Sunday, November 27, 2011

His Bare Obsession by Lacey Thorn

It was just another day in the small town of Legacy for sexy gym owner Moira Madigan and her best friend Cass. Until they investigated a noise and stumbled upon the body of the latest victim of the rapist and killer who was preying on the women in their town. Now being stalked by this madman, Moira is put under the protective custody of Detective Gil Daniels. He's tall, dark, handsome and just about the sexiest thing she's ever seen. The good news is he's crazy about her too. The bad news is so is the killer and he'll use anyone to get to her.

Can she trust the detective to keep her body safe or only to bring her the ultimate pleasure a woman can have? Sex with Gil Daniels is better than anything she's ever dreamed of and she just might be falling in love. All she has to do is survive meeting his family and avoid the obsessed killer and she might find that happily ever after.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Where to start on this train wreck of a book? Holy moly! I was ready to DNF it in the first chapter, but decided to see where it went. Where it went was wrong. Wrong in every possible way. This was a freebie on Barnes & Noble, so I have one more thing to be thankful for this year – I didn't pay for this book.

The blurb is pretty self-explanatory. So… within the first chapter, Detective Gil Daniels has developed the serious hots for murder witness Moira Madigan. Knowing he has the hots for her, he volunteers to stay at her apartment for 'protection'.

So.. what irked me? I guess it might be easier to note what didn't irk me. That would be, uhhh... nothing.

Gil: So, there is a serial rapist/murderer on the loose. Moira & her roommate catch him at the tail end of his latest murder, and he attacks Moira. Enter Gil, the lead detective on the case. Within 24 hours, it's insta-love! Gil moves in with Moira, roughly takes her virginity, sexxes her up about 5 times on that first night, says I love you, and proposes. There is apparently no problem in the police department with this behavior. Within that same 24 hours, he has called his entire family and invited them to come to town to meet his future bride and has his mom bring his grandmother's ring for Moira.

Moira: Within 24 hours, Moira gives her virginity to Gil, becomes a nympho, magically gives amazing head, falls in love, and accepts his proposal.

Within about 72 hours, she has met his family completely naked, and has no issues with having screaming loud anal sex with his entire family on the other side of the bedroom door. Only a few days after losing her virginity, she's loudly demanding that Gil fuck her in the ass.

Together: After being attacked by the killer, and having to be on her guard 24/7, Gil surprises Moira in the shower, and she's pissed at the way he scared her. He gets pissed at her for being pissed at him and basically forces himself on her. And within minutes, she's so sorry it's so hard for him and she's begging him to do her yet again.
"You. You. You. It's all about how you feel, how it makes you look. Well, fuck you Gil! What about how I feel? You scared me in the shower and then had the gall to yell at me for being scared. In trying to get away from you and oyur temper, I end up maked in front of your family. Oh yes, I really enjoyed meeting Griff in the buff, so I decided to meet the rest of your family that way as well. Why at least this way when I kick your ass to the curb maybe one of your brothers will have liked what they saw enough to take me in."
"Neither of my brothers will ever touch you, Moira. You're mine. You belong to me. You'd best start remembering that."

"I don't belong to anyone, Gil. I'm not a possession of yours."
Now, so far, it sounds like she's standing up for herself. And rightfully so, since Gil is pretty much an asshole. But just wait…
Gil pulled her to him and hugged her close. "No you are not a possession. What you are is the woman I love, the woman who I can't imagine my life without." He let out a harsh sigh and squeezed her tighter before releasing her so that he could look into big green eyes. "I know that you are scared baby. The truth is that so am I. Every time I dealt with Lacey's murder it was like a brutal reminder that it could have been you. I need you like I have never needed anyone in my life, Moira. I've seen what this animal does to these women and I couldn't handle it if he got to you. I just couldn't handle it."

"Oh, Gil, I never even thought about this scaring you.… Sometimes I like it when you get a little possessive.… I'm the lucky one."
And just like that, it's all about Gil, and Moira starts begging him to fuck her. Then later on in that same scene, Gil screws her anally. Without lube! Like 48 hours after he takes her virginity.

And they never once use a condom. Never. He roughly screws her something like 5 times on the night he takes her virginity. When she notes they didn't use anything, he tells her he's safe. And she's magically on birth control. Oh, well, ok then. Phew!

And the prose. Oh my goodness! When Moira's magical fellatio skillz kick in, Gil yells, "I'm going to come, baby. I'm going to fill that sexy mouth with my hot fluid. Drink it all up, baby. Drink it all up and don't spill a drop! Oh yes, baby, oh God yes!"

I read this passage aloud to my hubby as I was snorting, and he said, "Isn't that what I usually say?" LMAO!!

Oh, and the editing problems! Constantly, one brother's name is mistakenly used in place of another.

So, Gil is the lead detective on this serial rapist/murder case, and he never ever does any police work, unless you count investigating Moira's uterus with his tongue. Yet, magically, the case gets solved!

There is just so much wrong with this book, I could go on for days. It's a reminder of why I don't read Ellora's Cave books anymore. Over the top unrealistic with the smexxing, and plot holes as big as the heroines' hoo-hahs.

Apparently it's the first in a series about Gil & his siblings. Enjoy the entire series!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Loose Ends by Tara Janzen

Another rewarding experience in my whiz bang return to reading was Tara Janzen's Loose Ends. This was book 11--and the final book--in Janzen's Steele Street series. Aside from Robb's cops, the Steele Street boys have been the only other cast of characters to drive me out into the cold night--straight to Walmart for the next one or three books in a series. Once I read book one, I had to catch up right then, to the exclusion of all other titles or authors. They were that memorable, that engaging. Particularly Superman, likely the most memorable hero in my last 10 years of reading.

I've kept up with this series throughout the years and will admit there were some that didn't grip as hard as others. Common among them all however, was a humor among the men that rivaled Brockmann's SEALs and an adoration of all things female that set Janzen's men well and truly apart from the rest. There is simply nothing sexier than a man completely enamored of all things "girl". These guys worship every womanly inch and accessory, bringing to mind John Mayer's song Your Body Is A Wonderland.

So Superman is my fave, yes. But J.T.? Wow. In Loose Ends, Janzen brings him home. It was as powerful as I expected. Like Robb and Brockmann, Janzen allowed her characters to lend truth to the story. Hard to explain my thought here, but it is her established characters--acting in character--that set the stage and dictate the events. They encounter J.T. right at the beginning of the book (leaving off from Breaking Loose) and simply take it from there. No backstory or explanation needed to bring the reader into the present moment. And because Janzen's characters are so memorable, I instantly recognized them. All of them. And fell right back in with them with the same ease I pick up Robb's bi-annual In Death releases.

Interestingly, through J.T.'s story, I developed a new appreciation for Gillian, another of Janzen's characters in this series (her story was featured in Crazy Sweet in 2006). In that sense, Janzen's powerful characterization worked in reverse as well as drive. She used it to power this story and revive those that came before it.

I pulled two excerpts or quotes from the book before I put it down--both examples of how Janzen's cast delivered J.T.'s story. In the first, Hawkins (Superman) answers Dylan's concerns about the altered J.T. Here, he gave us the heart of this book:

"Hell, Dylan. If he wanted to hurt people, he would have been throwing fragmentation grenades, not flash bangs." Again Hawkins didn't hesitate. "And Red Dog said he had her dead to rights on the tenth floor, and he obviously didn't pull the trigger. And he didn't hurt Suzi Toussi in Paraguay either. Jane's a burden, an accident that happened in his getaway car. She's not an asset. He came for the girl, and you saw Scout. You can't beat that kind of loyalty into somebody. She's a straight-up girl, fully self-actualized. She's been well cared for and well loved. Whatever J.T. remembers of himself, he hasn't lost his intrinsic guardian tendencies. How many times did he save you?"

In the second, we get that dry humor. Like the first excerpt, you really have to have read this series and know these characters to get the full effect. But for those of you who have, this is Dylan on the phone to Hawkins:

"I want you and Creed to quit dicking around out there and get the damn job done," Dylan said. "Make it so, Superman."

Dicking around?

"Yes, sir."

The radio went silent, and Creed gave him a questioning look. "What's up?"

"We're supposed to quit dicking around."

Creed nodded, "Good idea."

Like I said, a rewarding experience for this exiled reader. A welcome home kind of experience. Felt really really good.

Looking back over my words here, I will apologize to those looking for a review. If you haven't read Janzen, this will be like trying to catch up to the drunks at a party that's been going on for hours. I'd rather steer you to a proper book blurb, pretty cover and helpful link to the Steele Street book list.


Six years ago, the Special Defense Force mourned the loss of J. T. Chronopolous. Now the striking soldier is back with scant memory, a new name—Conroy Farrel—and one single mission: to bring down SDF. But SDF has its own plan: get him back at any cost. And so they’ve set a trap for Con, a trap that Jane Linden accidentally steps into. With darkness falling and the night heating up, Con finds himself on the run in an oddly familiar 1967 Pontiac GTO with a drop-dead-gorgeous brunette named Jane by his side. Who she is he doesn’t know. Or does he? Jane certainly hasn’t forgotten him. When she was a teenager, he caught her picking his pocket. Now the former street thief is all grown up and gone legit—and the effect she has on Con is all too clear: pure, sweet longing. Con’s not sure if Jane is there to save him or to take him down. But one thing’s certain: With desire leading the way, all bets are off.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

If You Hear Her by Shiloh Walker

The scream Lena Riddle hears in the woods behind her house is enough to curdle her blood—she has no doubt that a woman is in real danger. Unfortunately, with no physical evidence, the local law officers in small-town Ash, Kentucky, dismiss her claim. But Lena knows what she heard—and it leaves her filled with fear and frustration.

Ezra King is on leave from the state police, but he can’t escape the guilty memories that haunt his dreams. When he sees Lena, he is immediately drawn to her. He aches to touch her—to be touched by her—but is he too burdened by his tragic past to get close?

When Ezra hears her story of an unknown woman’s screams, his instincts tell him that Lena’s life is also at risk—and his desire to protect her is as fierce as his need to possess her.

It's no secret that I think Shiloh Walker writes some of the very best emotionally heartrending suspense and contemporaries out there. If You Hear Her is no different. Lena is blind, but it only means she cannot see visually. She leads a full, rich life among friends and her job as a chef. She's a smart, sassy, woman and takes no guff from anyone. When she hears a woman scream in the woods outside her house, she immediately goes to the police, only to be pooh-poohed. This kicks off a series of murders and events in the town of Ash that change everyone's lives forever.

What I liked:
Seriously. Lena is a fantastic heroine. And if you know me, that's saying something. She's kind, smart, self-sufficient, sassy, has a great group of friends, and like so many blind people, can see deep into those she cares about, especially Ezra.

Ezra. He's been hurt, both physically and emotionally. Betrayed in the worst way by his lover and partner. He carries that around like a blanket wrapped around him. I love that he never treats Lena as less than she is, and how he commits himself to being her friend and her protector without smothering her.

The suspense. Fantastic. Gripping. And it plays a huge part in the lives of the entire town, but especially the main characters and the secondary characters. It takes on a character of its own.

The villain. We get his POV. I love it when this happens in suspense books. It makes the character that much more real.

The secondary characters. Hope, Remy, Law especially. I'm dying to find out how things play out for these people. Thankfully, the next two books will give me their stories.

Gripping suspense, yet with the complete emotional throwdown you expect from Shiloh Walker. Don't miss it.

If You Hear Her was released on Tuesday, so it's available everywhere.

Seriously, I know I'm not doing this justice, but hey – it's been about 6 months since I wrote a review, FCOL. Cut me some slack.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Laid Bare by Lauren Dane

For what it's worth, I have almost DAILY thoughts of what I'd like to share here, LOL. Just not the gumption. You know how it is of course. Today, I'll give Lauren Dane the credit for getting me off my ass and on Blogger.

Dane has been on my TBR list for years. And I did read one of her Federation titles (Relentless) a year or two ago. Loved it and looked forward to her backlist. However, along about then my monthly reading fell to somewhere between little and none.

But then...the cover for Never Enough was released. There are no words...really. It is stunning. And compelling enough to get me to her website and from there to turning the first page of Laid Bare.

What an extraordinary, beautiful read. Absorbing in a way that reminded me of the joy inherent in losing oneself in a great book. All of the five-star reviewer words apply: utterly captivating, refreshing in its departure from the standard, characters come to life, with an emotional depth that is breath-taking, eroticism that is both subtle and astonishing, and so on. I wasn't surprised; I knew this about Dane. I was simply bowled over by the pleasure of reading this book. I'd almost forgotten--or maybe lost--that feeling. That deep contentment born of an emotional investment in both character and story. Or, maybe, I'd just replaced it with an occasional glass of exceptional Chardonnay. Now that Dane has reminded me, I'm reaching for more books, seeking the way they make me feel in the same way you might crave a drug. Or wine.

I've since ordered the next two in the Brown siblings series. Book 3 arrived yesterday and I'm hoping book 2 gets here today--because THIS is how I wish to spend my weekend. Then I'll purchase Never Enough and hope that I can look away from the cover long enough to read the pages in between.

Thank you Ms. Dane. Just, thank you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

June Drive-by - Jennifer

So. June. Well, I read two books. Notorious Pleasures by Elizabeth Hoyt. AWESOME. Also read Pleasures Of A Notorious Gentleman by Lorraine Heath. I liked it fine, but enjoyed Passions of A Wicked Earl more.

I also DNF'd My Reckless Surrender by Anna Campbell right at the end of June or maybe the beginning of July. Very emotional, beautifully written. Really, a beautiful read. However, I couldn't accept her motive--the wanting of a certain home. I was bothered enough by it that I couldn't stick it out. Did read it a good two thirds of the way through though. I think I was emotionally vested--testament to Campbell's ability--and as a result, couldn't read another word toward an ending that would reveal her deception.

My summer fun continues, but I may double this number of reads in July, woohoo.

I hope everyone is enjoying this season and all it offers! Here in Northern Michigan, we welcome summer's HOT because our winter is long and crazy cold. I'm taking every moment to warm my bones. Lovin the hot and sweaty. :-) Hope you are too.

May Drive-by - Jennifer

Wow. So yeah, my May drive-by, in July, LOL. Been wildly busy--having fun, mind you. And reading less and less and less...can you hear my voice fading away? Hoping the reading bug returns least by Septemberish.

So May...short to match my memory.

Tempted All Night by Liz Carlyle
Exactly the kind of historical I enjoy. Excellent.

Breaking The Rules by Suzanne Brockmann
Reviewed this one. Really enjoyed it.

See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson
Cute and I liked it.

Nothing But Trouble by Rachel Gibson
Liked this one more.

True Love And Other Disasters by Rachel Gibson
Read all of these during playoff hockey (yes, I watched every game cuz I love hockey). This is the one I loved most. Ty was perfect in my minds eye. And when he bought her those skates and told her he wouldn't let her fall? Sigh.

Twice Tempted By A Rogue by Tessa Dare
Didn't finish this one. Thought it a solid read. I just lost interest after awhile. Definitely a "it's me, not you" thing. Life is proving more exciting than the page this summer. Not a bad thing at all.

Sins Of The Flesh by Caridad Pineiro
This one took me by surprise because I wasn't expecting a paranormal. Stuck with it though and enjoyed it thoroughly.

When You Dare by Lori Foster
Formulaic but good. Not going to read any more of these though. There is only one similarly-themed series that caught me hard enough to scramble for the remaining books. That series is the Kelly/KGI series by Maya Banks.

My Irrisitible Earl by Gaelen Foley
DNF. Didn't like the voice and quit this one early.

Lame commentary, I know. Wait til you see's June's drive-by. ;-)

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Challenge: Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

So back in March, Tracy, Nikki, and Holly challenged me to read Bet Me. They were horrified when I said that I didn't care all that much for Crusie, and that I hadn't read Bet Me. They contended that if I read Bet Me, I would lurrrve it.

Basically, if I read it and loved it, I would have to admit it here and shout it out to the world. Fine, but if I read it and didn't care for it, they had to stop bugging me on the Crusie thing. I think that's pretty fair, right? Holly was feeling pretty smug because Casee wasn't a Crusie fan, and she loved Bet Me (after Holly challenged her to read it, too). Paranormals aside, Casee and I have very similar taste in books, as do Holly & I, so Holly was pretty certain that I would love it, too. Nikki lent me her copy back at RT, and I finally got around to reading it this week. What did I think? Read on…

I will interject my Goodreads status updates as I review.

Almost immediately, we are introduced to Min's family – both her extended family (Bonnie and Liza) and her mom and sister. Also, her boyfriend dumps her in the first chapter. Here were my first thoughts on the family.

I hated Min's mother with the burning passion of a thousand suns. She was the worst mother ever. EVER. And yes, I realize that she's supposed to be, but I couldn't tolerate her. Not even a little bit. Getting the picture?

The bet, of course, was between Cal and Min's ex, David. David had just dumped Min, and he bets Cal that Cal can't get Min into bed within a month. Cal turns him down, but David is convinced that the bet? It. Is. On. OK. I can deal with it. But in the bar that night, we also meet Cal's friends Roger and Tony, and Cal's ex, Cynthie. (And if you don't mind my asking, what kind of a psychologist calls herself Cynthie? It has to be the silliest nickname I ever heard for what I assume is Cynthia, and just a tad unprofessional sounding.)

Here are my thoughts on the exes.

Cynthie quickly figures out that Liza is the one she needs on her side in order to break up Cal and Min and get Cal back.

So… in a nutshell: I really liked both Cal and Min, and I really liked them together. They obviously each had issues – Cal's around his father and his dyslexia and Min's around her mother and her weight. Mostly. I say mostly because the other parents were not anything to write home about either. Anyway, I liked that Cal and Min kept getting drawn together, even though they thought they didn't want to be. There were some very sweet things in the mix, like the way that Cal found Min's snowglobe, and that when they were apart, Cal was a total klutz. Also I must admit that I LOVED that Cal thought Min was sexy just as she was. And that he totally stood up for her with her mom. I also liked that he didn't find sexy at first, but grew into it. I adored the way he kept reassuring her that she was perfect as is, and wanted her to eat what she liked. Oh, and he can cook. And yes, the donut scene was very nice. Plus, I did love Min's shoeaholic tendencies. Hello! Right?

I also really liked the subtle ways that Min and her sister supported each other. Though, on a side note, I do have to say that I would never pick a dress that was awful on my maid of honor – especially when she's my sister. Just sayin. Also, I loved how Di stood up for Min at the end, and how Min supported Di when she decided to call off the wedding.

I really liked Cal and his friends. Tony and Roger were great – the perfect foil for him and Min's friends, too. Oh, and I loved how Emilio adored Min because he thought she was great for Cal and because she adored his cooking. And Cal's nephew? Harry was perfection.

OK. Onward.

Did I say that I absolutely abhorred Min's mother? Seriously. Here was my last thought on her:

Between her and the manipulative exes and Min's friend not standing by her against Cal's ex, I was screaming bloody murder as I was reading. They literally made me hate so much that I would never ever reread this, or ever enjoy it overall. Crusie's snarky humor between Cal and Min (and between the heroes and heroines of her other books) works ok, but when she transfers it over to the parents? It's just plain meanspiritedness. And I can't abide that. I certainly wouldn't choose it for a parent – and really? For her mom to never actually see the error of her ways and soften just slightly? And for her only thought as her daughter's wedding is breaking up to be that if Min ate a piece of cake that it would take weeks to take it off? Oh hell no.

I thought the misunderstanding between Min and Cal felt contrived (especially on Min's part, but Cal too). It was like Crusie needed a final conflict to tie it all up, and that didn't work for me.

I don't grade books here on this blog, but if I did? Out of 5? Bet Me gets somewhere around a 4+ for the romance between Cal and Min (if I'm allowed to take it in isolation), a -10 for the manipulative, nasty characturish parents and exes, and a 3 for the friends (it would have been a 4, but I disliked Liza). Overall, a very very generous 3-. Only for Cal.

All in all, not one I would ever choose to read again or recommend to anyone else.

Sorry, Holly, Nikki, and Tracy, but this challenge? It. Is. Over. Thank you for introducing me to Cal and Min, but did they have to bring everyone else with them? No more Crusie for me, k?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

It's like I won the lottery!

Today when I got home from work, a package from my bestie JenniferB was waiting on the doorstep for me. Bigger than a breadbox, it could only be one thing. But we usually have a conversation before we send each other a box, just to be sure the right stuff is in it. I remembered no such conversation, likely because I'm losing my mind, and can't remember what I had for breakfast, much less a conversation about which books to exchange.

So what was inside the surprise package? Several things that have had me scratching my head lately. Where the hell did I put my coveted signed copy of Relentless, or my signed Beth Williamson Plum Creek trilogy, or my Pamela Clare historicals?


Not only are my Williamsons, Clares, and Dane's there, but my copy of Daring Time - my favorite Beth Kery, I think.

Along with these favorites were a slew of others that Jen obviously thinks I will enjoy - a Connie Brockway, a Cherie Feather, Skin Game (which she's been trying to get me to read for ages), plus a couple In Death books.

Is there anything better than a good friend who loves the same books you do? Or, when you're racking your brain trying to figure out where you left all your best treasures, freaking out that maybe you accidentally brought them to a SoCal Bloggers get together and someone snatched them right up, she sends you a care package filled with love.

Or is it just me who can't remember anything from one day to the next?

Thanks, Jen!! You rock.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Breaking The Rules by Suzanne Brockmann

Izzy Zanella wasn't looking for another reason to butt heads with his Navy SEAL teammate and nemesis, Danny Gillman. But then he met Danny’s beautiful younger sister, Eden. When
she needed it most, he offered her a place to stay, a shoulder to cry on—and more. And when she got pregnant with another man’s child, he offered her marriage. But Eden’s devastating
miscarriage shattered their life together—and made the intense bad blood between Izzy and Danny even worse.

Now Eden's back, on a mission to rescue her teen brother, Ben, from their abusive stepfather. Even if she and Izzy can prove that their broken marriage is still in one piece, winning legal
custody of Ben is a long shot. But they’re not alone: Danny and his girlfriend Jenn offer to help, and he and Izzy agree to bury the past and fight for Ben’s future.

As they plan their strategy, Izzy and Eden grapple with the raw passion that still crackles between them—while Danny and Jenn confront new depths in their own rocky relationship. But events take a terrifying turn after Ben befriends a girl fleeing a child prostitution ring. When the young runaway seeks refuge with Eden and Izzy, her pursuers kidnap Ben—and a deadly standoff begins. Now, they must all pull together like never before and strike back, swift and hard, to protect their unconventional little family and everything they hold most precious.

My thoughts:
Even though he is too young for me, I love Izzy Zanella. Deeply. Because beneath that adolescent humor, there is a thinking man. With integrity and purpose. And Brockmann did him proud in his own book.

I'll admit, I was worried. Much in the same way Lori was. I didn't want to read or watch the spirit and light be sucked from my favorite man-boy. I'm happy to report that it wasn't. Izzy moved through the events of this book with a practicality that allowed for both his nutball humor and his serious SEAL. To demonstrate:

Here is a moment spent inside Izzy's head--just like old times:

"Either way, it was obvious that they were both extremely willing passengers aboard this particular bad-idea bus."

And later, when he must call (for the first time) on Jules Cassidy for assistance. The phone conversation begins like this:

Izzy didn't recognize the number that was on his cell phone's screen. But it had a 6-1-7 area code, what was..."Good morning, Boston," Izzy said as he answered, one hand on the steering wheel as they continued to zoom through the night. "Jules Cassidy, I presume. How's it hanging, bro?"

Over the course of this conversation, Cassidy proves himself the tough-as-nails, stand-up guy that he is. Watch how Izzy signs off:

"Thank you, sir," Izzy said.
"I thought I was your bro, Zanella."
"No, sir," Izzy told the man. "You're the kind of leader I would follow into hell, should the need ever arise."
Cassidy cleared his throat. "I'll keep that in mind," he said quietly, then added, "Good luck, guys." And with that he ended the call.

Breaking The Rules is littered with moments like this one. All true to Izzy's character--a smartass we can all take seriously.

Was Eden worthy of him? I'd say yes. We catch up with her at a different point in her life and really, she seems to have it much more together. There was substance to her here. When Brockmann brought them together again, it worked for me. I appreciated how she reversed their roles--making Eden the painfully, emotionally honest one and Izzy the more guarded of the two. It worked.

It was also served by all of the other folks in their way. There is a LOT going on in this book and that gave Izzy and Eden time to just BE. Around each other, with each other. With no promises and no clear path. That worked. The noise of the other characters however, did get on my nerves here and there. Like many, I'm not a fan of Dan. He's still a stubborn brat if you ask me. Sorry, just too much baby behind the big, strong SEAL. I remember, in the last book, when he hooked up with Jen...Brockmann let us into his head. And damned if he wasn't a pig. That even HE was surprised he'd go for a big girl like Jen was insulting. Here, there is no doubt that he loves her. But, because I wondered if it wasn't more of a "need her" thing, I never considered him fully redeemed.

Nor did I cut him any slack for the unbelievable crap wrought by his dsyfunctional family. Lots of screwed up characters coming from that gene pool (and loser step-father). It is essentially the basis for Breaking The Rules. Everyone comes together here to save the youngest Gillman. Every thread leads back to the nightmare that was their upbringing.

In Brockmann fashion, there is constant motion, social commentary and over-the-top characters on the wrong side of "right". And in Brockmann fashion, she brings it all together in her trademark rhythm. Can't use reviewer words like 'flow' or 'seamless'. Brockmann's rhythm is better described as improvisational and intense--like Izzy. Maybe it's fitting to end this series of books on the one character that defines her voice?

My thanks to Ms. Brockmann, for years of reading pleasure. I'm looking forward to whatever comes next.

Monday, May 23, 2011

ARC: Goddess with a Blade by Lauren Dane

Releases June 6 from Carina Press

Rowan Summerwaite is no ordinary woman. Physical vessel to the Celtic Goddess Brigid and raised by the leader of the Vampire Nation, she's a supercharged hunter with the power to slay any vampire who violates the age-old treaty.

A recent string of murders has her at odds with Las Vegas's new Scion, the arrogant and powerful Clive Stewart. The killings have the mark of Vampire all over them, and Rowan warns Clive to keep his people in line—or she'll mete out her own brand of justice.

Though her dealings with Clive are adversarial to say the least, Rowan is intensely aware of her attraction to him. But she can't let it distract her from her duty—to find and battle the killer before more women die.

I'm not a big fan of the paranormal or the urban fantasy. I especially dislike when different breeds/species, etc are paired up as a dynamic duo. It's the main reason that I never read past book 1 in the Immortals After Dark series. I hate having to keep it all straight – it's just too much work for a pleasure read. I was a little worried when in the first chapter of Goddess With a Blade, I felt lost, unsure of who or what Rowan was. By the 2nd chapter, I pretty much had it figured out, and was able to move forward.

The blurb is pretty much a good summary of the basic plot. Intermixed in there are all the dynamics that happen between a vampire hunter and the head honcho vampire who are intensely attracted to each other.

One thing I liked about this one is that Rowan is a strong, capable, kickass woman, but she isn't preachy. In a couple of recent books, I've felt almost as though I was getting a lesson on proper male-female relations straight from the heroine's mouth. Not so here. In fact, Rowan is a bit messy, which I really liked.

I liked that Clive recognized he had a big problem within his vampire community, but wasn't completely wowed by everything Rowan told him. They each had a hefty dose of skepticism for the truthiness of the other's evidence and beliefs and yet at the same time have to deal with being on opposite sides in a centuries-long battle. Add in a healthy shot of snarkiness, especially on Rowan's part, and human friends and victims, plus Rowan's 'foster' father (the full head of all the vampires) and it's a recipe for a great ride.

As in most vampire books, there is a lot of gore and descriptiveness surrounding the fights and the deaths, but since I happen to love blood and gore, I was just fine with it.

I really liked Rowan's cop friend as well. He added a touch of grittiness and reality to the story, as well as a bit of a noir-type feel.

Rowan and Clive will never have an easy road to an HEA. There's too much conflict for that. But the sexiness of their scenes together, and the underlying desire they have to make it right (I think) will help them along the way.

This is one of those books that made me sit back in awe at the imagination of authors, and realize that I could never, ever be an author. I'm far too literal and boring.

To summarize: a tough-as-nails otherworldly vampire hunter heroine and a badass vamipre hero who turn each other's world upside down. Throw in a few more very complicated relationships and you have a terrificly fun and intense book.

I enjoyed it a lot, which kind of surprised me, since I'm pretty clear this isn't my thing. But as always, I should have trusted Dane to deliver a great story, no matter what species the characters are. You have a sense immediately who Rowan is, and Clive takes a little longer, but I got a really good feel for him as well. Vampire with honor among all the other Vampire traits? Yes, I thought so.

Thank you to Lauren Dane for an advance look at this one. Highly recommended!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

ARC: Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey

Book 3 in the Kowalski family series

Sean Kowalski no sooner leaves the army than he’s recruited by Emma Shaw to be her fake fiancé. Emma needs to produce a husband-to-be for her grandmother’s upcoming visit, and, though Sean doesn’t like the deception, he could use the landscaping job Emma’s offering while he decides what to do with his civilian life. And, despite his attraction to Emma, there’s no chance he’ll fall for a woman with deep roots in a town he’s not planning to call home.

Emma’s not interested in a real relationship either; not with a man whose idea of home is wherever he drops his duffel bag. No matter how amazing his “pretend” kisses are…


First off, thanks to Shannon Stacey for a sneak peek at this one. The cover gods have surely smiled mightily upon her with this series. All 3 covers so far have been beautiful, conveying the fun, flirty, and sweet contemporary style of the books. (And the scruff - did you see the scruff on his face? *swoons*)

Sean Kowalski, cousin to Joe and Kevin of books 1 and 2, has just gotten out of the army. He's at loose ends, and so decides to hang with his cousins for a while. Emma Shaw is a friend of the family. She has somehow managed to manufacture Sean as her fake fiancé - including photoshopped pictures of them together (yes, a little creepy, even) - in order to appease her grandmother, who now lives in Florida and is worried about Emma being alone/lonely. They meet when Emma knocks on Sean's door, and rather embarrassed, tells him that he is her fake fiancé. I loved that meeting, and afterward, Sean describes Emma as "tall, hot, and batshit crazy."

This book was simply feel-good. I can't think of a thing I didn't enjoy – including the sly shout out to Stacey's Devlin Group series. Sean moves in with Emma and her grandmother for a month, as the pretend fiancé. During that time, they live together, work together, and learn about one another all while trying to fool Cat into believing that they've been together for a year and a half (a lie she fully figures out within about a half hour, LOL). I loved Sean's habit of leaving sticky notes for Emma with little messages. I loved that Emma can't cook worth a damn. I love that she's a strong woman, a business owner in a physical business, and that she just wants to make her grandmother more comfortable about her situation.

I also really, really enjoyed the secondary romance between Cat and Russell, Emma's grandmother and her long-time friend. What a sweet little treat that was.

As always, the interactions of the Kowalski family brought a smile to my face, and though they easily could, they didn't overwhelm or overtake the focus on Emma and Sean. The Kowalski cousins are all in on a pool for how long Sean and Emma can go without sleeping together, and as always, beneath the good-natured (and sometimes cut-throat) ribbing you can feel the love within this family.

Near the end, I got the little clutch in my gut and around my heart that tells me I'm hurting along with the characters. I've talked about that clutch a few other times, most notably when reading Linda Winfree's books. It tells me I'm fully emotionally invested in the story, and that I truly care what happens to the people I'm reading about.

I really like Stacey's voice. She has a perfect blend of irreverence, humor, and sweetness to her books that always makes me want to keep reading.

Yours to Keep releases in e June 6 from Carina Press. I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lori's April reads

So I have the serious blogging blues. It's taking me forever to get my monthly reads together. And how happy does it make me that Jen is reading and blogging again? Over the last few years, we've gone in cycles. When she's been too busy to blog, I've had the bug, and vice-versa. Why do I feel like it's about to become Jen's turn, big time? And how lucky are all of you to reap the benefits of her amazing reviews?

My April was very up and down. My mom spent a good deal of the month in the hospital, and so I didn't have much of a chance to either read or blog or even record my thoughts on books. So you're going to get whatever I can recollect about the books I read in April. Apparently, all really good reads for me, but nothing I could work up a full review for.

Goodreads tells me I read 17 books (well, one was a DNF,so really 16, but I'm gonna keep trying for that one - why, I have no idea.). That brings my total for the year up to 70 (or 71, with the DNF). I'm not listing the DNF because I still may review it over at Book Binge, and I don't want to color anyone's thoughts on a book thaqt everyone else seems to really, really like.

So anyway, here're April's reads:
Honor's Splendour by Julie Garwood
5 stars on Goodreads
Another perfect Garwood medieval. Loved Duncan and loved Madelyne. And as always, the supporting characters bring a sense of fullness and complexity, and, well, rightness to a story that actually has all that on its own.

The Edge of Night by Jill Sorenson
5 stars on Goodreads
Another fantastic read by Sorenson. She takes a cop and a gangbanger's ex-girlfriend and makes them a believable couple, and one you root for - each with their individual strengths and weaknesses, always realistic. And as usual, a superb secondary storyline of a younger couple - this time a gangbanger and a cop's sister. To make that work he had to be sympathetic but not woosie in his gang. Sorenson makes it all come together, and makes you root for this young couple, too.

The Sweetest Thing (Lucky Harbor, #2) by Jill Shalvis
5 stars on Goodreads
Really loved this one. I was unsure about it because I didn't love Tara in book 1, but she ended up a good heroine, issues and all. Written with all of Shalvis' wit and a great deal of emotional angst, this was terrific. And hello. Ford is an amazing hero. Yummy. I'm totally looking forward to Chloe and Sawyer's book.

No Mercy by Lori Armstrong
5 stars on Goodreads
A fantastic, gritty, dirty, messy, emotional book - more of a mystery/suspense with a hint of romance. I loved Mercy and her screwed up self. If it tells you how much I loved it, it's written in first person and I can't wait to read the next one. Whaaaa? Yup.

Victoria's Got a Secret by HelenKay Dimon
4 stars on Goodreads
I felt far less like a voyeur with this one than with the previous True Vows I read. I feel so bad for Jennifer as she went through her journey. And her on again, off again boyfriend from high school, Paul? Takl about sticktuitiveness. That man loved her from the get-go and never stopped. And who doesn't love a happy ending between high school sweethearts?

Goddess With A Blade by Lauren Dane
4 stars on Goodreads
A tough-as-nails otherworldly vampire hunter heroine and a badass vamipre hero who turn each other's world upside down. Throw in a few more very complicated relationships and you have a terrificly fun and intense book. Review to come closer to release date. Suffice to say for now that only Lauren Dane could put together all these paranormal characters and make me love it.

The Bargain by Mary Jo Putney
4 stars on Goodreads
This is a rerelease originally written in the 80s, I think. Interesting premise. They get married because he's on his deathbed and wants someone to look out for his sister, and she needs to marry by a certain date or lose her inheritance. What happens when he suddenly survives? The commoner and the lady make a wonderful couple. I adored David. Jocelyn took a little more warming up to, but she won me over as well.

My Irresistible Earl (Inferno Club, #3) by Gaelen Foley
4 stars on Goodreads
I really enjoyed Jordan's character. Unlike the last book, which had more of an Indiana Jones feel to it, I felt like this book was more grounded. I liked how open Jordan was and how self-aware he was.

Kiss Me, Kill Me (Lucy Kincaid #2) by Allison Brennan
4 stars on Goodreads
I'm still loving the return to the Kincaid family, especially the interesting dynamics between Sean and Patrick, Lucy's boyfriend/lover and her brother. And how Lucy's past keeps coming back to haunt her as she tries to move on with her life. This series is very well done.

Saddled and Spurred (Blacktop Cowboys, #2) by Lorelei James
4 stars on Goodreads
Another winner from James. No menage in this one like there was in book 1, and I liked the focus on the hero and heroine.

The Hometown Hero Returns (Home to Harbor Town, #1) by Beth Kery
4 stars on Goodreads
Kery's first book with Harlequin. I really enjoyed it. The heroine is unusual in that she's Lebanese - a gutsy move by Kery in this volatile world. Sometimes I wanted to punch her because she was so stubborn, but she had a great hero in her high school boyfriend, Marc. Torn apart by a shared trauma in their past, they have to find their way back together.

Command and Control (Holding out for a Hero, #2) by Shelli Stevens
3.75 stars on Goodreads
This was a tough one to rate for me. There were pieces I really loved, like Trevor's angst and his PTSD, and pieces I didn't love, such as the start of the "kidnap" scene. It felt awkward to me, and maybe it was supposed to. But I really like Stevens' voice, and am looking forward to book 3.

Desperate Deeds (A-Tac, #3) by Dee Davis
3.75 stars on Goodreads
I read the first two in March, and picked this one up in April. I found a lot more explaining' in this book than in the others, explaining of things that the operatives should have known, and so were explaining for my benefit. That's a pet peeve of mine. That aside, I enjoyed the conclusion (I assume) to the series. The traitor is found out in this one. I thought that this entire group of CIA black ops was very trusting and seemed awfully naive. This was the book where that seemed really apparent to me. So I can't rate this as high as the others, even though I liked the nonstop action and the nuke plot.

Just Surrender by Kathleen O'Reilly
3 stars on Goodreads
This was a disappointment to me, since I usually love O'Reilly's Blazes so much. I really wanted to love it, but the heroine just didn't work for me, with her daddy issues and the hero had mommy issues. Too much for me.

Backstage Pass (Sinners on Tour #1) by Olivia Cunning
3 stars
There was so much not to like about this book, from the stereotypes of the band (although admittedly probably deserved stereotypes) and the heroine's profession, to the immediate sex, to the comfort of the heroine being naked around many men when she's never done that before, and so much more. But at the same time, I found myself unable to put it down. And when it finished, and I didn't walk away saying, "Oh, I liked that!" I find myself wondering why it is that I'm dying to read the next book in the series. Which I went and bought. Huh.

Healing Hearts by Taryn Kincaid
3 stars on Goodreads
I adored the beginning of this book. The damaged hero and the hostile heroine, who was secretly in love w/ hero. Having said that, this book is a perfect example of a book that suffered from word count anxiety. The author tried to cram so much in, and there wasn't enough time to fully explore any of it, which is a shame because most of the threads were worth exploring deeply and thoroughly. The romance felt rushed to me, which saddens me since it had such huge potential.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

April Reads - Jennifer

Getting the urge to actually review again. I like the drive-by recaps, but know that, personally, I prefer or need more to recommend a title. A blurb at the very least. So I'll get to something more in depth after this bit of catch up...

Seducing The Duchess by Ashley March
Ok, I'm reading so much and taking toooo long to record my thoughts, argh. Had to look up the blurb on this one to remind myself and yep, I enjoyed this one very much. Will definitely read more from March.

The Perils Of Pleasure by Julie Anne Long
Loved this one! Not sure what it is about intrigue in my historicals, but I love it. Called to mind my faves from Bourne, though this one featured no spies. I think the draw for me is the capable, hardened-but-fragile heroine. And the hero who both admires and protects. That could be it. At any rate, I'm looking forward to catching up on Long's titles.

One Dance With A Duke by Tessa Dare
I'm definitely a fan in Dare's camp. I enjoyed her first trilogy and would like to read this threesome before her next releases in August. In One Dance, Dare's voice lifted me up and over my usual aversion to heroines deemed unattractive or unworthy of a handsome rake (by societal standards). I really liked Amelia. Every character really. Just picked up the second, Rhys' story, yesterday. Fifty pages in and I think I'm enjoying it even more than One Dance.

A Rake's Guide To Pleasure by Victoria Dahl
Yes, I am still hung up on Dahl. But I may like her contemps more than her historicals. Not sure yet.

My Pleasure by Connie Brockway, My Surrender by Connie Brockway
After finding a Brockway keeper in my closet, I snatched these two from my library's swap shelf. Fun reads, both of them. But while both had spy action AND Scotsmen, neither found their way to my keeper shelf. Just fun, light reads I'll remember for those reading moods.

One Night With A Prince by Sabrina Jeffries (DNF)
Unlike the other historical voices I've read in recent weeks, Jeffries didn't grab me. Not sure why. I have a few of her other titles on my TBR list and will likely try those before moving on.

The Darkest Hour by Maya Banks
Took me EONS to get my hands on this one (through my library). Worth the wait. Which is saying something since these types of stories can be really hit or miss for me--usually because they tend to read alike. This one however, was entirely unique. Very emotional and quite opposite the expected I'm-a-warrior-let-me-think-for-you storyline. I'm hooked.

Deadly Fear by Cynthia Eden
Hmmm, liked this one too. However, serial killers do not make for romance. Not for me. Always really tough for me to put the truly scary out of my head and enjoy time with the H/H. My library has the remainder of this series/trilogy, but I haven't been back for it.

Rules Of An Engagement by Suzanne Enoch
To die for. Period.

Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts
I'd say over the last 2 to 3 years, all of Roberts new releases have featured both a voice and a cast of characters marching to the exact same cadence or rhythm. Aside from profession, her protagonists have featured the same brand of humor, witty dialogue, sex appeal, etc. And honestly? I can't get enough. With each new release, I know its going to be like time spent in the company of treasured friends. I enjoyed myself this time as much as the last. And wanted to move to Montana the next day.

To Tempt A Scotsman by Vicotria Dahl
Still really enjoying Dahl's voice--even though she gave me a Scotsman who bordered on beta. Just sayin.

Monday, May 09, 2011

March Reads - Jennifer

K, tons of excuses for why this is so late, but...I won't bore you. ;-) I will however, apologize. Aside from the first half of the post (written long ago), I got to the last half of March's list too late to remember much detail.

March yielded some awesome reads. My adoration for Victoria Dahl--cemented. I'm her biggest fangirl now, I'm sure of it. I also got my hands on Jo Goodman's Marry Me. I will love her forever too. I grew more smitten with Courtney Milan. Ok, I fell head over heels for her too. Let's just say March found a lot of love in my heart. Oh, and I plucked a book from my TBR stack and it turned out to be a keeper! A big deal for me. So yeah, March rocked.

So here it is:

Naked Edge by Pamela Clare
I know I just said that March rocked, but this one? Not so much. I have really enjoyed Clare's I-Team series to date. This one however, didn't pull me entirely in. It was the characters. What Gabe lacked in respect, Nat made up for in naivete. Understanding that her heritage and upbringing (complete with poor examples) left her determined to make good personal choices, I still couldn't help but feel like she was being naive. When I did try to appreciate her resolve, I couldn't see Gabe in her life. I think Clare tried to keep her honest--resisting Gabe, sticking to her spiritual guides, recognizing that he could not be what she needed him to be. But, as the reader, I knew it was going to happen anyway. At that point, at least halfway through the book, Clare had not yet convinced me that he could turn around, redeem himself. I was skeptical and tapping my foot, waiting for it to happen, all the way to the end. A good ending, powerful even. But not enough to change my overall mood.

That being said, I'm no where near turned off from this series. Really, it's testament to Clare's abilities that I can say Clare didn't disappoint, her characters did.

Ravished By A Highlander by Paula Quinn
Very good Highlander fare.

Body Check by Deirdre Martin
Ok, I saw the cover for Icebreaker and blindly added Martin to my TBR list. Being an order whore, I went back to the beginning of her hockey titles--and opened Body Check. Finished it. Enjoyed it. I did not however, come away with a desire to read the entire series.

Chasing Stanley by Deirdre Martin
Still, thinking of that gorgeous Icebreaker cover, I skimmed ahead to Chasing Stanley. Because, well, I had a Newf and this one featured a Newf. When I DNF'd it, Lori gave me what-for because apparently, right here on this blog, she explained why this book was no good. Going forward, I will be consulting our blog. No more being seduced by pretty covers and the sexy idea of hockey players.

Start Me Up by Victoria Dahl
Loved this one as much as the first (Talk Me Down). Loved, loved, loved it. Dahl delivers some of the sexiest reads. Great humor, the sweetest emotion and blatantly erotic sex scenes. Quinn was fabulous. Just fabulous.

Lead Me On by Victoria Dahl
Enjoyed this one too, albeit less than the others. Perhaps because Jane's behavior was driven a tad too much by her angst. I may have lost patience along the way. Otherwise, good, sexy stuff from Dahl.

Trial By Desire by Courtney Milan
Wow. The emotional tension between Ned and Kate was palpable, in a catch-your-breath kind of way. Having also read Unveiled this month, I stand in awe of Milan's depth of characterization. Both of these books took my breath away.

Marry Me by Jo Goodman
Totally unexpected twist hooked me hard and I couldn't stop reading. Goodman is another like no other for me. Emotionally rich, honest, witty. Rich, rich prose, but economical too. Goodman never wastes a word. Can't say enough.

Rough Cut by Mari Carr
An author I'll read again. This was an emotional telling of a woman drawn to BDSM. Short and erotic, yes. But more to it than the usual fare. I was impressed.

An Unlikely Countess by Jo Beverly
Quite good--and another centered entirely on the H/H. I was reminded of how much I like Beverly as well. Don't know why I needed reminding, as Devilish sits among the very few titles on my keeper shelf.

Unveiled by Courtney Milan
This may be the best book I've read this year. I swear my breath caught the moment Ash laid eyes on Margaret and held for the duration. That emotional tension was exquisite. Another thing I remember loving was Margaret's refusal to sell him out--no plot-serving behavior from Milan here. Only characters that were true to character.

Passions of a Wicked Earl by Lorraine Heath
My first Heath and a solid, good read. Can't remember everything about it, but do recall enjoying it and looking happily at Heath's backlist.

Bridal Favors by Connie Brockway
This was keeper from my TBR stack. Reminded me a great deal of Joanna Bourne. Sooo tightly-woven, the dryest wit and the most clever H/H. Absolutely loved this book, every word.

Live Wire by Lora Leigh
Carried by my library now, so I picked it up. Skimmed it. Then returned it. I like Leigh's storylines, but I don't care for all the long, drawn out wrestling-with-self her characters go through. Hence the skimming.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Edge of Night by Jill Sorenson: A drive-by

To support her small daughter, April Ortiz does what she has to do—which means waiting tables in a skimpy outfit at a popular nightclub in the gang-infested area of Chula Vista. When one of her co-workers is found raped and murdered, April does what she knows she shouldn’t—she defies the neighborhood code by giving the police a hardcore gang member’s name.

Clean-cut cop Noah Young wants a shot at breaking this case more than anything in the world—that is, until he meets the unforgettable April Ortiz. When April gives Noah the tip, a spark ignites. As the fire between them threatens to blaze out of control, the two are dragged down further into the dark mysteries of the graffiti-lined streets, taunted by a crazed killer who could strike again at any time.

As always, a fulfilling story, though I really wanted a happy ending for Eric. Sorenson writes a love story set against the forbidden topic of gangs, and manages to make it riveting and wonderful.

I loved that Noah wasn't perfect - he tried to do his best, and that's all we can ask of him. I liked that he respected April for trying to do her best, too. And that he reacted just like a big brother, but was willing to try to give Eric some leeway.

As in past books, her secondary story revolves around teenage love, only how on earth do you make a gangbanger be a sympathetic love interest? And she does. 

I only wish I had some mojo because this book deserves a well thought out and articulate review (I gave it 5 stars on GR), but I just don't have it in me right now.

Bottom line: get it, read it, love it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

No Mercy by Lori Armstrong

On medical leave from the Army, Mercy heads home to her family ranch after the recent death of her father, having been away for 20 years. It's her responsibility to decide whether to sell the ranch or not, and she gets little help from her sister and nephew. After a dead body is discovered on her land, Mercy butts heads with the sheriff, Mason Dawson.

When another body is discovered, Mercy starts her own investigation into the deaths. As she unearths buried secrets, her life--and the lives of family members--are put in jeopardy.


I have been wanting to read a Lori Armstrong book for ages, and after meeting her at RT and spending an inordinate amount of time in the bar with her (and Beth Williamson - I was in heaven with those two!), I stepped up and bought the first in the Mercy Gunderson series. First off, let me say that I discovered on page 1 that this is written in first person. A serious dealbreaker for me. I almost set it aside, but I so adore her Lorelei James books, that I decided to stick it out. I'm so glad I did!

Mercy is a tough broad. And yet, she could be extremely vulnerable if she let herself. But she doesn't. She has a lot to deal with: her father passed away and she wasn't home for it - she was off at war in the middle east. Her nephew is mixed up in an Indian gang, dead bodies of those 'gang' members are starting to appear on her land, people are trying to buy her ranch out from under her, and her sister is an emotional wreck who needs constant support. She doesn't trust the town sheriff or even her ranch foreman. In fact she tells herself she only trusts herself, but she barely even does that.

The supporting characters, from Sheriff Dawson, to her sister, to her foreman, to all the people she interacts with, all serve as different windows into Mercy's many issues. Trust, guilt, betrayal, fear. They all plague her and are shown through her interactions with the other characters.

This book is gritty and emotional - which seems an odd way to describe it since Armstrong goes out of her way to make Mercy as unemotional as possible. She tamps down her emotions viciously, trying to be as stoic as possible, even though she so hurts deep inside.

The setting here becomes its own character - almost as strong as any person in the book. The harsh land of South Dakota paints the bleak setting for this rather bleak novel. The Indian reservation (the rez) is its own harsh reality (and breaks my heart). Yet each of the settings completely matches the character and tone of the book. From all that befalls Mercy's sister, to the murders that take place, to the attitudes of the town toward Mercy (and hers toward them), to the harsh memories of her youth and the flashbacks from her army days, this is definitely not an upbeat book, and yet I kept reading, hoping for the best for these folks who live on the wild land. And Armstrong pulled me in and kept me riveted. Mostly out of sheer desperation to find something... anything... happy in this book. Alas, there is not a lot to find. But the book does end on a somewhat optimistic note.

All in all, a gritty, dirty, messy, wonderful read.

It's payday today, and so I've already downloaded Mercy Kill. Once I finish my other reviewing obligations, I'll be able to dive into this one.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

First post about #RT11

This year, RT is taking place in my backyard. And because we're totally tapped out after youngest's bar mitzvah, I couldn't afford to either take a week off work or to pay for the entire convention. Much sadness ensued. Then, Holly, Tracy, Nikki, Renee, Rosie, and I decided that we could do the weekend. So I'm planning on checking in Friday morning and hanging til Sunday morning.

Well, yesterday I received an email from the lovely and wonderful Malle Vallik of Harlequin/Carina Press asking me to a dinner that she and Angela James were hosting. (thanks for the referral, Holly!) Of course, I immediately emailed the hubby, told him the kids were on their own for a 2nd night in a row, and answered in the affirmative for dinner. Pretty much a no-brainer. An invitation to dinner to talk about books? I'm so there! One of the tremendous perks of being local. And of having teenagers who'd rather call for a pizza than almost anything else.

Well, it turns out that both Malle and Angie are beautiful, wonderful, gracious people, and I had a lovely time. OK, it was lovely except for the 10 minutes when I was suffering from The. Worst. Hot. Flash. Ever. I seriously think I freaked everyone out. And I thought I would die. Yes. D. I. E.

Also in attendance was Smart Bitch Sarah, who is one of the funniest women I've met. And also just very lovely and gracious, too. So there was me, Tracy, Renee, Amber, Barbara Vey, Mallory, and Katie. All talking books, Goodreads, and peeves. Oh, and amazing food, too! Truly a wonderful evening. So thanks again, Malle!

I started out the evening with lovely long curls. This pic was post-hotflash.
Missing is Barbara, who manned all the cameras.

Afterward, Tracy and I hung in the bar chatting with LB Gregg (aka our very own Lisabea). As we were ready to leave, I spotted Lauren Dane and had to go interrupt her conversation to say hi. Yes, I was rude and pushy, but there you have it and she was very sweet about my interruption :)

I will be heading out to RT tomorrow by lunchtime (hopefully - I have to call in to two meetings tomorrow morning - ugh). I'm sharing a room with Holly, Nikki, and Tracy. Should be a blast! And we'll be hanging in the bar Saturday evening at about 7:00 as "the SoCalBloggers" just waiting for all the authors and other bloggers to come visit with us. Well, ok. We'll be there gawking and drinking and laughing and we hope that anyone who is there that wants to visit will swing by.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Bending Toward the Sun by Leslie Gilbert-Lurie, with Rita Lurie

A miraculous lesson in courage and recovery, Bending Toward the Sun tells the story of a unique family bond forged in the wake of brutal terror. Weaving together the voices of three generations of women, Leslie Gilbert-Lurie and her mother, Rita Lurie, provide powerful — and inspiring — evidence of the resilience of the human spirit, relevant to every culture in every corner of the world. By turns unimaginably devastating and incredibly uplifting, this firsthand account of survival and psychological healing offers a strong, poignant message of hope in our own uncertain times.

Rita Lurie was five years old when she was forced to flee her home in Poland to hide from the Nazis. From the summer of 1942 to mid-1944, she and fourteen members of her family shared a nearly silent existence in a cramped, dark attic, subsisting on scraps of raw food. Young Rita watched helplessly as first her younger brother then her mother died before her eyes. Motherless and stateless, Rita and her surviving family spent the next five years wandering throughout Europe, waiting for a country to accept them. The tragedy of the Holocaust was only the beginning of Rita's story.

Decades later, Rita, now a mother herself, is the matriarch of a close-knit family in California. Yet in addition to love, Rita unknowingly passes to her children feelings of fear, apprehension, and guilt. Her daughter Leslie, an accomplished lawyer, media executive, and philanthropist, began probing the traumatic events of her mother's childhood to discover how Rita's pain has affected not only Leslie's life and outlook but also her own daughter, Mikaela's.

A decade-long collaboration between mother and daughter, Bending Toward the Sun reveals how deeply the Holocaust remains in the hearts and minds of survivors, influencing even the lives of their descendants. It also sheds light on the generational reach of any trauma, beyond the initial victim. Drawing on interviews with the other survivors and with the Polish family who hid five-year-old Rita, this book brings together the stories of three generations of women — mother, daughter, and granddaughter — to understand the legacy that unites, inspires, and haunts them all.

The inside front cover copy really tells the story here. If you ever wondered what it was like to be a Holocaust survivor or to be the child of one, this is the book for you. It begins with the Gamss family's experiences hiding out in an attic for 2 full years (14 people in a 15 ft long attic, 4 ft high).

Sections are told by Rita, who lived in the attic, Leslie, her daughter, and Mikaela, her granddaughter. Rita was incredibly honest about her depression, her stepmother (by whom she felt horribly mistreated), and all else in her life. It took incredible strength to look inward and tell her story honestly and openly.

Rita tells of the time spent in the attic of a both brave and fearful couple, with 14 of her relatives, watching as first her baby brother and then her mother succumb to illness and heartbreak. She speaks of being forced to remain silent, of watching her relatives being shot and killed, of the hurt and anger of having her father withdraw from her emotionally. She speaks of not being able to walk afterward, because her bones were so weak and bowed from not being able to stand in a 4 ft tall by 15 ft long attic so cramped with people that there wasn’t room to move even. Of having to toilet in front of everyone. Of the feelings of depression and inconsolable sadness she felt every single day from these losses that she lived for two years and, really, for the rest of her life.

Leslie then tells of what it was like growing up in a household with a depressed mother, always feeling responsible for her happiness and safety, afraid to spend a night away from home because she didn’t know if her mother would be alive when she got home. And of somehow passing that same fear on to her own daughter. Her brother and sister felt the same fear, but managed to live a little more normally. From the opening:
Finally, some researchers have proposed that memories of fear can actually be carried across generations through biochemistry. Children of severely traumatized Holocaust survivors have been found to have lower than average levels of the stress hormone cortisol, just like their traumatized parents. They also have been found to be more likely than average to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder when exposed to a traumatic event, and more likely to view a non-life threatening event, such as illness or separation from a loved one, as traumatic.

Interestingly, I went to school with the younger Lurie daughter. We weren’t good friends (I “knew who she was”), and I had no idea that so much was going on in her household. Rita Lurie signed the book for my brother in law and sister, because they are friendly. The progression of Rita and Frank's life and the life of their family very much mirrored my own family's life, from the middle class upbringing to the three children and all that accompanies that, all the way down to the bat mitzvah each woman had as adults because they were not allowed as young teenage girls. It felt very much like looking into a mirror at times, but yet still being removed just enough to sit back and absorb it all.

I related to so much of this story – I almost felt like they were my own memories from hearing my parents’ friends and my grandparents’ friends talking and reliving. There’s a point in the book where Leslie relates how Rita didn’t want her going to Germany in the late 80s. My own mom had a very hard time when I said I wanted to go to Germany. Even all these years later, it carries a stigma among people of my parent’s generation (and I have to admit – my own, too). While in my head I know that Germany is a democratic, liberated country, and the people who live there are also generations removed from what their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents did, I still feel a twinge when I think about the people who “choose” to live there. And how silly and dumb is that, since I know tons of people who live there, including my hubby’s cousin. And really? It’s a dumb thing to put on this generation. But there you have it. I do still want to go there and the surrounding countries and visit the concentration camp sites, the Anne Frank house, and more. Someday I will do it with a clear heart.

Because my own parents lived through that time, and I was the first generation to be educated about the Holocaust, it’s something that hits very close to home for me. It’s really difficult – impossible really – to separate my own personal experiences as a first generation post-Holocaust Jew from the literature.

This book is an inspiration and achieves its goal – showing that you can overcome, you can win, and damn if it doesn’t take every ounce of your strength sometimes. I was in awe not only of Rita, but of her husband Frank, who has supported her unquestioningly and unconditionally all these years. I think this is a must read for anyone, but especially as we lose the folks of this generation, it's so important not to forget their experiences. I recognized a lot of myself in Leslie, and a lot of my mom in Rita. Although mom was not in Europe, we had family there, and the profound effect of the Holocaust on both my mom's and my generation should continue to be told.

Also visit the website dedicated to the book that includes memories, interviews, photos, and much more.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lori's March reads

So how was your month? I had some really good reads this month. Looks like lots of 4s. I don't feel like I'm reading as much as I did last year, and I'm not sure why. I did go away on a business trip. Usually that means loads and loads of reading, but I was busy from 6 am til 11 pm every single day. So yeah, not a lot of reading was done. I think the entire week I read only 3 books. Usually on a weeklong business trip, it would be more like 7 or 8. Plus, my mom has been really ill, and I spent a week with her at the hospital. And reading was not at the top of the list. Listening to her complain about every last little thing, and generally raise mayhem - that was on the list and was exhausting. I will say this, though. I knew she was ok when she was bitching and moaning, so it was a bit reassuring even as I wanted to club her. Looks like things are ok for the time being, though my sister and I are keeping a very close watch.

This month, I also had the chance to have a day with Nikki, Tracy, and Holly. That was a lot of fun, as always and brought up The Challenge.

So... I read 19 books this month, bringing my total so far for 2011 up to 51. Although I'm still sure I left a few off the list early on. Anyway, this month not too many below a 4, which means I read a shit-ton of awesome. I want to draw particular attention to the last book on the list, Bending Toward the Sun. I'll be doing a full review very shortly, but this was such a profound read for me, and I think that so many under the age of 30 really have no idea what the Holocaust felt like, what it was like to have family there, or the emotional toll it took. We are 70 years removed from the start of WW2, and it's something that I hope we never, ever forget.
Anyway, here's the list for March:

Sweet as the Devil by Susan Johnson
2.75 stars
This was better than its predecessor, but that isn't saying much. I did really like the hero here, but there were a lot of things that irritated me. Read and reviewed for Book Binge.

Dark Deceptions (A-Tac, #1) by Dee Davis
4 stars
Really liked this one. I liked that the hero and heroine didn't hold a grudge after they found out that neither was to blame for their breakup years before. Although Nash held onto his skepticism a little longer than I would have liked, I thought it realistic given who he was. I found Annie's actions believable, even though I did think she should have accepted help sooner rather than later. Definitely liked the interactions between the team members, and am looking forward to their own stories. In fact, immediately downloaded books 2 & 3.

Creation in Death (In Death, #25) by JD Robb
4 stars
Another good entry in the series, although not a whole lot stuck with me about it. Reviewed here.

Strangers in Death (In Death, #26) by JD Robb
4 stars
eThis was highly focused on the case, and far less on Eve & Roarke's relationship. However, when the book focuses on the cases, it allows us to see Eve's growth in her professional interactions - both with her colleagues and with victims. Reviewed here.

Deadly Heat (Deadly, #2) by Cynthia Eden
4 stars
Loved it. I thought the suspense portion was well done, and the relationship, while it grew quickly and was really based on sex at first, carried weight. And I love that Kent said I love you first - even though the love portion of a relationship went against everything he was about, and that Lora was the one to freak out just a little when he said it. And I'm dying to know - if you've read it, if you had the same thoughts about the villain as I did (I guessed it early on because of this connection I made).

Deadly Lies (Deadly #3) by Cynthia Eden
4.5 stars
Really, really well done romantic suspense. Wonderful growth on the part of the heroine (you need to read Deadly Fear (book 1) before you read this one). You could see her confidence and feeling of self-worth grow from the beginning to the end. The only thing that keeps it from getting a 5 is that there were lots of times when I thought, "Really? You're getting it on now?" Additional thoughts on Goodreads.

After Dark with a Scoundrel (Lords of Vice, #3) by Alexandra Hawkins
4 stars
I really liked this entry in the series. While the nicknames of the heroes really still irritate me, I am enjoying watching each get their comeuppance.

A Lot Like Love by Julie James
4.5 stars
Loved this story. The contrast between Jordan's girly-girl and Nick's manly man was fantastic. I loved the whole "pink" wine joke between them. I liked that they basically accepted each other, and once Nick learned that Jordan was not a snooty rich kid, but earned all her wealth herself, he lightened up a little and let himself fall. And oh, how he fell. James writes with a wonderful mix of humor and intelligence, and never treats her readers as less intelligent than they are. Some might think there was too much wine talk, but I actually thought it fit well with the story and characters. I'm looking forward to reading Kyle's story in the future, as well as any of the FBI team that James will be writing about.

His Wife for One Night by Molly O'Keefe
3.5 stars
I read this based on a rec from Wendy. We frequently love the same books from Harlequin. I wasn't disappointed. It lives up to the SuperRomance intensity of emotion, filled with heartbreaking moments and family. I loved how absent-minded Jack was. I loved how Mia stood by his family, even when they may not have deserved it. I loved how she steered Jack to his realization that what happened was not his fault, even if he could feel some responsibility for it. Definitely not a light read, but an emotional one with good characterization and heartwrenching emotions.

Hidden Away (KGI, #3) by Maya Banks
4 stars
I was all hopped up waiting to read Garrett's story. He didn't disappoint. I still think that The Darkest Hour (book 1) is my favorite, but this one came in a close second.

Living on the Edge (Edge, #1) by Shannon K Butcher
4 stars
Review forthcoming at Book Binge. Oh how I adore Shannon K Butcher's romantic suspense. If I had my way, she never would have written the Sentinel Wars (although I know that Casee loved those books, and to be honest I didn't read them). I would tie her up and force her to write RS all day long if I could. Suffice to say that there were a whole lot of things I liked and very few that I didn't.

To Desire a Wicked Duke: A Novel (Courtship Wars, #6) by Nicole Jordan
4.5 stars
I loved it! I've been waiting for Tess' story, and it did not disappoint. I loved that Rotham had been secretly wanting her, and thought the revelations about her fiance sad. And actually loved the way Jordan handled it. Tess was disappointed, but still had those good memories of him. The opening scene between Tess and Rotham was awesome. Loved how he was caught in a mess of his own making. And owned it. I've really enjoyed this series. Jordan remains a favorite author for me.

Almost Home (Chesapeake Diaries #3) by Mariah Stewart
4 stars
Although I love Stewart's writing, there was one thing that bothered me about this book. I kept wishing that Steffie would just tell Wade to shove off. But she didn't, and Stewart handled the why very well. And Wade was a sympathetic character. but still... This new series has made me go back and reread some of her older books. Some I loved so much, like Devlin's Light. A softer, gentler Stewart, but equally as riveting as the intense books she wrote that I adore so very much.

Dangerous Desires (A-Tac, #2) by Dee Davis
4 stars
I liked this one a lot. Liked that Madeline was not a perfect heroine. She made her choices and then lived with them, although I did think she was a little too competently kickass in the beginning. I liked Drake a lot as well. Well done plots, and no TSTL sex in this one, either. I have book 3 lined up in my nook just waiting.

The Sweetest Taboo (Men To Do) (Harlequin Blaze #68) by Alison Kent
5 stars
What is there to say about this book? Kent has written the shower scene to end all shower scenes (and quite possibly the longest one. Ever). Plus, a hero to die for in Sebastian. He's surly, confused, unpredictable, and extremely lovable because of all of it. Erin has a lot of soul searching to do, and that part is written so realistically - her feelings of abandoning her grandfather's dream, her guilt for not wanting the same things as he did. So great. This is the other Blaze on my keeper shelf along with A Dash of Temptation.

A Dash of Temptation (Men to Do) (Harlequin Blaze No. 72) by Jo Leigh
5 stars
This is, hands down, my favorite category and contemporary romance ever, and makes my list of best romances ever. Oh how I adore Dash Black. And Tess is a perfect foil for him. You. Must. Read. Reviewed here.

Bending Toward the Sun: A Mother and Daughter Memoir by Leslie Gilbert-Lurie with Rita Lurie
5 stars
I will be doing a full review of this, but if you ever wondered what it was like to live through the Holocaust, be a Holocaust survivor, or to be the child of one, this is the book for you. It begins with the Gamss family's experiences hiding out in an attic for 2 full years (14 people in a 15 ft long attic, 4 ft high). Sections are told by Rita, who lived in the attic as a young child, Leslie, her daughter, and Mikaela, her granddaughter. I think this is a must read for anyone, but especially as we lose the folks of this generation, it's so important not to forget their experiences. I recognized a lot of myself in Leslie, and a lot of my mom in Rita. Although she was not in Europe, we had family there, and the profound effect of the Holocaust on both my mom's and my generation should continue to be told.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Two In Death books...

I find my lack of creativity very sad. I have nothing exciting to say about these books - no huge insights, no fabulous quotes. Just a quick copy of my Goodreads thoughts.

Does anyone else use Goodreads just to capture their initial thoughts, thinking they'll go back and be able to write a brilliant review from just looking at "I liked it." What was I thinking? Sheesh!

Creation In Death
When the body of a young brunette is found in East River Park, artfully positioned and marked by signs of prolonged and painful torture, Lieutenant Eve Dallas is catapulted back to a case nine years earlier. The city had been on edge due to a killing spree that took the lives of four women in fifteen days; all courtesy of the man the media tagged as "The Groom" — because he put silver rings on his victims' fingers.

This time, it becomes chillingly clear that the killer has made his attack personal: The young woman was employed by Eve's billionaire husband, Roarke, washed in products from a store Roarke owns, and laid out on a sheet Roarke's company manufactures. Chances are The Groom is working up to the biggest challenge of his illustrious career—abducting a woman who will test his skills and who promises to give him days and days of pleasure before she dies: Eve.

I really enjoyed every aspect of this one, except that it was odd that it was just a given that Roarke would be assisting on the case. Nobody even questioned it, including Eve. When is he going to find time to run his gazillionaire operation? I know that i've heard others bring this up, but this was really the first time it hit me so blatantly.

Sounds like I didn't care for it, but honestly? I remember liking it - I just can't think of anything that stuck with me other than this.

Strangers In Death
In 2060 New York, some murders still get more attention than others, especially those in which the victim is a prominent businessman, found in his Park Avenue apartment, tied to the bed—and strangled with cords of black velvet. Fortunately, homicide cop Lieutenant Eve Dallas's billionaire husband, Roarke, happens to own the prime real estate where Thomas Anders's sporting-goods firm is headquartered, giving her some help with access. Before long, she's knocking on doors—and barging through them—to look for the answers she needs.

But some things don't add up — and everyone's alibi checks out, from the wife who was off in the tropics to the nephew who stood to inherit millions. Was this a crime of passion—or a carefully planned execution? It's up to Dallas to solve this sensational case in which those who seem to be intimates sometimes guard secrets from each other—and strangers may be connected in unexpected, and deadly, ways

This was highly focused on the case, and far less on Eve & Roarke's relationship. However, when the book focuses on the cases, it allows us to see Eve's growth in her professional interactions - both with her colleagues and with victims.

Any time that a case involves victims of abuse who either don't act on it the way that eve thinks they should or who don't act on it at all, she treats them with disdain, sometimes outright contempt. It's one area where she is totally unable to separate her personal experiences from her work life.

My one qualm is that I would have liked to have seen Mira call Eve on the carpet for her attitudes rather than have it be a private discussion between Eve and Roarke later on. I think that would have allowed Eve to grow more in her personal development, and made things uncomfortable for her. Which, frankly, I thought she deserved in this one. But that didn't happen.

Having said that, I did like this installment very much.

I'm waiting to check Promises In Death out of the library. I thought I grabbed it last time I was at Holly's house, but apparently I missed it. Shoot.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The challenge. It. Is. On.

I spent Saturday with Tracy and Nikki, and Holly. Because we live so close to each other, Tracy, Nikki, and I have been known to get together for lunch and an afternoon of shopping occasionally. This time, Holly intruded invaded invited herself came, too. We had a blast. And it's really too bad none of us have any strong opinions or anything. Heh. After a fun lunch full of gossiping and book trash talk and talking about Holly's sour grapes post, we headed over to Borders, which *sob* is closing. Upside? Romance 50% off. I got 5 MMPB for $15.50. How cool is that?

Anyway, while we were there, we saw Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me on one of the tables. For some reason that I can't really put my finger on, I've never been a huge Crusie fan. Her books just don't resonate with me. I think I noted once that it may be because her books are printed on some super speshul paper with some super speshul ink that gets all over my fingers. All. Over. By the end of the 1st chapter. Strange the negative feelings that can stir up.

Just like when you don't care for sushi and your friends all tell you, "You just haven't had the right sushi at the right place yet!" they all three insisted that if I read Bet Me, I will lurrrve it. Apparently, I just haven't read the right Crusie yet (on the right paper with the right ink).

So I agreed. I will read it, and if I like it, I will write a review and make sure everyone knows that Holly was right. If not, I'm going to really shove it back in her face write a review that says why I didn't care for it. And hopefully, she won't bug me about it anymore.

And no, I won't read it in e. It will be in paper, and let the full reading experience be what it is.

So stay tuned for the Bet Me wars.
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