Monday, February 27, 2012

Passion and Prose event

So this weekend was the first ever Passion and Prose event. It was really lovely. I liked the set up a lot. 2 authors were at each table, and readers were interspersed. I was actually assigned to the same table as Tessa DareWendy. The other author at our table was the lovely Judy Duarte, author of many wonderful Silhouette Special Editions (pssst - she has a new one coming out next month, except the back cover blurb makes it seem like - 3 babies? Ack! But otherwise? Yeah, like her books.).

The emcee for the day was MG Lord, who was hilariously funny, and did a great job. She's also a professor, and has written some really interesting-sounding books. Her latest, The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice, is one I think I am going to pick up. She gave us all sorts of examples in her talk about Elizabeth Taylor, and got me very intrigued.

We had the keynote by Gail Carriger, who was very funny. And apparently, brilliant as well. She's an archaeologist.

Then there was time to purchase books, visit with authors and get books signed.

Tessa Dare - and what's with that one piece of hair hanging
down on my forehead? It's there in every single picture, LOL.
Then back into the main room for lunch. Who would have ever thought that they would serve grilled cheese and tomato soup? But it was a brilliant choice. Absolutely delicious, and everyone agreed it was a total winner. Plus, the salad they served first had strawberries, oranges, and grapefruit on it. Win!

After lunch there was a YA panel. And those ladies were so interesting and adorable. I swear, it was enough to make me want to read a YA book.

I forgot to take pics of them, so just totally swiped this collage off the
Passion and Prose site. I wanted to give them their due.
During that panel, they served dessert - DIY ice cream sundaes and gorgeous cookies. Again, everyone agreed. Winner.

Of course, Wendy debated diving into the whipped cream, and I was planning to simply drink the leftover chocolate sauce. Yeah, we're so classy like that. The whipped cream was really good, but it didn't want to leave the serving spoon!

Then it was time for more book signing and schmoozing with authors and readers.

My favoritest person: HelenKay Dimon

Sylvia Day (L) and Zuri Day (R)
And can I say? My happiest new find of the day was Zuri Day. She is gorgeous and funny and outspoken. I totally want to be her when I grow up. The cover for her next (not yet released) book had me itching to read it. It's just so romantic. They are so into each other. And not just for the smexxin'. Except for his hunka hunka abs and shoulders there. There's something about the definition on a guy's shoulders that I love. *ahem* back to the blogpost...

Once that was done, it was time for the afternoon keynote: Meg Cabot. She was adorable, and hilarious, as you'd expect. Of course, I forgot to take a picture of her. And forgot to take any of me, Wendy, & Rowena. And forgot to buy raffle tickets - they gave away some great prize baskets. Sensing a theme here about me? D-oh!

There were so many there that I didn't get the chance to say hello to, but wished I had. So... if they are at RWA this summer, I will simply ambush them. And I hope that Passion & Prose keeps this a west cost event. There are already many author/reader events in the east (Lori Foster, Lora Leigh, etc). It's nice to have one out here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Addicted to Love by CJ West

Via Wes Holiday sells his landscaping business and retreats to a quaint mountain town to heal after ending a ten year relationship with a woman he couldn't bring himself to marry. In three weeks he is so captivated by a hair stylist that he deprives himself of food and sleep to be near her. When the local sheriff is murdered, Wes is recruited to keep the peace in the town his parents built, but he knows nothing about law enforcement and he's struggling to understand how a woman he just met can dominate his every waking thought. Soon the idyllic town with a penchant for romance is rocked by a bizarre series of murders that defy explanation and it is up to Wes to stop a raging epidemic of violence.

This was a freebie from Amazon. My first real dud of the year. I gave it a generous 1.5/5 stars on Goodreads, since I don't grade books here.

Spoilers abound.

The original premise intrigued me - a town full of Stepfordy-type couples, so in love that the flower shop and chocolate shop are inundated at 5 every night with all the men getting stuff to take home to their wives. If I hadn't been intrigued, my 1.5 stars would have been even less. While the premise had potential, the execution left something to be desired.

Wes is a summer visitor whose rich dad spent a ton in the town. When it seems he is the smartest one to take over for the murdered sheriff, he is puzzled (he just sold his landscaping company - not exactly the best qualifications for a sheriff). Especially when his best buddy works for the sheriff and is standing right next to him.

I got the creeps early on, and not the good kind, when Wes' girlfriend was irritated that he was solving a murder rather than boinking her. And that it was more important for him to schtup her nonstop than to get any rest when he was obviously exhausted.

It was quickly obvious that the town was being drugged. The book then became predictable, as a 'mad scientist' was trying out his evil-building drug at the same time as his love-building one. I was even more squicked out at the thought of all the old men drugging these young women to fall in love with them than I was at the thought that he deliberately turned the wives into murdering machines against their own husbands. At least that idea had a little promise.

The end is so awful. Once the murders are solved and the suspense resolved, Wes keeps a ton of the drug so that he can ensure his honey stays in love with him for evah. And she knows all about it. So the main couple doesn't have enough faith in their love to survive that they keep the drug and continue using it for their *cough* HEA.

I became confused often, as there was almost no transition between scenes in many places. The writing felt stilted to me, and the characters very one-dimensional.

So many bad messages in this book. The town council knew all about the scheme, and decided to play along because they all wanted to hang on to their young wives. And gee, since we can't be sure we'll stay in love, it's ok to take drugs to be able to boink like bunnies and stay in love. And gee, if you can't catch a lady the real way, why not just drug her so she'll do you over & over and act like you're a god? Perfectly acceptable, right?

Just. ick.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ARC: If You Know Her by Shiloh Walker


Nia Hollister doesn’t scare easily. Come hell or high water, she intends to find her cousin’s killer. She returns to Ash, Kentucky, for answers. What she doesn’t expect is to ache with desire every time she sees Law Reilly. If any man can help her escape the nightmares for a while, it’s him. But can she allow herself to take comfort in those strong arms when a murderer still roams free?

Unknown to Nia, as she quietly slips into Law Reilly’s home, is that she’s being watched—by someone who is waiting for an opportunity to strike.

Timing is everything, though he can’t wait forever. If she’s not frightened, she soon will be. Nia has made a vow to find her cousin’s killer. She should be careful what she wishes for.


This is the third and final book in the Ash trilogy from Walker. The suspense arcs over the course of all three books. And hello! I guessed the killer correctly. It was just a feeling I got early on in the series, but I kept coming back to it. Hooray for me, LOL.

I do have to admit that I found the killer's unraveling even more interesting than the romance. For some reason, I didn't love this couple. I liked both Law and Nia, but didn't love them. And I totally wanted to love them the same way I loved the previous two couples. I think I just didn't feel the deep emotional response that I usually do when reading a Walker book. They were both likable, they were both strong. They did well together. I just wan't that invested in their HEA, unfortunately.

The suspense is where the book rocked for me. After two books of waiting, wondering, and freaking out, the town of Ash finally catches the killer. And all three couples play a big part in this. I liked the way that Walker never forgets that Lena's blindness needs special consideration whilwe they are in danger, but that she lets Lena's character be strong in her own right. I loved that Hope supported Remy, helping to show more of her evolution. And I liked the way that Law constantly had to talk Nia down, but that he did it with respect for her position and understanding of her needs.

The killer's identity has severe consequences for one of the citizens of Ash (well, ok, more than one), and it's great to watch the evolution of that character's journey as they discover the identity and go from denial to acceptance. I adored watching the killer become unglued and lose all sense of reality, really. Yeah, I'm freaky like that. The killer's journey in a RS is one of my favorite things to watch. It's why I love authors that show the killer's POV. I know some hate it but I adore it. In this series, we get a bit of the killer's perspective, but not too much.

Anyway, this was a good ending to the series. It wrapped up the suspense and all the romances, and really made you root for continued HEAs for all three couples. If you haven't read the series, I recommend you do so. It's got the emotional depth all Walker's books carry, and a terrific suspense plot to boot.

The first two, If You Hear Her and If You See Her are available now. If You Know Her is available on Tuesday 28 February.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

TBR: Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke

OK, we're just gonna pretend that today is the 15th. Cause really? I need ALL month to get my post done. Dear Wendy: pleeeeze give me til the end of the month!!


Via Olivia Maitland needs a man. Determined to hang onto her family’s Louisiana farm no matter what, Olivia knows she needs a big, strong man to help her, a man who’s not afraid of hard work. But in the aftermath of the Civil War, men like that are hard to come by, and when she finds ex-boxer Conor Branigan lying unconscious in the road, Olivia takes him in, even though the hard, brawling Irishman isn’t exactly what she had in mind, especially when he ignites a passion in her she’s never felt before.

Conor knows what it’s like to pour all your hopes, dreams, and sweat into a piece of land only to have it come to nothing. He’d already seen his family destroyed and their lands taken during the Irish famine when he was a boy, and he has no intention of sticking around long enough to watch a corrupt man with power do the same thing to Olivia. But she and her three adopted daughters touch dreams in Conor he thought he’d forgotten long ago. Can he let go of the bitterness of his past and make a new future with Olivia? Can he believe in love again, or is it just too late for his cynical heart?

This month's theme was recommended read, and this was recommended by Wendy. She never steers me wrong on the American historicals. Now, what can I say that hasn't already been said during this month's TBR challenge by Phyl, Sonomalass, and Wendy?

I'll just say what I liked. Nothing. What did I love? Everything.

Conor is absolutely full of awesome. Sure, he has his issues. And they're biggies. But he can't help falling for first Olivia's kids and then Olivia herself. The scenes where he's alone with the girls are absolutely wonderful. Heartfelt, heart-warming, and every other heart-whatever term you can think of. I loved that he wanted to admit defeat and get off Olivia's land, and get her off as well, but when push came to shove he stood by her. Every time he needed to.

I loved that Gurhke doesn't shy away from the harshness of the times as it related to both single women and to the Irish. Conor is frequently called a Mick, and Olivia is judged by the gossipy women in town and the men try to take advantage of her.

I loved that Olivia was a strong woman, struggling to survive but doing it. And teaching her children how to survive and stand up for what they think is right.

And the bits of Conor's past mixed in with the present day was wonderfully executed. Oh, how I wanted to wrap my arms around him. I believe it was Wendy who said this book is all about Conor. And it is. All about his journey, coming to terms with his past and his future.

But Olivia also had some growing and stretching to do. I felt a though she did most of hers early in the book, as she learned not to be such a harsh judge, learned how to loosen up a little.

OK, nuff said. Brain = mush. Too many 12 hour days at the office. I'll end with the checklist:

Post-civil war America. check.
Awesome hero. check.
Fantastic heroine. check.
Great kids - not too precocious, not obnoxious. check.
Fabulous plot. check.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Robb's In Death world just around the corner?

TV news featured a piece on a car that drives itself this morning. Made me think of Eve Dallas' reality. Closer than we think. Cool huh?

So when is that auto-chef thing coming?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A few quickies... and who doesn't love a quickie?

Last Man Standing by Cindy Gerard

Special operative Joe Green has gone vigilante. His mission: avenge his Black Ops, Inc., brother’s death during a bloody ambush years ago in Sierra Leone. He refuses to drag the BOI team or his lover, Stephanie Tompkins, into the hunt for the man responsible, so when he finds himself beaten, starving, and alone after being falsely imprisoned for the murder of a Freetown priest, he knows he’s as good as dead. Joe meant to protect Stephanie when he walked out on their relationship, but he can’t stop her now from executing his escape. Breaking him out of prison is the easy part. After Joe’s explosive theory pans out and his cunning enemy emerges as the front runner for a high-level presidential appointment, he and Stephanie must race to derail the traitor’s conspiracy if they are to save their loved ones, the nation, and each other.

I really liked the last installment of the BOIs. I'm so sad to see it end. Joe and Stephanie have quietly been establishing themselves as a couple over the series. So subtly that you could miss it if you blink. What kept this from being a 5-star read was that even though reference was made to Joe being exhausted, he still seemed to recover if not all his strength & stamina, certainly far more than I found believable so quickly. Within a week of being rescued he was running around in the snow. It just seemed too quick for me.

Having said that, I absolutely loved his vulnerability. And thought Stephanie was a great heroine.

Gerard is an auto-buy for me, and this book is the perfect reason why. Strong, believable characters, fast-paced action, great camaraderie, and a hot romance to boot? Count me in. A lovely end to the series.


Guardian Agent by Dana Marton
When Gabe Cannon's commando team is tasked with bringing down a rogue solider, he doesn't expect to come face-to-face with the target's sister at the showdown instead of the man himself.

Jasmine is trying to lead the team away from her injured brother. Recognizing one of the hunters as her teenage crush is definitely a shock to her system. To save her family, she must convince Gabe that her brother was framed. But can she stop from falling in love with him all over again?

A decent story, and the suspense plot intrigued me. But it was so short that the romance (over a few hours) was not believable. Sure, Jasmine had loved Gabe when she was a teenager, but there was no basis for an adult love there. Especially on Gabe's part, since he hadn't had any romantic feelings for his friend Jake's sister back in the day. If the next book (Jake's) is a full-length, I would be willing to read it. I'd like to see if Marton can deliver a good romance with a higher page count. And I'm interested in how the suspense arc plays out.


Edge of Midnight by Leslie Tentler
The writer becomes the story when crime reporter Mia Hale is discovered on a Jacksonville beach—bloodied and disoriented, but alive. She remembers nothing, but her wounds bear the signature of a sadistic serial killer. After years lying dormant, The Collector has resumed his grim hobby: abducting women and taking gruesome souvenirs before dumping their bodies. But none of his victims has ever escaped—and he wants Mia back, more than he ever wanted any of the others.

FBI agent Eric MacFarlane has pursued The Collector for a long time. The case runs deep in his veins, bordering on obsession…and Mia holds the key. She'll risk everything to recover her memory and bring the madman to justice, and Eric swears to protect this fierce, fragile survivor. But The Collector will not be denied. In his mind, he knows just how their story ends.

4.5/5 stars. Each book gets better than the one before it. Eric is an FBI agent investigating a serial killer, and Mia is a reporter investigating the same set of crimes when she becomes a victim. The suspense was tight, the backstory was great, and the romance that was as believable as it was inappropriate. A terrificly evil villain. Vicious murders. Cops & FBI that actually work, and work long hours (this is a pet peeve of mine when it doesn't happen). Well done. I'll definitely be on the lookout for another release from Tentler.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Wasn't sure it was possible...

Love this cover like no other. Ever.

Knew I'd love the story too.

Just wasn't sure the story would be as stunning as the cover.

It was.

Every word, beautiful. The emotion, palpable. This was the best book I've read in the last 10 years. Easily.

My personal thanks to you Ms. Dane. This one did more than remind me of how much I love reading. It reminded me of what IT is supposed to be like. In words and in life. Just gorgeous.

A little note: I rarely buy books--simply can't afford to. I bought this one--just had to--and admired it for two months before picking it up to read. Now I'm going to admire it on my bookshelf. Forever. I'm also going to predict that I'll read it again. And again.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Lori's January Reads

So, yeah. I apparently gave up tracking my books about halfway through last year. No clue what I read in the 2nd half of the year. None at all. So I can't even do a best of 2011. It's like July - Dec never happened. But I know I read prolifically. So I decided to try again this year.

I tracked all of my January reads, and whaat? It was only 12 books. I'm not disappointed, because I don't set reading goals for myself. I read when I feel like it and read what I feel like reading. I just don't remember ever only reading 12 books in a single month.So, here are my January reads. All 'star' ratings are from my Goodreads shelves.

If You Know Her (The Ash Trilogy, #3) by Shiloh Walker - 4 stars
Review to come closer to release date. I liked this one a lot, but didn't connect with the either the hero or heroine as much as in the previous books. Still, a great resolution to the series, and my initial guess as to the villain when I read book 1 was right. HA!

If You See Her (The Ash Trilogy #2) by Shiloh Walker - 4.5 stars
Terrific examination of an abused woman finding herself again and learning to trust again. Loved it. Review here.

Razor's Edge (Edge, #2) by Shannon K. Butcher - 3 stars
This book made me sad because I loved book 1 and just didn't love this one. I thought the heroine especially was inconsistent. She was supposed to be a badass bodyguard, but seemed rather helpless to me. The hero, for coming out of the special forces seemed a little helpless, too. Not physically, but using his noodle? Yeah, there. Disappointing. But I generally love Shannon K Butcher's romantic suspense, so I will definitely get the 3rd when it comes out.

The Departed by Shiloh Walker - 4.5 stars
Fantastic. The 2nd in this series of psychic FBI agents (The Missing is the first, and was also awesome). I wanted to hate Taylor, but it's quickly revealed why he is such a jerk, and boy did I feel for him. It got a little unclear as to who had jurisdiction and why the FBI didn't take over the case, and none of that reasoning really made that much sense to me, so that's why the 4.5 instead of 5 stars. Otherwise, it was fabulous.

No One Left to Tell by Karen Rose - 5 stars
It's Karen Rose, need I say more? The heroine is a secondary character from a previous Rose novel, but this can be read as a standalone. Another romance that happens particularly quickly, but manages to be believable. Lots of sly humor injected into the dialogue, which was a nice break from the intensity of the suspense. And the suspense is tight as always. Less gory than most of her recent books, too. But still a ton of murder & mayhem - just most of it off-screen. I did have one of those moments where I thought, "Really? What else could happen to them today?" but it didn't ruin anything for me. Thankfully. Review here.

Millionaire's Last Stand by Elle Kennedy - 3 stars
I was disappointed with both these Kennedy books, mostly because I usually adore her books, and... well, I just didn't here. I definitely liked this one better than The Heartbreak Sheriff (they are connected, and this is the first one). A millionaire is accused of his ex-wife's murder, and the stubborn sheriff calls in his good friend from the FBI to help him nail down the evidence. Surprise! He's innocent. Another too-fast romance, but it was nicely done anyway.

The Heartbreak Sheriff by Elle Kennedy - 3 stars
In this one, the sheriff's ex is accused of murder. He gets a little taste of his own medicine when he believes in her innocence but nobody else does. What bothered me is that he never acknowledges the parallels here with the previous book where he was completely judgmental of the hero and refused to even look at anyone else for the murder. Yet he is in the exact same boat as the FBI heroine of the previous book, believing in his love's innocence, and wondering why everyone else is so damned determined to railroad her. It just bothered me, and made me dislike him.

Because of the List by Amy Knupp - 4 stars
Loved this book of a military hero who doesn't think he's good enough and the introverted heroine who was his best friend's little sister. A healthy dose of guilt here, and a wonderful helping of family on the side. I just loved it. Review here.

Colorado Dawn (Runaway Brides #2) by Kaki Warner - 4 stars
I liked this one quite a bit. Another western historical that actually has a married Scottish hero and an English heroine. I liked both of them, especially Angus. This is the 2nd book in the series, and I missed much of the camaraderie displayed among the women from the 1st one. Still, Warner writes beautifully and tells a lovely story. Angus, particularly, was funny and very self aware.

Whispers in the Dark (KGI #4) by Maya Banks - 4 stars
I didn't get the kick in the gut I usually get from Banks. I enjoyed this book tremendously, and really liked the hero and heroine. I loved their connection and how their entire relationship began. Perhaps that was the problem I had. The beginning was so powerful that I was bound to have a letdown. And frankly, none of the books has been as amazing to me as the 1st in the series. But, as always, the connection between the brothers was fantastic. I'm really looking forward to the next one, which I assume is Grace and Rio's book.

Triple Threat (Uniformly Hot! #3.5) by Jennifer LaBrecque - 3 stars
I remember absolutely nothing about this book other than I enjoyed it. Here's my note on it: "Typical Blaze fluff, and as usual, I enjoyed it."

One September Morning by Rosalind Noonan - 4 stars
This was a freebie on Kindle at some point in December I think. It's not a romance. It was a true surprise. It's an excellent fictional look at the Iraq war and its effect on both the soldiers and those left behind. A Pat Tillman-like story, but with a definite villain added. What threw me most was that it's written in 3rd person present tense. I finally got used to it, but it took a while. I recommend this one.

I also reviewed If You Hear Her by Shiloh Walker and Matthew by Emma Lang, both of which I read in December, but released in January. And I wrote 3 reviews here on the blog, and quasi-reviewed 7 of these on Goodreads! And by quasi-reviewed, I mean that some only have a sentence or two, but I'll take it. Go me!

If you can't tell, I've been on a serious romantic suspense kick. I can't even think of picking up much else right now. Not sure why - usually I can read historical whenever, but nope. Right now, I'm all about the suspense. Next up in my queue are Cindy Gerard's latest, Last Man Standing and Leslie Tentler's Edge of Midnight - both rom-susp. Oh well. For now, I'll just keep going with the flow. Eventually I'll want to read something else.
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