Saturday, December 26, 2009

December Reads

Here's my December 2009 reads.

Quite a few of these were in my TBR a long time. The Anne Stuart was a disappointment with a horribly cruel hero and a heroine with amnesia. But it was written in 1995 so I'll forgive her. I like her new stuff way better.






























































































DateBook CoverTitleAuthorGrade
12/3/2009WickedSusan JohnsonB
12/6/2009To Catch a BrideAnne GracieB+
12/9/2009Winter's EdgeAnne StuartD-
12/10/2009
Tempt Me At TwilightLisa KleypasB
12/12/2009
Captive of SinAnna CampbellB-
12/16/2009
Demon ForgedMeljean BrookB+
12/18/2009
Promises in DeathJ. D. RobbB
12/19/2009
Beyond a ShadowAlison KentC
12/22/2009
Forbidden MagicJo BeverleyB-
12/25/2009
BurnLinda HowardB
12/27/2009
Stolen HeatElizabeth NaughtonB-
12/29/2009Home For ChristmasPatricia PotterB+

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TBR Challenge: REVIEW: A Gentle Rain by Deborah Smith

COPYRIGHT: 2007
PAGES: 360
SETTING/TYPE: Contemporary Romance
SENSUALITY: Subtle
REASON FOR READING: I got lucky and won this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. Since I'm a huge fan of DS, I was thrilled.

SUMMARY: from Deborah Smith's webite
A Connecticut heiress. A Florida cowboy.

Her secret. His heart.

And the very special family she's come home to find.
THOUGHTS/OPINIONS:

A Gentle Rain is another heartwarming engaging story that I have come to expect from Deborah Smith.

Kara Whittenbrook is the daughter of two wealthy award-winning environmentalist parents who have recently died when their plane crashes in the Amazon jungle leaving her an heiress. While sorting through her parent's papers she is shocked to discover her adoption papers. So she confronts her uncle to find out how and why her parents adopted a child. He explains that her adopted parents wanted to tell her but they died before they felt she was secure in herself enough to handle the news. He also told her that her biological parents are mentally disabled and live on a ranch in Northern Florida.

Kara decides she wants to meet them but she is unsure of her welcome so she sets out for Florida as "Karen Johnson", an artist and harp player. The ranch is run by Ben Thocco and her biological parents, Mac and Lily, work for him. Mac was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and Lily was severely shaken as a baby. They have never mentioned having a child and Ben does not know about Kara. Ben's brother, Joey, has Downs Syndrome and a very bad heart and his prognosis is not good. Ben is a wonderfully kind man who has a lot on his shoulders . He is struggling to hold onto the ranch, take care of Joey, and employ other mentally handicapped adults besides Mac and Lily as ranch hands.

Circumstances bring Kara into life on the ranch and Mac and Lily are very drawn to her. She quickly finds herself a part of life on the ranch, cooking and cleaning and getting to know her birth parents . She and Ben are very attracted to each other but Ben feels there is more to Kara than she is revealing. Kara is unsure whether she should reveal herself to her parents but she eventually falls in love with them ... and Ben too. She can't resist secretly fixing some of the financial problems Ben faces with her vast fortune.

This heartwarming story is filled with gentle humor and sweet, endearing characters. The writing alternates between Kara's and Ben's point of view and works wonderfully well. The love between Ben and Kara develops slowly and you will fall in love with them and the special characters just as I did. Deborah Smith is an amazing author and it's too bad more people don't know about her. This is a very special book and I highly recommend.

GRADE: B+

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New template (again)

Okay, here we go again. I couldn't fix the old template (which I loved) after checking with the site where I got it. Seems like there were lots of other people having the same problem (background image link broken).

So I spent an hour (it gets faster the more often I do this) and voila... here it is. Well, it's still fall, isnt' it? I found a winter template with snow but that was pushing it and it was depressing me. I hate winter and I'm not that fond of snow. In a month I'll probably change over to a Christmas theme (maybe). Sorry for the continually updating template. It gets confusing to all you bloggers to see something different everytime you visit. I will be tweaking it some since I think some of my blogger links may be broken and maybe add some new ones.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blog messed up

Something seems to have gone wrong with my blog background. If I can't fix it I'll have to go find me a new template. *sigh* Dang it!

I hate when that happens. Well, I better go over to the source and see if I can fix it. Or else I'll have to find a new template.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Just finished reading...

I'm caught up with homework for now so I thought I would pop in and post about a book I just finished and loved. If you like contemporary romances with snappy dialogue, three dimensional characters, and steamy love scenes, this is the book for you.

TITLE: Can't Stand the Heat
AUTHOR: Louisa Edwards
SENSUALITY: Hot
THOUGHTS/OPINIONS:
If you have never heard of Louisa Edwards before that's because Can't Stand the Heat is her debut book. And what a debut! I was quite impressed. I love stories where some conflict pits the hero and heroine against each other. I recently read and loved Julie James' Practice Makes Perfect which features this type of story. So when I heard the buzz about this book I had to give it a try since it also features a restaurant critic and a chef. Miranda Wake is a sharp-tongued restaurant critic who would love to write a book about restaurant culture but can't find an interested publisher. Adam Temple is a chef working hard to open his new restaurant - Market - which specializes in organic dishes with the freshest ingredients straight from local growers.

At Market's opening party Miranda gets a bit tipsy and shoots off her mouth. Adam loses his temper and issues a dare, kinda like "Oh yeah, you think this is easy - you wouldn't last a month in my kitchen." Adam's publicist thinks this is a great idea and will make lots of publicity for the restaurant and bring in the customers. Only problem is Miranda can't cook but she sells the idea to a publisher and receives a book advance. This is when the fun begins. The dialogue is crisp and snappy with lots of realistic restaurant jargon, the food descriptions are mouth watering and the pacing is fast and furious. The book is filled with wonderfully realistic characters and features a secondary M/M romance that was well done. I loved Adam much more than Miranda whose motivations sometimes puzzled me even though the story alternates between Adam and Miranda's point of view. The real strength of this book is the how the relationship grows. The sensuality between Adam and Miranda was hot and spicy and blended together with the cooking and food preparation making some very yummy scenes.

This is the first book in Edwards' "Recipe for Love" series and I can't wait to get my hands on the next book.

GRADE: B+

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Not blogging

Sorry to be absent again. School is taking up most of my spare time. I'm taking three classes:
  1. Programming in C#
  2. Database Theory
  3. Networking Basics
And I'm getting at or near 100% in all my assignments and tests. The Networking class is VERY technical with more than you ever want to know about cables, routes, switches, etc, etc. But the tests (multiple choice and T/F) are very easy.

I have done very little reading outside of class. I'm currently listening to a book on CD in the car. It's a suspense thriller called The Eight by Katherine Neville. I don't think it has lived up to the hype so far but it is rather fascinating.

I'll try and post when I get the chance.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Still alive

And kicking. Just thought I better post. I started fall quarter at Belleve College and I'm taking 3 classes. Two of them are online classes and one is a partially online. So as you can guess I am on the computer almost constantly but ironically enough I have little time left in the day to post on my blog. And little time left to read something besides a text book.

Reading now:


But I'm squeezing a few minutes out of each day to read this scrumptious book: Beyond the Rain by Jess Granger

Most of the reviews I have seen say it is "action-packed". Wow, what an understatement! I try to read an hour before bed but once I pick this up I don't stop reading till my eyes start to droop a couple hours later. I love both the H/H and the sci-fi setting. It's hard to find a good sci-fi romance these days but this one fills the bill nicely.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

REVIEW: September Moon by Candice Proctor

COPYRIGHT: 1999
PAGES: 337
SETTING: Historical - Australia 1860's
TYPE: Straight Romance
SENSUALITY: Hot
REASON FOR READING: Because I loved her other books written about Australia; Night in Eden and Whispers of Heaven - both are keepers!


THOUGHTS/OPINIONS:
Amanda Davenport is an Englishwoman working as a secretary in Australia. When her employers die unexpectedly she is left stranded until the next ship leaves for England which is many months away. She is alone, nearly penniless and desperate to find work. She applies for a job as governess to the Patrick O'Reilly family who live on a sheep station in the wild Australia outback. When she arrives at her new home and sees the harsh living conditions she realizes that she has probably made a horrible mistake. The land is in the midst of a terrible drought, the children are hellions and determined to make her life miserable, and Patrick O'Reilly is rough and uncouth. But Amanda must make the best of it until her agreed upon employment ends and she can return to her beloved England.

Slowly Amanda comes to care for the children. They were abandoned by their mother and are angry and deeply hurt, but eventually Amanda wins them over and they come to rely on her. Patrick is intelligent, a caring father, and works hard to make his station a success. He is also still bitter towards his English wife who abandoned him and his children because she hated the outback.

Patrick is a fantastic hero and he comes to see that Amanda is not such a prim English governess. She has a passionate side and he is very attracted to her. The sexual tension between them just sizzles and their growing attraction leads to some wonderful love scenes. Amanda finally realizes that this is where she belongs even though the living conditions get worse as the drought continues. It takes a while for the children and especially Patrick to trust her not to abandon them, but Amanda is one amazingly tough woman.

Proctor is an outstanding author and her vivid descriptions of the Australian outback were wonderfully drawn and compelling. She also paints a fascinating picture of life on a sheep station in the 1860s. And the characterizations are so strong that I just fell in love with Patrick and Amanda, and the three children, Hannah, Liam and Missy. In fact I had a hard time putting it down. After finishing the book I flipped back to the first page and read it again! I just could not get this setting and characters out of my mind. And that doesn't happen often for me. Another keeper!

GRADE: A

Monday, August 31, 2009

My Favorite Westerns

I wanted to post a list of my favorite westerns for KristieJ's "Great Western Drive" (and Sybil & Wendy too). Okay, I know I'm two weeks late, so sue me.

I love Western Romances because the men and women were so tough, gritty, hard-working and persistent. But they were flawed and sometimes damaged people. I also love all the different characters besides cowboys, ranchers and farmers. There are doctors, gamblers, cavalry and mounties, outlaws, bounty hunters, gunslingers, just to name a few. And the women were the most amazing. They cooked, cleaned, gave birth, raised their children and helped their husbands or ran the ranch themselves, all at the same time. They endured fires, floods, indian raids, starvation, the loss of children and husbands but they were tough and they kept going. Several of my favorite westerns involve women who are desperate to save their farm/ranch and so marry some very shady characters.

The following are my favorites in no particular order. Some of them you may have already heard of and some of them may be hard to find but try PBS if you can't find them on Amazon, or at your local UBS. Most of these are keepers for me.

One Lonely Night
by Susan Kay Law
The beginning of this book reminded me very much of Linda Howard's White Out. One night during a raging blizzard a stranger shows up on the doorstep of a lonely spinster and collapses at her feet.




The Wives of Bowie Stone by Maggie Osborne
My review
Heroine marries a condemned man to save him from hanging and help her run the farm.





Joe's Wife by Cheryl St. John
My review
A young widow is afraid she will lose her ranch so she proposes marriage to a war veteran to help her run it. An emotional love story and a real tearjerker.






Prairie Wife by Cheryl St. John
Review
A marriage in trouble story about a couple who have lost a child. Another emotional tearjerker that was very well done.





His Secondhand Wife by Cheryl St. John
My review
A very strong heroine finds out she is pregnant after her husband is killed in a brawl. His half-brother is terribly scarred from injuries suffered when he tangled with some barbed wire at a young age and offers her a home with him. Another wonderful emotional story.



Rainbow Season by Lisa Gregory (aka Candace Camp)
An excellent redemption story with a tortured hero to die for.







A Reason to Live by Maureen McKade
My review
A road romance about a nurse and an ex-gunslinger as they travel from Virginia to Texas in post-Civil War era. Very powerful story.





High Plains Bride by Jenna Kernan
Heroine's twelve year old daughter is kidnapped by the Sioux. She also discovers that her husband let her believe he was dead for years. So she demands his help in rescuing their daughter.





The Horse Soldier by Merline Lovelace
Review (TRR)
Review (AAR)
A woman searching for her husband travels to Fort Laramie Wyoming instead finds the man she secretly married years before ... and who she thought was dead.



The Outlaw by Nicole Jordan
My review.
Romeo and Juliet type story. H/H fall in love even though their families are enemies. They become separated when hero is accused of murder and he runs away. Now he is back and has cleared up the charges against him.

1st book in Rocky Mountain trilogy.


The Heart Breaker by Nicole Jordan
My review.
Marriage of convenience story. A Colorado rancher needs a wife and mother for his infant daughter.

2nd book in the Rocky Mountain "trilogy".

Nicole Jordan keeps promising the 3rd book (Wolf's story) for years but she never completed it. Here is what I found on her website:
I would love to be able to write Book 3, Wolf's story – and in fact I have it all plotted out. But my publisher wants me to wait until the market for Western romances is stronger. So regrettably, it will be a while longer for Wolf.
*sigh* Same old story. You think maybe the "Great Western Drive" may have helped and maybe we'll get Wolf's story? Don't hold your breath.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Recent Reads

Where does the time go? Well, I'm done with summer quarter. Took 3 classes for a total of 12 credits and got straight A's :)

Yeah, I'm a totally obsessive student and always have been and I saw it all too clearly this summer. In one class (Excel spreadsheet class) I had a perfect score plus 60 extra credit points which is ridiculous really. Why do I do this to myself? My stressed out tummy has come back again so I need to de-stress and relax until fall quarter starts on September 21. I have been busy reading and have really been knocking down my TBR.

This Duchess of Mine by Eloisa James (2009)
Sensuality: Warm
Grade: B
This is the fifth book in the Desperate Duchesses series and I haven't read any of the previous books which goes to show I have overcome my OCD about reading books in a series in order. I haven't read many books by James (only 2) but I really must go find some of her backlist because I enjoyed this book. This is a troubled marriage plot which is one of my favorites. As the story begins Jemma and Elijah are reunited after a 9 year separation after she catches him in the act with his mistress. Now he wants an heir and Jemma has reluctantly returned from Paris to do her "duty". The beginning of the book felt like I had jumped into the middle of the story so I have a feeling I should have read the previous books (which was confirmed in some of the reviews I read), but I did enjoy the story anyway. There is lots of sexual tension and the plot involves chess (Jemma & Elijah are both chess masters) and some issues with Elijah's heart condition which was all expertly handled in both pacing and dialogue. A thoroughly enjoyable book. A secondary character, the Duke of Villiers, has an interesting storyline involving his illegitimate children and I look forward to his book, A Duke of Her Own, which was recently released. I'm also intrigued enough to checkout the previous books in this series.


One Reckless Summer by Toni Blake
Sensuality: Hot
Grade: B+
Good girl meets bad boy. Been there, done that. In fact the title and book reminded me a little bit of Robard's One Summer, one of my favorite books of all time. ORS is not quite as good as OS, but it's a great summer read. Jenny comes back to her home town to get her life back together after divorcing her cheating husband. She moves into the family vacation cabin on the lake and discovers that Mick, her tormentor from her teenage years, is also back living across the lake. I didn't like Jenny very much at first but Mick is totally yummy. Jenny is too much of a perfect good girl but when she meets Mick after rowing across the lake to do some stargazing, she does something reckless and they have a very steamy sexual encounter. Mick had a very rough childhood with two worthless parents. He is helping his brother who has escaped from prison and is now dying from cancer. Jenny is very attracted to Mick and is torn about keeping the presence of Mick's brother a secret from her father, the chief of police. The chemistry between them and their sizzling sexy affair really was the highlight of the book and made this an excellent book to take to the beach (which I did).

Stolen Fury by Elisabeth Naughton
Sensuality: Warm
Grade: B
This riproaring romantic suspense was another good summer read. It's filled with lots of action adventure in the tradition of Indiana Jones without detracting from the romance. Lisa is an archeologist hot on the trail of three bas-reliefs of the Greek Furies, Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. After finding Alecto she meets Rafe, who seduces her, drugs her and steals Alecto from her hotel safe and she is now furious. With the help of her detective brother, she tracks him down in Key West, Florida, and she reluctantly joins forces with Rafe to get Tisiphone before other treasure hunters. I normally detest a thief hero, but there are some complex circumstances behind Rafe's motives. The book was fast paced and I loved the intrigue and all the twists and turns. The sexual tension was built slowly and I enjoyed the snappy dialogue between the H/H. When they finally get together the pages sizzled nicely. Lisa is a smart, tough heroine with a secret past. Rafe is so charming I couldn't stay mad at him for stealing Alecto (and neither could Lisa). This was my first book by Naughton and I can hardly wait to get my hands on the next book, Stolen Heat.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

We're having a heat wave!

Sorry I haven't blogged much lately. I am taking 3 classes and the homework is keeping me busy. I have done very little reading too which really sucks.

Go check out the weather maps for Seattle. Today is the hottest day EVER recorded in Seattle! 103 degrees! And it was 104 degrees at my house! Needless to say we don't have weather like this. In fact, I can't remember the last time we had 90 degrees before this year. And we don't have air conditioning. Very few home owners in this area do since you would only need it a few days out of the year.

The only silver lining is that we have a basement and the temp down there is 75 degrees which is very tolerable since I moved the spare bed down there a few months ago so at least we can sleep. Add a fan and it's downright perfect. It's not supposed to cool down for a few days so I figure I'll be melted into a puddle by then. My pots of annuals are drying up and it's a struggle to keep them watered.

Anyway, hope everyone is keeping cool. I'll get back to reading soon.

Friday, July 17, 2009

This is why ebooks won't replace "real" books

I was cruising some of my favorite sites when I came across this article about Amazon and I was horrified.

Seems like Amazon "took back" one of the ebooks it sold for the Kindle without the buyers consent. Kinda like stealing a book after it's already paid for by the customer.

Here the article from AmericaBlog (a liberal news site) Amazon kindle takes back 1984 (irony alert).

I have to agree with David Pogue from the NYT: "This is ugly for all kinds of reasons." And one of the reasons I think the whole ebook phenomenon is a mess and I will never switch to electronic. I download them from the library occasionally but that's it. I'm not handing control of my library over to the publishers and the book sellers. Give me a book I can hold and curl up in bed with or pass along to a friend or sell at a UBS. Maybe sometime in the distant future these problems will be solved but until then I'm keeping my paperbacks.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back in town

I'm back from the road trip to North Dakota. We had a great time at the reunion. The cousin & wife (from hell) didn't make it so I was glad about that (although I'm sorry Bob didn't get to see his cousin... he's a nice guy but nobody missed the wife - she's a total nightmare). We followed Bob's dad home to Minot and spent a couple days with him. He had moved into a new retirement/assisted living home and he still had a bunch of boxes to unpack and nothing on the walls. So Bob and I got everything unpacked or stored away (not enough room) and put up lots of pictures and made it look nice and homey. It looked great. We also went with him to order the headstone. We gave our input on the design and I think it will look wonderful. This took a couple of days because Dad has a hard time making decisions. But he was glad we were there to help and I was very sad to say goodbye. I felt bad leaving him.

I received good news from the Washington State Employment Security department when I got back. I was approved by them to begin my training program through Bellevue College and I DON'T have to keep looking for work, and I still collect unemployment (about $530 a week). Plus the state is paying for the training (I just have to pay for books). Such a deal. I just wish I knew about this program 6 months ago, but ... oh, well. I started Summer Quarter with 2 online classes and took my computer along to ND to work on them. Classes are easy but there is a lot of homework. It's fun really.

I did some reading on the road but not as much as usual. Only three books :) Two of them were good, the third was so-so:

1) Dangerous Lies by Anna Louise Lucia - a romantic suspense in an unusual setting - North Africa (Morocco and Algeria). Action packed but I found some of the writing sort of awkward and had to reread passages occasionally. Grade B-

2) Shadow Dance by Anne Stuart - an historical that was recommended by CindyS (I think) and I loved it. Features two couples and was hot and sensual with some great subtle humor. Grade B+

3) The Major's Mistake by Andrea Pickens - a regency romance that starts out with a big misunderstanding and separation. I have no idea how it got into my TBR. It had a good storyline but NO sex scenes and you know how I hate that. Grade C+

I'm trying to keep ahead with these classes so I can take off this weekend with my old high school girl friends. We're having a little mini-reunion and I'm really looking forward to seeing them and reliving old times. We have a busy summer ahead of us with a camping trip planned and birthday party for my dad who turns 75. So I'm not gettting much reading done.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Family reunion


Going to Bismarck, North Dakota for a family reunion over the 4th of July week. Road trip! Yeah, Bob would rather drive than fly. This will be his mother's side of the family and a few of them are not my favorite people so I'm not looking forward to the experience. A really odd bunch. One of the cousins is a great guy but he has this wife from HELL. She talks incessantly and she is constantly putting down her husband. I don't know how he stays married to her. I told Bob if he takes off golfing with his cousin and leaves me stuck with her for 5 or 6 hours, he is dead meat, and I will make him suffer :)

It's a 3 day reunion and I'll give him ONE day and then I'm outta there.

Anyway, we should be gone no more than a week, and I have already packed my books. OK, I know my priorities. So I'll post when I get back.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

REVIEW: Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James

COPYRIGHT: 2009
PAGES: 291
SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Straight Romance
SENSUALITY: Warm
REASON FOR READING: KristieJ gave this one a 4.5 out of 5 and Jane at DA gave it a B

SUMMARY:
When it comes to the laws of attraction, there are no rules The battle between the sexes is about to make these two lawyers hot under the collar. Opposites collide when two lawyers try to make partner at the same firm. Payton Kendall is a feminist to the bone. Cocky J.D. Jameson was born privileged. But when they’re asked to join forces on a major case, they gain a newfound awareness of each other’s personal assets. The partnership spot will be offered to only one of them, though. The competition heats up. Sparks fly. Let the games begin.
THOUGHTS / OPINION:
When I first heard about this book about two lawyers I was not at all tempted to give it a try. Books about lawyers tend to bore me and all the technical legal talk is a real yawn. But Jane's and KristieJ's reviews convinced me that I should at least give it a try. Within the first couple of pages I got right into it but somewhere around page 40 I was ready to strangle the "hero" who infuriated me. What a male chauvinist PIG, sexist cocky bastard! Yeah, I know, that's kinda harsh but it's true and I was steaming at that point and ready to throw the book up against the nearest wall. But I hung on and I'm glad I did because it was a great ride and I enjoyed the book.

J. D. Jameson & Payton Kendall are two hot shot lawyers who have worked for the same prestigious law firm for the past 8 years and both are up for a partnership. But unfortunately the firm has decided that only one will make it and the other will have to leave the firm. So the competition heats up between J.D. and Payton and neither one is afraid to play dirty.

J.D. and Payton have been rivals since day one. They have treated each other with cool reserve but underneath they detest each other and are constantly trying to outdo the other. Payton hates J.D.'s privileged rich boy attitude, his expensive clothes and his fancy car. She feels she has to work twice as hard to get any respect from her boss. J.D. hates Payton's feminist attitude and feels he will be discriminated against because the firm sent out email to the employees stating their intention to grow the female partnership and Payton is the only female up for partner (*rolling eyes* oh, those poooooor white rich males who for centuries held all the cards in jobs and promotions and now feel threatened when a female might just get a job they want ... boo. hoo.). Kinda hard to like J.D. at this point. But J.D really grew on me and slowly I came to realize that I really liked him which surprised me.

You know the old romance cliche about love and hate being closely connected? So true in this case. The intense competition between JD and Payton ratchets up a notch and so does their attraction. They like to play pranks on each other and some of them were pretty funny and there were some laugh out loud moments. PMP is a romantic comedy, very light and fun. However, there were some underlying themes pertaining to class, gender, and workplace discrimination that the author chose to ignore that I found a bit unsettling and rather irritating. I found a review by Jessica over at Racy Romance Reviews that perfectly described my problems with these issues and how they were portrayed in the book.

In the end I chose to ignore those issues since I liked both the H/H and loved their relationship and how realistically the author portrayed the legal profession yet made it fascinating to read. As a feminist I couldn't resist cheering for Payton to make partner all through the book but the ending surprised me and I rather liked it. I haven't read Ms. James' debut novel, Just the Sexiest Man Alive, but it's sitting on my nightstand now and I look forward to reading it soon.

GRADE: B+

Saturday, June 20, 2009

REVIEW: Vision in White by Nora Roberts

COPYRIGHT: 2009
PAGES: 325
TYPE/SETTING: Contemporary - Connecticut
SERIES: 1st book in Bride Quartet
SENSUALITY: Warm
REASON FOR READING: It's a new non-paranormal series from Nora - had to have it.

SUMMARY:
Childhood friends Mackensie, Parker, Laurel and Emmeline have formed a very successful wedding planning business together but, despite helping thousands of happy couples to organize the biggest day of their lives, all four women are unlucky in love. Photographer Mackensie Elliott has suffered a tough childhood and has a bad relationship with her mother, which makes her wary of commitment. But when she meets Carter Macguire, she can't stop herself falling for him, although his ex girlfriend is prepared to play dirty to keep him. Mackensie soon realizes she has to put her past demons to rest in order to find lasting love...
THOUGHTS / OPINION:

My daughter got married last July and the whole wedding planning experience is still fresh in my mind. So when I found out that the newest straight contemporary series (with NO paranormal elements) from Nora Roberts was about a group of friends who own a wedding planning business I just had to have it. Imagine my surprise when I hit Target on a mission to find it shortly after it was released to find that it was a trade sized paperback! I have to admit I was a bit dismayed because the price was more that I was expecting but I was blown away by it. The pages are rough cut with gold tipped edges on the cover making it look like an old wedding memory scrap book. And it has these lovely little flaps (front and back) that can be used as bookmarks. And to top it off the cover image is stunning as you can see. "Totally worth the price," I thought as I grabbed it up and headed for the cashier (the 20% discount softened the blow of course). And what was inside the pages was a treat too so I'm a happy camper.

Mackensie "Mac" Elliot and her best friends since childhood, Parker, Emma, and Laurel own and operate a wedding planning company in Connecticut called Vows. La Nora absolutely excels at developing relationships between brothers/sisters/friends and I think she has written probably about a dozen series with these types of relationships (Chesapeake Bay is my favorite series of hers) and ViW is well done in the friends relationship department. In fact I think the best part of the book was Mackensie's relationships with her three friends. The romance almost took a back seat to that... I say almost because the romance was very good.

Carter is a sweet and yummy kinda bookish, nerdy guy who absolutely floors Mackensie. Mac is a tall, willowy redhead and rather flamboyant. This was definitely an opposites attract story. Carter has had a crush on Mac since high school but Mac barely remembers him. Their first meeting since high school was charmingly funny (he runs into a wall and almost knocks himself out when he accidentally finds her in her studio with just a bra and slacks). Mac is the photographer at Vows and a real pro at what she does. But Mac has lots of personal issues due to a selfish spoiled mother who thinks the world revolves around her and a non-existent father. Parker, Emma and Laurel are her "family" and she has learned to deal with her mother but not in a good way. She gives into her constant incessant demands. But with the help of her friends and Carter she eventually grows a spine and stands up to her. Carter is sweet and funny and I loved being inside his head. His insecure self-talk when he tries to get up the courage to ask her on a date was very cute. Carter is a teacher who wears tweed suits but is a hunk underneath it all and was perfect for Mac but it took her awhile to figure that out.

Mac and Carter's relationship builds in a realistic way and it was an engaging story although not very steamy. If you, like me, have been missing Nora's straight romance series without all that woo-woo paranormal stuff she has been doing lately, you will probably enjoy this book as I did. And I look forward to the whole quartet with stories for Parker, Emma, and Laurel.

GRADE: B+

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

TBR Challenge: She' Got It Bad by Sarah Mayberry

COPYRIGHT: 2009
PAGES: 213
SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Series Romance (Harlequin Blaze)
SENSUALITY: Hot
REASON FOR READING: I read some good things about this book from various bloggers and AAR gave it an A-

SUMMARY:
Twelve years ago Zoe Ford let Liam Masters break her heart. But now? There's not a chance. Zoe is as tough and wild as they come. So when Liam shows up at her tattoo parlor, she's more than ready to take him on again. That's not going to be a hardship, since he's hotter than he ever was.

This time she's staying in charge. And she's not going to consider their score settled until he's hot, bothered and begging for more! Then she'll move on as callously as he left her. Unless all that deliciously bad sex is just too good to give up….

THOUGHTS / OPINION:
This month' TBR Challenge is tortured hero and I think this book fits the bill pretty well, actually both H/H were tortured. Most of the time I don't find much 'blaze' in the Harlequin Blaze line but SGIB is definitely blazing and the characters and plot were great.

Liam Masters had a troubled childhood with an abusive father. After his mother died when he was 17, he was taken in by the Ford family and loved by them. He became very close to the Fords two children, Tom and Zoe. Tom was his best friend and Zoe, two year younger, fell head over heels in love with him as 15 yo girls do. She pursues him and offers herself to him. But Liam feels that would be a betrayal to the family he loves and took him in when he needed a home. And he doesn't think he's good enough for Zoe. So he rejects Zoe's advances and leaves town the next day which devastates her. She is incredibly hurt and goes out and does something stupid.

It is now 12 years later and Zoe is a tattoo artist and sings in a thrash band at night. Liam has got his act together now and is the owner of a custom bike shop (kinda like Orange County Choppers) and he is very successful. Right here I am completely enthralled with these two characters with their very unusual occupations. Loved them. Zoe appears to have a hard "bad girl" shell but on the inside she is still pretty vulnerable and sweet. Liam comes across a nude painting at an art gallery and is appalled to recognize Zoe as the face in the painting. He tracks down Zoe and discovers her working in a tattoo parlor and the sparks start to fly. Liam is shocked to find how she has changed from such a sweet girl into an angry bad girl with her heavy drinking, tattoos, and unapologetically sexual act during her nightly band performances. And of course he is determined to "save" her. He offers her a job in his bike shop as an artist.

Liam and Zoe are two wounded people. Liam was beaten by his abusive father and forced to watch his mother's abuse as well. He's afraid he will become his father and feels he'll never be good enough for any woman. Zoe feels worthless because she allowed herself to be used sexually by a sleazebag in high school and (spoiler: he got her pregnant which turned ectopic and the complications left her sterile) now she feels no man could possibly want her.

This book was hard to put down and very well written. It was pretty predictable sometimes in the way that Harlequins can be but I enjoyed it very much anyway. I loved the storyline with Zoe's artistic contributions in the bike shop. But Liam's stubborn attitude with his low self esteem made me want to slap him at one point. However, I love stories about the healing power of love and greatly enjoyed how Liam and Zoe work out their problems together. This is a short fast sexy read that I think most will enjoy.

GRADE: B+

Birthdays


I feel so old today. *sigh* Yeah, it's my birthday! I went to lunch with some girlfriends and that always makes me happy. Bob will probably take me to dinner.

Sometimes I feel like I would rather ignore the whole thing but my friends and family are so sweet. I like getting funny cards and flowers so I guess it's all good.

Anyway, go look at Google.com and you will see that today (June 17) is Igor Stravinsky's birthday. I had no idea who he was so I did some googling. Ahhh, a famous Russian composer, pianist and conductor. Also it's Barry Manilow's birthday. Hah! hilarious.

Do any of you share your birthday with someone famous? Here's a link that will help.

I need to go buy some books to get over the pain of being year older. Any good books you want to recommend?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

New toys

Haven't heard back about the job I interviewed for but I'm assuming I didn't get it. I'm signed up for Summer quarter at Bellevue College for the training program I wanted but I had to apply for CAT to get approval since I am currently receiving unemployment compensation. They will make the decision soon (I hope) whether I can take the classes and continue to receive my current UC. If they don't approve then I have to cancel my registration.

Meanwhile I went shopping... no, not books although I have a $50 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble burning a hole in my pocket. No, what I really needed was some new toys. My PDA (an HP ipaq 2215) died taking with it all of my contacts (not backed up) and appointments and my ebooks. I do have the backups for the ebooks on my desktop so that's OK. But I really miss my contacts. So I ordered a new one, an HP ipaq 111, and it just came yesterday. This one has a wireless driver so I can connect to the internet and read email and stuff (which my old one didn't have). I think it has GPS (but I haven't played around with that yet). It's thinner too and lightweight, easy to carry in my purse.

Last month Bob and I bought new cell phones. If I had known my PDA was about to die, I probably would have bought a fancier model, a SmartPhone or a Blackberry or something that would do the same stuff but I love this PDA.








Last but not least, I bought a new laptop computer at Costco last Thursday... an HP G60. It had a great price and it's a 16" screen. It has Windows Vista which I have never used before so it taking some adjusting. Oh, and it has a webcam. How do you use that thing? I'm pretty geeky but I'm too lazy to figure it out yet. But I LOVE having my own laptop. Bob and I were sharing his and it was a constant battle.

Reading Now: Silver Falls by Anne Stuart... and it has a pretty creepy beginning. I really have this urge to peek at the ending for some reason but I trying hard to resist. I'm only on page 16.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

May Reads

I had a great reading month.... 16 books.... with 3 books in the A range.



Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Job Interview

I have a job interview today and I'm so nervous I can hardly sit still and I have massive stomach butterflies. To tell the truth I don't really want the job. I have enjoyed my time off and it wouldn't make me feel bad to stay home a few more months. Am I lazy or what?

I got into this training program but I have to keep looking for work until I get state approval. If I get the job then I'm out of the program. So it's a dilemma but I will do my best in the interview - the job sounds exactly like what I was doing in my previous job. But I don't do well in interviews.

Wish me luck!

UPDATE: It went pretty well, but I know there are of ton of other candidates so the chances are low that I got it. But that's OK. I'll survive and the training program will be good.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

REVIEW: Never Romance a Rake by Liz Carlyle

COPYRIGHT: 2008
PAGES: 436
SETTING: Historical - Regency era
TYPE: Straight Romance
SERIES: 3rd book in the Neville family series
SENSUALITY: Warm

SUMMARY:
If he wins this hand...
Shunning the glittering elite of high society Kieran, Baron Rothewell, prefers the dangerous pursuits of London's demimonde. Hardened by a tormented past, he cares little for anyone or anything. So how can he resist the wager proposed by the dissolute Comte de Valigny? A hand of cards for the possession of the comte's exquisite daughter.

Will he win her heart?
Abandoned by her highborn father -- until he decides to use her -- Mademoiselle Camille Marchand puts no trust in an aristocrat's honor, especially that of the notorious baron. She too is gambling -- for her life -- and Rothwell is just one more card to be used. But whatever dark desires run through his veins call to her own, and the heart plays its own game -- winner take all!
THOUGHTS / OPINION:

I am a obsessive compulsive series reader. At least I used to be. I cannot pickup a book to read unless I am sure I have read the previous books in the series. But now I find myself falling behind in my reading of some of my favorite authors - Liz Carlyle being one of them. So when I find a recommendation for a book in a series I just jump in, grab it and start reading. I'm so glad I did because NRAR turned out to be an excellent read and I didn't feel like I was missing anything by started #3 in the series without having read #1 & #2.

Kiernan is a dark, tormented, self-destructive man and for good reason given his childhood abuse. He spends most of his time drinking to excess, smoking, and frequenting bawdy houses and gambling dens. His health is deteriorating badly and he fears his death is imminent and does nothing to alter his behavior. One thing I dislike about books about rakes is that they turn out to be "fake rakes". Well, Kiernan is a real rake deserving of the title.

Kiernan meets Camille Marchand one evening in a corrupt gambling hell when her depraved father, Comte de Valigny, wagers the right to marry her (and her large dowry) in a card game. Kiernan is shocked and thinks to put a stop to it but then realizes that Camille is not fighting it. But he cannot allow the lecherous slime at the table to have her so he makes sure he wins. Afterward he takes her aside tells her she doesn't have to marry him. But Camille insists upon the marriage AND a child in exchange for her dowry. She can only collect her grandfather's inheritance after she marries and produces a child. Camille is the illegitimate daughter of the Comte's and had a difficult and insecure childhood. Her father is now trying to use her to get at her huge inheritance.

Both Kiernan and Camille are deep multifaceted characters and their relationship development was a delight from their first meeting to eventually falling in love. The love scenes are steamy and Kiernan's redemption from rake to loving husband was wonderful. All the characters were well done especially Kemble. I believe he has appeared in several previous books by Carlyle.

Given these two superb characters and their relationship and Carlyle's usual excellent prose, I was completely enthralled. Kiernan's health issues and Camille's family issues (which I won't spoil) are resolved very satisfyingly. NRAR is another keeper from Carlyle.

GRADE: A-

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

TBR Challenge: REVIEW: Breathless by Laura Lee Guhrke

COPYRIGHT: 1999
PAGES: 389
SETTING: Historical - Turn of the Century
TYPE: Straight Romance
SENSUALITY: Warm

SUMMARY:
Award-winning author Laura Lee Guhrke steps back to a time of Southern propriety--and passion--in this thrilling page-turner laced with heated sensuality. A lawyer is reunited with an unforgettable lady from his past--and together, they step into a web of small-town scandal and desire.

Lily Morgan may be Shivaree, Georgia's most talked-about lady. Everyone in town knows about the bitter break-up of her marriage five years before, when Daniel Walker, her husband's tough, uncompromising lawyer, tore her reputation to shreds and left her with nothing but a wish to get even. But now something about Daniel makes her blood boil and her pulse quicken...not with righteous fury, but with passion.

Daniel has returned to Shivaree to once again match wits with Lily Morgan. The thought of a rematch with Lily delights him. for he has never forgotten her hot temper--or her lovely looks. But when a shocking murder shakes the town, Daniel joins Lily to find a killer, and their unexpected partnership sparks something between them that they never expected--desire. Now Daniel, the strong-willed lawyer for whom winning is everything, realizes he must win the one reward he can't live without: Lily's forgiveness--and her love.
THOUGHTS / OPINION:

Wow, I loved this book. Breathless takes place at the turn of the century... a time period I'm not that fond of... and I still loved it. I picked this book up because Wendy said it was her favorite book of all time and she owns 2 copies of it. Could her reason for loving it be because the heroine is a librarian? Well, that could be part of it, but I'm sure it's because the writing is superb, the characters are wonderfully drawn, and the story is filled with humor and is utterly charming.

This is a enemies-to-lovers story. Daniel is a lawyer, the lowest of the low as far as Lily, the town's librarian, is concerned. During her divorce trial where he represented her husband, he falsely accused her of adultery thereby ruining her reputation in the small Georgia town where she lives. But Lily has backbone and refuses to be cowed by the gossips in town.

Now Daniel is back and Lily is horrified. Lily has been trying to get rid of the local "social club" which is nothing but a brothel which she holds responsible for her straying husband's despicable behavior. Daniel has political ambitions and his main supporter has brought him back in town to overturn the injunction against the "social club". The plot gets a bit more intense with a murder of one of the "girls" at the social club, but it is very well done and the pages just flew by. Daniel and Lily fight a growing attraction and eventually Daniel realizes that he was wrong about Lily during her divorce trial. All the characters were engaging and well written and the dialogue is witty and had some very funny moments. I especially LOVED the scene where Lily refuses to issue Daniel a library card. A hoot!

When I first read this I was a bit annoyed with how the hero refused to see the truth about the heroine until late in the story. So I gave it a B+ but after thinking and thinking about it, I realized it didn't matter and made their coming together that much better. This one is a KEEPER.

This book reminds me a little of the movie The Long, Hot Summer with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward (loved that movie). Read this book with that movie in mind and you'll see what I mean.

Keishon's TBR Challenge theme for this month is friends to lovers, but enemies to lovers is even better reading in this case.

GRADE: A

Monday, May 18, 2009

REVIEW: Power Play by Deirdre Martin

COPYRIGHT: 2008
PAGES: 290
SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Straight Romance
SERIES: 7th (full length) book in the Blades hockey series
SENSUALITY: Warm

SUMMARY:
Just in time for hockey season

Hockey player Eric Mitchell is a man in demand. First he was traded to save the New York Blades, and now the publicity department has loaned him out to help boost daytime diva Monica Geary's career. What no one knows is that one of People magazine's hottest bachelors is also a closet soap opera fan. He's had his eyes on Monica for years—and can't wait to get his arms around her.

THOUGHTS / OPINION:

I have read only 3 books in this series about hockey players and Body Check, the first in the series, is still my favorite and a keeper. But Power Play was a decent read and I enjoyed it. Hero, Eric Mitchell, is the twin brother of the hero in Chasing Stanley, book 6 of the series, who are both NHL hockey players. Monica Geary's is a daytime soap star. My impression of sports stars and actresses is that they are very egotistical people so that's what I was expecting of Eric and Monica. And I was right ... at first ... they both are very self-centered. But deep down they are both very nice, caring people and they turned out to be likable characters.

Monica is worried about her future stardom on her show, The Wild and the Free, due to a new younger actress just brought onto the show. Eric's team, the NY Blades, just traded away a popular favorite to get Eric. The Blades are not having a good season so many are looking at Eric with resentment. Monica's publicist concocts this plot which involves pretending to be a couple which would boost Monica's career and make Eric more popular with his team mates who are avid TW&TF soap fans. Both of them don't think too much of the other at first but eventually they develop a strong attraction.

I thought this "fake date" plot was rather unbelievable at first but these two characters really made it work. Eric and Monica turned out to be a well balanced couple with each person's strength complementing the other's weakness. The relationship was very fun to watch with some snappy dialogue which kept me turning the pages. I loved the parts where The Blades were falling over themselves about meeting Monica and having her attend their games. I have read that lots of sports teams follow the soaps so I thought this was rather funny and endearing. If you like sports romances (which I do - I love the SEP's Chicago Stars series as well) then you are sure to enjoy PP as much as me.

GRADE: B

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Here we go

Well, I'm back again. Miss Unreliable. Still job hunting and finally facing the fact that I have been slightly depressed about it. I recently made the decision to go back to school and wonder of wonders I started getting some energy back. Part of the problem with my job hunt is that I really was not looking forward to finding another Software Test Engineer job. I love parts of the job, and the other parts I hate. I attended a seminar at the state unemployment office and it really opened my eyes. There are some worker retraining programs available to upgrade your skills that are paid for by the state and one program really caught my interest. If I get into it, I'll let you know. If not, there are some other programs that were interesting as well. Also, I found out that I'm getting a $70 a week raise in my unemployment compensation... part of the federal stimulus package. Woohoo! Go Obama!

The one thing that has not changed is that I continue to read quite a bit (hey, if I can't get the energy to do anything around the house I might as well read). And I made a list of the B+, A- and A books and have started writing some reviews. Let's hope I get a bunch done before procrastination rears its ugly head again.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

REVIEW: Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas


SETTING/TYPE: Victorian Historical Romance
COPYRIGHT: 2008
SENSUALITY: Hot
SUMMARY:
Love has designs of its own.…

To all of London society, Lord and Lady Tremaine had the ideal arrangement: a marriage based on civility, courteousness, and freedom—by all accounts, a perfect marriage. The reason? For the last ten years, husband and wife have resided on separate continents.

But once upon a time, things were quite different for the Tremaines….When Gigi Rowland first laid eyes on Camden Saybrook, the attraction was immediate and overwhelming. But what began in a spark of passion ended in betrayal the morning after their wedding—and now Gigi wants to be free to marry again. When Camden returns from America with an outrageous demand in exchange for her freedom, Gigi’s decision will have consequences she never imagined, as secrets are exposed, desire is rekindled—and one of London’s most admired couples must either fall in love all over again…or let each other go forever.
THOUGHTS/OPINION:

I have several book themes I look for when picking romances and "troubled marriage" is one of my favorites. In fact, I have a tag for these types of plots in my LibraryThing account. So after reading all the buzz about Sherry Thomas' debut book, Private Arrangements, I had to try it and I'm glad I did because I found it very impressive.

Gigi, Lady Tremaine, has been separated from her husband, Camden, for 10 years. Gigi loves her husband but she is tired of waiting for him and has decided to get on with her life and remarry someone else for some small chance at happiness. Camden doesn't want her but doesn't want anyone else to have her either. Especially dim-witted Freddie, her intended fiance. So Camden demands that they live together for one year so he can get an heir off her in exchange for the divorce she wants. And Gigi agrees.

The story goes back and forth between the past and the present and slowly reveals why these two imperfect and somewhat unlikeable characters are so bitter and cruel to each other. When they first meet both characters are immature and Gigi has no self confidence in her beauty or personal attributes needed to attract a man aside from her considerable fortune. Camden is on the verge of proposing to another girl and Gigi is very determined to have him so she plots and schemes to bring Camden to propose. On the eve of their wedding Camden discovers her deception and is very angry (and I suspect, very hurt). He decides to proceed with the wedding and consummates the marriage, then very cruelly humiliates and rejects her. Of course, in this way he can throw her out and still have access to all her lovely money. Let's just say I was not too fond of Camden at this point. Especially after Gigi grovels and begs for him to take her back. Gigi is at fault for her deception but I found her much more sympathetic and I actually liked her quite a bit.

The weaving of the past with the present was smoothly done and the use of language by Thomas was superb making this book hard to put down. When Camden and Gigi first marry they are very young and so I gave their initial poor behavior some slack, but it is now ten years later and Camden is still bitter and angry and seems to still want to punish Gigi for making him fall in love with her. Gigi has grown up and acts much more honorably towards Camden and I found her a much more sympathetic character.

There is a lovely romantic sub-plot involving Gigi's mother, Mrs. Rowland, and a reclusive duke who lives next door. Mrs. Rowland tries to bag the duke for her daughter but ends up falling in love with him herself. A very amusing and well done sidebar to the main plot.

Overall this was a somewhat deep historical with three dimensional characters and a very satisfying and romantic ending. Everything I enjoy in a romance. I enjoyed this book so much Thomas is an auto-buy for me now. I have read Delicious and have Not Quite a Husband on my wishlist.

GRADE: A-

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Under construction

I found a new template I like and I have been tweaking my blog. So excuse the mess. Also made a new animated widget for my Library Thing. I used to have my Smart Bitch title icon on my blog and lost it. But I just found the .jpg file on my other computer so I can post it again. Also I need to add some new bloggers.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

REVIEW: Broken Wing by Judith James

COPYRIGHT: 2008
SETTING / TYPE: Regency Historical Romance
SENSUALITY: Hot
REASON FOR READING: KristieJ.... In her review from last October she gave it a 6 out of 5! When she speaks so highly of a book, I sit up and pay attention because KristieJ is one of my reading gurus (along with CindyS). We don't always agree but I would say most of the time we do.

SUMMARY:
Abandoned as a child and raised in a brothel, Gabriel St. Croix has never known tenderness, friendship, or affection. Although fluent in sex, he knows nothing of love. Lost and alone inside a nightmare world, all he’s ever wanted was companionship and a place to belong. Hiding physical and emotional scars behind an icy façade, his only relationship is with a young boy he has spent the last five years protecting from the brutal reality of their environment. But all that is about to change. The boy’s family has found him, and they are coming to take him home.

Sarah Munroe blames herself for her brother’s disappearance. When he’s located, safe and unharmed despite where he has been living, Sarah vows to help the man who rescued and protected him in any way she can. With loving patience she helps Gabriel face his demons and teaches him to trust in friendship and love. But when the past catches up with him, Gabriel must face it on his own.

Becoming a mercenary pirate and a professional gambler, Gabriel travels to London, France, and the Barbary Coast in a desperate attempt to find Sarah again and all he knows of love. On the way, however, he will discover the most dangerous journey, and the greatest gamble of all, is within the darkest reaches of his own heart

THOUGHTS / OPINION:
Wow, a very remarkable book from an author I had never heard of before. I'm not going to rehash the plot because there are oodles of reviews written out on the blogs and review sites, thanks to our dear KristieJ and her Questors. Check out her sidebar for a list of people under the label "Questors" who have reviewed this book. While not everyone loved it as much as KristieJ, I think the majority gave it a very positive review. Both AAR and TRR gave it an A.

I have read many of the reviews and I have to agree with some of the less than positive criticisms - it was not a perfect book - none of that bothered me. I found myself completely enthralled with the story and couldn't put it down. My reason for loving it so much can be credited to the H/H who are two wonderful extraordinary well-written characters.

Gabriel appears hard and cynical but inside he is a damaged child and very fragile. Gabriel could be a study in how an abused child becomes an adult with his overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and self destruction. He cuts himself which was disturbing and I think realistic for someone with his abused background. And Sarah through her soothing sweetness and gentleness can be credited with helping him heal.

Sarah is an unusual character as well and a perfect match for Gabriel. Her mother was part Gypsy so although she is born noble is not accepted into society. She was married off at an early age to an older man and she leaves him after a week (you go girl!). Fortunately for her he dies. She wear trousers and raises horses and does what she pleases. But she is sweet and kind and sees the goodness in Gabriel when no one else does.

The friendship that develops between them goes slowly... no popping into bed at the first signs of attraction ... which was appropriate given Gabriel's history as a prostitute. They truly become friends and care about each and and get to know each other. And they fall in love. Just as Gabriel begins to get some feeling of self worth back he sets off on an adventure to prove to himself that he is worth loving. And this is where the book takes a turn and has an epic feel. This part of the book is all about Gabriel.

There is a long separation when Gabriel has some adventures traveling around the world as a pirate and a gambler. Eventually his feelings of worthlessness come creeping back and when he makes his way back to England he doesn't get in touch with Sarah who thinks he is dead. Now this is where some reviewers wanted to smack him upside the head and I agree with them. Get in line! But keep reading folks, cuz the scene where Sarah discovers he is alive and shows up on his doorstep was a highly emotional tearjerker (man, I need to go back and read that again). But I forgave him just as Sarah does and ... sigh, what a great ending. I can see why KristieJ loved this book so much. Some people hated the long separation but I actually enjoyed it. It just made their reunion and reconciliation that much sweeter.

I recently read Kinsales' The Shadow and The Star and was struck by the similarities of the hero Samuel to Gabriel, both were sexually abused as children. While James is not quite in the same league as Kinsale as a writer, she makes a pretty good run at it, and for a first book BW is amazing. I see from KristieJ that James' next book is out soon. I definitely need to get that one.
If you are the the only person left on the planet who hasn't read Broken Wing, go out and find a copy. A great emotional read mixed with some adventure and a satisfying ending.

GRADE: A-

Thursday, April 02, 2009

March Reads

I just learned a really neat trick on how to create a table in blogger. So I'm showing off. Here is a table of my March reads.




The next trick I want to learn is how to create a column on the left with images of the book covers. Not sure if that is possible. Never could get that to work in Excel.

Update: I figured out how to add images but it was a lot of work resizing them.

Now I suppose I should write a review or two or a dozen. I have 3 half finished. One of them is for Kristie on a very favorite book of hers.

All of the the B+ books were great but Breathless by Laura Lee Guhrke was outstanding and almost an A if not for a couple niggles that bothered me but still a great read.


100 books

Here I am. Trying to get back to normal and catching up with blogs. I have been reading quite a bit out of my TBR and decided to check my spreadsheet to see how many books are left there. Imagine my surprise when it came to 100!!!! I have made progress it seems. The last time I had checked it came to about 200. I think that was two years ago.

Here is my secret... you must read more from your TBR than you buy! Doh!

Since I'm unemployed I have been reading more from the library. When I see a book I want, I first check my library catalog. I have found that our library keeps a great selection of romances. Out of the 28 books I have read so far this year, 14 were out of my TBR with a couple bought new and the rest were library books.

P.S. I have been out of the blogging world lately and am desperately trying to catch up. I thought I saw a comment post by Maili over at DA. Was I imagining that this is our same Maili from mcvane.com? Someone (Kristie?) set me straight. She's been gone a long time (but not forgotten).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Family emergency

Sorry, I haven't been around lately but Bob and I have been trying to deal with his mother's serious health issues. Bob's Mom and Dad live in North Dakota and Mom has had pneumonia and congestive heart failure (she's 89 years old, btw). She was in the hospital for about a week and then sent to a rehabilitation facility and then sent home. Home is an assisted living facility in Minot and they give pretty good care.

Well, she took a turn for the worse and was back in the hospital because she was having an extremely difficult time breathing and her kidneys were failing. His father and sister called us, both in tears, and we got an email from his aunt basically telling us that she was not expected to live. Well, Bob and I caught a flight out there fully expecting to attend a funeral. But somehow over the course of that week she got better. She started breathing better and could go to the bathroom on her own and sit up in a chair for most of the day. But she still was not eating much. The nurses were calling her "miracle girl".

After about 6 days in the hospital the doctors thought she should go into a nursing facility (which I was in favor of) but the assisted living facility assured Dad that Mom could be cared for there. Dad wanted her home and Mom hated the idea of a nursing home. So home she went. We stayed two more days and just got home yesterday (Sunday).

But ... bad news... today she is back in the hospital with failing kidneys. His sister called again in tears, and Dad is not doing too well either. He caught a bad cold and can hardly talk plus his gout is acting up and he can hardly walk. I'm feeling exhausted and depressed about the whole thing but that is nothing compared to how Bob is feeling. It is so hard to have sick parents and be 1200 miles away. It cost us about $2000 in airfare even with their "special" medical emergency fare. We will see if she makes it through the night. Dad is 86 and getting terribly forgetful and his hearing is just about gone. Right now I just feel like having a good cry. I love both my in-laws very much and this is just so hard.

Update: I got the call at 1:30 am (today, March 17th) from Bob's sister... Mom passed away. Her heart stopped and they tried to revive her (which surprised me cuz I thought they had a 'do not resuscitate' order). Bob called our son and daughter first thing this morning. I just talked to my daughter and tried to be strong but I ended up breaking down in tears and made her cry too (she was at work). I adored my mom-in-law and feel just as bad as when my own mom died 10 years ago. She was a wonderful mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother and will be greatly missed.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

TBR Challenge: REVIEW: The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale

COPYRIGHT: 1991
PAGES: 449
SETTING: Historical - Victorian (set in Hawaii & London)
TYPE: Straight Romance

SENSUALITY: Hot

REASON FOR READING: Well, because it's Kinsale and because it's a DIK at AAR (and appears in the Top 100 Romances consistently) and because this book has been mentioned numerous times on various blogs and message boards and it's considered a classic by many romance readers.

SUMMARY:

From nationally acclaimed bestselling author Laura Kinsale comes a boldly original, breathlessly unforgettable tale of honour, adventure and undying love.

The Shadow is wealthy, powerful and majestically handsome, he is a man of dark secrets - a master of the ancient martial arts of an exotic distant land. Scarred by a childhood of shocking degradation, he has sworn to love chastely ... but burns with the fires of unfulfilled passion.

The Star is lovely, innocent and nearly destitute, and drawn to him by a fevered yearning she could never deny - following her enigmatic 'shadow warrior' into a dangerous world of desire and righteous retribution.


THOUGHTS / OPINION:
I bought my copy of TS&TS many years ago but I just could not motivate myself to read it until recently. That is probably due to the fact that it is 449 pages long with very small print and my limit seems to be less than 400 page these days. So I knew I needed to devote a chunk of time to reading it so I procrastinated. Plus the cheesy cover put me off.

But as they say... don't judge a book by it's cover. TS&TS turned out to be a real treat and a keeper. There is so much to love about this book I don't know where to start. I love that some of it is set in Hawaii. I love the tortured dark hero and wonderful heroine. I love stories about the redeeming power of love. And I love Kinsale's writing and how she can evoke such a range of emotions.

Samual Gerard was rescued from a sexually abusive childhood by the wealthy Ashland family and brought to Hawaii and where he is shown love and accepted as a member of the family. But he still feels unworthy and overwhelmingly ashamed of his past. Their Japanese butler, Dojun, who is a master in martial arts takes him under his wing and trains him in the techniques and philosophy of martial arts which helps him heal from the trauma from his childhood. But as Samual grows into adulthood he becomes horrified with his increasing sexual awareness of women jumbling these natural feelings with the degradation of his past abuse. As a result he regards his sexual side as something to guard against. Samuel uses the rigid control of the ancient arts to quiet his inner turmoil and maintain a celibate lifestyle.

Leda Etoile is a prim and proper English woman who works as dressmaker's assistant in a London shop. When Samuel and his foster mother and sister visit the shop, he is confused by his strong physical attraction to Leda. When Leda is unfairly dismissed from her position she repeatedly fails to find employment as a typist. After a series of encounters Samuel eventually hires her as his private secretary to help him in his secret campaign to close child prostitution houses. Leda is an intelligent character, a bit naive but very sweet and oh-so-proper. I loved how she calls Samuel "Dear Sir".

The unfolding of their relationship is intensely emotional but in some ways very subtle. Kinsale is a master at this. And their first love scene is amazingly erotic even though both H/H are virgins. They are forced to marry and both of them seem afraid to show each other their true emotions even though their physical relationship is so passionate. Leda is confused by Samuel's seeming distance after losing control during their lovemaking. The story has many twists and turns which I don't wish to spoil. Let me just say there is not one wasted word. I wouldn't shorten it a bit.

As you can tell TS&TS is not a "quick" read, but it's complex fascinating characters, compelling story and intensely emotional love scenes are like savoring a piece of my favorite chocolate truffle.. rich and satisfying, leaving you with the feeling of heaven on earth. Kinsale is not for everyone but after reading Flowers from the Storm, I had to try this one and I'm so glad I did.

GRADE: A

Psst.. I like this new cover from the re-issue much better:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

TBR Challenge: REVIEW: Winter Woman by Jenna Kernan


COPYRIGHT: 2003
PAGES: 296
SETTING: Historical - American West
TYPE: Series Romance
SERIES: None
SENSUALITY: Warm

REASON FOR READING: I really enjoyed High Plains Bride so when I heard good things about WW, I had to buy it. But it's been languishing in my TBR since February 2004. WW is Kernan's debut book.

SUMMARY:
Her prayer was simple: "Dear God, let me die!"

But Cordelia Channing — preacher's wife, preacher's widow — lived and was born anew as Winter Woman, a woman of power who'd survived the deadliest season in the mountains alone.

She knew she could never do it again. Though perhaps there was no need, for Providence had sent her Thomas Nash, an enigmatic Mountain Man who stirred the deep places of her questing soul.

Nash had come west to lose himself, to rail at the fates that seemed ready to destroy his life at every turn. But somehow those same fates now saw fit to put Delia in his care…. And though he was fighting it at every turn, Delia was transforming his life in ways he'd thought forever lost…!

THOUGHTS / OPINION:
Yay! I remembered to post a review for Keishon's TBR Challenge. Last year I think I only got 3 done. Here's hoping I do better this year. Anyway...

I'm a big fan of Harlequin Historicals and this is another good one. Cordelia Channing is probably one of the strongest heroines I've ever come across. She and her preacher husband were heading west to minister to the "savages" when they became separated from their wagon train somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Her husband was killed after leaving her alone to hunt for food. And somehow she survives the winter alone in the mountains. When a group of Flathead Indians find her half-starved in the spring they take her to the only white man they know, Thomas Nash, a trapper and give her to him. Nash has no choice but to take her but he's not happy about it. Cordelia wants to return back east but Nash can't take her until fall after he has finished collecting beaver pelts which he sells to earn his living.

What follows next is quite a rip-roaring adventure. Delia and Nash don't like each other much at first but they come to depend on each other for survival. Delia becomes indispensable to Nash even learning how to set the traps and skins the animals. Wow, what a woman! After Nash is attacked by a grizzly bear, Delia nurses him back to health as well as doing the cooking, hunting, and trapping. The descriptions of scenery with rapids, waterfalls, and dangerous Blackfoot Indians were fascinating and beautifully written. I also loved the details of their survival in the wilderness although sometimes it was a bit gruesome but that just made it more realistic.

These two are both lost souls. Nash is still hurting from a tragedy five years ago but his heart evenutally thaws toward Delia and they form a strong emotional attachment. He doesn't want her to leave his side ever. Delia finally realizes she is in love with him but she does not want to live in the mountains. And who can blame her after what she has been through. After they make love Delia feels very guilty and feels she has sinned and turns away from Nash and of course he is very hurt, feeling that she is rejecting him because he's not good enough for her. I dislike misunderstandings like this. But they work things out eventually and the ending was wonderful.

If you like a well-paced adventure about the early American west (set in 1835), be sure to find a copy of Winter Woman. Two very strong characters and a story that will keep you turning the pages.

GRADE: B

Wow, I haven't touched my blog in over 6 years and I'm still logged in!  Good thing because I have no idea what my password is.  In ...