Monday, July 30, 2007

Tough Enough by Michele Albert

COPYRIGHT: 2007
PAGES: 351
SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Romantic Suspense
SENSUALITY: Warm
SERIES: Possibly tie-in to some previous books. Too lazy to look this up now. [From Albert's website]
Although Tough Enough is technically the first book of the Avalon Series, Ben Sheridan and Rainert von Lahr are first mentioned in One Way Out. Avalon, Sheridan, and von Lahr all play an important part in Hide in Plain Sight. The hero of that book, Griffith Laughton, is an Avalon operative who has tangled with von Lahr in the past.
REASON FOR READING: Albert is an auto-buy author for me. She's consistently good, but some of her work is better than others. I have also liked her work written as Michelle Jerott.

SUMMARY:
THERE ARE THINGS YOU CAN'T FAKE
Will Tiernay is an operative with Avalon, a top-secret army of mercenaries who recover stolen art and antiquities. When his new assignment -- tracking down an art forger at a museum reproductions company -- leads him directly to his former lover, Mia Dolan, he discovers he wants her more ever. But Mia is his prime suspect.
THERE ARE THINGS YOU CAN'T CONTROL
Mia had always imagined Will to be married with a houseful of kids back home in Ohio. So she's shocked to discover that he's a very single journalist researching the inner workings of Haddington Reproductions. More shocking is their chemistry -- as irresistible now as then. But Mia suspects Will is hiding something.... Is this truly a second chance at passion? Or will his real mission draw them so deeply into an underworld of danger and deception that they'll be lucky to escape alive?

THOUGHTS / OPINION:
I always enjoy Albert's writing style and this one is entertaining and fast moving. The plot had an interesting premise but it went a bit overboard near the end and lost touch with reality. I enjoy second chance at love stories (unlike some people) and this was a pretty good one.

Mia and Will were (sort of) likable characters but it was never really explained to my satisfaction why Mia did what she did all those years ago to cause their breakup. That part was glossed over too conveniently. The suspense was rather light and the villain was obvious from the start.

Will hides his motives and lies about why he has reappeared in Mia's life, but he is still very attracted to her and they share some spicy love scenes. It bothered me that Will deceives Mia and uses her past feelings for him to get her to do what he wants. He even makes love to her without telling her the truth about himself. But on the other hand he is still unsure if she is the thief. Eventually Will's deception is revealed and Mia gets pissed about his duping her but all gets forgiven fairly quickly since Mia's life is in danger and Will must protect her. TE is a good start to the series but not her best work. I like the stolen artifacts storyline so I'll be picking up the next one.

GRADE: B-

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Wedding update #2


Well, the date is set (July 19, 2008) and a few plans are in progress, but Daughter is looking for a full time job (human resourses - entry level) so has been putting all her energies into job hunting and doesn't have much time for wedding planning.

She decided to give out little jars of homemade strawberry jam as the wedding favor. Wow, what a lot of work that was! I tried to warn her but I'm trying not to be a bossy mother-of-the-bride so I want to be supportive and helpful where I can. It's hard for me to keep my mouth shut, believe me. :)

One Saturday in June we drove over to Remlinger Farms in Carnation and bought 6 giant flats of strawberries that were just picked out of their fields. They were fabulous - dark red, juicy and sweet. Don't even need sugar on them. Not like those hard sour strawberries you get in the store. Have you ever made 200 (4-oz) jars of jam? You need about 30 pounds of sugar and it takes TWELVE batches. We were at it until around midnight. The jam turned out wonderful but now she wants to cut out red-checked fabrics circles to put on the lid and tie with a ribbon. We bought the fabric and ribbon last weekend but I'm too exhausted to think about cutting out 200 circles with pinking shears. We decided to enlist the aid of her future mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Probably wait till fall to get it finished. Wait I think I have a picture of of making jam somewhere..... here it is (Bob cut off our heads). This was taken at about midnight. Warning: don't blow up that picture, the bags under my eyes will scare you. Daughter is cute... me not so much.




Here's finished product:



Only 199 more circles to cut out!

She also made arrangements for the wedding cake. Her husband-to-be owns a marshal arts studio and one of his students does wedding cakes and offered to do her cake in exchange for free lessons. That saves Daughter about $800 in her budget. Woohoo! I didn't see the lady's cake photos but Daughter said they were beautiful.

Next weekend I'm having an Engagement Party to introduce the two families to each other. A backyard barbeque. It better not rain! We have had two weeks of rain and my beautiful baskets and pots of flowers look waterlogged. There will be about 20 people and I'm providing all the food and drinks. Which reminds me I better get off my duff away from the computer and get to Costco and the grocery store. Plus I have cleaning to do. *sigh* I'm tired already just thinking about it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas

COPYRIGHT: 2007
PAGES: 384
SETTING: Contemporary (Texas)
TYPE: Women's Fiction / Contemporary Romance
SERIES: None
SENSUALITY: Warm

REASON FOR READING: I'm a big fan of Lisa Kleypas. Also, AAR gave SD DIK status.

SUMMARY: [from the publisher]

SHE'S FROM THE WRONG SIDE OF THE TRACKS

Liberty Jones has dreams and determination that will take her far away from Welcome, Texas - if she can keep her wild heart from ruling her mind. Hardy Cates sees Liberty as completely off-limits. His own ambitions are bigger than Welcome, and Liberty Jones is a complication he doesn't need. But something magical and potent draws them to each other, in a dangerous attraction that is stronger than both of them.

HE'S THE ONE MAN SHE CAN'T HAVE

When Hardy leaves town to pursue his plans, Liberty finds herself alone with a young sister to raise. Soon Liberty finds herself under the spell of a billionaire tycoon - a Sugar Daddy, one might say. But the relationship goes deeper than people think, and Liberty begins to discover secrets about her own family's past.

WILL THEY FIND THEIR HEARTS' DESIRES OR WILL HEARTBREAK TEAR THEM APART?

Two men. One woman. A choice that can make her or break her. A woman you'll root for every step of the way. A love story you'll never forget.
THOUGHTS / OPINION:
Lisa Kleypas writes wonderful historical romances so when I heard about her newest release a chill went down my spine. Was another wonderful romance author moving away from romance into the realm of women's fiction or historical fiction or mystery? Visions of Candice Proctor (now writing as C. S. Harris) sprung to my mind. So I waited for the reviews to roll in but unfortunately they were a bit mixed and no one was answering the question foremost on my mind.... did it have a HEA? I had no choice, no choice people, but to find out for myself. So when I finally got my copy, the first thing I did was read the last chapter.

The good news is .... yes, it has a HEA, so it didn't feel exactly like women's fiction... more like a like a hybrid cross with a contemporary romance. But it is written in first person like most women's fiction. The bad news is ... there is a love triangle and I'm not especially fond of them. But I still greatly enjoyed this book.

Liberty Jones is an interesting and complex character and I admired her strength and determination to make a better life for herself and her baby sister. The story, as told by Liberty, begins when she is 11 years old and moves into a trailer park with her mother, Diana, in Welcome, Texas. She meets a boy named Hardy Cates and develops a serious crush on him. But Hardy has ambitions and burns to get out town as soon as he graduates. When he leaves town to make his fortune on an oil rig, Liberty is crushed and I started to have doubts about finishing the book. Hardy was a huge disappointment and I wanted to kick and scream at him. I had to remind myself that this was not a 'true' romance and I knew how it ended so I bravely continued on. :)

When Diana becomes pregnant, she tosses her lazy boyfriend out on his ear. She has a baby girl that Liberty names Carrington and Liberty is completely devoted to her. In fact, she's more of a mother to Carrington than Diana. Life is not easy for them. Diana struggles to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs, but occasionally some extra money will 'luckily' land in their laps. But life becomes even harder when Diana is killed in a car accident and Liberty, who has just graduated from high school, is given custody of her baby sister.

Liberty moves to Houston and gets a scholarship to a beauty school. After she graduates she gets a job at a ritzy beauty salon. There she meets a wealthy tycoon, Churchill Travis, who takes a fatherly interest in her and eventually offers her a job as his personal assistant. But she and her sister must move into his mansion. It's not what you think...there is no intimacy between Churchill and Liberty, they become very close friends, almost like father and daughter. But Churchill's son, Gage, doesn't believe that and he is angry and suspicious. But he eventually figures things out and they fall in love.

Then lo and behold in walks Hardy back into Liberty's life and now she must make a decision. I won't spoil the ending but some secrets are revealed and Liberty ends up with the right person.

I'm not sure I can recommend this book to everyone. Some reviews I read really didn't like the book or were disappointed in it. I can see their points but I really enjoyed it. If you don't like love triangles or first person POV (or kids), stay away. It's not a 'true' romance, but more of a life saga with a romantic ending. Of course, if you are a huge LK fan and read everything she writes then you'll probably enjoy this one. Her characterization is excellent and the story moves quickly. It took me a while to come up with a grade. But the characters and story are still fresh in my mind even though I finished it months ago. So must be a keeper for me.

GRADE: A-

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Judith Ivory News

I was over at AAR After Hours blog when I came across this snippet posted by Sandy Coleman that had me concerned.
So, I'm back from RWA and, even in my zombie-like state caused by the trip home from hell (do not ever fly AirTran and I'm only telling you this because I care about each and every one of you), I'm still sad from the news I heard from Stephen Axelrod, Judith Ivory's agent.

I saw him at the Berkley party on Friday night and decided to go straight to the source and try to find out what is up with the divine Ms. Ivory.

Turns out, he doesn't really know. The book that was widely reported to be on Avon's schedule for sometime this year wasn't turned in. And whether or not it ever will be is anybody's guess since, believe it or not, he hasn't heard from her.

So, the author is MIA even to her agent. And, just to cover all the bases, it was clear to me that he wasn't BS-ing me and that he really doesn't know the story. In fact, when I told him that I'd been in touch with her about a year ago, he thought I might have been one of the last to hear from her.


This is not good news. I have also heard that she has had health problems so this development is disturbing. The selfish side of me hates it when a really talented author just sort of drops out of sight with no explanation (although they certainly don't owe me one). The fact that she is MIA from her agent doesn't sound hopeful. Very sad. I wish her all the best.

JI has written some of my favorite books:

Sleeping Beauty
Beast
The Proposition
Untie My Heart
Bliss
Dance

I confess I haven't read her re-write of Starlit Surrender, which was titled Angel in a Red Dress (released last September), and that's probably because I didn't hear any buzz about it. I have heard that SS is not her best work, but I still want to read AIARD so I have ordered it.

What are your favorites by JI?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Golfing and reading

You may (or may not) have noticed I haven't been around much. That's a sure sign I have been working my ass off at my job. Hate that! I keep saying I'm going to look around for a new job, but I never do. Not much time for reading either.

They want us to work weekends too, but I said screw that. Bob and I took off this weekend in the RV. Went camping over at Potholes State Park which is over the mountains in Eastern Washington. Left on Friday after work. Weather was sunny and warm with some light clouds. Bob wanted to golf over at Sage Hills Golf Resort and I was going to sit at the campsite and read. But Saturday morning he decides he doesn't want to golf by himself and wants me to go with him. He said he would rent an electric cart and I could drive it. Then he suggested I bring my book along to read (when I wasn't driving ... of course). I said "But honey, you need the exercise!" and he said he would walk and I would drive the cart. I said "Let's Go!"

I love driving the golf cart. I did this one other time and had a blast. So Bob would hit the ball and I would tear off down the golf course looking for the ball, then park there, whip out my book and read until Bob caught up with me, changed clubs, and whacked the ball again. In between, I would offer him golfing advice :)

Me: Honey, the wind is behind you.
*Whack!*
Bob: Shit, the wind's behind me, I hit it too hard and overshot the green.
Me: You should always listen to your caddy.
Bob: ** gives me THE LOOK **


Me: Oooooo, honey, that wasn't a very good shot!
Bob: ** gives me THE LOOK, again **


Bob: Damn, I hit the trees again.
Me: Why do you keep hitting the trees?
Bob: **gives me THE LOOK, again **
Me: ** time to keep my mouth shut **

Bob: Where's the ball washer? I need to wash my balls.
Me: *** no comment... ***

Really it was all in good fun. We laughed and joked a lot. I learned some new swear words too. Overall it was very relaxing for me. Very quiet and peaceful out there on the fairways. I got some rays and the cool breeze kept me from getting too hot (remembered to put on sunscreen this time too). Very fun driving the golf cart and I got really good at spotting his ball (*** OK, no comments from the peanut gallery ***). We had dinner in the clubhouse afterward and the food was surprisingly excellent.

What was I reading that I couldn't tear myself away from?? The Rainbow Season by Lisa Gregory. It was EXCELLENT! I can't remember who told me about this one. Well, it's been in my TBR since 2004, but I keep thinking it may have been KristieJ. It's a western historical with a copyright date of 1979 by Candace Camp and a tortured hero to die for. Very emotional and very HOT. I had a few quibbles but it's a keeper because I know I'll want a re-read. I had no idea that Lisa Gregory was Candace Camp but it doesn't matter because I've never read her either. I see that it has a sequel, The Rainbox Promise, but I'm wondering if it's any good. Anyone read that?

I also finished Lover Revealed by J.R. Ward this weekend and loved that too! Another good book in the BDB series. This one is Butch's story and I think I liked it more than my twin. :) I may do a review on this one too, but I haven't been reliable lately so don't believe anything I say. BTW, I hate the lessers and couldn't care less about their stories. Skipped all their crap. Complete waste of time. Oh, and John is a real pain in the ass. Just saying.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Salvation, Texas by Anna Jeffrey

COPYRIGHT: 2007
PAGES: 342
SETTING: Contemporary (Texas)
TYPE: Romance/Mystery
SERIES: None
SENSUALITY: Hot

REASON FOR READING: Read one other by her (Sweetwater) and enjoyed her style. Plus I was in the mood for a western (since we were planning to travel through Montana).

SUMMARY: [from annajeffrey.com]
Ever since he lost Elena, everything in Rusty's life has gone wrong. Her wealthy, influential father drove him out of Salvation, away from everyone he'd ever loved. Now he's back, elected by the people to one of the most powerful positions in the county. He isn't about to let the woman who once cost him everything get under his skin again. Not when there's a cold-blooded killer on the loose. And not unless he can find a way to live with her father and her millions.

Elena Ryder knew of no better man than Sheriff Rusty Joplin-despite the fact that years back, he let her controlling father run him out of town. Now, she trusts no one else to investigate her sister's tragic death. And she won't even consider resisting Rusty's rugged presence if she gets a second chance…

THOUGHTS / OPINION:
The last book I read by Jeffrey (Sweetwater) was a character-driven story set in a small town. This book was a little different, more of a police procedural with the plot divided between a murder mystery and a romance. But it also was set in a small town. Jayne's review at DearAuthor compared it to an episode of the old TV series, "Dallas", and I thought that was a very good analogy.

This was second chance at love story that was done well. Rusty and Elena fell in love as teenagers but her wealthy controlling father, Randall Ryder, stepped in to manipulate several characters and in the end Elena falsely believed Rusty had cheated on her. She leaves for college heartbroken and doesn't see Rusty for 15 years. He's back in town after being elected sheriff despite Randall's attempts to influence the election.

When Elena's sister is found dead in an apparent horse incident in the barn at her ranch, Rusty is not convinced it was an accident and treats it as a crime scene. After the autopsy confirms his suspicions, he and Elena are thrown together and they rekindle their romance. There was a point where the murder mystery seemed to dominate the story, but eventually the romance kicks in with some very hot sex scenes.

My only niggle besides the too quick solution to the mystery was that Elena was supposed to be the more rebellious daughter but I found her rather passive and far too agreeable with her manipulative father. I didn't buy her supposed rebelliousness. But eventually she was the one who really fought to get her relationship restarted with Rusty which I really liked. Rusty was too willing to let her go and I wanted to shake some sense into him. But ST was still a good book and I’d like to try another by AJ.


MISCELLANEOUS: Love the covers of her books.

GRADE: B+

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sunburned

Blogger is messing with me and pissing me off. I'm having trouble entering or editing a title in the title box. Anyone else having this problem when creating or editing a new blog post? Update: Someone posted a message on the discussion board about this problem here. The workaround mentioned here works.

I never did figure out how to get the NavBar at the top of my blog to re-appear so I went to Google and created a Custom Search Engine. So if you want to search my blog just use that little tool on my sidebar.

Yesterday I worked out in the garden and got terribly sunburned. At my age I should know better. The weather was perfect... sunny and about 75 degrees and for some reason I completely forgot about sunscreen. I'm usually the one scolding my kids or everybody else about putting on the sunscreen, but for some reason the idea never entered my head. I'm an idiot. I did have a hat on so my face and nose are fine. But my neck & top of my back and the top of my shoulders looks lobster-red. Ouch! Tough night sleeping. Garden looks good though.

I have so many reviews I could write but no time for all of them.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Back from ND

We made it safely back from North Dakota in one piece. Got back Monday at 12:30 am after driving 20 hours straight and I actually went into work. I must be crazy. (yeah, I heard that)

The town centennial celebration was lots of fun, sort of. The parade down main street was great except for the huge thunder storm that blew in right in the middle of the it. Thunder, lightning, torrential rain and there I was standing under a tree. And so was everyone else and no one was concerned that lightning was striking all around us. The town water tower and grain elevator have lightning rods at the top so they all figured we were safe but I was a bit nervous about it. The storm only lasted about 20 minutes, then the sun came out and evaporated the rain. Up went the temperature and the humidity and the mosquitoes found us.

I brought lots of books along and decided to include a couple Westerns and that turned out to be a brilliant idea. Montana is a beautiful (but too freaking big) state with its mountains, rugged rock formations, plains, and rolling prairie grass bringing my imagination alive with thoughts of covered wagons, cowboys, buffalo, Indians, and women in prairie bonnets. And there I was reading High Plains Bride by Jenna Kernan (B+). Wonderful, but not for sissies. Emotional book which deals with a difficult subject. Heroine's twelve year old daughter is kidnapped by the Sioux and Kernan doesn't gloss over the brutality of her treatment, but it stops short of being too graphic. I also read The Preacher's Daughter by Cheryl St. John (B) which turned out to be a very gentle book in comparison to HPB. It was good but not one of my favorites by CSJ. I also just finished a Contemporary Western - Salvation, Texas by Anna Jeffrey (B+) and really enjoyed that one as well.

The rest of the books I finished were:

Robber Bride by Deborah Simmons (B)
Wife for Hire by Janet Evanovich (B)
The Kissing Blades by Jessica Hall (B+)

I'm trying to get caught up with all my favorite blogs but the neighborhood 4th of July picnic in my front yard distracted me. I think I may have missed the latest train wreck / author war or something because I saw some people mention something but I can't figure it out. Which drives me nuts cuz you know how I love to rubberneck.

Need to find out about the book haul from all the Canadian Romance Blogger Convention attendees :). Turns out Devonna and I came very close to having a North Dakota Romance Blogger Convention. She visited a town (Tioga) near Noonan but we missed each other by a day or so. Good thing, I guess, because there isn't a bookstore within about 100 miles of these towns.