Saturday, March 08, 2014

Well, hi there!

Hey there, people! Long time no see!

I miss book blogging so much, and am going to try to get back into it. So, for  my first post, I want to just give a quick shout out, because if you followed us when we were blogging regularly, you know my massive love for Beth Williamson and her Malloy family series. My introduction to Beth was The Bounty - the first book, and oh my goodness, you should go read the stories of all the Malloy siblings and their loves. Somehow, it seems I never published any review of the books. Huh. Not sure how that happened (or not). I did, however review all of her next series, Devils on Horseback - one of them, Zeke, made my best of the year in 2008. A-may-zing.

Anyway... Since The Bounty was first published in 2006, following the 8 book series, she wrote the story of Francesca and John, the Malloy parents last year. Now we get the story of Jo, Francesca's sister. To say I'm happy to see this series continue is an understatement.

The Prospect publishes on March 14.

The Prospect by Beth WilliamsonThe lie that saves her life could destroy their love.

Josephine Chastain never thought a case of typhoid would force her Oregon-bound family to leave her behind in Fort John—in the care of the last man she trusts. Others in the wagon train may have accepted Declan Calhoun’s motives for kidnapping her sister Frankie, but not Jo.

When she wakes up from the three-week fever, though, she finds some things have changed. Declan is her husband. And their cabin is too small to contain the growing desire between them.

While Jo fights for her life, Declan finds himself falling for the bookish Chastain sister. A woman with spine of steel and a seemingly bottomless well of smarts. In other words, everything he can never be.

Yet now is not the time to confess the little white lie that has thus far kept her safe. Not when he must figure out how to escape a quarantine that’s turned into extortion. And resist Jo’s determination to seduce him before she learns the truth. Before the unforgiving wilderness between them and safety claims their lives.

(The Malloy Family, Book 10)

Also, last week, the 5th book in her Circle Eight series, Nicholas, was published. I did manage to review the first book, Matthew, here before we disappeared into the nether world. I read Nicholas last week, and it's not a lighthearted romp for sure. It's about feeling like you somehow don't fit in, depression, guilt, and overcoming the darkness. A wonderful book.

Nicholas: Circle Eight
Even in the darkest of shadows, love can light the way.

Nicholas Graham is caught in the middle: of his family, of his desires, of his own unhappiness. After he meets Winnie Watson, his self-imposed curmudgeonly existence pales in comparison to spending time with her. He wants to be with her, to get to know her. She is a beacon to all the secret cravings he has controlled. Until now.

Winnie Watson endured, and survived, a horrendous childhood that would give others nightmares. She started over, a new name, a new goal in life. Then she met the Grahams and everything went sideways. She’s done the unthinkable and struggles to accept it. She wants to forget it all again, but the specter of Nicholas Graham, physical and in her dreams, won’t let her move on.

Caught between their needs, their wants, and what the world will allow them, Nick and Winnie are doomed from the moment they met. However, love will teach them that even the biggest obstacles can be overcome if you believe in love.

Hope to see you all come back :)  I see a lot of you on Twitter, but I'd love to start sharing my book love in longer form again.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

TBR: Silent Mercy by Lori Armstrong

This month's theme is to read a short novella or story.

Recently returned from training at Quantico, FBI agent Mercy Gunderson stirs up trouble and uses her rarely seen feminine side to seduce her unsuspecting boyfriend, sexy-as-sin Sheriff Mason Dawson. When she revs up her Viper to get his attention while he’s on patrol, tempers and sparks fly—but their rendezvous is interrupted by a disturbing cry for help. The pair rush to the scene, where Mercy discovers that even though she can’t always save the day, she doesn’t have to be silent about it…

This is a super short snippet of Mercy Gunderson's life as a new FBI agent. It focuses on Mercy's relationship with Mason Dawson, the local sheriff, as well as her insecurities as a newbie agent. Mercy's bravado with that underlying self-doubt is one of my favorite things to explore in this series, and Armstrong manages in a very short page count to touch upon it, both in her personal and professional relationships.

There's not much to say about this, except that it takes a step in forwarding Mercy & Dawson's relationship, in helping to bring them closer to understanding each other and each other's commitment to their jobs. It also introduces the case for the next novel in the series, (just released) Merciless.

Seriously, this is an awesome series. It's really hard to put into words how the stark setting and blunt talk covers up the deep emotions in these books. Much like Mercy herself. And I so love Mason Dawson. He's as enigmatic as Mercy, and yet so much more approachable and open somehow.

I know this all sounds very contradictory emotionally, and it is.

This series is all about a very personal journey for Mercy. And it's captivating, exciting, bleak, depressing, and oh so engaging, even as it holds itself at a distance.

The books are:
No Mercy (reviewed here)
Mercy Kill
Silent Mercy (novella)
Merciless (just released)

Monday, January 07, 2013

Cut & Run series by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

I have been hearing wonderful things about this series for a few years now. And every time I read a review of a book in the series, I’m always intrigued. It’s been on my TBR list for a couple years now. I finally bit the bullet last week, and oh, how I’m glad I did. I was so pulled into this series that the second I finished one book, I immediately went and bought the next one. I read the entire series in 4 days. And now I’m thinking I might reread it. Now. Yes, it was that good. So good I can't even express it. But of course, I'll try.

Ty and Zane are FBI agents who are partnered up, albeit very unhappily. Ty looks unkempt, has a laissez-faire attitude, and talks back. Zane appears the complete opposite. He is buttoned up, he’s a “yes, sir” man, and hates everything Ty seems to stand for on sight.

I’m not really going to go into much of the cases they are assigned, except when it helps to show examples.

As buttoned up as Zane is, it’s all a front. He has gotten in trouble in the past, and is putting on a front to convince himself and the SAIC that he’s worthy of better assignments. Zane’s wife passed away while he was away on an assignment, and he’s been an alcoholic, drug-addicted mess ever since. There is just the right amount of focus on Zane’s addictions, his efforts to get and stay clean, and Ty’s efforts to support him without enabling.

Ty is a former Recon Marine, a POW, and an all-around smart-ass. But there’s oh-so much more going on under the surface. He's hiding a lot under that crazy exterior.

In the past, they each considered themselves bisexual, although Zane’s encounters were mostly of the alley outside a bar nature. However, the sparks between them are too much, and in one moment of heated anger, Ty lays a big ol hard kiss on Zane. Thus begins their journey together.

What I love so much about this series is that these guys act like men. Big, strong, dopey men. Just like any alpha in any romantic suspense book does. They are tough. They talk like men. They fight, verbally and physically, constantly. And their physical fights? Yeah. Brutal. Yet these guys can be tender, too. I loved it.

I’ve always hated gratuitous sex, and there is none in these books. None. Every single sex scene (and there are just the perfect amount) forwards their relationship. Usually in a huge meaningful way. Ty has always been a top, but with Zane, he discovers how amazing it feels to be a bottom. These guys trade off being top and bottom, and it’s always because of their particular situation at the time. Which I loved. Sometimes Ty needed to be held, and at others, Zane did. Other times their emotions running high, they had rough, brutal sex. But it always, always fit exactly the mood at the time.

I loved how protective they were of each other. Although they were terrified of being outed at the FBI (and as the relationship progresses, they note it’s not so much because of being gay, but because of the fraternization policy), they each stood up when the other was under duress and protected the other. Ahhh. Two seriously alpha males on the attack. *happy sigh*

There is a lot of humor in these books, both subtle and running jokes (usually at Ty’s expense). While all the books were just amazing, Armed & Dangerous (book 5) is where I noted how they had evolved to such tenderness between them. Yet, they move between tenderness and roughness effortlessly at the snap of a finger.

They both have family issues, and in book 6, they come out to their families. Well, they’re outed, first by Ty’s grandfather in a funny and touching scene. A great mix of humor and angst. And when they come out, Ty’s grandfather’s surprising response is this:
“Love isn’t a gentle thing. I’ve found it carries a club and a bullwhip and doesn’t care when or who it strikes.”
Zane’s father is just as accepting:
Ty isn’t just my partner at work. He’s my boyfriend. I love him.” “Oh.” Harrison sounded thoughtful. “Well, that explains it.” He went back to cutting the churro on Sadie’s plate, and Zane and Ty both stared at him, incredulous. “That’s it?” Ty blurted. Harrison shrugged and chewed a piece of the sweet bread Sadie had stuffed into his mouth. “Had a gay bull I had to sell last year. That was a damn nuisance. Gay son? That don’t cost me nothing.”
Lest you think that it’s all sunshine and rainbows, Zane’s mother is brutal in her disapproval, of the relationship, of Ty, and truly, of Zane as well.

Roux & Urban’s prose is perfect – it moves between slapstick, subtlety, angst, and humor without missing a beat. I absolutely love this passage from Stars & Stripes (book 6, written solo by Roux), where Ty discovers that Zane used to paint and is looking at one of his paintings:
He studied the painting again. Careful strokes, meticulous details that still somehow formed a sloppy likeness of the sun setting over the desert. There was calm beneath the vibrant surface, like Zane in reverse.
So perfect. And so true in its description of Zane.

And this – for some reason it spoke to me.
“I love you,” Ty said out of the blue, his voice almost sing-song. Zane laughed. “You’re drunk.” “I loved you before I was drunk.”
See? Subtle, humorous, but oh so deep. The books are full of this stuff.

Also wonderful is the supporting cast. Ty's family is wonderful, and in the last book, we meet Zane's as well. The interaction of their FBI team and their SAIC is superb as well. The give and take, the crazy talk, and the mundane paperwork that drives them all crazy. The books show not only the outlandish undercover assignments we’re all used to seeing in romantic suspense, but also the torturous hours of research, paperwork, and public relations that accompany an FBI assignment.

Where these books shine, though, is in any interaction between Zane & Ty. They talk. They avoid. They reveal. They fight. And reveal so much during lovemaking.

If there was one thing that I didn’t care for, it was in the last couple books, written alone by Abigail Roux, and it’s much more of an editing issue. I did notice that the series moved from Dreamspinner to Riptide, so obviously a different editor had at it. But all their kisses were either sloppy or messy in the last couple books. Enough so that I noticed and began to envision slobbery kisses, which? Ewwww.

That little niggle aside, these are amazing books. Isn’t it obvious how much I loved this series? All 6 books are a 5 out of 5 rating on Goodreads for me. Seriously. go buy it now.

I will say one last thing. They need to be read in order. And y’all KNOW I hardly ever care about reading in order. But this series demands it. The relationship progression is so perfect, that to skip a book might ruin it all. Think about Eve & Roarke in the first 5 books, and how their relationship progresses. Those needed to be read in order. The later books, not so much, but the early ones? Oh yes.

Here is the order:
Cut & Run
Sticks & Stones
Fish & Chips
Divide & Conquer
Armed & Dangerous (by Abigail Roux alone)
Stars & Stripes (by Abigail Roux alone)

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in review and a word about 2013

So, 2012 was the year that Jen and I abandoned our blog. She to focus more on her beautiful boy, and me to focus on the family and other things. I pretty much abandoned everything else in my life to become involved in politics this past year. I blogged, I volunteered, I annoyed everyone on Facebook and Twitter. But it was important to me. And that’s what is so great about our country – that we CAN do those types of things, get involved and speak out.

But I really miss blogging about books. Writing down some thoughts about books I loved and even those I didn’t. I kind of freaked when I looked and saw our last post was in August. Whoops! My reading didn’t really slow down, I just stopped recording my reads and stopped using Goodreads to track my reading. Shoot! That had been working really well for me until the heart stuff. Then I kind of just gave it up.

So for 2013, I vow to at least do one review each month, if not more. How ‘bout that? Go me!

And now, a quick wrapup of 2012 – at least what I can remember of it!

I stopped recording books in May. Oops. But at that point, I’d read 108 books. I never ever give myself a reading goal, other than to read what I want when I want to. And to read for pleasure, not out of obligation. I can really tell that this was a comfort read year for me. Almost all of my favorites are from historicals. And they are definitely my feel-good comfort reads.

Favorite authors:
I adored the books I read by Tessa Dare and Maya Banks this year. Dare’s Spindle Cove series is a hit with me, and A Week to Be Wicked has to rate among my favorite books of the year. Banks’ KGI series is awesome, although the last couple of books weren’t nearly as good as the first. But I’m just getting ready to dive into PJ & Cole’s story. Yay! Where I loved Banks most this year, though, was her historicals. I read her McCabe trilogy and OMG loved it. Ewan from book 1? Likely my favorite hero of the year. Ok, he might have a little competition. Like from Graeme in Never Seduce a Scot (also by Banks) or Conor in Conor’s Way or Colin in A Week to be Wicked. But I digress. If you love historicals (and love them for the characters, not the historical accuracy), these are the books for you.

Favorite heroes:
OK, I kinda let the cat out of the bag above. Requirements for a wonderful hero? Humor, badass, loves his heroine more than anything in the world. Who fit the bill this year?

Conor in Conor’s Way by Laura Lee Gurhke ( This is why I still try to participate in the TBR challenge. So many awesome books to read! Conor is so sighworthy. He’s amazing with the heroine and with her children. He overcomes adversity. He needs love. He stands by Olivia no matter what. He is just awesome.

Colin in A Week to be Wicked ( He’s funny, he’s hiding a world of hurt, he loves Minerva for who she is, he’s romantic, vulnerable but at the same time he’s manly and possessive. Oh yum.

Ewan from In Bed With a Highlander. I loved how protective he was of Marin. He was alpha to the core, but soft with her. He loves his son. He loves how Marin loves his son. He’s strong, forceful, but unafraid to be vulnerable and loving with those he cares about, especially Marin. Awesome.

Graeme in Never Seduce a Scot. I actually cried while reading this book. I admit it. A sign of his times, Graeme acquiesces to the marriage to the “touched in the head” Eveline. He acknowledges the loss of his dreams of a family. But does it out of duty. Right from the start, he recognizes that there’s something special about Evie. He works to give her more independence. I adored how as soon as he understood what was happening within his clan, he stood up for Evie – not just because she was his wife, but because it was right and he wanted to protect her. He loves Evie. He loves his family so much. He’s an awesome man full of hero. And oh how sexy.

Favorite heroines:
What stands out for me in a great heroine is the ability to love her hero while being completely self-sufficient. She can make it on her own, but is just so much happier and fuller with him around. She’s smart, sassy, and sensitive.

This was the year I broke down and began the Hunger Games trilogy. Granted, I only got to book 1, but still. Katniss is a fantastic heroine. Tough. Smart. Sensitive. Loving. And badass. Nuff said.

Minerva in A Week to be Wicked. Another smart heroine. Fighting a world of hurt, yet unwilling to change who she is for anyone. I love that although she’s so smart, she’s also impulsive and that gets her into a lot of scrapes. She’s sassy, always willing and able to indulge in wickedly delicious banter with Colin. And brings him to his knees not only without emasculating him, but in the process makes him seem even more manly and wonderful.

Eveline in Never Seduce A Scot. Wow. Overcomes adversity in a time when having a disability was huge. She learned to lipread after a fall made her deaf. She is strong and independent. She eagerly enters into the marriage for her own reasons, and fully embraces it. She tries hard to fit in. I cried at how cruelly she was treated by the women of the keep. But cheered when she overcame it all. She is tender and loving, but smart as a whip and overcomes adversity like a trooper. Plus, her romance with Graeme is sighworthy.

Comfortable favorites and looking forward:
This year was a difficult one for me personally, and I needed a lot of comfort reads. I didn’t really read a lot of new-to-me authors. I caught up on old faves and old series. So who did I read? Authors whose books make me feel good. Among others:
Shannon Stacey
Tessa Dare
Maya Banks
Lauren Dane
Shiloh Walker
Allison Brennan
Beth Williamson & Emma Lang
Linda Lael Miller
HelenKay Dimon
Laura Griffin

What do I want to read in 2013?
I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to new contemporaries from Shiloh Walker. Her depth of character & emotional journeys make all her contemps especially great reads.

I want more romantic suspense. Please!

More Karen Rose! I am so sad that since I left my job, I can’t take advantage of my UK connection. I used to order her books when they came out in the UK, have them shipped to our UK office (free) and then shipped via interoffice mail (again, free). So I had the books 6 months before anyone else. Now interoffice mail is out as an option. I iz sad.

More historicals from Maya Banks please.

Dylan & Aiden’s story in the Out of Uniform series by Elle Kennedy. If this won’t happen, I don’t want to hear about it. Ever.

Another Kowalski book. Yes please.

The next Rocky Mountain book(s) from Vivian Arend.

What are you looking forward to in 2013?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Smashed by Lisa Luedeke

Blurb via Goodreads: Stay out of trouble for one more year, and Katie Martin can leave her small town loneliness behind forever. She is a field hockey star on the fast track to a college scholarship, but her relationship with alcohol has always been a little questionable. Then trouble finds her. Alec is the most popular guy in school, and also the biggest bully—with his sights set firmly on Katie. When Alec turns on the charm, Katie thinks she must have been wrong about him.

Except that she wasn’t. On a rain-soaked, alcohol-drenched night, one impulsive decision leaves Katie indebted to Alec in the worst possible way. This debut novel is a fast-paced and compelling story of addiction, heartbreak, and redemption.

I don't often read YA, and there's a really good reason for that which I will note in a moment. But this is a coworker's debut novel. So I really wanted to read it.

The novel takes place in small-town Maine. Katie's dad up and left them - just went out one day and never came back. Katie doesn't know if he's dead or alive, but works on the assumption that he's still alive. Her mom works nonstop and when she's not at work, she is hanging out in Portland with her latest boyfriend, leaving Katie to care for her younger brother alone. Mom comes home only to replenish the groceries. Katie has a lot of feelings of inadequacy mixed up with her dad's desertion.
My father had pulled his truck out of our driveway five years before, after a fight with my mother, and vanished. There had been one card, on my brother’s birthday, then nothing. Nothing. I didn’t know if he was dead, but sometimes believing he was beat the alternative—that he hated us enough to leave and never look back.
She also obviously also feels the pressure of having to be the parent for her 12 year old brother. She has a strong support system, though, in her friends and their parents. The main thing keeping her remotely grounded is the possibility of a hockey scholarship.

Katie's group of friends and their dynamic strikes me as authentic - some of these kids drink (some to excess) and some don't at all. They smoke dope. But overall, most of them are good kids. Sounds typical, I suppose.

Alec is a hotshot football player, whom Katie & her friends have always looked down on as a "player". They aren't buying his "I'm so awesome" bullshit. But one day over summer, when Katie is missing her best friend (vacationing in Europe), Alec approaches her, and she feels something. A pull, an attraction.

She begins an on-again, off-again friendship/relationship with Alec, until his destructive behavior makes her feel uncomfortable. He encourages her to drink constantly, and tries desperately to get her into bed. She constantly flip-flops about her feelings for Alec.

One night, after a lot of drinking, there is a car accident. Alec's car is totalled. It's assumed that he was driving, but it was actually Katie. She lets him take the blame, and that's when more trouble starts.

Katie is overcome by feelings of guilt, but buries them with alcohol. As her behavior becomes more and more self-destructive, she still feels obligated to Alec and though he creeps her out most of the time, she still wonders if maybe he really likes her after all. She is so confused and consumed with guilt that she tries to avoid him at all costs.

Until she can't, and an encounter at a New Year's party turns into rape. Yes - warning: there is a rape in this book. It's not terribly graphic on-page, but it is there, and obvious, and painful.

Following this, Katie comes completely unravelled, drinks excessively, even during school, and withdraws completely from her friends and family.

I felt as though her counselor and/or teachers should have noticed and recognized the signs of trauma. After all, we know that they receive training for this. However, they didn't believe her. They thought the claim of rape was a way to avoid taking responsibility for her drinking. Even her own mother didn't believe her at first.
“He raped me.” She blinks once, stares at me. “Alec Osborne?” “New Year’s Eve. He did, Mom.” I look at her and start to cry. Mrs. Bradford pauses and bites her lip. “You know how serious it would be to lie about something like that.”
God, I hope that doesn't happen as often as I think it does!

Katie is forced into rehab and counseling. And although the rape is reported (at least they followed mandatory reporting laws!), it's a case of he said, she said, and Katie's credibility is nil due to her drinking and Alec isn't prosecuted. Oh how this frustrated me on Katie's behalf. It's a perfect example of real life, though. It happens, and happens often. And the victim-blaming and trauma here is a huge part of why we tell our kids No means No - even if you think it doesn't. Even if she's running hot and cold. She's a teenager, too, and as confused as you might feel, she feels the same confusion. And as adults, we can also be unsure of what we want. We talk about potential situations often, and counsel them on ways they might approach any situation.

During rehab, Katie begins to come to terms with her dad's desertion, her reasons for drinking and a whole host of other issues. And though she loses her scholarship as a result of her self-destructive behavior, in the end, it looks like she'll be ok. However, the book ended rather abruptly and we really didn't get a chance to see how well she does in the real world.

Lisa Luedeke's writing is excellent. Though it's in 1st person (which I hate), I struggled through, and realized why so many YAs are in 1st person. As an adult, it takes you right back to that age, and as a YA, it speaks to you on your own level - puts you in the character rather than being an observer. You feel everything right along with Katie. Luedeke's characters leaped off the page. They felt very real. Spoke like teens. Acted like teens. Felt the things that teens feel - the confusion, the intensity, the despair, the insecurity - all of it. And therein lies my problem with YA.

I have only really run into this one other time - with Marie Force's Love at First Flight (not a YA). I felt like the situation struck too close to home. I wanted to avoid it at all costs. I have two teenagers. I live in fear that one day they or one of their friends will have an issue with drinking. Especially now that Oldest is starting college. He came home from the Bahamas and my nephew's fraternity house and told us how he was drinking, but luckily he can handle his alcohol. Gah! A parent's worst nightmare!

I read to escape real life. Let me rephrase. I read fiction to escape real life. Reading something that strikes at one of my worst fears - that my kids or their friends might get out of control, addicted to alcohol, or worse - is not my idea of a good time. This was a very difficult read. I can definitely appreciate Luedeke's talent, and those who love YA will probably love this book to pieces. Apparently it's been compared to Speak (which I confess I haven't read, but wow - I've actually heard of!).

It's a difficult but excellent look at teen relations, teen problems, addiction, recovery, and forgiveness. So for fans of YA, this is sure to be a hit. If you love YA, I highly recommend it. For myself? Not so much.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Born to Darkness by Suzanne Brockmann

Blurb via
Dishonorably discharged, former Navy SEAL Shane Laughlin is down to his last ten bucks when he finally finds work as a test subject at the Obermeyer Institute, a little-known and believed-to-be-fringe scientific research facility. When he enters the OI compound, he is plunged into a strange world where seemingly mild-mannered scientists--including women half his size--can kick his highly skilled ass.

Shane soon discovers that there are certain individuals who possess the unique ability to access untapped regions of the brain with extraordinary results-including telekinesis, super strength, and reversal of the aging process. Known as "Greater-Thans," this rare breed is recruited by OI, where they are rigorously trained using ancient techniques to cultivatetheir powers and wield them responsibly.

But in the depths of America's second Great Depression, where the divide between the haves and the have-nots has grown even wider, those who are rich--and reckless--enough have a quick, seductive alternative: Destiny, a highly addictive designer drug that that can make anyone a Greater-Than, with the power of eternal youth. The sinister cartel known as The Organization has begun mass-producing Destiny, and the demand is growing. But few realize the drug's true danger, and fewer still know the dirty secret of Destiny's crucial ingredient.

Michelle "Mac" Mackenzie knows the ugly truth. And as one of the Obermeyer Institute's crack team of operatives, she's determined to end the scourge of Destiny. But her kick-ass attitude gets knocked for a loop when she discovers one of the new test subjects is the same smoldering stranger who just rocked her world in a one-night stand. And although Shane quickly discovers he isn't a Greater-Than like Mac, as an ex-SEAL, he's got talents of his own. But Mac's got powerful reasons to keep her distance from Shane-and reasons to want him close. She's used to risking her life, but now she faces sacrificing her heart in the ultimate war on drugs.


I didn't care for the prequel novella, Shane's Last Stand. I thought the worldbuilding was poor, and it was too short to accomplish anything that couldn't be done in a prologue, and so I resented paying the measley $0.99 for it. Given a full-length novel, Brockmann had a much greater canvas upon which to paint her story. I thought the world that she created here was well done given the greater page count. It is a bleak picture of an America where unemployment is high, poverty reigns, and society has been completely corporatized. The gap between rich and poor (or haves and have-nots, as Brockmann calls it) has gotten larger. I found it a very interesting contrast to the world that JD Robb creates in the In Death series. My thoughts on JD Robb's worldbuilding in Naked in Death is here and overall is here.

Brockmann's story takes place in the same time period as the In Death series. Yet Robb's mostly optimistic and progressive view of the future is vastly different than Brockmann's bleak world dominated by corporatized government, high unemployment, poverty, illegal birth control, lack of belief in science, big-brother surveillance, and more. Yes, both of their political views come through and while it's easy to infer that they have similar world views, their individual visions of the future as portrayed in their futuristic worlds are vastly different.

I found this contrast to be the most mesmerizing part of the book, because I could easily see either one becoming a reality, given how our country is becoming increasingly polarized.

What else can I comment on? Oh... the characters. Right. In true Brockmann form, there are several threads woven together, and each character plays a role in bringing the entire fabric together.

I'm not going to get too into the characters or even the plot, because what held me was the bleak view Brockmann gives of the future. And the sadness I felt that I could actually foresee a world where this could happen.

Anyway... just a little bit

I liked Shane. But have I ever not liked a Brockmann hero (Danny Gilman notwithstanding)? She writes awesome men. He's resourceful, alpha, and yet he completely believes in Mac. I also liked Mac, but their romance didn't grab and hold me. It's not that I didn't believe in it, but it just felt almost secondary to all the rest of the action.

I really liked the relationship between Joseph and Anna. I loved how Brockmann nursed them along, letting me believe in a future for them only to yank it out from under them. I'm very interested to see how that progresses. Of course, being Brockmann, she left an unresolved relationship here for a future book.

I also liked Stephen and Elliot's romance, though I thought it progressed very quickly from wishful thinking to I love you, to marriage proposal. I would have liked to have seen it be nurtured over the course of another book before it progressed that far. And I'm very interested to see how Nika grows and matures. I'm guessing that hers will be the final book, since she needs years to age.

Brockmann hooked me into this world enough that I will definitely be reading the next one, but it definitely wasn't as riveting as her early Team 16 books, which held me spellbound.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

ARC: The Virgin's Revenge by Dee Tenorio

If you can't beat 'em...seduce 'em

Amanda Jackman’s love life is the stuff dreams are made of...which is fitting, because it’s all in her head. Thanks to six oversized, overbearing brothers who treat her like the family jewel, she’s lived in a padded little box.

Determined to get a life before she needs a padded little cell, she sets out to throw off the yoke and live on her own terms. Except she seriously underestimates the lengths to which her brothers will go to keep her safe and sound.

Cole Engstrom’s life might just be at an end. Cornered by all six of the massive Jackmans—men he normally considers his friends—he learns he’s their choice to marry their sister...or else. Make that first choice, but not the last.

Rather than watch Amanda’s brothers club their way through potential mates, Cole figures it’s best to just play along for a while and buy her some time to find a man of her own. It’s a good plan. Until Amanda figures it out—and decides he’s the one to relieve her of her “sheltered little virgin” status. One seduction at a time.


Before I begin, I will say this. Although it's an accurate (mostly) note on the book's content, I hate the title. It reminds me of my least favorite Harlequin line, Desire. But don't let that stop you from picking this book up.

I love Dee Tenorio's writing. She uses that mix of humor & emotion as so many of my favorite authors do. I was a little worried at the beginning, when it all seemed a little slapstick, but I don't know why I worried. Tenorio never fails to deliver the goods. My heart broke for Amanda and Cole, while at the same time loving their banter and the realism it contained. I admit to loving Cole just a bit more than Amanda. I loved how he took pride in the way she spread her wings. How he said I love you first. How he stood up to her brother. And I loved how Dee incorporated the personality if a programmer into Cole. I admit to many a night where I was so buried in code I didn't realize morning had come. Perfection. (Both Cole & fun staying up all night working the code).

I missed picking up the other two books in the series before this one, but it was awesome to revisit with the hero and heroine from Betting Hearts, which was my very first book by Dee Tenorio, and I loved it. I will go back to read the others for sure. That being said, obviously this book works beautifully as a stand-alone.

With the ending and the epilogue, it was pretty easy to see where the next book is going. I liked Locke so much.... ok, aside from his caveman tendencies. His situation reminds me a little of Lauren Dane's Brody Brown. Setting aside his own needs and dreams to raise a family of siblings following their parents' death. I can't wait to see him relax a little and loosen up with his heroine.

All in all, a fun, emotional, satisfying read.
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