Wednesday, July 29, 2009

YotC Review: Scenes of Passion

Title: Scenes of Passion
Author: Suzanne Brockmann
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published: July 2003
Silhouette Desire

Year of the Category Challenge

From the back cover ~

Safe, steady . . . and unsatisfying - that pretty much summed up Maggie Stanton's life. Then a stranger stirred her imagination until she blushed, a stranger who made Maggie do the unimaginable: take a risk. . . .

Shockingly, the man who'd compelled her to forsake predictability for passion was the full-grown version of her childhood best friend. Only, this Matthew Stone wanted marriage, not a walk down memory lane.

For a while, Maggie almost believed that their whirlwind wedding was the union of soul mates. Almost. Then she learned the secret Matthew was keeping.

Why the two covers? According to Ms. Brockmann's website, the second cover with the bedroom scene was the cover used to promote the book but when published the first cover with the creepy pinkish house was used for the book. Personally I like the bedroom scene cover better. The book is suppose to have an element of mystery surrounding the hero but the pink house just doesn't do it for me. I find it kind of boring so maybe it does work since I also found the story kind of boring.

I literally slogged through this book. Picking it up, putting it down. Trying to forget where I put it only to have it show up right next to me. Damn, I hate when that happens. :) It's a short book, only 186 pages. I kept thinking, this is Brockmann, I like her books and therefore I'll like this one eventually. Never happened. Maybe it was the New England setting. But no, I've read books set in New England that I've enjoyed. Maybe it was the technical aspect of the writing. Nope. Brockmann can write and no major editing problems that I saw. The plot - eh, it was a fairly standard plot. High school friends become lovers. I like that particular trope. So that just leaves the characters...

Maggie Stanton is the heroine. A heroine who lets just about anyone and everyone walk all over her. I could say she lost her backbone years ago but I'm not sure she ever had one. I know it sounds harsh but she just bugged the crap out of me. I do have to give her props for sticking up for herself when it came to the community theater. Her mother knew better than to have Maggie's pre-engagement party on the day the local community theater held their auditions. Of course this party was for a man that Maggie doesn't want to marry but she still hadn't gotten up the nerve to tell her parents or the non-fiance.

Matt Stone - former town bad boy who went away and came back Mr. Goodie-Two-Shoes. He doesn't smoke anymore; okay that's fine because the only hero I've ever found attractive that smoked is Roarke. And he only does it occasionally. Back to former bad boy Matt - he doesn't drink anymore, at all. He's into lots of excercising and he's a vegan. Talk about complete 180 on this guy. Why the big change? Don't know. He's all "mysterious" about the changes. Just that he was seriously ill and it made him change his life. We do find out by the end of the book what happened to cause the drastic changes and it all made sense but by then I just didn't care .

The main problem I had with this story is that I just couldn't drum up any concern for Maggie and Matt. I didn't care what happened to them, if they got a HEA, etc. Things did get a bit more interesting once they got together and Maggie stood up to her family but even then it was like the book was just going through the motions and their love story was just a typical story. Nothing really to make it stand out. The scenes concerning the play, which they both tryout for, were dull. I don't find live theater and the goings on very interesting so it could totally be my hang up. And as for Matt - I'm just a lover of bad boys and while I like reformed bad boys, I don't like them totally reformed - a little bad is not a bad thing. :)

So this book just proves to me that I need to stick to Brockmann's Troubleshooter series which I'm still reading even after the bump in the road know as Into the Fire. I did like Dark of Night (review here) but then I was just fine with the pairings that went on in that book.
Ms. Brockmann's huge backlist can be found on her website.

Rating: C

Monday, July 27, 2009

Review: Dream a Little Dream

Title: Dream a Little Dream
Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Chicago Stars/Loosely connected
Published: February 1998

From the back cover ~

A Desperate Young Mother

Rachel Stone's bad luck has taken a turn for the worse. With an empty wallet, a car's that's spilling smoke, and a five-year-old son to support, she's come home to a town that hates her. But this determined young widow with a scandalous past has learned how to be a fighter. And she'll do anything to keep her child safe—even take on. . .

A Man With No Heart

Gabe Bonner wants to be left alone, especially by the beautiful outcast who's invaded his property. She has a ton of attitude, a talent for trouble, and a child who brings back bad memories. Yet Rachel's feisty spirit might just be heaven-sent to save a tough, stubborn man.

Dare To Dream

Welcome to Salvation, North Carolina—where a man who's forgotten what tenderness means meets a woman with nothing to lose. here two endearing lovers will set off on a funny, touching journey of the heart. . .to a place where dreams just might come true.

Dream a Little Dream is technically not part of SEP's Chicago Stars series but it does tell the story of Gabe Bonner, brother to Cal Bonner the hero of Nobody's Baby But Mine, book 3 in the series. I've been wanting to read Gabe's story ever since I finished NBBM. I was taking a break from my J. D. Robb audio books and spotted DaLD at the library. I thought it would be a nice change from Eve and Roarke. Since I hadn't found the time to read it, I would listen instead. It turned out I don't spend near enough time in the car as I thought. Friday night I found myself looking through my bookcase for my copy of DaLD because I couldn't wait until Saturday to listen to it in the car. Even though I had other books I should have been reading I couldn't put it down. Finished it last night. I'm not one to cry much while reading, a tear or two will occasionally leak through but this time... yeah, more than a few leaked out. Phillips can pull a reader into the story and make you care about what happens to the characters. To feel empathy for people who only exist on pages in a book is a powerful thing.

Rachel Stone aka the Widow Snopes is such a dynamic heroine. She's had a string of bad luck ever since her marriage to the Reverend Snopes. It started with him controlling and using her as an excuse for his greed and ended with his death and her humiliation and loss of her home. Since she was last in Salvation she has worked any job she could to support herself and her five year old son Edward. She never planned to come back to Salvation but fate has brought her back and practically dropped her at Gabe Bonner's doorstep. One thing that I really admired about Rachel is that she is a proud woman but she didn't let her pride get in the way of doing what she had to do to take care of her son. Her tenacity and sheer determination were tempered by her love and patience for Edward. Her patience for Gabe however was in short supply. Their banter was just perfect. Rachel didn't coddle Gabe but used sarcastic remarks to get a rise out of him. When she found out about the tragedy of what had happened to him she still didn't coddle him but tried to get him to care about something, anything.

At first Gabe is a difficult character to know. When we meet Gabe he's in the process of fixing up the local drive-in. He has a short supply of words and rarely shows any emotions. If he does show an emotion it's irritation at having his imposed reclusiveness disturbed. He makes it very clear to Rachel and her son that he doesn't want them around. He reluctantly agrees to hire her after trying to get rid of her by paying her off. He hires her on the condition that it's only temporary until he finds someone else and her son can not come to work with her. Gabe was a very reluctant hero. He had pulled away from life and was going through the motions but not really living. He comes across as a harsh man and doesn't want to be helped, just left alone. His only reason to keep going is his family - his brothers and his parents. If it wasn't for them he would have simply given up. Gabe didn't want to care about Rachel let alone be attracted to her but he could only fight it for so long. ~

She should have appeared ridiculous. The ragged paint-smeared dress hung on her thin frame, and her big, cumbersome shoes looked obscene against such small, trim ankles. But she held herself with a ferocious dignity, and he was drawn to her by something so elemental - maybe the pain that lived in his bones - that he couldn't fight it any longer. He wanted her as he hadn't wanted anything except death since he'd lost his family.

He didn't remember moving, but the next thing he knew, she was in his arms and he felt her body beneath his palms. She was thin and frail, but not broken the way he was. He wanted to protect her and fuck her and comfort her and destroy her all at once. The chaos of his emotions coiled around his pain, deepening the agony. page 106

I love this scene. The words show so much of what Gabe has been through and what he's still going through. I loved watching Gabe become more than just a shell of a man and actually start to care about the world around him. Rachel was the person who brought him out of that shell and gave him something to care about. SEP does a wonderful job of showing how these two broken and damaged characters come to rely on each other and themselves to really live again for themselves. Gabe was going through the motions and Rachel was living for her son, Edward. By the end they had both learned to enjoy life and each other.

I have three kids and while I love my kids I'm not always fond of kids in romance novels. IMO it takes a truly gifted author to write a child into a romance and have the child part of the story rather than a prop. The characters of Edward and to a lesser extent Cal's baby Rosie, were not only well written but Edward played an essential role in Rachel and Gabe's relationship. Sometimes when a child is written in a romance they tend to disappear. They're at the beginning and the reader is told/shown what a good parent the hero/heroine is and then the romance starts and the child disappears sometimes never to be heard from until the epilogue. This bugs the heck out of me because I keep wondering where's the kid? Who's watching the kid while the h/h are getting all hot and heavy? Thankfully that didn't happen here and Edward was still Rachel's primary focus. I felt the story showed a very realistic look at what it's like to be a single mom with minimal to no resources. There were times when my heart just broke for Rachel and everything she went through.

There is a secondary romance with Ethan, Gabe's younger brother, throughout the book that I also thoroughly enjoyed. It was funny and refreshing to have these two characters who thought they knew each other so well find out there were still some surprises left for them. Also, it was fun to see Cal and his wife Jane from NBBM again and revisit with them. Cal's character was needed to show how much these Bonner men care for each other, to the point of making complete idiots of themselves. :) The Bonner men are strong, caring males and their women are strong, determined women who don't let the men push them around.

To sum it up, I loved this book! It made me laugh, cry and even pissed me off a bit at some of the characters. It may have some flaws but for me they were minuet. The fact that this started out as an audio "read" and ended up as a "can't stop til you're finished" read says so much about what's inside. Susan Elizabeth Phillips and all of her wonderful books can be found here.

Rating: A+

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Season ~ Sons of Anarchy

I don't watch much television, there's just not a lot on that I like. I'd rather be reading, blog hopping or hanging out with the kids. But one show I do like and have been looking forward to the new season is Sons of Anarchy.

Why do I like this show? For the same reasons I like certain books. It's different. The characters are varied and definitely not your run of the mill television characters. No one on this show could really be considered nice and some are down right evil. The dimensions of the characters simply fascinate me. Just when I think I know what a character will do in a situation they completely surprise me. The show is gritty, dirty and at times even sexy. Charlie Hunnam plays the lead of Jackson 'Jax" Teller, he's a bad boy who tries to be good but just can't quite make it over to the good guys side. Which is perfectly fine with me. Katy Segal and Ron Pearlman play Jax's mom and step dad. They are both "bad guys" but their consciences do make appearances every now and then and it usually pisses them off when that happens. LOL

The new season starts September 8 on FX.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Review: Mr. Perfect

Title: Mr. Perfect
Author: Linda Howard
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Published: August 2000

Contemporary Romance Challenge 2009

From the back cover ~

What would make the perfect man?

That's the delicious topic heating up the proceedings at a certain table of professional women at their favorite restaurant, Ernie's, tonight: Mr. Perfect. What qualities would he have? Would he be tall, dark, and handsome? Caring and warmhearted -- or will just muscular do?

Jaine Bright and her three girlfriends start off with the basics -- he'd be faithful and reliable, the responsible type, with a great sense of humor. But as the conversation picks up momentum, so do the quartet's requirements for Mr. Perfect -- and they write down a tongue-in-cheek checklist that's both funny and racy.

The next thing they know, the List, as it has come to be called, spreads like wildfire throughout their company and sizzles along e-mail lines. And it doesn't stop there: the List becomes an overnight sensation, grabbing the interest of local newspapers and television coverage. No one expected this avalanche of attention for something that began as a joke among friends. And the joke turns deadly serious when one of the four women is murdered... The prime suspect in the case is the victim's boyfriend, who was one of a number of men who found the List sexist and offensive. But an impenetrable alibi gets him off the hook.

Now, with the help of Jaine's neighbor, an unpredictable police detective, the puzzle must be solved -- and time is running out as a deadly stalker targets the three remaining friends. Now, knowing whom to trust and whom to love is a matter of survival -- as the dream of Mr. Perfect becomes a chilling nightmare.

Ah, Linda Howard, an author I can always count on to entertain me. This was not only a fun read but had some well written female relationships. The mystery and identity of the killer wasn't too difficult to figure out so if you're looking for real mystery, this isn't it. Jaine and her friends added a different dimension to the story. I liked interactions between the women and seeing how they pulled together during a crisis. I wouldn't say the romance was in the forefront, more of a fairly even divide between the romance and Jaine and her girlfriends. The way Howard showed the various aspects of how the List affected each woman's life made for a greater knowledge of their characters.

Jaine, the heroine, is a single, hard working woman. She has a good job and a close group of friends. Her dating life isn't exactly where she would like it to be. She's been engaged 3 times and is sort of in a holding pattern when it comes to guys. You could say she's a bit gun shy. She has close relationships with her parents, brother and sister along with some sibling rivalry thrown in. She just move into her first home and while she loves the house she feels her next door neighbor leaves much to be desired. He's rude, filthy, loud and obnoxious. And it turns out she can't even have him arrested - he's a cop.

Sam the neighbor and cop cleans up real well. :) He and Jaine are such a fun couple. I could totally picture them on the old game show "The Newlyweds". They would be hilarious and no doubt have quite a few embarrassing moments. They have a tendency to say the craziest things when they're arguing. And they seem to love to argue - partly for the making up and partly because it's just who they are.

Poor Jaine is just trying to mow her lawn when Sam decides to put a stop to the mowing ~

The jerk stood there, bloodshot eyes , snarl on his face, dirty clothes: his usual presentation. He reached over and slid the lever on the mower to the off position, and the efficient little engine groaned to a stop.


For about half a second.

"What in hell did you do that for?" she roared, her face turning red with temper as she stepped closer, unconsciously balling her right hand into a fist.

"I thought you were trying to quit cussing," he taunted.

"You'd drive a saint to cussing!"

"That let's you out, doesn't it?"

"You're damn right!"

He eyed her right hand. "Are you going to use that, or are you going to be reasonable?"

"What-?" She glanced down and saw that her arm was half-cocked, her fist already drawn back. With great effort she uncurled her fingers. They immediately assumed the fight position again. She really, really wanted to slug him, and she got even angrier because she couldn't.

"Reasonable?" she yelled, stepping even closer. "You want me to be reasonable? You're the one who scared the hell out of me and turned off my mower!"

"I'm trying to sleep," he said, enunciating the words with clear pit stops between each one. "Is it asking too much for a little consideration?"

pages 44-45

They make such a lovely couple. :) Sam is really a genuinely nice guy who is under a lot of pressure at work. He's one of those smart asses that I love so much, complete with cocky grin. I liked the way he and Jaine get to know each other, there's a definitely physical attraction once Sam gets cleaned up. Then there's the "show" that Sam gives Jaine - that increased Jaine interested in Sam. I'll leave the "show" to your imagination... But with that physical attraction also comes playfulness between these two. You could really feel them coming to like each other before falling in love. The intense love of cars Jaine and Sam had was also a connection of this unlikely pair. Their falling in love didn't seem forced but a natural conclusion.

The killer was fairly obvious but I still found them interesting because of the way Howard wrote them into this functioning but sick individual. I liked the way the story concluded with the killer getting justice with both Jaine and Sam having a part in the finale.

The weak and at most times annoying parts of the book were the parts with Jaine's brother and sister. These were two characters I found I could almost have done without. Their conflict with Jaine was childish and petty. And the way Jaine dealt with them was frustrating. She took her frustrations with her siblings out on Sam. Everyone else in the book that irritated her she was usually able to hold it in but with Sam she let it fly. She gave as good as her got and made for some funny dialogue as well as hot sex scenes. Sam actually found it a turn on when Jaine got mad at him. How can you not like a guy like that? PMS? Bring it on! LOL

Overall a very enjoyable read from Linda Howard. I couldn't find a website for Ms. Howard but Fantastic fiction (great source for all authors) has a list of Ms. Howard's books and her publisher, Random House, has an author page for Howard.

Rating: A-

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cover Love ~ Fire

US cover~ UK cover~
YA author Kristin Cashore has been doubly blessed by the cover gods with her upcoming release of Fire. Usually when I see a comparison of US and UK book covers I have a definite preference. And it's not always the US version. For these two, it's a close call but given the choice I would take the UK version. I like them both but the colors and the pose of the heroine on the UK cover grab my attention and pull me in more. What do you think?

Fire synopsis from author's blog:

Fire, Graceling's prequel-ish companion book, takes place across the mountains to the east of the seven kingdoms, in a rocky, war-torn land called the Dells.

Beautiful creatures called monsters live in the Dells. Monsters have the shape of normal animals: mountain lions, dragonflies, horses, fish. But the hair or scales or feathers of monsters are gorgeously colored-- fuchsia, turquoise, sparkly bronze, iridescent green-- and their minds have the power to control the minds of humans.

Seventeen-year-old Fire is the last remaining human-shaped monster in the Dells. Gorgeously monstrous in body and mind but with a human appreciation of right and wrong, she is hated and mistrusted by just about everyone, and this book is her story.

Wondering what makes it a companion book/prequel? Fire takes place 30-some years before Graceling and has one cross-over character with Graceling, a small boy with strange two-colored eyes who comes from no-one-knows-where, and who has a peculiar ability that Graceling readers will find familiar and disturbing...

Kristin Cashore's follow up novel Fire, is due for release 5 October. Perfect birthday gift for my daughter Abby who really enjoyed Cashore's Graceling novel. If you're interesting in seeing Graceling's covers head on over to Kristin Cashore's blog where she talks about moving and what she's currently working on.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Review: Madhouse

Title: Madhouse
Author: Rob Thurman
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Cal Leandros/Book 3
Published: March 2008

*Spoilers for books 1 & 2/mild for this one*

From the back cover ~

Half-human Cal Leandros and his brother, Niko, aren't exactly prospering with their preternatural detective agency. Who could have guessed that business could dry up in New York City, where vampires, trolls, and other creepy crawlies are all over the place?

But now there-s a new arrival in the Big Apple. A malevolent evil with ancient powers is picking off humans like sheep, dead-set on making history with an orgy of blood and murder. And for Cal and Niko, this is one paycheck they-re going to have to earn.

I definitely liked it. But man did it creep me out! It's dark, very dark. The antagonist is a demon version of Hannibal Lecter which means he's way, way worse than ole Hannibal was. It's very bloody and gory but still kept me at the edge of my seat without totally grossing me out. I think my "gross out" level has been slowly on the rising since I started reading UF. :) I did have one problem in regards to the reason the big bad nasty showed up, I felt it was a bit weak. But other than that I thoroughly enjoyed Madhouse.

It's been a few months since Georgina was kidnapped (Moonshine/book 2) and Cal has been keeping his distance from her. He still feels she's safer when he's not around. George thinks Cal's being an idiot but doesn't push it. I like that about her. She knows when to push and when to ease up. Their relationship is an odd one. They're both attracted to each other but circumstances haven't given them a chance at a normal dating life. George is a wickedly accurate psychic but she's also a couple of years younger than Cal. And since she's human she doesn't have any real defenses the way Cal, Niko, Robin and Promise have. Cal plays the "she's too young for me" card even though you get the feeling that George is far more mature than her age -she's 17 to his 19. I like her character and hope that we get to see more of her as the series progresses.

Cal and Niko are settling in just fine with Cal working at a bar and Niko managing to take some college classes. Their finances get some help from Niko's vampire girlfriend, Promise, with the referral of a client. But life in Cal and Niko's world is never simple and what they thought would be an easy job turns out to be anything but easy. This time they have to recruit some help. Sometimes when there's a bunch of different creatures throughout a series I have a hard time keeping track of who's who and what's what. In Thurman's world I've actually done pretty well. :) Some of the secondary supernatural beings are reoccurring so it helps my memory when they show up again to cause trouble for the brothers & co. I now know what a Boggle is and that there are even little Boggles - boglets. And they're nowhere near as cute as they sound.

The pacing is well done with the action scenes both riveting and bloody. The down time aka no fighting, is when we learn more about what makes these characters tick and just how their relationships are forming, evolving and being reevaluated. Niko has always looked out for Cal ever since Cal was born. But he's getting to the point where he has to let him go and trust that all the training and teaching he's done will keep Cal safe. The way the brothers relationship is changing is very similar to that of a father/son. Which isn't surprising since their mother (bitch woman from hell) gave Cal to Niko when Cal was born and told Niko to take him, she didn't want him. I don't like to mention their mother (bitch woman from hell) because I can't stand her. I will say that I'm glad she's dead and they don't have to deal with her in person. They are still dealing with her legacy of abuse/neglect which would explain why they are so close - they've only had each other to rely on. I really do love these brothers!

I must mention Robin Goodfellow or Puck as he's also known. The brothers met him in the first book while trying to buy a car from him. Their relationship with him continues to grow and evolve, from a source of information to a reliable and trusted friend. Robin's the one that's usually got sex on the brain and can be counted on to make sexual references even in "fighting for your life" situations. He seems like an easy going ladies man or "gentleman" man since Robin swings both ways. :) He's an equal opportunity sexual deviant. But there's a loneliness to him that comes through even when he's surround by beautiful and mostly naked people. He's lived for thousands of years and has seen friends and lovers come and go - outlived them all. Robin adds a certain dimension of not only friendship but responsibility to the brothers and their family unit. He watches their back and now they watch out for him. Just like family.

I really like how this series is progressing. The characters don't stagnate but continue to grow. Cal and Niko are still number one in each others books and would do anything for each other. But they also understand that it's not healthy for them to exclude others from their world. And they both have love lives - Cal with a werewolf and Niko with a vampire. Couldn't expect them to go the normal route. :)

Rob Thurman and her books can be found here.

Books in this series:


Rating: A-

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Going to the Movies...

The youngest munchkin and I finally saw Transformers. He's the only one that seems to like going to the movies. The other two would rather stay home playing video games or surfing the web. I might be able to drag them to see Harry Potter next week but I'm not counting on it. :)

Anyway, if you liked the first Transformers then you'll probably like the second. I don't really care for the people. The main guy, Sam, is annoying so I generally tune him out. I much prefer the Autobots and the Decepticons. (Those are the good transformers and the bad transformers).

I did enjoy the previews. First up was M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender. His movies have been hit or miss with me, mostly miss. I did like Signs with Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix. Avatar: The Last Airbender is a cartoon that the kids watched and I actually liked. The movie version is live action, not animated and looked amazing. It comes out next summer and I'll definitely drag my movie buddy Nick, to see it.

Do you remember the movie Office Space? Well, the people who did Office Space have a new movie coming out in September called Extract. It looks pretty funny but might be one of those that I wait for the DVD.

The last preview was for Funny People. I've been seeing this one on TV lately but didn't really pay attention. The preview at the theater looked good. Another one I'll keep in mind for DVD release.

Bonus: Eric Bana is in it. :)

You'll have to go here to see the video. YouTube wouldn't allow embedding. :(

And of course we saw the preview for the next Harry Potter movie which comes out tonight at midnight. The theater is having a special contest for people who show up dressed as their favorite character. I went to Barnes and Noble for the last two book release parties and that was too crowded for my liking. I can only imagine what the movie will be like.

So what movies do you plan to see this summer?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Review: Moonshine

Title: Moonshine
Author: Rob Thurman
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Cal Leandros/Book 2
Published: March 2007

*Spoilers for the first book*

From the back cover~

After saving the world from his fiendish father's side of the family, Cal Leandros and his stalwart half-brother Niko have settled down with new digs and a new gig-bodyguard and detective work. And in New York City, where preternatural beings stalk the streets just like normal folk, business is good.

Their latest case has them going undercover for the Kin-the werewolf Mafia. A low-level Kin boss thinks a rival is setting him up for a fall, and wants proof. The place to start is the back room of Moonshine-a gambling club for non-humans. Cal thinks it's a simple in-and-out job. But Cal is very, very wrong.

Cal and Niko are being set up themselves-and the people behind it have a bite much worse than their bark...

About six months have past since the end of the first book, Nightlife. Things are getting back to normal or at least as normal as it gets for Cal and Niko. The Auphe, demons who were after Cal, are dead and gone. So without that threat hanging over their heads they were finally able to think about a future that didn't include running. Working as bodyguards and detectives for supernatural beings makes for some interesting clients. It's not exactly safe work but Cal and Niko are not used to safe. It's work they're qualified for and sometimes the pay is even good.

Once again we get the story from Cal's POV and he's as sarcastic and enjoyable as ever. :) Robin Goodfellow aka Puck, plays a larger role in the brothers' lives, he's become a friend of sorts who can usually be counted on in a fight. And Niko and Promise, the lovely vampiress, add a bit of a romantic element that is primarily off page. Promise's developing relationship with the brothers increases their small circle as she slowly becomes an integral part of their world.

Where Nightlife had the world development and back story you would expect of a first book, Moonshine focuses more on the day to day living of the brothers' world. Since they've chosen to stay in New York City they must think more about the mundane things like rent and monthly living expenses. Before there was always that knowledge that wherever they were it was only temporary. But now they have decided to put down roots, not that those roots can't be yanked out if need be.

This time around we get to go undercover with Cal and experience the Kin ~ Werewolf mafia. The Kin are very violent with a strong adherence to survival of the fittest. What's interesting about the werewolves in Thurman's world is that they are not all or nothing type of wolves. Meaning they aren't either in human form or wolf form. There are some weres that will have parts that are human and parts that are more wolf at the same time. This is due to breeding and the idea that the werewolf community has in regards to what makes the best werewolf. I do like the spin that Thurman has added to the weres and she takes it one step further with Cerberus.

Cerberus is one of the head honchos of the Kin. He's also the reason Cal is going undercover. Cal gets a job working for Cerberus and isn't quite sure what to expect when he meets him for the first time.

Cal's reaction to his first sight of Cerberus ~

There were a lot of things to be said about Cerberus, but let's focus on the primary one.

Cerberus was freaky as shit.

As you can see Cal tends to get to the point. I won't say anything more about Cerberus except that Cal was right. :)

The plot is like something out of a detective/crime solving type of story except supernatural beings are the clients and the criminals. And when it comes to supernatural creatures you can never be sure who the bad guys and the good/semi-good guys are. I really enjoyed the story and trying to figure out just who the really bad guys were and how it would end. I also like reading about the different weres that Cal got to know and annoy. He very good with pushing buttons and it's fun to see just how far he'll push. ;)

I'm loving this world that Thurman has created. The character growth continues not only with Cal and Niko but we get to know Robin and Promise even better. I was indifferent to Promise at first but now that she's begun to reveal more I've come to like her. The series is dark and gritty as well as laugh out loud funny at times. Thurman keeps the plot tight and kept me enthralled in Cal's world. After reading Moonshine I couldn't help but continue with the next book Madhouse.

Visit Rob Thurman's website to learn more about this series and her new series, Trickster Novels, starting this fall.

Rating: A-

Thursday, July 9, 2009

PBW ~ Left Behind and Loving It Workshops...

Author Lynn Viehl hosts a series of workshops during the week of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Conference. The RWA Conference is known for it's massive book signing but there are also a variety of writing and publishing workshops held during the conference. For those of us that for whatever reason choose not to attend RWA, Ms. Viehl hosts a week long mixture of virtual workshops.

Starting next week the Left Behind and Loving It (LB & LI) virtual workshops will be hosted online at PBW blog. In addition to the workshops held on PBW there will also be daily links posted to other virtual workshops. More information and the schedule for PBW can be found here. The workshops are centered on writing or publishing and can be very informative whether you write professionally or simply for your own pleasure. I participated last year and found it not only enlightening but also a lot of fun.

Anyone who's familiar with Lynn Viehl and her blog knows that she is very good when it comes to promoting authors she enjoys and very generous with her giveaways. LB & LI is no exception. She will be holding a giveaway each day as well as grand prize of either a Netbook or a Sony Digital Reader. All this information can be found at PBW.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Review: Doomsday Can Wait

Title: Doomsday Can Wait
Author: Lori Handeland
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Phoenix Chronicles/Book 2
Published: May 2009

From the back cover ~

SHE CAN SEE EVIL COMING FROM ALL DIRECTIONS...It took the near annihilation of humanity for Liz Phoenix to understand the true meaning of her premonitions. Liz is one of the sacred few on earth who has the psychic powers to fight the malevolent forces that have tried to wipe out the human race since the beginning of time. She battled these beings once, thwarting Doomsday but losing most of her soldiers in the massacre. Now she must replenish her troops quickly-because the supernatural war isn't over yet.

BUT WILL SHE BE BLINDSIDED BY DESIRE? As the new leader of the federation, Liz is marked for death by a Navajo witch with a link to her past. To survive, she must rely on her few remaining allies-her mentor, a shaman with too many secrets, as well as ex-lover, Jimmy Sanducci. Bringing Jimmy into the mix is a dangerous move, for Liz's darkest desires are razor-sharp-and her longing for Jimmy is at a fever pitch. But can Liz afford to give into the cravings that burn inside her, with the next shot at Doomsday just around the corner? This time, if evil wins, chaos will reign-and the world as we know it will be lost forever.

Oh, boy... what to say about this one? I liked the first book in this series, Any Given Doomsday and I liked Handeland's Nightcreature series (the ones with "Moon" in the title) but this one fell short of the mark. It was difficult to get into and there were parts that just dragged for me. It was a road trip that had way too many stops. And it's very violent and bloody. I know it's UF but I was still surprised at the amount of "horror" contained in this story.

Former cop Liz Phoenix is back working at the bar when she has a customer who wants her dead. She manages to stay alive but knows it's only a matter of time before the witch tries again. So Liz makes some calls and heads out to find her former lover, angsty vampire Jimmy Sanducci. She needs help finding him and a road trip wouldn't be complete without a fairy. The lovely fairy Summer has a history with Jimmy which makes for even more uncomfortable driving. Throw in sexy shaman Sawyer, who Liz had a sexual relationship with and is still attracted to, and you get some fun times on the road. The only problem is that everywhere they seem to stop death has been there before them.

Once they do find Jimmy it's more blood and death and Jimmy isn't in the best shape. He's loosing his mind and his control of his vampire side. Liz doesn't care about the odds of Jimmy making her a meal, she's determined to save him. Sadly for Liz, she must ask Summer for help. LOL Yep, ask the former lover of your possible current lover for help. Summer doesn't try to make things better between her and Liz, she seems to secretly enjoy Liz's discomfort. I wasn't too crazy about Summer and all her "fairyness". She got on my nerves. :( She seem to be there to add more tension to the alreday tense triangle of Liz, Jimmy and Sawyer.

Then there's Sawyer acting all mysterious and sexy. I liked him in the last book but this one he seems to have lost his edginess a bit. In Any Given Doomsday you really weren't sure if he was on the side of the good guys or just on the side of Sawyer. The impression I had was that he was going to do what was best for him and if that happened to help the federation it was merely a coincidence. This time around he's doesn't come across as quite so dark. He's still not what I would call a hero but he seems to have soften up a bit, lost that darkness that kept Liz on her toes around him. Now she just has to watch out for his sex appeal that keeps pulling her back to him.

And lets not forget the crazy witch that's after Liz. She continues to go after Liz but Liz is able to fend her off. The wicked witch isn't only trying to kill Liz, she's also bent on releasing the evil that is the Grigori. If they are released then chaos will reign, humans will die... you know the drill. Not much "happy, happy, joy, joy" here. The final battle is bloody with a WTF moment that left me shaking my head.

The thing I did like is that Liz is still testing out her powers - she's not sure of everything she's capable of. I liked seeing her discover just what she's is capable of. She doesn't want to be the leader of the federation nor does she want all the responsibility that goes with it. But she trudges on and continues fighting and making those difficult decision leaders must make.

Unfortunately this book did little to heighten my anticipation for the next book, Apocalypse Happens, release date - November 3. I'm still on the fence if I'll continue with this series. I'll probably wait for reviews for the next book before picking it up. For more info on Lori Handeland and her books, pop over to her website. FYI ~ there is sound on the website so consider yourself warned. :)

Rating: C

Monday, July 6, 2009

Review: Nightlife

Title: Nightlife
Author: Rob Thurman
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Cal Leandros/Book 1
Published: March 2006

From the back cover ~

“There are monsters among us. There always have been and there always will be. I’ve known that ever since I can remember, just like I’ve always known I was one…

…Well, half of one, anyway.”

Welcome to the Big Apple. There’s a troll under the Brooklyn Bridge, a boggle in Central Park, and a beautiful vampire in a penthouse on the Upper East Side—and that’s only the beginning. Of course, most humans are oblivious to the preternatural nightlife around them, but Cal Leandros is only half-human.

His father’s dark lineage is the stuff of nightmares—and he and his entire otherworldly race are after Cal. Why? Cal hasn’t exactly wanted to stick around long enough to find out.

He and his half-brother Niko have managed to stay a step ahead for three years, but now Cal’s dad has found them again. And Cal is about to learn why they want him, why they’ve always wanted him…for he is the key to unleashing their hell on earth. The fate of the human world will be decided in the fight of Cal’s life…

Another new series for me. Not that I needed to add a new one to my reading list but this one kept calling to me. I figured I'd get to it eventually and wouldn't you know eventually happened a heck of a lot sooner than I expected. I spotted Nightlife at the UBS and in the basket it went. I still wasn't planning to start reading it anytime soon. I thought I'd get to it...eventually. LOL But then I kept seeing the series mentioned more and more in blogland. So I started reading and couldn't stop! By the time I finished Nightlife I was checking the libraries to see if they had the next 3 books in the series available - they did!

Nightlife is told from Cal's POV. I like his voice and while his insight rarely has a positive slant to it sure makes for interesting reading. He has that smart ass humor that I love. At times it can be a bit much but overall I liked it. He's got the attitude that if anything can go wrong it does but this comes from his personal experiences starting with his messed up childhood and following into adulthood. He's only 19 but has seen and done things that most people would only see in their nightmares. His internal dialogue and comments on the people and events around him are fodder for some truly laugh out loud moments. Cal's aware of the supernatural beings that exists right along with the humans that don't have a clue they're there. He and his half brother Niko have been training all their lives and running from the things that hunt Cal. Things that he's a part of.

Niko is Cal's half-brother (same mother). He's a tofu loving, Zen master, bad ass blond ninja. He trains hard and takes protecting his brother very seriously. He also takes the training of Cal very seriously much to Cal's disgust. Cal has a bit of a lazy streak, okay, a huge lazy streak. He's more at home kicking back on the couch than in the dojo attempting to kick Niko's ass. But when all is said and done Cal can hold his own thanks to Niko's relentless training. Niko has dedicated his life to keeping Cal safe. They're the only family each other has and they only trust each other. Thurman did a good job of bringing Niko to life. His desert dry humor lets the reader know that he's still a big brother that's quite capable of teasing his little brother. The thing I like best about Niko is his unwavering loyalty to Cal. After reading Nightlife I was hoping we would eventually get Niko's POV and Yeah! We get it in book 4 ~ Deathwish.

The Monsters ~ they are plentiful. There are a number of big and not so big bads in Nightlife and the series in general has a variety of monsters and nasty beasties taken from mythology and everyone's worst nightmares. The main problem I have with all of these supernatural creatures is that they basically stay hidden from the human world. Most of them try to keep a low profile with humans. Why? If they are so much stronger and more powerful than humans why bother? There was an explanation but I still think with this many monsters running around they wouldn't be able to stay under the radar for long. Certainly not centuries. There are times when it seems like Cal and Niko are getting attacked left and right but no cops show up to find out what the disturbance is. This is New York City so you'd think someone would be calling the cops. It's something I've seen not only with this series but with other series as well. I have noticed that authors in general tend to use the theory of people only see what they want to and that anyone who does come in contact with the big bad guys usually ends up dead.

The Blood ~ lots of it. Monsters seem to love blood. They love the sight, the smell and the taste of it. The monsters in Nightlife are no different. Some of the fight scenes are quite graphic and bloody with numerous body parts being bitten, clawed and chopped off. Even with all the blood, blades, guns and claws I had no problem following along on the action. Thurman does a good job painting a vivid picture of the battles that Cal and Niko are fighting.

Cal and Niko aren't the only ones getting some action. :) Robin Goodfellow is a fascinatingly annoying character that I have grown to love. He's a used car salesman that Cal and Niko meet up with. I don't want to say anymore for fear of spoilers but I will say he just gets better and better as the series progresses. I did like what there was of him in Nightlife but didn't feel like I knew him all that well. He's a secondary character that Thurman gives just enough page time to to make him interesting but leave the reader wanting more.

There isn't much at all in the way of romance so if you must have that, sorry, you won't find it here. What you will find is story about two brothers and their relationship. The love between these two comes through whether they're fight monsters or elbowing each other while making smart ass remarks. The scenes with Cal and Niko show not only their love for each other but their mutual respect.

This is Thurman's first book and being the first book in a series I thought she did a remarkable job. It certainly got me itching to read the next book (which I already have) and find out more about these characters and the world they inhabit. There are currently 4 books released in the Cal Leandros series with at least 3 more to come per the author's website. She also has another series starting this fall. The Trickster Novels begin with Trick of the Light, release date September 1 and featuring a female protagonist, Trixa Iktomi. Sounds like another series to add to my list.

Rating: B+

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Changes and catching up...

I hope the first thing you notice is the new header. If you don't see a new header please drop me an email. I've checked it on IE and Firefox and it comes up. So, *fingers crossed* I hope it works for everyone. I've been in the mood for a change but couldn't decide what exactly I wanted, I just knew I wanted something different. :)

A Big THANK YOU for all the positive thoughts about my mom and her surgery. I can't begin to tell you how much those kind words meant to me and to my mom. She is doing great and is well on the way to a full recovery. She went to the surgeon for a follow up and he's very happy with her progress. She's getting around and even driving herself to the bank and to church.

I've stopped going to mom's house everyday - now I'm just going by a few times a week. But while I was there everyday Mom taught me to play dominoes. Her and Auntie Fran play a lot and I've never played so I thought it was time to learn. They play a game called "chicken foot" and it's not as easy as it looks. I did win a quite a few times. Mom chalked my wins up to her "recovering" and not being at 100%. LOL I also found out she does some name calling when I would play something she didn't like. She's feisty for 82. :)

And I started reading a new UF series. It's Rob Thurman's Cal Leandros series. It's very good - I'm already on the fourth book. I've read some reviewers comparing it to Supernatural and I can see some similarities. I used to watch Supernatural but stopped after the 2nd season - not sure why. But whether you like Supernatural or not I would recommend this series.

The two pics below are from Rob Thurman's website and are based on the first book Nightlife. They are done by Japanese artist Kazusa. I think they're a wonderful rendition of the characters of Cal and his brother Niko.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July ~ Independence Day...

Independence Day here in the states. For all of you celebrating the 4th here's hoping you all have a safe and happy holiday weekend. For us it will be a lazy day of playing in the pool (and reading by the pool) and cooking on the grill. Possible fireworks watching from the park across the street if I can get the kids interested in going. :)

*the picture ~ fireworks over Niagara Falls*

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Review: Dreaming of You

Title: Dreaming of You
Author: Lisa Kleypas
Genre: Historical Romance
Published: May 1994
Reprint: September 2003

Nath's Re-Read Challenge 2009

From the back cover ~

A prim, well-bred gentlewoman, Sara Fielding is a writer who puts pen to paper to create dreams. But now curiosity is luring her from the shelter of her country cottage into the dangerous world of Derek Craven - handsome, tough, and tenacious-and the most exciting man Sara has ever met.

Derek rose from poverty to become the wealthy lord of London's most exclusive gambling house. And now duty demands that he allow Sara Fielding to enter his perilous realm of ever-shifting fortunes-with her impeccable manners and her infuriating innocence. But there is a hidden strength and sensuality to the lady that captivates him beyond his better judgement. And in this world, where danger lurks behind every shadow, even a proper "mouse" can be transformed in to a breathtaking enchantress-and a cynical gambler can be shaken to his core by the power of passion and the promise of love.

I don't remember the first book I ever read of Lisa Kleypas. It feels like I've always read her books, like they've always been part of my reading experience. While there have been some I've loved more than others there haven't been any that I didn't like. Dreaming of You is one of those that I loved the first time I read it and it is still one of my very favorites of Ms. Kleypas. It's one of those books that part of me wants to read fast because it's so good but another part wants to read it slowly and savor it, knowing that at the end I'll be a little sad that it's over.

A female writer, not at all uncommon now but during Sara Fielding's time it was not the thing for proper ladies to do. So Sara uses her initials, writing under the name S. R. Fielding. Sara is from the country and leads a simple life, living with her parents and being courted by a local man. She travels to London to stay with friends and while there takes the opportunity to gather information for her next novel. The gathering takes place in a rookery, not exactly a safe place for a woman alone. It's there that Sara witnesses a man being beating by two other men. She debates on whether to get involved when she sees a knife and thinks they are about to murder the poor man. Sara is smart and knows the area isn't the best that's why she comes armed with a pistol. I loved the fact that miss prim and proper carries a pistol in her proper handbag. *grins* Sara is a character that is full of surprises, many of which she springs on Derek Craven.

Of course Derek is the man that Sara saves with her less than proper pistol. They make their way back to Derek's club where Sara is awed by the elegance and opulence that is Craven's. Derek's factotum, Worthy, is called to take over the care of his injured employer. In terrible pain, Derek's cockney accent makes an appearance. Sara may not understand everything he says but she still finds him quite irresistible. He has a wicked reputation that even Sara is aware of. No doubt she learned of it while doing her research. She is fascinated by Derek, his life starting in the gutter and ending up rich and powerful but there is also the physical pull Sara feels towards him.

Sara and Derek come from such different backgrounds. Everything about these two is opposite. Sara grew up in the country, Derek in the city. Sara was raised by two loving parents. Derek was "raised" by whores but in all actuality he was raised by the streets. Sara is well read. Derek is not. Sara knows how to love and what it feels like to be loved. Derek doesn't know what love feels like. Sara, while being an author is still held by the restraints society places on women. Derek may not be welcomed in all the best homes of London but he is powerful and can do just about whatever he wants. So how do these two opposites come together to make one happy couple? Kleypas magic. Yep, it's that simple. :)

Derek is one of my very favorite types of heroes. He's the anti-hero. He's not a good guy, doesn't want to be a good guy and really has very little association with good guys. He considers himself as far from hero material as you can get. He certainly doesn't think he's good enough for Sara. He tries to get Sara to leave London, leave Craven's. First he simply tells her to go then he tells her about himself. About all the terrible things he's done to survive. He does nothing to hide his past from her, in fact he practically flaunts in. He'll do whatever it takes to make her go. ~

Stopping in the middle of another pass, he crossed the invisible barrier between them and seized her. His hands clenched her upper arms painfully. "I want you to leave. You're not safe here. As long as you 're in London you're not safe from me." His gaze raked over the rippling mass of her hair, her delicate face, her bewildered eyes. With a sudden groan he pulled her against him, burying his face in her hair. Sara closed her eyes, her mind spinning. His body was solid and powerful, hunching over hers to accommodate their difference in height. She felt him tremble with the force of his need. He spoke just beneath her ear, his voice thick with tormented pleasure. "You have to leave, Sara...because I want to hold you like this until your skin melts into mine. I want you in my bed, the smell of you on my sheets, your hair spread across my pillow. I want to take your innocence. God! I want to ruin you for anyone else." page 163

Such a powerful scene. You can feeling the longing in Derek for what he thinks he doesn't deserve but wants so desperately.

Sara shows Derek through her words and her actions that she finds him far more than good enough for her. She lets him know that he's the only one she wants. I loved Sara's tenacity, her inquisitive nature, her ability to find good in what others might deem bad or worthless. She may write about the darker side of life but she still maintains her sense of hope for all things. That's not to say that she's naive about life, she just doesn't shy away from the less pleasant aspects of it. The rookeries, the gaming halls, the whores plying their trade all grab her attention and her imagination. Sara's a heroine that would seem perfectly suited for the hero lord or hero rake. But her real hero is Derek. ~

But Sara saw Derek for exactly what he was, no more and no less, and she was aware that he might never change. It was enough that he loved her. In spite of his faults, he would take care of her and defend her to the last breath of life. Separately they had different strengths. Together they were complete. page 305

This is why these two are so right together. And by the end of the book Kleypas has shown the reader the rightness of this pairing. Derek is one of my favorite Kleypas heroes probably second only to Nick Gentry. Which isn't surprising since they are both the anti-hero types. Yes, I do love those bad boys. :) One of the things I liked about Derek is that he doesn't try to change Sara and he doesn't change the basics of who he is for her. For him to have suddenly become a proper gentleman with proper manners and proper etiquette would not have been true to his character. He is who he is and Sara loves him for that. Perfect!

There are many obstacles for these two to overcome not the least of which is their different backgrounds. When Derek goes to Sara's home in Greenwood Corners their differences are on display for all. But thankfully Sara's parents are able to look beyond the surface and the rumors about Derek and see the man that their daughter fell in love with.

Ms. Kleypas has a very informative website with lists of all her historicals and her contemporary works. She has a great printable book list that is perfect for taking to the UBS. :)

Rating: A+