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Cynically Sweet (Booklikes)

I'm not the most active user here on Booklikes. In fact, sometimes I forget that it even exists. However, I endeavor to come back and post more stuff that I enjoy.

My reviews aren't guaranteed to be something you agree with and my perspective on books isn't something most people generally want. However, I still hope that there's something you can gain from them and you don't feel as if you've wasted your time reading them.


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Cornered Coyote

Cornered Coyote - Dianne Harman I was contacted by the author and received a free ecopy of Cornered Coyote (Coyote #3) by Dianne Harman in exchange for an honest review. Started reading it ages ago, but I just never got around to finishing it. So I gave it another go today and have finished it. These are just my honest thoughts and I hope that I don't offend anyone. Though I haven't read others in the series, and know little about them, the author gave us information as was necessary and I felt that the plot was easy to follow. Rather than thinking of it as a final book in a trilogy, I chose to think of it as some sort of standalone book and felt like the author provided enough information for me to do that.

We begin the book with a plane arriving in the United States. Maria Brooks, a main character is on that plane. It doesn't explain too much to begin with, but we find that she left the country to escape. For some reason, she's returned and, though she'd been assured it was safe for her to return to the United States, she has immediately been arrested on suspicion of the murder of Jeffrey Brooks, her husband. It had been Jordan Kramer, her lover, to convince her to return. Though, I still don't quite understand for what reason he thought it would be safe for her to come back without being arrested. Darya Rahimi, a sort of sometimes business partner of Maria's was also eager for her return. When she finds out that Maria has been arrested, she hires Slade Kelly, a private investigator. She wants him to try and help Maria. He does everything possible, including hiring Brian Meeks, a lawyer. The book goes through portions of Maria's suffering and then even the trial.

Maria Brooks is kind of a Mary Sue character. She's often describe as very good looking, to quote: "a stunningly beautiful woman". In the opening few chapters, we find that everyone stares at her. Many times, the author stops the plot just to explain how beautiful she is at each period in time. I can't help but think of her as kind of nasty. Though everyone thinks she's good looking, she looks at other people and can't help but notice how ugly everyone else is. Continually, from her perspective, she notices the poor features of other people. From the ferret-faced woman at the security podium in France, to the surly fat immigration officer was seated behind the counter in America, and then the police officer who has to adjust his large belly so it fit under the steering wheel. Wherever she goes, she seems to look down upon everyone. The author keeps on making points that everyone else is so much worse looking than Maria. Even later on in the court room, "Even though she’d dressed conservatively, at Brian’s request, she was still dazzling. She looked about as out of place in the austere courtroom as a rare orchid in the desert." The author compares other women to Maria and even mocks the prosecutor for not being good looking. The other thing about Maria is that she's kind of needy and over-dramatic, "She looked around the cell as tears began rolling down her cheeks. Her bodily needs might be met in this sterile, stark environment, but she was certain her soul would die here." Sure, prison isn't where I would like to be either, but surely she expected this type of treatment when returning to America. I just don't understand why anyone thought it would be a good idea for her to do it. Through her life, many tragic things have happened to her and she has a long sob story. Being a child within a large family, she helped raise several of her siblings. When she was only twelve, she was gangraped by people in her own neighbourhood. Her husband was (allegedly) crazy and, through an event of (alleged) self-preservation, she killed him in self-defense. So, now she's in prison, awaiting her trial. Overall, her story is kind of convoluted. I can't get behind Maria's cause. I tried, but nothing she says really seems genuine to me. She's kind of written in a dull tone and I think that it's something about the way she says these things; as if they're just lies she's rehearsed. She says the same things over and over again, but none of what she says has particular feeling so it just feels to me as if she's lying the entire time. Suffice to say, I didn't much care for Maria.

I don't really think Jordan and Maria fit well together. Jordan Kramer, that is, her boyfriend. I think that his role was quite underwhelming in this book. I assume he plays a larger role in one of the others. He is a detective from the LAPD who was sent to France to investigate some sort of art theft and then they met, this is how I understand it. He's kind of a cliche character as well, a detective that comes from a long line of police officers. He gets into trouble and he's worried that his parents won't love him the same. When he speaks to his mother, she suggests that Maria is all wrong for him because she's in prison. That point is kind of meant to make the mother look nasty in the book, from what it seems, but it's actually a fair point for the mother to make. In one of their first nights together, they have sex, at which point he forgets to use a condom and she becomes pregnant. Such a moment leads to much torment later on, her being pregnant in prison. I just thought this entire plot line was cringe-worthy embarrassing. It was such a stupid mistake to make; both of them knew that she would have to spend time in prison and being pregnant would make it all the more worse. They were both so stupid to do something like that, knowing the consequences.

Darya Rahimi's role isn't explained very well in this book. It's easy enough to figure her just as a friend expecting Maria back into the country. However, looking back, she actually didn't have much proper plot, save for her interactions with the private detective she'd hired. In fact, she was pretty much responsible for funding Maria's lawyer and the entire investigation, except she doesn't get much credit for it. The other unexplained portion is that Darya keeps on mentioning bringing back little Afghan orphan girls into the United States and giving them opportunities. I assume that this was partially just to resolve some sort of plot line in a prior novel, but it just seems kind of under-utilised. Mentioning these orphans all the time just has no point in the book other than just to mention them. She's in a relationship with Slade Kelly, who is a private detective. His help is requested personally by Darya. He's been married several times, though none of these relationships would be considered successful. Slade grew up poor, both parents dead and he was raised in an orphanage where he met Chico Ruiz, a background character. He is smarter and has more money than many people might give him credit for. Regardless of that, he has a master's degree in criminology, a law degree, a Porsche Spyder, and a condominium with an ocean view. The author mentions this type of thing several times in his opening scenes. It kind of makes it seem as if he thinks everyone looks down on him. He even makes note about his cheap car and the expensive car he owns next to it, making comment that people would be surprised to find out he owns the expensive one. I've mentioned this type of thing in prior reviews, but the thing that gets me is when people deliberately dress up poor, act stupid and then complain that people think of them that way. Of course, if you show that you have little money, people are going to think that. You really have no right to complain that people might think you have less money than you let on. I actually thought that they were very sweet together. Though, the intimate moments they're involved in kind of end up embarrassing rather than seeming sexy, just by the way the author writes them.

As for other characters, I felt that Brian Meeks was a bit underwhelming. He had little personality, other than to make assumptions about others. Marsha Sinclair, the prosecutor is really looked down upon, which I didn't quite understand. She was just doing her job, except people think of her as "a real bitch who also happens to hate Mexicans because her husband left her for a beautiful young Mexican woman. Every time she looks at Maria, she’s going to see the woman responsible for her divorce." Excuse me? Give the lady a break! She's just doing her job and there's no reason to treat her like that. I thought that this woman's treatment was poor writing on the part of the author. At various points throughout the novel, the author keeps on acting as if every single person in the world is against Maria and Jordan, being that they're both involved in some sort of trouble at the moment. Jordan mentions to his father, "She’s not guilty, dad. There’s some reporter who has it in for both of us." I thought this was especially ridiculous being that Jordan, might not think she's guilty, but that's for a court to decide. Both Maria and Jordan act like it's everyone else's fault that she is being treated this way, but it's quite understandable that she was arrested, is being prosecuted and has little chance of bail; she did leave the country shortly after killing someone, living in France for eight months. That is what I would call a flight risk! I also thought it ridiculous the way that the author kept on making comments that Maria was going to be raped in jail. I don't think rape is funny. I really don't. However, it just seemed like the author was trying to use it to further enhance the beauty of Maria, having people make ridiculous comments such as: "She's going to be the cause of every wet dream in that jail starting tomorrow night."

The plot is interesting. Essentially it's about a woman coming home to defend herself. Though, I don't think that it quite hits the intended mark. It is essentially about a "a stunningly beautiful woman" being tricked into coming home and then being arrested. I just don't see why anyone is surprised that she was arrested and put on trial for murder. There's several mentions that she was only being put on trial because of some article a journalist had written and the fact that it's an election year. However, realistically, she did deserve to be arrested; she had killed someone (even admitted it herself) and now she needs to be tried. Whether it's self defense or not, that's for a jury to decide. Overall, I'm impressed by Dianne Harman's writing. She has such a beautiful style and has a perfect mix of details with to travel along with the story. I just wish that the plot had been better; though she was innocent, I didn't even feel like I wanted to support her. I have nothing against a beautiful, Mexican woman. However, she and the people around her made varying stupid decisions, the very first being the one to bring her back home. There were other plot points that were completely unnecessary, in my opinion. One of them being the entire historic plot line of Slade, Chico Ruiz and the daughter of a senator. It was completely unnecessary for Slade to convince the exotic dancer to get plastic surgery, and at more than a hundred thousand dollars, a complete waste of money. That plot line did not pay off at all. I know it was meant to get Maria protection while she was inside, but he could have gone about it in a much better manner.

I kind of liked the book, yes. However, thinking back on it, I realise that I disliked it more than I thought favourably of it. I would have rated it four stars because I like the writing style and I liked the relationship between Darya and Slade. However, for reasons above, the plot lines and other characters fall short. So much so that it knocks my score down to only two stars. I would kind of like to read the earlier books in the series. Right now, they have no bearing on my opinion of this novel as it was reasonable readable without them. However, I think it might be interesting to see the earlier portions of the entire plot. If I ever end up reading the rest of the series or rereading this novel, it's possible that my score might change.