.  What didn't work as well for me was the business deal sub-plot (Another "smart business-minded" heroine who drops the ball?  Really?!) and the first couple of sex scenes which take place in abandoned buildings.  In New York City.  (The hero is an amateur photographer and likes to photograph abandoned buildings).  Dude.  Not sexy.  Am I the only one who thinks Abandoned Building + New York City = Rats + Squatters?  I think this first sex scene is supposed to convince me how hot the couple is for each other - but dude, really?  An abandoned building?

This novella is connected to an earlier release, Nailed (the BFF's romance), which I haven't read.  It's obvious this is the second book in a duet, but I had no problem keeping up and didn't feel like the story suffered because I hadn't read the first one. 

This wasn't a resounding success for me, but hey - I finished it, and I would read D'Abo again.  So Final Grade = C+

And now let us all declare the Impulse Read theme D-E-A-D dead.  Praise Jeebus.


Jennifer said...

I hate that you had to go through all those DNFs, but bonus points for us blog readers for some intriguing mini-reviews! I like the reality TV premise of Snapped so I will probably add that to my "maybe read" shelf. The others I will pass on.

C.M. said...

Ha. That all sounds so frustrating, but honestly I am a teensy bit relieved that other people go through strings of non-starters. Sometimes I wonder if my attention span has diminished dramatically, because I used to literally read ANYTHING, and now I have months when nothing appeals enough to make me finish it.

Lori said...

I'm glad it wasn't just me. I didn't DNF my first choice for this month, but should have because it was incredibly irritating. I'm so glad I only paid a dollar for it because if I had paid real money I would have been seriously POed. I didn't want to write a review for it because it would have turned into one of those rage rants that gets out of hand. Fortunately, my second dive into the TBR was much more successful.

willaful said...

I also had a ton of non-starters (which I actually don't really mind, because less books in the house) but it was definitely a hard theme to fulfil, so praise Jeebus indeed. The theme is dead, long live the [replacement] theme!

SonomaLass said...

I loved this theme! Going through my unread books trying to remember why I bought each one was eye-opening.

nath said...

I had fun reading all your mni-reviews. You sure have a way with recapping stories, Wendy :)

Ouch though, just too bad there were so many DNFs.

I wonder in The Officer's Girl how the heroine didn't notice all the people leaving while she was arriving :P And sometimes, I wonder at authors... Is it they believe that small details like "he signed a lease" don't matter or that readers will overlook it or if it's the authors themselves who lack life experience...

Wendy said...

Yeah, this month was sort of brutal for me. But it just reinforces this idea that I need to spend more time dumpster-diving into the TBR. As in, sit in front of the print books, pick them up at random, read the first chapter and decide "Should it stay or should it go." Because really, four DNFs is a personal "best" for me.

Nath: Who knows. I swear, readers are a wacky lot. I'm sure a lot of the stuff that "bothered" me wouldn't bother a dozen other readers. And in the case of a couple of these, it I DNF'ed them because I was feeling "meh" while reading. I've told myself I really need to start DNF'ing more C reads, especially ones where I'm not fully engaged.