Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I Just Finished Reading... Karen Rose's First 4 Books

I'm in a serious reviewing slump. One of my New Year's reading promises to myself was to track my books in 2007. So... I've read 14 books this month and by my count, I've reviewed.. well, ok... 2 ½. I just haven't felt like writing anything up. So, you get the short version once again. And, once again, you get my apologies for a job half done.

But, thanks to Lori H. for sending me these 4 books by Karen Rose. As you all know, I adore romantic suspense. Lovelovelove it! So, I was thrilled to get these books about which I'd heard so many wonderful things. I was not disappointed. And the best part about these books is that even though they are all inter-related in some small way, they are truly stand-alones in that each one is its own story. You can read each one and never really know that there were books before or after it. I'm listing them in order for all you series sluts out there who won't take my word for it...

Don't TellDon't Tell
Caroline is an abused wife who runs away and creates a new life for herself and her son. I absolutely loved Tom, the son. Here's an example of how the child is not an extraneous part of the story, existing to be "cute." And trust me - no 14 year old boy with a chip on his shoulder is "cute." He is a main character, truly integrated into the story in a major and important way, yet not detracting from the love story. I loved how Caroline stood up to Max. It showed her growth. The supporting characters were all strong. I enjoyed the SBI Agent Thatcher and Lieutenant Ross. I liked the supportive but completely professional relationship they had. This book was amazingly suspenseful, intense, sad, and scary, even though we knew from page 1 who the antagonist was. Terrific read.

Have You Seen Her?Have You Seen Her?
This is Thatcher's book. His terrifying experience from the first book is really the only relevant piece of information necessary here, but it is retold in this book, so even if you don't read book 1, you are safe. But you should read book 1, just because it's so dang good. Anyway... Someone is abducting and killing teenage girls. Thatcher is assigned to the case. This book actually had some more humor in it than the 1st one (which y'all know I love) - Steven's middle son is quite the con artist, and the relationship between him and Steven's aunt gave me some well deserved chuckles. Jenna was kickass in her own way, in the way that she stood up to Steven. She had her own heartache to contend with as well. The funny/sweet moments between the two of them made the book tender and poignant, and I absolutely loved it.

I'm Watching YouI'm Watching You
I'm Watching You is totally unrelated to the first 2 books. Feel good about reading this one without having read the first two, ok? Abe Reagan is a widower cop whose wife took a bullet meant for him. Kristen is a former rape victim who now prosecutes rapists. Someone is killing offenders who got away "just for Kristen". Very creepy. It's a great story. Kristen and Abe each have their past hurts to get over, and they rediscover love while they are on the hunt for the killer. I really enjoyed the big, extended, accepting Reagan family. I guessed this whodunnit, but that didn't detract from the story for me one iota. I'm loving Karen Rose.

Nothing to FearNothing to Fear
Nothing to Fear brings together characters from Books 1 & 3 as supporting characters and one of the supporting characters from book 1 as the heroine. Dana Dupinsky runs a shelter for abused women and is the best friend of the heroine from book 1. Love the hero's name. Ethan Buchanan. I don't know why it strikes me so; it just does. Interestingly, the antagonist here is a woman, and as in book 1, you know who she is from the beginning. However, unlike in Don't Tell, her motives are revealed slowly, and each revelation is a bit more horrifying than the last. Two characters, one known from book 1 and one Ethan's 12 year old godson, are kidnapped and although we see them periodically throughout the book, we don't know their ultimate fate. We see the killer murder so many without a conscience that the reader is never sure what fate will befall these two characters. As in Don't Tell, knowing the identity of the killer doesn't detract from the intensity and suspense at all.

What did I like? I like that although these books are all connected, they all stand alone. You do NOT need to read one before the other or read any of them at all to understand what is going on in any of the others. Yes, it helps in the "background" arena, such as in book 2, knowing what happened to Thatcher's son in book 1, but it's totally unnecessary.

What else do I like about Rose's books? The characterization is excellent. Each and every one is detailed and appropriate for the character's involvement in the story. Not too much for the supporting characters, but not too little for their importance. I love that her heroes are flawed, as are her heroines. It's not all about healing one character while the other does all the supporting. Let's face it - nobody gets to be our age without bringing along their baggage. Rose's characters just seem to have a tad more carry-ons than the flight allows.

I really liked her voice. Nothing superfluous here. You get multiple perspectives - that of the killer, and that of each of the protagonists, including supporting characters, but the book is not overwhelmed by the multiple POVs. They serve to clarify the story and give direction.

Overall, these are wonderfully written, tight, intense, romantic suspense books. Heavy on the romantic and heavy, if not on the suspense for the reader, certainly on the intensity of the emotions that the suspense brings for the characters. I do believe I've found me another autobuy.

There is one more book already released - You Can't Hide - about Abe Reagan's brother. Then Rose has a February release about Abe's partner Mia called Count to Ten. Plus, she has a novella in an antho with Annie Solomon and Carla Cassidy. Her web site is

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Caught by Cupid Anthology by Maya Banks, Bianca D'Arc & Gwendolyn Cease

Overheard by Maya Banks

Gracie Evans wants a Valentines she won’t forget. Luke Forsythe plans to give her exactly what she wants.

Gracie Evans is a woman tired of the men in her life not satisfying her in bed. She’s had a string of boyfriends, but none of them have come close to satisfying the vivid fantasies she has. Two weeks before Valentine’s Day, she breaks up with her latest boyfriend after a night of lackluster sex.

When her good friend, Luke Forsythe, overhears her talking to their friend Shelly about what she really wants, he’s stunned. And very turned on. Gracie thinks there isn’t a man alive who can satisfy her in bed. Luke aims to prove her wrong.

This story is tied to Maya's previous release entitled Understood. This story focus' on Gracie and her inability to find a man who can accept her wild side when it comes to things sexual. She's tired of holding back her in Bad Girl and is dying to set her free. While at a BBQ at her friends house she confides her want and desires. Unknown to Gracie her friend Luke overhears her and decides that he is more than man enough to show Gracie how good it can be to be bad.

From the beginning I pulled in to the story. The fact that Grace and Luke were such good friends only made the story stronger and had me routing that they would end up together.

Grace is a independent woman who is in control of her life and looking for a man to complete her. Luke is a man looking for the one woman who can challenge him in everything, but is willing to take all he has to offer to her sexually.He is looking for a little sweet submission.

The story has a nice mix of emotion as well as some very hot sex scenes, including one very yummy police officer named Wes. I will say this though if you are not a fan of menages this book will not be for you. I did, however, hear it directly from Maya Banks that this officer will have his own story.

All in all this was enjoyable read. It was novella size so it was quick to read, but still managed to develop the characters enough that I was capitivated by them. I just wonder where can a gal get a Luke or a Wes of her very own.

I really enjoy Maya's books and this is one is more proof as to why she has three books in the top ten in sales over at Samhain. I'm looking forward to Undenied and any other future titles from this author.

Forever Valentine by Bianca D'Arc

A Valentine’s date gone wrong marks the beginning of a love that will last for all time.

Jena knows about vampires, particularly about the one who watches her every step, lest she somehow reveal her knowledge to the mortal world. Ian Sinclair would be her executioner should she even try to share her knowledge, but she doesn’t fear him. No, Ian bothers her on an even more elemental level. He’s just too sexy for his own good—and hers.

Ian finds himself attracted to the all-too-mortal lady doctor, though he knows better. He’s been assigned to watch her, not seduce her, but seduction seems to be all he can think of when he looks at the gorgeous woman who works entirely too hard and has such sad eyes. He feels things he hasn’t felt in centuries when she’s around, including an unreasonable jealousy when he follows her on a Valentine’s date with one of her colleagues.

After the disastrous date, will they both be able to resist temptation when Jena invites the vampire in?

I'm no stranger to Bianca's books, her dragons are to die for so I was certain her Vampires would be just as good. This is the story of Jena and Ian, she's the doctor friend to a few newly turned woman and Ian is the enforcer sent to ensure she keeps their secret.

Jena is a example of the kind of heroine that I find I'm looking for more and more these days. She is strong and independent, looking for man who is her match. She doesn't need a man to be content, no she just wants someone to love and to have them love her back.

Ian is what you would expect from a vamp, cocky without to much conceit and confident with more than enough muscle to back it up. I instanly liked him. Their is somthing about a vamp or were that gets me everytime. Strong silent and all the way alpha, but with just enough softness for you to know if he set his sights on you he would have you. The story introduces characters that had me wondering if they had their own stories since they were already together. After finishing the book I did some snooping and found three more books of hers that I now must add to my ever growing TBB pile.

One thing I appreciate about Bianca's books is her ability to keep you in the main plot, while I appreciate other characters and their development she never seems to lose sight of who and what the story is about. her twist and turns are there, but I never feel like I am off track or lost in her plot lines.

The only downside was that I didn't know that the other books came before this one. This is no reflection on the story mind you I just like to read in order. I would love some more books from Ms. D'Arc based on her vamps, they are just as good as her dragons. This book was another quick read and definitely a keeper.

Be Mine by Gwendolyn Cease

In a heated Valentine weekend, Caleb and Jacqueline explore just how far their friendship can go.

Caleb and Jacqueline have been friends for nearly two years since he was engaged to her best friend. But now the engagement is over and Jack wonders where they stand. Jacqueline wants to maintain their friendship, but would prefer so much more.

Caleb invites her to spend Valentine weekend with him at a bed & breakfast since he had made the reservations long before he and Claire broke up. Though the breakup with Claire was only a month ago, the relationship between them had been over long before that. Caleb wants Jacqueline and is prepared to do anything to get her.

And he doesn’t just want her for the weekend, he wants her forever. Caleb uses every strategy in his erotic arsenal to convince her she is more than just his friend—she is the woman he loves.

I'm a sucker for a book that has the lovers starting as friends and this book is no exception. Jack is a very likable character from page one, she seems to fit more into the every woman mold and as a woman with curves I appreciate that. She is strong and comfortable in her own skin. I found myself agreeing with other characters in this book when they wondered why she didn't have a man of her own.

Caleb is former military and the ex-finace of Jack's friend. he is what I would have expected him to be and he is yet another one of those Alpha males I love. Something about a man who lets you be an equal in life is a turn on and to that a good knowledge of when is the right time to take charge and he is this woman dream man. I admit to being a strong and independent woman, but damn part of me still wants someone to take care of me once in a while and see to my needs. Caleb sure did that for Jack and it made this book well worth the money spent.

Of the three books she is the only author who is new to me. After Be Mine I can't wait to see what she releases next. She is one author I will be watching for in the future.

Just a note: this anthology was released as a single print title and also as three seperate eBooks from Samhain Publishing. I was excited to see this publisher as well as others releasing books with a Valentine's theme. Nothing like a few good books to read to get you in the mood for love.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Surviving Demon Island by Jaci Burton

She's all curves and combat boots.

He's six feet of lean, dangerous male.

Join them in a game of survival.

That's as real - and hot - as it gets.

What's America's top female action star doing on a tropical island shrouded in secrecy? To Gina Bliss, competing in a survival-type reality show is a nice change from fending off on-screen villains. Until she meets real-life action hero Derek Marks. A survival specialist in a tight black T and sexy stubble, he's arousing every bad-boy fantasy she's ever had...and testing her survival skills to the max.

Martial arts, jungle warfare - Derek's done it all. But his latest mission is more dangerous than a stick of dynamite. Try telling that to the sexy, adrenaline-pumped actress who's got his libido racing off the charts. As the heat rises between them and real-life violence erupts, suddenly Derek and Gina are on the run...and when they uncover a secret so explosive it could blow the lid of their so-called reality show, these two unlikely heroes are about to discover what surviving's really about....
I admit that my review of this book will probably be biased as I'm a very big fan of Jaci's Books and before I even read the book I knew I would like it. Now to some that may lead you to believe that whether or not the book was good that I would like it and in some cases you might be right.
So when I sat down to read this book I knew my expectations would be high. I mean I have all her other books and they are good, trust me, so for me this one should be as well. As usual Jaci did not disappoint, you know a book is good when you read it in one sitting. I just couldn't put it down, I'm pretty sure my husband and family were just a tad annoyed with me that day. They were more than sick of hearing me tell them to hold on while I got to a good stoping point so I could help them or in one instance that day to stop long enough to cook dinner.
Surviving Demon Island is one of those books where you just had to see what was gonna happen. It's full of action, intrigue and mean, nasty demons. This book is the beginning of a series for her with Bantam Dell and I found myself absorbed into the world of Demon Hunting from the very first page. As I read through the ever twisting plot I found myself subconciously trying to figure out who would be in the next books. The world she created was vivid and real, I could almost picture the setting and people in my minds eye. Jaci is truly carving out a niche for herself in the romance genre with this series.
Now I know not everyone loves a hunky alpha hero, but I sure do and she didn't disappoint this reader with her character Derek Marks, he is every bit the bossy and dominant leader you would expect him to be. He is confident, tough and most impotantly he has the skills to back it up. To read as this truly Alpha fight and fail as he falls for Gina was well worth the cost of the book. I don't want to ruin this book for anyone by giving to much away, but hot damn what he does for love is heart stopping. I found myself on the edge of my seat more times then I could count.
What I did find incredible about this story was the heroine Gina, she is a refreshing change and proof that a strong man needs an equally strong woman. Throughout the story she forced to show that she is not what everyone expected. Granted she is a movie star, but she is no cream puff. She matches wits as well as brawn with the hero and proves herself to be just as capable. While doing all of this we still find a woman below the surface, one who is vulnerable and has fears as well as insecurities. She is a well rounded and likable charater. One I found myself growing attached, if she were real I would want to be her friend.
This book is engaging, entertaining and like all Jaci books, full of romance and some very steamy scenes. All in all great read. I can't wait for the next installment of the series.
To learn more about Jaci and her books you can visit her at her Website or get a look at the life and mind of a romance author at her Blog.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

To Find You Again by Maureen McKade

It has been seven years since Emma Hartwell's capture by a tribe of the Lakota Sioux. But her recent rescue by the US Cavalry feels like anything but salvation. She has been forced to leave behind her beloved child, and return to the family who can't accept her, only to be shunned by the townspeople as an outcast. Emma is haunted by her life with the Elk tribe. She sets off on a dangerous journey, fueled by a fierce love of her son and fears for his safety, in an effort to find the tribe and reclaim him.

Only Ridge Madoc stands in her way. A former army scout with
a keen tracking sense and a keener sense of justice, Ridge has been sent by Emma's father to bring her back--a task that will give him the chance of reclaiming some of the land that was rightfully his. But, he never expected a woman as determined and courageous as Emma. Now, Emma must appeal to Ridge to help her with her desperate quest, and Ridge must struggle with his desire for a woman who no longer has a place in his world...

Spoilers Ahead.

If I was the grading type, I’d assign TFYA a straight, middle-of-the-road C. Didn’t love it. Didn’t hate it. It was well written and McKade’s characterization was exceptional. The story’s pace however, was far too slow for me. It had an epic feel to me despite its relatively short time span.

Much of what the blurb suggests is accomplished by the book’s halfway point. The remainder of the story is what gave it that epic feel. More, unadvertised conflict on the way to the happy ending. The additional stuff did not detract from TFYA. In fact, it served to round out the story nicely. I was simply tired by the end, weary of the slow, muted pace.

Throughout, where I expected danger, a stubborn heroine and a frontier alpha hero with all the requisite sparks, I found an almost casual, most definitely subdued telling of Emma’s solo journey across the wilds, her polite request for Ridge’s help (when he finds her) and Ridge’s way-too-easy capitulation. McKade’s characterization supports Emma’s ability to take care of herself (she spent 7 years with the Lakota). So I can’t quibble over that. But Ridge’s easy acquiescence didn’t fit. Not entirely anyway. He too has a past association with the Lakota and appears confident in his ability to protect Emma in the company of Indians and the Army scouts presently hunting them. But his quiet strength felt inadequate. McKade played up his shyness far more than his capabilities IMO. And as a result, I found myself looking to Emma to get them out of whatever trouble they encountered. Emma was definitely the stronger of the two. She took the lead everywhere, including bed. Ridge followed without complaint and that made him less interesting to me.

The fate of Emma’s son is the source of the book’s most poignant conflicts. As a parent, I am a piss poor judge of stories with little ones. Emma’s five month long separation from her son (during which she wasn’t even sure of his survival) served McKade’s story well. However, my blind spot here prevented me from believing that Emma could function as she did let alone begin the stirrings of a romance before she found her child again. I’m sure it was my confidence in the HEA that carried me through the pages before her and Chayton’s reunion. And here, I do have to say that McKade portrayed Emma’s struggle to do what is best for her son beautifully. Had the story not turned (quickly) and ultimately reunited them permanently, I’m not sure I could comment as positively.

To be fair, I enjoyed TFYA in much the same way I enjoyed The Thorn Birds 20 years ago. Unlike the romances I prefer today however, Ridge and Emma’s story—shadowed by the sorrow of the Lakota’s fate—did not provide full out escapism. The harsh realities of that time and the steady but boring hero did not take me away. Still, I will read more of McKade’s books. I will simply save them for those times I prefer a softer (less titillating) read (using Lori’s apt description).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

2 by NJ Walters - The Return of Patrick O'Rourke and Craving Candy

Return of Patrick O'Rourke - Yummy!So. I've been reading up a storm. I've been waiting for these two books with baited breath. I love love love NJ Walters' books. There is just something about her writing that draws you in, grabs you, and keeps you.

The Return of Patrick O'Rourke
This book is the 3rd in the Jamesville series. Patrick is the brother of Dani, the heroine of book 1. This book takes place about 11 or 12 years after book 1 (kind of weird, since that book was written last year, but what are ya gonna do? Patrick needed his own book, and he was too young!). Anyway, he is a NYC cop, shot in the line of duty. He comes home to Jamesville to recover, and finds himself attracted to, and involved with Shannon.

I was struck by the similarities and the differences between this book and Taking Chase by Lauren Dane. The portrayal of Shannon as a domestic abuse victim is excellent, as it was in Taking Chase. Odd that I read these books so close together. Uncomfortable in a way. And because of that, I almost felt where this book was going. But Ms Walters has such a different writing style than Ms Dane, so the journey in each of the books was totally different.

I have said over and over how much I love reading NJ Walters' books, and this one was no exception. She chooses her words so beautifully, and her characters are drawn so lovingly. You can feel the care that goes into each NJ Walters book. A thoroughly terrific read.

Craving CandyCraving Candy
This is book 4 in the Awakening Desires series. A story of a man who grew up in an abusive household, with a past that I would imagine is sadly all too common for children in abusive situations. Anyway, he makes something of himself, but lives in constant fear of repeating the cycle, so never allows himself to get too close to a woman. Meet Candy. His publicist. They meet anonymously and fall instantly in lust. Once they discover who the other actually is, the fireworks begin.

Ms Walters does a wonderful job of building the relationship between these two, along with the graphic, hot sex that they share. Lucas grows into the relationship despite himself. He is a beautiful man, inside and out - wounded, but so full of love to give. I was totally into this guy.

And, can I say, that I loved that he was my age. An unapologetic 41 year old hero. Who was hot. With staying power. (I must admit, I did wonder about his ability to do it over and over and over again without any rest in between at 41, but, hey, good for him, and it's fantasy... LMAO!!).

I think that each of the books in this series has had its own personality. In tone, this is probably most like book 1. And, in fact, Lucas is good friends with Katie and Cain from that book.

Anyway, I enjoyed both of these books immensely. The Return of Patrick O'Rourke is available from Samhain Publishing and Craving Candy is available at Ellora's Cave.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Short Note on Jacob

Since Jen so ably reviewed Jacob last week, I'm not going to belabor it other than to say her review was dead on, as always. I will tell you a few other things. I really enjoyed Isabella. Finally! A heroine I can like. She kicked ass! I loved her irreverence - her ability to retain her sense of self and her sense of humor in the face of the huge life-altering events happening around her. And the way she brought humor into the lives of these very serious characters. I also appreciated their ability to recognize her humor and appreciate it as well.

There were only a couple things that bothered me in this book - the story did bog down for me a tad somewhere about 2/3 through, but only for 30 or 40 pages, then it picked right back up. That may be where Jen was talking about Frank's "clunkiness" and where she tried too hard. And the only part that gave me pause continuously throughout was Jacob's "love name" for Isabella. Am I the only person who was bugged by the incessant use of "little flower"? Ick. However, there are probably people who would think that the nicknames that my hubby and I have for each other are completely vomitrocious, so who am I to complain? But at least we keep those private. (And, we were only 19 when we came up with them, not 500, LOL.)

And, I should also point out that I mistakenly thought this was a book about vampires, which it is NOT. It was an interesting foray into a world of Demons that I had not ventured into before, and my first step toward my 2007 goal of expanding my reading horizons. Aren't you proud of me?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Summer Breeze by Catherine Anderson

This is the follow up to Keegan’s Lady and my second book by Catherine Anderson.

The year is 1889, and Rachel Hollister hasn't set foot outside her house in five years. Ever since a savage attack left her family dead, she's cordoned herself off from the outside world, afraid to let anyone into her home—or into her heart. But now trouble has appeared on her doorstep—and suddenly she has no choice but to let a handsome ranccher invade her well-guarded existence...

Confirmed bachelor Joseph Paxton grudgingly offers to take up temporary residence at the Hollister ranch—even though it's obvious that Rachel doesn't want his protection. But once he catches a glimpse of his beautiful young ward and her remarkable spirit, he'll do anything to break through the dark spell that's walled off her heart. It may take a miracle, but he's determined to make her see the refuge he's offering in his embrace—and the splendor that exists beyond her front door. Otherwise he'll just have to build a safe haven big enough for the both of them...

What I liked about Rachel:

The truth in her character. Anderson’s heroine has suffered severe mental and physical trauma, yet she is self-possessed. She lives closeted in fear, appears to be blocking memories of the traumatic event and hasn’t matured emotionally much beyond the age at which the trauma occurred (17). Still, her terror is linked tightly to the event and all other aspects of her upbringing and outlook if you will are normal.

What I liked about Joseph:

The truth in his character. Joseph reminded me of a number of southern gentlemen I’ve known in my own life. His choice of words in particular was warmly familiar. He is the perfect, steadfast man for Rachel and their ensuing attraction and growing affection made for a sweet story.


While Summer Breeze didn’t take my breath away, I did enjoy it. It was a comfortable read. Believable and sweet. Anderson’s characterization was strong and the mystery challenging, although not overly taxing. I do want to read the others in this series (a family series), but doubt I will get to them all this year. I’d say they fall into a category of convenience. I don’t plan to suspend all other reading to get to them.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Autumn Desire by Sharon Noble

Normally I don’t spend the time and energy reviewing a book unless it’s really good. I’m making an exception in this case.

Here’s the book blurb: Paula Wincott has lost her husband, Sam, noted researcher and chemistry professor at the University of Colorado. She attributes his sudden heart attack to his bitterness and despair at being displaced by a younger researcher, Boyd Mackenzie. Paula has never met this wunderkind, but she holds him in contempt and blames him for her widowhood. Despite being eighteen years younger than Sam, Paula was devoted to her husband, who was the center of her life. Finding herself lonely and rudderless, she decides to take a couple of courses at the university and finds herself in a chemistry class taught by Boyd Mackenzie, who mistakes her for Sam's daughter. Paula is outraged, determined to ignore him in class and avoid him elsewhere. However, Sam's research lab is in need of funding to continue his work in conductive polymers, and Boyd is widely respected for his skill in acquiring funding. The chairman of the department, Ed King, unaware of Paula's feelings, coerces them into working together, citing loyalty to Sam and the furtherance of his work. How could Paula know that passion would flare between them and threaten her loyalty to her dead husband.

I’m just so disappointed. I thought it had potential to really appeal to me since Paula is 50 and so few romances have women my age. It’s supposed to be love the second time around, but apparently Boyd can fall in love at first sight and stay in love even when every time they interact, she is hateful and distant. Yeah right, that’s a deep relationship. Plus she’s coming out of a 30 year marriage that is likened to Ibsen’s A Doll House. I can’t imagine that happening to someone my age. Granted at 18 I wasn’t as sophisticated as 18 year olds today, but even I know that you don’t turn your life over to someone else. How could she have remained so ignorant? She needed time to grow into herself without a man before falling into another relationship. And to top it off, no condom when they have sex. Are they crazy?

This is Sharon Noble’s first book and I’m astounded that a publishing house would charge $25.95 for a book that took me 3 hours to read and then leave me shaking my head in disappointment. Oh and you should see the glowing review by Harriet Klausner (the git), five stars. Well, not as far as I’m concerned.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

More lists...

Looking back on my reads of 2006, I cock my head to one side, then the other…walk away from the computer and play Dora The Explorer Dominoes. Come back with a new plan of attack. Abort before Word opens. Wander off to replace Bertie’s batteries. Remember the book I was reading when G replayed the Thomas The Tank Engine movie continuously one afternoon. Decide to just list my faves, publish date be damned.

Not sure, but I’m tripping over the idea that a Best of 2006 list should be comprised of books published in 2006. But if I try that, I’ll have one or two published this year worth mentioning. Sorry state of affairs.

So, I’m just going with my top whatever reads of the past year (won’t know the number til I’m done).

1. Black Ice by Anne Stuart
Took me a year to catch up with everyone else on this title and author. I managed to get in 6 more titles from her before the year was out (still working through her backlist). Its sequel, Cold As Ice, will also make this “top reads of 06” list (going month by month right now).

2. To The Brink by Cindy Gerard
Happened on Cindy Gerard by accident—purchasing this book when the one I originally sought didn’t sound or look as good by comparison. So glad I did. This series has been very entertaining. This too led me to read from the author’s backlist. Gerard accounted for 7 of my books read last year.

3. Dreaming Of You by Lisa Kleypas
This was not the first Kleypas book I’d read. Lori introduced me to Kleypas, starting with Worth Any Price last year. Kleypas is another author I liked immediately. And glommed. That is how I found my way to Derek’s story. Only thing I can say is…believe the hype. I read the Wallflower series this year as well. Enjoyed it immensely, but don’t believe any will make this list.

Two honorable mentions. Squeezing these in as they appear. Remember, I’m going month by month. Midnight Man by Lisa Marie Rice and Naked Truth by Amy J. Fetzer. Both strong reads and new (this year) to me authors.

4. Crazy Cool by Tara Janzen
This is another series I find ridiculously entertaining. I’ve read them all right up through Crazy Sweet, but this one—Superman’s story—was head and shoulders above the rest. Janzen created a keeper in this character. Ask any Crazy series reader about him and you’ll hear it in their voice. Superman stands out.

Sidebar: The Crazy series from Tara Janzen and the Black Dagger Brotherhood series from JR Ward appealed to my funny bone in much the same way. Male adolescence. Janzen and Ward capture it in sight, sound and smell. Perfectly. Suzanne Brockmann’s Into The Storm, released this year, featured a younger set of SEALS and the same brand of humor. Don’t know why it strikes me as so funny, but it does. And I love to indulge myself.

5. Passion by Lisa Valdez
Another of 2005’s raves that finally made it to my reading pile in 2006. It was as good as its press. Really beautiful read.

6. Tiger Eye by Marjorie M. Liu
Again. Another of 2005’s raves I got around to reading in 2006. A powerful read that changed my mind about paranormal romance. And a voice so unique it renewed my appreciation for the written word. This one makes my Top 3 overall.

7. The Wrong Hostage by Elizabeth Lowell
I think of Lowell as having multiple writing personalities. I tried glomming her once and it was horrible. Inconsistent doesn’t begin to cover it. This title, published this year, was from the personality I liked best. And its hard hero stands out to me as I look back over every book I read that month. He appealed to me and I remember him as well as I did the day I set the book down.

8. The Protector by Gennita Low
Someone in this blogging community recommended Low last year. So I dutifully started with the first in her series—The Protector. Loved it. Devoured the remaining books in this series and count Low as one of the best agent/spy storytellers around. Like Gerard, Low is an author who delivers the kind of story I like (call it another indulgence). Both write so well that I would follow them down another path should they choose a different premise or genre.

Sidebar: I also read Angels Fall by Nora Roberts in this month. Reminds me here that both Robb titles released in 2006, as well as her standalone (Angels Fall) rank in my best reads of 2006 list. They fall into a “goes without saying” category though.

9. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
I read this one while my husband raced in national dirtbike enduro. And I came dangerously close to putting my toddler on a leash and staking him out next to our Lab. It was so utterly captivating I lost all of my peripheral attention capabilities. Magic Study was equally mesmerizing and both fill one slot in my Top 3 of 2006.

10. Lord Of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
Another of those 2005 raves that made my reading list in 2006. And another case where the book matched its hype. I didn’t waste any time getting to her subsequent titles. All good.

11. The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand
The final entry on my Top 3 list. Erin recommended this one and I will be forever grateful. Hilderbrand has a voice I can’t ignore. This one was all romance (for me anyway), but her remaining titles (all hands down women’s fiction) hold equal appeal. It’s her voice. Just wonderful.

Two more honorable mentions:

Lover Awakened by JR Ward - I read all of Ward’s books this year, but this one—Zsadist’s story—stood out. I’m not sure if that was because Zsadist is the character that appealed most to me from the start. Could be. I’m not feeling any sense of urgency for the next installment in this series. Hopefully it will continue to entertain if nothing else.

Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase - Read this one in my glom of Chase. And liked it most for its humor. The hero cracked me up throughout. And when he berates the heroine for not telling him that he was in love with her (he had to learn that from her brother), I couldn’t stop laughing.

12. Cold As Ice by Anne Stuart
This book stole my breath. Not so for many, many others I know. But it worked for me in a big way. Peter is no Bastien, but he Wowed me in his own right.

Last honorable mention:

The Music Of The Night by Lydia Joyce - Flaming comments from the author aside, this book was provocative and rich. A beautiful and raw read.

So…ended up with twelve best of titles. A fave for each month. Fair enough.

And the top three:

Poison Study and Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand
Tiger Eye by Marjorie M. Liu

As soon as I post this, I’ll start rethinking it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Top Reads of 2006

Happy New Year to everyone!

As I was looking through the site and realized how many books I'd read and reviewed (and how many I'd read that I didn't review), I thought I'd do a top 10. I'm a pretty forgiving reader, and I enjoy almost every book I read, so how am I to pick? Well, I decided that I would pick books that had either a lasting emotional impact on me, or made me laugh, or were otherwise more memorable than any other book. So without further ado... Here are my top 10 reads of 2006. In no particular order.

10) Into the Storm - Suzanne Brockmann: What is there to say? Brockmann is a master. I adore the Team 16 books and the Troubleshooter series. This one was no exception. Great hero/heroine. Great setting. Great secondary characters. Great emotion (Brockmann shows macho men crying like no other author ever could). Just great.

9) Under the Wire - Cindy Gerard: The latest in the Bodyguard series. My 2nd favorite. Fan-fricken-tastic. Next to To the Edge, the first Bodyguard book, this one is my favorite. I loved Manny and Lily. There was not a moment that I wasn't drawn into the storyline. Not a moment where I rolled my eyes. Not a moment where I got bored. Nothing was overdone. Nothing was faked. Loved, loved, loved it.

8) Into the Fire - Anne Stuart: I cringed, I cried. Anne Stuart is a master of the dark hero. Dillon is beautifully drawn. As always, the heroine walks the TSTL line, but remains on the correct side of it. This is a controversial book, although for the life of me, I can't see why it's any more controversial than any of her others. I believe I plagiarized Jen when I reviewed this one. Fucking fabulous book.

7) Passion - Lisa Valdez: This was on everybody's TBR list. I read it late in the game. I think I've reread it about 3 or 4 times since. Wow. Loved the major alpha hero who wasn't afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. Loved the moral heroine who wasn't afraid to love sex.

6) Lord Perfect - Loretta Chase: My first Chase book. Absolute perfect blend of story, characters and dialogue.

5) Lord of Scoundrels - Loretta Chase: What is there to say, except that Sebastian is awesome. As is Jessica. What a wounded soul Dain is. I love how Jessica healed him. It was just amazing to read a book from the man's point of view. To read all about his insecurities, not from her perspective, but from his. Top notch. Love love loved this book.

4) England's Perfect Hero - Suzanne Enoch (a reread): My only reread to make the top 10 list. (even beats out Worth Any Price for the top 10 list, but WAP is always a given *g*). I read this when I feel the urge to read something with depth, with emotion. Something I know will move me like nothing else. This is one of the most poignant, emotional, beautiful books I have ever read. I only wish that Suzanne Enoch continued to write like this.

3) To the Edge - Cindy Gerard: The first in the Bodyguard series, and also my favorite. I loved this book. Hard, edgy, taut. Tortured, studly, ex-military turned PI hero with a loving, teasing, tremendous family. Stalker storyline. You just know that Nolan is a goner the minute Jillian is introduced and holds her own against him. Did I say I loved this book? I thought this was the best of them all - and I loved them all, but something about Nolan just grabbed me. Sigh. What a yummy hero.

2) Trust in Me - Kathryn Shay: This is a deep, heartfelt look at adult life and love, problems and solutions, forgiveness, redemption and absolution. I have never read a contemporary romance that affected me more. Kathryn Shay has never disappointed me, and this one is no exception.

1) Devil in Winter - Lisa Kleypas: This book reaffirmed my trust in LK. It has a rough, unapologetically nasty hero, and a heroine that you would expect to be a pushover, who becomes unexpectedly strong. Supporting characters you care about. Like many other Kleypas fans, although I have enjoyed her recent books, I have been less than enthralled by them. With The Devil in Winter, I think she has recaptured that spark, that special something that makes her books truly noteworthy... not just another formulaic historical.

Honorable Mentions:
Take Me by Lucy Monroe: the best in the series. I adored Jared.
Giving Chase by Lauren Dane: fantastic book - loved it from start to finish
Forever Again - Shannon Stacey: beautiful, wonderful story
To Love a Scottish Lord - Karen Ranney: the best in the Highland Lords series; intense and emotional

Jacob by Jacquelyn Frank

When Angie alerted us to the marketing efforts for this first book from Jacquelyn Frank, I could not resist the promise of new, powerful voice in romance. Given that I purchased it straight away, I’d have to say their marketing campaign was more effective than most. Having read it, I’d say they nearly made good on their promise.

Frank does have a voice that appeals. And stands out. It brings to mind the striking prose of Shelby Reed, although a side-by-side comparison would easily reveal Frank as the newbie. Like Reed however, you get that sense that Frank painstakingly chose each word, each phrase to maximize imagery. As if Frank’s goal was to engage all of our senses at once. I wasn’t blown away by her words, but I definitely felt their potential. I felt Frank’s effort. When that effort becomes transparent and her prose more rhythmic, Frank will have few rivals.

Aside from the clunkiness—those instances where Frank applied too heavy a hand to analogies and other descriptive tools—Jacob was a great read. Frank scored with wonderful characterization and an original alternate world inhabited by ‘Nightwalkers’.

On characterization…

Little time elapses during the course of this story and its events are paced accordingly. This means that readers are afforded lots of getting-to-know-you time with Jacob and Isabella. Despite their stereotypical fate-driven union, Frank doesn’t shortchange their romance. There is caution, hope, humor and electricity. This book IS their story; everything else—the world building, conflict and series setup—blends well enough so as not to distract from the romance. A huge score for Frank in my mind.

On the paranormal elements, or world building…

Frank’s alternate reality is unique and interesting. And she deftly uses Isabella’s background as a librarian to bring that world forward naturally. The introduction into Jacob’s world is not stilted or staged; it is learned. That approach gave me the sense that Frank didn’t expect flat out acceptance of her world. Instead, she provoked my need for knowledge, drawing me in. It also strengthened the overall telling of the story. Frank let her characters reveal the world; she didn’t waste words upfront clueing the reader in on this alternate world and all of its nuances. Oh, and Isabella’s destined place in Jacob’s world is the twist that challenges the remaining stereotypes in this genre. Very cool.

So, overall, I enjoyed Jacob very much. It did take me several days to read and, at least initially, that left me a bit conflicted about my opinion of the book. It was that clunkiness I mentioned that spurred doubt. But after a few days, as the characters lingered (love that), I decided that Jacob is a book I’d easily recommend to friends.
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