Tuesday, December 25, 2012

An Affair to Dismember by Elise Sax

I got this book from NetGalley and am thoroughly disappointed because now I have yet another series that I am going to be compulsively buying.
Gladie Burger has been floating through life, trying to find the job she was meant to have. She's lately ended up at her grandmother's house. Gladie's grandmother, Zelda, is the town's matchmaker. She has a... sense about people. Zelda's going to be a hard act to follow and Gladie's not sure she has the same talents. But she's going to have some time to figure it out while she's hot on the trail of a murderer. Of course, there's the expected love triangle (or is it square?) and Gladie is a little bit of the trite, hapless heroine (you know, the really pretty girl who can't help but trip over her own feet but she's so cute doing it.) A little overdone but Elise Sax has come up with a new formula that kept me up late trying to finish this book.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Under the Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis

God, I love Jill Shalvis. Every book of hers is a must-read and I wait for months for new stories to come out. Which is why I'm so bummed to say this novella was only a "meh" for me. I got it off of NetGalley and was so excited to see a new Jill Shalvis that I didn't look closely.
Under the Mistletoe (Lucky Harbor, #6.5)Novellas are generally not enough time to develop good characters and that development is usually pulls me into a story. I read the story quickly, wanting to know what happened with Chloe, Tara and Ford's (from "The Sweetest Thing") daughter. It's an okay story and earned the three mile rating more from getting to catch up with other characters in the series than the romance between Choe and her beau, Nick.
Will other Lucky-Harbor-lovers enjoy this novella? More than likely. If you haven't read the rest of the series... I would definitely start with "Simply Irresistible" and go from there.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Too Dangerous to Desire by Cara Elliot

I just have to get this out of the way. The Sleuth Hound? You've got a book for the
Irish Wolfhound (cool name) and Gryff, which must be like the dog? And then the Sleuth Hound? Because he stole things? Or searched things out for the government? Maybe I missed the explanation but, come on, this was a silly name.
Otherwise, this was a really fun story. Elliot has kept up the tempo of this trilogy, not falling down at the end like some other authors are apt to do.
Sophie Lawrance is in trouble. She's being blackmailed over some papers that could lead people to believe that her father was dipping into the church's coffers. The blackmailer's are wanting a particular piece of paper but they'll settle for money in the meantime. 
That piece of paper also affects Cameron Daggett, Sophie's childhood love, who left her when she wouldn't elope with him. 
Since then, Cameron has picked up some skills that will help Sophie get out of trouble. He feels that his soul is too dark to be in love with Sophie, but he can't stay away.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What Happens at Christmas by Victoria Alexander

It used to be that new releases by Victoria Alexander were a must buy for me. The later Effingtons weren't as interesting as the first and the Last Man Standing didn't really capture my imagination. Oh, don't get me wrong, they were still good, but not the storytelling I had fallen in love with.
I wouldn't say that this book is a return to those early Alexander books because, really, I enjoyed it so much more. Even with having to read it as a teeny-tiny pdf from NetGalley, I tore through this book. "Lord Stillwell's Excellent Engagements" is now on my list to buy and I can't wait even a few days.
The story is sort of simple, Boy loves Girl. Girl loves Boy, but he waits until the day before she weds someone else to make her aware of his feelings. She, understandably, is more than a little upset about the wait and says some rather harsh things. Then he says harsh things and runs away to America. Neither of them is truly to blame for the mess but they certainly don't do anything to help themselves.
Well, it's eleven years later and Grayson Elliot is back to visit his cousin at Christmas. It turns out that Camille, (the now widowed) Lady Lydingham is going to be at her childhood home as well.
But from there (is this still the first 30 or so pages?), it gets a bit more complicated. Camille has been raised (as most women were in those days, Alexander, through Elliot's character very fairly notes) to marry for money and status. She's always dreamed about a prince and now she's found a displaced one. One who is interested in experiencing a <i>real</i> English Christmas. Except that her family is out of the country. No problem, she'll hire some actors. Of course, Grayson knows that these people aren't her family. He uses the chance to wriggle his way into the "play" and win himself a chance to work his way back into Camille's heart.
Why not five stars? Well, at the end, there kept being more misunderstandings. Normally, this would have immediately knocked the book down to a three-star for me, but Alexander did have the characters wrap it up fairly quickly.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Grandville Bete Noire-Bryan Talbot

Okay, to be honest, I'd give the ebook version three stars but a regular book would definitely be a four out of five star review. 
I had never tried a graphic novel on my Nook and I won't soon be repeating the experience. Other ebook readers may have better luck but the words were absolutely tiny on the screen and pixelated almost to a point past readability when enlarged. However, the story was an interesting one that pulled me in and almost made me forget my frustrations.
It's hard not to compare any graphic novel using animals as the main characters to the classic "Maus." It's been awhile since I read the book but I don't remember any human characters whereas Talbot's world (a steampunk version of a world where Napoleon won) actually has humans or "doughfaces" who are servants to the animals. There are a number of literary references with the villain being set up in "Toad Hall" (another toad obsessed with machinery) as well as main characters who, though working for the police, can only have been based off of Sherlock and Watson. Every time the mouse spoke I heard Nigel Bruce's voice in my head. The author also has artistic flourishes with nods to Magritte (p. 13) and Reubens (which confused me because he was famous for his plump <i>human</i> models). Detective Inspector LeBrock (Badger, which I thought was a wolf even though people called him a badger.) and his friend 
I will be looking for the first two books at my local library.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Close Enough to Touch by Victoria Dahl

Victoria Dahl is one of my favorite contemporary authors. "Lead Me On" was a great example of using a nontraditional hero (one who is covered with tattoos) and heroine (one who is very attracted to the burly, brawny, biker type. I really need to re-read that book).
This book is the same. Grace Barrett is a makeup artist, one with purple hair (as we are reminded about over and over in most of the advertising for this book.) She's running away from Hollywood and her troubles there. Cole Rawlins is a cowboy who was also part of the Hollywood scene; he also ran.
And that's my trouble with this book. I didn't connect with eithe Cole or Grace. In fact, for three-quarters of the book, I absolutely disliked Grace. We don't get any explanation for her actions until the end. I wondered if I was suffering from not allowing the heroine the same latitude I might give a grumpy hero, something Podcast 31 from Smart Bitches Trashy books discusses. However, I would have given Grace that same latitude had I known her situation earlier in the book. As it was, I only finished the book because it was an ARC from NetGalley.
And I'm glad I did. Victoria Dahl is a skilled wordsmith and writes hot, hot sex scenes (not always to my taste, but I know they're well-written.) Will this book be a favorite? No. Will I continue to read this series and all of Victoria Dahl's future writings? Hell, yes.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis

I am loving every single book in this series. Seriously, loving.
Grace is in between jobs. She has overachiever parents who aren't necessarily pressuring her to also be excellent, but she's feeling the pressure. She's running out of money and options. Her phone rings with someone looking for a dog sitter. It's not her flyer he's answering but she jumps at the chance to make some money. Nearly losing the dog has Dr. Josh Scott coming to her rescue and also results in getting her fired. Except that Dr. Josh needs help. His practice has grown to a point where he can't keep up. He doesn't have enough time to deal with his son, much less his twenty-one-year-old sister who is pretty close to a paraplegic but most definitely has an attitude. In fact, her attitude is what has driven Josh's past two nannies from the house.
Grace doesn't want to get involved, but she has an attraction to Josh that is hard to deny. She's also falling in love with his son and trying to help protect his sister.
The cameos from other books were a little forced sometimes but never overt.
Love Lucky Harbor. Love the Chocolate quotes at the beginning. Love Amy, Mallory, and Grace's relationship.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Summer Nights by Susan Mallery

Annabelle Weiss is a librarian in need of a bookmobile. She has decided to raise money by doing The Dance of the Horse at the next town festival (they have one every (or nearly every) month).  She's got ten weeks to get it down but she needs some help. Because, well, she doesn't exactly know how to ride a horse and, really, she needs a horse that has been trained to dance.
Shane Stryker knows horses. He also knows that he's been burned in the past. His ex-wife was a flamboyant woman who loved attention, especially from men who weren't her husband. His first glimpse of Annabelle is of her dancing on a bar so he assumes that she is more of the same. But as he works with her, he starts to discover that's not true. Of course, that's only after he sticks his foot in his mouth a few more times.
We get some more mayhem with Shane's mother ordering all sorts of exotic animals including pigs, elephants, and ponies (Shane <i>hates</i> ponies).
I probably wouldn't recommend this book as a stand-alone (there are <i>way</i> too many characters for that, although Ms. Mallery has come up with a <a href="http://foolsgoldca.susanmallery.com/who.html">Who's Who</a> of Fools Gold that can be helpful. It's a fast and easy read that will delight Susan Mallery's Fools Gold fans.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Summer Days by Susan Mallery

Rafe Stryker has some troubles. His mother loaned a man $250,000 for a ranch that the man didn't own. She isn't really interested in prosecuting but it's his name on the line. To add to the troubles, the ranch is the one where he grew up with his two brothers and sister; they were dirt poor. It was a hardscrabble existence and Rafe doesn't want to be reminded of those times. But maybe some good can come out of it. After all, the swindler's granddaughter (the actual property owner)isn't hard to look at.
Heidi Simpson grew up with a carnival (different than a circus, no animals)and only wants to stay in one place. She has grown to love the town of Fool's Gold and her friends there. She loves her goats and she loves the land that she can barely afford. Now Rafe's threatening to take it all away. He's certainly a looker though. Can she manage to untangle her feelings for him long enough to save her ranch?
Update: Read my review for "Summer Nights" the next book in the series

Monday, June 4, 2012

Lucky in Love by Jill Shalvis

Ty Garrison is the man that Lucky Harbor  is calling “Mysterious Cute Guy.” Apparently the town’s Facebook page is half reportings about seeing him out and about. He’s actually in town trying to recuperate from an accident that injured him and left four of his coworkers dead. Mostly he’s just trying to keep his head down and finish some car repairs.
Mallory is the town good girl. A nurse with an unending well of patience, she’s the “white sheep” in a family of children who liked to cross the line. She’s also working on opening up a health services clinic so that people in need, like her sister who died at eighteen, would be able to get the help that they need without having to pay Emergency Room costs. I like Mallory. She's a good heroine, but not <i>too</i> perfect (that's just annoying in a heroine.)
However, like any good romance heroine. Mallory is ready for a walk on the wild side (as we’re told more than once) and she thinks Ty might be the perfect man. Short-term and just a little dangerous, he’s not interested in setting up with a dog, 2.3 kids, and a white picket fence. “She knew he didn’t want to be her hero.” But she can’t stop herself from going back again and again.
Of course, he can’t either. He finds himself stopping at her car wash, going by her house, replacing her alternator. “Probably he needed to work harder on keeping his distance.” 
It could be such a trite story but Shalvis weaves humor with a good dose of common sense and reality checks (e.g. we can’t just let our veterans fend for themselves after they’ve fought to protect our freedoms. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Born to Darkness by Suzanne Brockmann

Well, this is certainly a departure from Brockmann's SEAL series. I don't know that regular Brockmann readers will like the story, but I think readers new to this author (not bringing in the high expectations from  her must-read Troubleshooter's series) and those with an open mind will enjoy this book.
Born to Darkness (Fighting Destiny, #1)Like all Brockmann books, this is a book with a primary romance and many secondary romances. It's set in a dystopian future where the government tracks everyone and there are bad, bad forces at work. Of course, there is also a team of good guys, the Obermeyer Institute, headed up by Joseph Bach, who is one of the "Greater Thans," humans who use many talents including telekinesis and mind control. Normal people (or "Less Thans"), like Shane Laughlin, don't know that these people exist. But he's about to find out. He's been tapped by OI as a potential Greater Than. He's not sure what this group is or why they're willing to hire him (he was dishonorably discharged, a BFD in this future), but he's willing to take a chance. The night before he joins, he is picked up by Mac Mackenzie (do NOT call her Michelle) who is (this is a romance, is it any surprise) one of the Greater Thans. She can do many things including tweaking her appearance and projecting sexual energy (I like that one. It's my new pick for "what would your superpower be?").
The secondary characters and romances are always great. As with the Troubleshooters series, there is a M/M romance that is explored just as much as the M/F relationship. I did feel that Elliot and Diaz got a little bit of a short shrift and hope that we will learn more about them in future stories because I really connected with Elliot's character
This is an interesting start to a new series. There was a LOT going on (which is a Brockmann signature, but it was even more than usual) and some of the plot lines were underdeveloped but this is one of my read-every-book authors so I will definitely be reading the second book. I think it's awesome that she's branching out into a new genre, I'm just hoping the next book is a return to the five-star Brockmann.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Odds by Stewart O'Nan

What a wonderful weaver of language! A lot of reviews complain that this is not O'Nan's best work, but never having read him before, I enjoyed the book highly. This book was shorter than I expected, having gotten it as an ARC from NetGalley. It's only two hundred pages but packs a tight story in those short passages.
"...she thought, if offered, she might actually seize the opportunity to rewind to sixteen or seventeen and start over to avoid all of this--then remembered [her children]. You couldn't relive your life, skipping the awful parts, without losing what made it worthwhile. You had to accept it as a whole--like the world, or the person, you loved. With the Southern Comfort warming her, short-circuiting her thoughts, the idea seemed profound..."
Art and Marion have been married for thirty years. They've had ups and downs (and infidelities) but right now is definitely a down. Because of the downturn in the economy, both have been laid off from their jobs. They are in the morass of unlucky people who were approved for home loans that they never should have been given. Combine the job loss, the massive mortgage and several bad money choices and they're at their wits end. The plan is to declare bankruptcy and then divorce. The divorce is supposed to be for show but Marion is starting to wonder if she shouldn't just let it stand. She's tired of this marriage and tired of Art. Art, on the other hand, is an eternal optimist and ready to try to make it all work. This is the story of one last hurrah, a trip to their honeymoon destination, just to see if they can recapture the magic in their marriage, and maybe earn a little money while gambling as well.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins

I loved this book, mainly because I liked seeing the evolution of Parker Welles. She was always a good erson and I had hoped that this character introduced in Next Best Thing would get her own story. She had a child out of wedlock with a man who ended up marrying her best friend. Yes, it's hard for her to see the two of them so happy, but she's also generous enough to be as happy as she can for them. They've taken her son with them on a vacation so Parker is especially lonely.

Of course, the other aspects of her life aren't going so well for her right now.  She grew up wealthy but hasn't really talked to her father in almost two decades and now he's lost all of the family money, including her son's. All she has left is a house left to her by an eccentric aunt she never knew. As for her career... she's finally finished up a successful series of books (which she hated), all of the proceeds of which were given to her favorite charity and she's now in the middle of some extreme writer's block. Now, her father's lawyer, nicknamed Thing One, has followed her up to the... well, it's a shack... and is hanging around trying to help Parker out.

Thing One, er, James Cahill, has a complicated past with Parker. He has been the son that Parker's father always wanted and has been closer to him than Parker was. I did like the fact that James had his own complicated back story and wasn't just the he-man alpha male that he could have been.

Kristan Higgins is a wonderful contemporary author and proves that yet again in this story, weaving humor, romance, and even some serious topics with a deft touch that has you hoping that this story won't end, even as you turn the last page.

Readalikes: Suzanne Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Kiss Me, I'm Irish - Anthology

Kiss Me, I'm IrishI don't normally read anthologies that have re-issued stories, but when I asked to read this book from NetGalley, I didn't realize that these stories came from 2006, 2003, and 2005 respectively.

The Sins of His Past by Roxanne St. Claire
Okay. This is very twelve-year-old-boy, but the "hero's" first name is Deuce. As in, "I'm going to drop a..." No. Just... no.
So, Kendra Locke has been in love with Deuce Monroe forever. But he slept with her, then walked away to realize his dreams of being a big-time ball player. But now he's come home (after crashing a race car) to run the family bar and expects to pick up his life just where he left off. Without telling anyone that he's coming back. After years of not communicating. And he's shocked to realize that the former Irish bar is now a computer cafe.
It's hard to make a good short story and St. Claire definitely tries. There was just so much history with Deuce and Kendra, it would have been a great novel-length book.

Tangling with Ty by Jill Shalvis.
Oh, I love Jill Shalvis. At least her full-length novels, but, again, too much going on. Ty's secret past coming back, Nicole having to deal with being an over-worked doctor/former child-genius, trying to meet her family's expectations, and getting hit on by her boss. Why did that last need to be in there? It didn't really add to Nicole's character.
There was more development of a relationship in this story which was nice to see.

Whatever Reilly Wants by Maureen Child
We're introduced to Connor Reilly as one of three brothers who made a bet to see who could last ninety days without sex. One brother is already down and Connor is confident that he's going to win. At least until his best friend suddenly decides that she's not content to be just one of the guys. Does he have what it takes to hold out and win the bet? Or will Emma be more important?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

And then He Kissed Her by Laura Lee Gurhke

Miss Emmaline Dove is the consummate secretary. In the five years she's worked for the Viscount Marlowe, she's made his life easier than he deserves. She smooths all of his bumps including buying gifts for his family, meeting with his publishers, and even giving his mistresses their conge. She's grateful that he has given her the chance to prove that women can do the same job as men, and he even pays her the same salary as her male counterparts. But she really wants to be an author and Marlowe keeps turning her down, telling her she's just not writing the sort of thing that people would be interested in. And she's believed him. Until her thirtieth birthday, when she realizes that he's never even cracked one of her manuscripts. So she quits (it's not a hissy fit, just an acceptance of the situation.) Marlowe isn't concerned at first, but then his office starts falling apart and Emma gets a job with his greatest competitor. The woman that he hired "just to make a point in the House," transformed his life and then left it in shambles. Suddenly, Miss Dove has stepped out of the role as secretary and the Viscount is seeing her as a woman. Can these two separate their personal and professional lives (did I mention that Harry (the viscount) bought the publisher Emma now works for? But her column is so popular he can't afford to let her go)?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery

Michelle Sanderson is returning to Blackberry Island after years at war. She has a hip injury from being shot and PTSD but she wants to go take over the inn left to her by her father.
But the place she left isn't what she remembers. For one, her ex-BFF, Carly Williams, is now the inn's manager. Why is she ex? Well, it seems that Carly found her fiance and Michelle (our heroine?) in bed together. A pregnant Carly married the man anyway and he promptly ran off with all her money. But Michelle's mother helped Carly out and now she's running the inn, even living there with her now-ten-year-old daughter.
Michelle tries to fire Carly but finds out that under the terms of the second mortgage on the inn (it seems she left her mother to run the place, and she did, right into the ground,) Carly has to stay in charge. Michelle obviously can't stay so she finds an apartment on her own.  In order to save the inn, Michelle and Carly will have to figure out a way to work beyond their past.
This is a great look into the life of a returning soldier. Certainly more realistic than most romance novels, including Michelle's problems with alcoholism.
This is not a traditional romance. There are some handsome men in the story (at least one ech for Carly and Michelle,) but the book is really more about exploring the rebuilding of Carly and Michelle's relationship. While the writing style is fairly similar to her other stories, the type of story is a departure from the other Mallery series I've read but a very welcome and enjoyable one. (But please don't stop the Fool's Gold series!)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Much Ado about Rogues by Kasey MIchaels

Black Jack is the last of the Blackthorn brothers to find his perfect mate. Except, that's not exactly true. He found someone once, bt than lost her when her father blamed Jack for her brother's death. But now Lady Tess Fonteneau is back in his life because her father, it seems, is once again up to no good. The government chooses Jack, as a former protege, to track him down. Tess loves her father. She knows that he isn't perfect but he's been there for her and he really seems to have bonded with her son. (This comes in the first part of the book, so it's not a spoiler to mention it here.) Yes, Jack has a secret son. And he's not a complete asshat about the whole thing! He's a little disappointed that she couldn't trust him, but he knows the familial history (Would have given the book three stars except that this bit of actual heroics in a hero pushed me over.) Part of that history is another protege of Tess' father who seems to be trying to kill not only her father, but Tess and Jack as well.
I mostly liked this story. It drew me in and kept me reading. If you like Kasey Michaels, You'll really enjoy this book.
Read-alikes: Amanda Quick, Mary Balogh

Saturday, January 7, 2012

How to Dance with a Duke by Manda Collins

Cecily Hurston's father is a renowned Egyptologist. In fact, he was one of the founding members of the Egyptian Club in London. Which makes the distancing of the club from her father after his attack (stroke?) puzzling. There are rumors of a curse from his last expedition where her father quarreled with his secretary, Will Dalton, who subsequently disappeared. 
Will's brother Lucas, the Duke of , is also worried. Though his brother did not have a good marriage, he knows that Will should have returned home after the last expedition. When he runs into Cecily outside the Egyptian Club, he is at first amused by her attempts to get in (unmarried ladies are not allowed) because he empathizes with her predicament (he is not allowed in because he isn't a member) and because he admires her persistence and intelligence. 
This is a romance novel so it should be no surprise that, after some fits and starts, Cecily and Lucas decide to work together to discover what is going on. And, of course, close proximity and mutual attraction will lead them into a partnership of a different sort. 
Very close to a five star book for me. It wasn't the cover that turned me off although, seriously, what were the publishers thinking? This cropping creates a weird optical illusion and, although I think they've fixed it a little since it was first put out, the man still doesn't have a goddamn nipple. Is this like one of those books where the hero on the cover doesn't actually depict what's in the book? Maybe it's a war wound that was never described? 
It was an overall well-written book but there were a couple of places (which, of course I didn't write down) where I was pulled out of the story through annoyance or just plain frustration with one character or another. 
Very much looking forward to the stories of Maddie and Juliet, Cecily's cousins. The three girls are daughters (Cecily is a step) of the three Featherstone sisters who took London by storm, quickly snatching up eligible bachelors even though they were the daughters of a church man. 
Readalikes: Legend Hunter series by Robyn DeHart (historical treasure hunting, Stephanie Laurens (peppy patter) 
Spelling errors (ebook): 241 "though" instead of "through"