Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Last 2006 books

I have been trying to finish up all the 2006 books I had in my TBR so that I can vote in the AAR Annual Reader Poll. Last year I voted early because I had read so many excellent books my choices were easy. But this year I'm finding that while I read many very good books by the end of the year, not as many were excellent ones.

Here are the last of the 2006 books I had in my TBR that I was able to finish this month and will probably make an appearance somewhere on my ballot since they ranged from excellent to very good.

All U Can Eat by Emma Holly
Holly is one of my favorite erotic romance authors because she can combine hot, spicy, explicit sex with a good plot and plenty of romance. So many of the erotic romances I have read are strong on the sex but weak in the plot or romance. Frankie Smith is the owner of a popular diner in California and unselfconscious about her sexuality. There are some very graphic sex scenes with a hot former Marine who she hires as her cook, and a pair of bisexual guys. Jack West is the chief of police of this small town and has a secret crush on Frankie. When Frankie finds a body behind her diner, she and Jack are thrown together. On the way to solving the mystery Jack and Frankie fall in lust and love and the pages sizzle with some delicious sex scenes. The tone was light and with a nice touch of humor. I enjoyed this one from start to finish. My grade: A-

Crossroads Cafe by Deborah Smith
It's hard to believe that an author as talented as Smith has to self-publish her books but that's the state of the world these days. What is wrong with publishers anyway? This book was recommended by Wendy and completely blew me away. Are you in the mood for a good cry? Well, get out a box of tissues because you're going to need them. Cathy Deen is a beautiful, rich, Hollywood actress who is injured in a horrific car accident and suffers disfiguring burns that end her career. Thomas Mitternich is still grieving the death of his wife and son in the devastating attack on 9/11. He is wandering aimlessly, sleeping in the bed of his truck and slowing drinking himself to death when he finds his way to Crossroads, North Carolina. Cathy has become a recluse is Hollywood and is eventually convinced to come home to Crossroads where her Granny's house waits for her. This story is about the healing power of love and what a story it is. But it's not sad and depressing. This book is darn funny with wonderful characters and great dialogue! It's a beautiful, heartwarming, humorous tale of two damaged people who overcome their internal terrors. It's told in first person alternating between Cathy's and Thomas' POV. I highly recommend. My grade: A

Lover Awakened by J. R. Ward
This book was sitting on top my nightstand for the longest time, but I just wasn't in the mood for a paranormal. I'm sorry I put it off so long because I greatly enjoyed it. LA is the 3rd book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series and I think it's my favorite so far. Although it was 464 pages I thought it was a very fast engrossing read. Zsadist was kidnapped as a child and sold as a blood slave. During his captivity he was tortured and sexually abused for many years. His twin brother Phury rescues him but he is horribly scarred inside and out and believes he is unworthy of love. He has multiple sexual issues due to the violence and pain from his captivity and is probably the most tortured hero I have ever come across in my reading. Bella was kidnapped by one of the Lessers and Zsadist won't rest until he finds her. When he finally finds and rescues her Bella is in pain and she turns to Zsadist. The love scenes are wonderfully steamy and sexy. Another story about the healing power of love that really worked. My grade: B+

The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Holt
This is Hoyt's debut novel and I was impressed with her style. However there were lots of events in the plot that I thought were implausible but Hoyt's writing was so smooth and superbly well written that I was able to completely overlook that. Anna Wren is financially strapped and seeks work as the secretary to Edward de Raaf, the Earl of Swartingham, while he is away from home. She gets hired sight unseen and when Edward figures out who his new secretary is he is amazed. The sexual tension builds between them culminating in some very explicitly hot steamy sex. I have to admit I loved those scenes even if I didn't believe for second that they could actually happen that way. Edward was a wonderful hero, not handsome even unattractive from his small pox scars. I loved the way that Anna never sees him as ugly. This was a very sexy fast-paced read with great characterizations. My grade: B+

Okay, now I can go vote. Everyone, don't forget that you must submit your ballot by midnight February 18th.

Now I need to figure out what books to take on my trip.

Later.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hit Hard by Amy Fetzer

This book was my second by Amy Fetzer and I'm sad to say I'm a bit disappointed after reading Perfect Weapon (B+).

Sam Wyatt is part of Dragon One, a group of ex-military mercenaries. They are looking for stolen uncut diamonds which will be used by a terrorist organization to purchase weapons when they come across some robbers holding up a train. Xaviera (Viva) Fiori has found a priceless artifact at the archeological dig in Thailand. She is transporting the artifact to Bangkok when her train is attacked by robbers. She refuses to give up her prize to the robbers without a fight and Sam rescues her. Viva is a red head and Sam is instantly thrown for a loop at their first meeting. Their scenes together are great with some steamy sexy chemistry between them. And hot love scenes too.

But the major problem was that the plot was convoluted and I was confused most of the time. There were a bunch of characters with odd names (Wan Gai, Kashir, Ramesh, etc.), lots of settings, and several plot threads all tangled up together leaving me with the major question.... WTF??? I found myself going back and forth rereading, trying to figure out who was who and what was going on and where they were. Whew, too much work. Fetzer used that multiple-plot thing in PW too, but it worked much better. I was exhausted after reading this one.

My grade: C+

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Born in Death by J.D. Robb

This is the 23rd full length book in this series and I have read every one. The main appeal of this series to me is the relationship between Eve and Roarke. And of course, the other wonderful characters. The mystery in each book is completely secondary. I once stumbled upon a blogger who loved this series for its great mysteries but was appalled to learn that J.D. Robb was Nora Roberts. She said she HATES romances. It was almost as if she was afraid she was being tainted by association in reading this series. Why is it that romance readers have no problem trying other genres like mystery, fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, etc., but readers of those genres despise anything labeled as a romance? I have my theory but I guess I'll save it for another blog.

In the last two or three books Mavis Freestone, Eve's best friend, has been pregnant. Now in this installment Mavis is about ready to pop and she has enlisted both Eve and Roarke to serve as her birthing coaches and they must attend childbirth classes with her. A tough, hard-boiled cop, Eve can tolerate blood and guts, mutilated bodies, and gruesome crimes scenes without batting an eye, but is terrified to host a baby shower. Just the thought of being in the same room as Mavis while she gives birth makes Eve break out is a cold sweat. Watching the vids in childbirth class was enough to make her puke. Roarke's is having a hard time dealing with the whole thing too.

Eve has relegated most of the baby shower details to a catering service and is relieved to have a double murder case involving two accountants to work on to take her mind off pregnancy, childbirth and babies. The murder victims were accountants at a prestigious accounting firm. The murder mystery aspect was interesting but rather dull at times with all the financial complexities. And of course, Roarke is asked to consult on this case. But not before some fireworks in which Eve's integrity is called into question because of Roarke's involvement.

There were some hilarious scenes in this book especially the shopping trip with Peabody to pick out a baby gift, the baby shower and the childbirth itself with Eve poised to catch the baby. There was plenty of cheesy, sappy stuff at the end when everything is wrapped up very neatly. Okay, I loved that part. You'll want to read this book just to find out the sex of the baby. I'm not telling :)

My grade: B+

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Going cruisin'

I probably forgot to mention this but Bob and I and my whole family are going on a cruise to Mexico the first week in February. We fly to Long Beach, CA then board the ship. From there we sail to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. We've never been on a cruise before so it should be an adventure. I'm always whining that we never go anywhere so when our neighbors suggested we go along with them and a group of their friends, I said to Bob "we are going!" He had no choice but to go along to keep the peace in our house. I then invited my two sisters and brother and their spouses and they all immediately signed up. My dad was going to come but he is still recovering from hernia surgery.

I have been dieting like mad because I want to fit into my summer clothes. We had to get Bob a passport which was a bit of a hassle since he was born in Canada (his parents lived on the US/Canadian border and their hosptial was closer). He doesn't have a birth certificate, but it turned out that he has a US certificate of citizenship that he got as a child, so we got the passport faster than I expected.

Of course, you can all guess my first concern about packing.... what books should I bring. And I'm not sure what we will be doing on the cruise so I'm not sure how many books to brings along. I like to just sit by the pool and read but Bob gets bored just sitting around. Maybe I can send him off on an excursion to the Tequila factory.

I'd like to try snorkling again and maybe a little shopping but other than that I'm happy just swimming and sunning myself (with lots of sunscreen of course) . Oh, yeah, and eating. It's probably going to be a shock to my system with all the snow we've had lately. But then again they've had snow in California so I'll feel right at home (grrrrrr).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Stuck on the freeway

We're having a bad winter. Last Wednesday I was caught in a torrential snowstorm that hit while I was on the freeway on my way home from work. It looked like those little styrofoam pellets but I think it was giant hail that quickly became packed ice on the roadway. It came down in buckets so hard my wipers could hardly keep up. The traffic slowed down and eventually stopped. So I had to stop but then I couldn't get going again. That damn car (Bob's baby) has no traction in the snow, it's rear wheel drive with a huge (very heavy engine) in the front. Totally worthless in this weather.

So there I was... sitting sideways in the freeway blocking two lanes of traffic. My heart was beating so fast I thought it would explode. The more I spun my wheels the more I kept sliding sideways. But God must have been watching out for me, because three very nice people got out of their cars with ice pellets pounding down, and pushed my car off to the shoulder!

While I sat there calling Bob on my cell phone the freeway became a nightmare with cars, trucks and those bendable buses slipping and sliding. There was no way he could pick me up with this mess of traffic so I had no choice but to abandon my car. I walked, people! Fortunately, I was near an exit and I only had to walk about a couple blocks where Bob picked me up in the 4WD Trailblazer. We went back later that night after they had de-iced the freeway and picked up the car.

If you're familiar with the Seattle area, you know how hilly the terrain is here and what a nightmare it is when it snows. We don't have many snowplows or sanders or anything because we rarely have snow. But this year is different, we've had at least 3 snowstorms, a huge windstorm, and flooding. It's been a week and the temps have not risen above freezing. Today we had a little melting, but I hear we will get snow again tonight. My daughter's car which is sitting out front is covered with snow and looks like a popsicle.

And to top it off, I feel a head cold coming on. I can't breathe!

I have been reading though. I finished a couple more really good books.

Eye of Heaven by Marjorie M. Liu
After being disappointed with her last book, The Red Heart of Jade, I was hesitant about reading this one, but it turned out to be a very good read. This is the next book in the Dirk & Steele series about a paranormal detective agency whose members have special powers, i.e. telekinetics, psychic healer, empathics, shapeshifters, etc. TRHoJ had a convoluted plot and not much romance. But in EoH the romance was front and center.

Blue Perrineau is a electrokinetic (he feels electric currents and can stop them at will) who works for the agency and is blackmailed by his father into looking for his half brother. I never really bought this plot device but whatever. He tracks his brother down at a circus act working in Las Vegas. There he meets Iris McGillis a performer who he instantly realizes is a shapeshifter. Iris thinks she is alone in the world after losing her mother. But she has her lions. There is an instant attraction between them that sizzles the pages but they don't actually get together (for sex) until almost the end of the book which was rather disappointing. Isn't there a rule that the H/H have to have sex by the middle of the book? Okay, if there isn't, there should be because I was losing interest and thought about skimming ahead. Yeah, I know I'm a slut, but I read for the sex, don't you know. The sex was quite good when they got around to it. The plot was much tighter than TRHoJ but it had plenty of action and overall I enjoyed it as much as Tiger Eye.

My grade: B+

I have more books to write about but I'm running out of steam. I need a decongestant. I need sleep. More later.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Best of 2006

I thought I would do a wrap-up for the books I read during 2006. After comparing my results with previous years I was surprised to find that each year I am reading less and less.

2006: 140 books
2005: 166 books
2004: 197 books
2003: 227 books

This is not a good trend. I think this result is directly proportional to how busy I am at work. I was unemployed for the entire year of 2003 and worked only about 6 months of 2004. I got my present job in April of 2005 and we got incredibly busy in 2006. My job is interfering with my reading and this is not acceptable, don't you think?

This year I only gave 3 books published in 2006 an A- grade and none an A, compared to last year's 3 (A) and 4 (A-) books. But I tackled my TBR quite a bit this year so I had an additional 10 books from other years in the A range. Maybe I'm being pickier with my A grades now.

Crazy Love by Tara Janzen (2006) (A-)
Some people didn't like this book but it is my favorite of the Crazy series. It's Dylan Hart, Special Defense Force commander, and Skeeter Bang's story and was very fast paced featuring three storylines that were all well done. All the action with muscle cars and high tech gadgets kept me turning the pages and there was never a dull moment. But don't think the romance was short changed because Dylan and Skeeter's story was very hot with great sexual tension.

A Reason to Live by Maureen McKade (2006) (A-)
I have become a big fan of historical westerns but they seem to be few and far between. I bought this one on Wendy's recommendation and was so glad I did. Here's my review.

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh (2006) (A-)
This book had such a HUGE amount of buzz with lots of accolades from most bloggers. I thought there was a few confusing moments at the end but overall it was an excellent paranormal. Singh sets up a fascinating alternate reality world populated with psychics, shapeshifters and human. This is the first full length offering from this author so I'm looking forward to more books from her.

The Kissing Game by Suzanne Brockmann (1998) (A)
Heart of Deception by Taylor Chase (1999) (A)
Manhunting by Jennifer Crusie (1993) (A)
A Crime of the Heart by Cheryl Reavis (1988) (A)
A Rose at Midnight by Anne Stuart (1993) (A)

Get Lucky by Suzanne Brockmann (2000) (A-)
Body Language by Suzanne Brockmann (1998) (A-)
The Nightingale's Song by Kathleen Eschenberg (2001) (A-)
Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer (1990) (A-)
Isn't It Romantic? by Rhonda Thompson (1998) (A-)

I have a few more 2006 books left to read so I may be able to add another one to this list before the end of January. My goal for 2007 is to read more than 140 books. I just can't let this 'work thing' interfere with my fun.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

December reads

Here's the picture of the upside down BBQ grill after the windstorm.



Two very nice neighbors came over and helped set it upright again. What a mess it made too but it needed a good cleaning so Bob got that taken care of.

The 'December From Hell' (see previous post) turned out to be a pretty good reading month. I don't know how I managed to read all these books. I must be superwoman. Some of them were new, some old from my TBR and one was a loaner from a friend. This is going to be long, people, so fasten your seat belts.

Hard Evidence by Pamela Clare (B-)
I picked up this one because I loved the previous book, Extreme Exposure. It was another investigative reporting story this time involving the friend of the heroine from EE and was not quite as good but still enjoyable. Tessa witnesses a murder of a young girl. She is so traumatized by her experience that she writes a detailed eye witness account in the newspaper where she works as a reporter which puts her life in danger. She decides to find the girl's killer and in the course of her investigation meets Julian, an undercover FBI agent who has been working on the case which involves human trafficking. Tessa does some very unwise things (maybe even TSTL) and her life is in danger (of course) and Julian must protect her. Some of it was rather unrealistic but again Clare's writing makes up for it. Good suspense, hot sex, and fast action.

The Wicked Lover by Julia Ross (B-)
I think I started this one about 4 times in the past but never got past page 30. But I'm glad I persisted this time because it was pretty good. Ross' lush prose (ok, Cindy, I know that you'll be skipping this one) made this a smooth-flowing read but it was not her best. I was rather irritated with both the H/H at times. But it was worth picking up.

The Kept Woman by Susan Donovan (C-)
I usually love Donovan but this was not her best. In fact, I really dislike the 'let's pretend we're married so I can get elected' storylines. Blah! The hero and the book don't get my vote!

Kiss and Tell by Suzanne Brockmann (B)
I really think Brockmann should give up the Navy Seals books and go back to contemporaries because she does them so well. This one was again witty, light, funny, with great dialog, like the other old Loveswepts she wrote. It's a friends to lovers story and I really enjoyed it.

Vanquished by Hope Tarr (B-)
The story in this historical involved a photographer and a suffragette and blackmail and betrayal. Very well written but I really didn't get the reasoning behind the blackmail so I think there were problems with the storyline. But a very sexy read with believable characters.

The Unexpected Wife by Mary Burton (B+)
This one is a western historical that I got from Wendy who wrote a terrific review. I have never tried Burton before but I was very impressed. Must find something else by her.

Long Time Coming by Sandra Brown (B+)
This is an oldie (1989) and it shows a bit but I loved the hero who was an astronaut. The heroine was a bit too self sacrificing but it still worked for me. The plot had a twist on the old secret baby storyline. I usually hate those but this one didn't make me run screaming.

Crazy Sweet by Tara Janzen (B)
These 'Crazy' books are so fast paced and hot that I find myself liking them all. This one was not quite as good as some others but still enjoyable.

Be My Baby by Susan Andersen (B-)
BMB was set in New Orleans which was rather hard to read without thinking of Katrina. Hero is a policeman who has spent the last 10 years raising his three orphaned sisters and heroine is an uptight Boston blue blood whose family owns a chain of hotels. Scenario involves another heroine in danger - hero must protect her which is getting old. But it was fast, light, humorous, and hot. So it worked for me.

Lakeside Cottage by Susan Wiggs (B-)
LC is set in Lake Crescent, Wash. which I visited years ago. It is sort of fun to read a book set in a place I live near. Hero has saved the President's life from an attempted assassination and is hiding out from the press. Heroine is a single mom and a writer. My friend loaned this contemporary to me. It was pretty good but after finishing it I have decided I like her historicals better.

Barefoot in the Grass by Judith Arnold (B+)
If you're in the mood for a tearjerker this one fills the bill. While very serious at times it still had a light mood to it. It's about perseverance and acceptance. Heroine is a wonderful character so realistically drawn. I wanted to hate the hero at one point but his reaction in one scene was completely believable. I won't give away the plot because it might spoil it for you.

Eloquent Silence by Sandra Brown (C+)
This is another oldie by Brown but not quite as enjoyable as the one above. Hero is a complete asshole. He is a self centered actor and not inclined to share his reasonings or feelings with the heroine. I may have graded this one too high but I loved the heroine who is a teacher and hero's deaf daughter.

That's all for now. Have already finished 3 books in January. I must update my sidebar soon. It's way out of date.

Monday, January 01, 2007

December was rough for me

Thanks for kicking my butt and waking me up, Cindy! December was a rough month:
  • Snowstorm
  • Handbell concert plus rehearsals
  • Son hit by a car while walking across the street (he's OK, just very very sore). took a ride in an ambulance to the hospital.
  • Windstorm
  • No power for 2 days, no cable TV, no cable internet for a week (Bob drove me crazy... No ESPN, no Golf Channel, no surfing the internet, etc.)
  • Worked 10-12 hour days for 3 solid weeks (plus weekends)
  • Shipped our software product on 12/22. Big ship party (booze, champagne, food)!
  • Finished Christmas shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, etc.
  • Daughter's boyfriend, his mother and sister came for Christmas Eve dinner. Then we all headed to church where I played in handbell choir while daughter played flute. She's very good (10 years of lessons) but hasn't picked it up in two years. She was AWESOME. She played Silent Night during the candle lighting while the congregation sang. It was so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes.
  • Another snowstorm
  • Comp time the week after Christmas. I slept in late EVERY morning. Bob still driving me crazy since he decided to take this week of vacation too. We spent lots of time together but I'm ready for him to go back to work. He's taking a golf vacation in March and asked if I want to go along.... Uh... NO.
But the good news is I have read lots of books from my TBR. I'll post about it tomorrow.