Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I ran today! And signed up for a 10k

Time to get back into it. My friends have run the local Pub Run the last few years and it sounded like so much fun, I signed up as well. So when another friend, Becky, decided that she needed to get out of the house, I agreed to do a quick trot through town. It was a brisk night and our dogs weren't loving running with each other but it was good to get out of the house. I've been doing to much ass-sitting lately.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan

Image linked from Goodreads
I don't know why I haven't gotten more into Milan's books. Actually, in looking back at book blurbs, there is never one that has made me interested enough to search her out. But the Smart Bitches Trash Books reviewers love her and when the "Duchess War" came up as free a few months ago, I read and enjoyed it. And then this book was available on NetGalley and I quite enjoyed it as well.
Violet Waterfield is the Countess of Cambry. Her mother raised both Violet and her sister under a strict set of rules. In fact, her rules were made into a book that was followed by society. Violet has always been appreciative of those rules (!) since they helped her navigate a world that she didn't really fit into. Because Violet is smart, super-smart and she daren't show it off. Instead, she feeds her ideas to the public through her childhood friend, Sebastian Malheur.
Sebastian is tired of the deception though. He has been a rake in the past, but he needs to clean up his image. So he tells Violet that he can't do it anymore. And that's when everything starts to fall apart. But  can their lives be sorted out into something even better?
<whisper>This is a romance novel, you can probably guess</whisper>
The characters are wonderfully drawn and the story moves along quickly.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Her Sexiest Mistake by Jill Shalvis

Image linked from Goodreads
When I saw this book on NetGalley, I was instantly excited. New Jill Shalvis! Except that it's not. It's a re-release from 2005. And it's not as good as her more recent works.
Mia Appleby is trying to be the perfect woman. She's trying to overcome her past where her mother and sister concentrated so hard on finding a man that they couldn't get ahead in life. But when the book opens, Mia is running away after waking up in the bed of teacher Kevin McKnight.
Through the course of the book, we see Mia juggle stress from work, stress from Kevin's pursuit, and stress from the goth-y niece who shows up on her doorstep one day. But we don't really see her grow. And there's not really a sens of Kevin being anything but perfect. Unlike her later books, I really didn't care about these characters and couldn't wait for the book to be over. To be honest, if it weren't for being an ARC, this book would have been a DNF for me.
Will I stop reading Shalvis books? Dear God no. But will I recommend this one? Probably not.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Do or Die by Suzanne Brockmann

Image linked from Goodreads
When the book opens, Ian  Dunn is in charge of a highly specialized, off the book team hosts are in currently trying to retrieve Nazi art from some typical bad dudes. Ian is in a hotel room and needs to get out and we get to see you little bit about how his team functions.
When chapter 1 begins Ian is now in jail. Two lawyers are trying to get them out one is Phoebe Kruger and the other is Martell Griffin. For a while I couldn't figure out how these were connected to Brickmann's earlier series though Martell tugged at my memory. Finally, he mentions his friend Ric and the light bulb went off, "Forces of Nature," the book that introduces characters who eventually open the Florida branch of Troubleshooters, Inc.
Neither Ian nor the reader knows why they are there. Even Phoebe isn't really sure. She's just filling in for Ian's regular lawyer at a law firm she joined last week (or some other really short period of time.) but Martell wants to offer Ian a deal, a commuted sentence in exchange for help saving two children.
Of course, there's more to the story and more to the reason Ian is in jail but it's a fun ride.
I actually read this book a few weeks ago but totally forgot to review it. I still have good feels about it though. The more I think about it the more layers I remember, this being a typical Brockman where the more you read the more you discover about each of the characters. It's amazing that even within a larger ensemble cast on Brockman is able to bring each character alive and give them each a rich and complex back story.

I wish that Shelly had been a woman. We already know that Brockmann excels at writing a rich and realistic m/m romance so it wasn't really a shock (at least for long-team Brockmann readers) that he was actually "Sheldon". We've seen that in many of her other books. I can tell you it's because I finished "Lean In" really close to when I read this book and I was super-excited that we might see a dynamic with a strong, working mother and stay-at-home dad (Brockmann also excels at strong women who are work/home equals with their guys but I can't think of a story where the woman is the bread-winner and the dad stays home). I haven't seen this much in secondary characters and Brocmann is the author I most associate with taking on romances that other authors tend to ignore.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Love on Main Street - Anthology

Image linked from Goodreads
All of the short stories are set in Snow Creek which I assume is set somewhere in Colorado since there’s a ski town nearby (it's California, found it in a later story). I think it’s meant to be during one Christmas since the first story mentions an enchanted Yule Log that is supposed to bring magic “this year.”

I read an ARC from NetGalley that seemed as if it were not quite prepped yet, the Table of Contents was not consistent was the thing that threw me off first.

Queen of Hearts by Juliet Blackwell
Serafina has moved to a small town to get away from a job and a cheating ex (typical romance heroine.) She describes herself as overeating lately but we really don’t know much more about her than that. Her hopes of taking over her aunt’s magic business are dashed when the charming cowboy who offers to help take in her bags is actually her landlord, the one who wants her out of the building.

Of course, this is a short story but everything happens at warp speed which is a little disconcerting. Even with the touch of magic, it’s just Too Fast for Me. An okay read, but no more than two stars/C.

The Holiday Show by L. G. C. Smith
Whoa! Liked that the kids weren’t plot moppets (not entirely) but I assumed that they were at least twelve based on conversations they had and the way their parents referred to them. (They're six and, unfortunately, became more plot-moppet-y as the story went on.)
Two girls want to get their parents together for Christmas. Christie, the mom, hates Christmas and is gluten-intolerant. Dad, Dan, is a baker who loves Christmas. The little girls decide to fight and that leads to the college kids who were in charge of the Christmas show leaving and Dan and Christie having to take over the Christmas show.
Major cheesiness when Dan decides to up the ante and invites Christy’s somewhat-estranged famous Hollywood father to do an added scene during the school play. Would have been DNF if it hadn’t been a short story. Two (begrudging) stars/D+.

Let it Snow by Cecilia Gray
Jessica Mendez has tried to save her parents’ bookstore. To the point of closing herself into it after their deaths so that developers couldn't come in and tear it down. But she rushes outside to save the puppy of the Snow Creek Paramedic who she's been dreaming about for the past year.
Snow Creek seems to be a town of around 200-400 people but can afford a paramedic? And an ambulance? And what seems to be a whole ambulance crew since Daniel is supposed to turn it over to the next shift? At least these two sort of knew each other and it wasn't insta-love. Points to the author for actually having Jessica follow her dreams even if Daniel was stupid enough to (initially) let her go.
Up to three stars/B- for this story.

Second Chances by Adrienne Bell
Paul McAlester is a legend in Snow Creek. A famous hockey player, he’s just returned to town for the first time in ten years. Ten years ago when Eileen Hodge kissed him and then ran. But this year, Paul is recuperating from an injury and Eileen hopes that she might have a chance to make up for an old mistake.
Cute story, actually would give it three stars/B for this one.

A Christmas Yarn by Rachael Herron
Clara has lost a lot of weight. A LOT of weight through diet and exercise. She's just getting used to going on dates and getting hit on when she meets Lincoln. He's dressed like a bad biker dude but is bringing his great aunt to Clara's store to buy her as much yarn as the aunt wants.
I was really intrigued by these characters and wished that this story had been drawn out more. They were much more interesting than stories that were two and three times as long.
Three and a half stars/B+

Miss Bonny's Buried Treasure by Ruby Laska
Caroline Bonny is under a family curse (in this day and age? Maybe if the story had been longer and pulled it out more), doomed to be a spinster. She has a cosmetology store (again, suspension of disbelief, even in a ski town) that is all cruelty free, etc.
Lance Carter is in town for a (gay!) wedding and ends up on Caroline's sofa. He meets her when he accidentally breaks a bottle of very expensive... I don't remember what it is now but he's in his skivvies and she was assuming that he was another in the train of women her brother brings to their shared home.
There is some attempt at humor in the story and I appreciated that though it falls a little flat and seems unnecessary.
Three stars/B-

One Silent Night by Lisa Hughey
Another story that could have benefited by being longer. Ally Carpenter is separated from her husband Nick but wants to pretend to still be married so her dying mother doesn't start stressing out too much.
The ending is predictable but a little too saccharine for me but I do love a marriage-on-the-brink storyline, especially for a short story.
B/Three stars

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cider Brook by Carla Neggers

Samantha (Sam) Bennett comes from a long line of explorers. In fact, her grandfather was well-
Image linked from Goodreads
known for his travels. Sam was cleaning out his Boston apartment when she discovers a picture of the Cider Brook mill among his records, along with a handwritten manuscript,The Adventures of Captain Farraday and Lady Elizabeth.
She decides to return to Knights Bridge. The last time she was there, it ended up getting her fired from her job. And Justin Sloan was one of the reasons she got fired.
This visit? He saves her from a fiery death. Sam had taken shelter in the mill during a huge thunderstorm and barely avoids being hit by lightning.
The two do a cautious, fun-to-read dance around each other. Justin's family and friends get involved, including Olivia and Duncan from the first book in this series.
A fun read. One where the majority of the story is Sam and Justin falling in love, not just falling into bed. A nice change from most of the insta-lust books that seem to be around lately.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Christmas to Remember--Anthology

Image linked from Goodreads
Dream a Little Dream by Jill Shalvis
Ian O'Mallery had been hoping for a long-term relationship with Melissa Mann but she broke it off the day after he suggested they move in together. Now, the rugged firefighter is in a panic because the call that has just come in is for her apartment building, the one where she's trapped inside.
It's been six months but Melissa still thinks of Ian just as much as he thinks of her. But can she move beyond her past to hook up with a man who so clearly returns her love? And how can she show him that she really means it this time. Maybe by becoming his own, special, Christmas elf.
Every Year by Kristin Ashley
Part of the Chaos series, this story shows Tabby and Shy in their first Christmas as a real couple, spending time with her family, and getting to watch Shy and his brother start to reconnect with the Christmas spirit.
I haven't read any Kristin Ashley books but it was easy enough to connect with the characters in this light story.
"Silent Night" by Hope Ramsay
Maryanne is down on her luck. Like, no money, no gas, just had a baby down on her luck. About to find her long-lost cousin to ask if she can take Maryanne and said baby in down on her luck. But she thinks she's found the farm and decides to walk, with the practically newborn and hang out until her cousin comes home.
But her cousin doesn't live at that house. Nobody does. In fact, the owner, Daniel Jessup, is in town to try and get it on the market. He doesn't like Christmas and isn't excited to learn that there's a strange woman with a newborn in his stall.
Vaguely inspirational, which is okay, but strange coming just after a short story about a biker club. Least favorite of the four.
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Molly Cannon
Lincoln Jones' mother has sent him a Christmas gift in the form of professional organizer, Dinah Mason. He falls for her, but then makes a stupid mistake. Can he win her back in time to celebrate the holiday together?
An okay story, but one I didn't really remember three days later.
"A Family for Christmas" by Marilyn Pappano
Jared Connors is from a family of wealthy doctors. No, not just doctors, surgeons and the like. They're not excited when he becomes a pediatrician and moves to a small town in Oklahoma. One where he meets the antithesis of his dream woman, Ilena Gomez, war widow. But somehow, he falls for her.
Not as polished as the first two stories. Not horrible, but not as good.