Monday, April 23, 2007

Angels Fall by Nora Roberts

COPYRIGHT: 2006
SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Romantic suspense
PAGES: 488
SERIES: No

REASON FOR READING: Love Nora. And read good things about it from Rosario, AAR, and others.

SUMMARY: [from the publisher]

Reece Gilmore has come a long way to see the stunning view below her. As the sole survivor of a brutal crime back East, she has been on the run, desperately fighting the nightmares and panic attacks that haunt her. Reece settles in Angel's Fist, Wyoming-temporarily, at least-and takes a job at a local diner. And now she's hiked this mountain all by herself. It was glorious, she thought, as she peered through her binoculars at the Snake River churning below.

Then Reece saw the man and woman on the opposite bank. Arguing. Fighting. And suddenly, the man was on top of the woman, his hands around her throat . . .

Enjoying a moment of solitude a bit farther down the trail is a gruff loner named Brody. But by the time Reece reaches him and brings him to the scene, the pair has vanished. When authorities comb the area where she saw the attack, they find nothing. No signs of struggle. No freshly turned earth. Not even a tire track.

And no one in Angel's Fist seems to believe her. After all, she's a newcomer in town, with a reputation for being jumpy and jittery-maybe even a little fragile. Maybe it's time to run again, to move on . . .

Reece Gilmore knows there's a killer in Angel's Fist, even if Brody, despite his seeming impatience and desire to keep her at arm's length, is the only one willing to believe her. When a series of menacing events makes it clear that someone wants her out of the way, Reece must put her trust in Brody-and herself-to find out if there is a killer in Angel's Fist before it's too late.


THOUGHTS/OPINION:
Normally, I cringe at the thought of reading a book that's close to 500 pages. Only the great Nora Roberts can keep me turning the pages so quickly that the end snuck up on me before I knew it. AF was a terrifically engrossing read and I loved it.

Reece is the only survivor of a bloody massacre at the restaurant where she worked as a chef in Boston. She witnessed some of her fellow co-workers being murdered before her eyes and is still suffering nightmares and panic attacks, what you would call PTSD. When she eventually ends up in the small town of Angels Fist, Wyoming, she seemed like such a fragile person and she doubts whether she will ever recover and be normal again. She gets a job as a cook in the local diner and rents the apartment upstairs and seems to be settling in. While out hiking in the nearby mountains she witnesses a murder. Reece runs back down the trail straight into Brody, a mystery writer and the local recluse. Brody helps her report it to the police, but the sheriff can find no evidence that a crime had been committed there. Brody ends up being the only person in town who believes her. At about this point I had my suspicions on who committed the crime and it turned out... I was right!

Brody was an appealing character in a strange way and not Nora's typical hero. He was very sarcastic and brash with Reece with very little sympathy for her. But he was exactly the type of person Reece needed to make her climb out of the obsessive compulsive hole she had been digging for herself and fight back. Instead of dishing out the 'poor victim' gentle sympathy, Brody was gruff with a dry sense of humor and their dialog was laugh out loud funny. Brody is very attracted to her but was not looking for a permanent relationship. He had no clue he had fallen in love with her until it was way too late.

After the murder strange things start to happen to Reece and she immediately thinks she's having memory lapses and is losing her sanity but Brody believes her implicitly and forces her to believe in herself. Their love affair becomes extremely hot and was another great part of the story. The scenery was stunning and beautifully described (no, Cindy, not lush) and I makes me want to visit the Grand Tetons some day. This book reminded me a little of Northern Lights but I liked this one a little bit more. The lively dialog, hot love scenes and beautiful setting made AF a great read.

GRADE: A

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sizzling by Susan Mallery

COPYRIGHT: 2006
SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Straight Romance
PAGES: 384
SERIES: 3rd book in the Buchanan family series

REASON FOR READING: I got hooked after enjoying the first book in the series, Delicious.

SUMMARY:[from Mallery's website]

A spiteful article about the former pitcher and current playboy questions his talent. And the newspaper’s just the first bad news. Reid’s grandmother Gloria’s broken hip means she needs constant care—and she’s going through nurses as if they were Kleenex.

Reid hired nurses 1 and 2 for their bedside manner with him. So for number 3, he chooses Lori Johnson, the first candidate who seems immune to his brand of charm.

Lori considers herself inoculated against amoebas like Reid Buchanan. So why are her well-fortified defenses starting to crumble under the force of Reid’s sexy smile—and the kindness he shows her at every turn? There’s only one explanation for the feelings flaring between them—chemistry.

THOUGHTS/OPINION:
The Buchanans are a family of restaurateurs in Seattle. The family is comprised of three brothers; Cal (from Delicious), Walker (from Irresistible), and Reid, half-sister Dani, and their mean evil grandmother, Gloria. This is Reid's book and I was looking forward to the continuation of the series, but I was a bit disappointed with it. Reid is an ex-baseball player who runs a sports bar. He's rich, handsome and thinks he's God's gift to women. I usual like stories where the hero who is a womanizer/slut/playboy type and the heroine is a strong woman that doesn't take any of his crap, but I never felt an emotional connection between Reid and Lori for most of the book. Reid came across as very shallow and self-absorbed and I didn't like him much. I did enjoy the embarrassment that a former girlfriend causes him by writing an article about his lack sexual prowess. Took him down a peg. But Reid does care about his grandmother. She is injured in a fall in the last book and now is ready to come home from the hospital, but she still needs nursing care. So Reid hires a nurse, Lori, to care for her in his home. Of course, Lori has an instant attraction to him but thinks he will never notice her.

Gloria has been a bad tempered tyrant in the previous books and now that she is sick and depends on others to take of her I thought she would mellow out a bit, but no such luck. She's still a mean old bitch and I never sympathized with her for an instant. Lori was convinced that she was just lonely, but I wasn't buying it. I couldn't stand the witch. But Reid cared about her so I give him points for that.

The plot was rather thin and I didn't like the characters much so I was about ready to give up on it, but somewhere past the halfway point I started liking Reid, Lori and Gloria more so I finished it. I ended up liking it a little bit more than Irresistible but not as much as Delicious. Now I can't decide if I will read the next book (Dani's story) Tempting.

GRADE: B-

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Karma Girl by Jennifer Estep

COPYRIGHT: 2007 (May 1 release)
PAGES: 360
SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Paranormal Romance
SERIES: Estep's next book Hot Mama is connected to KG.

REASON FOR READING: I won this ARC in a contest at Jennifer Estep's website. Completely blows my usual complaint that I never win anything.

SUMMARY:


Someone has to pay for what happened to Carmen Cole ...

Bigtime, New York is not big enough for both Carmen Cole and the superheroes and ubervillains who walk its streets. An intrepid reporter, Carmen's dedicated her life to unmasking the spandex wearers, all because her fiancé turned out to be a superhero, and a cheating one at that — sleeping with none other than his nubile nemesis.

Exposing the true identities of the nation's caped crusaders and their archenemies has catapulted Carmen from her sleep southern hometown to the front pages of one of the country's biggest newspapers, The Exposé. Hobnobbing with modelizing millionaires and famished fashionistas is all in a day's work for the woman hot on the trail of the Fearless Five and Terrible Triad. But when Carmen gets the scoop of her career, her life comes crashing down around her. And even Bigtime's sexiest superhero, Striker, may not be able to save her ...

THOUGHTS / OPINION:
A book featuring a world populated by superheroes and ubervillains (and regular people as well) has to be a first for me since my comic book reading days. In KG every town in the world has its own superhero who shows up to rescue people from natural disasters and things like runaway trains, collapsing bridges and burning buildings. And of course every town also has its own ubervillain who wants to rule the world and cause lots of headaches for superheroes.

KG is a very solid read for a debut book and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Written in first person, it was a funny blend of comic book superheros and chicklit. I'm not a big fan of chicklit or lighthearted paranormals so I was a bit hesitant about reading this but a free book is a free book and the blurb sounded interesting. The humor was not laugh out loud funny, but rather more tongue-in-cheek as if Estep was poking fun of the wacky world she had created. And that worked for me surprisingly well.

Carmen Cole is the top investigative reporter for the town newspaper in Beginnings, Tennessee. On her wedding day she is shocked to discover her fiancé, Matt, and her best friend, Karen, in bed together. As if that wasn't enough she also discovers that Matt is a superhero and Karen is an ubervillain (because, of course, both of them are still wearing their spandex suits). She's extremely hurt by their betrayal so as an act of revenge she writes a front page article exposing their identities. And then she becomes a bit wacked out and goes off the deep end. She decides to make it her mission to expose the identities of as many superheroes and ubervillains as she can find.

She spends the next three years after the betrayal moving from town to town, newspaper to newspaper, leaving a trail of unmasked superheroes and ubervillains behind her. Eventually she makes it to Bigtime, New York, where a group of superheroes, the Fearless Five, and their enemies, the Terrible Triad, are legendary throughout the world. Carmen sets to work on exposing them and eventually unmasks the identity of one member of the Fearless Five, Travis Teague (aka Tornado). But shortly after, Travis commits suicide and Carmen realizes she has gone too far and comes to deeply regret her vendetta. Carmen is consumed by remorse, and her life and career take a downturn. Bad karma, she figures.

There are lots of wacky superheroes and ubervillains who provided some comic book moments and it was all a little silly to me but had me smiling quite often. Kind of like watching a Batman or Spiderman movie. I really wanted to cut right to the romance but Carmen and Sam (aka Striker) don't meet until about 50 pages into the book. But once they get together their chemistry was great and the action really takes off. It was no mystery figuring out the identities of members of the Fearless Five and Terrible Triad and sometimes the whole thing went over the top and I caught myself rolling my eyes. But overall it was a fun change of pace. Carmen and Sam/Striker are likeable characters and the best part of the book.

GRADE: B

Friday, April 13, 2007

Spring cleaning

No, not the house or the yard. The TBR mountain. I don't know what the hell got into me lately but I got this powerful urge to clean it out. I had about 250 books in there and it occurred to me that I will probably NEVER read a bunch of those books. I have tried cleaning it out numerous times before but was never very successful at it.

But this time I was ruthless (well, more ruthless). It's now down to 197 so far. I could no longer remember why I had bought some of them. I may have seen a good review or saw a recommendation on a message board, or got out of control at a library used book sale, but now I had no clue why I had them. Lots of them were categories and I read very few categories anymore (what was I thinking?) It feels so good! I posted them at PBS so maybe I'll get more credits.

I'm not sure how many more I'm going to purge, maybe 20 or 30 more, but some I just won't part with (including 10 old categories by Anne Stuart).

I feel the urge to go shopping for more books. Hmm, weird.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Beau Crusoe by Carla Kelly

COPYRIGHT: 2007
PAGES: 304
SETTING: Historical - Regency era
TYPE: Straight romance
SERIES: No

REASON FOR READING: Carla Kelly is an amazing author. She used to write Signet Regency romances and I have slowly been collecting them all over the years. When Signet discontinued their line of regencies, I felt some panic about the fate of Ms. Kelly. But I was thrilled to learn that Harlequin Historicals has picked up this wonderful author.

SUMMARY:
Shipwrecked!

Stranded alone on a desert island, he had lived to tell the tale. A triumphant return to the ton saw James Trevenen hailed as Beau Crusoe—a gentleman of spirit, verve and action. But only he knew the true cost of his survival! Scandalous!

Susannah Park had been shunned by Society. She lived content with her calm existence—until Beau Crusoe determinedly cut up her peace! The beautiful widow wanted to help him heal the wounds of the past—but what secrets was this glorious man hiding?

THOUGHTS / OPINION:
I finished this book a while ago but was having a hard time writing this review because of the gruesome subject matter. So I decided to skip that part since there are lots of message boards and forums that describe it so most of you already know what I'm talking about.

Considering the subject matter and knowing how wimpy and squeamish I am, you'd think I wouldn't enjoy this book. But I enjoyed it very much. Kelly is a gem and her writing, especially the dialogue is exquisite. Not a wasted phrase or word in sight. Her humor is poignant, touching and extremely funny at times and her characters are unique. Kelly balances the dark and light subject matters amazingly well, something most authors would find impossible to do.

James Trevenen (aka Beau Crusoe) is a very tortured and damaged man trying to adjust to life as best he can after being stranded alone on a desert island for the past 5 years. The isolation would drive most men insane but James kept his sanity by studying and documenting the habits of the little crabs that live on the island. When he returns to England after being rescued, his treatise if published and the Royal Society wants to award his the prestigious Copley medal. But James is literally haunted by what happened after the shipwreck and fears he is going insane. Today we would call his condition post traumatic stress.

Susannah is also suffering isolation in a different way. After her elopement seven years ago and the death of her husband from cholera shortly after, she returns home and is shunned by society, her family and friends. She appears at first to be one of those shy innocuous characters that are trying to be invisible. Susannah was a bit bland but a likeable character. She earns what little money she has by painting floral specimens for the Royal Society. Her godfather hatches a brilliant plan to ease her situation with James as his reluctant accomplice.

There are some shockingly bawdy scenes relating to James' behavior immediately after he is rescued but they were completely realistic and understandable. The sensuality between the H/H was subtle at most but still excellently done.

In a 1998 interview at AAR Ms. Kelly stated that she does not consider any character to be secondary to her. And that is certainly true here. Each character is three dimensional and has a purpose to the plot and is never wallpaper filler. She also wanted to know if readers would read her in another genre. Dear Ms Kelly: I'll buy and read ANYTHING you write. Please just keep writing. Yours truly....etc.

MISCELLANEOUS: Not CK's best (I have given 5 other books a grade of A or A+) but still very good.

GRADE: B+

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Announcement....


My lovely Daughter is GETTING MARRIED!!!

I had to tell y'all what's up before I burst.

Her husband-to-be is a sweet (tall, good-looking) guy and we adore him. A few weeks ago he asked us out to dinner WITHOUT the Daughter. Of course, right then we knew what was up! He told us he is planning on proposing to the Daughter and asked us for our blessing! What a sweetie. He told us how he had picked out her ring in secret. His father died a few years ago and his mother no longer wears her wedding ring. It had a nice diamond and she offered to give the stone to him for an engagement ring. So he sent his sister out on a mission. She took Angie shopping and they just happened to wander into a jewelry store to look at ring settings and they each picked out settings they liked just for fun. His sister reported back to him and he got the setting she liked with the diamond from his mother's ring.

He proposed on Friday while they were vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and it was a complete surprise to her. She was totally clueless. Remember those pictures of the Land's End Arch from my Mexican cruise last February? Well, he took her there in a water taxi at sunset and that's where he proposed.

The Husband-To-Be is quite a romantic guy as you can tell and spoils Daughter quite a bit. He went to consult with the pastor at his church beforehand to get his blessing too. And he decided he didn't want them to live together until after the wedding because he wants it to be special. Of course, the Daughter 'lives' *wink, wink* at home but spends about 90% of her time at his house anyway. They have been dating for a year and a half so I know they are compatible. And wow, the way they look at each other is quite something. It's obvious for some time now that they are in love. She's 24 and he's 29.

The HTB owns a business (a marshall arts studio - he's a 3rd degree blackbelt in taekwando) and owns a nice home. Great son-in-law material. No date has been set yet, but I'm just hoping I make it through the wedding with my sanity intact. God, I feel old. :) But I'm very happy for them.

Oh, yeah, Happy Easter!

My son and girlfriend and Bob and I went to church this morning, and I played in our handbell choir. Then we went home and had brunch. Very yummy. Then I had a nap this afternoon. :) Hope every one had a nice holiday too.

Friday, April 06, 2007

By Design by Madeline Hunter

COPYRIGHT: 2001
PAGES: 373
SETTING: Historical - Medieval
TYPE: Straight Romance
SERIES: Second (chronologically) in Hunter's medieval series. Takes place after By Possession and before By Arrangement.

REASON FOR READING: I love a good medieval and I bought the whole series at the same time.

SUMMARY: [from book cover]
Bound by honor...

The moment Rhys saw the stunning young woman selling her exquisitely crafted pottery in the marketplace, he was captivated. But the wealthy freemason would never have guessed that just a few days later, a misunderstanding would land Joan in the town stocks and he would become her unlikely savior. After the grueling ordeal, Rhys tenderly cares for Joan's bruised body -- and her bruised pride. Yet he longs to do much more ... to satisfy the fire that sparks between the pair the moment they are alone.

Rhys could not have known that Joan once enjoyed a more privileged life. She'd had no choice but to become an indentured servant, but she is determined to avenge the crimes that ruined her family and destroyed her world. When Rhys meets with her employer to buy pottery -- and buys her instead -- Joan is furious. She vows to resist falling under the spell of the handsome, imposing Rhys. But she finds that her resolve quickly softens when tempted by Rhys's powerful charms -- and she can only hope to find a way to avoid surrendering to her potent desire....
THOUGHTS / OPINION:
In By Possession, Moira the heroine was interested for a short time in marrying, Rhys, a freemason. But eventually Addis wins her. Rhys gets his own story here and because Rhys is such wonderful beta hero, he made this book even more enjoyable than BP.

Freemasons in medieval times were skilled stonemasons who built castles, cathedrals, and palaces and created sculpted statues and ornamental works. Rhys is very skilled and therefore financially prosperous. But his social standing would probably be considered a middle class commoner, being neither a poor peasant nor wealthy nobility. Rhys is a kind and decent man and the best part about this book.

Joan is an indentured servant who is being mistreated by her master. When he discovers her in the stocks he stands by and protects her from the vicious crowd who were pelting her with rotten fruit and tearing her clothing. I hadn't realized before how torturous this form of punishment can be. After she is released he takes her to his home and cares for her injuries. But Joan is very distrustful of his motives.

Later when he buys her indenture papers, she is furious. I really couldn't understand her anger and distrust, and expected her to be grateful. But Joan is actually a high born lady and daughter of a lord who was murdered by orders from Roger Mortimer, the usurper to young King Edward III. She and her brother were forced to escape their home and are hiding out until she can earn enough money to exact revenge. Joan's entire focus seems to be vengeance against Mortimer and when she sees that Rhys appears to be working for Mortimer she is very distrustful of him. Consequently, Joan was hard to warm up to until her backstory is revealed. Unknown to Joan is the fact that Rhys has very good reasons to appear to be helping Mortimer.

As in BP the medieval setting is extremely well written as well as the political intrigue which again was fascinating. But it was not too overly detailed that it lost the threads of the romance. The love story and historical detail flow together very smoothly. Addis and Moira from BP make an appearance and are an integral part of the story.

Hunter skillfully handles their growing love and the uncertainty created by the disparity in their social standing. And made me very unsure how they would get their HEA but again Hunter handles it beautifully and realistically. An unforgettable story like this sent it straight to my keeper pile.

GRADE: A-