Tuesday, December 25, 2012





From Our Family to Yours...

Merry Christmas!

May You Find Peace and Love

On This Day & Everyday

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

TBR Challenge:The Nine Lives of Christmas

The Nine Lives of Christmas
Sheila Roberts
Contemporary Romance
St. Martin's Press/October 25, 2011

When a guy is in trouble, he starts making deals with his Creator…and Ambrose the cat is no exception. In danger of losing his ninth and final life, Ambrose makes a desperate plea to the universe.  He’ll do anything—anything!—if he can just survive and enjoy a nice long, final life. His prayer is answered when a stranger comes along and saves him—and now it looks like he has to hold up his end of the bargain.

The stranger turns out to be a firefighter named Zach, who’s in need of some serious romantic help. If Ambrose can just bring Zach together with Merilee, the nice lady who works at Pet Palace, it’s bound to earn him a healthy ninth life.  Unfortunately for Ambrose, his mission is a lot harder than he ever thought.  Merriliee is way too shy to make the first move on a ladies man like Zach, and Zach thinks he’s all wrong for a nice girl like Merrilee.  Now it’s going to take all of Ambrose’s feline wiles—and maybe even a good old fashioned Christmas miracle—to make them both realize that what they’re looking for is right in front of their eyes.


Didn't think I was going to make it this month.  I actually read the book last week but then forgot to write the review.  Not sure how this made it's way into the TBR pile.  The most likely scenario is that I was trying to get in the holiday mood last year and picked this up at the Friends of the Library book sale.  They always have a display of holiday themed books right before Christmas.  My guess is people read them, then in the holiday spirit, pass them on by donating them.  Then the library sells them to someone like me who thinks she'll have plenty of time to read the dozens of holiday themed books she has because it's not busy at all right before Christmas. *rolls eyes*

The blurb gives a pretty good idea of the story.  And yes, we do get part of the story from the Point of View of Ambrose the cat.  He's actually quite amusing most of the time.  I thought it might become annoying, having Ambrose's thoughts on the page but he's a wise cat who's on his last life.  He's learned a thing or two from his past lives and past experiences with humans and is more than willing to share his opinions.

Zach is a hero who has sworn off serious relationships of any kind.  He doesn't even want to keep Ambrose, who he renames Tom, since having a cat is too much of a commitment.  And he definitely doesn't want to get involved with Merilee because she is most certainly the relationship type.  So this attitude of Zach's causes him some trouble when he can't seem to stop making up excuses for seeing Merilee.  Like so many heroes who have come before him, Zach is a goner and he doesn't even know it.  

Merilee has a strong affinity for animals.  She works at the local mega pet store as well as the animal shelter.  She is a walking encyclopedia of animal facts.  She's sweet, compassionate but not at all Zach's usual type.  Then she goes through a metamorphisis when her sister decided to take Merilee on a shopping spree.  It was a sweet bit of sister bonding but I do wish Zach and Merilee's relationship had been further along before she went from ho-hum to totally hot.  

The romance has a bit of a stop and go feel to it.  Just when you think these two are making progress, they backpedal a little.  It's a very sweet story, possibly a little sweet for some.  And although Zach is a firefighter, there isn't too much focus on his job other than a few scenes that show how much he enjoys and is dedicated to firefighting.   

The Nine Lives of Christmas was a funny, sweet romance.  I could easily see it as a made-for-TV holiday movie.  It's not a type of romance I would want to read too many of for fear of a sugar overdose.  But if it sounds like your kind of romance then give it a try.

Rating:  B-

Thursday, November 22, 2012

TBR Challenge Review: The Saint

The Saint
Monica McCarty
Historical Romance
Scotland/1308
Highland Guard/Book 5
Ballantine Books/March 27, 2012

Robert the Bruce consolidates lands and loyalty in a bold war for Scotland’s independence, as his elite team of warriors, the Highland Guard, fight for king, country . . . and love.

Magnus MacKay is the ultimate Highlander: tough, proud, able to master any terrain and to best his enemies. Called “the Saint” for his refusal to discuss women, as well as for his cool and steady leadership, Magnus hides a painful truth. It isn’t virtue or piety that keeps him silent, but a wound of love and loss that cuts so deep he cannot bear to speak of it. But when the woman who refused him is betrothed to his friend and fellow Guardsman, Magnus is tested by love’s battle cry.
 
A wild and innocent beauty, Helen chose family duty over her desire for Magnus. Now the anger in his eyes mirrors the tormented regret in her heart. But as deadly subterfuge stalks the King and his Guard, Helen vows to right her youthful mistakes with a woman’s determined spirit. Still, Magnus harbors secrets and an iron will not to weaken to temptation—or heartache—again. But as danger looms, it’s the kiss not of a saint, but of a sinner, that can save them.


In case you've notice, the blog has been very quiet lately.  I've tried to write a post about what has kept me from blogging but it's a difficult post to write.  So when I realized the TBR Challenge was coming up, I thought I'd try getting back into blogging with the familiar.  This book hasn't been on my TBR pile for very long but it's a series that I've enjoyed in the past and Ms. McCarty is a gifted writer. 

This is a favorite series of mine.  I love the time period as well as the premise of a group of secret military warriors with wicked weapons and espionage skills.   Such is the case with Magnus MacKay.  

Magnus has been fighting with the Guard for many years.  He keeps his private life private so none of the men know of Magnus' lost love, Lady Helen.  It's after they are reunited that Magnus realizes his feelings for Helen are just as strong as they were years ago.  But he can't have her since she belongs to another.  It's a very touching romance with Magnus and Helen at a distance of both the physical and the emotional.   I totally understood why Magnus tried to keep his distance - he was trying to be loyal to his best friend.  Helen realizes she made the wrong choice and wants to correct her mistake but she doesn't take into account one of Magnus best traits, his loyalty.  It felt like Helen pushed the issue too often and expected the past to be forgotten all while a war is being waged.  

The women in this series are strong, intelligent and conform to the expectations of the time period all the while trying to break free of those expectations.  It's an interesting illusion the heroines create.  The men of the series are all real heroes - meaning they are brave, loyal, intelligent and flawed.  They're also very different from each other, enough that it makes it easy to differentiate one from the other.  

The Saint is another solid addition to the Highland Guard series.  I do wish there had been more time spent on the relationship of Magnus and Helen with fewer big conflicts and hurdles for them to overcome.  Everything seemed to resolve itself rather quickly and neatly.   

Rating: B

Highland Guard Series ~

The Chief
The Hawk
The Ranger
The Viper
The Saint
The Recruit
The Hunter (June 25, 2013)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Library Loot


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.  It's easy to join, just post your loot and link up with Mr. Linky at either Claire or Marg's blog.  It's that simple!

Since I'm still reading previously checked out books, this week the loot has been kept to a minimum. Of course what do I do but read the books I just checked out instead of the ones that are due back soon! Sometimes there is no logic to my reading .

First up is Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, which caught my eye for a number of reasons.  The setting and time period are not the usual and the two main characters, both female, are involved in the war efforts.  I've already read it, very hard to put down.  I hope to get the review posted soon. 




 I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmf├╝hrer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.


The next book, Tessa Dare's A Lady by Midnight, is an ebook checked out from the library's "Digital Library" which I try to use as much as possible.  The only drawback is no ability to renew so I have to get the ebooks read within the 2 week time period.  No problem with Ms. Dare's books, this one is proving to be a quick, enjoyable read. 



A temporary engagement, a lifetime in the making . . .

After years of fending for herself, Kate Taylor found friendship and acceptance in Spindle Cove--but she never stopped yearning for love. The very last place she'd look for it is in the arms of Corporal Thorne. The militia commander is as stone cold as he is brutally handsome. But when mysterious strangers come searching for Kate, Thorne steps forward as her fiance. He claims to have only Kate's safety in mind. So why is there smoldering passion in his kiss?

Long ago, Samuel Thorne devoted his life to guarding Kate's happiness. He wants what's best for her, and he knows it's not marriage to a man like him. To outlast their temporary engagement, he must keep his hands off her tempting body and lock her warm smiles out of his withered heart. It's the toughest battle of this hardened warrior's life . . . and the first he seems destined to lose.


And for variety, a romantic suspense from Catherine Mann.  Guardian, the next book in her Dark Ops series.  I expect it to be a fast paced, action packed romance. 

  
THEY’D DO ANYTHING FOR COUNTRY.

AND EVERYTHING FOR EACH OTHER.

 After a dark ops malfunction, Major David Berg finds himself dead center in a military trial. It’s a race against time to root out the truth, and Major Sophie Campbell isn’t making that any easier. The hot JAG wants to bring down David’s unit and fast. His testimony is crucial to winning a case that will make her career. All Sophie has to do is ignore this witness’s unflappable charm, his unnerving good looks, and a strong, solid presence that commands her attention. It’s not easy for David, either. His attraction to this take-charge beauty is turning him inside out. But these adversaries have more in common than secret, mutual desire. There’s a traitor somewhere in the dark ops and now, to find him, David and Sophie must work together—relentlessly, tirelessly, and so intimately it could be damn near fatal.


Did you pick up anything at the library this week?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Review: All Seeing Eye

All Seeing Eye
Rob Thurman
Supernatural Thriller
Pocket Books/July 31, 2012


Picking up a small pink shoe from the grass forever changed young Jackson Lee’s life. Not only did its presence mean that his sister Tessa was dead—murdered and stuffed in the deep, black water of a narrow well—but the shoe itself told him so.

Tessa’s death triggers an even more horrific family massacre that, combined with this new talent he neither wants nor can handle, throws Jack’s life into a tailspin. The years quickly take him from state homes to the streets to grifting in a seedy carnival, until he finally becomes the cynical All Seeing Eye, psychic-for-hire. At last, Jackson has left his troubled past behind him and found a semblance of peace.

That is, until the government blackmails him. Helping the military contain the aftermath of a bizarre experiment gone violently wrong, everything Jackson knows about himself will change just as suddenly as it did with his little sister’s shoe.


And while change is constant...It’s never for the better.


All Seeing Eye is a departure from Thurman's Cal Leandros series with the evil element human in nature, no werewolves, goblins or vampires here.  What is familiar is the self-deprecating, smartass humorous attitude of the narrator, Jackson Lee.

Through Jackson we see how his childhood was not idyllic but he did have a few bright spots, one of them being his little sister, Tessa.  After Tessa's death, Jack's life leads him to learning the art of survival at all cost.  Eventually Jack builds a life for himself and surrounds himself with only a couple of close friends.  I liked seeing how Jackson grew from his tragic past but didn't completely leave it behind.  With his psychic ability he really couldn't so instead he uses his talents and creates a haven of sorts for himself.  And he guards that haven intensely. 

As Jackson gets caught up in the military experiment we see him changing how he views others and how he comes to view his past.  He has a very difficult time trusting anyone, having seen so much of the dark side of human nature, Jackson rarely lets anyone get close.  There isn't a lot of physical action, this is more of putting the pieces of a puzzle together to get to the truth.  The science behind the experiments I found interesting as well as scary.  Truth is stranger than fiction and this fiction is pretty strange.  Thurman keeps the plot moving forward, revealing details of the puzzle as Jackson becomes more deeply committed to finding the end result. 

With Jackson's narration also comes quite a bit of internal dialogue, too much at times.  Jackson is living a life far from ordinary and with his special abilities ordinary is out of his reach.   So maybe that's why he spends so much time in his own head - he knows inside nearly everyone else is a scary place!

All Seeing Eye has elements of Thurman's previous novels with some interesting science and lots of what ifs to get the reader thinking.  I look forward to seeing where Jackson goes next. 

Rating:  B+

Saturday, October 20, 2012

ARC Review: The After Wife

The After Wife 
Gigi Levangie Grazer 
Contemporary
Ballantine/July 10, 2012

L.A. is no place for widows. This is what forty-four-year-old Hannah Bernal quickly discovers after the tragic death of her handsome and loving husband, John. Misery and red-rimmed eyes are little tolerated in the land of the beautiful. But life stumbles on: Hannah’s sweet three-year-old daughter, Ellie, needs to be dropped off at her overpriced preschool, while Hannah herself must get back to work in order to pay the bills on “Casa Sugar,” the charming Spanish-styled bungalow they call home.

Fortunately, Hannah has her “Grief Team” for emotional support: earth mother and fanatical animal lover Chloe, who finds a potential blog post in every moment; aspiring actress Aimee, who has her cosmetic surgeon on speed dial; and Jay, Hannah’s TV producing partner, who has a penchant for Mr. Wrong. But after a series of mishaps and bizarre occurrences, one of which finds Hannah in a posh Santa Monica jail cell, her friends start to fear for her sanity. To make matters worse, John left their financial affairs in a disastrous state. And when Hannah is dramatically fired from her latest producing gig, she finds herself in danger of losing her house, her daughter, and her mind.

One night, standing in her backyard under a majestic avocado tree, in the throes of grief, Hannah breaks down and asks, “Why?” The answer that comes back—Why not?—begins an astounding journey of discovery and transformation that leads Hannah to her own truly extraordinary life after death.


Finally finished.  This took a very long time to get through.  I started reading this back in July but couldn't get into it.  So I set it aside, thinking I would come back to it soon.  Fast forward a few months and I've finished The After Wife with little to recommend it.

Hannah Bernal has what seems to be the perfect life.  A wonderful, loving husband whom she is completely mad for.  A beautiful little girl who brings such joy to their lives and a home filled with happiness and love.  Then, all of that seems to be gone.  Hannah's husband is killed and her life is falling apart.  She still has her daughter but can't stop herself from focusing on her loss, instead of focusing on her daughter who needs her.  As Hannah falls into despair she finds out she has a unique ability that will eventually help her cope with her loss and give her life new purpose.

While Hannah tries to deal with her grief the world around her continues on.  Her friends, the "Grief Team", are there to try to help but they all have numerous problems of their own.  The problem I had with these characters was that I couldn't drum up any real concern or interest for them.  Lots of pretentious, self absorbed people living in Hannah Bernal's world.  Her deceased husband, I think I might have liked him, before he died.

There is also the sense that Hannah is always on the outside looking in. It didn't ever feel like she fit in, anywhere.  I often wondered where this woman in the flashbacks went to.  In the flashbacks prior to her husband's death, she seems strong, resourceful and intelligent.  After, those qualities are gone, replaced with a woman who acts as though she has nothing to live for.  Suicide is mentioned fairly often, even joked about, which I found to be in very poor taste. This book may be considered humorous but most of the jokes fell flat, trying to make light of serious subjects only proved to belittle genuine feelings of pain and loss. 

So much of the story feels over the top in the highly superficial setting.  There are numerous references to pop culture which became tedious. When deeper emotions began to surface from Hannah, they were cut short by sarcastic remarks and Hannah talking of wanting to leave this world and be with John.  Then there is Hannah's irresponsible attitude which irritated me to no end.  At one point she has no job, no income, is about to lose her home but decided to go off to a spa for a couple of days with her friends.  I just wanted her to get it together and be proactive in her life, cherish her daughter and friends, not hide from the responsibility of living.   

In the end, The After Wife could have been so much more.   

Rating: D

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

TBR Challenge Review: Winter Kiss

Winter Kiss
Deborah Cooke
Paranormal Romance
Dragonfire/Book 4
Signet/November 3, 2009

*Possible Spoilers for Previous Books*


For millennia, the shape-shifting dragon warriors known as the Pyr have commanded the four elements and guarded the earth’s treasures. But now the final reckoning between the Pyr and the dreaded slayers is about to begin…

The mysterious Dragon’s Blood Elixir gives immortality to Magnus, the Pyr’s greatest enemy, and his minions—so it must be destroyed. Outcast from the Pyr because of his own dangerous impulses, Delaney will do anything to vanquish Magnus—and vows to complete a mission which will either redeem him or end his suffering.

But his plans don’t take into account his sudden firestorm—or the hot-tempered Ginger Sinclair. The firestorm reforms Delaney closer to his old self. And when Ginger learns about Delaney’s scheme, she cannot resist a strong man with a noble agenda.


This month's possible theme was Paranormal Romance or Romantic Suspense.  I decided to attempt to catch up on one of the PNR series I've let fall by the wayside.  The Dragonfire series, as you can guess, is about shapeshifting dragons.  One of the things that I enjoyed about this series is the beautiful descriptions of the men in their dragon forms. 

Delaney has distanced himself from the Pyr because of what he believes is his darkness and his need to destroy the Dragon's Blood Elixir, the cause of his darkness.  So he's gone rogue, set himself apart and decided on a suicide mission against the Pyr's worst enemy.  Then, fate steps in and Delaney's firestorm occurs.  The firestorm is the instinct in the male telling him this is his mate and he needs to get her pregnant - pronto!  Delaney, bless his heart, is more than willing to fulfill his destiny.  

Ginger Sinclair is a chef who is determined to make a go of the family dairy farm.  When she meet Delaney she's attracted to the tall, good looking guy who just happens to be a great dancer.  When the sparks literally fly between these two, Ginger gives in to the attraction, taking Delaney home with her.  Yep, the firestorm is a powerful thing!

If you're not a big fan of the "destined mate" trope, then you're probably going to have a hard time with this romance.   I'm fine with the "one and only mate" romance but I have to believe the hero and heroine belong together with or without the cosmic pull of whatever deity is in control, in this case the Great Wyvern.  With Delaney and Ginger I found it difficult to believe in their deep feelings for each other happening overnight.  Sure, there was plenty of lust but nothing to base a relationship on let alone start a family.  

So while the romance didn't work very well for me, I do like how the dragon mythology is handled along with that male camaraderie that we see so often in these type of books. Get a group of single guys who, one by one, find their true loves while they fight a common enemy.  I also like how the heroes have different viewpoints on being a Pyr.  Some are old school and believe strongly in everything the Great Wyvern tells them.  Others, respect the old ways but feel it's time for a change, moving into the future while respecting the past.  These are not cookie-cutter heroes but instead have their own lives and their own interests apart from being dragons.

The Dragonfire series continues to move along with the Pyr's goal of fighting off the Slayers (evil dragons) while building lives with their found mates.  For the single guys, you know their time will come along with their firestorms.  I'm glad I choose to get back into this series, I'd forgotten what fun it is!

Rating: C

Dragonfire Series ~

Kiss of Fire
Kiss of Fury
Kiss of Fate
Winter Kiss
Harmonia's Kiss (e-novella)
Whisper Kiss
Darkfire Kiss
Flashfire
Ember's Kiss
 

Monday, October 15, 2012

ARC Review: Enslaved

Enslaved
Elisabeth Naughton
Paranormal Romance
Eternal Guardians/Book 5
Sourcebooks/November 6, 2012

*Possible Spoilers for Previous Books*

GRYPHON—Honorable, loyal, dependable…tainted. He was the ultimate warrior before imprisonment in the Underworld changed him in ways he can’t ignore.

She calls to him. Come to me. You can’t resist. But Gryphon will not allow himself to be ruled by the insidious whispers in his head. And there’s only one way to stop them: kill Atalanta, the goddess who enslaved him. But with so much darkness inside, he can’t be sure what’s real anymore. Even the Eternal Guardians, those who protect the human realm from threats of the Underworld, want to exile him. They’re not sure he can be trusted.

Finding Malea is like a miracle. Somehow he doesn’t feel the pull of the dark when she’s near. And he’s determined to keep her as near as possible, whether she wants him close or not. But proximity spurs temptation. A temptation that will test every last bit of control he has left. One that may ultimately have the power to send him back to the Underworld or free him from his chains for good.

If you like tortured heroes, Gryphon is the hero for you!  In Elisabeth Naughton's fifth book in her highly addictive Eternal Guardians series readers find out what has happened to Gryphon, the guardian who became a slave to Atalanta.  Gryphon was rescued but he's still suffering the effects of his enslavement and no one, least of all Gryphon, is sure if he will ever recover.

He escaped the hell he was living in but the torture continues, if only in his head.  It's the voice of Atalanta Gryphon can't get away from that may just drive him insane.  Gryphon is determined to kill Atalanta without putting the other Guardians at risk.  So he's going it alone or so he thought until Malea tags along.  I liked how dark Gryphon was.  He didn't just miraculously turn away from the darkside but kept some of that with him.  Malea brings light into Gryphon's life but he still must fight his way back from the hell that was Atalanta.

Malea is use to being alone and with Hades hunting her down, it's better for everyone if she doesn't get close to anyone.  Malea strikes out on her own but runs into Gryphon and they reluctantly team up together.  There is a definitely pull between them but Malea is afraid of what might happen if Hades' Hellhounds catch up to them.  Malea isn't a kickass heroine but she does try and I have to give her credit for effort.  I also respected her for trying to protect others while so desperately wanting to be part of the group instead of always alone.  She was a good match for Gryphon because she could understand his need to protect those he cared about by trying to keep his distance from them. 

The romance begins on the run with little in the way of actual romance.  Gryphon and Malea are not exactly enemies but they are far from friends.  That develops over their mad dash to freedom.  Even with the attraction they have for each other, it didn't always feel genuine but having more to do with Malea's affect on Gryphon's darkness.  Which made me wonder if their wasn't that connection of light/dark, would anything developed between them?  The romance does take off but from the physical attraction with the respect and friendship coming later.  I much prefer it the other way but this worked out okay in the end.  

The Guardians and their mates are involved in trying to help Gryphon but they also have their concerns as to his ties with Atalanta and how much control she may still have over him.  I really enjoy seeing this group of males and watching them interact.  They're not all close, best friends but they do respect each other and will fight for each other.  The women are not wallflowers who fade off into nothing but continue to make contributions to the fight against Atalanta and her evil horde of daemons.

This is a strong series that continues to deliver action, adventure, romance with kickass heroes and smart heroines. Definitely worth the read!

Rating: A-

Eternal Guardians Series ~

Marked
Entwined
Tempted
Enraptured
Enslaved

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Library Loot


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.  It's easy to join, just post your loot and link up with Mr. Linky at either Claire or Marg's blog.  It's that simple!

This week I only picked up a few books since I haven't started on last week's picks.  I need more time!  Good thing I have the option of renewing. 
 


First is Dark Storm, the 23rd book in Christine Feehan's Carpathian vampire series.  This is a hardcover request I made some weeks (months) ago.  I'm undecided if I will read it.  At one point I consumed this series but the heroes, and to a lesser extent the heroines, are all starting to blend together.



This was another request.  I think I first heard about Precinct 13 on Goodreads.  Not sure, but I do like the blurb.  Tate Hallaway (aka Lyda Morehouse) is a new-to-me author and this sounds like the perfect book to try.




Sandy Blair's The King's Mistress was an impulse check-out.  It caught my eye as I was looking over the new release shelves.  The cover is very pretty and the blurb drew me in with talk of Scotland, twin's mistaken identity and a hero who is not a nobleman but a soldier.  I've never read Ms. Blair either so that's two new-to-me authors. 

Did you stop by your library this week and pick up something interesting?  Let us know in the comments!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: Tricked

Tricked 
Kevin Hearne
Urban Fantasy
Iron Druid Chronicles/Book 4
Del Rey/April 24, 2012

Druid Atticus O’Sullivan hasn’t stayed alive for more than two millennia without a fair bit of Celtic cunning. So when vengeful thunder gods come Norse by Southwest looking for payback, Atticus, with a little help from the Navajo trickster god Coyote, lets them think that they’ve chopped up his body in the Arizona desert.

But the mischievous Coyote is not above a little sleight of paw, and Atticus soon finds that he’s been duped into battling bloodthirsty desert shapeshifters called skinwalkers. Just when the Druid thinks he’s got a handle on all the duplicity, betrayal comes from an unlikely source. If Atticus survives this time, he vows he won’t be fooled again. Famous last words.

  
This is a series that continues to surprise me. It is funny, smart and completely entertaining.  The more I get to know Atticus, Oberon and now Granuaile, apprentice to Atticus.  I do think Mr. Hearne has really hit his stride in Tricked.  For some series, the fourth book could turn out to have a "been there, done that" feel to it but Hearne continues to show growth in his characters, keeping them interesting and entertaining.  

Atticus O'Sullivan doesn't lead a quiet life.  He'd like to enjoy some peace and quiet but as soon as he survives one near death experience he's called upon to lend his exceptional talents to another potential crisis.  Along for the always intense ride are his Irish Wolfhound Oberon and Atticus' Druid apprentice Granuaile.  The relationship Atticus and Oberon have goes beyond owner and pet.  They share a unique bond allowing them to communicate telepathically.  Which also allows the reader to enjoy Oberon's wicked sense of humor.  

Atticus and Granuaile's relationship continues to develop as their characters develop.  I really like the direction they're going and the pacing.  The author is taking his time and really allowing this friendship to deepen before bring on the romance.  Whether they ever become romantically involved is still undecided but it looks to be heading that way.  If they do I don't see the romance to be front and center but stay in the background with the magic and world building continuing to take center stage.  

The world of the Iron Druid has numerous inhabitants, in addition to the humans, and can get a bit overwhelming.  Hearne does well in making the mythology, characters and their abilities form a cohesive world.  I do like how some of the well known mythology is refuted by Atticus because he was there when it happened.  It's amusing hear him spin a story, taking a grain of truth and turning it into fact.  The secondary characters each have their place within the story and are well developed in relation to their importance to the overall plot.  

Tricked hit all the sweet spots providing action, humor and intelligent characters.  I'm thankful the wait for the next installment is only a month away!

Rating:  A

Iron Druid Chronicles ~

Hounded
Hexed
Hammered
A Test of Mettle ( free short story/author's website)
Tricked
Two Ravens and One Crow (novella/e-book)
Trapped (November 27, 2012)
Hunted (2013)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Library Loot


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.  It's easy to join, just post your loot and link up with Mr. Linky at either Claire or Marg's blog.  It's that simple!


Hey there!  I've been meaning to join in the weekly Library Loot forever and I finally remember to post my loot!  I'm a regular at the library, stopping in a couple of times a week. Usually it's to pick up holds or return items but every once in a while I'll check out what the library has on display in their featured section.

This week the display features cookbooks.  I love cookbooks but I do have a pet peeve about cookbooks - they must have pictures!  I'm always surprised when I pick up a cookbook with little or no pictures. They must have at least some pictures, not drawings, of the finale product.  No pictures, not interested.  I did spot Anne Burrell's Cook Like a Rock Star.  Lots of delicious looking pictures along with some of Anne with friends and family.

A quick look inside and I already found three recipes I want to try.  The first is Killer Mac & Cheese with Bacon.  Now, I'm not a big fan of mac & cheese but add bacon to the mix and I'm more than willing to give it a try.

Next is Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Spiced Nilla Wafer Crust.  Doesn't that sound tasty?  I've just recently, in the last few years, come to appreciate the deliciousness that is cheesecake.  Never had it with goat cheese but I'm up for a little adventure, I just won't tell the kids about the goat cheese. :)

The other recipe is one for Stewed Zucchini.  I rarely eat zucchini, mostly because the only way I'm at all familiar with it is in zucchini bread.  But the picture looked yummy and it's healthy.  Win/Win.

The next book I picked up is J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy.  This of course was a hold, lots of requests for this one.  I never read the Harry Potter books, *gasp* so this venture into adult fiction will be my first read of Rowling.  Anyone read this yet?  It's quite big, just a smidge over 500 pages.  And the font is small, but that could just be my vanity in refusing to wear my reading glasses.  I wish I could have gotten it on audiobook format but that wait would have been longer since there are only a few copies available.  I might see if the teen wants to read it first and get her reaction before I read it. 

Lastly, I picked up an audiobook on CD.  I prefer to download my audiobooks from the library's online site but sometimes it's quicker to get the CD.  The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman caught my attention, heck, I'm not sure where I heard about it but I like the blurb plus it's post World War I, Australia and features a lighthouse.  I've always been fascinated by lighthouses ever since I was a kid.  Dreamed of living in one too, just never got the chance.  I am a little concerned because it does sound very emotional but I'm also intrigued as to how the story will play out.

So there's my Library Loot for this week. Did you get any goodies from the library this week?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

ARC Review: The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys
Maggie Stiefvater
Young Adult/Urban Fantasy
Raven Cycle Series/Book 1
Scholastic Press/September 18, 2012

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.


Ms. Stiefvater knows how to set the scene.  She also knows how to write a story that pulls the reader into the world she has created, making us believe in this world and the beings who live there. The Raven Boys is that type of story.

Blue Sargent comes from a family of clairvoyants. She is surrounded by magic but without any of her own, or so it seems.  Blue's mother doesn't provide a structured environment so Blue must create her own structured life. Blue is easy to related to which in a way came as a surprise since she comes from such a unique background.  But she has many of the problems, worries and fears any teenage girl would have.  Plus a few very unique ones.

The boys are an odd collection of teens on the edge of adulthood with adult responsibilities.  At first sight they don't seem to go together except for the one commonality of all attending the same school, Aglionby Academy.  But when we get to know these boys we see how they are drawn together through their friendships.   The boys provide a interesting contrast to Blue and her less than privileged life.  But going to Aglionby Academy doesn't equal having a perfect, privileged life.  Stiefvater shows the similarities not only with the boys but with Blue and how they are all reaching for very similar goals.

The magic and mystery within The Raven Boys is both enthralling and chilling.  I loved not only the journey the kids take in discovering the mystery but the way it's all tied together at the end.  It's one of those ending where you can look back and see the clues to the questions that are finally answered in the end.  But, a word of waring, there are a few unanswered questions that will leave readers wanting more. 

Rating: A-

Monday, September 24, 2012

Review: Angel of Darkness

Angel of Darkness
Cynthia Eden
Paranormal Romance
The Fallen/Book 1
Brava/November 29, 2011

As an angel of death, Keenan’s job is to collect the souls on his list. He’s carried out his duty for two thousand years and never faltered once. Until he meets Nicole St. James. When the moment of death comes, Keenan hesitates, and instead of taking Nicole, Keenan touches the vampire who’s attacking her.

Cast out of heaven for disobedience, Keenan plummets to earth. Six months later, he finally manages to track Nicole to a bar in Mexico. He’s stunned to discover that the woman he remembers has undergone a dramatic change—she’s become a vampire. And when he realizes that she’s the target of all manner of enemies—other vampires, demons, even shifters—he’ll do whatever it takes to protect her, even if all hell breaks loose…


Fallen Angels - sometimes they work for me, sometimes they don't.  To believe that a being moves from angelic good to total badass overnight is quite a leap of faith.   In the case of Keenan, I got the feeling this was a long time coming.  He's been suppressing his needs by focusing on his duty until one night it all comes to a head.  

Nicole St. James is a devoted teacher, good friend and an upstanding citizen.  Then one night she's attacked and turned into a vampire.  Everything she has worked for is gone and she must go into the darkness to survive.  It turns out our angel Keenan isn't the only one who undergoes a radical transformation.  Nicole learns how to fight and how to take a life.  I liked how we see Nicole come to grips with who and what she's lost to what she must become if she's to live the new world of monsters.  

Keenan has been a death angel for thousands of years.  Work that long at the same job and something has to give.  Keenan really struggled with his decision to save Nicole's life or take it as he was ordered to.  It took him so long I thought she might just die while he continued to ponder what to do!  But once Keenan decides there's no turning back.  He's not a great hero, the secondary male character left a greater impression on me than Keenan did.  But Keenan does have his good points, even if they were few.  

The romance is one of those on-the-run types which only works sometimes.  This time Nicole and Keenan let there libidos take charge a few too many times.  Keenan was more fixated on Nicole because she was the reason, the catalyst, for his downfall.  She thankfully, doesn't trust him right off the bat and really makes him earn that trust.  Still, I wasn't feeling the romance.  

The secondary characters really helped move the story along.  I'm looking forward to the next book about Sammael, "call me Sam".  He has badass down to an art form.  Even with the issues I had with not being all that thrilled with the romance I do like what I'm seeing of the world and the fallen angels.
 
Rating: B-

The Fallen Series ~

Angel of Darkness
Angel Betrayed
Angel in Chains (November 27, 2012)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

TBR Challenge Review: Blood Ties

Blood Ties
Lori Armstrong
Mystery
PI Julie Collins Series/Book 1
Medallion Press/May 1, 2005

Julie Collins is stuck in a dead-end secretarial job with the Bear Butte County Sheriff’s office, and still grieving over the unsolved murder of her Lakota half-brother. Lack of public interest in finding his murderer, or the killer of several other transient Native American men, has left Julie with a bone-deep cynicism she counters with tequila, cigarettes, and dangerous men. The one bright spot in her mundane life is the time she spends working part-time as a PI with her childhood friend, Kevin Wells. 

When the body of a sixteen-year old white girl is discovered in nearby Rapid Creek, Julie believes this victim will receive the attention others were denied. Then she learns Kevin has been hired, mysteriously, to find out where the murdered girl spent her last few days. Julie finds herself drawn into the case against her better judgment, and discovers not only the ugly reality of the young girl’s tragic life and brutal death, but ties to her and Kevin’s past that she is increasingly reluctant to revisit. 

On the surface the situation is eerily familiar. But the parallels end when Julie realizes some family secrets are best kept buried deep. Especially those serious enough to kill for.

I've read Lori Armstrong's two Mercy Gunderson mysteries, enjoyed them.  So when the suggested topic of non-romance came up for this month's challenge it seemed like a good idea to give Armstrong's Julie Collins series a try.  If you're not much for mysteries but enjoy erotic cowboy romances, Lori Armstrong also writes steamy, sexy cowboy romances under the name Lorelei James.

So, it turns out the Julie Collins series was a mixed bag for me.  I found the story interesting but the characters, well, I can't think of any that I liked.  As in, would like to hang out with in real life.  Julie is a mess in both her personal life and her professional life.  She is 34 but acts much younger, turning to the bottle for her comfort when her one and only friend Kevin, isn't always available to keep her company.  They have an odd relationship, friends since they were kids, with some attraction going on but they're too afraid to act on it.  Plus, they're both seeing other people. 

The mystery had clues all over the place but piecing them together took a lot of doing.  There were times when it felt like Julie and Kevin were running around in circles, overlooking some obvious leads.  I was also surprised at how much Kevin had Julie doing when it didn't seem she had very much training.   Julie does have this uncanny ability to attract trouble.  Her smart mouth doesn't help but I couldn't help but feel sorry for her and wish she would not push people so much.  She's hit, punched and smacked around a number of times.  The way Julie reacts to the violence is telling in how she isn't shocked so much as practically expecting it.

As the story progresses, Julie reveals and relives more of her past and we get to see why she acts the way she does.  I do hope she learns to value herself more as the series advances.  She has potential to become not only a likeable character but one the reader could actually root for.  Even without feeling any personal connection with a character, the story kept me reading, wanting to know the answers to the many questions of the murders and how everything connected.   For now, I'm curious to see where Julie takes her relationships and her career.

Rating: B-

PI Julie Collins Series ~

Blood Ties
Hallowed Ground
Shallow Grave
Dead Flowers novella (Guns and Roses anthology)
Snow Blind

Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: Delusion in Death

Delusion in Death
J. D. Robb
Futuristic Suspense
In Death/Book 35
Putnam/September 11, 2012

*Spoilers for previous books

It was just another after-work happy-hour bar downtown, where business professionals unwound with a few drinks . . .until something went terribly wrong. And after twelve minutes of chaos and violence, eighty people lay dead.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas is trying to sort out the inexplicable events. Surviving witnesses talk about seeing things—monsters and swarms of bees. They describe sudden, overwhelming feelings of fear and rage and paranoia. When forensics gives its report, the mass delusions make more sense: It appears the
bar patrons were exposed to a cocktail of chemicals and illegal drugs that could drive anyone to temporary insanity—if not kill them outright.

But that doesn’t explain who would unleash such horror—or why. And if Eve can’t figure it out fast, it could happen again, anytime, anywhere. Because it’s airborne. . . .


You would think after 35 books the series would have lost it's appeal several books ago.  Instead, Robb continues to captivate readers with the gritty, often destructive portrayal of the life of LT. Eve Dallas and her futuristic world of  New York City.

This time the body count builds up quickly and I think that's one thing that bothered me about this book.  It depressed me.  So many victims.  Not only the dead but their families, friends as well as the survivors and the people who live and work in the neighborhood.  Delusion in Death is well written, no surprise there, but it has a very dark tone that never really lifts.  Dallas is still dealing with the fallout of her trip down memory lane in New York to Dallas (September 2011).  Eve's reunion with her long lost mother has brought on more nightmares Eve must deal with in addition to her usually ones fueled by her father. 

The mystery surrounding the possible suspect(s) in the attacks is compelling and filled with the usual detailed police procedural aspects I've enjoyed in previous In Death novels.  I did like how all the pieces began to fit together and seeing Dallas and her team working on the different angles is always interesting.  There is also Dallas and Roarke's relationship which has pretty much leveled out and offers no real surprises but still continues to enthrall this reader with their deep love and affection.

The wasn't a whole lot of Dallas/Peabody time, which I missed.  Peabody is my favorite secondary character and I have completely enjoyed seeing how the relationship between her and Dallas has evolved over the series.   There were a lot of characters involved not only on the police side but the victims and witness side as well.  That may have been why it felt thin at times, as if we weren't getting as deep a look into the character's lives as I would have liked.  Granted, many of the characters are well known by now but it still felt a little stilted with regards to relationships. 

Even with the depressing vibe running throughout the story, I still enjoyed catching up with the gang from future New York City and look forward to more time with them.

Rating:  B

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Review: The Viper

The Viper
Monica McCarty
Historical Romance
England/Scotland/1306
Highland Guard/Book 4
Ballantine/October 18, 2011

The war for Scotland’s sovereignty rages on—as Robert the Bruce is crowned king and the Highland Guard, his elite fighting force of legendary warriors, battle for land . . . and love.

Prized for his snakelike stealth and deadly strikes, Lachlan “Viper” MacRuairi is a warrior to enlist but not to trust. His only loyalty is to his purse, his indifference sealed by bitter betrayal. All that changes when Lachlan is tasked to protect and deliver Bella MacDuff to the king’s coronation—and the proud, lushly sensual countess unwittingly challenges him to his greatest battle yet: to love again.

Passionate and devoted, Bella has defied Britain’s king and her own husband to place the crown on Bruce’s head, and for this she pays a terrible price: Losing her daughter and her freedom to her husband’s vengeance. Imprisoned with barbaric cruelty, she vows to reclaim her child, even if it means selling her soul—and her body—to a dark, lethal warrior whose eyes glint like steel, but who makes her skin tingle and her breath race. Together they embark on a rogue mission with sinister twists and turns that threatens not only Bella’s gamble to save her daughter—but also her heart.


This was such an emotional, intense romance.  The pain and uncertainty both the hero and heroine go through makes their happy ever after that much more satisfying.  Ms. McCarty has created a world of men and women who fight for their freedom as fiercely as they fight for their loved ones.  The Viper gives enough backstory to be read as a stand alone but I do think the reader would achieve a greater understanding of Robert the Bruce's men by reading the previous books.  Plus -they're all very good and worth the read.

Countess Isabella MacDuff is willing to stand fast in her beliefs.  It is this trait has brought her to her fate of imprisonment by King Edward I.  Not only is Bella imprisoned but she is to be made an example of Edward's power and wraith.  Bella is placed in a cage, high on a tower of Berwick Castle.  It's a brutal existance she endures and one cannot but feel the despair and loneliness she must endure.  Bella is a heroine portrayed with a noble dignity underlying a fierce protectiveness and loyalty.  This comes comes across well in her words and actions.  She also has this vulneralbility towards Lachlan even though she doesn't trust him.  I loved how Bella is shown to have her emotional side waring with her loyalties.

Lachlan MacRuirie could be called a mercenary and he's fine with that.  He doesn't pretend he's in Bruce's elite Highland Guard out of sheer loyalty.  Lachlan has responsibilities he doesn't care to share with his fellow guards but instead lets them go on thinking he is only there for selfish, monetary reasons.   Which is one reason he tends to stay on the periphery of the guards.  One of them but not as close as the other men are to each other.  Lachlan may seem cold hearted at times and he is but it's just his nature and McCarty does well in explaining his history and why he keeps himself closed off from everyone.  I really enjoyed getting to know this hero.

We connect again with some of the other members of the guard and while Lachlan tries to keep his distance, there is still that bond of brotherhood forged in war.  I think the other guards would have come to trust Lachlan more if he had only explained himself but that wasn't his way.  I liked how Bella shows Lachlan how to open up, if only a little, to the other men and allow for a closer bond.  The relationships are complex and well developed.  McCarty does well in showing the whys of each characters actions whether they make the best choice at the time or not.   

The historical descriptions are vivid in the setting, people and elements of the time period.  It's a cruel world with many ruthless, powerful people fighting for control.   I loved the feel of the story, the diversity of characters and the history of the time period.  It's not all shining knights and damsels needing rescue but a knight with a bit of tarnish to his armor and a damsel does her own type of rescuing.  Definitely a worthwhile series!

Rating:  A

Highland Guard Series ~

The Chief
The Hawk
The Ranger
The Viper
The Saint
The Recruit  (October 30, 2012)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

ARC Review: Outpost

Outpost
Ann Aguirre
Young Adult/Dystopian
Razorland Trilogy/Book 2
Feiwel & Friends/September 4, 2012

*Spoilers for Book 1

SALVATION ISN’T AS SAFE AS IT SEEMS.

Deuce’s whole world has changed. Now living topside in a community called Salvation, she has a whole new set of problems. Down below, she was considered an adult, and she contributed to the whole. Now, topside, the people of Salvation think she’s a brat in need of training. She hates school, and she doesn’t fit in with the other girls. They’ve spent their lives learning to cook and sew–suitable woman’s work. Deuce only knows how to fight. To make matters worse, Fade keeps her at a distance, and the band of four has broken into fragments.


Stalker presses for a closer relationship, but Deuce sees him as a training partner, and she’s busy trying to find her place in Salvation. She refuses to accept that she’s wrong for being who she is, but tensions rise as she struggles against the status quo. Her feelings for Fade haven’t changed, but he seems not to want her around anymore. Confused and lonely, she starts looking for a way out.

Once she’s free from school for the year, Deuce pursues a chance to serve in the summer patrols–those responsible for making sure the growers and planters can work the fields without danger of Freak attack. It should have been routine, little fighting, but things have been changing on surface, just as they did below ground. The Freaks are smarter. They’re watching. Waiting. Planning. The monsters don’t intend to let Salvation survive, and it will take a girl like Deuce to turn the tide.

Ann Aguirre's second book in her Razorland trilogy starts out slow but picks up the pace as the increasing danger from the Freaks escalates.  Deuce, Fade, Stalker and Tegan are all adjusting to life in Salvation, some better than others.  For Deuce, it's a world trying to change her identity, and while Deuce tries to fit, in she realizes she can't give up who she really is. 

Salvation is a world unlike anything Deuce has experienced before.  She is out of her element, forced to wear dresses and suppress her hunter instincts.  She tries to do as she told but fitting in doesn't come to her, instead she remain on the periphery of the community, maintaining her outsider status.  It's not long before Deuce finds a way to put her skills to work.  Deuce's struggle is easy to identify with.  We've all felt at one time and outsider.  Out of our element.  Even with Deuce's fierce survival skills, she must learn new skills to survive in Salvation.  I enjoyed Deuce's point of view on what the citizens of Salvation placed importance on and Deuce's lack of understanding how some skills could possibly translate to survival.  It's a stark contrast to the world she comes from where survival is the only thing of importance.

The  group of four who made it out of the ruins and into Salvation have split up, trying to move on with their lives in Salvation.  It's Deuce and Stalker that have the most trouble fitting in, neither wanting to give up their fighting skills but instead want to continue fighting the Freaks.  The people of Salvation believe the wall will keep them safe and their trust in that wall shows how very different their lives have been compared to Deuce and her friends.  Again, Aguirre does well in showing the contrast of beliefs based on the experiences of the characters.  As the Freaks aggression and cunning increases, Deuce's skills become even more valued but she still must deal with prejudices from the community. 

Where Enclave (Book 1), grabbed me from the get-go, Outpost had a much slower start, making it difficult to become consumed by the story from the start.  This is a new setting so even though it is the second book in the series, the world building must start from nearly the ground up.  After the elements have been established the plot begins to take off,  picking up the pace and the intensity, and giving the reader more to look forward to in this dystopian world.   

Rating:  B

Razorland Trilogy

Enclave
Outpost
Horde

Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: Nowhere to Run

Nowhere to Run
Nancy Bush
Romantic Suspense
Zebra/July 31, 2012

Some Secrets

When Liv Dugan ducks out of work for lunch, it’s just an ordinary day. When she returns, she stumbles onto a massacre. All her colleagues at Zuma Software have been shot. Only luck has left Liv unscathed, and that might be running out…

Will Follow You

Liv suspects the shootings are tied to her past—and to the package she recently received from her long-dead adoptive mother. Sensing she’s being followed, Liv jumps into a stranger’s car and orders him to drive. Her “hostage” complies, listening carefully as her story unwinds. Skeptical at first, he ultimately begins to believe all Liv’s fears are justified…

To Your Grave

Together, Liv and her unlikely confidant try to uncover the truth about her adoptive family, her birth parents, and her troubled childhood. Because somewhere in Liv’s past is a secret worth killing for, and a nightmare she can never outrun…


A shout out to Hilcia from Impressions of a Reader for sending Ms. Bush's romantic suspense my way.   :)

Romantic suspense has become one of my favorite romantic sub-genres but isn't always easy to pull off. In the case of Nowhere to Run, the romance happens on the run with little build up from first meet to first sexual encounter.  Add in deception on the part of both the hero and the heroine, and you have a less than believable romance. 

Liv Dugan is no stranger to trauma.  Liv's mother died when Liv was six years old leaving Liv with nightmares and a history of mental anguish.  She tries to keep her life as uncomplicated as possible, living life while trying to maintain a calmness she never really achieves.  Liv is running on auto-pilot after fleeing a shooting at her workplace.  She doesn't always make the best decisions and her paranoia, while much deserved, colors those decisions.  We always think we'll know how to react in a crises but that isn't always the case and Liv's reactions came off as more realistic than had she done everything perfectly in planning and executing her escape.  Her paranoia had a tendency to take over her personality and she jumped into bed a little too quickly with the hero but she also didn't pull the "why me" crap so I'd give her bonus points for that.  


Auggie is an odd name for a hero but it ended up suiting this hero.  Auggie is walking a very thin line when it comes to his relationship with Liv.  He meets her when she takes him hostage at gunpoint then tries to help her, all the while falling for her.  Interesting role reversal but unfortunately I didn't buy it.  It is mentioned a time or two that Auggie has a weakness for damsel's in distress and boy did Liv fit that description.  But having a weakness for helping someone and falling into bed with someone are two very different things.  I also got the impression that Auggie was not the type to jump in bed with just any woman.  Again, liked him except for how quickly he hit the sheets with Liv.  Not only were his deep feelings for her unbelievable in such a short period of time (less than a week), there was a very clear conflict of interest.  

The suspense of the story centers around the mysterious package Liv received from her mother who had been dead for nearly twenty years.  Then there is the workplace shooting and a gruesome murder.  This is what drove the plot far more than the developing romance.  Often I get a feeling, if not outright knowing who the murderer is.  This time it was almost too obvious who it was not.  There are a number of twists to the plot but in the end, it wasn't apparent who the threat to Liv was and I'm not sure the clues were there throughout the story.   The murderer seems to come out of nowhere. 

The secondary characters are interesting enough but there is definite sequel bait in the form of the hero's sister.  She had a decent size role and the ending did leave me wanting to read her story.   So in that sense the book did work.  I only wish the romance had been stronger and better woven within the suspense plot. 

Rating:  C+

Nowhere to Run
Nowhere to Hide

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Review: Mariana

Mariana
Susanna Kearsley
Time Travel Romance
Corgi Books/1994
Reprinted/1995, 2009, 2012

The first time Julia Beckett saw Greywethers she was only five, but she knew at once that it was her house. Now, twenty-five years later, by some strange chance, she has just become the new owner of the sixteenth-century Wilshire farmhouse. But Julia soon begins to suspect that more than coincidence has brought her there. 

As if Greywethers were a porthal between worlds, she finds herself abruptly transported back in time. Stepping into seventeenth-century England, Julia becomes Mariana, a beautiful young woman struggling against danger and treachery, and battling a forbidden love for Richard de Mornay, handsome forebear of the present squire of Crofton Hall. 

Each time Julia travels back, she becomes more enthralled with the past, falling ever deeper in love with Richard...until one day she realizes Mariana's life threatens to eclipse her own--and that she must find a way to lay the past to rest, or risk losing a chance for love in her own time.

Oh, what a lovely story!  Susanna Kearsley truly has the gift of story-telling.  I was enraptured by the characters, the plot and the setting. Mariana is a quiet romance, unfolding throughout the story but giving over to the development of the characters and the mystery surrounding Greywethers and its history.  

Julia Beckett has a history with Greywethers, the beautiful country home she has held in her heart ever since she first saw it.  She is now the owner and couldn't feel more at home.  The village is a welcoming place, giving Julia the opportunity to meet new and interesting people.  Then strange things begin to happen to Julia and she's not sure if she's hallucinating or having some very odd dreams.    It turns out she is traveling back in time, becoming Mariana, living Mariana's life.  It's all quite fascinating for both Julia and the reader.  Kearsley handles the time travel wonderfully and by the end it's easy to believe.  Julia is a character straight from modern day life who happens to have an extraordinary experience.  

I really did love exploring the possibilities of time travel with Julia.  At first, she finds it hard to believe, just as anyone might.  Then as things progress it becomes the only plausible explanation for the events that Julia is living.  Both Julia and Mariana's time periods are equally captivating.  Both held mysteries and romances while maintaining very distinct moods. Kearsley uses the two time periods to show how very different women are treated and what power, or lack of, they had.  Even with the differences there is still an underlying tone of the promise of love conquering all.

Mariana is a story that is at times humorous, thought provoking and deeply emotional.  If you cry easily be sure to have tissues handy.  It is a non-traditional romance I highly recommend! 


Rating:  A

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: Defiant

Defiant
Pamela Clare
Historical Romance
American Colonies/1760
MacKinnon Rangers/Book 3
Berkley/July 3, 2012

Major Connor MacKinnon despises his commander, Lord William Wentworth, beyond all other men. Ordered to rescue Wentworth's niece after the Shawnee take her captive, he expects Lady Sarah Woodville to be every bit as arrogant and contemptible as her uncle. Instead, he finds a brave and beautiful lass in desperate peril. But the only way to free Sarah is for Connor to defeat the Shawnee warrior who kidnapped her—and claim her himself.

Torn by tragedy from her sheltered life in London, Lady Sarah is unprepared for the harshness of the frontier—or for the attraction she feels toward Connor as he guides her first through the consummation of their forced union and then through the dangers of the wilderness. When they reach civilization, however, it is she who must protect him. For if her uncle knew all that Connor had done to save her, he would surely kill him.

But the flames of passion, once kindled, are difficult to deny. As desire transforms into love, Connor will have to defy an empire to keep Sarah at his side.

It's been nearly four years since the second book in the series, Untamed (November 2008) was released.  Since then many fans have wondered what would happened to Connor and when would he get his Happy Ever After?  Well, Connor has his HEA and I couldn't be more thrilled with how it turned out!  

Connor MacKinnon has spent the last five years fighting a war he wants no part of.  He and his two brothers were blackmailed into creating a superior fighting force that has become known as MacKinnon's Rangers.  Connor is now the last of the MacKinnon brothers still fighting and he longs for the days when the war will end.  I simply adored Connor!  His loyalty to his brothers and the men he fights with makes it hard to resist this hero.  We also see what he considers his weaknesses which only work to epitomize the depth of his character.  Family is everything to Connor and when he must rescue a family member of a man he has sworn to kill, it makes it hard to look past to the woman beyond the name.

Lady Sarah Wentworth left London in disgrace and in her attempt to reach her beloved uncle, is taken captive.  Sarah is resourceful, courageous and stubborn.  Which all come in handy when she gets a crash course in survival.  She learns how dangerous the colonies can be as well as how beautiful they are.  Sarah doesn't know about the bad blood between Connor and her uncle, Lord William Wentworth.  Instead, Sarah has heard only of the bravery of MacKinnon's Rangers.  This makes for much conflict between Sarah and Connor as they fall in love.  I really liked how Sarah was torn between her belief in the goodness of her uncle as she comes to realize what he has done to Connor and his brothers.  She's very conflicted over the two men she loves.  Even when she sees her uncle's deviousness, she doesn't stop loving him but aches over the loss of  his greatness in her eyes.  

Connor and Sarah have such a beautiful and at times tragic romance.  They must overcome so much which is consistent with everything going on around them.  The war ugliness of war isn't glossed over and set aside to make room for the romance.  Instead, Connor and Sarah must make the best of the situation they find themselves in, which only makes their love that much stronger.  Pamela Clare has a way of getting to the heart of her characters by showing their courage in the face of adversity.  

This wouldn't have been such a wonderful story without the secondary characters of the MacKinnon brothers, Ian and Morgan and their families.  There is also Captain Joseph, blood brother to the MacKinnons and the Rangers themselves who add to the camaraderie and historical feel of the story.  

Pamela Clare has again giving readers a great romance bound within a fascinating setting that only makes me want more.  Perhaps Joseph will get his own book?  We can only hope!

Rating:  A

MacKinnon Rangers Series ~

Surrender 
Untamed
Defiant