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.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Big Sky Country by Linda Lael Miller - guest review @BookBinge

Hey y'all. I have a review up at Book Binge. Yes, huge Linda Lael Miller fan here. I admit it. 

Go see what I thought of her new book - first in a new series. Completely unrelated to McKettricks, as far as I know.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Slow Summer Kisses by Shannon Stacey

Anna Frazier is used to living life at 100 mph, but being downsized out of a job in the financial industry has her permanently stalled. With nowhere to go, go, go, Anna hails a cab to her grandparents' neglected New Hampshire camp to plan her next move. It seems like a good idea–until she realizes there's no takeout to be had and the boy next door has grown into a sexy but surly recluse.

Cameron Mayfield knows he can kiss his peace and quiet goodbye when Hurricane Anna blows in. She was loud and bossy as a ten-year-old–and besides developing some attractive curves, she hasn't changed. Cam's not looking for a relationship, especially not with a woman like Anna. He nearly broke down on that road once before. So why can't he stop thinking about her?

It's not long before their sizzling attraction leads to smoking-hot kisses. But as the days get shorter, Anna must decide if she's found a new road to happiness, or just taken a detour.

25,000 words - novella

So, you may have noticed at some point that I'm a pretty big fangirl of Shannon Stacey. There's good reason. Her books are fun, sweet, romantic, and so easy to relate to. Slow Summer Kisses is no exception. The blurb is actually a pretty good description, and the title is a perfect fit. This book takes place at the campground where the Kowalskis spend their vacations, though no Kowalskis appear in it. Oh, and one more thing. The covers created for this series are absolutely fantastic. Fun, sassy, and sweet. Perfectly reflecting the character of the books.

Anna is a whirlwind - no other way to describe her. She talks a mile a minute, moves a mile a minute, and has a to-do list (or lists) a mile long. She even wants to have sex a mile a minute - fast and hard. She doesn't know how to relax.

Cam has done the rat race, and left it to save his sanity and his health after his dad died of a heart attack. He likes the slow pace of life up at the camp. He likes working when he wants, relaxing at the lake, slow kisses and slow sex.
"You can't rush kisses. You have to slow down and savor them. Lose yourself in them."

"There's no right or wrong way to kiss, Cam."

"There may not be a wrong way, but there are better ways than in Home Depot or kissing so fast I thought a bird flew by and smacked me in the mouth."

Her eyes got big and for a second he thought she might smack him in the mouth. "It was not that quick."

Cam took a half step closer to her, definitely crowding her space a little, and ran his hand from her elbow to shoulder. "A kiss should be anticipated. You should know it's coming so your heart can beat faster and your skin can flush with heat."

Anna was watching his mouth as he spoke, her tongue flicking out over her lip as if her mouth had gone dry.

"I'm going to kiss you again and it's not going to be rushed. I'm going to take my time and savor your mouth."

"Okay," she whispered.

"You're beautiful when your skin gets that hot, flushed look. Is your heart beating faster?"

"Yes." Her voice was little more than a soft exhalation now.

He buried his right hand in her hair and lowered his mouth to hers, barely brushing her lips with his. She sighed and tried to deepen the kiss, but he held back. He teased her, flicking his tongue over her bottom lip while he slid his free hand across her hip.

Not until she whimpered for more and pressed her body against his did he give her what she wanted. As the kiss deepened, his fingers slid under the hem of her t-shirt, touching bare skin. He groaned as her tongue danced over his and pulled his hand out from under the shirt before he started trying to round the bases. It wasn't time for that yet. If ever. He was really hoping for yet.

He kissed her until she felt boneless in his arms and he wasn't sure he had the strength to hold her up - until their mingled breaths came shallow and fast. One final flick of his tongue across her lips and then he broke it off.
He moved back a step because his body had had about all the contact with Anna's body it could take without exploding, and he smiled at the dreamy expression on her flushed face as she opened her eyes.

"Now I've kissed you"...
At first, Anna and Cam butt heads. She drives him crazy, always doing and going, and looking too damn hot. They appear to have almost nothing in common - especially baseball. Having lived with a Cubs and Chi Sox fan growing up, I know how stressful that can be.
"You're a Yankeees fan."
"I kissed a Yankees fan."
"Yup. Really well, too."
It was too late for mouthwash, so he did the next best thing and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. "Get off my dock."
Hahaha!! When she comes back out to see why he didn't come inside, she agrees to just lose the Yankees shirt, and takes it off.
"Now you're just playing dirty," he said. "Not that I'd expect anything less from a Yankees fan."

She heard some excitement on the television. "Who's winning?"

And afterward...
He'd had sex with a woman who thought the New York Yankees were better than the Boston Red Sox. There was probably going to be a special place in hell just for him. A place with no beer and no sports and remote controls with dead batteries whilw the TVs were all stuck on Real Housewives of someplace or another.
The banter and humor are trademark Stacey. But so are the tender moments. Cam simply can't help himself, and much as he wants to stay away from Anna, he helps her with pretty much everything, from cleaning out her shed to teaching her how to drive. Knowing the whole time that she's probably going to drive away from him to a new job in the city.

Anna, in turn, has a pretty tough time learning to relax. She tries to learn knitting. She drinks decaf. And yet still, Stacey writes the little touches and subtleties in there - like when Anna's laying in the sun, completely believing that she's relaxing, and Cam notes that she's tapping her fingers and he can hear her mind going a thousand miles an hour.

The focus of the book is completely on the two of them, and they slowly become comfortable with each other and begin a really sweet, joyous relationship.

When the job call finally comes, Cam mans up and acts excited for Anna. She thinks she's excited and so races off to her interview. And realizes that she actually can have it all. With a little compromise.

Slow Summer Kisses is warm, witty, romantic, sometimes laugh-out-loud-funny, and touching.Vintage Shannon Stacey.  I didn't want it to end.

Buy it at all the usual places in ebook.

Lori's May reads

Holy crap. Did I really read 19 books in May? The most I've read all year.  And there were some very good books in there, along with a good mix of genres. I'm actually kind of glad I'm over my "must read suspense" hurdle. Just goes to show you that things come and go in waves. I've learned over the years to roll with it. I read what feels right, and occasionally that means I glom a particular genre until the urge passes.

Here's what I read in May.

Finding Chrissten (Legacy, #5) by NJ Walters
4.5 stars
Her voice. NJ's voice. I could read her forever. She has such a musical, soft, yet powerful voice. Much like her characters. I loved Hank & Chrissten. And I admit, I'm dying to know what becomes of Craig & Damek. Lord, I hope she's writing thir story, and I hope it's a m/m rather than a menage. Either way, I can't wait for the next one. This is a wolf shifter series, with a vampire to boot. All the things I dislike, and yet I love this series, and all of NJ's books. It's eminently readable, and her characters are so likeable. Always.

Quinn's Quest (Legacy, #4) by N.J. Walters
4 stars
This precedes the book above, and all the same good feelings apply. The heroine here has been held hostage with the heroine of book 5, and manages to escape. Quinn is the brother of the heroine in book 5 above. As always with a Walters book, I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Deadly Fall by Ann Bruce
3.5 stars.
I liked the suspense part quite a bit. I had a hard time with the unprofessionalism of Nick. You just don't sleep with your primary suspect. But I enjoyed the way that Nick and Augusta opened up to each other and shared. I did have a hard time with Nick's declaration of love after only a few days though.

Guarding Jess by Shannon Curtis
3.5 stars.
I liked the characters. I could see why Jessica was the way she was. Same with Noah. But FCOL, I called the villain the first time they appeared on the page. I was disappointed that Noah was so tunnel visioned when it came to his conclusion of who the villain was. So while I liked Noah as a person, I thought him a tad incompetent. I did like the writing as well, and the secondary characters. I'll read another from this author to see if her heroes get any better at their jobs.

Love Me Knot by Shelli Stevens
3.75 stars.
It was fast and short. My two criticisms. Because otherwise, I adore Shelli Stevens' writing. It's engaging, totally relatable, and it sucks you right in. I can always see myself having a beer, hanging out with her heroines. And thay's a huge compliment, because I'm a heroine hater. Srsly. It takes a lot for me to like a heroine. But I can always see myself being friends with ther characters. Anyway, aside from the almost instalove that ends with a marriage proposal, I enjoyed everything else about this story.

Dear Maggie (Harlequin Superromance #987) by Brenda Novak
3 stars
An oldie that I picked up at the UBS, and then realized I had already read it back in the day. It's the beginning of Novak's contemporary rom susp career, and you can tell it's still a pretty early effort. But I liked both the hero and the heroine, even though I thought he was too secretive and she was a little impulsive, not to mention dangerous in giving away personal information to a man she just met in an internet chat room. TO be fair, though, it was written in the early days of chat rooms and internet safety wasn't yet a big public safety issue.

Beneath the Skin (de La Vega Cats, #3) by Lauren Dane
4.5 stars.
Great book. An example of why Lauren Dane is an autobuy for me, even in the dreaded paranormal arena. Strong, sassy women and sexy alpha men who are helpless against their love for their woman. I love how her heroines always confound the hero with their inner strength, and how the alpha heroes become mush for the heroine.

Barefoot in the Sand by Roxanne St. Claire
4 stars
This is one I hope to review for Book Binge, so only a quick thought - I adore Roxanne St. Claire. It's a contemporary, rather than a suspense. And an older woman, younger man. And I didn't hate it! LOL.

Big Sky Country by Linda Lael Miller
4 stars.
Another I hope to more fully review at Book Binge. Loved the book til about 3/4 through. Then the ending came rather abruptly. But it's LLM, so love.

Endless Heart (Heart, #3) by Emma Lang
5 stars
An emotional, angsty book, yet both hero and heroine come to trust and depend on one another, despite their general mistrust of the world at large. Full review here.

The Scarred Heart by Denise Patrick
3.5 stars
I enjoyed this book. Even though it was full of heartache and angst, I really liked all the characters and the sad story they had to tell. Where it went wrong for me was in how easily Emma seemed to get over being raped multiple times. I thought she might have some fear when making love with Lion again, but she didn't. She seemed to get over her fear of the house almost immediately once she & Lion reconciled. And what was the deal with his mother? She almost seemed mentally ill, as if she didn't remember blaming Emma for her son's death. Why did noone hold her accountable for that? While I wondered at all these things, I really like Patrick's writing, and she made me care about these people tremendously. I assume (hope) she's writing Emma's brother's story, because I think he's got a great backstory and am looking forward to revisiting all these folks.

A Heart of Little Faith by Jennifer Wilck
3.5 stars.
A wheelchair-bound hero who isn't miraculously cured - it's just part of who he is. A single mother heroine still grieving her husband. An interesting pairing. Lots of telling, not showing. But a lot to like, and things that could be improved upon next time. Full review here.

Office Affair by Jess Dee
4 stars
I was a little uncomfortable at the thought of an office romance, especially where one person is a direct report of the other. It's just wrong. However, there really isn't any power play here. Just honest respect for one another. So I was able to overcome it. As in all office romance stories, I wonder how they are able to get away with that much sex in the office. But I enjoy Jess Dee's writing and her characters so much, I overlooked it all and simply enjoyed.

Wildest Hearts by Jayne Anne Krentz
4 stars
Thank you, HelenKay :) I enjoyed this book. Loved being taken back to a simpler time (and when the hell did the 90s become a simpler time?!?!). While I wouldn't call myself a fan now, I still got a lot of enjoyment out of this read. Read the full review.

Thief (Brook Street, #1) by Ava March
4 stars
Touching and tender. M/M historical. A conman and an aristocrat. And really lovely. I like Ava March a lot.

The Wallflower (Halle Pumas, #1) by Dana Marie Bell
4 stars
Totally irreverent humor, insta-love. The insta-love should be a dealbreaker, but I enjoyed the banter so much I didn't care. Bell's voice and sense of humor pulled me in immediately. What brought this down for me was the immediate acceptance of both Emma & Becky that Max & Simon were pumas. Where's the freakout, the threat of a call to the loony bin? Otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed this, even though by my own standards (unbelievable instalove especially) I should have hated it.

California Man by E.C. Sheedy
3 stars
I really enjoyed Quinn a lot. And Emily at first was relatable and my heart went out to her. But when she dumped Quinn I thought she should have been more open and honest, though she eventually was. I felt the same frustration with her that Quinn did. I also thought she needed a better grovel. Quinn made it far too easy for her, but it all fit in with his openness and willingness to put himself out there. I enjoyed the story of their growing love very much otherwise.

The Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister, #0.5) by Courtney Milan
5 stars
As always, Milan's prose is gorgeous, her characters compelling, and her story engrossing. I adored the unconventional and smart, though short, courtship and loved watching Hugo fall for Serena. An epilogue that sets up the series focusing on the two sons of the Duke. Can't wait.

Flash Point (Holding Out For a Hero, #3) by Shelli Stevens
3.75 stars
I really like this series. For this one, I like that Todd acknowledged he was a man-whore and the reason why, and that he eventually shared that with Kate. And I liked that he didn't let weks go by before he realized he loved Kate and wanted to be with her. I liked Kate as well. She was independent and fun, as well as sweet. I totally could have done without the suspense/stalkery plot, but thankfully it was a very small part of the story, and the rest was thoroughly enjoyable. I just wish these books were longer. I so want to know these characters even more.

And though I read it months ago, I wrote my review for Lauren Dane's Captivated in May as well (also a 5-star read) .

So how was your reading month?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cover goodness... or not

Oh my. While cleaning out some old boxes, I came across this gem from 1996. Not only is the title craptastic, but he's wearing her robe! And the series title - From Here to Paternity. *love*

Back cover copy:
Carver Venner got a double shock when he opened his door that morning: a twelve-year-old kid that he never knew he had—clutching the hand of the sexiest woman he had ever seen. And though Carver would have loved to concentrate on social worker Maddy Garrett, there was another problem at hand. Like what to do about his daughter….

Raising Rachel, with her dubious ideas about everything from nutrition to education and her…colorful vocabulary, was bound to be a challenge. And Carver could use all the help he could get. But he soon realized that what he required from Maddy was more than just professional assistance…

You can get this on Kindle. I'm sure you can't wait!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ARC review: Endless Heart by Emma Lang

Blurb via Goodreads:
She’s learning to live. He’s forgotten how. Love will be their teacher.

Lettie Brown has lived in the shadow of violence. After escaping her brutal past, she’s finally at home in Forestville, Wyoming, where she would live a normal life—if she knew how. She’s content working at The Blue Plate and printing the town newspaper, if not happy. Then a stranger stumbles into her world and turns everything upside down.

Shane Murphy is a shell of a man, destroyed by the aftermath of the war, his personal tragedies and a penchant for cheap whiskey. When he lands, literally, on Lettie’s feet, his future takes a hard right turn.

As they fumble through a relationship that should not have been, a deep love takes root, one that cannot be denied. Together they discover a bond as unbreakable as steel and as undeniable as life itself—until the past rears its ugly head and threatens the happiness they’ve found in each other.


The western historical is one of my favorites. Emma Lang (aka Beth Williamson) excels at this genre, and in particular, the post Civil War period. The time period invites horrendously broken heroes, and this story is no exception. And oh, how she writes those amazing wounded heroes. However, Lang/Williamson also excels at the broken heroine. Here we have Lettie and Shane, 2 people so wounded I wondered how on earth they could ever make it together.

This is one of those rare times that I recommend reading the previous books before this one. Although it's not totally necessary, you get Lettie's backstory there. And it's a heartbreaker. I doubt it was unique either. An abused wife in the early Mormon community, she was freed when her husband was killed trying to steal her back after she ran away from him with Angeline, the heroine of the previous story and Lettie's uhhh... co-wife. (Is that a term? Not sure what the wives of the same man call themselves). Lettie is brash, rude, and drab, all in her efforts to protect herself from more pain.

Shane came home after the war and drank himself into a stupor, losing his wife and daughter tragically. Several years later, he's still buried in the bottom of a bottle. I love how Lang doesn't whitewash his problem with alcoholism. He's smelly, lice-infested, definitely not hero material. His introduction to Lettie is when he throws up all over her shoes. Mmmm. Who wouldn't want that? She manages to show Shane at rock bottom, but also lets him pull himself out of the depths of despair and become hero material. (Side note: for another amazing alcoholic hero, read Williamson's Zeke.)

Lettie very reluctantly nurses him back to health, and we're shown that Shane really does have manners and is a fine man, albeit one who is struggling with sobriety and humanity. He and Lettie come together slowly, each nursing longstanding hurts. Their attraction is undeniable, much as they try, and their shared history of grief is one that brings understanding and eventually respect and love.

I loved the small touch of the paranormal (and it is very small indeed) with the spirit of Sam's mother guiding them together through shared erotic dreams. (Sam is the hero of the previous book).

Once again, Lang/Williamson pens a heartbreaking, sobering look at post-Civil War America and manages to make it an uplifting, rewarding experience.

The previous books:
Ruthless Heart
Restless Heart

Note: I received an ARC of this from the author (and thank you so much!).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

TBR Challenge: Wildest Hearts by Jayne Ann Krentz

Annie Lyncroft knew her scheme was outrageous. She'd come to the elegant penthouse to meet Oliver Rain, the richest and possibly the most dangerous man in the Pacific Northwest. Annie needed this sensual, secretive corporate maverick for what she was about to propose. Marriage!

With her brother Danny missing after a mysterious plane crash, Annie is struggling to protect his hot electronics company from the sharks who think he's not coming back. But fanciful, ethical Annie -- who usually runs a bizarre bric-a-brac shop knows Danny's alive, and she's determined to keep his company safe by putting his biggest investor at the helm. When Oliver actually says yes to the marriage of convenience, Annie dreamily envisions a few platonic weeks of helping him become a sensitive New Age guy. Oliver has a different plan; his cold, gorgeous eyes have been watching Annie, and he sees his chance to seduce the beautiful schemer. Love is the wild card destined to teach these two strong-willed opposites a lesson: icy control might run the business world, but all hell is about to break loose in the passionate territory of the heart.

This month's TBR Challenge is to read a book from before 2000. This one is from 1993.

I really enjoyed this book. I admit to the reservations about a hero named Oliver, but the stereotype was turned on its head. Oliver was a man who, left to his own devices, likely would have fit his name's stereotype, but instead was a strong man and a ruthless businessman.

I loved the time period of this book. In 1993, I was in my late 20s, living the time period in the same way that the characters were. No cell phones. People couldn't get a hold of someone at the touch of a button - you had to wait until you were where the phone was. CDs were still new enough to be spelled out in capital letters and full words: Compact Disc. People still had diskettes on their computers and wireless was sure to be the next big technology. Awesome.

I loved how Annie manipulated Oliver. Subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, lol. Although I called who the villain was pretty quickly after it was clear there was a suspense plot, it didn't really undermine my enjoyment. Since I began reading romance in the early to mid 80s, the book didn't feel anachronistic to me. Things that would likely bother younger readers used to more modern times didn't bother me. I especially like that in a time when it didn't happen frequently, the book was written from both Annie & Oliver's POVs equally.

I was challenged to read this, then gifted the book when I told HelenKay Dimon I wasn't a fan of Krentz (or either of her alter egos). So, big thanks go to HelenKay. I definitely liked this one. While I still wouldn't call myself a Krentz fan, I still got a lot of enjoyment out of my Sunday morning read

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Heart of Little Faith by Jennifer Wilck

Via Lily Livingston is a widow raising her six-year-old daughter, Claire, in New York City. Devastated by her husband's death three years ago, she's in no hurry to fall in love again. Besides, trying to balance her career with motherhood leaves her little time for romance.

With a wheelchair instead of a white horse, and a vow against falling in love again as his armor, Gideon Stone is the last person Lily expects to sweep her off her feet. But when a business agreement forces the two of them together, that is exactly what happens. As they navigate the minefield that fast represents their relationship, can either of them overcome the obstacles to find true happiness in each other's arms? The answer is yes, but the bumps along the way demonstrate that neither of them can go it alone

I follow this author on twitter, and wanted to read something of hers. I was completely intrigued and excited by the idea of a disabled hero in a wheelchair who wouldn't magically be fixed, so I picked this book over her other, Skin Deep. Also, a portion of the proceeds goes to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. That rocks something fierce.

This is a debut novel, and it reads like one. There is a lot to like here, and a lot that can be improved upon.

I really liked these people. Both the main characters and the secondary characters. They are all nice people. Regular people. They all have a great story to tell. I liked that Lily is still mourning her husband, but is still willing to take a risk and open up to Gideon. She is a great mom, and her daughter, Claire, is adorable, without being precocious or too cutesy. Lily has real-life problems, such as needing a babysitter, and having daycare issues.

Gideon seems like a really nice guy, too. On the surface, he seems really well adjusted to the accident that left him a paraplegic, but he does have self-esteem issues stemming from the departure of his ex-girlfriend immediately following his accident. He's a family guy, who really wants nothing out of life except a happy home life filled with a wife and kids. Unfortunately, he feels like he can't saddle a woman with his less-than-whole self.

The secondary characters are great, too. Gideon's sister Samantha, his best friend, Tony, and Lily's friend and boss Anne, are all supportive, but also not afraid to tell it like it is. Her daughter Claire is a realistic 6 year old girl, filled with adorbz but also a little sensitive and still throwing the occasional tantrum. She adores Gideon on sight, and the feeling is mutual, first because Gideon loves kids, but also because Claire just sees him, not a wheelchair. She accepts him at face value for the awesome guy he is.

This book is set in NYC, and Wilck does a great job of showing not just the hustle and bustle of the city, but also the little neighborhoods scattered throughout. Lily and Claire ride their bikes to their local park, there are little restaurants to pop into, and friendly neighbors. It almost feels like a character in and of itself.

Where I thought this book fell short was partly in the editing. It could have been much, much shorter and much, much tighter and still told the same story. There is a lot of extraneous information that only weighs it down. There is also a whole lot of telling, not showing. As an example, in one scene, Gideon is on the phone, and is in his home office. In the middle of his phone conversation, there is a lengthy description of all the rooms in his apartment, rather than, say, the chair he was sitting in, or the overall feel of the room. After this description, we are taken back to the conversation. I felt like this was TMI, and it took me away from what was happening.

Also, and this was one of the biggies for me, in her desire to show Gideon as a regular guy who just happens to be in a wheelchair, I think Wilck shortchanged his obstacles. For example, he goes out and about in the city constantly, takes cabs and the subway. I imagine while this is the norm, it has to be a big PITA, especially the cab part of it. Maybe it isn't, but it felt like it should have been to me. I can't imagine that they all lived on the ground floor in NY, but so many buildings there are walk-ups without elevators. And they are tiny. Was this a problem for him? I wanted to know all these things and more. I wanted to see why he thought he wasn't worthy, the issues he had to face, and the impact it had on him and those around him.

Also, with the closed door nature of the sex, I felt shortchanged. This seemed to me to be the perfect opportunity to increase intimacy between Lily and Gideon. Was it uncomfortable for him to get out of the chair and into the bed while they were being romantic? How did he have sex without the use of his legs? These seemed like missed opportunities to draw the h & h closer, and to let us see more interactions that might have served to increase the trust and faith between them. We are told a tiny bit through Lily's recollection, but aren't shown, which would have been very powerful, IMO.

The title of the book is perfect, and describes Gideon to a T. He wanted to believe in a HEA for himself, but just didn't have enough faith in himself, and projected his past hurts onto Lily. She in turn never said to him, "I love you, dammit. TALK TO ME." So he withdraws and she accepts him back without question every time he apologizes - until the last time, when she doesn't. But as soon as he apologizes, she does. There needed to be a better grovel, IMO. The pattern made me impatient with them both, wanting to smack them upside the head.

I definitely want to try Wilck's next book, because I like the life that she infused into her characters. They are warm, likable people with a lovely story to tell. She has a gentle voice which fit the story perfectly. I'm hopeful that in the next one, there is more show than tell, as well as tighter editing. But overall, a good debut.

Available at Whiskey Creek Press and the usual retailers.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Addicted To You by Bethany Kane

Irish film director Rill Pierce fled to the tiny, backwoods town of Vulture ‘s Canyon, seeking sanctuary and solitude after a devastating tragedy. Once, his raw sex appeal and sultry Irish accent made women across the globe swoon. Now, he’s barely recognizable…

But Katie Hughes, his best friend’s sister, is not the type of woman to give up on a man like Rill. She blazes into Vulture’s Canyon determined to save him from himself. Instead, she finds herself unleashing years of pent-up passion. In a storm of hunger and need, Katie and Rill forget themselves and the world. But will Rill’s insatiable attraction to Katie heal his pain—or will it just feed the darkness within him?

Came close to reading this book in one sitting. Just utterly captivated. What a gorgeous, gorgeous story. (Blurb is not worthy, just saying.)

Kane stunned me a bit. I've read Kery, with mixed results. Was crazy about Wicked Burn but couldn't finish Daring Time. I chalked the latter up to my aversion to time travel and confidently selected Addicted To You from my TBR list, expecting to like it. Did not expect to be knocked flat by her prose, voice, characterization. All of it. Stunning.

Addicted To You is the story of the relationship that grows between Ril and Katie. They are not strangers. But they are not best friends in the typical friends-to-lover stories. I don't like those, BTW. Always filled with too much secret pining on one or the other's part. Here, Ril and Katie have not seen one another in awhile. And before that, he was married to her best friend. I imagined--with Kane's help--their years as friends. Honest and real, and without a boatload of secret pining. Katie does admit to a long-time attraction to Ril, crushing on him. But it didn't offend or annoy because I never had the sense that it consumed her. This is a woman who has lived her life and loved her friends.

When Ril's wife--Katie's best friend--dies in a car accident, Ril removes himself from their high profile life and commences a year and more long relationship with a whiskey bottle. Addicted To You starts when Katie arrives, unannounced, to save him from this self-imposed exile. And POW, Kane grips her reader--without backstory, or setting up the scene, or introductions. Like I said, stunning.

Kane goes on to deepen their relationship--in the same manner. She doesn't tell us, she shows us. Invites us in, to live with characters that, for all their emotional struggles, remain true to themselves and surprisingly responsible. Ril is grieving, though not for reasons we'd expect. He is also resisting an attraction to Katie that he fears will tip him backwards, into behavior and need he has ruthlessly denied for years. Neither of these emotional ditches keep him from moving forward. I appreciated that as it had the overall effect of showing us that Ril is in fact, a grown-up--an experienced participant in his own life. That was likely the strongest tug on my attention--Ril and Katie's self-possession.

Kane adds to the layers of Ril's maturity by giving him a sexually dominant nature and by making him a bit older than Katie--and physically, significantly larger than her. Sexy beyond words (for this reader anyway) and effective only because Kane infuses Katie with her own power and tenacity. Again, Kane defies stereotype and expectation here. This book is about their emotional relationship. It is not erotic romance convenienced by a nice love story. Their boundaries--or lack thereof--in the bedroom do not lend any more or any less to the story than do their mutual and individual emotional journeys. It's powerful stuff.

Against a backdrop that includes quirky rural folks, Kane manages to keep the camera primarily on Ril and Katie. Aside from one outsider visit (Katie's brother, Ril's best friend), this is a tightly contained telling. That visit, BTW, emotionally powerful. To match the rest of the pages in this book. Like I said, just gorgeous. And funny. I couldn't tear myself away from Ril and Katie. Pretty much one sitting. And now I think I may have to buy a copy of this book to just have nearby.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

April reads

April was another slow month for me. Looks like 10 books were read. Some were good, some were disappointments, none knocked me on my ass, even though I gave a 5 to Hunger Games.

OK, now I'm caught up. And thinking I could use another week off work.

Trouble Me by Laura Moore
3.5 stars
This is the 3rd book in the Rosewood trilogy, and like the others, I liked it. For some reason, the fixation on the horse talk (and education) bothered me more in this one than the others. I also wondered how on earth Jade didn't recognize Rob, since only 5 years had passed. It bothered me throughout the entire book. But it was a nice story of redemption (the heroine) and I would read another from Moore.

The Scarred Heir by Denise Patrick
3.5 stars
I enjoyed this book. I especially liked the hero. With interesting twists and turns around a case of mistaken identity. The part that really knocked it down for me was the entire switching places piece by Max's brother (and potential villain). It seemed a huge far stretch to go to cover up a family secret, and one that could be so easily debunked, I wondered how he got away with it. But the love story was lovely and saved the book for me.

Caught in the Act by Jill Sorenson
3.5 stars
I don't know how Sorenson takes undesirable characters and makes them sympathetic, but she does it. And while I felt very wary at the idea of the heroine blatantly and illegally smuggling someone over the border, I imagine this is not unusual in any way. But I wondered how on earth Sorenson would reconcile a border agent looking past this. And to her credit, Adam had a very hard time with it. There's always an interesting secondary romance, and I found myself even more interested in the outcome of that than with the main romance. I am definitely looking forward to the next book, which I would hope chronicles that story.

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1) by Suzanne Collins
5 stars
OK, I get the hype surrounding this. It was great. I originally downloaded it as a way to get my son to finish it to get outside reading credit in his English class. I challenged him that I could finish it before him (he had about 70 pages to go at the time). He beat me, but not by much, because I couldn't put it down. And interestingly, I bought Catching Fire, but have very little desire to read it. Wonder why that is.

Twisted (Tracers, #5) by Laura Griffin
4 stars
Another great book in the Tracers series by Laura Griffin. I originally gave it 5 stars, but thinking back, I had a very hard time getting over the fact that a rookie detective was allowed to come in and basically take over the biggest case on the docket. But I really love the way Griffin writes suspense, and I liked the world-weary Mark a lot.

When She Wasn't Looking by HelenKay Dimon
4 stars
I liked the smart characters, the romance while incredibly fast was great, and I adore Dimon's writing style, her voice, and the fact that her heroes come across as real. They are exhausted, they get hurt, and they manage to rely on their women, knowing that they are also super smart & capable. Read the full review here.

True Devotion (Uncommon Heroes #1) by Dee Henderson
A generous 3 stars
While I enjoyed the interactions between the characters, this was way heavy on the praying and God talk. Don't get me wrong, it's a Christian publisher and an author who writes only inspys, and I knew what I was getting into. I found that if I skipped completely over the pages and pages of prayer, I liked the story and the characters. I wish this had been just a little more understated, because then I'd read more of the series, but unfortunately, I had a hard time believing that everyone Kelly met (including a "random" teenage boy) had the same views and strength of conviction as she did. This book does what it advertises, so it doesn't seem fair to grade it down, but I hated being conked over the head with the Jesus talk. For a look at a book that does this oh so right, I recommend this.

Callum (The Cursed Clan, #1) by Melissa Schroeder
4 stars
I wasn't sure what to expect with this book, though I do love Schroeder's work. It seemed like it was to be a historical, but ended up being a bit of a paranormal instead. One that sucked me right in. And I can't wait to find out what happens to the rest of Callum's family and how the curse gets broken.

Of Noble Birth by Brenda Novak
3.5 stars
This is Novak's first published book (I believe). I liked it a lot. I liked both the characters and the plot. And felt sad at the vengeance that drives some people - (mini-spoiler) I thought there might be redemption for Nathaniel's brother, but it was not to be. I enjoyed it, but have to admit, that Novak writes a better thriller than historical. I have to wonder if she ever thinks of writing another. I'd read it in a second.

Where All the Dead Lie (Taylor Jackson, #7) by JT Ellison
4 stars
Read for SBTB RITA review-a-thon. Will link to it from here when that review goes up. Though I will say that I enjoyed it tremendously.

Friday, May 04, 2012

March reads

Better late than never. I read 15 books in March. Still feeling kind of meh about reading, which still makes me sad. I miss my books. Eventually I'll get back to it. It's been an interesting week, and I imagine I'll post something about it shortly. Anyway, the reading was good this month, if not fantastic, and while I enjoyed the books I read, almost nothing overwhelmed me. With the exception of A Week to be Wicked. Awesome blossom.

Foreign Affair by Shelli Stevens
3 stars
I adore Shelli Stevens' writing, and this was no exception. I loved the way the hero fell flat on his face for the heroine. What I didn't love was the way the big misunderstanding drew out for sooooooooooo long. I did like that Stevens gave them time apart, because a week in Paris does not a HEA make, but they spent so much time apart, I wondered why either of them cared anymore.

Trust in Me by Beth Cornelison
3 stars
A definite beta hero (and a regular, struggling to make ends meet guy, too) and a heroine struggling to learn how to make it on her own. I liked a lot about this book. It was very relationship focused, which I really liked, but it moved too slowly for me to ever get fully invested in it.

Forever in One Second by Finn Marlowe
3 stars
I really liked the first half of this book - the first section was very intense, with a near death experience for one of the heroes and a reluctant hero in the second. I even think the paranormal aspect of it could have been immensely intriguing. Where it lost me was with the suspense part, and how crazy and off-course the book got when the author chose to focus on that rather than the relationship. This one is m/m.

True Colors by Joyce Lamb
4 stars
This is book 2 in the trilogy, and while I could tell that important things happened in the first book (for example, the h/h already have a well established friendship/almost relationship), I didn't have any difficulty jumping right into this one. It was really interesting, with the paranormal/psychic piece of it being a secondary focus and the thriller & relationship being more primary. While I could understand John's reluctance to believe in Alex's abilities, he didn't buy in soon enough for me. I really liked the relationship between the sisters.

True Shot by Joyce Lamb
3.5 stars
I picked this up immediately after reading True Colors. This is book 3 in the trilogy, and brings all 3 sisters back together. The biggest problem that I had with this was the same issue I had with Jo Davis' Under Fire. After a while, I found myself asking what else could possibly happen to this guy? It brought to mind the line from Airplane: "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue." Again, I really liked the psychic aspects of the book, and this one cleared up a lot of the questions I had from the 2nd book. But I still came away feeling rather meh about the book and thinking that it could have been so much better.

Wherever You Are by Sharon Cullen
4 stars
A woman goes from the 21st century and wakes up on an 18th century pirate ship. I really liked the concept, and the characters. I liked that neither Morgan nor Juliana had forgotten the other. I thought the pirate lifestyle portrayed was realistic. I liked the story overall, but thought the overabundance of anachonistic language on Morgan's part especially (even before we find out about the time travel), but even on the part of his crew, seemed too obvious and should have been questioned by someone in the form of "what are you saying?". But at its heart, it's a fated lovers story and I enjoyed it despite my issues with it.

Rocky Mountain Desire (Six Pack Ranch, #3) by Vivian Arend
4 stars
Once again, I really liked the story about the Colemans. I was really worried with the Helen angle, but Vivia Arend took it somewhere very subtlely, and I have a feeling that Helen may yet have more story to tell. As for Hope and Matt, I really liked them together. I like that although she let him take control in the bedroom, she was her own person. And that they talked through their issues. Like grownups and everything. I truly believe in their HEA.

A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove, #1) by Tessa Dare
5 stars
Beautiful. Funny. Brilliant. Read my review here.

Confessions of an Improper Bride (Donovan Sisters, #1) by Jennifer Haymore
4 stars
Such a refreshing take on the mistaken identity/switching place with your twin theme. And heartbreaking at the same time it's lovely. I do so love Haymore's writing. Read my review here.

Once Upon a Wicked Night (Donovan Sisters, #1.5) by Jennifer Haymore
3 stars
Very short novella that sets up book 2. I felt, after having read the 2nd book, that it could have simply been included in Olivia's book. Page count restrictions perhaps?

Secrets of an Accidental Duchess (Donovan Sisters, #2) by Jennifer Haymore
4 stars
I adored the romance in this book. Loved. It. I thought that too much time was spent on the suspense and (requisite) kidnapping. Haymore's writing is so gorgeous that I'll forgive nearly anything. Read the review here.

Outside the Law by Kara Lennox
3 stars
I enjoyed the hero, and thought at first the heroine's issues were well done. But she seemed unwilling to try and overcome those issues, and Mitch had too much else on his plate to properly address it. Overall, a meh read.

A Simple Amish Christmas by Vannetta Chapman
4 stars
Beautifully written, this is the perfect example of creating a romance with no sex. And I mean none. But in Chapman's capable hands, I didn't miss anything. And it's also the perfect example of how to incorporate religion onto an inspy. It's such an integral part of the Amish way of life that there was no need to stress it anywhere, it became almost another character. I really recommend it. A few more thoughts here.

Claiming Colleen by Beth Kery
4 stars
I loved the continuation of the story arc here. Loved Eric, and how he admitted early on that he wanted Colleen, even though he wasn't quite sure for what. Colleen's been very prickly over these 3 books, and she stayed true to form. I wish she had warmed up sooner. But I really liked that she owned it, and apologized to Eric. The evolution of all these characters from animosity, distrust, and fear to acceptance and becoming a family has been lovely to watch, and I think, quite realistically portrayed. A well done series. I'll definity be interested to read oldest sister Deirdre's story, since she really is at the heart of it all.

Exclusively Yours (Kowalski Family, #1) by Shannon Stacey
5 stars
A reread for me. And I still loved it. The joy, love, and humor Stacey infuses into this family, while at the same time giving them real-life problems to overcome is wonderful. Read my original review here.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Captivated by Lauren Dane

Via Vincenz Fardelle, exiled son of the Supreme Leader of the Imperialist Universe, has spent much of the last ten years working to stop the threat his father poses. But he’s not alone in his quest. Julian Marsters has lost his best friend and countless others in the war and has made vengeance his only goal. In each other, Julian and Vincenz find not only like minds, but kindred spirits.

However unexpected their relationship, everything changes for Vincenz and Julian when Hannah Black comes into their lives. Having been captured and held in near total isolation by imperialist troops, their immediate response is to protect her.

Emotionally shattered but resilient, Hannah rebuilds herself. Because of the warm safety she finds in the arms of Julian and Vincenz she becomes someone harder, stronger and bent on preventing the Imperialists from harming anyone else.

For the two men, wrestling with their passionate feelings for Hannah is only the beginning. War is about to send all three into harm’s way and an equally dangerous secret could tear them apart.

My thanks to Lauren Dane for supplying an ARC of Captivated. It released on Tuesday, and if you don't already have it, you should run out, or run to your device of choice and buy it now.

What I liked:
Julian - so conflicted. So afraid to open himself up again. And yet he's let Vincenz in. He's all protective alpha, but still angry, and underneath all that anger you can see what an amazing man he is - a standup friend, a supportive lover, and a fierce warrior.

Vincenz - I love how he balances Julian, grounds him. He gets all soft and mushy around Hannah, showing a different side of himself. The betrayal he must feel and the strength he showed by leaving his family and 'verse to do the right thing is astounding. Although Julian has a much stronger presence, it's Vincenz who is the glue holding them all together. Steadfast, strong, loving.

Hannah - I liked that Dane gave her lots and lots of time to recover from her ordeal, and even at the end, there are still times when she retreats into herself. She makes the guys see that there is more to life than fighting the war, and makes them want to be better people. For her, for each other, and for themselves. We see her come back to herself, into her strength as she undergoes treatment to regain her memory of things she might know that could help win the war.

The relationship(s): I loved the way the relationship between the three grew. As Vincenz and Julian bring Hannah into their home and she begins her recovery, it's about offering the quiet strength and support she needs. Eventually, this grows into love and sex, but it's the underlying trust that drives everything between these three. I enjoyed the realistic struggle when Hannah wants to contribute and accompany them on their mission - they want to protect her and wrap her up, and she views it as a way not only to avenge her capture and torture, but to make Julian and Vincenz see her as whole, as a full participant in their relationship, as unbroken.

Geek/nerddom showing, but as I was writing this, the image of a Venn diagram came to my mind - the three pieces intersecting independently as well as joined together in the center. Each man has an independent and different equal relationship with Hannah and with each other, and yet the three together are at the center of the relationship in its entirety, irrevocably joined together. As I said, I'm a math geek. Sue me. (And who says math can't be beautiful? LOL)

The sex: Between Julian and Vincenz, the only word I can come up with that sums it up is masculine. It's sometimes rough, sometimes tender, but always manly. These guys are both alpha males, and I love watching the changing dynamics between them, not just, but especially during sex. There's a level of trust between them, a safety and reassurance that is tangible and real in their world gone crazy. We always say that sex should be about forwarding a relationship and this is it. (Oh, and another word? Hot. Yeah.)

Between the guys and Hannah, it allows their soft sides to come to the surface. I love that the relationships are established before the sex begins, that the guys feel secure in their relationship to be freely affectionate in front of Hannah, and that she's not threatened by it. Not are either of the guys threatened when they each have sex with Hannah separately. When the three are together, each of the men can go from being forceful to sweet, and neither are threatened by the presence of the other. (Side note: Obviously something that continues to permeate every book I review with a permanent triad in it... I just don't see how a non-competitive, non-jealousy-laden triad is really possible, but Dane makes me believe in it even as I question the lack of competition and jealousy. That's talent.)

Worldbuilding: Once again, excellent, although because so much of this book took place within Julian & Vincenz's house, the worldbuilding wasn't as explicit and easy as in other books in the series. It's enough that popping in to the series in this book would provide context and worldbuilding enough to understand and enjoy the story and overarching series plot, but truly to understand the entirety and the fullness of the world Dane has created, I insist that you read from the beginning. Or at least from book 2 in the series, where to me, the worldbuilding took its greatest shape.

The war: The war is escalating and treachery and deceit are the name of the game. It's an interesting contrast to the core relationship, where being open and honest is so vital for trust. Anyway, all the books have been leading up to the downfall of Vincenz's father, the mastermind of the attempted takeover of the Federation by the Imperium. When that confrontation happens, it was a wee bit anticlimactic, overshadowed for me by a surprising conclusion to Vincenz's search for his mother and desire to rescue her from the prison her own home has become.

What I didn't like: Not much. But as I alluded to earlier, because so much of the book was focused on the relationship (a plus!) and took place within the confines of Vincenz & Julian's home, I missed so many of the subtle, little touches that were in the other books that really bring this world to life. Many of the anachronistic references were missing from this one, and as a result, the world felt less rich and full to me.

That said, the focus of the book was twofold - the dichotomy between the slowly evolving, sweet and beautiful relationship between Hannah, Vincenz, and Julian, and the harsh horrific world of war outside their doorstep. It's a jolting transition each time we move from one setting to the next, as it must be for the characters as well.

This is another fantastic entry to the series, an emotionally charged, beautiful 3-way romance set against a harsh, unforgiving war. Dane, as always, manages both deftly and with care. I highly recommend Captivated, and the entire Federation/Phantom Corps series. Go forth and buy and read.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Night To Surrender by Tessa Dare

Spindle Cove is the destination of choice for certain types of well-bred young ladies: the painfully shy, young wives disenchanted with matrimony, and young girls too enchanted with the wrong men. It is a haven for those who live there.

Victor Bramwell, the new Earl of Rycliff, knows he doesn’t belong here. So far as he can tell, there’s nothing in this place but spinsters…and sheep. But he has no choice, he has orders to gather a militia. It’s a simple mission, made complicated by the spirited, exquisite Susanna Finch—a woman who is determined to save her personal utopia from the invasion of Bram’s makeshift army.

Susanna has no use for aggravating men; Bram has sworn off interfering women. The scene is set for an epic battle…but who can be named the winner when both have so much to lose?

This was a crazy enjoyable read. By far the most compelling mix of humor and warmth I've experienced outside of real life in a long time. Right from the get-go too. It was there the instant Bram tackled her to the ground (which was like page 10) and it continued to bowl them both over until the last page. Powered by attraction, fueled by humor and--for such a fun read--just wringing wet with emotion. Just a super satisfying read.

I should mention that I've read Dare before--all but one of her first 6 books. I knew I liked her, just didn't recall THIS particular magic. Thank goodness I've had time to blog-stalk, otherwise I would have missed the incessant buzz that put this one on my radar.

Dare's magic. I may not explain this very well, but I think the magic is contained entirely WITHIN the characters of Bram and Susanna. Or I should say it detonates from WITHIN those two. As reader, you're living in their skin, experiencing it all through their senses. So the humor feels as natural as breathing, the attraction undeniable, and the emotion? Well, it feels like personal growth. So yeah, I butchered that, but honestly if I had just said that Dare's emotion is palpable, it would have been an understatement. Aside from saying that I knew these two, I'm not sure how else to describe the immersion.

Bram is a man's man who can charm the pants off a woman. Without trying. Think it's his voice (sounded sexy to my ears) and his arrogant command (which reads like the perfect touch of dominance). Combine those attributes with the fact that this is a man who digs the heroine for who she is--so much so that it wouldn't ever work if she WASN'T her own person--and there's his WOW.

Susanna's WOW lies in her smarts. She is highly intelligent. And, for her time and experience, she is remarkably mature and stunningly unapologetic. Never once did I fear a stupid reaction to this story's conflicts or misunderstandings.

Both are achingly vulnerable in ways that feel honest (as opposed to contrived) and neither lets those perceived weaknesses hold them back for long. Their rightness together trumps their individual shortcomings--and both were self-aware enough to get there. Again, I never feared a long wait while they figured it out. They were both smart enough, strong enough to see their truth and leap for it. Very, very satisfying to watch.

Though I've said they hold the magic that is this story, I am not discounting the others in the cast (including the sheep). I enjoyed them all--through Bram's and Susanna's eyes. There is clearly more fun to be had in Spindle Cove. Did I mention the sheep?

Win, win, win.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

When She Wasn't Looking by HelenKay Dimon

No woman could deny the appeal of the sexy deputy sheriff Jonas Porter. But to Courtney Allen, Jonas has one major flaw—his badge. Years ago, Courtney's father was wrongfully convicted of a crime and she vowed to never trust a cop again. But when Jonas becomes the only man to believe in her father's innocence, Courtney begins seeing the brooding lawman in a whole new way.

Jonas knows in his gut that the real killer is still out there and determined to finish what he started long ago. To protect Courtney and bring the criminal to justice will require all the skills he can muster. And that means focusing on the job. Not the woman who makes him forget his troublesome past and arouses in him a passion that is anything but professional.


Written in the truly engaging style that is HelenKay Dimon. I really like her romantic suspense books, all for Harlequin Intrigue.

When Jonas is sent to do a "wellness check" on a citizen, he knows immediately that something is wrong. Courtney is hiding something and despite his exhaustion, Jonas wants to know what it is. He gets more than he bargained for when Courtney takes off in an obviously well planned escape.

I did wonder why he threatened to take her in for questioning, when he came for a check and she said she was fine. Yes, he was suspicious, but is that legally enough to threaten someone to haul them in for questioning? Beats me. *shrugs*

As always, I like that Dimon's characters communicate - something so sorely missing from too many books. They talk to each other. Wow. Courtney trusts Jonas enough early on that she shares her heartbreaking backstory with him. And I liked that he believed her, but also that he wanted to check things out on his own as well.

Because this is an Intrigue, the action is nonstop. You barely have time to catch your breath before Jonas and Courtney are off and running. I liked Jonas' internal dialogue about how much he wanted Courtney. I also liked the way that he boosted her confidence when it was waning, telling her that he thought she was strong and smart and resourceful.

In many ways, this is Courtney's story, but it is Jonas' thoughts, actions, and POV that stuck with me the most. Like in her other Intrigues, Dimon leaves her hero exhausted and injured. I thought that he recovered more quickly in this one than in some of her other books, and he also had a bit of a hero complex (always wanting to protect Courtney), but overall, he was great. I also liked that he didn't wait til the very end of the book to continue to work through his own issues, and that he let Courtney in to help him with it.

Because it's an Intrigue, we never really know who the villain is, and there are lots of red herrings thrown in to make you wonder, including an FBI agent who is really an old foe and a family friend.

Total sidenote: I think Intrigue does themselves a disservice by using the "cast of characters" because it gives preconceived notions about the characters and 9 times out of 10 I can guess the villain just from the cast listing. I was right with my guess before even heading in to page 1 with this book, and that irritates me. Harlequin, you listening?  

Thankfully, that didn't deter my enjoyment of the book, and that is mostly thanks to DImon and her witty, engaging writing.

While there were a few "whyyyyy would you do that!" moments, for the most part, it's smart, fast paced, interesting, and exciting.

Anyway, I liked the smart characters, the romance was great if incredibly fast, and I adore Dimon's writing style, her voice, and the fact that her heroes come across as real. They are exhausted, they get hurt, and they manage to rely on their women, knowing that they are also super smart & capable.

This releases May 1, but it's already available for shipping and downloading on the Harlequin website. Which is how I got it because I'm impatient like that.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Bloggers have the right to control the content on their sites

I usually stay far, far away from the kerfuffles in blogland. Occasionally I will lurk and read about them, but rarely do I involve myself and add my two cents. However, I saw a couple people I follow on twitter talking about being ticked about a situation and I determined to stay out of it and not even ask what it was until I read this post at Reviews by Jessewave.

Although I am a lurker there - rarely commenting, mostly for the same reason I rarely comment on any blogs these days - I read from my phone... I avidly read their reviews of m/m romances and have so many books in my TBR pile based on their recommendations, that if I bought them all at once, it would probably take my entire paycheck. The reviews on her site are informative, professional, and intelligent.

Why am I writing this post? Well, apparently, Wave's policy of reviewing only m/m gay books is ruffling feathers. Why? Because she doesn't review all the letters of LGBTQ, only the "G", and yet she has links on her site to Embrace the Rainbow, It Gets Better, and many other websites that provide help and assistance for troubled teens, and has the Safe Reading Zone logo on her sidebar. From what I can tell, the SRZ logo is indicative of a site that is not biased against the LGBTQ community, that is supportive and non-judgmental. This definitely describes Wave's site. Just because the site doesn't review other subgenres of LGBTQ, doesn't mean that the site is judgmental or non-inclusive. She doesn't review books about lesbians, bisexuals, transgedered or anything else, except for gay men. Yes, two penises, two acknowledged men in a romance with each other. She states it up front in her review policies. Apparently, to some, this means she is not an advocate of the genre, or of the LGBTQ community.

I say hogwash. OK, I say bullshit, but for the sake of staying PG, I say hogwash. First off, there is no stronger advocate for the LGBTQ community than Wave's website, and Wave herself. She does a lot of posts the goal of which is to educate the community (and herself, she admits) about m/m and also LGBTQ issues. I've appreciated many of those posts, because while I am not terribly educated about the lifestyle beyond what I read in the m/m romances I enjoy, I know there is a whole other world out there to learn about. Does that mean I can't advocate for the rights of those people? No, not at all.

Just because I'm not a lesbian does not mean that I can't be an advocate for lesbian rights. It doesn't mean that if I choose to put up a banner advocating for lesbian rights, but don't read and review lesbian books, that I should have to take down the banner. I don't read or review books about lesbians because it's not a genre I enjoy reading. I do frequently read and occasionally review books about gay men. And I am an advocate for gay rights, too. As well as bisexual, transgender or any other person. Nobody should have different (or fewer) rights based upon who they are, how they identify, the color of their skin, their religion, etc. I believe that I've made that perfectly clear through many of my posts - here, on my personal blog (intentionally unlinked), and on my political blog.

I digress. My point here is that as a book review blogger, I have the choice to read and review whatever the hell I want to. I blog about books because I have a love of reading, and I want to share my joy with others. Therefore, I tend to blog about genres that I read most and love. Wave's blog states in the banner that the site reviews male/male adult-themed books. It's not a secret. It's the genre she reads and loves. And frankly, the content on her website belongs to nobody else but her and the site's reviewers. They can post whatever they choose as long as it doesn't violate the law. And I have the choice to read it or not.

If I can't advocate for that for any blogger, then what happens to my own rights as a blogger to post the material that I choose to post? I lose control over that. If Wave doesn't want to read and review anything other than m/m gay romance, then that is her right. If she wants to post banners supporting other websites, supporting causes, or advocating for men on the moon, that is her right. Nothing else need come into the discussion.

Book blogging has evolved tremendously since we first started reviewing books here in October 2005 (and holy moly - that's almost 7 years!). It used to be stricly about sharing a love of books. Now it has become, for some, a big business. And that's ok. But for those of us who choose to stick with blogging for no other reason than we want to share our love of books, there continue to be no rules other than I get to share what I want, when I want, and in the genres I want. I don't know anything about Wave's relationships with publishers - other than she obviously has one, since she offers many free books - but it shouldn't matter. She should still have the right to choose which books from those publishers she accepts and reviews.

And I for one, will continue to stalk read her reviews for new books to enjoy. Yes, in the m/m genre.
Related Posts with Thumbnails