Thursday, June 23, 2011

A fan letter to: Pamela Clare

Dear Ms. Clare,

When I signed up for the fan letter Blog Crawl I didn't know who I was going to write to - I read a lot and have many "favourite" authors (what can I say?  I like to share my love around :D).  I have had something of a Romantic Suspense slump in the last year or so - I had a few bad experiences with plots that were just too unbelievable and/or boring and/or characters I didn't care about.  I found my way back to it with JD Robb and Suzanne Brockmann - both authors whose work I adore and who could easily have had their very own fan letter from me.  But, they are, I believe, really super famous authors and I figure they get fan letters all the time.  So I thought I'd favour someone slightly less famous but no less deserving.

After coming of a Robb/Brockmann high, I had to choose my next-to-read book - this is always difficult - the better the book I've just finished, the harder it is for the next book I read to live up to it.  Anyway, the hospital handpass went to you.  And (to continue with the AFL metaphors), not only did you not drop the ball, you kicked it right in between the two big white sticks and out of the park.  So, that's why I decided to write to you.

Also, when I stumbled across your blog recently and contacted you to volunteer to put your Breaking Point gif on my little blog, you not only responded really quickly (which was both unexpected and kind of gratifying) but also were really friendly so that made me want to like your books even more.  But, no matter how much I want to like something, it all comes down to the books.

I (now) have all 5 of your I-Team novels - but due to my slump and at the time in question, I'd only read the first two.   As I'd been drooling over Jed Hill on the cover of your May 2011 release, Breaking Point, I was inspired to open Naked Edge (during the course of which,  I then realised that I hadn't read the third book so then I went back and read Unlawful Contact). Then, because Breaking Point hadn't come out yet, I did a re-read of the first two, Extreme Exposure and Hard Evidence next, just because I could.

I want to thank you in particular for the wonderful heroes in your books.  Heroes who:-
  • like kissing for the sake of it and not just as a means to an end
  • think going down on a woman for a long time is selfish but do it anyway
  • kill spiders for their lady without complaining* (except apparently the big hairy ones in the Sonoran desert but I don't exactly know why this is)
  • are super protective and all muscled and manly and uber-hot
  • encourage their lady to use their own skills and talents and don't stand in their way/wrap them in cotton wool  (even though sometimes they might secretly - or even not so secretly - want to).
  • are willing and actually prepared to die for the lady they love if that's what it takes
  • have actual friends, both male and female

I want to thank you for the heroines who:-
  • know better to complain when their man is being *ahem* selfish.
  • understand that all spiders must die (even just pictures of them)
  • are smart and talented and brave and not TSTL
  • use those talents and smarts to help solve the crime/catch the bad guys and don't just sit around getting rescued all the time
  • have actual friends, both male and female

I want to thank you for your stories in which:-
  • there are mostly believable (it is fiction after all) suspense plots**
  • the hero and heroine do not have sex when they're being shot at
  • I am educated (in a good way) about such things as Native American culture (Naked Edge) and the US prison system (Unlawful Contact), the high murder rate in Ciudad Juarez (Breaking Point) in particular and (good) journalism in general
  • even a US Senator can be (and is) sexy (Extreme Exposure)
  • use words like "penis", "testicles" and "vagina" and make them sound sexy.  Really. (Note: I never said I could make those words sound sexy!)

Finally, may I thank you for writing a book where the hero was inspired by Jed Hill and for having an editor who loves you enough to put Jed Hill on the cover of said book.  Thank you thank you thank you.

So, thank you. I really like your books and I'm looking forward to reading more books from you in the future.  Thank you so much for your efforts in creating these tales which entertain me so much.

best wishes

*Marc was about to lose some serious points because there was some teasing when a freaking Black Widow ran out and terrorised Sophie.  However, he redeemed himself by using the giant boot for some much needed squishing and then flushing it without further comment and then giving comfort (important after such a harrowing experience)  and making sure there weren't any others hanging about without being asked.  I was a bit worried for a minute that he was going to do something juvenile like pick the thing up and put it really close to her face or something (grounds for instant dissolution of relationship) but thankfully, Marc is a better man than my brother.  Also, I am never going to the Sonoran desert.

**I say "mostly" because I thought Marc got out of prison just a tad too easily - frankly I'd rather believe that it wasn't 100% realistic as there is a prison not too far from where I live and I happen to know that most of the inmates are neither innocent nor gorgeous.

Yesterday's letter was by Closet Reader and tomorrow the Blog Crawl heads over to Obsidian Bookshelf. For a full list of who, when and where, go here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

Why I read it:  What can I say?  I'm a fan! :)

What it's about:  This is book 5 in the Kate Daniels series - if you haven't read the previous books, don't start here - it's worth the investment of your $$ and time to read all of the books, starting with Magic Burns. While each book has a distinct story they really aren't stand-alone novels.    Anyway, Kate's moved into the Keep with the Beast Lord. She's also quit the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid and started Cutting Edge Investigations.  There's a vampire on the loose, the Red Guard have lost someone, Julie's been kicked out of boarding school and Kate's got babysitting duty for a young bouda who's got too many hormones and not enough sense.

What worked for me:  I've been waiting for this book with baited breath ever since I finished Magic Bleeds and desperately hoping that, now that Kate and Curran are together, they would stay that way and I'd get to enjoy seeing them working out their lives as a team.  I'm happy to report that I got my wish.   There's plenty of romance. That's not to say all is a bed of roses; there are challenges and, as both are dominant personalities used to pleasing themselves when it comes to their actions, there's a lot of compromising to do.  Plus, there's the Pack to deal with.  That means there's enough natural conflict without having to manufacture nonsense Big Misunderstandings or other nonsense (as can be found far less superior books) to try and break them up.  It made sense, it was natural to the story and very satisfying.  Sigh.
Everyday I had to keep myself from making up bullshit reasons to call the Keep so I could hear his voice.  My only saving grace was that Curran wasn't handling the whole mating thing any better.  Yesterday he'd called me at the office claiming that he couldn't find his socks.  We talked for two hours.
Watching Kate continue to come to grips with the ties of relationships and love is a bonus too.  She's been raised to be alone and rely only on herself, to be prepared to walk away and sacrifice anyone left behind but, despite her fears that she is a monster, she is in fact a fierce defender of her own and her own is growing. *grin*   Kate has also to deal with some painful revelations about her mother which makes her question Curran's motivations - I don't think I'm giving away a spoiler in saying that Curran passes with flying colours.

Plus there's the excellent snark and humour that fans of this series have come to expect:-
...[they] had records so stellar, they had to lock their resumes in a drawer at night, so the golden light streaming from the pages wouldn't keep them awake.
Also, there is much kicking of ass - even Julie gets her licks in.  Kate was so proud!!

What didn't: I thought the book was a little slow to start but once it got going, I was very unhappy about having to put it down and in the end, I stayed up way to late to finish.  I also thought it finished  abruptly and I have questions about the magic Kate used right at the end (maybe they'll be answered in the next book?).  Sadly Raphael was missing in action in this one and we didn't get any more of Andrea and Raphael - their hot tub scene in Magic Bleeds was a hoot. :)  However, let me emphasise, there is Curran - lots of Curran!!

What else:  This is the first Kate Daniels book I've read first - the others I listened to on audio.  The magnificent Renee Raudman narrates and after my enjoyment of reading this book, I just know the audio will be even better.

We're heading toward a confrontation between Kate and Roland in the final book (I think I read somewhere there are planned to be 7 but I could be making that up) What will happen to Andrea and Aunt B?  Will she get back together with Raphael?  How's Kate going to manage Julie?  What's the deal with Hugh? Book 6 promises to be a ripper as well.  I can hardly wait!

Grade:  B+/A-

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Author Fan Letter Blog Crawl - 2011

This year I'm participating in the Author Fan Letter Blog Crawl.  Details of the event can be found here but I've posted a list of links for each day's fan letter.  Watch out for mine on the 23rd of June!

Thanks to Kassa for arranging and Rikki for designing the event button.

June 1st
June 13th My Friend Amy
June 14th Tam’s Reads
June 18th Smexy Books

May Reads

On Paper/Ebook

Desire Unchained (Demonica #2) by Larissa Ione - B/B-. The world building was much easier to follow this time and I felt there was a more complete resolution to the story.  I liked Shade quite a bit.  I have the other Demonica books on my TBR.

The Reluctant Nude by Meg Maguire B-. An enjoyable story about a sexy French sculptor and a biologist who's roped into posing nude for him.  I really liked Max but I'm not sure I really understood Fallon.  The cover picture is wrong wrong wrong - Fallon is described as having curly shoulder length auburn/red hair.

Cut & Run by Madelaine Urban & Abigail Roux - C- I found this a frustrating disjointed story.  The dialogue was confusing and the actual time Zane and Ty spent together was way too short.  Just when I was starting to get into it, the story would take a sharp right turn.  I don't generally like stories where the h/h spend long periods apart and I didn't really understand the why of it here.  I liked the characters, but the story got in my way.   I understand that things pick up considerably in books 2 and 3 so I will probably still give them a try as I did like the characters quite a bit.

Games Girls Play by Deanna Lee B+. see my full review here

Money, Honey by Susan Sey, B-. This is a story about an FBI agent and an ex-theif working together to bring down a counterfeiter.  At first I thought it was going to be a light hearted humorous book and there were aspects of it, but then the story would swing into series territory.  I felt it would have been better to be one or the other, but as it tried to be both at times, overall the book suffered for it.  I think this is the author's debut.  There was certainly enough enjoyment here for me to pick up her next one, Money Shot, which is out just about now I think and features the Secret Service agent with the unattractive nickname of Goose (Maria di Guzman) who is a secondary character in this book.
How It Should Be by Madeleine Urban & Rhianne Aile - C. Cute short (24 pages) story about 2 lovers who want to show their best friend what a good sexual m/m(/m) experience can be after a disappointing first time with a stranger.  Some of the dialogue was a bit unbelievable - I don't think guys actually talk that way (but then, what would I know?).

Be My Valentine by  Madeleine Urban & Rhianne Aile - B. This was actually a very sweet and sexy story about a manager and one of his reports and how they finally admit (and act on!) the crush each has on the other.  Only 19 pages but I really liked it.

Caught Running by Madelaine Urban & Rhianne Aile - B. Story about 2 teachers who had been at the same high school together many years before. One is the coach of the baseball team (Jake) and science teacher (Brandon) gets roped into helping with the team.  It had a slow start - there wasn't even a kiss until well over the halfway mark of this 195 page book.  So, on the one hand, it was slow but on the other, there was actually a good believability factor to the build up of the relationship - I'm so contrary!!  There were a few plot points that didn't go anywhere - I'm not sure what the point of Misty chasing Jake about was as it just fizzled out and there wasn't an explanation of the email job offer at the end - what was going to happen about it?  I would have liked more information about how they would handle the long term - the story hinted at potential problems if their relationship became public knowledge  - but I liked the characters and their connection to believe in the HEA regardless.  Also, the sex, once it appeared in the story, was hot hot hot.

Sweet as Sin by Inez Kelley - DNF - I only got 35 pages in but in that time there was a lot of telling not showing and I didn't see any chemistry between the characters - they actually seemed kind of mean and I didn't know why, beyond the physical attraction, they were interested in each other.  I think it was meant to be snappy sizzling banter but to me it came off as just sniping and aggressive.  Maybe I will go back to it one of these days and will feel more kindly disposed to finishing but right now, I'm just not interested. This book has received other great reviews (that's why I picked it up) so I am an outlier as far as my response is concerned.  And, hey, maybe it gets better.   I'm not ruling out another try at some point.

**pick of the month**

Paris A to Z by Marie Sexton - A-.  I love these Coda boys.  I'm only sad that this is (apparently) the last book of the series.  Paris closes of the Angelo & Zach story but there is a fair bit of Matt & Jared too as they sort through the various exes they have to deal with.  My only real complaint (and really, that's too strong a word) was that there wasn't enough of Cole & Jon.  They are my favourite couple of the series.  I can only hope that Ms. Sexton will write us a few little shorts about their lives in the future.  Also, I think I have found a pic of Jared - he's actually an Australian Masterchef contestant who's also a professional lifeguard but he's quite like my mental picture of Jared.  I tweeted the author and she said she thought he was "ver Jared-esque".  There's footage on the Masterchef website of young Haydon in full lifeguard mode but I couldn't work out how to take a screen shot to post here.  :)  **pick of the month**

Haydon from Masterchef Australia We were recently treated to vision of him in Speedos and he is actually one of the (very) few who can make them look good! :)

Stroke to His Cox by JL Merrow - C+. Cute (very) short story about a rower and the cox.  Probably would have been more enjoyable if I understood the rowing references.

Snowbound by Larissa Ione - DNF This isn't actually as bad as the grade sounds.  The book is an early work of Ione's and it happens to feature my least favourite (I have discovered) romance trope - the big misunderstanding.  As I'm getting older, I'm finding I have less and less patience for this - it isn't how I work personally - I'm more the terrier type as far as NOT letting things go is concerned and I get so frustrated by not TALKING about something and just jumping to conclusions.  I was enjoying the story well enough but I could just see the Big Mis coming and I couldn't stick around for the torture of it.  It was heading for a C/C- before I decided to move on to something else.  It did seem less polished than the Demonica books I have read and I put that down to being an early book - On the plus side, the hero was fine.

Three to Tango - (book 1) dirty/bad/wrong by Lauren Dane C-  Poorly edited and therefore somewhat confusing story about a girl coming back to her hometown and catching up with 2 old lovers (who are now lovers themselves) m/m/f.  With better editing this would have been much more engaging.  One example; one of the guys enters the story by coming up and kissing the other man very passionately, but later in the story, we find out that he's not comfortable with being lovers with the other man and they've only had sex 3 times over 10 years and that was when he was drunk.  It didn't fit the initial picture.    (There are 3 other stories in the anthology but I havent' gotten to them yet).

Baby I'm Yours by Stephanie Bond - C. Okay short about a man proposing to his high school sweetheart while on leave from the army, when a tornado is on its way to town.  The beginning was prmising but there was too much going on and not enough pages to tell the story - not enough of Shelby and Emory together to me to really care about their relationship.
Blaze of Memory by Nalini Singh - C+/B-.  It actually took me 2 goes to get started with this book.  I was quite thrown by the early references (seemingly without much explanation) of Dev's affinity to metal/machines.  I'm not sure I really understood it even by the end, but there was more information about it about 3/4 through the book.  I kept thinking I'd missed something.  Anyway, once I re-started the book and put aside my confusion, I started to enjoy the book a lot more.  The first bit was a C+, the latter a B/B-.  I thought I'd enjoy Katya's story and I did, but just not as much as I thought I would.  The almost/not quite of the physical relationship had me a bit frustrated (in the non sexual sense :) ) and I thought the ending was just a bit too convenient/deus ex machina.  However, there was a lot to enjoy, it just wasn't my favourite of the series.

Bonds of Justice by Nalini Singh - B I think I remember seeing/hearing about the place shortly after its release that this one wasn't as popular with readers as other books.  However, I really enjoyed it.  It's the story of human cop Max Shannon (the Irish name with the Asian eyes, so I had to keep mentally re-jigging my image of him) and Sophia Russo, a Justice Psy.  J-Psy's haven't really featured a lot in the series, so learning about them was interesting to me and there was some interesting stuff in the wider story arc too.  That's not why I read the series of course - I'm in it always and forever for the romance.  What I enjoyed about this book was that the conflict was external.  Max & Sophie have an instant connection but the appear to be star-crossed lovers - she's fracturing because of her "J-ness" and her personal history.  She cannot leave the PsyNet.  Max is a human who doesn't trust the Psy.   But, he never doubts her.    I actually like this type of story from time to time - and I did like the way Singh uses the J designation to so totally isolate Sophie - this means that she hasn't touched another person in years - so, when she touches Max, and then touches him skin to skin - it is a special experience.  I was actually thinking when I was reading that Singh has created a very clever world where the virgin heroine is actually believable and does not cause eye-rolling.  On p129 however, was the thing that drew me in the most -
No one had ever before chosen her.  No one.

It touched a chord and I was totally caught up in their relationship.  I like Max very much and I enjoyed Sophie too - she was, for all her vulnerability, a very strong heroine.  I would have liked more of River, background and more detail at the ending (that felt a bit rushed) - maybe we'll see him in future books?

Play of Passion by Nalini Singh - B. This is Indigo and Drew's story.  Changing it up once again, Singh tells the story of two SnowDancer wolves - Indy is 4 years older than Drew and her wolf is the more dominant.  Sorting the dominance and pack hierarchy out is the relational conflict in the story.  Drew is a charmer and very yummy - I enjoyed reading about him very much. I could also relate to Indy's vulnerability - how will her man cope when she has to give him orders on the job?  Will he think because they are lovers, he is now "in charge"? I appreciated how the conflicts were resolved - the characters stayed true to themselves but sorted it out.   There was also a little more of Hawke & Sienna too, just to whet my whistle.

Next up:  Kiss of Snow!!!  I've seen excellent reviews but haven't read any so as to avoid spoilers.  Hawke is 35 or so and Sienna is only 19.  Can Singh pull it off?  I'm "desperately hopeful".  
Fingers crossed. 
Full review to come.

On Audio
River Marked by Patricia Briggs, narrated by Lorelie King - B+. This is the 6th book in the Mercy Thompson series - the one where Adam and Mercy get married.  I actually liked this one better on audio than in print. There is something about the way a phrase sounds which can add so much to the meaning one takes away.  I've noticed it in various audiobooks - the narrator brings something to the story that I just didn't get on my own. When I read the book in print, I was left with the impression that Adam was in wolf form (and therefore, kind of absent) a lot longer than he actually was.  On audio, he seemed to be more present in the story.  I can't really explain why other than that was my impression.  As I'm a mad keen Adam fan, it definitely added to my enjoyment and Ms. King's deep growly voice for Adam is very good. :D

The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne, narrated by Kirsten Potter - B  In the end, I got used to the American narration in a totally non-American story.  This is a great book and I thought Ms. Potter's narration improved as the story went on, as did her French accent for Annique.  It did throw me at first that the non dialogue parts were done in an American accent - the characters are English or French and the writing is clear as which language is native to the POV - so in my head when I read the book, those narrative portions which were told from Annique's point of view had a French accent to go with the French syntax. And similar with the British side of things.  So, to throw in an American accent was a bit of a curveball for me.  However, by the end, I'd mostly gotten over it.

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh, narrated by Angela Dawe - B+ It's been ages since I read StoS and frankly, I'd forgotten how much I loved it.  Angela Dawe does a great job of the narration and it was a very entertaining listen.  I do think that Dawe has only one "male" voice so while I'm looking forward to listening to others in the series, I don't think I'll be doing back to back listens (not that all the books are out yet anyway) because otherwise I think I'll notice too much that all the male characters/heroes sound the same.  Vaughn, the next hero is quite different to Lucas, so it will be interesting to see what Dawe does with him.

Soulless by Gail Carriger, narrated by Emily Gray - B+ This was my first steampunk book and I was a bit surprised by the paranormal aspects at first - silly me, I though that steampunk was just about extra inventions.  Emily Gray is a very very good narrator and I enjoyed Lord Maccon's growly Scottish accent quite a bit and I appreciated how she infused her narration with the humour which is evident in the story.  I'm not sure whether I'll actually listen to the next two as the focus isn't (I understand) on the romance but on Alexia solving crimes/mysteries.  I'd rather read romance so I will probably choose others from my mountainous TBL before coming back to this series.  However, this book is very much a romance and greatly enjoyable.

Judgement in Death by JD Robb, narrated by Susan Ericksen - B+ - Another excellent book in this wonderful series.  The drunk scene between Eve and Mavis is priceless and oh so much funnier on audio!

Betrayal in Death by JD Robb, narrated by Susan Ericksen - B.  Good story, strong narration, great characters.  I did wonder slightly at Eve's sympathy for the "villain" in this book - his crimes were pretty nasty I thought - I don't think I would have been so generous.

Seduction in Death by JD Robb, narrated by Susan Ericksen - B. I know the narration isn't as good on this one because it was Ericksen's first go round at the series.  Roarke's voice is pretty much the same but Eve's has become more defined.  Feeney, Whitney, Mira, Trina, Mavis and Charles are basically the same but there are quite distinct changes made in subsequent narrations to Peabody, McNab and Louise.    Especially with Peabody & Dallas, there isn't much between them in this audiobook to make it easy to tell who's speaking.  That's not the case with most of the series. Still, this is one of the excellent books in the series and I think the story is good enough to make up for the lack in the narration.  Having said that, the only lack is really the way Ericksen does the voices - the emotion and the rest are, as usual excellent.  I am glad she's defined Peabody's voice etc - when I first started listening to the series, I thought Peabody's voice was a bit on the strange side but I have gotten used to it and, having listened to this one, really appreciate that Ericksen makes the voice very different and therefore easily recognisable. I love this series.  I can listen to book after book and not get sick of it.

Interlude in Death by JD Robb, narrated by Susan Ericksen -C+-.  I'm trying to listen to the series in order so I'm putting the novella-audios in where they belong in the sequence.  I've actually listened to this one before, but I decided to re-listen so I don't miss anything in the wider story arc.  It's only 3 hours, so not a big commitment!  An enjoyable story but perhaps not the strongest one in the series.