Thursday, December 16, 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I thought I'd get my Christmas wishes in early before the crazy hits.  Thank you to everyone who has visited or commented this year.  My Christmas blessing for you: May your presents be large and your cakes be chocolate.  Happy Holidays!  Catch you in 2011!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

Why I read it:   I really like Nora Roberts' books and I've read the first three in the series.  So of course, I had to read this one.

What it's about:  This is Parker and Mal's story - those people who have not read at least the first book in the series will miss out, so if you don't know who Parker is, read Vision in White first.   In a nutshell for the uninitiated, there are four friends who run Vows, a wedding business.  Mac is the photographer (Vision in White), Emma is the florist (Bed of Roses), Laurel is the creator of amazing wedding cakes (baker seems too mundane a word for her artistry) (Savour the Moment) and Parker is the wedding planner and the glue that holds them all together.  Interspersed between the highs and lows of weddings at Vows, is the friendship of the girls and their love stories.

What worked for me:  I liked Mal very much.  He was a take charge kind of guy and wasn't fazed at all by either Parker's wealth or by the "go away vibe" she uses to put people at a distance and keep them in line (which is just as well because Parker really needed to be steam rolled - she's an "over-thinker" and really impresses Mac, Emma and Laurel as he is the only one who has managed it). The usually calm organised Parker is ruffled by Mal and it was nice to see.  The *sexy times* in the utility cupboard was just one time when Mal got Parker good and... "ruffled".  :)  (Housekeeper Mrs. G describes him as a "bad boy who is also a good man" which I thought described not just Mal but a type of hero I'm pretty happy to read about.)  The strength of the series I think has been the banter between the four girlfriends and it was present here too. The other 3 didn't let Parker off telling her SBS (sexy breakfast story) when she had one to tell.
Plus, we got to see Mac and Carter's wedding (which is why you really need to read at least Vision in White first to truly understand and enjoy the book I think).

What didn't:  I would have liked to have seen more of Mal. I felt the way he hid his deeper feelings was told rather than shown and I would have liked to have seen more of that, particularly from Mal's point of view.  But not just that, more of Mal in general would have been great!  The book finished kind of abruptly IMO.  I needed just a little more of Mal and Parker being happy to soak in the love.

What else:  I enjoyed this book better than Savour the Moment (which I felt lacked conflict between the h/h) but I think my favourite is still Vision in White, very closely followed by Bed of Roses. We didn't see Jack and Emma's wedding or Del and Laurel's or, of course Parker and Mal's.  Here's hoping that Ms. Roberts will write some (hopefully free!) shorts which tell us those stories!!

Grade:  B-

Sunday, December 5, 2010

November Reads

On paper/ebook

Home for the Holidays by Sarah Mayberry -  B-.  I usually enjoy Ms. Mayberry's books and this one was no exception.  Hannah is a mechanic who was dumped by her fiance nearly at the altar for her sister (what!) and is living with her mother when Joe Lawson, widower, and his two children (Ben 13, and Ruby, 10) move next door.  You'd think that would be enough wouldn't you?  But no!  Once they get over all those hurdles, the author hurtles another disaster upon them - one I totally was not expecting, but once there, one I would have liked a LOT more detail about. I thought that Hannah's lifelong dream of travelling around Australia on her motorcycle was brushed away fairly easily and I'm not sure I could have been anywhere near so forgiving of the man-stealing-cow sister and the asshat sleezebag former-fiance (but that's just me :D!)

Her Secret Fling by Sarah Mayberry - C+.  I had a bit more trouble than usual getting into this one.  Perhaps it's is because I am Australian and I'm familiar with various ex-Olympic swimming stars who have taken up a role in the media after their retirement and I kept trying to work out which one Poppy was based on.  I had to take 2 goes at it which is unusual for me but after finishing Home for the Holidays I thought I'd pick it up again.  The book nearly became a wallbanger for me when Poppy and hero Jake are in BRISBANE (Queensland) for the AFL GRAND FINAL where 40,000 people attend.   Um, sorry but not just no, HELL NO!  Sure, the Gabba (which is where the Brisbane Lions play their home games has a maximum capacity of 40,000 so, as far as that went, that was accurate) but any self-respecting Australian (or any non-self respecting Australian with, you know, GOOGLE) KNOWS that the AFL Grand Final is ALWAYS and HAS ONLY EVER BEEN at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground - yeah, I know, but they play footy there too).  The AFL Grand Final is a massive big deal (in fact, this year, such a big deal they played it twice) and attracts a capacity crowd to the MCG well in excess of 100,000 - and that's only because they can't fit any more people in.  I understand that the author needed to get the characters interstate to further the plot, but could they not have been attending a preliminary final instead?   For any other author, I would have thrown the book at the wall (except that would have ruined my Reader, so not really) but I decided to give her a pass this time - but I still marked the book down a bit.  Grand Final in Brisbane?  As. If.
As for the rest of the story, it was a pleasant but fairly standard story of a committment phobic hero and a young ingenue - I thought the conflict was resolved too quickly at the end and Jake started to lose some of his alpha mystique in the doing of it.  Not my favourite Mayberry.
ETA:  I commented on DA recently about this and Ms. Mayberry replied.  She told me that she had meant to put an explanation in the reader letter at the front of the book. She wanted the characters in Brisbane and particularly wanted to use the AFL Grand Final - I think the preliminary final or the NRL Grand Final (rugby league) would have worked better - they could both have legitimately been in Brisbane.  I appreciated her taking the time to comment though.

 Her Kind of Hero by Kathleen Dienne - C.  I picked this one up from NetGalley because (thankfully) Carina Press loves me now - previous requests had been refused but now I'm in!!  I think it's because I've been a lot more active on Goodreads but whatever the reason, I'm glad.  I found this book quite hard to grade.  The premise is interesting.  Widow and dead husband's best friend + stalker.  DHBF has a "secret" which I picked pretty early on and the identity of the stalker was pretty obvious too.  It came in at 112 pages on my Reader so it was quite a short story and I felt it had too much going on in it for the length.   The stalker aspect could easily have been dropped to give more time to the developing romance, or the book could have been longer.  On the other hand, Vanessa and Derek (aka DHBF) were engaging, I liked the humour and the writing style so I will probably take another look at this author's offerings in future.

Aint Misbehaving by Jennifer Greene - B.  I picked this one up from NetGalley too.  This is a better example of, in a lot of ways, where the previous author was going with Her Kind of Hero (minus the stalker) - both heroes have the same "secret".  As I understand it, this was published some time ago and the author has now updated some of the references so the book isn't dated and re-published it with Carina Press.  I'm usually wary of such books - I've been bitten by books being "updated" but I think this one was truly just tweaked so that obvious references which would have aged the book were removed/brought into 2010ish.  I thought the ending conflict was just a little silly but overall, I enjoyed this book quite a bit.  I've already picked up a couple of others by this author - good characters, style and humour = win.

Inside Out by Lauren Dane - C-.  First, isn't that a lovely cover!  Pity we ebook readers don't get the full glory. Plus it's an agency title so I had to pay the full cover price (plus tax! horrors!).  Agency pricing.  Grrr.
I wanted to love this book and I feel sad that I didn't.  It was just okay for me.  Not horrible but not as good as the first 2 books in this series - Laid Bare and Coming Undone.  I found some of the dialogue between the guys too unbelievable.  For example here, where Brody is talking to Cope
"I said something earlier that bugged you.  I'm sorry about that.  You've been my friend a really long time. I've never doubted you, or that you were a good guy.  I was being protective of Ella, but I went about it wrong."
"It's fine. No harm done."  But he appreciated the apology nonethless.  
"Always harm done when you hurt a friend.  You're changing.  Not that you were an ass with women in the past, so get that look out of your eyes.  You look at her differently.  Different than the way you looked at other women you've been with before.  I know what that is.  Elise changed everything for me.  It's hard and sort of scary sometimes.  Hard to let go of who you were to make room for who you can be.  And I didn't make that any easier with the way I acted."
These are manly alpha guys but you wouldn't know it from some of their conversations sadly. I mean, I could feel the testosterone leaching out of them.
There seemed to be too much of the previous "couples" - one is a menage a trois and not enough time spent on the main romance and there didn't seem to be much conflict - Ella and Andrew or "Cope" as he is called, like each other from the beginning and don't have far to go to fall all the way in love.  Even though there is a brutal assault and an abusive marriage in Ella's past, she is mainly over it - at least in the sense that it doesn't form a barrier to their relationship.  There is a conflict with Andrew and Ben's (one of the menage members) - they are brothers - dad but that doesn't form a barrier to the main relationship either.   I do like these characters and the sex was hot (even though there wasn't as much of it as in previous books - Andrew and Ella take it slow) but, while in real life people falling in love and living HEA is great, it doesn't make a great romance novel - as I read on (I think Smart Bitches Trashy Books, sorry if I got that wrong) recently, a good romance novel is the story of a couple falling in love and working through a conflict to get their HEA - and the conflict part seemed light on for me.  Did I say I wanted to like this?  I really did, but....  Still, book 4 is about Adrian and I'm hoping it will be a return to the ++ WIN of books 1 and 2 for me.

Believe by Lauren Dane - C+/B-.  I read this novella in the Naughty & Nice anthology from Carina Press.  There are 3 other stories but I haven't gotten to them yet.  Sadly *kicks self* this is a sequel novella to Second Chances - which I have on my reader but I haven't read it yet.  I would probably have enjoyed the story quite a bit more had I read Second Chances first... *kicks self again*.   However, it was a cute sexy short and I plan on revisting it when I read the SC.

Never Love a Lawman by Jo Goodman - B+.  See my review here.
Mistletoe at Midnight by LB Gregg - B-. This is one of the novellas in His for the Holidays, a m/m anthology from Carina Press.  So far, I've only read this one.  This author is one of those talented writers who can make you care about 2 characters in a very short word count and pack enough in to make the HEA totally believable.  There were a few little niggles I had about how things came together but it could well have been that I missed a sentence here or there when I was reading -  (ie, How did Meg and Ryan know each other?  Are they dating?) - it's probably there and I missed it.  A really good short story and Owen's family was a hoot - especially his irreverent brother Ryan!  (Also, nice cover!).

Harley Street (Richard & Rose Book 4) by Lynne Connolly B+. I took a short break from my glom on this series and was glad I did.   I really like the series and the characters but I've found that reading too much of them at once is a bit like having too much chocolate - and what a waste of chocolate that is!  This book is set a few months after Venice and Richard and Rose have returned from their honeymoon in Europe and are settling back in London.  There is a murder and a secret from Richard's past is revealed (so secret in fact that even Richard didn't know) and some happy news for our favourite couple.  I will say that Ms. Connolly writes unusual (to me at least) plots and not everything works out all hearts and flowers (even though R&R are still madly in love of course).  The story surrounding one of the secondary (or third-ary? - hey look, I made up a word) characters, Susan is a case in point.  No deus ex machina.  I have the others in the series in my reader ready to go and I think I'll pick up the next one sometime next month - I don't need a long break but it's best for me not to read them all one after the other.  I like this series so much, I've even picked up another of Ms. Connolly's to try - the Secrets Trilogy - note to publishers - including extracts of books from the author's backlist really do work.

A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh - B+/A-. I love Mary Balogh. I swear she could write a shopping list and I'd want to read it.  I like her style and I like the spare and precise way she writes which is so suited to the (in this case) Regency and Georgian time periods in which her books are set.  This is a marriage of convenience story - there's a great review over at Dear Author - Eleanor (a "cit") marries into the aristocracy - to Randolph the Earl of Falloden after Eleanor's dying father buys up all of the earldom's debts and, essentially, forces the marriage.  Apart from that Eleanor annoyed me occasionally by continually jumping to erroneous conclusions and not TALKING about what was happening (which would have, you know, cleared things up), I really enjoyed this one.  Randolph was a delight - I liked the way he managed to compromise (and thank God for him because it wasn't coming from her!).  Balogh's writing always packs a punch for me.  There were actual tears.  Twice.

The Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh - A+ After reading The Christmas Promise, I decided to go back to some of my old (and now sadly out of print) Balogh Signet regencies.  They are gradually being reissued (see above) and I hope this one does so more people can feel the love.  I have it and I'd buy another copy.  I loved it loved it loved it.  My favourite Balogh ever is Heartless, closely followed by Irresistible.  But there is a new rival for the throne.  I think Heartless still wins out but only barely.
Lord Edmond Waite is the notorious rake of the title and he is a rake.  For the previous 15 years he has been scandalising the ton and is only accepted where he is because of his title.  He's had an estrangement from his family and has been living up to what he felt were their expectations ever since.  Mary is a widow who has an understandable phobia about thunderstorms - when following the drum with her husband, during a storm lightning struck the next door tent, killing the men in it - she can still smell the scent of burning flesh.  Waite and Mary are caught alone in a thunderstorm at Vauxhall and in the course of comforting her, they become lovers.    Waite wants to pursue a relationship but Mary does not.  He skirts perilously close to stalking, but in my view, manages to keep to just the side of the line.  I wonder whether some would think that the scene at Vauxhall to be some kind of unsavoury seduction - I think it isn't because the scene is mainly told from Mary's POV - she was just about climbing into him in fear and desperately searching for comfort.  She was willing and didn't say "no" at any stage.  Also, in the part of the scene told from Waite's POV, it was clear that he did not set out to seduce - he had not even thought he was attracted to her. In the hands of a less skilled author however, I could easily see how Waite's character would have been just too black at the start.    It is an excellent book following the theme of people not always being what they seem on first (or even subsequent) impressions.  Waite even manfully tries to keep away from Mary in the end because he loves her so much and he feels he is irredeemable.  He manages to do this without being too martyrish.  The plan falls apart however when a relative of his tries to bring about a family reconciliation.  The scenes with the two brothers:-
"I think we had better go and find the ladies," his brother said, "before we do something that would embarrass us both, like falling into each other's arms or something."
and between Waite and his father are very very good.  (see above re my comments on Inside Out about male interaction and talking about feelings).  

A Counterfeit Betrothal by Mary Balogh - B+/A-  I picked this one up next because the two books are loosely related (except this one is set before the Notorious Rake).  I want to watch the movie of this book.  There are two stories - Sophia and Francis plan a counterfeit betrothal in an attempt to reconcile Sophia's estranged parents Marcus and Olivia.  Sophia and Francis's story is funny and romantic and Marc and Livy's story is poignant and romantic.  I thought the happy ending for the latter pair was a little drawn out so it wasn't an A, but otherwise it was an excellent book.  The interplay between Sophia and Francis was hilarious.  I don't think I'm giving anything away in saying that Sophia and Frank end up together but for most of the book the plan is for them to have a completely fake engagement - Sophia keeps getting caught up in the plan of getting her parents back together and there are many funny conversations where she says that if that doesn't work then they could try again at Christmas and Frank has to repeatedly remind her that they're not supposed to actually GET MARRIED.  It would make a great movie farce - sort of like the Importance of Being Earnest ...but completely different really.  :)

Snow Angel by Mary Balogh - A-Another excellent Balogh story.  Widowed Rosamund Hunter has an argument with her brother and stalks off in a snowstorm.  (He was going to turn around after a little while and pick her up but his carriage lost a wheel).  She is rescued by Justin Halliday, Earl of Wetherby who is on his way to a friend's hunting box alone, his mistress having been struck down by the flu.  They share an instant attraction and a 3 day idyll.  Once the snowstorm breaks they each go back to their lives.  Justin's was having a last fling - he was about to become betrothed (a long-standing family arrangement) and he believed in marital fidelity so there'd be none of that after the formal announcement.   Imagine his surprise when Rosa turns out to be related to his fiancee-to-be.  It is a delightfully angsty book.  Both Rosa and Justin resolve to do the right thing but they suffer while they try.  In fact, the characters were such that they would actually have done the right thing and stayed apart except that serendipity intervenes (as it does in romance novels) and it was particularly that, that I enjoyed - they were not selfish but were committed to their families and obligations previously made, despite their feelings for each other.

The Temporary Wife by Mary Balogh - A.  (The Balogh binge continued into early December but this is the last one for November).  I do love a tortured hero rescued by the love of a good woman and this book is just that.  Anthony Earheart, Marquess of Staunton is estranged from his family.  His father, the Duke of Withingsby is in poor health and recalls him home to complete become betrothed to the daughter of a friend - an arrangement that has been in place between the two fathers since the birth of the daughter 17 years before.  Staunton advertises for a governess and meets Charity Duncan - a "brown mouse" and offers her instead, the position of wife.  She will marry him and go to Enfield (the family home) with him and thoroughly piss of the father and then he will set her up in her own house with a generous annual allowance for the rest of her life and not bother her further.  He has no wish for heirs of his body and no belief in love.  Charity, of course, is no brown mouse - she merely is pretending because she's desperate for the job.   What happens at Enfield and how Staunton falls in love with her and comes to depend on her - well that is the heart of the book.  The scenes with Staunton and the Duke are well done and at the last, very emotional.   And, as so often happens in romance novels (although probably not in real life) the bitter, cynical and closed man of the beginning of the novel, becomes the most romantic and delightful of heroes.
The moon was shining in a broad band across the water of the lake.  They stopped walking when they were close to the bank.
"Have you ever seen anything more beautiful?" she asked with a sigh after a lengthy, perfectly comfortable silence.
"Yes," he said.  "I have only to turn my head to see it." 

On audio

This month was all Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson, all the time.  I had a total listening glom on the series to date:-
Moon Called  A
Blood Bound  A-/B+
Iron Kissed   A
Bone Crossed B+/A-
Silver Borne.  A-
They are all narrated by Lorelie King who does great male voices - seriously, they sound like actual men - I don't know how she does it (esp. without giving herself a really sore throat).  The only thing that bugged me was that the narrator called Aurielle, one of the secondary characters, "Or-ree-ell-ee" instead of "Or-ree-el" and I'd always internally pronounced Stefan's name in the European way with the emphasis on the last syllable and Marrok was always with the emphasis on the first syllable (think "carrot") but I got over it :)
I've raved about Mercy in previous posts, so I'll give it a rest here.  Great books, great on audio too.  Highly recommended. 

I'm planning on listening to Cry Wolf and Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs soon - what a pity that the prequel novella Alpha & Omega isn't available on audio - it really is essential to the story.

But, just for a chance of pace, I've started listening to Suzanne Brockmann's Heart Throb. As much as this was my favourite Brockmann novel, the audio unfortunately didn't work as well for me and overall, was a bit of a disappointment.  The narrator Ralph Lowenstein didn't (in my opinion) get Jed right - when I was expecting low and sexy, I got light and wishy-washy.  There were quite a few times in the story when I thought - that's not how he says it!  In the end, on audio, I gave this one a B-/C+.

And that was November.  Whew!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Never Love a Lawman by Jo Goodman

Why I read it:  I really like Jo Goodman's books - I bought this one shortly after it came out but for some reason, it languished on my TBR until recently.  Marry Me, Reidsville #2 is just out and it's winging its way to me as I write.  I thought I'd better read book 1 first.  The only other Jo Goodman books I've read have been mainly set in England and I haven't read a lot of historical Westerns so that's maybe why it took me so long.

What it's about: The book starts off with a mysterious prologue told from a mystery male's point of view, then flashes forward some 18 months to where Rachel Bailey is living alone in Reidsville, Colorado and working as a seamstress.  She is beautiful and the town's gentlemen are quite taken with her but she keeps pretty much to herself, rarely inviting anyone into her house and not making much by way of small talk.  The local sheriff is Wyatt Cooper. He signed a contract some years before agreeing to marry Rachel on the death of one Clinton Maddox, rich railway owner.  (Clearly Clinton is someone from Rachel's past but just who he was to her isn't clear at the beginning.)  Rachel of course doesn't know anything about this contract.  Cue sparks.  Rachel [reluctantly] agrees to marriage - but in name only - no funny stuff. Cue more sparks.  Reidsville sits at the end of a rail spur and has a gold/silver mine which is very prosperous but the town keeps it fairly secret, managing the sale of bullion in small regular amounts so that no-one gets suspicious.  Turns out, Clinton (and now , via a bequest, Rachel), Wyatt and the town are each 1/3 owners of the mine.  The rail spur (which Rachel will inherit if she agrees to marry Wyatt) is the only way for goods (including bullion) in/out of Reidsville.  If the evil Foster Maddox (grandson of Clinton) inherits the spur, he will probably close it down which will kill the town. If he finds out how prosperous the mine is, there is a risk to Rachel and her inheritance.

What worked for me: It's been quite a while since I've read a Jo Goodman book, but I have participated in various blog threads about her books.  There seems to be a commonly held view that her books are serious, slow and character-driven.  I've never found her books particularly slow (although I'm apparently in the minority).  Certainly her villains are usually pretty dark and some of the topics covered are very serious.   She is also certainly a writer who is heavily character-driven.  That's good.  I like.  It may be that I'm mis-remembering but I think this book had more "lightness" to it than others.  There seemed to me to be more snappy banter and humour in the book than I remember being in others (but truthfully, it might just be that I've been influenced by semi-recent blog discussions and have forgotten the actual content and what I thought of it at the time).  In any event, this one does have a delightful humour to it.  The inhabitants of Reidsville are nicely drawn without becoming caricatures and well enough developed to give flavour to the story without overtaking it.  I loved the story of how "that no account Beatty boy" got his name - what a hoot!  But, it is the banter between Rachel and Wyatt in particular that I enjoyed.  From the first they strike sparks off one another.  However, Rachel is desperately trying to maintain her status quo and doesn't much appreciate Wyatt's intrusion into her life.  I liked Wyatt - not only gorgeous, he is cheeky and sneaky (in the best possible way) and clever and witty and hard to offend - which is just as well because Rachel is defensive (for good reason), acerbic, secretive and prickly (he calls her a "hedgehog").  Wyatt has a lot of work to do to get under Rachel's defenses to the real, vulnerable and lovely woman underneath.  What is especially nice is that he never doubts that she is there and what made me smile is that he never doubted he'd get to her.
The interplay between the two is funny, quick and clever and shows the reader very clearly the attraction and humour of the two characters.  Like this where Rachel says to Wyatt:
 "You shouldn't sneak up on people."
"I didn't know I was.  I thought I heard you tell me to come in."
"Now, that's just a lie, plain and simple."
"Oh, he doesn't lie, Miss Bailey. He's the sheriff." [Molly, part time domestic]
Wyatt nodded once at Molly. "Thank you for that stout defense."  He then regarded Rachel with a slip of a smile. "See?  I don't lie. I'm the sheriff."
"I thought you were going to stab me with those shears" he said conversationally.
Rachel didn't look up from cutting.  "I thought I was, too.  What's the penalty for killing a lawman?"
"Hanging, most likely.  Of course, if there're mitigating circumstances - "
"Oh, there are, since you sneaked up on me."
"A jury would have to decide that, but let's say they're sympathetic to the defense's explanation., then you might only have to spend the rest of your days in jail.  Folks around here are partial to me, so I think you'd hang."
"I'll try to keep that in mind."

Much of the book is the two characters getting to know each other and gradually falling in love and that is the part of the book I enjoyed the best.

What didn't work for me:  The suspense part of the plot - ie, evil Foster Maddox  was the weakest part of the story for me.  I thought it was a bit convoluted and unrealistic and stopped the book from being an A read.

What else? There is a cute secondary romance involving "that no account Beatty boy" and the local madam, Rose.  I would have been happy for that aspect of the story to be expanded further.

Grade: B+

Saturday, November 6, 2010

October Reads

On paper/ebook
Keeping Promise Rock by Amy Lane - B+  I love an angsty read and this one sure was that.  Carrick (Crick) and Deacon are close friends as boys (Deacon is a few years older and he and his father take Crick in because his own mother and step-Bob (that's what they call him) are scummy) and that develops into something more.  When they finally admit their feelings to each other (way past time they're legal - it's not squicky), Crick misunderstands something Deacon says and enlists in the Army and goes to the Middle East.  Although they are apart for a lot of the book, there was plenty going on and enough flashbacks and emails/tweets/phone calls/texts so that I didn't feel deprived (as I often do when the 2 main characters spend a lot of time apart - hated Sleepless in Seattle - what was up with that?).  Crick and Deacon make a family out of best friends, one of Crick's sisters and one or two other surprise additions along the way.   I really liked the family they created for themselves and the solidarity of that unit.  There's another book in the Promises series already out and I heard today that the author has just started writing another. Yay!

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis - B+.  I reviewed this one near the end of October, so I won't go into much detail here - a funny sexy contemporary and my favourite Jill Shalvis book so far.

Flashback and Flashpoint by Jill Shalvis (both) - C.  These are 2 Harlequin Blaze's from 2008 set in fictional Santa Rey California and based on characters from Fire Station #34.  I enjoyed the romance aspect (who doesn't love a hot, sexy, firefighter?) but was impatient with the suspense plot involving a serial arsonist, which spread across both books (which doesn't really make sense, especially in the case of the second book because it was kind of integral to the relationship but still...)

True Vision by Joyce Lamb - C.  I won this book and it had an interesting premise - out of town cop is investigating the death of his friend, the witness is a woman who bears a striking resemblance to said dead friend (except he wants some smexxing with this one and didn't have those sort of feelings for the friend 0-o), who has suddenly developed some psychic powers - when she touches someone, she relives their most recent traumatic/passionate experience (makes for interesting smexxing!).  But, overall, it was, meh.  Okay but not great.  I mostly skimmed it but, I did finish it.

Resistance by LM Turner - B- Ryan is not into relationships and when he hooks up with the gorgeous Jayden one night he's flabbergasted when Jayden stays over!  Ryan doesn't do sleepovers or dates but there's some amazing chemistry with Jayden and he can't resist a repeat.  But, just when Ryan decides to give a relationship a go Jayden decides enough is enough and bails so Ryan has to open up and explain those messy things called *shudder* feelings (Ryan doesn't do feelings) in order to try and get Jayden back. (It might sound like I didn't like Ryan but actually I did, even if he was a bit of a jerk at the beginning.) Very good story but present tense isn't my favourite and I found it odd/mildly annoying that there was no description of the character in whose POV the story was told.  

The Subtle Build of Perfection by LM Turner - B- Very good not very explicit ebook short story about a video store clerk and the customer who falls for him.   Shows the early development of a relationship and the "does he like me?" very well.

Hers for the Evening by Jasmine Haynes - C+ - I've only read the first 2 stories so far.  (There are 3 in total.) Both are hot little reads but suspension of disbelief is pretty necessary as they are based on the use of "Courtesans" an escort service and I imagine real life is vastly different!  

Last Night's Scandal by Loretta Chase - C+.  I don't know why, but I just wasn't feeling the love. The story and characterisations just felt thin to me.  I know I'm in a minority and others have just plain adored Lisle and Olivia's story.   I mostly love Ms. Chase's books but this one was a bit on the meh side for me.   :(

Diving in Deep by KA Mitchell  - B-.  I continued my KA Mitchell glom this month.  This is Cameron and Noah's story.  It wasn't as strong on plot, IMO as other books in the series - it seemed more a series of hook-ups (which was Cameron's comfort zone) which over time developed into a relationship (where Noah wanted things to be).  Still, KA Mitchell writes engaging characters, sometimes humorous, sometimes angsty and then, there's the hotness, so still an enjoyable read.

Collision Course by KA Mitchell- A-.  This was a re-read as I realised during Diving in Deep that Joey (who is one of the main characters in this book) appears in the earlier story.  Joey is a sweetheart and Aaron is a hardass but together - they're smokin'.  There's more to this story than meets the eye - Aaron has had a difficult family life and has basically raised his younger siblings - dodging Social Services for some of that time because he was under age.  As attracted as he is to Joey, he doesn't love that Joey is a social worker.  Joey has to learn to try not to manipulate and Aaron has to learn to let him in. 

No Souvenirs by KA Mitchell - A.  This is the story of Shane ("Scuba Cowboy") and Dr. Jae Sun Kim (who, first appears in Collision Course and who Shane charmingly calls "Jay").  I liked this one even better than Collision Course and it ranks right up there with my other favourite KA Mitchell book, Regularly Scheduled Life.  This was also a re-read and I enjoyed it just as much as when I read it the first time.  There is kind of an "Open Water" experience toward the beginning of the book which brings the characters together emotionally and which I found gripping - even though it was a romance and therefore had a HEA (why would I read it otherwise?) I was really worried about what was going to happen to these guys.  It's no surprise they survive the ordeal and the rest of the book is about seeing if the holiday fling + trauma can be translated to everyday life.  The conflict is mostly internal - Kim struggles with letting someone in and Shane is afraid he's too much of a free spirit and won't stick around.  I really enjoyed this couple and I believed their HEA - they worked hard for it.  Seriously, I wanna hang around with Joey, Aaron, Shane and Kim.  

Hot Ticket by KA Mitchell - B-.  Cute sexy short story about two guys who meet while doing some community service.

Life, Over Easy by KA Mitchell - B-.This story is a bit different from KA Mitchell's other works.  For starters, there's a paranormal aspect to the story (a ghost) and then there's that the main characters are both much younger - I think they're both 21 or 22 and in college.  John Andrews was an Olympic diver who had a bad fall and now cannot dive anymore.  He has to work out what to do with the rest of his life and learn how to deal with people - he's been practicing/diving 12 hours a day for most of his life and he's inexperienced in the social department.  Mason, the other main character, lost his true love the year before and his struggling to come to grips with being alive.  (Guess who's the ghost?)   I did enjoy this book (especially the angsty bits), (even though it wasn't my favourite KA Mitchell) and I'm looking forward to the next one in this series.

Special Delivery by Heidi Cullinan - A.  This is another re-read for me - after I finished reading/re-reading all of KA Mitchell's books I wanted to stay with the m/m genre but I didn't feel like trying anything new.  I only read this for the first time a few months ago but I still enjoyed the re-read.  Mitch (another Mitch!) Tedsoe is a trucker who passes through the town Sam Keller lives, they hook up and Sam goes on the road with Mitch to get away from his evil witch of an aunt and needs-to-grow-a-spine uncle.  They end up in Vegas where they meet up with Randy - Mitch's kind-of ex.  This story is emotional, there's a full on marriage proposal (gay marriage is legal in Iowa, where Sam is from) and there's angst and smexxin'.   I especially liked how Sam grew up, faced what he needed to do and didn't let Mitch fix all his problems, while at the same time realising that he couldn't/didn't have to do it all on his own.  Randy is an interesting character - starts off as a total asshat but develops into something quite different.  (He gets his own story, with Ethan in Double Blind, which also features Mitch and Sam in supporting roles.  Ms. Cullinan is busy writing the third book in the series, where apparently they 4 go on a road trip searching for Mitch's half-brother.)  Sarah Franz has a more detailed review of Special Delivery (and indeed, Double Blind) over at Dear Author.  

I mentioned Moon Called in my September Reads post.  I'd had Moon Called in my TBR for a while, having heard so much about this series and having read and enjoyed Alpha and Omega and Cry Wolf  (the spin-off series about Charles & Anna) but had been a bit reluctant to try it because I was worried there wasn't enough romance for me. What was I thinking?  After I read Moon Called I went a bit crazy.  About half way in I knew I wanted to read the rest of the series but they took over 2 whole weeks to arrive from the Book Depository and I couldn't wait, so I haunted various libraries and borrowed them so I could glom.

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs - A- This is the second installment in the Mercy Thompson series and where Mercy helps Stefan , her vampire friend (to whom she owes a favour because of events in book1) with a problem he's having with a vampire demon who eats people and messes with people's memories.  He's hoping Mercy's resistance to magic will be an advantage.   On the personal front, both Samuel and Adam want her as their mate and even Stefan harbours romantic feelings for her.

Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs - A. Oh the angst! Someone is killing fae and they call in a favour (on account of events in book 2 - a pattern is emerging here...)The "love triangle" is resolved - it was just a little bit convenient but no-one gets hurt which is good because I like both Adam and Samuel and Mercy's just about to act on her choice when something awful happens and even though I knew it was coming (on account of that I read a spoiler by accident a while back) I was shocked, appalled, traumatised and heartbroken by osmosis.  Mercy kicks ass anyway (cause she rocks and is teh awesome) and  Adam, like a true hero, comes through big time but I went a bit nuts to get my hands on the next book immediately because I just couldn't leave it where the book finished - I would have been certifiable if I had read this when it was first released and had to wait for for the next installment.  Because of how involved and attached I was in this story, this one is the best so far but I needed book 4 like sorbet...

Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs - B+/A-. From the grade, one could be forgiven for thinking that this was a bit of a let down compared to the earlier books. Not true.  It wasn't as angsty (which was just as well as I don't think my heart could have taken it) but there was still trauma and threat and Mercy kicking ass (of course).  I'd describe it as the story that had to come after the rollercoaster that was Iron Kissed - the impact that book had on me, well this one was never going to get to the same heights (and I wouldn't have wanted it to - then I would have thought that the author was just being mean to her character.)  In this story, the vampires are mad at (ie, have a death wish for) Mercy, having realised what actually happened in book 2 and Mercy is getting over (or trying to) events in book 3 so she getting out of town seems like a good idea - Mercy goes to help a friend with a ghost problem in Spokane (which is unfortunately controlled by a single nasty vampire, who naturally zeroes in on Mercy).  Adam is divine. I want one.  
Silver Borne (book 5) in the series arrived a few days after I finished Bone Crossed but it is the last one for a while so I thought I'd save it.  I'm reading it now and I'm trying to read slowly but so far, it's not working.  I might have to listen to the audio versions once I finish reading the books because I think I have a bit of a wait for the next instalment in the series. An excellent, excellent series.  

ETA - Less than 90 days until River Marked is released... can't wait (and yes, it's already pre-ordered!).

On audio

Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts, narrated by Tom Stechschulte - B-. I enjoyed the narration and Tucker Longstreet was a gorgeous sexy lazy Southern charmer but the plot had too much going on and it wasn't my favourite NR.  (Is is just me or did Tucker sometimes sound a bit too much like Foghorn Leghorn? *shrugs guiltily*)

After the Night by Linda Howard, narrated by Natalie Ross - DNF.  I stopped listening after a few hours.  The narration was fine but I was just not into the story.  It's a family saga with dark secrets kind of story and not my favourite.  I have so many other things to listen to and I'd rather be listening to something I enjoy.  Having listened to the first few hours, I remembered that while I did finish the book, I didn't love it either.
Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, narrated by Anna Fields - A.  Great book, excellent audiobook.  I wasn't one of those who thought Blue was annoying and abrasive (I only just found out that some people thought that). I liked her from the beginning - she reminded me a little of Heaven, Texas' Gracie Snow.  Plus, Dean Robillard.  Yum.  Anna Fields, was excellent as usual. 

Dream Man by Linda Howard, narrated by Phil Gigante A-  Classic Linda Howard, excellently narrated by Phil Gigante.  Dane Hollister (what a cool name) is a cop investigating (what will become) a series of murders and Marlie Keen is a psychic who sees through the eyes of the killer when he's doing the deed.  Great book, better on audio.  (Although, I think Lisa Marie Rice may have got the idea for her heroes - and I mean this in the nicest possible way -  from this one - big alpha male, just about stalkerish behaviour with a constant hard-on for the heroine - sound familiar?)

Now You See Her by Linda Howard, narrated by Laurel Lefkow - B-.  This was one of the first Linda Howard books I read and it didn't hold up as well on re-read (listen?).  It wasn't helped that the copy I had was faint and hard to hear (this is hard to get and I picked it up from a kind friend - not her fault that the quality was a bit down as it had been transferred from audio cassette).  Dream Man was better.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Infamous by Suzanne Brockmann

I've finally found some time to do this review - which I have been promising myself would be done this month (which I only did if I'm using US time, but still...)

Why I read it:  Are you kidding me?  Dude - Suzanne Brockmann!

What it's about:  (Here's the blurb from the author's website.) When history professor Alison Carter became a consultant to the film version of the Wild West legend she’d dedicated her career to researching, she couldn’t possibly know that she would not only get a front row seat to a full-blown Hollywood circus, but that she would innocently witness something that would put her life in danger. Nor did she expect that a tall stranger in a cowboy hat would turn the movie -- and her world -- completely upside down…
AJ Gallagher didn’t crash the set in dusty Arizona to rub elbows with Hollywood’s elite. Unable to ignore ghosts from the past that refuse to stay buried, AJ came to put an end to the false legend that has tarnished the reputation of his family. But when he confronts Alison, sparks fly.   And when she becomes targeted by ruthless criminals, suddenly she and AJ must face the  intense attraction that threatens to consume them, in order to survive the danger that threatens their very lives. 

What worked for me: I "discovered" Suzanne Brockmann's books a few years back when I was starting to get back into reading romance and her Troubleshooters series was recommended to my by the kind ladies at Temptation, The Romance Bookstore.  Since then, I've devoured everything she's written.  My favourite of all of her books so far is Hearthrob, so I have a soft spot for her stand alone novels.  Ms. Brockmann writes engaging characters and she's especially good at writing men (IMO) - there's an obvious difference between the female POV and the male POV
That was the word she's used to describe herself - fit. AJ would've used other words. Like holy shit and sweet baby Jesus.
Case in point.
Jamie (the ghost) could have almost had his own book.  What a hero!! He was a true white knight, even though he wore a black hat and the way he loved his Mel and his children - all of them.  There is something VERY sexy about a man who loves his children and isn't afraid to show it.  I was touched by the legacy he left behind - all his family adored and respected him.  (It made it necessary to suspend my disbelief a little that, having such devoted and numerous descendants, how the false story about Jamie Gallagher had survived as long as it had...) 
I liked how Alison didn't get all snotty about someone challenging her previously held beliefs about Jamie Gallagher. She just wanted the truth and didn't let her ego get in the way. 
As much as I enjoyed Alison, what made the book for me, was AJ.  I loved reading about this hurting, lonely, flawed man, who was trying to do the best he could.  I was glad that he stopped accepting isolation and embraced being with Alison. He put himself out there for her a number of times and oh, there's just something special about a vulnerable manly man. 
Suzanne Brockmann writes great characters, witty banter and sexy love scenes but every now and then, there are little gems which pop up.  When I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life, a good friend gave me the best advice evah and it was quite similar to this:
This was all he had to do, right here, right now.  In this moment.  He had to breathe. Just breathe. One heartbeat at a time.
Eventually, that crisis led me to my own question which AJ also asked Jamie a while later in the book:
"But how do you know," AJ whispered, "when it's finally time to surrender?..."
I guess because I related very well to those sentiments, I found AJ particularly appealing and I was even more committed to him getting his HEA (which probably explains why I was occasionally annoyed by Alison!).
This book has a number of romantic threads - there's AJ and Alison, Jamie and Mel (told in flashback from Jamie's 1st person POV) and even a little romance between 2 FBI agents who are undercover on the movie set - although, sadly Jules, my very favourite FBI agent in the Brockmann stable didn't make a cameo... :(  I didn't feel it was too much - there was a very satisfying amount of each story.

What didn't work for me:  There was a bit of soap-boxing in this book.   Gay rights and anti-smoking.  While both of those things are worthy of a campaign, there was something a little heavy-handed about how they were handled in the book and, the best way I can describe it is that it felt like it was coming from the author rather than the character and for that reason, those bits threw me out of the story.  Fortunately, they were mostly in the first half of the book and by the time I'd finished it, all was forgiven.
I would have liked to have a little more information about the paranormal aspects of the story.  There really wasn't very much in the book at all about it - Jamie was a ghost who could appear to only one person because of "the rules" but I didn't know if he was with his beloved Mel when he was wherever he was when he wasn't on Earth.  I'd like to think he was :)
Even though I understood Alison's fears about being with an alcoholic, having grown up with her alcoholic mother, I thought she will still too slow to board the AJ train (which I boarded pretty much straight away...).  He'd been sober for years after all.  But then, it might be I trusted him more because I knew what was going on in his head...

What else:  This is vintage Brockmann.  Those who like her earlier stand-alones will lap this one up.  I know I did.

Grade: A-

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis

Why I read it:  I discovered Jill Shalvis a few years ago and she has become an autobuy for me - especially her full length novels.

What it's about:  Maddie Moore is heading to the small seaside town of Lucky Harbor in Washington State, where she has been left a one third share in a the Lucky Harbor Resort by her recently deceased mother.  She has 2 half sisters (all different fathers - her mother was a bit of a free spirit) that she'd like to connect with.  She's lost her job and she's recently ended a relationship with a scumbag who had control issues and hit her so she's sworn off men.  Arriving in Lucky Harbor, the "resort" is a virtual ruin, there's no money and the sisters don't get along all that well.  Plus, she nearly runs a very hot biker off the road - so she's off to a good start.  Can she find a home, family and love in Lucky Harbor?

What worked for me:  I really liked this book.  Maddie was trying hard to regain her confidence and stand her ground and she was very likeable in the process.  But what made the book was Jackson Cullen III (Jax) - *le sigh*.  He was one amazing hero - gorgeous, sexy and sweet.  (In fact, there are at least 3 hot guys in Lucky Harbor - luckily there are 3 sisters so there's no prizes for guessing what's going to happen - book 2 in the series comes out in April next year - but don't worry, there's not much sequel bait.)  Jax and Maddie have instant chemistry but of course, as Maddie has sworn off men, she's reluctant to start something.  Also, she's busy trying to refinance the resort to fix it up - her sisters want to sell it but she wants to stay and make the resort a success - so she doesn't know how long she's going to be around.  Plus, Maddie is understandably skittish about a big male getting close to her - Jax picks up on it very quickly and it was very sigh-worthy how protective he felt of her and how he was certain it wasn't Maddie's fault (of course) and how he wanted a few minutes alone in an alley with the scumbag ex to teach him a lesson.  Jax is very gentle (even though he's big and muscular) and would never hit a woman.  Even when Maddie believes that, it takes a while for her body to stop the conditioned flinch from a sudden movement near her face and I liked that Jax was patient with this.  Jax has some secrets too - related to his profession as a lawyer. He left the rat race a few years before the story begins because he didn't like who he was there and come home to Lucky Harbor to kick back, help in his friend's bar and  do some very fine carpentry work and renovations  but he also does occasional legal work for locals who need things.  And he's bound by privilege so there's things he knows but he's legally bound not to reveal to Maddie much as he wants to (cue mysterious music).  The plot isn't particularly ground breaking or new but the characters are so darn likeable and I really didn't mind.  The sisters and Jax (especially Jax!) were so well drawn that it was a pleasure to spend time with them. 

I liked the humour (which is typical of Ms. Shalvis' writing style and one of her many attractions for me) -
The sun was so bright it hurt her eyes and head, and also her teeth, which made no sense.
"Hangovers are a bitch" Jax said and dropped his sunglasses onto her nose. [isn't he sweet??]
I also liked the sexual tension which starts almost immediately and only builds -
Maddie was behind him, working really hard at not looking at his butt.

And failing spectacularly.

So when he unexpectedly twisted around, holding out his hand for the clipboard she was now holding, he caught her staring at him.

"I, um - You have a streak of dirt," she said.

"A streak of dirt."
"Yes." She pointed to his left perfectly muscled butt cheek.  "There."
He was quiet for a single, stunned beat.  She couldn't blame him, given that there were both covered in dirt from the filthy attic.  "Thanks," he finally said. "It's important to know where the dirt streaks are."
"It is," she agreed, nodding like a bobble head.  "Probably you should stain-stick it right away. I have some in my purse."
"Are you offering to rub it on my ass?"  She felt the heat flood her face and he grinned. "You're a paradox, Maddie Moore.  I like that about you."

"Is that because I said nothing was happening between us, and then I..."

"...Wanted to touch my ass". He finished for her.  "You can, by the way.  Anytime."
And really, that right there, is why I liked this book so much.

What didn't work for me: There wasn't anything that particularly bothered me about the book.  Sure, there wasn't anything earth-shatteringly new in the plot and the mystery wasn't much of a mystery (still, I won't give it away here *grins*) but really, the characters were what made the story work.  In a less skilled author's hands, it would have been meh, but Jill Shalvis writes good character and she's especially good with the male POV so it worked.

What else:  Jax was an excellent hero and this was a really good, funny, sexy, contemporary romance.  And possibly my favourite Jill Shalvis so far. I'll definitely be picking up book 2 but, I'm probably looking forward to Chloe's book (3) more.

Grade:  B+

Monday, October 11, 2010

September Reads

I've been slack and haven't posted in ages.  In my own defence, last week I was sick - but before that, I was just busy.  I had fully intended to post a review of Suzanne Brockmann's Infamous last month as well as my "September Reads" post but I just didn't get to it.  I'm hoping I'll find some time for it this month because it's good enough to deserve its own review.

I did have a busy reading and listening month so all is not lost.

On paper/ebook:

Infamous by Suzanne Brockmann - A-.  Isn't the cover pretty?  It still catches my eye on the shelf.  You gotta love a mysterious sexy cowboy!!  I really loved this book.  Sure, there were a couple of things that bothered me - I felt the author spent a bit of time on the soap box for gay rights and anti-smoking - not that there's anything wrong with either of those things - just that it kind of clanged within the book - like a wrong note striking during a piano performance.   However, I was able to put that aside, partly because it was mostly toward the beginning of the book and partly because the rest of the book was just that good.  I've missed Suzanne Brockmann - I always enjoy her writing and her stand alone contemporaries are gold for me.  My favourite is still Hearthrob (which I am hoping to revisit on audio in October) but this one is right up there.    AJ was lovely.  True hero material and I had a soft spot for Jamie too.  Not a perfect book but boy howdy - pretty darn good.
His Penniless Beauty by Julia James - C-/DNF (I got 136/142 pages in before I quit).  This one just didn't do it for me.  It was just "meh".  I found myself skimming almost from the start and I couldn't even bring myself to skim to the end.  I didn't care about the characters enough.  This one had good reviews from other sites but I just couldn't get into it.  Sorry.
The Purchased Wife by Michelle Reid - DNF.  This was a true DNF. It would have been a wallbanger except it was electronic.  I picked it up after reading raves about this author's work on Dear Author - Jane is a big fan.  Maybe I picked the wrong book to start (I have 2 others on my reader which I haven't been brave enough to read so far) but this "alpha hero" took a wrong turn RIGHT AT THE START OF THE BOOK into asshatville and I couldn't see him redeeming himself.  Apparently there is world class grovel at the end of the book but I didn't want to read it.  The heroine is in hospital after a car accident and our hero comes in and leans over her and threatens her ("I'll hurt you") with physical violence if she doesn't do (something which I now can't recall and don't care enough to look up quite frankly). That was the last of a number of straws and I shut it down.  Not sexy or heroic.  Just yuk.  Not my kind of hero.  Others have disagreed though, so YMMV.
Chasing Smoke by KA Mitchell - B+.  Having had a couple of disappointing HP experiences, I decided to try a new-to-me title from a trusted m/m author, KA Mitchell.  As usual she didn't disappoint.
Regularly Scheduled Life by KA Mitchell - A.  I love an angsty read and this m/m romance had it in spades.  It was also one where with start off with a well established couple which was a nice change.  One of the guys is injured in a school shooting and it is the story of what happens to their relationship in the aftermath.  I really cared about Sean and Kyle and I'm happy to see that there is a book (Not Knowing Jack) featuring Tony and Jack (friends of Sean and Kyle) coming out in December so I can catch up with the boys again soon. Highly recommended.
Kindred in Death and Fantasy in Death by JD Robb - both B+.  I really like the in Death series.  I know some people complain that some books are too procedural and not enough with the romance and others have been concerned with actions Eve has taken in previous books which they think were not in character from a moral perspective.  Me?  I just like them.  I haven't had nearly enough of Eve and Roarke yet.  While I like the books better which have more of their relationship, both of these books sucked me in easily enough.  There is something special this author does to make me care about the characters who are horribly murdered at the beginning - in only a few pages, I've connected enough that I'm really invested in the outcome.
The Darkest Hour by Maya Banks - C+.  I was a bit disappointed in this one.  I agree with the AAR reviewer - I think it tried to be too much for too many.  I had such high hopes too.  Okay, but not great. I did have some time for the cover though! :)   I do generally like this author though, so I will pick up the next one in the series for sure.
Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas - A.  I really liked it.  I read Blue Eyed Devil first (won it from the Book Binge - thx ladies!) and then wanted more so I read Sugar Daddy (not as much of a success for me - too light on the romance too much on the women's fiction for my tastes) but I was back to a winner with Jack's story.  Does anyone know if Ms. Kleypas will write one for Joe?  I want.
Take No Prisoners and Whisper No Lies by Cindy Gerard - both C+.  Both are Black Ops Inc stories. A bit better than okay, but just a bit... thin, I think.  Not enough character, not enough romance - RS-Lite.  I enjoyed the EDEN books better.  Still I have the next one on my TBR so I will read it (one of these days).
Naughty Neighbours by Cara North - C+.  Very short (44 pages) novella which had an interesting premise but took a turn to WTF-town towards the end that had my scratching my head.
Willing Victim by Cara McKenna - B-.  I liked this one - I picked it up after Jane from DA recommended it - for my romance soul I would have liked a little more as it ended a bit abruptly.  Somewhat surprisingly, I quite liked Flynn.
Friday Night Bites by Chloe Neill - B-. Not quite as engaging as I found book 1 of the series, but still good.
But, Twice Bitten - B+ - sigh!  Ethan and Merit!  Yes!   I am soooo looking forward to the next installment and have pre-ordered it from The Book Depository.  Sadly I still have to wait until like NEXT MAY!!
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs - A.  I'm an official Mercy Thompson convert.  I think it was the Ethan and Merit that had me picking up this one off my TBR pile.  I had been a bit nervous about it - was it going to be enough in the romance department for me?  I'm so glad I did though.  I loved it!  I immediately went and ordered the other books in the series (which have STILL not arrived after 2 WHOLE WEEKS!!! grr) and then went back and re-read Alpha and Omega and Cry Wolf (both A) because I just couldn't bear to leave Mercy's world.  Then, I read Hunting Ground - another A - which I had had for some time too.  After that, I was forced to go to the library and borrow the next few Mercy books - but more about that next month - Hunting Ground brings me to the end of reading in September.

So, that's like 19 books - while some of them were novellas, that's a pretty good effort for the month I think. Plus:

On audio:
 I continued my JD Robb glom with Rapture in Death, Holiday in Death, Vengeance in Death and Midnight in Death - all B+  Susan Eriksen is a great narrator and even though she's a girl and I'm not into girls, there's something about they way she does Roarke's voice that gives me the shivers.... is that weird? :)  I have all of the in Death books on audio now so I'll make my way through them as takes my fancy.  Lucky me.
Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt - DNF.  I think this was me though. I think I wasn't in the mood for a historical listen so I put it aside and moved on.  I do intend to get back to it at some stage  when I'm feeling the regency vibe - I think I'm likely to enjoy it then.  So, not really a true DNF.  More like a TTFN.
Blue Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas narrated by Renee Raudman - A.  I loved it when I read it and I loved it when I listened.  I do like when Hardy rumbled that there's not gonna be enough left of scumbag Nick to fill a matchbox.   Excellent narration.  Excellent story.
The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockman narrated by William Dufries (I may have spelled his name incorrectly).  I've recently been gifted with loads of audiobooks I hadn't been able to get my hands on before, including most of the Troubleshooters series.  I enjoyed the book but I have to say it was even better on audio.  A real winner - A.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

August Reads

I thought I'd try something new and post my reads for the month.  Let's see how long it lasts!!

On paper/ebook

 Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill - B
It felt like part one of a story rather than a whole book but I did like the story and the style and I want to know more about Merit and Ethan so books 2 and 3 are on their way to me.

Aint Too Proud to Beg by Susan Donovan - C
I've had this one on my TBR for a while.  It was a bit disappointing overall.  Okay but not great.  Knock Me Off My Feet was great, so was Public Displays of Affection, but this one?  Not so much for me.

The Shy Bride by Lucy Monroe - B-/C+ 
I like the way Ms. Monroe writes her categories.  This one could have benefited from a little more exposition I thought.

Midnight Angel by Lisa Marie Rice - B-
Probably the best of the Midnight trilogy, for my money.

Take Your Pick by Jasmine Haynes - B-
Saucy, sexy novella but it lacked something in the character development area.

Shades of Gray by Brooke McKinley - A
My pick for the month.  A great book. Highly recommended.

Love Bites by Lynsey Sands - C+
I was expecting funnier I guess but an okay read overall.  I might pick up others in the series and give them a go.

Masked by Moonlight by Nancy Gideon - C+
I found this one very hard to grade.  I liked Max but his character was a bit schizophrenic in that he was either this suave "Roarke" type character or a frightened boy and I didn't quite get how they fit together.  CeeCee was annoying and the plot had holes so I'm still uncertain about picking up the next 2 in the series.  Having said that, it was strangely compelling and I didn't have any trouble finishing it. Hmm.

Ex Appeal by Cari Quinn - C-
Okay short, but really?  Meh.

More by Sloan Parker - B
I enjoyed the relationship between the 3 men but thought the suspense plot (while necessary to the story, over the top and the villian too one-dimensional.

And Call Me In The Morning by Willa Okati - B+
A really good m/m romance - heavy on the romance and characters while not lacking in, ahem, other departments (*wink wink*).  Thanks for the rec Kris!

Beyond the Night by Joss Ware - B
Interesting premise and marked my reading return to paranormals from a lengthy hiatus.  

Embrace the Night Eternal by Joss Ware - B
I liked Simon and the Falling Creek community certainly got me thinking.  I'm not sure I buy the Atlantis thing though...  I have book 3 and plan to read it one of these days.

Gay Best Friend by Kim Dare - C+
Okay short. I didn't really get the D/s though - I thought it would have been a better story (for its length) without it.  Otherwise, it needed a longer format, IMO.

Priority One by Stephani Hecht - B-
Good short but it felt like the middle was missing.  We jumped from first meeting to HEA - I know there was a middle but it wasn't in the book, sadly.  I would have liked to read more about this couple - another chapter or two would have made a big difference here.

On Audio
Manhunting by Jenny Crusie and narrated by Renee Raudman  - B+/A-  
Highly recommended

Anyone but You by Jenny Crusie and narrated by Susan Ericksen - B
Great book but I kept hearing Eve Dallas (Susan narrates all the in death books) and that threw me a little out of the story from time to time.

Breathing Room by Susan Elizabeth Phillips and narrated by Kate Fleming (aka Anna Fields). - A
An excellent book, excellently presented. This was my first SEP read and it holds a soft spot for me.  I love Ren Gage!!  Plus the banter between Isabel and Ren was made even better by this great narrator.

Fast Women by Jenny Crusie narrated by Sandra Burr - B+
Great story - that scene where Nell realises she's slept with everyone at the table except for Tim's new wife is still hilarious.  Plus there's, "brace yourself Bridget". Cracks me up.

The Search by Nora Roberts narrated by Tanya Eby - B+/A-
New to me narrator - she's really good.  I've read the story too and not all that long ago - a great book, narrated really well to add more to the story.  I do like Simon!