Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: Forever Mine

Forever Mine*
Elizabeth Reyes
Contemporary Young Adult
Moreno Brothers/Book 1
Self-published/September 6, 2010

From Goodreads ~

Seventeen-year old Sarah’s life is turned upside down when her single mom is sent to jail. She’s forced to move, leaving behind everything she’s ever known, including her best friend Sydney. Lost and bitter in a new school, her one goal is to save money and move back home. Then she meets Angel Moreno.

Enigmatic but gorgeous, Angel is almost too good to be true. Except for one thing, his archaic belief that guys and girls can never be “just friends”. The problem? Sarah’s best friend Sydney is not a girl.

With their unexpected romance intensifying to places neither ever experienced, how long can Sarah keep Angel in the dark about the guy waiting for her back home?

It's another free Kindle download and another worthwhile read. Hey, I'm on a roll here! This is categorized as Young Adult but I would say it is for older teens because of the sexual situations. Many young adult novels will state ages 12 and up but I would go a bit higher on this one.

Sarah's lucky in my opinion. Her mother is headed to jail but instead of foster care, Sarah is headed to La Jolla, California where her aunt lives. Yes, she's upset about leaving her friends and familiar surroundings in Flagstaff, Arizona but still... it could have been much worse. Sarah does try to make the best of it but her intent is to return to Flagstaff when she turns 18 after the first of the year. Sarah's home life hasn't been very stable, moving a lot with only her mother as her family. When they settled in Flagstaff, Sarah finally felt like she could put down roots. So it's understandable that she would want to go back. I do think she didn't show as much gratitude as she should have towards her aunt and her family. Her focus was getting out of there and she didn't seem to realize how that may have made her aunt and cousin feel. Then Sarah meets Angel and while she's very attracted to him, wants to be with him, she's still adamant in her plan to leave.

Angel Moreno isn't in a gang or in trouble with the law. He is instead a decent student, star athlete and raised in a close family. He works when he's needed in the family restaurant along with his parents and siblings. He's a decent guy if a bit possessive when it comes to Sarah. It never felt like he was too controlling but he does have a very distinct idea of relationships between males and females. We see it not only in how he is with Sarah but also how protective he is with his own sister. He's almost too mature, he could have easily been a college senior instead of a high school senior. His maturity is what Sarah needs since she had to grow up quickly and carry a lot of responsibility. Now Angel is there for her and he wants her to stay.

There is conflict beyond Sarah wanting to leave and the secret she's keeping from Angel about her best friend being a guy. There is also Angel's fan club to deal with. He's very popular with the girls at school and one in particular has fixated on him. She gives Sarah some difficulties but Sarah's secrets and lies are what really cause the problems.

The secondary characters of Angel's family, Sarah's cousin Valerie and her BFF Sydney all play their roles well. There are romances in the making between some and they do get their own books in the series. The struggles Sarah and Angel go through are resolved but not without some misunderstandings, tears and grief. When they finally do get their HEA, it's well worth the adversity they have faced.

Forever Mine was an enjoyable read that left me wanting to know more about the Moreno family and the people in their lives. The free read did what it was suppose to - captured my interest and made me want to read more from this author.

Rating: B+

Moreno Brothers Series ~

Forever Mine
Always Been Mine (Adult Contemporary)
Sweet Sofie (Mature YA)
Romero (Adult Contemporary)
Making You Mine (Adult Contemporary/December 2011)

Mini-Prequel of Sarah and Sydney on author's blog.

*Currently a Free Read on Kindle

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Home for Christmas

Home for Christmas*
Kate Davies
Contemporary Romance
Samhain/December 18, 2007

From Goodreads ~

She left everything familiar behind-but love found her anyway. A story from The Perfect Gift. Sophia is determined to spend Christmas on her own terms this year. Her daughter will be spending the holidays with her boyfriend's family, and Sophia has no intention of staying home alone with her memories. She knows Ethan would be more than happy to keep her company. But he's her business partner-and her late husband's best friend. It's past time to stop leaning on him and learn to stand on her own two feet. A cruise to the Caribbean might be just the ticket to discovering who she is now, and what she really wants.

Ethan is stunned to discover that Sophia has decided to go on a cruise for Christmas-alone. He'd thought something more was finally developing between the two of them. If she's ready to move on after the loss of her husband, he'll be damned if he lets her move on without him!

On the spur of the moment, Ethan books a stateroom, determined to prove to Sophia that what they have goes far beyond friendship. The romantic atmosphere of the cruise sparks a passion the two had only dreamed of before-but can their fledgling relationship survive beyond the vacation of a lifetime?

Warning, this title contains the following: explicit sex, graphic language (but don't tell my mom).

This was a sweet, quick read with a holiday theme but a very different location. The cruise ship gets both Sophia and Ethan away from everything familiar and lets them concentrate on enjoying each other. It's finally time for them to take the next step in their relationship and the romantic Caribbean is the perfect setting.

Sophia loved her husband Dan very much. That's never in doubt. But he's gone and she's not sure what her next step should be. Her heart knows what it wants but she's afraid to take the chance. The previous Christmas was so hard to get through so Sophia decides to get away but her daughter and her business partner are not thrilled about the decision.

Ethan is such a cool hero! He doesn't hesitate but follows Sophia to Florida and the cruise ship. He surprises her and is determined to show her how interested he is in her. It was just what Sophia needed to get her to realize Ethan felt more than just friendship for her.

The romance had both Ethan and Sophia learning new things about each other not just as friends but as lovers. They both have insecurities about this new relationship and while it felt they worked them out a little too quickly, I chalked it up to the cruise ship/holiday atmosphere.

Home for Christmas is a short read so don't expect highly developed characters or any great plot twists. It's fairly predictable. I would have liked more background on both Sophia and Ethan but the short format doesn't allow for that. It's not at all heavy on the holiday theme and could have easily been set during another season with few changes. A greater sense of the holiday season would have been nice.

Rating: B

*Currently available for free on Kindle.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Review: The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races
Maggie Stiefvater
Fantasy/Young Adult
Scholastic Press/October 18, 2011

From the inside cover ~

Some Race To Win
Others Race to Survive

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.

Some riders live.
Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition – the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

When I was a kid I loved horses, was a bit obsessed with them even. I would save my money and buy Breyer collectible horse figures. If there was a chance to go riding, I was there. So when I heard that Stiefvater's next release involved horses I knew I had to read it. Plus, the teen read it before me and gave it a thumbs up. Which was saying something since she didn't like Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy but I did.

The races take place on an small island where everyone knows everyone. That is except when the tourist come for the races. Then the population swells and the money flows into the island. The races are big business for this small, fairly poor community but it's the final race that everyone is anticipating. It's the most exciting and the most dangerous. Stiefvater does an exceptional job building that excitement leading up to the finale.

Puck Connolly loves her horse Dove. Dove is not only a wonderful horse, she's Puck's best friend. When Puck's life takes a dramatic turn, she needs money fast. The upcoming excitement for the races pull her in and she suddenly finds herself stating that she will ride. The only problem, she doesn't have a capaill uisce, a water horse and no chance of catching and training one by race day. Puck is stubborn and fierce in her convictions to not give up. Her choices are few and when everyone tells her she doesn't belong in the race, well that just makes her even more determined. I adored Puck. I loved her stubbornness, her kindness and her love for her family. It would have been hard not not to cheer her on.

Sean Kendrick is a celebrity on the island, having won the last four races. He doesn't revel in his popularity but keeps to himself. He's a hard worker, has no family and his only companion is his horse, Corr. Corr is the water horse that Sean has ridden in the past races and plans to run in the upcoming race. Sean understands Corr and would do anything to keep him. He doesn't think Puck should be in the race either but as he gets to know her, he comes to care for her. They have much in common, both orphans and both love their horses, treating them like family.

The story is told in alternating POVs between Puck and Sean. I liked that we got the two perspectives of the same events. Even though Puck and Sean have grown up on the island, they don't really know each other. The preparations for the race allow them the time, placing them together on the beach for training. In Puck's view we see the rookie rider, inexperienced in the challenge but making up for her inexperience with guts, bravery and her knowledge of horses. In Sean we see the veteran rider, a bit jaded with the experience but still holding on to the love of the race.

The way Puck and Sean's relationship develops, both wary of the other but drawn together by their love of horses and their love of the island, gives the reader insight to why they make the decisions they do. Due to circumstances both Puck and Sean face far more hardships in addition to what they will face on race day.

There are a few secondary characters have a profound impact on the lives of Puck and Sean. The way Stiefvater wrote them, you can easily see how the lives of the residents of the island are intertwined. Not only did I come to care about Puck and Sean but also about some of the other residents on the island.

The people are not the only inhabitants who make their presence known. The personalities of the horses, mainly Dove and Corr, shine through. They are as much a part of the story as the people. The capaill uisce are as beautiful as they are dangerous. They are alluring in their promises of fame and fortune. They are fascinating in their savagery, scary in their determination to dominate their riders and their surroundings.

The Scorpio Races, per Ms. Stiefvater, is intended to be a single title with no plans for a follow up book at this time. And I'm fine with that. The ending felt complete even though there is certainly more story that could be told about Puck, Sean and the island. So either way, if there is a sequel, I would definitely read it. If not, I'll hold fond memories of this beautifully written story.

Rating: A

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Review: Must Love Mistletoe

Must Love Mistletoe
Christie Ridgway
Contemporary Romance/Holiday
Avon/December 1, 2006

From Goodreads ~

Bailey Sullivan can't stand Christmas, even though her family's business is a store specializing in the perfect holiday. But now her hometown's chief supplier of rooftop Rudolphs and treetop angels is in danger of going under—it's up to Bailey to save the shop.

She has it all planned: She'll arrive on December 1 and be gone by Christmas. Plus there's always spiked eggnog to ease the pain. But "Humbug" Bailey's not the only one home for the holidays. Finn Jacobson—legendary local bad boy-turned-Secret Service agent and Bailey's long-lost high-school sweetheart—is once again the boy next door. Only this time he's all grown up, and the sparks are flying faster and hotter than ever!

Bailey believes in true love about as much as she believes in Santa Claus. But as the holiday draws closer, she's starting to think about one thing she'd like to find under her tree . . .

This was a quick read with a holiday theme but not overly heavy on the Christmas references. There is talk of Christmas since Bailey is working in her family store, The Perfect Christmas, and gets reluctantly involved in hosting various holiday events in the store. She needs to recruit a Santa and as it turns out, a pirate Santa will do.

Bailey Sullivan practically ran from Coronado and her family legacy. She lives in Los Angeles, managing a large law firm. No Ho Ho Hos or reindeer in sight. The last thing she wants is to go back and run the family holiday themed store. When Bailey gets back to Coronado she learns how much she left behind. She's reunited with her childhood best friend and her first love. We see how Bailey learns to open up and form the begins of long term relationships. She has always maintained it's best to get out before things get ugly. A legacy from her father before he took off when she was a child. She learns how wrong that is and I liked seeing the process she goes through to get there. I do think she took a little too long to realize what's really important. Too stubborn for her own good.

Finn Jacobson is in Coronado to take care of his grandmother as she recovers from an illness. He and Bailey were friends as children when Finn would spend the summers at his grandmother's, Bailey's neighbor. They became more than friends when the teen years hit. Then Bailey ran and left Finn heartbroken. Now they're both back and Finn is carrying some serious baggage. I think Finn's issues helped keep this story from being too sweet, lending a seriousness to the plot. That along with Bailey's commitment issues gave the story a nice balance between the humor and holiday spirit.

Bailey and Finn don't seem to have a shot at second chances - she's determined to leave on Christmas Day and he's still having trust issues regarding Bailey. So they try to fight their desires but it's hard to avoid the person you're lusting after when they live right next door. And Bailey does ask Finn for help which puts them together even more. It's sweet and sexy how they battle each other and their lust only to have them fall in love all over again.

The sub-plot of Bailey's mother and step-father trying to work out their differences fell a bit flat for me. I didn't dislike them but I didn't really care if they reconciled or not. There is also Finn's friend Tanner who could have been more fleshed out. He gets a book (Not Another New Year's) but I wasn't left dying to read his story.

Must Love Mistletoe was a fun, sexy romp with some serious issues thrown in the mix.

Rating: B

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Wishes...

Here's hoping you and all those you love have a wonderful, joy-filled holiday.

Safe travels if you're spending the holiday away from home. We're staying home to play and relax and enjoy the company of our family.

And if you're shopping on Friday - may the force be with you, because you're going to need all the help you can get!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cover Love : Thief of Shadows

Elizabeth Hoyt has posted the cover for the fourth book, Thief of Shadows, in her wonderful Maiden Lane series.

Isn't it gorgeous! Love the colors and of course the beautiful stepback. This is one of my favorite series and I can't wait to read Thief of Shadows! Previous delightfully good books in the series are: Wicked Intentions, Notorious Pleasures and the most recent release, Scandalous Desires.

Here's the blurb but if you haven't read the previous books in the series (do it now!) then don't read any further because there are SPOILERS AHEAD.

Winter Makepeace lives a double life. By day he’s the stoic headmaster of a home for foundling children. But the night brings out a darker side of Winter. As the moon rises, so does the Ghost of St. Giles—protector, judge, fugitive. When the Ghost, beaten and wounded, is rescued by a beautiful aristocrat, Winter has no idea that his two worlds are about to collide.

Lady Isabel Beckinhall enjoys nothing more than a challenge. Yet when she’s asked to tutor the Home’s dour manager in the ways of society—flirtation, double entendres, and scandalous liaisons—Isabel can’t help wondering why his eyes seem so familiar—and his lips so tempting.

During the day Isabel and Winter engage in a battle of wills. At night their passions are revealed . . . But when little girls start disappearing from St. Giles, Winter must avenge them. For that he might have to sacrifice everything—the Home, Isabel . . . and his life.

Thief of Shadows is set for release July 2012.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: Hammered

Kevin Hearne
Urban Fantasy
Iron Druid Chronicles/Book 3
Del Rey/July 5, 2011

From Goodreads ~

Thor, the Norse god of thunder, is worse than a blowhard and a bully—he’s ruined countless lives and killed scores of innocents. After centuries, Viking vampire Leif Helgarson is ready to get his vengeance, and he’s asked his friend Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids, to help take down this Norse nightmare.

One survival strategy has worked for Atticus for more than two thousand years: stay away from the guy with the lightning bolts. But things are heating up in Atticus’s home base of Tempe, Arizona. There’s a vampire turf war brewing, and Russian demon hunters who call themselves the Hammers of God are running rampant. Despite multiple warnings and portents of dire consequences, Atticus and Leif journey to the Norse plain of Asgard, where they team up with a werewolf, a sorcerer, and an army of frost giants for an epic showdown against vicious Valkyries, angry gods, and the hammer-wielding Thunder Thug himself.

The third installment of Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles finds ancient druid, Atticus O'Sullivan preparing for a major battle. A battle he might not survive. But if he does, he'll need to go far underground, leaving all behind but his apprentice Granuaile and his best friend and all around awesome dog Oberon.

Atticus has a lot to do before he takes on Thor. It was interesting to see how many attachments Atticus had. He had survived for so long by laying low and not building lasting relationships. Now, he's realized how many people and places have become important to him. Lots of loose ends to tie up. While Atticus is busy doing this, we also get to know more about Leif and Gunnar. Leif is a lawyer and a vampire. No, really. Gunnar is the alpha of the local werewolf pack. They both want revenge against Thor and will be joining Atticus when he goes after him.

Atticus is under a lot of pressure, he knows he might not make it back alive but he still keeps his humor intact. It's one of my favorite things about him. There is a car/chariot chase scene with Leif driving, Gunnar as passenger and Atticus in the back adding his unique humor to the situation. Atticus and Leif end up in a dueling Shakespeare contest that had me in stitches.

It takes a lot for the gang to get to Asgard where they plan to lure Thor into a fight. It's not just Atticus, Leif and Gunnar who want revenge but there are three others who travel with them to Asgard. I liked the new characters, they were well developed for secondary characters and rounded out the "fellowship" determined to take down Thor. The pacing did slow down quite a bit as everyones' reasons for revenge were told around the campfire. The stories were interesting but tended to drag on too long and for some, the willingness to risk their lives didn't balance with the act Thor was accused of.

There are a number of fight scenes and while I liked them I did find it hard to keep track of everyone involved. There were so many engaged in the various fights. There are gods, goddesses and deities along with their supernatural sidekicks making me wish I had a score card to keep track.

The end provides some twists and turns along with sadness and loss. It also leaves the reader wondering what will happen next. We'll have to wait until next April to find out.

Rating: B

Iron Druid Chronicles ~

Tricked (April 2012)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Audio Review: The Next Always

The Next Always
Nora Roberts
Contemporary Romance
With Paranormal Elements
Inn Boonsboro Trilogy/Book 1
Brilliance Audio/November 1, 2011


From the Inside Cover ~

The historic hotel in BoonsBoro has endured war and peace, changing hands, even rumored hauntings. Now it’s getting a major facelift from the Montgomery brothers and their eccentric mother. As the architect of the family, Beckett’s social life consists mostly of talking shop over pizza and beer. But there’s another project he’s got his eye on: the girl he’s been waiting to kiss since he was sixteen.

After losing her husband and returning to her hometown, Clare Brewster soon settles into her life as the mother of three young sons while running the town's bookstore. Though busy and with little time for romance, Clare is drawn across the street by Beckett's transformation of the old inn, wanting to take a closer look...at both the building and the man behind it.

With the grand opening inching closer, Beckett is happy to give Clare a private tour - one room at a time, in between blueprint meetings and kindergarten pickups. It's no first date, bu these stolen moments are the beginning of something that could arouse the secret yearning that resides in Clare's independent heart - and open the door to the extraordinary adventure of what comes next...

After reading and loving Ms. Roberta' Bride Quartet, I was looking forward to her newest contemporary series. I'm not sure if it's because the Bride Quartet's main focus was on the four women or if the setting of the was more enjoyable, probably a combination of the two. Either way, I didn't enjoy the trip to Boonsboro nearly as much as I thought I would.

All the talk around town is about the Montgomery brothers and the restoration of the famous inn. It's the inn and it's restoration that is a major focus of of the story. There is a romance between Beckett and Clare but it didn't feel like the central focus of the story. It was more of the restoration, the town and it's characters revolved around the romance. It is understandable that Clare and Beckett don't have an abundance of alone time. Clare has three boys to raise on her own and Beckett is busy with the inn. I liked both characters as well as the secondary characters but felt the inn and the town took too much time away from the romance.

The are two sub-plots running through the story. The first, which didn't work for me, was that of a stalker. It felt very much out of place in this closeknit community. I could see if there was another man competing for Clare's attention but creepy stalker dude just didn't fit in with the idyllic portrait of Boonsboro. He felt like he was transplanted from another book, say a J.D. Robb novel.

The other out-of-place character was that of the resident ghost at Inn Boonsboro. Beckett developed a relationship with the ghost right along with his relationship with Clare. Had the ghost been corporeal, maybe Clare would have had some competition. LOL The ghost angle didn't bother me but the way Becket talked to her did feel odd. He just didn't come across as a guy who would carry on conversations with a ghost.

I did like the time that Beckett and Clare spent together. Clare's boys are her life and the way Beckett becomes a part of that life felt very real. It wasn't easy getting all three boys to accept him without questioning what his place was in their lives. Beckett had to work for it, as it should be. We also see the relationship Beckett has with his two brothers, Ryder and Owen. It's evident they are the other heroes in this trilogy and we also meet their heroines. I liked the three brothers with their joking, teasing and obvious love for each other. Not sure how I feel about the pairings but we'll have to see.

The Next Always was a pleasant listen. While I didn't end up crazy in love with it, I did enjoy parts of it and will return to Boonsboro for the next Montgomery brother's story.

Rating: B-

Inn Boonsboro Series

The Next Always
The Last Boyfriend (May 2012)
The Perfect Hope (November 2012)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

TBR Challenge Review: A Cold Day for Murder

A Cold Day for Murder
Dana Stabenow
Kate Shugak/Book 1
Berkley/June 1992

From the back cover ~

She's a savvy investigator with the cool toughness of Sam Spade - and a smile that could melt a block of ice. Once the star of the Anchorage D.A.'s office, she's gone back to her roots in the far Alaska north. But Kate's taken her talent for detection along...and trouble knows where to find her.

The Dead of Winter

When a young national park ranger disappears during the long Alaskan winter, everyone assumes the cold got him. But when an investigator goes in after him, and never comes out, the weather may not be all that's killing. Or so thinks Kate Shugak. With her Husky-breed, Mutt, as an ally, she's hunting for answers among the pipeliners, Aleuts, and hardy eccentrics of the rugged American North. But she's heading for thin ice between lies and loyalties
...between justice served and the cold face of murder.

This month's suggested theme is "other genre besides romance". Not an easy task when 90% of the TBR pile is romance but I did manage to find a mystery in there among the rakes and rogues, mistresses and kick-ass chicks. I could have gone with Urban Fantasy but I do read those fairly often. So instead I decide to go in a direction that I rarely travel without at least some shades of romance. And low and behold there was a little smidge of romance in this one. More of a bad break-up with a glimmer of a reunion kind of romance.

This is Stabenow's first mystery novel but not her first published. That was the science fiction novel, Second Star. Then came the mysteries, garnering the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original for A Cold Day for Murder. The book ended up in my TBR pile not because of the award but because of the location. I've always wanted to go to Alaska. It's the wild far north with a history I've always found fascinating. As it turns out, the location was my favorite part of the novel.

Kate Shugak is hiding out and has been for over a year. Her isolation is about to end when an old friend comes calling with a request she can't refuse. When we first meet Kate, she is far from welcoming to her guests and makes it clear in her actions and words that she is not happy for the company. Kate is not an easy person to like or get to know. Which is why I felt distant from her - watching what happens but not completely engaged in her story. If this had been a movie on TV, I would definitely be doing something else while watching.

Kate may not have engaged my interest but the landscape and culture of the Alaska of her world did. I loved the feel of freedom and danger coming off the pages. It's a world so foreign to what I'm accustomed to and I soaked it up! The mystery and characters paled by comparison and took a backseat to the scenery.

The missing men and their fate is what drives Kate to discover the truth. As she tracks their last days before their disappearances, the tracks eventually lead back to the one place Kate doesn't want to go. The mystery and clues leading to the big reveal are sufficient to bring the reader and Kate to the end of a not so surprising finish. All in all, I might read the next book in the series, still on the fence about that. It's a quick read, only 199 pages, worth the short time to read but nothing to really pull me into the next book.

Rating: C+

Books in this series ~

1. A Cold Day for Murder
2. A Fatal Thaw
3. Dead in the Water
4. A Cold-blooded Business
5. Play With Fire
6. Blood Will Tell
7. Breakup
8. Killing Grounds
9. Hunter's Moon
10. Midnight Come Again
11. The Singing of the Dead
12. A Fine and Bitter Snow
13. A Grave Denied
14. A Taint in the Blood
15. A Deeper Sleep
16. Whisper to the Blood
17. A Night Too Dark
18. Though Not Dead
19. Restless in the Grave

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: Scandalous Desires

Scandalous Desires
Elizabeth Hoyt
Historical Romance/London/1738
Maiden Lane/Book 3
Grand Central/October 24, 2011

From the back cover ~

Can a pirate learn . . .

River Pirate ‘Charming’ Mickey O’Connor has lifted himself from the depths of the slums to be the King of St. Giles. Anything he wants he gets—with one exception. Silence Hollingbrook has been haunting his dreams ever since she spent a single night in his bed.

That the only true treasure . . .

Once Silence was willing to sacrifice anything to save the man she loved. Now a widow, she’s finally found peace when Charming Mickey comes storming back into her life with an offer she can’t refuse. But this time she won’t be the only one paying the price for his sins.

Lies in a woman's heart?

When his past comes back to torment him, Mickey must keep Silence safe from a merciless enemy, while wrestling with the delicious hold this widow has on his heart. And in the face of mounting danger, both will have to surrender to something even more terrifying . . . true love.

A pirate hero, a widowed heroine and a cute toddler to bring them back together. It's time to find out just how bad Charming Mickey can be and how hard and fast he will fall. Silence is a match for the notorious pirate king. She is able to temper her fascination with her common sense when it comes to the enigmatic pirate.

Silence Hollingbrook has a history with Charming Mickey O'Connor and it's not a nice one. She was able to get away from him but the association left its mark and she's not happy to be back in his presence. The one thing that could bring her back is the child Mary Darling. A child she has come to love and will do anything to keep her safe, even from her father. From the previous books we know Silence loved her husband but with him gone she has put her energy into the orphan home and Mary Darling. I enjoyed the scenes with Silence and Mary Darling because we see a nurturing and protective side of Silence as well as a happy side which was rarely seen previously. As Silence comes to care about Mickey, we see those qualities when she is with him.

Pirate Charming Mickey O'Connor is a woman's fantasy complete with sexy Irish brogue. But he is a dangerous man who has committed numerous crimes to become powerful and feared. So the obvious question is - is he redeemable? Can he be saved from his life of crime to live a life on the right side of the law? Or better yet - should he? I liked Charming Mickey but I wasn't sure I'd like him as a country gentleman with legitimate business dealings.

Silence's relationship with Mickey is perplexing in that she knows he's a criminal, he makes no secret of it, in fact he enjoys boasting of his activities. But even knowing that, Silence not only tries to understand this criminal but begins to make excuses for him and of course, she tries to change his ways. It's the reformed by a good woman trope in full force. I don't think it worked completely because Mickey really didn't want to give up his lifestyle. After everything we learned about him, I still had a hard time believing he would let go of not only his riches but his power. He wasn't left a pauper but his lifestyle would certainly take a dramatic change.

In the romance department, it was a tug-of-war with Mickey issuing orders and Silence disobeying. Mickey would then "punish" Silence but there was no real punishment and Silence finally came around. I was surprised that it took so long for them to get together considering they were living in the same place and Mickey wanted her in his bed. He's really not accustomed to being told no. Silence did manage to hold out for a while but once she fell, she fell hard and fast. That's when the redeeming truly began.

We see some familiar faces in the cast of secondary characters and a few new ones. The most notable new character looks to be slated for the position of the next heroine. I liked what we saw of her, she's no pushover, and hope she will be a good contrast to the hero.

With Scandalous Desires, Elizabeth Hoyt has added yet another lovely installment in the Maiden Lane series. I had thought the anticipation for Mickey and Silence's story could not be topped but with the way things were left, the next book should prove equally if not more anticipated.

Rating: A-

Books in this series ~

Wicked Intentions
Notorious Pleasures
Scandalous Desires
Thief of Shadows (Summer 2012)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

ARC Review: Shatter Me

Shatter Me
Tahereh Mafi
Young Adult/Dystopian
Harper Teen/November 15, 2011

From Goodreads ~

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

Lots of buzz about this book. The film rights have already been optioned before the book even hits the shelves. Does it live up to all the buzz? Well, it wasn't earth shattering or ground breaking or any of those other clich├ęs we hear. But it did hold my curiosity enough to keep my attention to the end.

Juliette has an ability she considers a curse. It has caused her to be alienated from society. No one wants to be near her. Everyone fears what she might do. Eventually tragedy occurs and sends Juliette away and locked up. She is kept isolated from the outside world which is falling apart fast. Then change happens and nothing is the same for Juliette. The plot starts out interesting but doesn't seem to go anywhere for what felt like a long time. I kept waiting for something to happen because it felt like something was going to happen at any moment. Like in a horror movie when you just know something is waiting right around the corner, the actor turns the corner and there's nothing there? Finally, the pace picked up and it felt like the plot was going somewhere.

While I'm not a fan of info dumping, I would have liked more information about the causes of this dystopian world. What we are told is given out in bits and pieces but left me feeling as if I didn't have the full picture of life in this new world. Since this is told from Juliette's POV, we only know what she knows and what the other characters tell us. But the timeline made it seem the catastrophes occurring across the globe happened very quickly. I found it hard to make sense of the timeline.

Juliette is a girl who had a most unconventional childhood but there was this one boy who caught her interest. Otherwise, she had no friends and kept to herself. At this point in her life she is understandably closed off from people and trusts no one. As Juliette's world begins to change I liked seeing how she wanted so desperately to trust but her self-preservation is still very strong. She struggles with trusting even when everything indicates she should.

As the action picks up, Juliette begins to come out of her shell, letting her feelings known and realizing that she is someone important and she can make a difference. She has been through hell and still has a way to go before she can breath easily, at least for a little while.

The writing style took some getting use to as the author implemented the strike through technique to demonstrate what Juliette is truly thinking or wishes to say but doesn't dare. Juliette might say, "I'm not afraid," followed by I am terrified. Mafi also used repetition to convey Juliette's thoughts. So it might look something like ~ "I'm not afraid," I am terrified I am terrified I am so terrified. The problem I had, especially with the strike through technique, is needing to slow down in reading in order to read through the strike through, causing the flow to stutter and slow. For some readers this might not be a problem but for myself, the affect was lost the more it was used.

There are a couple of surprises but also a number of similarities to the X-Men series. The main problem was the lack of any deeper feelings for the characters. I felt curiosity but not concern for Juliette and the others caught in this horrific world.

Rating: B-

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

ARC Review: The Virtuoso

The Virtuoso
Grace Burrowes
Historical Romance/Oxfordshire
Duke's Obsession/Book 3
Windham series/Book 4
Sourcebooks/November 1, 2011

From the author's website ~

Ellen Markham tells herself she's happy raising flowers and living in near penury in the Oxfordshire countryside, but when Valentine Windham moves in just on the other side of the wood, Ellen's longing for things she can never have threatens to overcome her good sense. Valentine's artistic soul, tender loving, and ducal determination tempt Ellen to trust and confide in a man who can only be endangered, should he learn of her past. For Valentine, regaining his musical skill becomes far less urgent than winning Ellen's heart.

To clear up any confusion, this is the fourth book in the Windham series which is about the Windham offspring, three males, five females. Within the series there are two sub-series, The Duke's Obsession and The Duke's Daughters. This is all explained on Ms. Burrowes' website. I've read the first book, The Heir, and while there were a couple of times when I felt like I was missing information on a secondary character, it didn't detract from the story.

Valentine Windham may not believe it but luck is on his side. He is attempting to recover from an injury when he wins an estate in a game of chance. He decides to journey to the estate and make improvements on his winnings. While there he meets Ellen Markham, a widow who lives in a cottage on the estate. Val comes to know Ellen and in doing so he becomes enchanted by her and propositions her. She's not a simpering virgin nor is she as experienced as Val. Theirs is a relationship based on mutual need, trust and friendship. Which turns out to be a good basis for a romance.

Ellen Markham is content. I would say she has moments of happiness but she is also lonely and foresees no real chance of that changing, or so she thinks. Then Valentine Windham comes into her life and things begin to change. Ellen is attracted to the charismatic Val but believes he would want nothing to do with her. As their perceptions change so do their feelings. I liked seeing their friendship develop along with the romance. You could tell they enjoyed spending time together and were not simply biding their time until they could become intimate.

Both Val and Ellen have secrets which lead to some misunderstandings and hurt feelings. I understood why they kept their secrets but not why they revealed them so late in the game. Val's true identity, that of the son of a powerful Duke, was kept quiet so he could simply be Mr.Windham. It made sense since Val isn't one to "put on airs" but get his hands dirty right along with the hired help. Ellen secret is far darker, causing her great sadness and despair. When it is revealed I could certainly understand her sadness but found it difficulty to believe that she felt such guilt over something that wasn't her fault.

The villain in the story is a complete idiot. Which only proves that even idiots can cause a tremendous amount of trouble through sheer luck and stubbornness. While trying to figure out who is sabotaging Val's new estate, Val and his friends continue to work on repairing the various buildings and getting to know the locals. It's a well rounded cast that adds to the environment of the story. Sometimes there were a few too many secondary characters and I felt like I had missed information on their connection to Val. I did like the country setting but didn't always have a true sense of the time period.

The Virtuoso's strength lies in the hero and heroine and their developing romance. While the hero and his buddies male bonding fell flat. With the stories of the three Windham sons completed, it's up to the Windham daughters to continue the tradition of finding and falling in love.

Rating: B-

Books in this series ~

The Windhams

The Heir
The Soldier
Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish
The Virtuoso
Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal (May 2012)
Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight (October 2012)
Lady Eve's book (Spring 2013/tentative)
Lady Jenny's book (October 2013/tentative)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

ARC Review: Promises, Promises

Promises, Promises
Erica James
Contemporary Fiction
Sourcebooks Landmark/November 1, 2011

From the author's website ~

'I Must Stand Up for Myself More…’ promises Maggie Storm who spends her days cleaning houses for people who often have more money than manners. Married to a man with as much sex appeal as Mr Blobby, she dreams of a life straight from the pages of a romantic novel.

‘My Head Must Rule Over My Heart…’ promises Ella Moore who, determined never to let her heart get the better of her again, is recovering from seven wasted years of failing to win over the daughter of the man with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life.

‘No More Women…’ promises Ethan Edwards who, to distract himself from the depressing sham of his marriage, is a repeat offender when it comes to turning to other women for sexual consolation. But when Ella appears unexpectedly in his life, he finds himself turning to her for very different reasons.

Erica James has written a smart, funny and sometimes painful look at the intersecting lives of three people from seemingly different backgrounds. Maggie Storm cleans houses for the wealthy snobs who looks down on her. Ella Moore has a little more credibility but is still considered the hired help. And Ethan Edwards attempts to continue paying for these luxuries while knowing, deep down, he has to make some serious changes.

The story is not a romance so if you're looking for lots of page time with a hero and heroine, this isn't it. What this novel does show is how people are willing to settle for something that doesn't make them happy. They get stuck in that rut of sameness, afraid to try for something different and possibly far better than what they have. Such is the case with Maggie. She is married to a man who barely notices her, takes her for granted and leaves her to fantasizing about warm beaches and hot men. Maggie's changes seemed dramatic but what she does is become the woman she was meant to be but was hidden under self-doubt and fear of the unknown. Maggie's a character who is easy to relate to and even easier to cheer on.

Ella Moore is in the process of starting over. She recently ended a long-term relationship with a man she loved. It was made destructive by his lack of discipline of his daughter and her destructive actions towards Ella. Ella bothered me in a few ways. I didn't get why, when she had made a clean break from her ex, that she then decides to give him another chance. She came across as an intelligent woman but concerning her ex, she was easily manipulated. She was more difficult to sympathize with since she kept making the same mistakes.

Ethan Edwards, oh boy. Yes, his wife is a bitch but it doesn't excuse his affairs/flings/one-night stands. And he knows it so he's trying to turn over a new leaf which was made difficult to believe when he starts stalking watching Ella work as she's painting in his home. Ethan tells Ella he wants to be friends and I have to give him credit for being honest with her about his infidelities. But in the end, I couldn't help but feel he had gotten what he deserved when it came to his bitch of a wife. Luckily for him, he has a life-changing event that gives him the push he needs to really turn over that new leaf and start fresh.

Circumstances conspire to cause Maggie, Ella and Edward to reevaluate their lives and finally decide to take that step, making changes that were long overdue. This was more evident for Maggie and Edward that it was for Ella. For Ella, it was more about going back to the beginning and focusing on herself again.

I had said this wasn't a romance but there are some romantic elements throughout the story. The romance simply isn't the focus so much as the by-product of the changes the characters make to their lives. The journey they each take to get to that change is challenging but worth it in the end. It's an interesting look at what happens when you are willing to take that leap into the unknown and rely on yourself for your own happiness.

Rating: B

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: Wife for a Week

Wife for a Week
Kelly Hunter
Contemporary Romance
Bennett Family/Book 1
Eligible Bachelors/Book 1
Harlequin Presents/August 7, 2007

From Goodreads ~

Nicholas Cooper must produce a wife for his business deal, and Hallie Bennett is beautiful and intelligent enough to pull it off. She needs the money, and Nicholas has determined some strict rules for their week together.

Rule No. 1: Displays of affection in public only

Keeping their hands on each other in public turns out to be surprisingly easy. It's keeping them off in private that's the problem. Hallie is falling for Nicholas, but will Nicholas make his contract wife his real-life bride?

First I have to thank Angela James for tweeting about how much she enjoyed this book. I was curious enough to check out the blurb, which I liked. A quick look at the local library's website showed they had it available as an e-book. Score! I don't read much from the Presents line, I usually stick with either Harlequin's Historical, Blaze or SuperRomance lines. I'm just not into billionaires, Greek tycoons or their secret babies.

Shoe shopping with your mother can be dangerous. It can also tempt fate and give you everything you've been looking for. Nick Cooper finds out the hard way when he walks into the shoe store where Hallie Bennett works. The sparks are there from the beginning and Hallie shows that she's no pushover when it comes to dealing with bossy men. Right from the first scene with Nick and Hallie, I liked these two. You would think with Nick being the boss and the one paying Hallie he would be the one with all the power. Not so. Hallie is very good at maneuvering situations for the optimal outcome. She doesn't always get it right the first time but her heart is in the right place. This is something that Nick comes to learn and love about Hallie.

Their business relationship takes them to Hong Kong. I was surprised at how much detail Ms. Hunter was able to included in such a short format. I've never been to Hong Kong but certainly had a feel for the city by the end of the book. There is action and passion as Nick and Hallie pretend to be a loving couple. The lines become blurred when the rules are broken and Nick and Hallie do more than pretend. The plot sounds like one you've probably read before and the outcome is obvious but the way Hunter wrote it, I didn't care that it was predictable. It was pure escapism in the very best way!

The romance is sweet and funny. The secondary characters add to the story without taking the spotlight from the hero and heroine. The dialogue is witty and the pacing is spot on with a rich story packed into this short format. Definitely worth reading.

Rating: A

Books in the Bennett Family Series ~

Wife for a Week
Bedded for Diamonds
The Maverick's Greek Island Mistress
Untameable Rogue
Red-Hot Renegade

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

September Reads...

Hey - it's still October and it looks like I just made it with my September reads. (Let's pretend okay?) The above picture is one I took on a trip a couple of weeks ago to Flagstaff and the campus of Northern Arizona University. Yes, the leaves actually change up there and we were even told they had snow already. But sadly it was gone when we got there. It was a fun overnight trip I took with my teen who is considering going to NAU next year. She did get accepted but hasn't decided yet. There might be a few more trips in the future to other campuses. It was a fun girls only road trip. Sadly, I forgot to bring my camera and had to reply on the cell phone.


1. Finding Perfect/Susan Mallery/Contemp/B
2. Sunset Bay/Susan Mallery/Contemp/B-
3. Seduced by Shadows/Jessa Slade/PNR/C+
4. Forged of Shadows/Jessa Slade/PNR/C

Not many audiobooks in September and I don't remember why. September seems a distance memory already. LOL I am all caught up with the Susan Mallery series and frankly, I'm ready for a break. Recently I've been listening to Sarah Addision Allen's audiobooks but that will have to wait until next month's list.

Print/Electronic Books

1. A Night to Surrender/Tessa Dare/Historical/A
2. Bad Boys Do/Victoria Dahl/Contemp/A-
3. Atlantis Betrayed/Alyssa Day/PNR/A-
4. Animal Attraction/Jill Shalvis/Contemp/A-
5. Doubleblind/Ann Aguirre/SciFi/B+
6. Her Colorado Man/Cheryl St. John/Historical/B+
7. Forever/Maggie Stiefvater/YA/B+
8. Giving Chase/Lauren Dane/Contemp/B
9. Unleashed/Sara Humphreys/PNR/B
10. Soldier on Her Doorstep/Soraya Lane/Contemp/B
11. Archangel's Blade/Nalini Singh/PNR/B
12. Outside In/Maria V. Snyder/YA/B
13. Tempted by His Target/Jill Sorenson/RS/B
14. Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels/Sarah Wendell/Nonfiction/B

The Numbers

Contemporary ~ 4
Historical ~ 2
Non-Fiction ~ 1
PNR ~ 3
RS ~ 1
SciFi ~ 1
YA ~ 2


Print ~ 10
E-Book ~ 4

Pretty good month and now that I'm looking back, I'm starting to remember some wonderful reads. LOL I don't seem to have any one sub-genre that I'm sticking to lately which is good since maybe I won't get burnt out on any of them.

This year, and I say this every year, I'm going to get a short list of holiday themed romances to read, yep, during the holidays. So far on the list is the anthology Snowflakes and Stetsons by Jillian Hart, Carol Finch and Cheryl St. John and reviewed here by Hilcia over at Impressions... of a Reader. The rest on the list will come from the ever growing TBR pile. I figure it's a good way to get in the holiday mood or possibly keep me sane and carve away at the TBR pile before it takes over the house.

So how about you - do you enjoy reading holiday themed romances around the holidays or do you read them anytime of the year?