Saturday, December 24, 2011

Men Under the Mistletoe anthology

My True Love Gave to Me by Ava March B-  A hot sexy Regency.  Alexander Norton had his heart broken on Christmas Eve four years earlier by Thomas Bennett who abruptly moved to New York.  Thomas has come back at last, realising that he made a mistake in leaving and he tries to win Alex over/back.
I would have liked a little on how they were going to manage their HEA in the circumstances of their time, but otherwise, quite enjoyable if a little melodramatic (I suspect it was because they were young - only 19 when the novella commences).

Winter Knights by Harper Fox  - A   *the pick of the bunch for me* Harper Fox writes angst so very well and there is a definite bittersweet tone to this story which was just delicious.
Gavin Lowden is an historian researching Arthur and Lancelot, waiting for his lover, Piers, to join him for their first Christmas together.  But first Piers has to come out to his parents.  He bails and calls Gavin to say he's not coming and Gavin, lonely and sad, goes for a walk on the moor where he falls into a cave and is rescued by "Arty" and "Lance" who then proceed to teach him a couple of lessons about himself and about sex.  Yes, there is some m/m/m action.  :D  Strangely, it didn't feel like Gavin was cheating on Piers at all so I was happy enough to go with it.  Besides there was definitely an otherworldly aspect to the story which made it seem more acceptable.
Piers, worried that Gavin has gone missing, comes to Northumberland to find him and they then proceed to work out their HEA.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Liar Bird by Lisa Walker

This review originally appeared in the December ARRA newsletter.   I saw another review of it over at All About Romance and the reviewer there gave it an A- so YMMV.
Why I read it:  I was offered a digital ARC by the publisher via NetGalley.
What it's about:  Part chick-lit/women’s fiction, part farce, part mystery with a dash of sweet romance on the side, Liar Bird is the story of Cassandra Daley, shining star of the Sydney PR circuit.  The story begins when one of Cassandra’s houses of spin falls in a heap, leaving her covered in scandal and persona non grata in her home city.  She accepts a job as a PR rep in the small town of Beechville on the North Coast of New South Wales, where she meets a cast of quirky characters and one grouchy wildlife ranger, Mac.  It seems that Mac, isn’t happy about Cassandra’s arrival and pretty soon, a series of unfortunate events which appear designed to force her back to Sydney occur – and all can be laid at Mac’s door.  It’s difficult to explain the story more without giving away spoilers, but let’s just say it involves feral pigs, endangered species, lies, a media circus, a flood and wild chickens. It’s the classic fish-out-of-water story, complete with a green tree frog in the toilet!  

What worked for me (and what didn't):  Cassandra takes inspiration from Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass:

“Like me, my mother believes there are guiding forces at play in our lives.  Unlike me, she isn’t satisfied with allowing a children’s book to channel these forces for her.”
And there are wonderful and (in the context of this book) pithy quotes from the book interspersed with the text.  Cassandra also subscribes to the philosophy of Rene Descartes and, after meeting said green tree frog in her toilet, has imaginary philosophical discussions with Rene Treefrog.  Told in the first person, the story shines with Cassandra’s dry humour, from the discussions with her Blacktown family, her thoughts about the Sydney social sharks and her experiences in Beechville.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Top 10 Suggestions for the next Turner series books Courtney Milan should NOT write

I'm reading the deliciousness that is Courtney Milan's Unraveled at the moment and I devoured Unclaimed and Unveiled earlier this year, as well as the Turner novella Unlocked.  Last night, while putting myself to sleep, instead of counting sheep, I came up with my top 10 list of the next books in the Turner series Courtney Milan should NOT write (I'm seriously hoping the Turner series isn't finished yet, so you never know, Ms. Milan may find these un-suggestions useful).   

Anyway, it amused me, so I thought I would share.  Of course, it was VERY late and I was VERY tired.

In no particular order:-

Uncoordinated - she's clumsy and he's a fashion nightmare

Unedited - she can't spell and he has Tourette's

Unhinged - he's a carpenter and she's insane

Unabridged - she can't shut up and he's well endowed

Unzipped -  she's a gossip and he's a flasher

Unearthed - the paranormal Turner book, he's a vampire, she's a zombie

Unassembled - the contemporary Turner book, she's flaky and he works for Ikea

Unplanned - secret baby plot

Unpuckered - I'll give you three guesses

Unstrapped - the BDSM Turner book, she likes control and he likes it hard

Got any more suggestions for Turner books Courtney Milan should NOT write?  Leave them in the comments!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Head Over Heels by Jill Shalvis

Why I read it:  I've been a Jill Shalvis fan for many years.  I first read a story of hers in an anthology and after I glommed on her Blaze's from my local UBS until I had some money to buy her later works.  I got this one from NetGalley.

What it's about:  This is Chloe's book.  Maddie (Simply Irresistible), Tara (The Sweetest Thing) and Chloe are sisters who share the same mother but all have different fathers.  They didn't grow up together and barely know each other.  When their mother dies, they meet up at Lucky Harbor to find out they have inherited an inn.  I'd recommend reading the series from the start (apart from anything else, they're all good) to understand the full story arc but the romance can certainly be read as a stand alone.

Chloe is a "wild child" who is a trouble magnet.  Sheriff Sawyer Thompson had a wild youth but sticks firmly to the straight and narrow.   There are buckets of chemistry between the two but both wonder if it could really go anywhere - they are too different and a fling could cause problems as Sawyer is best friends with Jax (Maddie's fiance) and Ford (Tara's SO).

What I thought (aka What worked for me and what didn't): This is a light, sexy, fun read with a hot Sheriff hero and a ballsy but vulnerable heroine.   If I were to equate this book with food I would equate it to popcorn (if I liked popcorn) - I dive into it and then I can't stop reading.  It's easy to read - while it's not without depth it doesn't tax the brain.  Before you know it, I've devoured the whole book.  Except, I don't feel sick or regretful afterward (which I may do if it was popcorn - if I liked popcorn).  It would be like if popcorn was healthy or something and after devouring a whole bowl of it, I felt happy and satisfied.  So, not really like popcorn at all.... :P

There is some depth to the story - one of the secondary characters (Lance) has Cystic Fibrosis.  As Chloe's best friend, he has a fair share of page time and even a little bit of a secondary romance himself.   Chloe has asthma which is quite serious.  She can't run or do anything too strenuous - having sex means using the inhaler at the least and a trip to the emergency room at best.  Emotional stress bring on asthma attacks too.  I liked that the asthma didn't magically go away - Chloe and Sawyer had to deal with it.  Sawyer does research and he takes things slooow *sigh* so Chloe doesn't get too worked up.

The conflict between the two was largely about how Chloe was too wild for Sawyer and Sawyer was too uptight for Chloe and if they got together it would be destined to end badly and therefore cause grief in the family given the relationships between the sisters and Sawyer's best friends.  As conflicts go, it was fairly light but it was nevertheless believable.  Both Chloe and Sawyer are reluctant to get involved but too attracted to stop.   I liked that there wasn't anything huge stopping them from getting together but at the same time, it wasn't non existent either.  I would have liked to have seen how Sawyer got from "she's no good for me" to "I love her and we're great together".  I felt the shift was a bit abrupt and there was a lack of exposition there.

Chloe isn't as wild as everyone thinks.  I think the book does a great job of showing that Chloe, due to her unusual upbringing, is suspicious of "I love you" and the "stickability" of people.  Her experience is that people don't stick and her expectations are very low.  At the same time, she wants to have a home and a family, she's just scared to trust it when it appears.  I've read reviews around the place which have criticised the book for Chloe's acceptance being linked to conformity.  Certainly, there did seem to be a bit of that on the part of her sisters - they were disapproving of her "flightiness" and wanted her to settle down.  But (and this was the most important for me), that wasn't the case with Sawyer.  He did not require or want Chloe to change at all. He loved her as is.  And, he understood her.   In the end, I felt that if Chloe settled, she mainly did so for her own reasons.  As she began to trust in her relationship with her sisters and feel at home in Lucky Harbor, she felt comfortable putting down roots.  It felt very organic to me.  I don't think Chloe's going to stop rescuing dogs from abusive owners or hang-gliding or other dangerous activities, but she'll do it from a home base and won't take off at the drop of a hat.  

There was substance cleverly hidden amongst the light and fun and it was a delight for me to read - like when I eat something which happens to be healthy but also unexpectedly tastes really good and which I happen to find I want at exactly that time. 

Best of all for me in a Jill Shalvis book, is the humour.  I think Jill Shalvis writes guys and their interactions very believably and she usually makes me laugh - like here:
Chloe was giving him a go-on gesture with her hand.
"All I have left is my pants,, " he said.
"Yes, please."
"It's cold, Chloe."
She tilted her head.  "Are you worried about shrinkage?"
Well, he was now.

Sawyer reached up and manually turned off the TV because a new episode was starting and if The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song got stuck in his head, he was going to have to kill himself.

What else?  It occurs to me that I have given the same grade to Head Over Heels as I did for The Black Hawk.  When I thought about it it seemed somehow wrong.  They are such different books even though they are both romance.  But, if Head Over Heels is popcorn (except good for you), The Black Hawk is a rich dense dessert.    They both absolutely have their place on the menu and, at the right time, the enjoyment of consuming both can be equally wonderful.   I read Head Over Heels at exactly the right time I think. 

Grade:  B+

A (very) slightly cut down version (for space reasons) of this review appeared in the December ARRA newsletter.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne

Why I read it:  I'm a fan.  Adrian = Rowr.

What it's about:  Fans of the series will know that this is Adrian and Justine's story.  If you haven't read the other books, I'd recommend doing so as it will make this read a richer experience.  So, get thee to a bookshop stat and come back once you've read the others. 
It doesn't really tell you much, but here's the blurb from Goodreads - Attacked on a rainy London street, veteran spy Justine DeCabrillan knows only one man can help her: Hawker, who also happens to be the enemy. With London crawling with hidden assassins and someone out to frame Hawker for the assault, the two spies must work together to find who's out to destroy them...

What I thought (aka What worked for me and what didn't):  I've been sitting on this review for a few weeks now, letting things percolate in my head.   In my desire to savour the joy that is the lyricism of Joanna Bourne's prose and to soak up all the lovely goodness, I think I did this book a disservice.  The further away from it I get, the more disconnected I feel.  Yet, when I refresh myself with some quotes from the book, I'm immediately sucked back into the vortex (in a good way!).  I think I took too long to read it. I think maybe I should have allowed myself to glom and then savoured on a re-read. Or, maybe, now that I have savoured, I need to re-read and glom to properly appreciate this book.  I'm convinced it is all me in any event.    The book is wonderful, Adrian is a glorious hero and Justine is pretty darn special too.   It's just that for some reason when I finished, I felt disconnected; like I'd missed something somehow.   
There are so many scenes in this book which, when I remind myself of them, I sigh over.  The first love scene is just beautiful.  Justine had been sold to a brothel as a child and she has a very understandable fear/disdain of physical intimacy.  However, she loves Adrian and feels passion for him.  Adrian is fully aware of Justine's past and his constant (but not in an annoying way) - "look at me, it's me, Adrian" (that's not a direct quote by the way) just showed how well he knew her.  He knew what she needed to be able to have a happy sexual experience with him.  I love the way Adrian knows her completely and loves her,  not in spite of it and not quite because of it but rather,  in everything and without any kind of judgement.    Oh, he says it better really:
"I liked you as a pretty young girl." He let men and women brush past on either side of him and only looked at her.  "I like the woman you became better than the girl you were.  I like the story you've written on your face."
(my emphasis)
And yet, he's not so sensitive that he won't take his chances when he can get them:
"Wait a minute.  I'm still back thinking about you opening the window and letting me in.  What were you wearing?"
Adrian has a cutting sense of humour and he's not afraid to use it, even just in his own head.
Reams looked particularly self-satisfied this morning.  Possibly he felt he'd done something clever.  He was probably wrong.

I found the flashbacks, not disorienting, but in some way a little frustrating.  I think it's that I wanted the WHOLE story - I would have been happy to read everything and not just the 'excerpts' of their lives that made it into the book - does that make sense.

What else?  The cover is something of a disappointment to me.  At the same time as I feel I'm being unnecessarily picky, I'm still going to say that the cover model doesn't look anything like Adrian and the step back had a really boring picture of the Eiffel Tower and no picture of Justine.  Just as well I don't buy books because of their covers.

I think this whole series will be a re-read for me at some point (I've already read The Spymaster's Lady twice and listened to it on audio) and I suspect I will find more hidden gems and nuance in the books as I do so.   

Pax has an important part to play in this book and his book is next. As much as I had been looking forward to Adrian's book, I'm kind of surprised that my level of anticipation for Pax's book is nearly as high. 

I still think my favourite book of the series so far is The Forbidden Rose but the whole series is sitting on my keeper shelf.

Grade:  B+

Monday, December 12, 2011


16 December 2011 ETA:  Unfortunately Sammy2008 didn't get back to me and left me no way to contact her.  So, as promised, I have drawn a new winner for the Sean Kennedy books.  And, the winner is:  


I've emailed you Marissa, so please check your inbox!

Using the power of the draw straws programme available from, the winners of the the 20 Followers Giveaway Extravaganza are:

(drumroll please)

who won the book from the Book Depository to the value of $10AUD

I've emailed you Kris, so please check your inbox.


Sammy2008 (see ETA above - new winner selected))
who won both* books by Sean Kennedy (Tigers and Devils and I Fell in Love with a Zombie)

Unfortunately Sammy2008 didn't leave me an email address so I can't contact her.  So, Sammy2008, if you're out there! get in touch with me at kaetrin67 AT gmail DOT com so I can arrange to get your prizes to you!  (If I don't hear within 72 hours, I'll draw a new winner).

Thank you to everyone who visited, commented, entered the giveaway, tweeted or retweeted and helped me celebrate.  And special thanks to Sean Kennedy for prize donation.   *hugs*

(*as nobody specifically asked for I Fell in Love with a Zombie, I decided to award both books as one prize instead of having 3 separate winners).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

November Reads

on Paper/eBook

Where Demons Fear to Tread by Stephanie Chong - DNF Not a success.  See why here.

Something Different by SA Reid - A-/B+ see my full review here.

No Holds Barred by Callie Croix - C  A somewhat undeveloped sexy short about a couple sharing a threesome with his best buddy. There were some serious issues not really fleshed out, I wasn't 100% convinced of her consent at first and it ended on kind of a weird note for me.  But it was certainly sexy.

Happily Never After by Jeaniene Frost - C+Here's a review I wrote which appeared in the November ARRA newsletter.
This is a cute e-short featuring Bones’ good friend Chance.   Greta, an old acquaintance of Bones, asks a favour of him. As he is unable to do it himself, he asks Chance to go in his stead.  Greta’s grandson is missing and her granddaughter is being harassed by a mafioso type.  Chance takes one look at Isabella and decides he really needs to get to know her better and he’s definitely not going to allow her to be forced into marriage with a mafia don wannabe.
The mafia aspects to the story were very tongue-in-cheek and amusing, if somewhat improbable.  Chance and Isabella have an instant attraction and a very smexy scene.   Ms. Frost writes strong heroines and Isabella, even without vampire strength and ability is not entirely powerless and is able to help take down the bad guys.  Plus, she uses Vagisil as a weapon! :D
It’s a steamy short read and fans of the Night Huntress series will enjoy.

 A Little Harmless Surprise - C+.  A free short featuring characters from a previous story (which I haven't read).  It was sexy and hot but as I hadn't read the earlier book, I didn't have the same connection that those who have read it would not doubt have.  It did make me want to try a full length story though - I think I have one on my TBR somewhere.... *fossick, rustle*
ETA:  Actually, I don't - must remedy that stat.

The Debutante's Dilemma - Elyse Mady - D  *spoilers ahoy* Improbable story of a Regency Debutante who wants a marriage of passion.  With two highly eligible suitors, she is unable to choose from, she decides to meet them to see if she has chemistry with either of them.  It felt to me like the author had a Regency thesaurus or something and kept throwing likely words in so I wouldn't forget the time period.  It didn't feel natural.  Also, Suitor 1 is a Duke and Suitor 2 is an Earl.  Both have responsibilities to their estates and to think that she could actually marry one and have some kind of permanent menage with both was just too much for me to bear.  Also, she is a virgin debutante with virtually no experience or knowledge, but you wouldn't know that from her behaviour in the greenhouse.  And, having twins 10 months after the marriage with one fair haired and one dark haired child - um, hur??  Am I supposed to believe that she's had a child of each in one pregnancy?  Really?  I only finished it because it was short. 
I have however, heard good things about this author's contemporaries so I might give her another go in that subgenre - her style might work better for me there.

Convincing Arthur by Ava March - C+  Good sexy short about a man (Leopold) who has been in love with another (Arthur) for 10 years but has been waiting for Arthur to be available.  Leopold has a bit of a reputation for gambling, drinking and whoring and Arthur is all about discretion.   Can Leopold convince Arthur to take a chance on a relationship with him?

My Lord and Spymaster by Joanna Bourne - B  see my full review here.

The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne - B+  full review to come.

Head Over Heels (Lucky Harbor #3) by Jill Shalvis - B+  full review to come.

Holiday Kisses Anthology - 4 contemporary Christmas novellas.  So far I have only read 2 of them. Warning. I seem to be an outlier on these two novellas.  I liked, but did not love them.
I'll review the other 2 stories in December's round up.  Maybe I'll be feeling more of the love by then :)

This Time Next Year by Alison Kent  - C+  Brenna is driving up a snowy mountain to visit her Gran for Christmas.  Afterward, she is jetting off to Malawi to volunteer in a clinic there for a year (she's a nurse).  Brenna has an accident after narrowly missing a deer in the road and ends up in a deep snowdrift.  Riding to the rescue, literally, comes Dillon, a doctor and former military man who carries scars from his tours in  Afghanistan. This one had its moments for me but there were some things which struck me as a little odd - hello stranger danger - I mean, he could have been a serial killer - he wasn't of course, heroes never are, but she didn't know that.  Also there were some leaps taken emotionally  (from attraction to love) in 2 or 3 days which I couldn't quite get on board with.   The last little bit was unusual as they only had access to each other via snail mail and in this day and age, I would have thought that skype or email would have been possible even from Malawi.
I did like that Brenna still went to Malawi, that she didn't just chuck her life in to be with him but I would have liked a previous connection or a slower fall into love to fully believe the HEA.  Still, a year had passed and they had each had time to process and Dillon had had time to heal.  Part of me was sad this was done off page as more Dillon is not a bad thing - I would have liked to have a deeper understanding of him.  Part of me was very glad that his healing wasn't actually because of her.  He did it for himself.  Maybe she was the inspiration but the rest was all him.  I felt that by the end they were each getting whole people as partners but I wondered if the story was just too big for the length of the novella?

A Rare Gift by Jaci Burton - C  We first met Wyatt Kent in Jaci Burton's 2010 holiday novella All She Wants for Christmas, which was brother Ethan's story.  Wyatt is cynical and solitary after a bitter divorce. Calliope Andrews is the sister of Wyatt's ex-wife.  The Kent brothers have a construction company and Calliope runs a day care centre that needs an extension.   That is what brings the couple together and the URST is obvious once their in the same room together.
The sticking point for me was the whole dating-my-sister's-ex-husband thing.  There was very little, particularly early in the book, which addressed the squick factor of the former sister-in-law becoming the the new lover/wife.  It's not my favourite type of story as I do see a squick factor here but I feel if it's going to be done, the elephant in the room needs to be addressed.  Maybe it's only me who sees the elephant though because it seemed to be glossed over to me.    
The other aspect which didn't ring true was that bitter, twisted Wyatt had ONE conversation with his ex-wife and all of a sudden the bitterness was gone.  I'm not sure I really understood why he was so bitter in the first place, especially given that it seemed to be solved so easily.  Leaving aside those 2 things, I did enjoy the rest of the book.  Ms. Burton can surely write a smokin' sex scene!  Apart from that though, there was connection and affection between Calliope and Wyatt and I liked them, separately and as a couple,  but the "elephants" were too big for me to truly buy into the premise and that has affected my grading.

on Audio

Storm's Heart by Thea Harrison, narrated by Sophie Eastlake B+. See my full review here.

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole, narrated by Robert Petkoff - B-  Lachlain MacReive has been imprisoned and tortured by the Vampire Horde for 150 years when he scents his mate.  Emmaline Troy is a half vampire/half Valkyrie who feels she doesn't quite belong anywhere.  The first scenes between Emma and Lachlain are a bit uncomfortable as there is a lack of consent to his initial sexual advances and Emma is clearly powerless against him.  However, once the story gets going, Emma is able to exert her authority and things start to balance out.    I find I'm becoming more sensitive to consent issues and that has affected my grade - otherwise it would have been a solid B.  Mr. Petkoff does a good job with the narration and for the most part, has a really good female voice.  I thought Emma's got a bit deeper (and therefore drag-y) toward the middle of the book, but the beginning and the end of the story, were very well done.  Much of the book was told from Lachlain's POV and Mr. Petkoff had a very good Scottish accent and a nice deep voice which was pleasant on the ears.  I'm looking forward to the next books in the series.

The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole, narrated by Simone Fomhar and Hagan Verrett - C  Simone Fomhar narrates the female POV and Hagan Verrett the male POV in this one.  I didn't love Ms. Fomhar's narration - her pacing was just a little too fast for me.  I like Ms. Verrett's better, although there were times where his Myst voice veered into drag territory, he mostly stayed out of it.  He had a much better accent for Nikolai.  It's been a fair while since I read this story in print and I'd forgotten how rape-y it was. There is quite a bit of dubious consent going on which made me a little uncomfortable.  Also, really ugly cover.

Survivor in Death by JD Robb, narrated by Susan Ericksen - B+.  This is one of those books which made me cry in print and the audio was no exception.  Susan Ericksen is so good at conveying the emotion of Nixie, the little girl whose family is killed while they were sleeping.  I've always thought that this author excels at making me care in a few short paragraphs about the victims in this series and there are plenty of examples of just that in this book. Also, because one of the children killed was a sleepover guest who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, as a parent, this story had me a bit chilly.

Gideon by Jacquelyn Frank, narrated by Xe Sands - C+ As much as it amazes me that Xe Sands can make her voice do that low growly baritone and not hack up a lung after, I found this book a bit....slow.  There was a lot of time when nothing really happened and I think there is a contender for longest love scene ever in here.   Because there was little action and I can't skim listen the way I can skim read, this was less enjoyable for me than I'd hoped.  I did enjoy Xe's narration though.

Born in Fire by Nora Roberts, narrated by Fiacre Douglas - B-. watch out for a review over at AAR.

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs, narrated by Holter Graham - A-  First of all, why why WHY is the novella Alpha and Omega not available on audio?  :(  I've read the novella so the story makes much more sense to me but without it I really wonder about how listeners can get the true Charles/Anna relationship.  The novella is a complete story but it also serves as the (effectively) first few chapters of Cry Wolf, as the book starts off right after the novella.  It's a crying shame I tell you!!
Now that I've got that off my chest, on to the actual review. I love this book.  I've read it twice and now listened to it as well.  Anna is an amazing character - abused and scared, she is nevertheless brave and strong and heroic.  What I like about Patricia Briggs' female leads is that they always participate in the final takedown of the bad guys.  Charles rescues Anna from a bad situation in Chicago (in Alpha and Omega) but Anna's skills and courage are needed to defeat the evil in Cry Wolf.  I love that Anna is part of it rather than that things just happen to her.
This book starts when Bran and Charles return to Montana with Anna, after the events in Alpha and Omega.  There is a rogue werewolf killing humans in the Cascade mountains and Charles and Anna head into the cold to find and deal with the threat, which, of course, is not all as it first seems to be.
I enjoyed Holter Graham's narration quite a bit.  He doesn't try to do a female voice for Anna, he just softens his tone a little and this was quite effective.  At first I thought his voice for Charles was a bit... wrong but after some thought, I changed my view.  Charles is not a talker.  He's not good with words and he thinks before he speaks (and during the speaking too).  Mr. Graham had him talking in a deep slow voice which reflected that.  Initially I mistook the slow for stupid.  And Charles is NOT stupid.  But, when I listened to the words in the description of Charles, Mr. Graham was right - Charles does speak slowly.
This series is more romantic than the Mercy Thompson series, mainly because it features Charles and Anna as a couple working together to solve various conflicts.  Having said that, it is more on the "sweet" side of the heat level.  Which just goes to prove that hot smex does not necessarily a great book make.

Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs, narrated by Holter Graham - B+  Hunting Ground takes place shortly after Cry Wolf ends and the relationship between Anna and Charles is still quite new.  They are dealing with the fallout of the abuse suffered at the hands of her former pack in Chicago and Charles is getting used to having a wife - he's been a loner for most of his life.  Charles and Anna head to Seattle  as ambassadors for Bran to meet with the European delegation regarding their opposition to Bran's plan to reveal the existence of werewolves to the world.  The European wolves can't stop it from happening - Bran is the Marrok and in the US, his word is law for werewolves, but he wants to calm their fears and help them out as much as possible.  While in Seattle, a group of hired vampires attack and/or kill various cast members and it becomes clear that Anna is a target.
I liked this book but not quite as much as Cry Wolf.  In this one, I kind of had to cross my eyes and hunch to make the plot make sense to me (in terms of who the 'bad guy' was) and, after getting used to.  Also, after coming to the conclusion that Holter Graham's voice for Charles in Cry Wolf was spot on, he went and changed it for this book!!  It is particularly noticeable listening to the books back to back.  In this one, Charles had a normal guy's voice - deep and pleasant to the ear but different to the one previously used.  I liked the first one better.  Still, a very good listen and I highly recommend this series as well as the Mercy Thompson series - either on audio or on paper/ebook.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

20 Followers Celebration Giveaway!!

That's right, a zero didn't fall off. It's my 20 Follower Giveaway Extravaganza!!

My husband and I have had this running joke for the past few months:  when my blog hits 20 followers on Google Friend Connect, I'd do my first giveaway.  Lo and behold, a couple of weekends ago, I clicked over the magic number!!  So many blogs have the "500 follower" or "1,000 follower" giveaway but  really, the apocalypse is likely to be here before I hit that amount and life's too short not to celebrate the smaller things.  Besides, it took nearly 2 years to get beyond 20 so it's not that small really is it? :D

Anyway, please join me for a chuckle at my own expense and enjoy my first giveaway!

The Prizes:
  • Winner's choice a book to the value of $10AUD (it's about the same as US these days) from The Book Depository.
ETA:  Thanks to the most excellent Sean Kennedy, we now have prizes (plural).  Also up for grabs is:

To Enter:
  • Take a look around and tell me what is your favourite post/review and why.  (oh, come now; you didn't think I wouldn't make you work at least a little for it did you? *evil grin*)
  • You don't have to be a follower to enter and you don't have to become a follower to enter.  But, if you look around and you like it here, please feel free to follow my blog.  Who knows? Maybe I'll do another giveaway if I hit 50! :D

The Rules:
  • One entry per person
  • Giveaway open til 10th December 2011 
  • I will draw 3 winners using and post the winners' names here shortly afterwards as well as contacting the winners via email.
  • Leave a way for me to contact you in the comments so that I can let you know if you've won.
  • You should probably tell me which prize you would prefer also.
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Monday, November 21, 2011

My Lord and Spymaster by Joanna Bourne

Why I read it:  As my copy of The Black Hawk was winging its way to me, I realised I hadn't read My Lord and Spymaster.  I have read The Spymaster's Lady (and listened to it on audio too) and The Forbidden Rose (all of which were excellent) so I don't quite know why this one had been languishing on my TBR.  

I do find Joanna Bourne novels... dense - as in a rich chocolate dessert.  I love them but they require some concentration on my part.  Ms. Bourne has a lovely use of words, neither flowery nor simple, and she doesn't write the sort of books one can skim.  

Anyway, in anticipation of The Black Hawk, I picked this one up.  

What it's about: Jess Whitby, stolen from the crime lord Lazarus and returned to her father Josiah in the previous book, is trying to find Cinq - a spy who has been selling secrets to the French.  Josiah Whitby has been arrested for the crime and Jess is desperate to prove his innocence.  One of her suspects is Captian Sebastian Kennett, bastard son of the Earl of Ashton and the man who discovered most of the evidence which led to Josiah's arrest. We readers know of course that Bastian cannot be Cinq because he's the hero, but Jess doesn't know that.  There is an instant attraction and connection between them but the situation with Cinq and Josiah means they are cautious about acting on it - if Josiah hangs then Bastian will be responsible in part for the death of Jess' father (not the best aphrodisiac) and what if Bastian is really Cinq?

What I thought (aka, what worked for me and what didn't): Bastian and Jess are, as I said above, instantly attracted to one another.  They spend a large part of the book in close proximity (I dislike books where the hero/heroine are separated for much of it, movies too for that matter, never fear this does not happen here) but in terms of their deepening relationship, they are kept apart by a real and not at all trivial conflict.  In spite of themselves they fall into love - come to think of it, this is one of the common themes I have found in Joanna Bourne's books.  I love that there is no "big misunderstanding" or anything that could be simply resolved keeping them apart.  And it wasn't just that Bastian, from Jess' POV, might be Cinq.  The real conflict was that Josiah might hang and Bastian would be a large part of the cause of it.  Because Josiah was a secondary character, I couldn't be sure as a reader that Josiah wouldn't actually turn out to be a traitor or even if he was innocent, nevertheless be convicted (and I'm not going to tell you here!).  So, that meant that there was a real tension for me in reading - whereas, if it were only that Jess thought Bastian was Cinq, well that may have palled quickly.  I love that Ms. Bourne writes smart characters. They are skillful and expert in their various fields and they remain that way all the way through the story. 

I enjoyed the book very much, but looking back on it after a couple of days, I'm not sure that the identity of Cinq made total sense to me.  Without giving away spoilers, it's hard to say exactly why, but on one level, it was kind of obvious but there was another, er, aspect, shall we say to Cinq and that was the bit that I didn't think quite gelled with the rest of the book and that particular character.   

Military Intelligence's Colonel Reams reappears in this book but he left the scene kind of abruptly and after I finished I wondered where that plot thread ended up.

There was hardly any horizontal action between Jess and Bastian - a LOT of sexual tension and untimely interruptions but not much of the other.   On the one hand, I can see that to have them getting busy much earlier would have been inconsistent given the fears of each main character, but because I am a reader and readers can be contrary and sometimes impossible to satisfy, I was nevertheless disappointed that we didn't see more of Jess and Bastian in an intimate setting.

I do love how Ms. Bourne writes and how it is clear in whose POV we are in the narrative simply by the syntax of the words.  Bastian and Jess think differently and this is obvious from the text.  It is perhaps more obvious in books where the heroine is French and the hero is British but it is still very present here. Here's a few examples of what I mean:-

From Jess's POV:
If half the rumors were true, he'd flattened men with those efficient sledgehammer fists in every port around the Mediterranean.  The other thing they said about him was true, too.  He was soft with women.  He never thought of touching her when he was like this.  In the years that lay between that boy in the cold mud of the Thames and the man he'd become, he'd changed into someone who couldn't lay angry hands on a woman.  The chair was having a hard time, though.
He stomped across the room.  His shoulders and the back of his neck kept right on being expressive.
From Bastian's:
With Jess you knew when she was willing, because you didn't get your teeth knocked out.
He could see in her eyes she was letting herself fall in love with him.  She was about three-quarters deep so far and sinking fast.  He wondered if she knew.  Almost too late for her to stop.  It had been too late for him for a long time.

What else?  The other bonus in this novel is that we get to know Adrian a bit better and as he's the hero in The Black Hawk and has featured prominently in the other books too, it was an extra treat.  Overall, maybe this wasn't my favourite Bourne novel, but it was still very, very good.

Joanna Bourne writes dense, historical romance with clever main characters and beguiling secondary ones.  I find her books immersive and rich and for that reason, I like to devote myself to the reading of them rather than allowing any skimming.  There are so many little glimpses of things which may or may not become significant later on and really, like the best chocolate desserts, you don't want to miss any of it.  

Grade:  B

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Storm's Heart by Thea Harrison, narrated by Sophie Eastlake

Why I listened to it: I loved Dragon Bound and wanted to hear the next in the series.

What it's about: Tiago Black, a Thunderbird shapeshifter Wyr is one of Dragos' Sentinels and his Warlord.  Niniane Lorelle (who we knew as Thistle "Tricks" Periwinkle in the previous book) is the rightful heir to the Dark Fae throne.  An attack on Niniane's life brings Tiago to Chicago to help Niniane and while there, he discovers a very inconvenient and sudden attraction to the little fairy.    He accompanies her as she tries to discover who is behind the attempts on her life and as she travels to Adriyel for her coronation.  Even if Niniane and Tiago can sort out their own relationship, will the Dark Fae accept a Wyr sharing the throne?

What I thought: I'd read a number of reviews that suggested the second book in the series wasn't as good as the first.  I guess that meant my expectations were lower but I actually really enjoyed this one.  I think the audio really works for me in this series as Sophie Eastlake is doing an excellent job of the narration.  The story is quite different from Dragon Bound and I wonder if that is why other commenters were disappointed.  As much as I liked Dragon Bound, I actually enjoyed the difference. 
Tiago struck me as an alpha man (or, more accurately an alpha Wyr) so confident in himself that he was in no way threatened by Niniane's position as Dark Fae Queen.  His interest, once it landed on Niniane, was 100% on her care, protection, safety and success.  When a strong man is in love with a powerful woman, it can be difficult to accept him being in a "subordinate" relationship.  But, Tiago didn't care AT ALL and it was obvious in the book.  That meant that I had no difficulty in believing their HEA because I didn't see that there would be any jockeying for power between them.    I liked Tiago's single-minded devotion to Niniane and the sexy way he called her "fairy" when he was aroused (whether by anger or something else!).  Niniane was also a smart heroine too who realised the limitations of her size but was clever about how she could defend herself.  The question regarding the Dark Fae accepting Tiago as consort to Niniane wasn't fully answered in this book, but I expected it will be in future offerings in the series.  In any event, I was happy enough to accept that for now, no final answer was necessary.  
Once again, Sophie Eastlake nails the narration.  She is fast becoming one of my favourites.  She doesn't have a deep hero voice, but it is easy to tell who is talking and she got Tiago's attitude absolutely right.    Overall, I did enjoy Dragon Bound better but only a little bit.

Grade:  B+

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Something Different by SA Reid

Why I read it:  I read the Sarah's review over at Dear Author and picked it up from Amazon for the bargain price of 99c.

What it's about: (from Goodreads) Tired of his life's endless grind, family man Michael Maguire allows himself one night of deviation. Desperate for something different, he seeks a prostitute in notorious Brixton Park. But Michael, searching for a girl out of PRETTY WOMAN, instead finds blue-eyed, beautiful James Campbell. Tempted and stirred in ways he never imagined, Michael embarks on a sexual adventure with a rent boy from London's infamous Bethnal Green. And what begins as a purely sexual exchange gradually transforms into something else, as James finds himself in desperate circumstances and Michael is moved to help. Drawn increasingly to James, Michael finds himself facing up to the iniquities in his daily life. And finally he must deal with a horror that threatens to explode Michael's safe, conventional existence.

What worked for me: Infidelity isn't usually something I seek out in a main character.  Generally speaking, it's not terribly attractive.  Perhaps because it is told mainly from Michael's third person POV, it was actually quite easy for me to go with it in this story.    His desperation for physical connection and for "something different" to break him out of the rut his life has become is something that is painted very well in only a few words.
Michael couldn't remember the last time he'd had sex with Frannie and there were so many rules he was no longer tempted to try. Weeknights were out, she was too tired from housework and spin class and book club and keeping up with her favorite programs on telly.  Sundays were a no-go; she tended to go out with the girlfriends after church and preferred a nice long evening with the telly when she returned.  That left Saturday, and then Michael had to be freshly showered, the kids had to be either asleep or out of the house and Frannie had to be in the mood.  The likelihood of all these factors coming together was about as favourable as a total eclipse...
...But now he was thirty-four and more frustrated than ever.  Frannie wouldn't even let him hold her and masturbate, she found the very idea juvenile and borderline deviant.
Just from those short passages, I can feel Michael's frustration and despair and I can also see he's tried. He's tried to compromise and bend to Frannie's sex rules but it's just not working for him.   I didn't feel that the book ever called upon me to endorse his actions in going outside the marriage - I don't recall that Michael himself  made excuses for the behaviour or tried to justify it.  And, by the end of the story, the truth had come out and he didn't make any effort to  blame others for his actions or tell anything other than the truth.  As much as Michael is initially dishonest (with his wife) he is nevertheless very honest with himself and that was one of the things which made him attractive to read about.

Michael finds a connection with James which is initially all about the physical and becomes something more over time.   He's able to be himself.  And, it is apparent that Frannie was trying to get him to be someone else.  I had quite a deal of sympathy for Michael as I always think that home should be a safe place to fall, and not a place you have to pretend.

This bit might be spoilery so I've tried to be clever with the font colour so readers can decide whether they want to know.  (Apologies if my 'tech skills' fail here).  Michael has a painful history of sexual abuse by his stepmother which reveals itself in some shocking violence.  I say shocking because I did kind of recoil when I read it.  At the same time, I totally understood it and felt the fat cow totally deserved it and worse (and don't even get me started on his dad!).   Violence against women is not my thing, but this was an unusual situation and I couldn't feel much sympathy for her in the circumstances.  But, it was violent and it was against a female so it kind of made me mentally "jump".  It was sudden and yet it was totally within Michael's character, both for himself and as a father protecting his son.

Sarah at DA thought the story was somewhat "fable" like and there is that kind of feel to the story.  It does seem a little unreal that a heretofore straight man can take up with a rent boy (or former rent boy as he later is) and there be little to no fall out from it.  Still, it wasn't all sparkly roses and butterflies and I appreciated that not everyone was happy with Michael and James together.  I think, because it is mainly from Michael's POV, that what is in the story is what is important to Michael and general bigotry really isn't.  Of course, I could be totally making that up, but that's how it felt to me.

James doesn't just fall into a relationship with Michael and think he's a meal ticket.  While Michael could have quite easily been taken advantage of (at least for a while - Michael is too smart for this to have gone on long), James didn't go there.  James chooses to be with Michael and I liked that the author addressed this in the story.  James had a choice and he chooses Michael.

This book sucked me in right from the start.  I loved the style and the voice; I liked Michael and James and I also liked the word synchrony at the beginning and end of the story.  I especially enjoyed Ms. Reid's ability to paint complicated and sometimes poignant word pictures with only a few phrases.

What didn't: I was a titch worried about the Michael's relationship with James being paternalistic and to a certain extent, that wasn't sufficiently addressed in the book for my absolute comfort.  The financial disparity was addressed and it made sense but the issue of equality could have used a little more exposition.  When I was reading the book, it didn't bother me overmuch but after I finished and gave it more thought, I wondered what James felt he was giving Michael in the relationship sufficient for him to feel equal. Perhaps it is just that there wasn't a lot of James' POV.  The epilogue takes place four years after the main story, so it is clear that something is keeping them together but I did wonder a bit if James would feel the burden of being "kept".  Michael comes across as a lot older than 34 for much of the book.  I think it's supposed to be that way - he's old and tired and in a rut so he reads like a 45+ having a mid life crisis.  But as the story progresses, he regains some youth - he loosens up in his dress and language and his fears about what others may think of him.  So, by the end of the book, while there was clearly a huge gap in age and experiences (on both sides), it wasn't quite as broad as at the start.

What else? Some commenters around the place have mentioned that all the female characters in the book were all out and out villains or stupid.    I tend to be a bit dense when it comes to noticing things like that but I have a slightly different take on that.  James is dyslexic and his teacher is a female and is portrayed as demanding (in a good way) and supportive and encouraging.  She doesn't have a huge part in the book, but then, neither does the "villain" (for want of a better term).  As for Frannie, she is seen in a more sympathetic light in the epilogue and it gave me the perspective that sometimes people can seem mean and unkind because they are unhappy themselves and, given different circumstances, are not that way at all.   Michael comes to the realisation that he wasn't good for Frannie either and that she was never going to be happy with him. I felt the characterisations made sense.  If Frannie had've been very sympathetic, I would have questioned why Michael was looking elsewhere and the story wouldn't have worked for me.  

This is a self published book and while it wasn't totally typo free, it was certainly no worse than many traditionally published books I've read.   I hope to read much more m/m from this author whatever publishing arrangements she makes.  

I've a feeling that I have failed to express how much I enjoyed this book.  I'm sorry for that, because it was a great read and one I'm sure I will revisit (which is a rarity for me).

Grade:  A-/B+

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Unveiled by Courtney Milan

Why I read it: Having enjoyed Unclaimed so much, I went out and bought Unveiled to see what happened in the first book of the series.

What it's about: (blurb from Goodreads) Ash Turner has waited a lifetime to seek revenge on the man who ruined his family—and now the time for justice has arrived. At Parford Manor, he intends to take his place as the rightful heir to the dukedom and settle an old score with the current duke once and for all. But instead he finds himself drawn to a tempting beauty who has the power to undo all his dreams of vengeance….
Lady Margaret knows she should despise the man who's stolen her fortune and her father's legacy—the man she's been ordered to spy on in the guise of a nurse. Yet the more she learns about the new duke, the less she can resist his smoldering appeal. Soon Margaret and Ash find themselves torn between old loyalties—and the tantalizing promise of passion….

What worked for me: My notes say "unexpected", "different", "surprising", "romantic", "unusual", "excellent".  And mostly, this was about Ash.  Just when were were about to head into predictable romance territory, Ash would turn it on it's head.  I loved that about this book.   Ash is not your usual would-be Duke and he doesn't react the way one expects.  I don't want to give away spoilers so I can't go into too much detail, but pretty much, when almost every other romance hero would go tack right, Ash jibs left.  I very much liked how he saw something important and special in Margaret and that he fell in love with her thinking she was a "commoner" and worked for her living.  I very much liked his reactions to just about everything in the story. I liked that he wanted her to shine.
Miss Lowell, you magnificent creature. I want you to paint your own canvas.  I want you to unveil yourself.
I was sad for Ash about the distance he felt with his brothers and I liked that Margaret championed his cause.  He was someone who was everyone else's champion it seemed, but not many people seemed to realise he occasionally needed some of that treatment himself.
Margaret herself doesn't always act predictably either and I also liked her very much too.  I remember reading along and thinking "oh no! don't do that!" and then, she didn't and I sighed with relief.   I'm not usually a fan of plots based on lies or misunderstandings but Ms. Milan can pull it off because she her characters are smart and unpredictable.
As much as the blurb sets the book up as being about revenge, I didn't really feel that was Ash's main motivation at all.  There was a little bit of that sure, but mostly he wanted to secure his brothers' futures and he absolutely believed (and he was right) that he'd be a better Duke than the heretofore heir.  Ash has mountains of self belief, but the thing is, he's mostly right.  It's not actually arrogance if you're correct! :) I think Ms. Milan can do something really rare - make a genuinely good man an interesting hero without him being boring, or doormat material.    It is so uncommon and it sucks me right in.
I also appreciated that the old Duke was a miserable old sod and (*mildly spoilery*) he stayed that way.  There was no miraculous recantation of previous wrongs.  He was just a pig.  I liked how Margaret dealt with him; how she chose her own behaviour towards him for her own reasons and not because of any reaction to his cruelty. 

What didn't:  The ending was just slightly predictable which was a tiny bit disappointing after having been so refreshingly different a story up til then.  However, it's not as if I could come up with a better ending and how else could it satisfy?  I am clearly being too picky here! :)

What else? I'm actually glad I read this one second.  As much as I enjoyed Unclaimed, I enjoyed this one even better and I don't think anything was lost in reading the books out of order.  I'm going to have to pick up Ms. Milan's earlier books now too and I'm even more looking forward to Smite's book now.

Grade:  A-

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Where Demons Fear to Tread by Stephanie Chong

*spoilers ahoy* 

Why I read it: I picked this one up because I thought the storyline sounded interesting and I like trying new authors.  I thought I would like it.  I didn't.

I got about 1/3 the way through it before I gave up.  I didn't enjoy the writing and I didn't think the characters were well drawn. I didn't like the world building.  I thought it was a good idea but it didn't deliver.

What it's about:  The basic set up is that new Angel Serena is given the assignment of protecting a bad boy Hollywood actor, Nick Ramirez.  She trails him to Devil's Paradise, a club run by Archdemon Julian Ascher.

What worked for me: I thought the premise was interesting and the cover is pretty but I did not enjoy the execution.  Maybe it got better after I stopped reading though.

What didn't:  We're told that Julian is the baddest of the bad demons; he enjoys corrupting human souls and has no remorse for any of his actions.  Next thing, Serena's pricking his "conscience". ("It pricked at his conscience for a moment - kissing an angel was surely some kind of sin") Hur?

Serena on the other hand, is seriously lacking in the kick-ass department.  Much to my surprise, she was immediately attracted to the Archdemon at their first meeting.  I would have much preferred a slow build of attraction given the diversity of their characters but, because he's hot, she's horny. I found it a bit hard to believe.

Also, her angel supervisor, Arielle, has totally set her up and has given her no support for her secret task, so I felt she was unlikeable too. 

But, what really got to me was on p65.  Julian materialises in Serena's house while she is sleeping.  They barely know each other but she's piqued his interest. 
"Awake, she'd never have let him touch her like this.  But now, as she slept, he took liberties that would have made her shriek with fury during waking hours.  He got into bed with her, sliding under the covers with a carefully practiced stealth..." 
then he feels her up til she wakes and he dematerialises. 
This is NOT hero material for me.  Dude, that's sexual assualt = NOT SEXY.    It is apparent from the bit I quoted, that he knew she DID NOT WANT but did it anyway.  No thank you.

I did read on a little from there but I found nothing in Julian's character that I was interested in reading about further.  He did not come across to me as a sexy misunderstood demon or as someone who could be redeemed.   He then decides to force Serena to choose between her soul or her brother's and blackmails her into staying with him.  At that point I stopped reading.

What else?  Maybe Ms. Chong is able to pull of the redemption of Julian but I couldn't bring myself to care.  To me, he'd already crossed into irretrievable territory and I had to put the book down.

I can see from other reviews on Goodreads that I am a bit of an outlier though, but this book was definitely not for me. YMMV.

Grade:  DNF

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

October Reads

on Paper/eBook

Real Men Will by Victoria Dahl - B/B+  - see full review here

Liar Bird by Lisa Walker - C This is an Australian book which is being released in January 2012 (HarperCollins Australia auto approved me on NetGalley - I am loved!).  I've reviewed it for ARRA and it will be in the December newsletter for members.  I'll post the review here after the newsletter comes out.   It's kind of chick-lit with romantic elements, in that the romance is not the main/sole focus of the story.  As I'm not much of a chick-lit reader, I suspect this affected my grade.

Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins - B-/B - see full review here.

Unclaimed by Courtney Milan - B+ - see full review here

Angel's Blood by Nalini Singh - B I had listened to the first 2 books in this series on audio (narrated by Justine Eyre) but when I started Archangel's Consort, I realise I had forgotten quite a bit of the story and so I decided to read the print books which I had on my (massive and intimidating) TBR.   I actually enjoyed this one quite a bit, even though I knew what was coming.  For those who don't know, Elena is a Guild Hunter and because of her natural gifts, can scent out vampires.  Raphael, Archangel of New York hires Elena for a special and top secret hunt.  And they fall in love.  Pretty much.  It's all in the journey of course.  I wondered idly when I was reading how I'd managed to understand so much on first listen when there was a lot that was hinted (in terms of Elena's childhood trauma) and not specified.  Her story is spread out over the three (so far at least) books which feature her and Raphael.  It's actually quite well done.  I certainly don't remember being unable to follow the story when I first listened to it.

Archangel's Kiss by Nalini Singh - B As is obvious by the cover, Elena has been Made into an angel by Raphael's ambrosia kiss.  This book is mainly set in the Refuge, a place exclusively for angels.  Lijuan is up to no good and someone is killing people in the Refuge.  Raphael and Elena's relationship is really quite new - something I appreciated much better reading these books back to back and so it made sense there was still some settling to do in their relationship.  I didn't love how it ended - I prefer all bad guys to be destroyed/jailed etc as appropriate and I don't think that happened here.

Archangel's Consort by Nalini Singh- B-/C+ I remember reading reviews shortly after the release of this book that indicated displeasure at the continued toing and froing between Raphael and Elena.  As I said above, reading them back to back, it made more sense to me because they haven't actually been together that long and Raphael is an immortal being who's been around for over a thousand years.  His values and mores are not Elenas and there's a lot of adjustment necessary.  Where this book fell flat to me was in the conflict with the bad guys.  It seems Caliane (Raphael's mother) is awakening and Lijuan is still causing problems.  (*spoiler alert*)  That both of them are alive and well at the end of the book was a source of frustration to me.  I kind of felt that the author was stringing me a long a bit.  I want the bad guys identified and dealt permanently rather than coming back again and again to cause trouble (even though I concede it is not entirely clear whether Caliane is actually a 'bad guy') - it feels like they just get away with things and that makes the story a lot less satisfying to me.

Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh - A- My full review will be appearing at the ARRA blog.  I'll post a link when it's up.  For now, I'll just say that this book is my favourite of the series so far  (and - hooray! - the bad guys in this book are actually dealt with in a final manner).

Show Me by Jaci Burton - C Sexy short about a woman who secretly likes to watch and be watched and the man who makes her fantasy reality.  There is not much character development and I can't say I connected that well with either of the main characters, but it was certainly hot.

Ready and Willing by Cara McKenna - B+ see my review here.

Fatal Heat by Lisa Marie Rice - C This is a short story wihch is typical Lisa Marie Rice - alpha hero who takes one look at the heroine and that's it, he's toast.  Hot sex and then heroine gets in trouble and is rescued by hero.  Then they live happily ever after, the end.  It had a very promising start but it got ridiculous for me when the hero took the DOG on the rescue mission.  Also, sadly, there was only one sex scene. I feel robbed.  :P

Unveiled by Courtney Milan - A  Full review to come.

A Lily Among Thorns by Rose Lerner - C I don't know why this book wasn't more successful for me.  It had an unusual hero and heroine (a tailor and former courtesan/innkeeper); it was well enough written and had some amusing moments ("does the Regent used French holes?"), but for some reason, I found this story completely put-downable.  Looking at my Goodreads, I can see that it took me 7 days to read this.  Normally a book this length would take me about 2 days.  What this tells me is that I found other things to do rather than pick this book up.  While I was actually reading, I enjoyed it well enough, but I was in no rush to keep reading.   For the life of me, I can't articulate why.  For some reason I didn't connect sufficiently with the characters and/or the story and so this one ended up being kind of "meh" for me.  I suspect I'm an outlier though, so don't take my word for it! :)  I feel bad that I can't explain why this one didn't grab me.

on Audio

Portrait in Death by JD Robb, narrated by Susan Ericksen - B+. This book has some of my favourite scenes - Roarke melting down, Eve worried he doesn't love her anymore, make up smex.   The crime part took a bit of a backseat to me and I felt it didn't hold up as well on a re-read/listen as other crime plots, but the Eve/Roarke aspects make this one a winner for me.

Chaos in Death by JD Robb, narrated by Susan Ericksen - B-.  The most recent novella in the series, it follows on from New York to Dallas and contains spoilers for that book, so I recommend reading/listening in order.  Novellas are enjoyable to listen to but they are mainly about the crime and not the relationship between Eve and Roarke and Eve and her friends.    For that reason, I usually rate the novels higher.  I've done a review of this one for AAR and will post a link here when it's up.

Imitation in Death by JD Robb, narrated by Susan Ericksen - B.  I just realised that the cover is a bit of a spoiler for the book. O-o.   Another enjoyable instalment in the series.  Peabody makes detective!

Big Jack by JD Robb, narrated by Susan Ericksen - B-.  This is the story which makes up the second half of Remember When.  There are continuity errors in this from the previous book which threw me a bit (Somerset was still on leave in this book, but he'd returned by the end of Imitation in Death).  Much more noticeable when there's a back to back listen/read.

Divided in Death by JD Robb, narrated by Susan Ericksen - B- (*spoiler alert*) This is the book where Eve finds out Homeland Security knew about what was happening to her as a child and for most of the book thereafter, Roarke and Eve are at odds because Roarke wants to take them out and Eve wants him to leave them alone because she can't stomach him committing murder.  I must say, as much as I enjoyed the story, when I read it the first time and when I listen to it now, I still felt there was a disconnect about Eve's attitude.  Roarke had already committed murder on a number of occasions (and he was fairly elaborate too) (re Somerset's daughter Marlena's death) so while I could understand on one level that Eve didn't want Roarke to commit murder FOR HER because she couldn't live with it if he was a murderer, she being a cop and all, it highlighted to me that she was living with him and he HAD committed murder, her being a cop and all.  I still can't quite reconcile it, like a piece of information that's just off to the left or something, so I just shrug and go with it.  Otherwise, the usual enjoyable listen.

Visions in Death by JD Robb, narrated by Susan Ericksen - B This one was more successful for me.  It struck me that for once, Roarke didn't have a lot to do with the investigation, only popping in for bits and pieces and a little at the end, which considering his heavy involvement in the previous book was a refreshing change.   Some fun stuff with Peabody and McNab, Louise and Charles, Mavis and Leonardo (the part where Mavis asked Eve and Roarke to be the back up birth coaches was hilarious) and some drama for someone close toward the end.  I think I must have been pretty worried when I first read the book.  I even had (a tiny bit of) sympathy for the villain here.  Very good.