Archive for the ‘Foster’ Category

Man with an Accent & Romance Triggers

January 26, 2009
I’ve done a post before about audiobooks and how I mentioned that I prefer male narrators to female because of the way a man can (usually) cant his voice in a way that his female voice doesn’t sound ridiculous. It’s usually done with less emphasis on the narrator’s strong deep voice using a realistic falsetto. On the other hand, a woman narrator lowers her voice to achieve the male voice and it usually sounds too fake to my ears. In other words, a male narrator can swing both ways while a female can’t. Plus, I think a man’s voice is typically more soothing to listen to than a woman’s. 
In addition to what I wrote previously about audiobooks, I was elated to have received a comment from author Lori Foster because I had mentioned that I liked listening to her audiobook, Caught In the Act. She commented that while it was totally not what she had in mind for Mick’s voice, hearing a reader/listener’s POV was interesting.

In any case, I’ve been steadily collecting audiobook files from my local libraries and from online sources such as Audible.com. Which, by the way, is pretty much the go-to site for audiobooks. It’s pretty user friendly and compatible with pretty much all the most popular MP3s including iPod and I’ve happily tried out their free trial to get a sense of the site. If you like or are thinking about audiobooks, I suggest you google “Audible free trial” and see for yourself. 
I’ve listened to Lori Foster’s Caught In the Act, some Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters, Megan Hart, etc. Recently, I’ve just finished two books that I was very happy with. After I read and loved Christine Feehan’s new GhostWalker book, Murder Game, I was delighted to find out that it was also out in audiobook format.
I like the narrator Tom Stechschulte. He does a nice deep voice with a hint of a Southern accent. His female voice sounds a wee bit too high to be just right but it’s not bad. Prior to Murder Game, I listened to Stechschulte on another Feehan GhostWalker book, Mind Game. Same results. The “narrator voice” is nice and consistent pretty much all of the time. He gives the “hero voice” a nice alpha male deep quality though like I mentioned before, the “heroine voice” seems a little too high for my tastes. 

However, the recent audiobook I really enjoyed was Phil Gigante narrating Karen Marie Moning’s The Dark Highlander. I’m new to the series and The Dark Highlander was the first I read in the series about a month ago. I’m almost all caught up with only Kiss of the Highlander left in my to be read pile. 
I was very excited to see The Dark Highlander out in audiobook, though I was a bit weary. There are a lot of accents needed to pull it off and a good reading of all the faery/fey terms and languages. I read that many people enjoyed Gigante’s reading of the books and I wholeheartedly agree. 
He does a fantastic “alpha male” voice with accents that aren’t too over done but just enough to really put the listener into the mindset. His “heroine voice” was very pleasant to listen to as well. High enough to be decidedly female, but not too much where I think drag queen or a man who’s just been racked and lost all the testerone from his body. In the end, I was able to doubly enjoy the book. I loved it when I read it the first time around, but listening to it bought in another level of enjoyment. I will definitely be checking out the rest of the series. 
Audiobooks are just as personal as picking out a romance book. Not all romance works for everybody. And even those readers with similar tastes will differ in what triggers a good read. And fans (even the diehard ones) will disagree on what makes a particular book in a series good. So, I think that the first step in exploring the genre of Romance is to find out what triggers work for you as a reader.
I’ve had friends and people I’ve met at the local Borders ask for recommendations before. I always start off with, “Well, what do you like to read? A sweet contemporary romance, paranormal, action/adventure, etc?” And even if they answer “Paranormal” I will then go on to ask, “what kind of paranormal? Vampires, were-animals, time travel, fey, or combinations of many paranormal elements.”
Personally, I’ve come to recognize my triggers in what makes a good read and keeper copy versus a so-so romance. And it’s funny now that I’ve found out what works for me because I would never have thought that about myself. It really draws a line between a fantasy world in a book and the real world.
For instance, one of my Good Read triggers is the endearment. I’ve found that most (but not all) romances that I’ve come to really enjoy usually has the pet name element. I prefer the hero giving it to the heroine. Some Highlander/Historical romances include generics such as “sweet” or “love.” I’m also a fan of the “baby” though I think that sometimes an author can overdo that one. A hero really has to be written as a total alpha to pull off “baby” in my opinion. Like Ward’s fourth Black Dagger Brotherhood book and how Butch calls Marissa “baby.” Lora Leigh is also quite fond of that endearment. And given that all her males are alphas to the extreme, I think it works. This is a weird trigger (I readily agree), but for some reason, it works for me.
Another trigger for me is the Ball Buster heroine. It’s a Bad Read trigger for me. I won’t say that 100% of all the super strong heroines that can be categorized as a ball buster automatically became bad reads for me, but I’ve come to find out that authors usually have a hard time showing a vulnerable or softer side to that kind of heroine. Some are successful though, but not all and for that, I’m not a fan of reading a heroine that doesn’t show a softer edge. I can’t really connect with those characters. 
This came as a surprise to me because as a relatively young romance reader, (as opposed to the middle aged/married/moms that people think of as the Romance genre audience) I thought I would appreciate the strong female lead. But I learned quickly that there was a fine line to walk between strong and ball buster. And while I really appreciate a heroine that goes after what she wants, I don’t like one that doesn’t have a softness to them. 
Another Bad Read sign is a lack of conversation during the intimate scenes. Now, I’m not saying that I need the hero and heroine to have a full out conversation during sex. What I find visually boring, and therefore usually has my eyes skipping over parts, is reading a sex scene in which there are paragraph after paragraph (and sometimes page after page) of straight up description of the actions. I like/need words exchanged between the hero and heroine here and there. Little phrases, not conversations. Stuff like a hero asking a heroine if she likes what he’s doing or him verbally encouraging her reactions or praising her during sex. Without some conversation to break up the monotony of plain ol’ description. 
Finally, I wrote earlier in a review that the ultimate Good Read Indicator was the “how will this end happily?” feeling. It’s a tightening in my chest as I’m reading and even though I know that as a Romance book, it logically must end happily, a good author will write twists within the plot that make me wonder how that happy ending will occur. It is happening less often more me now that I’m reading so many romances these days, but I will admit that the feeling happens when I least expect it to. Like my post on Nalini Singh’s Slave to Sensation. I really didn’t expect to get that Feeling when I was reading a first time author’s introductory book into a new series. But I did. And I’m get the Feeling from authors that I least expect it from and sometimes, sadly, less from authors who used to give me the Feeling.
Like I’ve said before many a times, Romance is a vast genre to explore but a very personal one at that. And now, as I’m enjoying Romance on a new platform via audiobooks, I’m finding that listening to Romance is just as personal as reading it.
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Secondary Romances

January 19, 2009
Since Lori Foster is publishing her latest SBC Fighters, My Man Michael, I decided to pick up my copy of Causing Havoc to get in the mood for the January 27 release date. When I was reading Causing Havoc, I got to thinking about secondary romances.

In Causing Havoc, the main couple is Dean and Eve but there is a secondary romance that occurs between Dean’s fellow fighter, Gregor, and Dean’s youngest sister, Jacki. Jacki was a character that was rife with body image. Tall and not particularly well endowed up above, she’s a character that doesn’t know her own appeal and doubts Gregor’s attraction to her. So while their courtship is layered in miscommunication with Gregor ultimately letting her know that he loved her and her body for just the way it was, I found their romance to be sweet but ultimately too short to feel satisfied. 
In best case scenarios for secondary romances, that’s how I feel: Like the romance was too short. However, more often than not, that’s not how I feel. I finish the book and feel like the author didn’t have enough plot to write an entire novel about one couple and threw in the second couple to pad the book. Plus, I’ll feel cheated out of the main couple by having to suffer through pages of another couple’s course to a happy ending.
In my readings, I’ve found that Susan Elizabeth Phillips is particularly fond of this secondary romance device. The second couple is usually a family member or close friend of either the hero or heroine and they go through quite an elaborate courtship. In Causing Havoc, Gregor and Jacki’s romance was short, maybe less than twenty pages all together. However, for Phillips, her secondary couple will go through an entire courtship and sometimes I find myself flipping ahead to see when I’ll get back to the main couple again. 
I basically don’t like secondary romances for reasons I’ve stated above. I’ve heard from some readers that they like them because it’s like getting a novella within the larger book. Those who like secondary romances feel like they’re getting a two for one deal. But for me…eh, it’s not my thing. I feel gypped that either 1) the main couple’s courtship is getting pared down because there’s not enough content to write about or 2) the secondary couple is better than the main couple and they’re not getting enough page space.
Personally, when I read a romance, the couple described on the back cover is the only story I want to read about. Do I want a good supporting cast to round out the book? Yes. But do I want to have a part of the book cut out to make room for another couple that could best serve their purpose in their own book or a novella? No. Just give me the story I signed up for when I bought the book, thank you very much.
P.S. I am very much looking forward to My Man Michael. Especially since it appears that she’s added in a paranormal twist with the heroine…

The Urban Paranormal Eve Dallas?

May 22, 2008

I wondered why Amazon kept on throwing Servant: The Awakening at me. Then I realized that L.L. Foster is Lori Foster’s pen name for her new adventure into urban paranormal romance genre. Good move to write under a new(ish) name because it certainly is a departure from the usual Foster fair. The setting, tone, and characters are dark, the wit is bounding off the pages as it usually is, and your heroine is so stubborn that it makes you want to strangle her sometimes.

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The plot itself isn’t all that fantastic: Gaby Cody, has a calling from God, sending her into the world with the unique vision of seeing evil for what it truly is. She alone can penetrate the facade of skin and bones and recognize evil at face value. Alone in her vigilante efforts to save the world, she is an extremely odd mix of innocence and world-hardened weariness. At twenty-one, she has the eyes of a warrior and the cynicism that is unparalleled. When a crime attracts the attention of Detective Luther Cross, Gaby’s world is suddenly embroiled in the tangling mess of legalities. 

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Okay, first off, as it appears from above, the plot is no master work. It’s straightforward, with little to no twists. To cap it all off, it’s a very obvious effort to launch a new series. Given all that, I must admit that I did not want to read it when I first came across it. And I also didn’t want to read it when I came across it the second, third, and fourth time either. First, it was the cover. Ironically, Foster has a note on her new L.L. Foster site that states she’s quite happy with the cover. On one hand, I can see that Foster was given the star treatment in the sense that the art department did take time to incorporate Gaby’s likeness into the computer generate model, specifically adding the leather choker that comes into play during a scene between Luther and Gaby. Other than the glaringly large misrepresentation of Gaby possessing cantaloupe-sized breasts when they’re described more in the lines of mosquitoes bite-sized. Another PR ploy that one must overlook…

Second reason why I never wanted to pick up the book was the issue of names. I don’t like the name Luther. Don’t have much of a reason other than it doesn’t exactly strike me personally as a hero name that signals strength and all that. But obviously I got over all of that and took a shot in the dark…

Funny how I immediately thought of Eve Dallas when I began reading Gaby’s character. Why? All that surly, snarky, tomboyish behavior. However, there’s a very contradictory innocence that softens Gaby’s character even though she’s got the mouth of a sailor. As a side note, for those who complain about the amount of bad language: I don’t think it’s all that bad as some reviewers on Amazon makes it sound. Perhaps it’s coming from the heroine that makes people cringe. But eh, I can let it go given the urban paranormal genre. Gaby’s innocence provided a few scenes that were a bit lighthearted, given the circumstances. The ones where Gaby is questioning Luther about what she saw brought a smirk to my face. For me, I can’t compare Eve Dallas to Gaby Cody simply because I don’t see enough parallels other than what I mentioned above. Eve is a grown woman and for some reason, the fact that Gaby is so young makes a difference for me. Maybe the largest linking factor to Dallas is that both these series feature the heroine first and the couple second. It threw me off in the reading pattern when I anticipated seeing Luther’s point of view but was not given to me until a good handful of pages later.

The biggest kicker? There is NO sex. Admittedly, I can see several reasons for it. First, it’s an obvious set-up to make sure the reader buys the next book. The lack of sex is enough to prompt me to want to pick up the next one to see how Luther and Gaby settle things. Second, the book is too short. I say that because the book starts off very slowly and the fact that it’s only 292 pages just wasn’t enough with all that internal dialoging going on. With Gaby’s extreme innocence and the slowness of the plot, it wouldn’t have made much sense to put in a sex scene when Luther is just beginning to give Gaby her first kiss. But come on! A romance book with no more sexual action than a brief few paragraph kiss? Feel shortchanged? Perhaps. But I admire the bold move. In fact, for this reader, it did its job of prolonging the anticipation. 

The connection between Luther Cross and Gaby Cody is sufficient but not electric. It amused me when most of their meetings began or ended with her trying to unman, maim, or generally dispose of him. And oddly enough, it didn’t put me off as much as I thought it would. Some readers might question Luther’s attraction to Gaby, buy hey…who can really explain Roarke’s intense attraction for Eve who can be as surly as a baited bear most of the time? Therefore, I don’t question much the idea of ‘why’ Cross is attracted other than his own explanation of “scent, attitude, and expression.”

Is it worth the $7.99? No. Is it worth the dollar I paid at the used bookstore? Yes. It’s interesting enough and for me, the oddly (and perhaps, twisted) mix of Gaby’s vigilante save-the-world hero complex and her naive mentality works. I know that it won’t work for many. But I have no problem with it. It’s no brain teaser. It’s a straightforward, call ’em like you see it plot with characters that are only showing the potential for growth by the end of the book. A fairly decent beach read, but don’t expect it to give you the thrill of the entire rollar coaster. For me, I would say it’s more like a mediocre little bump, not a jaw dropping feeling. Still, as I turned the last page I couldn’t help but want to know what happens next. So yes, this first in the series did its job of luring me into the next…

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2 out of 5: Lower rating because the book does not have a plot and characters that can truly cast a wide net as normal Foster novels do. But, I can admire her new foray into a new genre. It had some unique moments between the characters but it’s doubtful that it will be a reread book.
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Servant: The Awakening

Props to the Art Department

May 3, 2008
Who hasn’t read Lori Foster? Truly? If you like romances, or more specifically, contemporary romances, it’s a pretty safe guess to say that you’ve come across at least one of Foster’s books. She’s quite the heavy hitter. Penning mostly light hearted contemporaries (not counting her new foray into darker urban fantasies), Foster has consistently turned out books that I have thoroughly enjoyed. 

However, I must note as an aside that I never become too emotionally embroiled in a Foster book. While I wouldn’t go as far as saying they’re just a dime a dozen, she gives me just enough to whet my appetite, satisfy it for the moment, but never really pull at my heartstrings. When I say that, I mean that I’m not teetering on the emotional ledge like I would for some other books. But, I will say that they are very enjoyable and it’s a rare instance for me to come across a Foster that I really didn’t like. If I happen to favor one book over another, it’s just because of character traits of the hero/heroine and nothing to do with Foster’s writing. 

Foster’s heroes have a bit of an old world feel to me. That is, the men are men. Big, protective, possessive, and I can’t help but notice that all her men are usually described as hairy. That always makes me laugh. Apparently, in Foster world, hair on a man makes him manly. But the descriptions are always followed by something along the lines of: But not too hairy to turn her off. No, it was just enough to make her feel that pang of delicious heat deep inside… I’m guessing that for Foster, manscaping is nothing a real man would do. Heh, heh…

In continuing with Foster’s men, they don’t waver much from her (so called) formula. If you like reading male characters that are manly, capable, and generally good-looking, Foster will please. She does for me. Personally, when I’m in the mood for reading Foster, it means that I’m in the mood for a male who feels that his one reason for living is to protect the innocent and that, without a doubt, includes the heroine. No matter if she wants him to or whether she’s attractive or not, she’s going to get that protection.

So, why was I so hesitant to read Unexpected? The gender roles seem to be reversed. Since Ray was the merc who is hired to help retrieve Eli Connors’s missing brother, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read a Foster in which the heroine gave off more traditional masculine vibes than the hero did. Glad I was wrong!

Yes, Ray Vereker is quite the tomboy. She can break up a bar fight or participate in it herself with a smile on her face. Able to handle whatever her job throws at her, she is not the girly girl. However, it was with a very deft pen in which Foster was still able to endear such a character to me. I liked how Foster did not beat me over the head with the fact that Ray wasn’t all that feminine. It helped that Eli noted all the innate feminine qualities in Ray that was obvious Ray didn’t see herself. Foster also didn’t constantly have Eli confused about Ray in terms of her not being ‘typical.’ If he constantly thought of her as too manish, it would have turned me off immediately. 

Of course Eli would need to be a strong character himself to match up with Ray. That was a given. But his masculinity wasn’t in question and it was nice to see that there was no competition in terms of “who’s going to wear the pants in the relationship.” I think sometimes, when authors reverse gender roles, the heroine is too concerned about the hero usurping her role such as driving the car, opening doors, paying the check, etc. There wasn’t much of that in Unexpected.

However, it was the plot itself that made this book much more enjoyable. The plot about rescuing Eli’s brother just too the reader up to half way of the book. The rest, was really the unexpected news of Ray ending up pregnant. I liked it. It certainly did its job of softening Ray’s character and gave her more of a traditional feminine edge that was needed for a reader to see that she does indeed, need Eli in her life. I have to admit, that the plot wasn’t all that exciting nor was it the best I’ve ever read. It did its job in balancing everything in terms of the characters. Totally character driven as a whole, it makes it a more traditional Foster in my point of view. Her books are more about the character connection and that’s what makes me love them.

But what tied the whole package together for me was the very nice cover decisions made by the art department. Choosing the bright, almost neon pink, was a very nice touch. Ironic, yes. The pop art feel of the cut out picture of the woman and the stork pulls at the eye while serving its purpose of showcasing the author’s name first, and then the yellow color of the title. Font choice was also very appropriate in accordance to the clip-art feel of the pictures. 

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3 out of 5: Overall, Unexpected delivered on its name. I was pleasantly surprised at how I was softened in reading a plot I would normally not choose. Personally, the characters did not connect all that much with me emotionally and I read with a dispassion that showed I wasn’t all that involved into the ending. The chemistry between the characters was all right, but it didn’t sizzle for me and definitely didn’t singe the pages during the sex scenes. I appreciated the uniqueness of the story and while it will not be a re-read for me, it’s something I would recommend for a fun day at the beach.
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Unexpected

It’s a Conversation, Not an Alien Invasion

May 3, 2008

I’ve recently discovered the enjoyment of, and dispelled some of my doubts for, audiobooks. 

I always held the belief that I would loose some fundamental enjoyment out of physically holding the book, feeling the crinkle of pages beneath my fingertips, and toting around the comforting weight of the written word in my bag. However, when I was finding myself sneaking in paragraphs here and there between red lights, I realized that audiobooks could rescue some of the reading time that I wasted while toiling in traffic.


I’ve realized that audiobooks work best when I’ve already read the book. Why? Well, because then I’m not waiting on baited breath for the next paragraph to be read. It also helped that I could pay more attention to the cars in front of me instead of the voice filling the interior of my vehicle. I’ve also found out the joy of rediscovering some things I might have missed when I’m reading myself. When I’m listening to the audiobook, unless I fast forward, I can’t skip words as sometimes my eyes are prone to do while reading a particularly uninteresting part. 

Biggest complaint? The narrator!

Case in point: I’ve recently ventured into the In Death series and since Eve Dallas has solved so many crimes, I thought that listening to some of her adventures would cut down on my reading time. I found a copy of Glory In Death in which I loved the narrator. Since Eve is not a typically feminine character, the narrator did a beautiful job of softening Eve with her voice. So while the book told me that Eve wasn’t one to give into her appearance, weddings, and general “female stuff,” the narrator’s soft voice for Eve buffed out the sharp edges. I also liked how Roarke’s Irish accent was just the barest hint and not an overwhelming feel like I was watching the Travel Channel. 

Delighted with my first In Death audiobook, I was equally excited to find out that I could get them online through my local library for free. However, I was outraged to find out that the narrator changed and what I listened to was the older cassette tape version that someone changed into a MP3 file in which I downloaded. Saddened, I still gave this new narrator a try. Big mistake. First off, Eve was all rough and tumble in her voice. It was like listening to a pre-teen boy before his voice deepened. I mean, J.D. Robb’s words were already telling me that Eve wasn’t a girly girl, but now the narrator’s voice was reaffirming that point as well. It was like beating me over the head again and again. Another thing I found annoying? Roarke was now really Irish. I got lost in the accent instead of the book. And that voice for Peabody! Geez Louise! Peabody now sounded like a bad cartoon character. 

I’ve come to find out that male narrators are by far, superior to that of females. Why? Because when males do female voices, they just soften their voices. They don’t make their voices higher. But for female narrators, their male voices lowered. I recently listened to a recording of Jayne Castle’s Silver Master in which the hero’s voice was done in such a cheesy woman-trying-to-imitate-man-voice that I stopped listening and ran out to buy the book instead. 

But the problem with this genre is that men just don’t narrate books plunked into the romance shelf. I did, however, find one I really liked. Ironically, I think if I read the book instead, I wouldn’t have appreciated it. Lori Foster’s Caught in the Act was recorded into an audiobook and the male narrator was a wonderful choice. (Though he’s the only one I’ve listened to in the romance genre in which the narrator was a man). Good choice to pick a male narrator because the books is mostly told from Mick’s point of view. But like I mentioned, the male narrator didn’t raise his voice for when he narrated the female part. He simply softened his voice. That made all the difference.

For this point of audiobooks, I must concede to the point that perhaps, men are more enjoyable to the ears instead of women. In my (fairly limited) experience thus far, the women narrators who do male voices make the men sound like some sort of alien creature with that extremely fake deep voice. But for male narrators doing female voices, it’s much better because they soften their voice and it just sounds more natural to this reader.

So while I’m not entirely convinced that audiobooks can give me the same experience as reading the actual book can, I’m liking the diversion for when I would normally yell at the gridlock traffic. Instead, I’m reading with my ears.

The Fight Continues

February 18, 2008
Lori Foster releases her newest SBC Fighter’s book: Hard to Handle.

Harley Handleman is off at his yearly cabin retreat, nursing his wounds and pondering his constant head-butting with fate. Anastasia Bradley is his landlady who is a recent magnet for dangerous run-ins with colliding cars, slick icy roads, and goons with guns. Oh, and there’s an attraction between the two that cannot be denied.

The third installment of Foster’s series is much in line with the previous two. Major characters from the other two books make a strong appearance in this book and Foster has taken the word ‘sequel’ quite literally. This series has characters that definitely trickle down from the top to the newest novel. Much like the first one where we dealt with Dean and his friend Gregor and their troubles with their own women, Harvey and his friend Barber will find their own happy endings. In my opinion, though labeled about fighting, these books are about strong men who have gentle dispositions that are ready to fight with their fists for both their profession and their dignity or in defense of their women. This story does not escape the path of the others and the plot deals with a bad guy out there who has it in his head to maim the heroine. 

However, this novel didn’t hit the emotional depths like Causing Havoc did, and that book wasn’t all that deep either. While the side story of Barber and Jasmine served as comic relief, it was done way too late in the story and resolved itself amazingly quickly. With Causing Havoc, while Gregor was the supporting character, the reader felt for him and Jacki even when Gregor makes the mistake of taking in her good looks and accidently makes a quick assumption about her personality and past. 

Another roadblock for Hard to Handle in becoming as good as the others was the main relationship of Stasia and Harvey. He’s all about control and that constantly gets in the way. Written as a character flaw of sorts, while the reader can understand how Harvey is letting his need for control, control everything else, it’s hard to really blame him, and therefore, hard to see it as a fault. The constant touching on the topic of him having an affection for light bondage was repetitive and did not really resolve itself. Stasia’s constant refusal was also redundant and was not done with an effective pen. It was as if Foster didn’t have much in mind for these two and had to stretch out what she had to bulk up the paltry pages. 

Overall, while enjoyable, this was not the best Foster. It was not on par with what’s to be expected of this wonderful author. It seems that her name has become too big and the publishers are demanding too much too soon. She doesn’t have time to cultivate her plots and characters. 

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2.5 out of 5: Fun, quick read but no real emotions evolved. Sex was formulaic and uninventive in terms of the scene itself and the emotions shared between characters. Plot did not have enough steam to make the reader care beyond just reaching the last page. Will keep copy because it adds to the collection of the previous two but definitely not a re-read copy.
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Hard to Handle