Monday, June 30, 2008

Another month, another drive-by review.

Six books for June. Lame, I know, but I’m just too busy to read. Sad, sad state of affairs.

Blood Brothers by Nora Roberts
Meh. Far too like last year’s summer trilogy. Different premise, but the same setup. Didn’t grab me. And when I put this one down and picked up the second book in the trilogy? Couldn’t do it. FIRST time I’ve ever put down a Nora Roberts book. I’m sure I’ll come back to it someday, but for now, I’ve no desire to waste precious reading hours in a book that does nothing for me.

Blue Smoke and Murder by Elizabeth Lowell
Best of my June reads. A bit heavy on the technical art instruction, but that is to be expected from Lowell. She always goes ass over tea kettle when educating readers on whatever venue or industry her characters find themselves in. Jewels, art, artifacts, etc. The mystery was solid, the romance a bit more surface than I prefer, but overall an engaging read. Enough so to make me want to stick with romantic suspense for awhile.

Night’s Landing by Carla Neggars
Neggars is an author I found by accident this spring. Reading through her backlist now and, while the mysteries are good, characterization and romance in her earlier titles are not as strong as they were in the first book I picked up. Her heroines tend to be stupid, despite impressive pedigrees. And childish. In this one, the heroine “runs” out of the room in a snit on more than one occasion. I’d bitch slap someone if they did that in real life. Or write them off as an idiot not worth my energy.

Stonebrook Cottage by Carla Neggars
Another in Neggars backlist that features a heroine whose actions defy her supposed intelligence. Better than the heroine in Night’s Landing by far, but still flawed enough to annoy. Strong hero though and again, good whodunit. I’m still committed to reading Neggar’s titles, especially any new releases.

Catch A Mate by Gena Showalter
I’ve had Showalter’s paranormals on my TBR list for some time. But when Anne sent me this contemporary, I jumped at the opportunity to sample an author surrounded by good, good buzz. Ultimately, I fell for the love story. But from beginning to near end, I itched in annoyance at the shallowness of the characters. Do people like this actually exist? Too catty, jaded, self-absorbed for me. I live rurally I know, but I swear I never encountered urbanites like these women and men when I lived in big cities, doing 20-something things. Sigh. I nearly put it down a dozen or more times. Showalter’s name and reputation online were the only things preventing my surrender. And like I said, ultimately, I’m glad I persevered. Not a total win, but a worthwhile wait for the real emotion at the book’s end. I still plan to read the paranormals on my TBR list, but may hesitate in the face of any other contemps.

Every Move She Makes by Beverly Barton
A romantic suspense title I picked up at random from my library’s swap shelf. Flawed in many of the ways already mentioned here, but a decent enough read. I finished it at least. Though I must admit I was tempted to toss it when Linda Howard’s latest arrived from the library.

So…very few books and none worth the time I did spend on them. And for once, I don’t think my attitude or real-life crazies affected my opinion. There were simply no gems in this batch.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Spirited Away by Cindy Miles

A surly 13th century knight, murdered in his own keep
A tenacious 21st century forensic archaeologist, determined to solve the ancient crime
Neither expected to lose their hearts
To each other...

I have to say... I went into this book not expecting much. Cindy Miles is a fairly new author. This books is one year old, and it's her first. What a pleasant surprise. It was adorable.

The book opens with the murder of Tristan de Barre in 1292. Fast forward to 2007, and Dr. Andrea Monroe, a forensic archaeologist, fascinated by the legend of Dragonhawk, is hired to excavate some old bones on the land of Dreadmoor Castle, home of none other than Lord Dreadmoor, Tristan de Barre.

I'll begin by saying that you have to completely suspend your sense of belief. Once you do, this story is at once charming and captivating, from the sassy Andrea to the stoic, long-suffering, yet humorous Jameson (the butler/steward), to the bold, sexy, and sensitive Tristan. I loved how he was so chagrined at being unable to assist Andi when she needed a hand (literally). You see, ghosts can't make physical contact, even though they can be seen. He feels like an utter fool, and Miles is unafraid to let the reader view him as such either.

No worries, he completely redeems himself, with lines like this:
... "I've waited more than seven centuries for you, Andrea Kinley Monroe." ... He stared, mesmerized by her almost-touch. "Christ, Andrea", he whispered. "I would give anything to taste you."


Miles writes with a delightful sense of humor, too. Andi, discussing Tristan with another woman... "He's not like other men."
"Nay, you can't say too many modern-day chaps can measure up to that one," Kate said. "Or the whole lot of Dragonhawk's knights, for that matter. So what worries you?"
Andi pushed the hair from her eyes. "You mean other than the fact that he's dead?"

Watching these two fall in love with the audience of Tristan's knights around was sometimes giggle-worthy, and sometimes heartwrenchingly beautiful.

A superb secondary cast of characters including an array of knights, a droll butler/steward, a cute-as-a-button boy (who isn't gag-me cute, or annoying either!), and a very sweet love story round out this fun book.

I definitely enjoyed it. I can't remember where I heard about this book, but it's been lying around the house for a while. Now I'm sorry I waited so long. Miles has two additional books: Into Thin Air and Highland Knight. I'll definitely be reading those.

You can buy Spirited Away here or here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

REVIEW: Sweet Talk - Susan Mallery

Is there anything sweeter than a first love?

Don't ask Claire Keyes. The twenty—eight—year—old piano prodigy has never had a regular boyfriend, much less a real romance. Her music career has left little room for friends or family—which is just part of the reason she hasn't seen the family bakery or her two sisters in years.

But now Nicole is sick, and Jesse is AWOL. Despite the fact that Claire can't boil water, she's determined to play caretaker. Connecting with her sisters tops her to—do list…along with falling in love, or at least in lust, for the first time.

Ruggedly sexy Wyatt just might fit the bill. Although he keeps saying that he and Claire come from entirely different worlds, he lights up hotter than a bakery oven whenever Claire is near. If this keeps up, she just might sweet—talk him into her bed…and her life.
I will begin by saying I had mixed feeling about this book. In some ways I liked it, in others I, well, to be honest, hated it. I must start with the thing that drove me batshit crazy throughout the whole book--Nicole's (the heroine's sister) attitude. She is by far the bitchiest, stubborn, irrational, single-minded character I've ever seen Ms. Mallery write... and I don't mean that in a good way. All three sisters have serious personality flaws and ones that either the reader will be willing to accept or ones that the reader will dislike. I fall into the latter category. I can't put my finger on one thing that had me not liking this book very much... whether it was the characters, their attitudes, the immaturity displayed by the 20-something-year-old females in this book, the fact that I didn't really "see" the romance developing..there was a zing for him, three chapters later she felt the zing, then whamo! Chemistry. They hadn't hardly spent any time together. The reasons for why Claire has sex and the reasons why Wyatt doesn't want more than that were cliched. Normally I can handle a cliche, but this time, it just didn't work for me.

Sorry for bouncing all over the place with this review, but it really was a confusing and exhausting book. I think, looking back, it really was the immaturity and personalities of the sisters that turned me off of this book. It felt like it should have been a YA book-- almost-- or a relationship novel for the women and should have just left the romance out of it, because to me the romance honestly felt like an afterthought.

So, while Susan Mallery is one of my favorite authors, I must admit to not liking this book much. My overall grade (and I cringe as I admit the truth): D.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Back in the saddle again....

Hey all! Long time, no post. I have to admit to a big dose of reviewing ennui, although I have been reading. I think the only thing to do is to force myself to put up a couple of drive-bys, and hope that it puts me back in the mood.

So although I've read a ton of books in the last several months since I've posted, I'm just going to put up my thoughts on the last few.

To Taste TemptationTo Taste Temptation by Elizabeth Hoyt
Long awaited after her Prince trilogy, I've seen mixed reviews on this one. I admit to having mixed feelings about it as well. Only in that I couldn't decide if I liked Emeline. She vacillated between being staid and upright and being grumpy and nasty. On the one hand, it's kind of nice when an author can wriet a nasty heroine and make her readers root for her. On the other hand, I did wonder on occasion why Samuel was so taken with her. It was here that I felt Hoyt could have built the book a bit more. The interactions between Emeline and Samuel were excellent, as were the supporting characters, Rebecca especially, but I felt something inexplicable missing between Samueal and Emeline. I just can't quite put my finger on what.

A mystery plot I could likely have done without, as well. I would rather have seen Hoyt focus on the PTSD that Samuel and, to some extent, Vale seem to have had following the war. So much more intriguing to me. But I know that more folks love a good 'mystery.'

Having said that, I do love Hoyt's voice, her wonderful conveyance of emotions, and once again, her hero. Fantastic. The next book, To Seduce a Sinner, is about Emeline's friend Melisande and her ex-fiance Lord Vale. It comes out in November.

Not Another Bad DateNot Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson
Thanks to the girls at The Book Binge - I won this book over there :) This is the 4th and last in her "author" series. There is a touch of the paranormal in a fun and cute way. Rachel Gibson is always good for a fun afternoon read. I don't think I've ever disliked one of he books, although I've liked some more than others. (Who doesn't lurrrrrve See Jane Score?) Anywho....

If I had one disappointment with this book it was that there wasn't enough interaction between the 4 friends. Having said that, it was fun and fluffy, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. It takes place in Texas, land of football, cheerleading, Junior League petty rivalries and hot men. A recipe for pure fun.

Quick spoiler (mostly for Holly, if you haven't already read it): hero cheated on his wife in his first marriage, but he's quite well written, and I found myself forgiving him for that. Hard to forgive him for pretty much abandoning his daughter during the same time period, though, although he seems to have done a good job making it up in the interim. *end spoiler*

Bridge Through the MistBridge Through the Mist by Denise Agnew
This was a time travel. Our heroine, an archaeologist, travels back to 14th century Scotland to save a knight from his sure death. Anne, this one has the brogue. LOL. I found myself really enjoying this one, although several times I did have to allow myself to take at face value the easy acceptance of the 'time travel' theory on the part of the 14th century folk. If you can get past that, and a few anachronistic phrases here or there, along with the heroine's seemingly easy transition into 14th century language and lifestyle, I think you'll enjoy it as much as I did. For as much as it sounds like I didn't like the book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I really liked the heroine's sassiness, and the hero's angst and protectiveness. I loved it when he admitted that her reputation would be hurt by getting caught doing the nasty with him, but his reputation would be hurt because she saved him from harm twice. So 14th century LOL!

Memories of UsMemories of Us: Hearts of the South Book 5 by Linda Winfree
First off, whoever does her cover art, is fabulous. Every one of the books in this series is gorgeous!

This is the story of Tom McMillan, the ex-husband of Kathleen, the heroine of Truth and Consequences (book 1). I'll admit that Winfree wrote him nothing like I'd pictured him. As the DA, and a SIDS father, we see him driven to investigate personally every child death that crosses his desk. I would have loved to see Winfree explore that much more in-depth than she did, rather than focusing more on his feelings and coming to terms with his ex-wife. They had been split up for several years, and it seemed that was his main focus, but all of a sudden, it was resolved for him, and he felt free to pursue Celia. It just didn't sit quite right with me.

What Winfree did do beautifully, however, was to write his conflicted feelings about his 'gift'; his apparent psychic ability that he views more as a curse, and has yet to be able to understand. He blames himself when things don't go just right; including, we learn, the feeling that he should have gone in to check on his son, but didn't, and then he died of SIDS. She also writes it beautifully when we find out that he has misinterpreted another of his dreams, and it leads to an unexpected death.

Yet again, this is a story of corruption in law enforcement (although not of the law abusing its power as 'the law'), but since this is how Winfree has chosen to focus almost all of the books in this series, it was not unexpected for me. I did figure out the whodunnit about halfway through the book, but it didn't diminish my enjoyment of the other aspects of the story - the relationship building, and the character-building that Winfree did on the phychic side of Tom's character.

I also truly enjoyed the interactions that Celia had with her sister, and her peers. I love it when women in law enforcement are written with equal, professional, mutually respectful peer relationships (with one exception that did kind of bother me).

So... while I found a few things that could have been done more to my liking in each of these books, overall I enjoyed each of them, and could recommend them all. Good to be back reviewing, and I hope I can find the time to keep at it.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

REVIEW: Reason Enough - Megan Hart

Blurb: Elle and Dan haven’t quite achieved their goal of having sex in every room of their new house--but almost!

Marriage hasn’t dampened their hunger for one another in the least, and their relationship is as hot and passionate as ever. But when Dan brings up the subject of having a baby together, Elle finds herself conflicted. Between her dysfunctional family background and her fear of how a baby might change their life together, Elle’s not sure she’s ready for the big step. Dan doesn’t bring the subject up again, but the issue takes hold in Elle’s mind. And as their frequent lovemaking sizzles with unquenchable desire, Elle’s heart is filled to the brim with love and the longing to give Dan everything.

I met Dan and Elle in Dirty, Megan Hart's first Harlequin Spice release. I loved that book.

I won't rehash the storyline because the blurb does that amazingly well. What I will tell you is that I absolutely LOVED this book. It's rare to find an author who can write as poignantly as Megan Hart, what's even rarer is finding an author who can write short stories that are just as deep, touching, and moving. This story was more than I imagined it to be. I thought, "A short story about Elle and Dan! Yay!" I read the blurb and expected Elle to be at war with her feelings regarding a baby (which she was). What I didn't expect was so much to be packed into so few words. It was about Elle but we also got to see so many other people in her life and what they mean to her and how they help her form her decision as to whether or not she's ready to have a baby. In the end, the decision she makes comes from her heart.
I love how well Dan fits her. He just lets her make her own decisions. He may plant the seed of thought there, but he doesn't push. THAT is what makes them perfect together.

I love follow-up stories like this. Thank goodness for Spice Briefs because otherwise we may not have had another chance to visit with Dan and Elle. I can't help but wonder if Ms. Hart will, at some time in the future, let us drop in on Elle and Dan and see what's new in their lives once again. I
know they've got their happily-ever-after and that alone can sustain me, but I like Elle and her complexity. She's real. Megan Hart has quickly become on of my favorite authors... and now that I know she writes such amazing Spice Briefs, I'm going to go get her other one, This Is What I Want.

My grade: A+.

Buy it here.

AND from now until June 30th, all Spice books (ebooks and print) are 30% off!!!
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