Monday, December 16, 2013

Audio Review: Red Country

Red Country
Joe Abercrombie
Narrator: Steven Pacey
Fantasy/Western
The First Law World
Orbit/October 18, 2012

They burned her home.
They stole her brother and sister.
But vengeance is following. 

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she'll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she's not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old step father Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb's buried a bloody past of his own. And out in the lawless Far Country the past never stays buried.

Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into an alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust...

Brilliant!  This was such a treasure to listen to.  Not only did Abercrombie do an amazing job creating a world of fantasy woven into a western-like setting but Pacey's narration truly brought it to life.

It it not necessary to have read the previous books set in the First Law World.  Red Country is written as a stand alone but it did make me want to grab up those previous books in the First Law World and discover how some of the characters fared in earlier installments.

The world Shy South lives in is a harsh world filled with hard work, numerous responsibilities and little enjoyment.  But Shy carries on with her life, if not truly happy, then perhaps nearly content.  All of that is about to change when her siblings are kidnapped.  We see how both Shy and Lamb shed their current roles as farmers and become hunters and killers. It is a violent world they journey into, as they reach back into their pasts to cope with the present.

The story is filled with a host of secondary characters who don't like being kept in the background.  As the plot progresses, an ensemble cast quickly forms to join with Shy and Lamb on their journey.   Abercrombie took the time to develop the secondary characters to give them not only backgrounds but make them standout in their own ways.  From the most powerful to the youngest, the characters' emotions and actions show how some of them must change and grow along with the story in order to survive.  While other characters remain the same to the last, staying true to how they have been portrayed.

The characters are not the only ones who are well developed.  The places Shy, Lamb and the others travel to are brought to life in Abercrombie's vivid descriptions of not just the buildings and harsh environments but the smells and sounds.  Those descriptions help the reader understand what the characters are feeling and thinking when they encounter these uncivilized settlements.  

Red Country is a magnificent blend of action and adventure.  The fight scenes are beautifully startling in their brutality.  But it is the characters that are the driving force in this adventure.  They pull you in and make you, if not like them, then at the very least earn your grudging respect.

Hat's off to Abercrombie for creating these fascinating characters and Pacey for giving them their voices!

Rating: A+

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: Below

Below
Ryan Lockwood
Suspense/Action
Pinnacle/June 25, 2013

In all his years as a professional diver, Will Sturman has never encountered a killing machine more ferocious than the great white shark or as deadly as the piranha. Now, off the coast of California, something is rising from the deep--and multiplying. Voracious, unstoppable, and migrating north, an ungodly life form trailed by a gruesome wake of corpses. 

With the help of the brilliant and beautiful oceanographer Valerie Martell, Will finds himself in a race against time to stop the slaughter--by a predator capable of devastating the world's oceans.

Pray it kills you quickly.


A little diversity is good for the reading soul. That's why I decided to give Ryan Lockwood's Below a try.  It's a look into what lurks under the beautiful Pacific Ocean.  We all know that something as beautiful as the Pacific can also be very deadly.  Sharks are what usually come to mind when you think of something pulling you under the water and eating you alive.  Turns out, sharks are the least of our worries.

If you're looking for romance, look elsewhere.  While there's a little action between the sheets, it can easily be overlooked for the more important plot of what is devouring those foolish enough to swim in the ocean. Will Sturman, full-time diver and part-time drunk, teams up with Dr. Valerie Martell.  Martell is a research scientist who prefers spending her time below the water than above.  The main characters are developed with enough back story to give the reader insight into what drives them but the central focus is on the terror beneath the ocean.

The plot runs a pretty straight line.  I found myself predicting, with a high rate of accuracy, who would be the next meal for the "terror from below".  The story still proved to be entertaining and an escape from life's more mundane problems.  One thing I did like was the point of view of the "terror from below". I thought it gave the story a refreshing twist.

So not groundbreaking but a story with some action, suspense and a look at what lives Below.

Rating: C+

Friday, November 22, 2013

Review: Two of a Kind

Two of a Kind
Susan Mallery
Contemporary Romance
Fool's Gold/Book 11
Harlequin/June 25, 2013

Felicia Swift never dreamed she'd hear a deep, sexy voice from her past in tiny Fool's Gold, California. The last time Gideon Boylan whispered in her ear was half a world away...on the morning after the hottest night of her life. Her freaky smarts have limited her close friendships, and romance, but she came to Fool's Gold looking for ordinary. Gorgeous, brooding Gideon is anything but that.

Black Ops taught Gideon that love could be deadly. Now he pretends to fit in while keeping everyone at arm's length. Felicia wants more than he can give-a home, family, love-but she has a lot to learn about men...and Gideon needs to be the man to teach her.

As these two misfits discover that passion isn't the only thing they have in common, they just might figure out that two of a kind should never be split apart.

Welcome back to Fool's Gold where romance will find you whether you want it to or not.  It seems to be those who claim to not want a happily ever after are usually the people who need it most of all.  Such is the case for Gideon Boylan.

When Gideon Boylan moved to Fool's Gold he thought he could be a hermit, living alone and keeping mostly to himself with the occasional trip into town.   His friends, however, have other plans.  So they pull him out of his hermi-tude a little at a time.  When Gideon runs into Felicia, he's surprised and a little scared, not that he would admit it.  I liked Gideon's vulnerable side, how it reflected his past experiences which he also tried to hide.

Felicia Swift is a genuine genius.  She practically grew up on a college campus, raised by professors instead of parents.  Felicia hasn't let this stop her from wanting a more traditional life for herself, in fact it probably made her crave it that much more.  Felicia isn't easy to warm up to, she's full of facts and seems to have a hard time with emotions.  In a way, she's very childlike when it comes to relationships.  She says what she's thinking, not always realizing what the outcome might be.

Gideon and Felicia didn't come across as a good fit.  The attraction was strong but beyond that, it felt like they were basing their relationship on a one-night stand.  Gideon didn't want the same things out of life that Felicia did.  She wants to become part of the Fool's Gold community where Gideon wants very little contact with the population.  He would rather limit his contact to the air waves of the radio station he owns than participate in the various festivals the town is known for.

Fool's Gold is full of all types of people.  It's what makes it the type of place readers want to go back to again and again.  The problem that can occur with small town romances are those very people who make up the town.  They tend to encroach on the romance, taking time away from the hero and heroine that would be better spent showing the development of the relationship.

So not a bad romance but it simply didn't work on all levels for me.  It did however, leave me looking forward to reading the next book in the series.  So that's always a plus!

Rating: C+

Fool's Gold Series ~

Chasing Perfect
Almost Perfect
Sister of the Bride (novella in Summer Brides anthology)
Finding Perfect
Only Mine
Only Yours
Only His
Only Us (novella in Almost Summer anthology)
Summer Days
Summer Nights
All Summer Long
A Fool's Gold Christmas (novella)
Halfway There (novella)
Just One Kiss
Two of a Kind
Three Little Words
Christmas on 4th Street (novella)
When We Met (April 29, 2014)
Before We Kiss (May 27, 2014)
Until We Touch (June 24, 2014)
Yours For Christmas (September 30, 2014/novella)

Fool's Gold Cookbook: A Love Story Told Through 150 Recipes


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Review: The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project
Graeme Simsion
Contemporary Romance
Simon & Schuster/October 1, 2013 
(First published, April 1, 2013)

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

When applying science to relationships there's always a strong possibility of a completely unforeseen outcome.  These are the results Professor Don Tillman discovers.  Don is an extremely intelligent person.  He's what you would call book smart with his street smarts lagging woefully behind.  He doesn't know how to interaction with others and has a hard time relating to most people.

Rosie is a breath of fresh, new air in Don's life.  She breaks down his preconceptions of what traits he must have in a wife.  She is the catalyst that brings about Don's transformation and she does it all while simply being herself.  Rosie was a lot of fun, especially when interacting with Don.  It was funny to see his confusion with regards to Rosie.  He doesn't expect to enjoy spending time with her, they have absolutely nothing in common, or so he thinks.  Their relationship is written in a way that is perfectly believable as it develops into a romance.

Don is someone who can easily becoming that annoying person you try to avoid at all costs.  He's an odd duck but as the story progresses Don becomes more than the computer like genius he was in the beginning.  The changes may seem small, he still maintains his high intelligence, but those changes have a profound affect on his life.

The Rosie Project is an amusing look at one man's search for a mate.  It's a perfect example of the phrase "God laughs when you make plans".  Professor Don Tillman makes numerous plans but learns that some of the best things in life are the things you don't plan for.

Rating:  B+

Monday, November 4, 2013

ARC Review: Through the Evil Days

Through the Evil Days
Mystery
Reverand Clare Ferguson/Russ Van Alstyne/Book 8
Minotar Books/November 5, 2013

On a frigid January night, Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne and Reverend Clare Fergusson are called to the scene of a raging fire, that quickly becomes a double homicide and kidnapping. Which is the very last thing Russ needs...Currently he's struggling with the prospect of impending fatherhood. And his new wife is not at all happy with his proposal for their long-delayed honeymoon: a week in an unelectrified ice-fishing cabin. The vestry of St. Alban's Church has called for the bishop to investigate Clare's "unpriestly" pregnancy. She has one week to find out if she will be scolded, censured, or suspended from her duties.

Officer Hadley Knox is having a miserable January as well. Her on-again-off-again lover, Kevin Flynn, has seven days to weigh an offer from the Syracuse Police Department that might take him half a state away.

As the days and hours tick by, Russ and Clare fight personal and professional battles they've never encountered. In the course of this one tumultuous week the lives of the Millers-Kill residents have come to love and cherish change forever.

This is a series you need to start at the beginning.  Not only because it is so well written but because the characters grow and change as the course of the series progresses.  You wouldn't be completely lost if you start with Through the Evil Days but you would lose that sense of knowing these characters and understanding of how they think.

While Clare and Russ have not had an easy romance by any stretch of the imagination, they are finally able to settle into married life, right after a delayed honeymoon.  The boundaries they set with their careers and their personal lives are very flexible so a honeymoon in a remote location should provide no interference from the outside world.  As much as Russ and Clare try to enjoy their honeymoon, they are both too committed to helping others.

Russ and Clare are not the only ones whose plans are not turning out the way they hoped.  Hadley Knox, single mom and California transplant, is dealing with temptation at work and her past coming back to haunt her.  Hadley is not a typical cop but more or less stumbled into the job out of necessity.  Kevin Flynn might not seem like a typical cop at first glance but he was meant to be a police officer.  Between them they actually make a good team.  I do like how their relationship is developing in both the professional and personal.

As life intrudes on Russ and Clare's honeymoon, so does mystery and danger.  The pace was fairly fast mixed in with some down time but overall, the main plot and subplots, kept moving towards the culmination of good versus evil.  There were a few instances of conflict between Russ and Clare that surprised me in that they came from a place I thought had already been resolved.  There were certainly some very big loose ends dangling by the end of the book.  I just hope we don't have to wait eighteen months for the next book.

Rating: B+

In the Bleak Midwinter
A Fountain Filled With Blood
Out of the Deep I Cry
To Darkness and to Death
All Mortal Flesh
I Shall Not Want
One Was a Soldier
Through the Evil Days

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review: Lord of Darkness

Lord of Darkness
Elizabeth Hoyt
Historical Romance/England/1740
Maiden Lane/Book 5
Grand Central Publishing/February 26, 2013

When Strangers In The Night

He lives in the shadows. As the mysterious masked avenger known as the Ghost of St. Giles, Godric St. John's only goal is to protect the innocent of London. Until the night he confronts a fearless young lady pointing a pistol at his head—and realizes she is his wife.


Become Lovers...


Lady Margaret Reading has vowed to kill the Ghost of St. Giles—the man who murdered her one true love. Returning to London, and to the man she hasn't seen since their wedding day, Margaret does not recognize the man behind the mask. Fierce, commanding, and dangerous, the notorious Ghost of St. Giles is everything she feared he would be—and so much more.


Desire Is The Ultimate Danger


When passion flares, these two intimate strangers can't keep from revealing more of themselves than they had ever planned. But when Margaret learns the truth—that the Ghost is her husband—the game is up and the players must surrender...to the temptation that could destroy them both.


While still trying to conquer my historical romance reading slump, I began reading Lord of Darkness and I do believe Ms. Hoyt has brought me out of the slump for good!  By the end of Lord of Darkness, I found myself anticipating the next book in this wonderful series.  What a great feeling!

Lady Margaret (Megs) has become quite bold, traveling to London and moving in with her estranged husband after spending two years alone at their country home.  Their marriage was not a love match but one made of desperation and blackmail. To say Godric is surprised to see his wife is an understatement.  He's under the assumption that she will not be staying long and once she is back in the country, he can resume his lonely life and focus on saving those of St. Giles.   Imagine his surprised when she reveals her plans.  (Nope, no spoilers.)  I loved how very matter-of-fact Megs was in her plans.  She does exhibit some shyness with Godric which is understandable since they barely know each other but otherwise she is determined to see through her plan to the end.

Godric, for his part, is almost a bit frightened of Megs.  He really doesn't know what to make of her.  He has lived a nearly self-imposed exile from life and when Megs arrives, his exile comes to an end.  He gives Megs the impression of an older gentleman with very little to recommend to a younger wife.  But Godric is good at giving false impressions.  He's not what I would considered a typical historical romance hero.  He's more subdued in his appearance and manners but once he's dressed as the Ghost, that's when he comes alive.  I think that's why it took a little longer to warm up to him, he kept himself closed off to everyone, until Megs.

The romance is the focal point with the Ghost's activities intertwined within the romance.  It's not just Godric's connection to the Ghost but Megs has a history with the Ghost as well.  This causes conflict in a relationship that seems to have little else going for it.  Even with the conflict, I enjoyed how Godric and Megs learn their preconceptions of each other are off the mark.  In the end they are pleasantly surprised at how compatible they are.  

The story doesn't center around the orphanage as much as some of the previous books, but we do get a chance to catch up with the ladies from the orphanage committee.  One of the things I was thrilled to read was the history of The Ghost of St. Giles.  The back story is fascinating.  In the end, there was a good balance between the romance, mystery and the suspense.  It all came together in a delightful story.

If you're not familiar with the series, I would highly recommend starting from the beginning.  Hoyt does a wonderful job creating the world of St. Giles as well as the aristocratic society of 1740's London.  Lucky for me, I don't have to wait for the next book in this captivating series.

Rating: A-

Maiden Lane Series ~

Wicked Intentions
Notorious Pleasures
Scandalous Desires
Thief of Shadows
Lord of Darkness
Duke of Midnight

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: Letters to Nowhere

Letters to Nowhere
Julie Cross
Young Adult
Letters/Book 1
Long Walk Press/ August 1, 2013

I've gotten used to the dead parents face.  I've gotten used to living with my gymnastics coach. I've even adjusted to sharing a bathroom with his way-too-hot son.  Dealing with boys is not something that's made it onto my list of experiences as of yet.  But here I am, doing it.  And something about Jordan - being around him, talking to him, thinking about him - makes me feel like I can finally breath again.  That's something I haven't been able to do lately.  He knows what it feels like to be me right now.  He knows what it's like to wonder - what now?  I think about it constantly.  I need answers.  I need to know how to get through this.  In the gym, if you're struggling, you train harder, you do drills and conditioning.  How do I work hard at moving on?  At being on my own? And what happens if I might be . . , maybe. . . probably falling for Jordan?  I mean we live together now.  That can't happen, can it?  But kissing him. . . well, let's just say it's not an easy activity to forget.

Big thanks to Li by way of Nath for this great recommendation!  This is what I love about the blogging community - finding out about wonderful books I might not have heard of if not for other bloggers.

Letters to Nowhere was such a surprise in number of ways.  First off, while I enjoyed watching gymnastics when I was a kid, I wouldn't call myself a big fan.  So I was surprised at how much I enjoyed my venture into the world of competitive gymnastics.  It's an intense look at the girls and how they their lives center around this highly competitive sport.   Cross does a great job of setting the scene and giving enough information about the sport without overwhelming the reader.

Karen Campbell has been working hard for years to reach her ultimate dream of competing in the Olympics.  That dream was shared by her parents but now they are gone, killed in a car accident, leaving Karen alone.  Karen's grandmother is willing to take her in but it feels like it comes more from obligation than true desire.  So Karen's gymnastic's coach steps in and agrees to have Karen live with him and he will act as her guardian.  It's an interesting situation since Coach Bentley's home is occupied by himself and his teenage son.

Karen's world is gymnastics.  She's had little of what is considered typical teenage experiences.  So when she moves in with Jordan she's exposed to a teenage boy with teenage interests and teenage hormones.  It's interesting to see Karen experience what life has to offer outside of gymnastics.  She also gets to know her coach better and see him beyond his coaching and as someone who has experienced great loss and lived through it.

The development of the romance between Karen and Jordan is a realistic look at teenage romance even thought these teens have experienced very different childhoods from what would be considered typical.  I liked how it wasn't this instant surge of hormones.  Instead the author allowed Karen and Jordan to slowly get to know each other and become friends first.

The letters themselves are a fascinating look at what Karen wants to say but isn't ready or simply can't.  The letters contains emotions and fears she's afraid to let go of as well as documenting her progress in grieving her parents deaths.

Even if you don't usually read the young adult genre, I would recommend giving Letters to Nowhere a try.

Rating:  A

Letters to Nowhere Series ~

Letters to Nowhere
Return to Sender (November 15, 2013)*

*The author stated "the remaining books will be released in shorter more frequent installments, basically TV episode style."

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Review: Romani Armada

Romani Armada
Tracy Cooper-Posey
Erotic/MMF/UF/Futuristic/TimeTravel
Beloved Bloody Time/Book 3
Patchwork Press/September 6, 2013

Justin Edward Kelly, vampire and Chronologic Touring Agency member, hates time traveling and prefers to pretend he’s human. Deonne Rinaldi is human and arm-twisted the Agency into the deal of a life-time: They make her a vampire if she pulls off the PR campaign of her career and make humans like vampires. Everyone was stunned when the mismatched pair became lovers, including Deonne and Justin and neither of them will admit even to themselves how well the relationship works.

While Deonne is tucked away in history to protect her from Gabriel’s psi-file army ravages, Justin gets a time-delayed letter from her telling him their affair is over. She is in love with Adán Xavier Santiago, a Romani vampire from ancient Spain who will turn her. Despite the massive dangers screwing with time this way can cause, Justin travels back to China to confront Deonne, but when he arrives there is no Adán and Deonne knows nothing about the letter. Justin, not used to time traveling, figures he’s averted a personal disaster until Deonne meets a sexy Spaniard who introduces himself as Adán….

WARNING: This book contains two hot, sexy alpha heroes, frequent, explicit and frank sex scenes and sexual language. It includes heart-stopping sexual scenes between the aforementioned sexy heroes, menage scenes, and anal sex. No vampires were harmed in the making of this novel.

Oh, my.  Take the warning to head, this is a very sexy, hot romance.  This is the third book in the series and I do wish I had read the first two.  I think it would have help get into the story and characters had I read the previous books.  But once I did feel like I was caught up, it was easy to become involved in the characters and their lives.

Time travel is now an option for some and vampires are the ones who make it possible.  Imagine going back in time to watch a famous battle or visit a historical site.  Now imagine taking that journey with a sexy vampire.  The author has created a interesting world where humans and vampires coexist although not all humans are happy about sharing their world with vampires nor do they trust them.  I really enjoyed the politics of the story and how they continued to develop throughout the storyline.

The romance is a mix of drama, tension and out-right sexiness.  I liked the tension between Deonne and Justin.  They fit well together making it easy to see them as a couple.  When Adán joined in it wasn't as easy to shake off the vision of Deonne and Justine as a couple.  Adán didn't feel as developed as a character as the other two.  Maybe that's why it was more difficult to have him become part of the romance.

The strength of the story was the world building.  It's a fully envisioned world of political strife, tension, courage and love with the added excitement of time travel.  I look forward to reading more set in this unique world.

Rating:  B+

Beloved Bloody Time Series ~

Bannockburn Binding
Byzantine Heartbreak
Romani Armada

Monday, September 16, 2013

ARC Review: The Arrangement

The Arrangement
Mary Balogh
Historical Romance
The Survivors' Club/Book 2
Dell/August 27, 2013

Desperate to escape his mother’s matchmaking, Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, flees to a remote country village. But even there, another marital trap is sprung. So when Miss Sophia Fry’s intervention on his behalf finds her unceremoniously booted from her guardian’s home, Vincent is compelled to act. He may have been blinded in battle, but he can see a solution to both their problems: marriage.

At first, quiet, unassuming Sophia rejects Vincent’s proposal. But when such a gloriously handsome man persuades her that he needs a wife of his own choosing as much as she needs protection from destitution, she agrees. Her alternative is too dreadful to contemplate. But how can an all-consuming fire burn from such a cold arrangement? As friendship and camaraderie lead to sweet seduction and erotic pleasure, dare they believe a bargain born of desperation might lead them both to a love destined to be?

Mary Balogh is one of my favorite historical romance authors.  She always brings something a little different, a little out of the ordinary.  Which is why I appreciate Ms. Balogh's writing so very much.

With the second book in the survivor's Club series, Balogh lets us into the life of Vincent Hunt.  He is young, at twenty-three years of age, and has already had a life changing event.  Vincent is blind and has been blind for six years.  He left for war when he was seventeen and was injured, blinded in his first battle.  I loved Vincent's determination and his patience with his helpful but overbearing female relations.  He knows they mean well but he doesn't want to be treated like an invalid.  He's become quit capable in dealing with his blindness.  Balogh could have made Vincent a drunken, depressed loner who hates the world.  Instead she made him a man who will not let his handicap define him but rather chooses to overcome it.

Sophia Fry finds herself lost in a world she has very little experience with.  When she has nowhere to go Vincent gives her a place and a purpose.  It's not pure altruism on his part, he wants something in return.  It's a lovely blend of give and take with neither Sophia or Vincent knowing where it will lead.  Their romance is sweet but sometimes it felt lacking in conflict.  They are both so very nice which shouldn't be a bad thing and it isn't but it can also be a bit dull.

While the romance came off as being a little too tepid, Vincent's character was a enjoyable change from the dark, brooding rakes we find so often populating historical romances.  I'm not sure what is next for the Survivors' Club but I'm curious to see how they all find their happily ever afters.

Rating:  B

The Survivors' Club

The Proposal
The Arrangement

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

ARC Review: The Hero

The Hero
Robyn Carr
Contemporary Romance
Thunder Point/Book 3
Harlequin/ August 27, 2013

In a moment of desperation, Devon McAllister takes her daughter and flees a place where they should have been safe and secure. She has no idea what is around the next bend, but she is pretty certain it can't be worse than what they've left behind. Her plan is to escape to somewhere she can be invisible. Instead, an unexpected offer of assistance leads her to Thunder Point, a tiny Oregon town with a willingness to help someone in need. 

As the widowed father of a vulnerable young boy, Spencer Lawson knows something about needing friendship. But he's not looking for anything else. Instead, he's thrown his energy into his new role as Thunder Point's high school football coach. Tough and demanding to his team, off the field he's gentle and kind...just the kind of man who could heal Devon's wounded heart.

Devon thought she wanted to hide from the world. But in Thunder Point, you find bravery where you least expect it...and sometimes, you find a hero.

In the third book of the series, we see how Spencer Lawson is settling into Thunder Point.  He's worked things out with his son's biological father, Hank Cooper, and both Spencer and his son are thriving in their new home.  Spencer is still grieving for his deceased wife but because of her prolonged illness, you could say he started his grieving before her death.

When Devon McAllister shows up in Thunder Point, she is in a desperate situation.  She lucks out when she meets Rawley, a scruffy old guy with a heart of gold.  Rawley is proof that there are good people out there who simply want to help - no strings attached.  One of my favorite parts of the book was seeing the relationships develop between Devon, Rawley and Devon's daughter.

The romance between Spencer and Devon start out as a hesitant friendship, with Devon not wanting anything looking like romance.  But Spencer is persistent and the friendship moves along into romance territory.  While I liked both Devon and Spencer, I had a hard time picturing them together.  Whether it was the age difference or the life experience difference, I'm not sure.  There was just something missing.

The Thunder Point series isn't what I would call a typical romance where the majority of the focus would be on the hero and heroine but is rather a collective romance, spreading the focus on a few different couples.  This sometimes works but in the case of The Hero, it hurt the development of the romance between Spencer and Devon.

The overall series is solid with Carr's writing bringing forth that sense of family and community she's known for.  There are some wonderful scenes in The Hero, but the romance felt weak.

Rating:  C+

Thunder Point Series ~

The Wanderer
The Newcomer
The Hero
The Chance (February 25, 2014)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

TBR Challenge: Break the Night

Break the Night
Anne Stuart
Romantic Suspense
Silhouette/May 1, 1993

A silent scream, a bloodstained knife... A century past, the faceless killer had strolled out of the London fog and into history, the most infamous murderer who ever lived. And only reporter J. R. Damien knew he had never died, could never die. It was impossible, and yet it was true--Saucy Jack was back, plying his trade in the back alleys of Venice, California... 

And Saucy Jack takes another life...

Lizzie Stride refused to accept the ravings of this man who swore she was fated to die, again and again, at the hands of a long-dead madman. But J. R. Damien's haunted eyes told her she must follow in a century-old dance of death and desire--with a man who feared he was the reincarnation of Jack the Ripper...

Finally made it!  Every month this year I had every intention of joining the challenge.  I've enjoyed participating in past years and have been disappointed in myself for not doing it this year.  But now, I finally got one off the TBR pile!

While I've certainly heard of Anne Stuart and have a few more of her books, this is the first one of hers I've read.  It proved to be an interesting read; past lives, psychic abilities and one creep villain combined for something different.  There wasn't a whole heck of a lot of romance, what with the Venice Ripper on the loose and the heroine and hero having an eerie connection to him.  But that was okay since it didn't have a romantic feel to it.

Lizzy Stride is pulled into the grisly murders and becomes more terrified as each prostitute is killed. She is also pulled into reporter J. R. Damien's world since he is devoting his life to finding the Venice Ripper.  Damien will do anything to catch the killer, even using Lizzy to lure him out.  Lizzy doesn't want anything to do with Damien but is giving little choice when her life is in danger and the police can't be trusted to keep her safe.  This is where Damien started getting on my nerves.

First he insisted he would protect Lizzy, since in his opinion, the police were worthless.  Then he would change his mind and tell Lizzy she needed to get out of town and as far away from him as possible.  Then, he decides he can't live without her and he'll protect her.  Then, he changes his mind again saying, "you're not safe with me Lizzy".  Those voices in Damien's were driving him nuts!

Lizzy, for her part, does a similar dance.  First, she is angry at Damien and blames him for putting her in danger.  Then she comes to care about this damaged man.  Then she wants to get as far away from him as possible.  Unfortunately, she wants this when he wants her close to him.  While this is going on, Ripper is busy with his killing spree.  He was one nasty bastard.

The past lives slant was interesting, but ultimately what kept me reading was not the relationship between the hero and heroine but the Ripper himself.  I wanted to find out who or what he really was.

Rating: C+

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: Can't Stop Believing

Can't Stop Believing
Jodi Thomas
Contemporary Romance
Harmony/Book 6
Berkley/June 4, 2013

Cord McMillan gave up his freedom at eighteen when he went to jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Now, ten years later, he’s about to give it up again for a piece of land. Nevada Britain, his neighbor, has just made him an offer he can’t refuse: If he’ll marry her, she’ll sign over a section of property that their families have been fighting over for a hundred years. Nevada refuses to explain why, but Cord knows the bargain is in his favor. He just has one condition—she has to sleep in his bed every night for as long as their doomed marriage lasts. Nevada only wants to maintain her family’s legacy—and redeem herself for a wrong she did Cord years ago. But as she spends more time with her husband by necessity, she discovers something unexpected—a love so deep it takes her breath away.

I love coming back to Harmony, Texas.  There is always a warm welcome waiting for readers.  The hero and heroine of book six are new characters which I thought worked well.  We still get to see plenty of familiar characters but Cord and Nevada are the couple working on their happily ever after.

You can't help but feel for Cord McMillan.  He has no choice but to put up with unfair treatment because of his past.  And if that's not bad enough, he feels like he has no friends, no one there for him.  I liked Cord right off the bat, mostly because of his hard work attitude and his refusal to give in and give up his dream.

Nevada Britain seems to have it all.  Wealth, looks and youth.  But that's what is on the outside, what is on the inside is a woman who has a huge amount of stress and little love in her life.  Nevada wasn't as easy to know as Cord which isn't surprising.  She's hiding things from Cord and until she was completely honest with him, I thought, you know, he deserves better.  He deserves honesty.  Thankfully, Nevada comes to trust Cord and she earned his trust.

As a couple, Cord and Nevada have a hard road since they don't become a couple for the usual reasons but as a business transaction.  Ms. Thomas does well turning that business transaction into a believable romance.

When reading a Harmony novel, part of the enjoyment is catching up with familiar faces.  Without spoiling it, one character's storyline in particular was so well written, so emotional, I think Ms. Thomas gave me something I didn't know I wanted for this character.  Not trying to be a tease but really, just read the book.  The whole series in fact.  I can't wait to visit Harmony again!

Rating:  A

Monday, July 8, 2013

ARC Review: The Newcomer

The Newcomer
Robyn Carr
Contemporary Romance
Thunder Point/Book 2
Harlequin/June 25, 2013

Single dad and Thunder Point's deputy sheriff "Mac" McCain has worked hard to keep everyone safe and happy. Now he's found his own happiness with Gina James. The longtime friends have always shared the challenges and rewards of raising their adolescent daughters. With an unexpected romance growing between them, they're feeling like teenagers themselves-suddenly they can't get enough of one another. 

And just when things are really taking off, their lives are suddenly thrown into chaos. When Mac's long-lost-and not missed-ex-wife shows up in town, drama takes on a whole new meaning. They're wondering if their new feelings for each other can withstand the pressure...but they are not going down without a fight.

After reading the first book in the series, The Wanderer, I was looking forward to reading Mac and Gina's story and was happy I didn't have to wait too long for it.  It turns out it's not just Mac and Gina but we also see Cooper and Sarah's from The Wanderer and the progression of their relationship.  Both couples have obstacles to overcome and a blending of families.  I wouldn't say the focus is an even split between the couples but Sara and Cooper definitely get plenty of page time.  Usually, I don't like so much of the focus taken off what I consider, and what the blurb implies, is the main couple.  But Carr does well in making the reader care about both couples and want to know what will happen to them.

One of my favorite romance tropes is the friends-to-lovers.  Gina and Mac embody this.  They know each other so well but as friends, their relationship takes on a different tone once they become lovers.  There is still that base of friendship but it become even deeper as they become closer.  Carr keeps that friendship going strong when Gina and Mac encounter difficulties in their romance.

The combining of the families is handled well.  There is never any doubt of Mac's love and devotion to his kids.  It's obvious he will do anything for them.  As is Gina's devotion to her daughter.  Gina's relationship with her daughter Ashley takes on a tough subject.  Carr gives it enough time to unfold without overwhelming the romance.  Then there's Mac's ex-wife, well, I could have done without her and didn't completely approve of how Mac handled the situation.

There are a number of coincidences and events that may have been intended to be a surprise but were fairly obvious but the overall story is well paced.  The secondary characters are such an essential part of the story, adding much love, humor, wisdom and stability to Thunder Point.  Another enjoyable addition for Ms. Carr's new series.  

Rating:  A-

Thunder Point Series ~

The Wanderer
The Newcomer
The Hero (August 27, 2013)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: The Recruit

The Recruit
Monica McCarty
Historical Romance/England/Scotland/1306
Highland Guard/Book 6
Ballantine Books/October 30, 2012

Fiery, aggressive, and bold, Kenneth Sutherland is a true champion—skilled with any weapon and driven to win. Now Kenneth is ready for his greatest challenge: joining Robert the Bruce’s secret army to fight among the elite. Kenneth’s best chance to attain that honor is by winning the Highland Games.  Focused and prepared for victory, he is caught off guard by a lovely wisp of a woman—and a stolen moment of wicked seduction. Her innocent arousal and her shameless hunger fire his blood. He will win his place in the guard—and in Mary of Mar’s bed. 

The ruggedly handsome hero-in-the-making stirs a heart that should know better. Mary vows that her surrender will be sport only—no promises, no heartbreak, just one night of incredible passion. Nothing, she swears, will persuade her to give up her hard-wrought independence and put her fate in the hands of another powerful man. But with every gentle touch and heart-pounding kiss, Kenneth makes her want more. Now Mary wants his heart. But is this determined champion willing to surrender everything for love?

After having lost the mood for historical romances, I must thank Ms. McCarty for getting me back into the mood with The Recruit.  With the sixth book in the wonderful Highland Guard series, Ms. McCarty leaves off focusing on established members of the guard and instead gives the reader a hero who must prove himself worthy to be taken into the brotherhood of the guard.

It's an uphill battle but Kenneth Sutherland is ready for the challenge.  What he's not ready for is the attraction he feels for Mary of Mar.  A complication he doesn't need in his life right now but one he finds to hard to resist.  I liked how Kenneth is not easily welcomed into the guard.  Given  his family history of supporting England up until the previous year, it makes sense the other guard members would be wary.

Mary is this gentle, kind noblewoman who finds herself caught up in the volital politics between King Edward and Robert the Bruce.  It's dangerous, not only for her but for her young son.   Mary is a heroine of her time, meaning she is basically at the mercy of men.  She is controlled by her husband and then by her king.  She has no say in where she will live or when she may see her son.  It was so easy to not only to like Mary but to emphasize with her.  She is portrayed as a woman of her time who still has strength of character.  Which isn't always easy for author's to pull off without  making the heroine feel too modern.  McCarty did a wonderful job in keeping Mary true to her time period.

Mary and Kenneth are a couple that you really root for.  As the story progressed, I wanted so much for them to have their happy ever after which isn't necessarily unique when reading a romance novel but with them I felt they deserved it so much after everything they went through.

If you love highlanders, romance, history and suspense - give the Highland Guard series a try.

Rating: A-

Highland Guard Series ~

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

Thursday, June 20, 2013

ARC Review: The Favor

The Favor
Megan Hart
Fiction/Mystery
Harlequin/MIRA/June 25, 2013

Janelle Decker has happy childhood memories of her grandma's house, and even lived there through high school. Now she's back with her twelve-year-old son to look after her ailing Nan, and hardly anything seems to have changed, not even the Tierney boys next door.

Gabriel Tierney, local bad-boy. The twins, Michael and Andrew.

After everything that happened between the four of them, Janelle is shocked that Gabe still lives in St. Mary's. And he isn't trying very hard to convince Janelle he's changed from the moody teenage boy she once knew. If anything, he seems bent on making sure she has no intentions of rekindling their past.

To this day, though there might've been a lot of speculation about her relationship with Gabe, nobody else knows she was there in the woods that day...the day a devastating accident tore the Tierney brothers apart and drove Janelle away. But there are things that even Janelle doesn't know, and as she and Gabe revisit their interrupted romance, she begins to uncover the truth denied to her when she ran away all those years ago.

Ms. Hart continues to venture out of her erotic roots and into the realm of mainstream fiction and mystery.  In The Favor, childhood memories play a critical roll not only in the choices the characters make but the choices they refuse to make.  The mystery surrounding Janelle and the Tierney brothers is hinted at throughout the story, giving the reader a number of possibilities while maintaining the undercurrent of tension.

In developing the characters, Hart shows how people react differently to the same event.   The long term results are not always what is expected or even wanted but must still be dealt with.  For Janelle, going back to St. Mary's is something she has been avoiding for years but now must face it, and her past, head on.  A big part of that past is right next door in the form of Gabe Tierney.  At first, Gabe is not a likable character nor is he meant to be.  As we get to know Gabe we see how he has become this unhappy, depressed man living in penance for his past.  No one needs to punish Gabe for his sins, he's become very good at punishing himself.  I waited to feel sorry for him, but never really got to the point of feeling sorry for the man he had become.

Janelle is a single mother who tries to give her son a stable life but allows her need to run from her past make creating that stable very difficult.  I liked the patience Janelle showed towards her grandmother.  Their relationship was portrayed with love, devotion and a strength that many of us can only hope to show when faced when taking care of a terminally ill family member.

I found myself drawn into the story until the point when the mystery of what happened all those years ago was revealed.  At that point I debated if I should continue with the book.  Not to get into spoilers but I was very disturbed by the events and disappointed in the characters and the choices made when they were younger.  Yes, they had been young but youth is not always a viable excuse.

In the end, I liked seeing how these characters built and rebuilt their relationships.  The Favor is a look at family ties, both the good and the bad, and the long lasting affects of those relationships.

Rating:  B

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review: Written in Red


Written in Red
Anne Bishop
Fantasy
The Others/Book 1
NAL/March 5, 2013

As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut — a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.

Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.

Anne Bishop, where have you been all my life?  Yes, apparently I've been living under a rock since this is my first Anne Bishop novel.  I do have a few of Ms. Bishop's novels on my TBR pile but instead decided to start my Bishop reading experience with her latest release.  If her previous novels are anything like Written in Red, I will be one very happy reader!

Ms. Bishop has created a captivating world combining humans, vampires, shapeshifters and other worldly creatures to create an absorbing tale of a woman trying to survive in the midst of these creatures.  Meg Corbyn escapes right into the path of Simon Wolfgard who both scares and fascinates her.  But Meg has no choice, she must work for Simon and try to fit in if she is to have any chance of avoiding capture and returning to enslavement.  Meg brings a different light to the district.  She has plenty to fear from but she tries not to prejudge everyone she meets, instead overcoming some of her fears and in turn making friends.

I love how the district is made to feel like a small town with some very odd citizens.  One of the things that stands out is how those citizens each have their own sense of identity and place in the community. The ponies for one, are such a treat with their unique personalities.  I loved when they came on the scene.  The characters show life's contrasts and how tragedy can bring together even the most unlikely allies.

Ms. Bishop has created a world reflecting our own world of diversity, her inhabitants just happened to have some unusual abilities.  I would highly recommend Written in Red.  

Rating: A

The Others Series ~

Written in Red
Murder of Crows (March 2014)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Review: Coming Home

Coming Home
Christine S. Feldman
Contemporary Romance
Crimson Romance/March 25, 2013

No woman ever really forgets her first love. Callie Sorenson is no exception. Hers was tall, tanned, and—as her older brother’s best friend—completely off limits.

Danny McCutcheon.

It’s a name that Callie hasn’t spoken in years, even if the man to whom it belongs has never really been all that far from her thoughts. Or her heart.  But now a twist of fate will bring her back to the childhood home she left behind years ago, and to the hometown boy for whom she secretly longed.

When her mother takes a bad fall and breaks her hip, Callie leaves the bright lights of New York City to fly back west and help with the rehabilitation. It’s a tense homecoming due to a long time estrangement between mother and daughter, and it drives Callie to confront both a painful personal loss and her unanswered questions about the father who abandoned her when she was just a child.

It also brings her face to face with Danny again, and Callie quickly realizes that old feelings die hard.

But for Danny, it’s new feelings that are a problem. Callie is not the young girl he remembers but a woman now, and a very desirable one. They both have reasons to fight the growing attraction between them, but the temptation may just prove to be too much to resist, despite some very real risk to their hearts. The past casts a long shadow over the future, though, and Callie will have to overcome it or else face losing the one man who means the most to her.

Callie and Danny's romance is a sweet romance of a life long friendship finally turning to something more.  But it takes getting to really know each other and themselves before the tentative romance can become something deeper.

When we first meet Callie, she is living the life she thought she wanted.  No real ties to anywhere, just going where she wants and living how she wants to live.  But you can tell something is missing in her life.  Callie rushes back to her hometown when her mom needs her help after an accident.  Ms. Feldman does well in developing Callie and her need for moving around and lack of desire to put down roots anywhere.

I'm really glad we get Danny's POV.  His insight into Callie gave a different perspective that would have been missed and left me wondering how others close to Callie viewed her.  Instead, we see Danny's faith in Callie and how it affects not only her but him.  Danny is a strong hero who doesn't push Callie, instead he's there when she needs him.

As Callie's homecoming progresses, she sees her hometown in a new light and Danny as more than just the guy she had a crush on.  I genuinely enjoyed how Callie and Danny's relationship developed from childhood friends to romantic couple.  It didn't feel rushed at all but solid by the end.

This is a sweet, gentle romance showing how one woman can go back home a make a life for herself where she thought it wasn't possible.  It was a bit slow at times, making me wish the pace would pick up but overall an enjoyable story.

Rating: B+

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Review: Frost Burned

Frost Burned
Patricia Briggs
Urban Fantasy
Mercy Thompson/Book 7
Ace/March 5, 2013

Mercy Thompson’s life has undergone a seismic change. Becoming the mate of Adam Hauptman — the charismatic Alpha of the local werewolf pack — has made her a stepmother to his daughter Jesse, a relationship that brings moments of blissful normalcy to Mercy’s life. But on the edges of humanity, what passes for a minor mishap on an ordinary day can turn into so much more….

 After an accident in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Mercy and Jesse can’t reach Adam—or anyone else in the pack for that matter. They’ve all been abducted.

Through their mating bond, all Mercy knows is that Adam is angry and in pain. With the werewolves fighting a political battle to gain acceptance from the public, Mercy fears Adam’s disappearance may be related — and that he and the pack are in serious danger. Outclassed and on her own, Mercy may be forced to seek assistance from any ally she can get, no matter how unlikely.

I read this shortly after it was released but never got around to reviewing it.  Since the Mercy Thompson series is one of my favorites, it wasn't a hardship to do a quick re-read and then review.

It's one of the most insane days on the planet and Mercy finds herself right in the middle of the insanity.  Black Friday has Mercy and Jessie, Mercy's stepdaughter, fighting the crowds which are  almost as dangerous as fighting supernatural beings.  The plot gives the reader a better look at Mercy and Jessie's relationship, which I really enjoyed.  It's not easy taking on the role of stepmom but Mercy finds the balance between authority figure and friend for the teenage Jessie.

Mercy is out of her comfort zone, having to make critical decisions for the pack.  She is the mate of the pack's Alpha so it's not out of place for her position within the pack had she been a werewolf.  But being a coyote shifter means she has had to and continues to have to prove herself. Of course she does well under pressure and even has a few abilities the werewolves don't have at her disposal.  I liked seeing Mercy out of her element and having to rely on some unusual characters for help.

We didn't learn as much as I'd hoped for after the events of Fair Game (Alpha & Omega, book 3) but Frost Burned still provided some great character development and an interesting, entertaining story.

Rating: A-

Books in this series ~

Moon Called
Blood Bound
Iron Kissed
Bone Crossed
Silver Borne
River Marked
Frost Burned

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Review: The Lost Prince

The Lost Prince
Julie Kagawa
Young Adult Fantasy
The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten/Book 1
Harlequin Teen/October 23, 2012

Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them.

That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs—including his reputation—begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he’d dare to fall for. 

Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister’s world—the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myth and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten.

Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series is a favorite of mine. The world Kagawa has created is filled with such memorable characters and fast paced action, I was thrilled to venture back into it.

Little Ethan is all grown up, mostly. He may be in high school but his past experiences with the Fey are still with him, governing his every move. He's going through more than the typical teenage angst, Ethan is being pulled back into a world he wants nothing to do with. Ethan was an interesting character when he was a little boy. I still found him interesting but his teen angst became redundant with his "poor me" attitude.

I like how we see Ethan trying to fit in to the "normal" world of teens all the while keeping his defenses up against whatever the Fey might thrown at him. It was a little odd, seeing Ethan as the main character without his big sis watching over him. As the story progresses, Ethan becomes a stronger presence and begins to come out of the shadow of his sister, the Iron Queen.

There is plenty of backstory so if you haven't read the previous novels, you get a pretty good idea of what has preceded up to this point.  The problems came up with the main female character, Mackenzie aka Kenzie.  She's determined to find out what is going on with Ethan Chase.  I found her pushy, overbearing and difficult to like.  She made me miss Meghan and her quiet strength. Maybe it's not fair to compare the two but I couldn't help but compare Ethan and Kenzie to Meghan and Ash and found the new couple lacking.  Still, I was left curious to see what happens next in Ethan's world.

Rating: B

The Iron Fey:  Call of the Forgotten Series ~

The Lost Prince
The Traitor's Son (October 29, 2013)

Friday, May 17, 2013

ARC Review: The Eternity Cure

The Eternity Cure
Julie Kagawa
Young Adult/Paranormal/Dystopian
Blood of Eden/Book 2
Harlequin Teen/ April 30, 2013

Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren.  The call of blood leads her back to the beginning - New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally. 

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she's never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.

The second book in Julie Kagawa's dark vampire dystopian series takes up not long after where the first book ended.  Allie is searching for her sire, Kanin, and she's afraid of what she might find.   The reader is given background on the characters and the plot but I didn't feel it was enough to skip the first book.  Instead, I'd suggest reading The Immortal Rules, book one, to give you a better understanding of the characters and the world.  Plus, it's a really good book!

Allie has this deep sense of loyalty that I swear is going to get her killed someday!  You can't help but admire her but I also wonder if her recently lost humanity is at the root of her loyalty.  She doesn't view human as mere food sources and still tries to defend them when necessary.  She's certainly different than most of the vampires in this series.

The plot leads Allie into dangerous situations which is par for the course in the world she inhabits.  She may well be at the top of the food chain but she's still a newbie when it comes to the vampire hierarchy.  There is action but Allie also becomes involved in vampire politics which while somewhat interesting, tended to slow the plot down.

The book ends on a cliffhanger that left me wanting the next book now!  It looks like things will be getting more intense and more desperate for Allie as this series progresses.

Rating: B

Blood of Eden Series ~

Dawn of Eden (novella prequel)
The Immortal Rules
The Eternity Cure
The Forever Song (spring 2014, tentative)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: Wallbanger

Wallbanger
Alice Clayton
Contemporary Romance
Omnific Publishing/November 27, 2012

Caroline Reynolds has a fantastic new apartment in San Francisco, a KitchenAid mixer, and no O (and we’re not talking Oprah here, folks). She has a flourishing design career, an office overlooking the bay, a killer zucchini bread recipe, and no O. She has Clive (the best cat ever), great friends, a great rack, and no O. Adding insult to O-less, since her move, she has an oversexed neighbor with the loudest late-night wallbanging she’s ever heard. Each moan, spank, and–was that a meow?–punctuates the fact that not only is she losing sleep, she still has, yep, you guessed it, no O.

Enter Simon Parker. (No, really, Simon, please enter.) When the wallbanging threatens to literally bounce her out of bed, Caroline, clad in sexual frustration and a pink baby-doll nightie, confronts her heard-but-never-seen neighbor. Their late-night hallway encounter has, well, mixed results. Ahem. With walls this thin, the tension’s gonna be thick…

In her third novel, Alice Clayton returns to dish her trademark mix of silly and steamy. Banter, barbs, and strutting pussycats, plus the sexiest apple pie ever made, are dunked in a hot tub and set against the gorgeous San Francisco skyline in this hot and hilarious tale of exasperation at first sight.

Oh, I had such a good time with this book!  It was sexy, highly amusing and left me feeling a little guilty for enjoying it so much!  Sounds like a great date night with my husband!  lol  Instead, I got to know Caroline and Simon as they got to know each other.  Their romance got off to a rocky start with the wallbanging.  Then a truce with a tentative friendship as the result.  I tend to think the best romances start with friendship.

Caroline is slowing being driven crazy by her wallbanging, long lasting next door neighbor.  She's turning into a peep-hole peeping tom, trying to catch a glimpse of the one she dubs "the manwhore".   Caroline is intelligent, funny and a little obsessive but I found her obsessions endearing.  Especially the one focused on Simon!

Simon doesn't know what to make of his crazy neighbor.  Her first impression leaves him thinking she's kind of cute in a "lunatic-escaped-from-the-asylum" way and being neighbors, he can't help but run into her.  As it turns out, they have more in common than they could have guessed.

Sometimes a romance has the hero and heroine jumping into bed rather quickly, and it works.  Sometimes they take their time and that's what happened with Caroline and Simon and it made the ending so much more believable and honest.

If you're looking for a smart, humorous and entertaining romance, give Wallbanger a go.

Rating: A

Friday, May 10, 2013

Buddy Review: Slashback by Rob Thurman


Recently, I had the pleasure of carrying on a long standing tradition of Buddy Reviewing the latest Cal Leandros book with two wonderful ladies, Nath of Books, Books and More Books and Hilcia of Impressions of a Reader.  You can read our Buddy Review of Slashback at Breezing Through.





I stopped and let them circle me, first because it was intriguing and, second, because, honestly, what could they do? Only knives, but all armed, and that made them even more interesting. Interesting. Fun.

Playtime...

Taking on bloodthirsty supernatural monsters is how Caliban and Niko Leandros make a living. But years ago—before they became a force to be reckoned with—the brothers were almost victims of a very human serial killer.

Almost.

Unfortunately for them, that particular depraved killer was working as apprentice to a creature far more malevolent—the legendary Spring-heeled Jack. He’s just hit town. He hasn't forgotten what the Leandros brothers did to his murderous protégé. He hasn't forgotten what they owe him.

And now they are going to pay… and pay… and pay.…

Thursday, May 2, 2013

ARC Review: Half Moon Hill

Half Moon Hill
Destiny/Book 6
Avon/April 30, 2013

Trying to escape her troubled past, Anna Romo has come home to Destiny determined to carve out a place for herself. When she buys the old Victorian house on the hill with the intent of furnishing it into a Bed and Breakfast, she’s thrilled by the possibilities. 

Ex-biker-gang member Duke Dawson is as much a fish out of water in Destiny as Anna, but he’s handling it fine until an accident scars not only his body but his mind. When Anna stumbles across him in an old cabin in the woods near her newly acquired house, at first she’s terrified. But they work out a deal - she’s willing to keep his solitary living arrangement a secret if he’s willing to help her with some of the heavy lifting at the house.

Working together on the rennovations, romance brews between Duke and Anna. That is, until war hero Jeremy Sheridan returns home in a blaze of glory and sets his sights on Anna. Suddenly torn between the outgoing and charming Jeremy and the intriguing Duke, Anna’s heart is torn between two paths and left with only one solution. 

Toni Blake has worked her magic again! I do think Anna and Duke might just be my favorite couple of the series followed closely by Tessa and Lucky.  The pairing of Anna and Duke is a bit of an odd couple but Blake makes their romance work so very well!

Anna Romo has come home to a place she barely remembers.  After having been gone from Destiny for many years, Anna is home to stay.  We see how Anna is working to fit in but still holding back, not quite sure of her place in the Romo family.  I liked how Anna was aware of her insecurities and her torn loyalties.  There is also her need to not completely submerge herself in the small town but test the waters and ease herself into life in Destiny.  It shows Anna's intelligence and maturity.   I love reading about an intelligent heroine!  

Duke is a hero with a bad-boy exterior and a heart of gold.  At first glance, he's not someone you'd want to meet in a dark alley but once Anna, and the readers, get to know him, it's obvious he's a gentle and loving man with a little edginess that making his softer side that much more special.  Duke is a realistic hero in that he doesn't try to be someone he's not but learns to like who he really is.  He's certainly a favorite of mine!

With Anna and Duke living a fairly secluded life away from town, they are allowed to get to know each other with little interference from family and friends.  Which is good since Mike Romo, Anna very overprotective brother, can be a real hardass.  Anna and Duke don't completely forget about the people they care about but they have those uninterrupted moments, giving them time to get to know each other beyond what everyone else sees.

Blake's humor is certainly present not only in the romance but also in the friendships featured in the story.  I loved catching up with previous couples.  We see that life isn't always a perfect storybook romance instead it can be messy, frustrating and ultimately filled with ups and downs.  But it's how you handle both the ups and downs that show the real person.

Anna and Duke's romance tests not only what they know of each other but what they know of themselves.  This last book of the series certainly ended on a high note!  I look forward to heading south to Coral Cove, Florida for Ms. Blake's next series slated for a spring 2014 publication.

Rating: A

Destiny Series ~

One Reckless Summer
Sugar Creek
Whisper Falls
Holly Lane
Willow Springs
Half Moon Hill

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review: Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska
John Green
Young Adult
Speak/December 28, 2006

Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. 

After. Nothing is ever the same.

Such a realistic, moving story.  I was caught up rather quickly in Miles Halter aka Pudge's world that revolved around Culver Creek Boarding School.  Miles' life, pre-Culver Creek, is dull with Miles unsure of where he fits in, or even if he fits in anywhere.  That all changes when he arrives at Culver Creek.

Boarding school is a unique experience many of us can not lay claim to. For Miles Halter being sent away from his home in Florida to start his junior year of high school is only the begin of his self-discovery.  It's a very real look at the life of a teen but these teens have no parents in their daily lives.  The lack of parents gave the story a different feel, causing the teens to looks out for each other more than usual.  Although, some readers may argue parents are not heavily prevalent in young adult stories anyway. In Looking for Alaska, the teens instead have "The Eagle" who acts as an enforcer of rules with little compassion.

I was surprised at how much humor is in this story even though the main characters of Pudge, Alaska and The Colonel all have their share, and more, of serious issues to deal with.  I enjoyed Pudge's voice and his impressions of his new school and classmates.  He's very accepting of people even though most of his life other kids have not been very accepting of him.  The Colonel, as Pudge's roommate likes to be called, is blunt, sometimes to the point of hurtful but I felt his intentions, for the most part, were in the right place.  Alaska is a force of nature.  She's a character who seems to have this open personality, but once you catch your breath after she's blown through, you realize you know very little about her.  Lots of reading between the lines with her.

One thing I liked about the characters is they are all very unique with their individual quirks.  If you were to see them individually you wouldn't place them together as a group of friends since they don't seem to have anything truly in common.  But maybe it's the uncommonness that not only brings them together but what holds them and forms them as this tight group of friends.

The only thing I had a problem with is the ending and the unanswered questions.  I would have liked a greater resolution of the pivotal plot point.

Rating:  A-

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Review: Slammed

Slammed
Colleen Hoover
Young Adult
Slammed Series/Book 1
Self Published/January 5, 2012

Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she's losing hope.

Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope. 

Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.

Layken aka Lake, isn't happy about moving from her small Texas town to a suburb outside of Detroit, Michigan.  She's isn't happy about a lot of things but upon meeting her new next-door neighbor things brighten up for Lake.  Suddenly Michigan isn't looking so bad.  It's that relationship with Will Cooper that takes center stage in Lake's life.  Sometimes Lake acted like a typical teenager, worrying over boys, friends and school.  Other times she acted far beyond her young age showing her maturity in the face of the horrible things life threw at her.  I liked Lake but she tended to jump to conclusions a little too fast for someone whom otherwise came off as intelligent.

Will Cooper has suffered tremendous loss and now shoulders a lot of responsibility at a young age.   I adored Will - his integrity, kindness and most of all, his love for his brother Caulder.   He also loves the music of poetry.  We see how Will's experiences have molded him into a serious young man with such focus on his and Caulder's future he's afraid of losing that focus.

Layken seems to latch on to people rather quickly.  First Will, then her new BFF Eddie.  Could be because of losing her father or she might have been like this prior to his death.  I wasn't quite sure what motivated her.  Turns out Will was what she needed but they still had some hurdles to jump before they could pursue their romance.

Slammed is an emotional read dealing with serious issues that don't always resolve the way you would hope for.  I read it very quickly but did have to set it aside for a day simply because of the sadness it evoked in me.  It's not by any means a light, easy read but garners strong emotions in not only the story but the poetry.  Beautiful words conjuring beautiful and sometimes heartbreaking visions.

Rating: B

Slammed Series ~

Slammed
Point of Retreat
This Girl (April 30, 3013)