Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review of Victoria Dahl's Bad Boys Do

Title: Bad Boys Do (Donovan Brothers Brewery #2)
Author: Victoria Dahl
Publisher: HQN Books          
Formats: Mass Market Paperback & Ebook
Source: NetGalley
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5
After a crazy week and a half of cleaning up after my dog and grading exams and homework, I’m finally ready to write a few more reviews, and I must say it is a huge relief. I decided to start with a sweetheart of a book, Victoria Dahl’s Bad Boys Do, which is the second book in her Donovan Brothers Brewery trilogy. I read the first book, Good Girls Don’t, when it came out, and Ms. Dahl’s writing was fun and engaging. Unfortunately the heroine Tessa was so immature and annoying I couldn’t stand her, but I liked Ms. Dahl’s style and the other characters so much I thought I’d give the second book a chance. I’m glad I did, because she writes complex and interesting characters, and the romance is sizzling! And since the hero, Jamie, is a natural charmer who occasionally dresses in a kilt, you know this one is going to be a winner! The only downside to the novel is that I seriously wanted to punch Jamie’s older brother Eric a few times. His book is coming out next month, so we can always hope that the heroine will whip him into shape, perhaps by removing the pole in his posterior and beating him over the head with it.
In Bad Boys Do, our sexy hero in a kilt, Jamie Donovan, runs the bar at the family owned brewery. He’s 29, and thanks to many years spent playing the field and goofing off, he has a reputation as a ladies’ man and has created some serious trust issues within his family. Olivia Bishop is a 35 year old instructor at the local college, and after divorcing her husband a year ago, she’s ready to try new things, including dating a younger man. They meet at the Brewery when Olivia joins friends there for what she believes will be a book club meeting, only to realize that the women are really there to ogle Jamie. When he shows up a few days later in her community class on Restaurant Development and Management, sparks fly. Jamie convinces Olivia to give him a try, and she offers to help him create a proposal to expand the brewery. But tensions mount within the family when Jamie tries to convince his older brother Eric that he’s not a screw-up and someone informs the college that Olivia’s dating a student.
The romance between Jamie and Olivia is the absolute best part of this novel. The two have great sexual tension, but they’re also interesting and intriguing people with problems you can relate to. Jamie has a natural charm and encourages Olivia to have fun, leading to lots of laughs. Seeing Olivia blossom is part of that fun and proves irresistible to Jamie. The age difference is an issue at times, but the way it’s resolved is really well-done, and absolutely pivotal to the development of the characters. I also like how it plays into Olivia’s problems with her ex-husband, since he’s an older professor dating much younger women.
As an academic and reader of romance, I enjoyed how the campus politics played into the conflict in the novel. Olivia’s ex-husband is a professor who cheated on her with graduate assistants, a big no-no, and, depending on the university, grounds for dismissal. Olivia’s relationship with Jamie, however, is acceptable, because the course she’s offering is not for credit – she’s not giving him a grade, and therefore there’s no conflict of interest. Jamie has a lot of fun with the naughty professor/student role play, which is very, very sexy. I loved Ms. Dahl’s treatment of the power dynamics with the various couples, especially since this does become an issue with Jamie and Olivia and in many ways reflects the conflict within the family. How Jamie and Olivia find ways to treat each others as equals is convincing and moving in how agonizing and ultimately rewarding it is.
The conflict between Eric and Jamie comes to a head at several points in the novel in painful and frustrating ways. Both Eric and Tessa discount Jamie, and you can really feel his frustration and helplessness at his perceived role of slacker in the family, despite his many hours of hard work. While at times difficult to read, in the end I found the family conflict to be one of the better parts of the book, because it is so realistic. I think we can all relate to how difficult it is to change how your family sees you, and a family-owned business must exacerbate the tension.
Overall this was a fun and sexy contemporary romance with a lot of humor and love, and I am definitely looking forward to reading more of Ms. Dahl’s work.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Guilty Pleasure Reading, or, Yet Another Way My Kindle Saves Me From Embarassment

I’ve mentioned previously that I’m usually not a big fan of Category Romances. So many of them seem to rely heavily on the alphahole hero and doormat heroine, plus there’s always some sort of over the top situation involved, such as amnesia, secret babies, or mistresses. I have to admit, though, that I LOVE the titles. They crack me up! I honestly believe that Harlequin has a title generator somewhere, and they toss in the words “Greek, Sicilian, Italian, Sheikh, mistress, baby, amnesia, Secretary, Boss, Wife, Doctor,” see what comes out, and smack it on the book as a title. My current favorite has to be The Sheikh Surgeon’s Proposal, although The Tycoon’s Pregnant Mistress is a close second.  But with that first title you get two goodies in one – an exotic hero AND a doctor! Hellooooo, money!!! Not very PC, but who cares? At least you don’t have toddler beauty princesses getting screamed at by their psycho mothers! And after seeing that on TV, category romances seem really, really classy.
Seriously, when it comes to pure escapism, you just can’t beat a category romance. They’re short, usually less than 200 pages, and they’re definitely better for your brain than reality TV! Ok, I may be exaggerating somewhat, but reading is definitely more active for your brain cells than sitting and staring at the tube. Plus, if you have an e-reader, smart phone, or computer, you can download these suckers and no one will have to know that you’re not really reading War and Peace. Unless you’re at my house, where I’ve written the entire text of War and Peace in the dust on my shelves. I’m kidding, of course. I don’t have THAT much dust in my house. I only have enough dust to write the text of The Little Prince, not some weighty Russian tome. Sheesh!
But there are several category romances I’ve read recently that have truly been outstanding. They’re well written, with enjoyable heroes and heroines, and I freely admit that I will be reading more of these excellent authors. Check out some of my favorites!
Janice Kay Johnson’s Beauty & the Beasts I wrote a guest review of this Harlequin Presents Treasury a few months ago on, and it is my favorite bar none. It was written in the nineties, but other than a brief reference to a pay phone in school (like THOSE exist anymore!), it could have been written yesterday. Vet Eric Bergstrom woos former child actress Madeline Hunter by helping out with the local cat shelter she volunteers at. There are no outlandish plots in this book – just two reasonable adults falling in love, which is delightful. And the “beasts” mentioned in the title refer to both the cats and Bergstrom’s pain-in-the-butt tween son, which made me laugh. Loved this book, and it encouraged me to read other category romances.
Kelly Hunter’s Wife for a Week This book has to be the funniest category romance I’ve read. Hallie Bennett is working at a shoe store to earn money for tuition, when in walks Nick Cooper with his mother. Nick needs someone to pose as his wife for week, and at his mother’s instigation he offers Hallie an obscene amount of money to pose as his wife on his trip to Hong Kong. I mean, seriously, don’t we ALL need a fake wife for a week? I could use one, especially if she dusts. While not into dusting, Hallie does agree to Nick’s plan, as long as any displays of affection are limited to public spheres. Of course, this wouldn’t be a Harlequin Presents if there weren’t some smexy times! The first night when Hallie builds a “Great Wall of China” out of pillows on the bed and tells Nick she’s the Emperor’s finest troops and he’s the Mongol Horde will have you howling with laughter. This book was a hoot, and both characters were charmers. I absolutely loved it!
Kate Hewitt’s The Man Who Could Never Love This is an angst-filled romance, but the heroine actually has a backbone, and you’ll root for her to win the hero’s heart. The hero, Vittorio Ralfino, is an Italian count. Now, I see Italian counts every day at the Walmart, so I wasn’t as impressed with this as you might think. Just so you know. Anyway, he coldly decides that for business purposes and to ensure an heir, he will marry neighbor Anamaria Viale. What makes this romance so much fun is how much trouble she causes for him. He arrogantly assumes that since she’s plain, in her thirties, and unmarried, she’ll fall willingly into his arms, but that is most certainly not the case. Watching the snooty vintner fall in love with the woman he marries purely for convenience’s sake is a lot of fun.
Kim Lawrence’s Beauty and the Greek I really enjoy Ms. Lawrence’s style – she takes longer to develop the story, so at times the resolution of her novels feels a bit rushed, but I like the extra time pushing the hero and heroine together in this romance. Theo Kyriakis’s brother Andreas is engaged to a gold digger from whom Theo barely managed to escape a few years prior. When Theo realizes that Andreas’ mousy secretary Beth is in love with his brother, he convinces her to undergo a drastic makeover to snare her boss’s attention and distract him from his fiancée. It works, but Beth’s such a stunner that Theo’s the one ensnared. Like the other books I’ve mentioned, the major selling point of this book is the heroine Beth. She doesn’t shy away from telling Theo what she really thinks, and it’s great fun to see the sparks fly. Plus, any fantasy with a trip to a Greek island equals winning, right?
No list of category romances would be complete without a novel by the inimitable Sarah Morgan, and my favorite of hers has to be the recently released A Night of Scandal. This is the first book in the Notorious Wolfes series, and Ms. Morgan manages to set up the background of the family drama while penning a captivating romance. Nathaniel Wolfe is a Hollywood actor about to make his stage debut in Shakespeare’s Richard III when he spots someone from his past in the audience. He freezes, then makes a break for it. Katie Fields, the costume mistress, helps him retreat, but as soon as they get to her extremely modest apartment, he realizes that they’ll never be able to fight off the paparazzi from there. So the two escape to a private island, where Katie’s warm heart wins him over. Be prepared for more angst and a stubborn hero, but the end makes it all worth it. Now, you’re probably thinking, “again with the islands?” Still, when it’s 10 degrees outside, nothing beats imagining a warm, tropical paradise and a good-looking Hollywood actor who prefers a woman with real curves. Except maybe an electric blanket. That one’s tough to beat.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Review of Cate Lord's Lucky Girl

Title: Lucky Girl
Author: Cate Lord
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Format: Trade Paperback & eBook
Source: NetGalley
Publication Date: September 6, 2011
Rating: 2 out of 5

This contemporary romance is billed as a Bridget Jones-type chick lit book, and its description made it sound like a fun read. Unfortunately, Lucky Girl was painful to read. In fact, I almost didn’t finish it, because I found the heroine to be incredibly annoying. I’m glad that in the end I did finish the book, because the writing definitely improves halfway in, but that improvement was not enough to save the book.
The female protagonist of the novel is Jess Devlin, 29 years old and recovering from a nasty break-up. Her ex-fiancé Stan cheated on her, and she’s planning a vacation to England for her British cousin’s wedding in an attempt to move on for good. When she gets there, she runs into Nick Mandinello, local hunk and playboy, whom she met under embarrassing circumstances two years before. She’s still attracted to Nick but can’t believe he would be interested in a “chubby” yank. I put the “chubby” in parentheses, because judging from men’s reactions to her in the book, she’s actually got a great figure.
The problems with this novel are twofold. First, the author depends far too heavily upon telling the reader what's going on inside Jess's head in this first half of the novel, so much so that you might not make it to the second half. Jess spends so much time thinking about how unattractive she is and the unflattering way she and Nick met that my mind started to wander. Very little seems to happen in this first half, and there are several missed opportunities to interest us in Jess’s character and that of the supporting cast. Jess’s time at the wedding is spent wallowing in misery because she’s not getting married and thinking about how fat she is in the unattractive bridesmaid dress. Through Jess’s point of view we are told about events that happened in the past, when it would have been far more effective to have seen these events in flashback, mainly because it would have broken up the long descriptive passages with action and dialogue. The novel clearly improves with the second half when Jess begins to interact with her cousins and Nick. Instead of having to read interior monologues describing the situations Jess encounters, we actually see her acting and speaking with the others. This also improves the pacing of the novel, which is a plus.
All of this leads to the second problem with the book. Jess is supposed to be a slightly insecure career woman who lusts after hottie Nick, but she comes across as shallow, narcissistic, and whiny. Part of this has to do with the poor pacing and frequent interior monologues in the first part of the book. Jess does too much thinking and far too little acting in the first half. She becomes much more likeable in the second half, but her actions seem focused on giving makeovers to her cousins and hoping Nick will pay attention to her, instead of acting to ensure that he notices her. She’s a very passive character, and that, coupled with her constant whining, makes her hard to like.
In short, this novel was supposed to be a modern Bridget Jones’ Diaries, and it has many similarities, including a “big misunderstanding” at the end that parallels the other book. Unfortunately, the writing is not up to par and the female protagonist mediocre, so I can’t recommend this one.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Review of Judith James' The King's Courtesan

Title: The King’s Courtesan
Author: Judith James
Publisher: HQN Books
Format: Mass Market Paperback & eBook
Source: NetGalley
Publication Date: August 30, 2011
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I was excited to receive Judith James’ The King’s Courtesan for review, because I’ve been trying to read more historical romance that isn’t set in Regency England. The King’s Courtesan is set in England during the Restoration of King Charles II, so I was really looking forward to reading it, and Ms. James did not disappoint! I loved the historical setting, which is depicted fairly accurately, as far as I can tell through my limited recollection of the Restoration and a few searches on the internet. Ms. James’ novel is a pleasant and engaging read, although I never felt the connection with the characters that I would have liked.
The premise of the novel intrigued me, as I wasn’t sure how the author would depict a romance between a courtesan and a nobleman forced to marry her purely for the King’s purposes. Hope Meadows is one of Charles II’s several mistresses, but as Charles’ fiancée approaches London, Hope begins to worry about her future, since she is not highly born and therefore will not be able to remain at court when the new Queen arrives. Charles’ solution is a bit of a stunner: he marries her off to Robert Nichols, a former captain who served under Cromwell. By marrying Hope, Robert will retain possession of his family lands, Cressly. Unfortunately for Hope, Charles never informs her of his plan, and he actually tricks her into marriage with Robert. Her new husband is convinced that she was in on the plot from the beginning, so it’s not the most auspicious start to their marriage. Charles assumes that by marrying Hope into the nobility, she’ll be able to return to court on his command and continue as his mistress, making Robert a cuckold. Not surprisingly, Robert isn’t thrilled with the situation, but soon Hope’s irrepressible nature begins to win him over, leaving the two to worry about how to deal with the King when his summons to court arrives.
For me, the historical context is the highlight of this novel. Ms. James does an excellent job of portraying the bawdy court of Charles II and the complicated politics inherent in a system dependent upon patronage and the King’s favor. She depicts “Charlie” as a charming womanizer, easy to anger but just as easy to laugh. In spite of his many faults, he is quite personable, which I enjoyed immensely and believe to be a rather accurate depiction of the king. There’s plenty of detail to keep you engaged without distracting you from the romance, which is tricky to accomplish, yet Ms. James manages to incorporate much of the history seamlessly.
I did enjoy the characters of Robert and Hope, but I felt a bit distanced from their romance, partly because the two are apart so frequently in the novel. At times it felt as though Hope spent most of her days winning the household staff over rather than her husband, because he was away so often. The reason for his absences is twofold: first, he’s trying to resist falling for the former prostitute because of the circumstances surrounding his marriage, and, second, he’s searching for information concerning one of his sister’s murderers in a plot for revenge. Unfortunately, the subplot surrounding his long-sought revenge is at times more interesting than his marriage to Hope.
Hope, we are told, is a charming, beautiful woman, who despite her past still manages to convey a sense of innocence, and therein lies my main difficulty with this novel. In the prologue her mother sells Hope’s virginity off to the highest bidder, yet we learn that Hope had only been with three other men before her marriage to Robert Nichols . I felt that in order to make her a likeable character, Ms. James repeatedly described her as “innocent” and practically virginal, which I find disturbing. The trope of experienced male lover, virginal woman remains popular, and the author appears to be trying to fit this novel into that trope, despite the female protagonist’s role as prostitute. I’m bothered that the author minimized Hope’s experience as a prostitute in an apparent attempt to make her more appealing to the reader. It’s clear from the beginning of the novel that Hope’s survival depends upon her livelihood as a prostitute, and the lack of work options for women during the Restoration is well known. This in of itself makes her a sympathetic character, so minimizing her sexual experience seems unnecessary.
However, the writing was smooth and well-executed, and I found the novel to be a compelling read. I’ve seen more favorable reviews of Ms. James’ novel Libertine’s Kiss, which is also set in the Restoration and whose hero and heroine appear in The King’s Courtesan, so I’ll definitely be reading her other books. This one, while enjoyable, probably won’t make my keeper shelf.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On the Proper Usage of the Contraction Y'all

It's this Southern Belle with her Yankee hubby!
He would NEVER use "y'all" incorrectly. He might say "you uns," though!
Earlier this week I received a copy of a fun, lighthearted paranormal romance in the mail. I’d won the book through a contest at another blog, so I was excited, because, hey, free book, FTW! Last night I read the book and it was charming and fluffy, but if the DH hadn’t been sick and sleeping next to me, I might have shrieked a few times and ripped the book in half. You see, dear friends, this book was written by a Yankee. I knew only a few pages into this book that it was written by a Yankee, because said Yankee managed to punch two of my Southern Belle buttons in only one chapter, bless her heart. If I were strong enough to rip a phone book in two, I probably would have done it. I don’t count my small town’s phone book, because I’ve written papers for conferences thicker than that sucker. I’m talking 3 inch thick tomes, that’s how frustrating I found this book.

What was this poor author’s mistake? 1) There is one southerner in the book and that southerner is a dumb hick from the sticks and 2) she misused the contraction y’all. I’m not going to name the author or her book, because, truthfully, I enjoyed the book and felt that overall it was well written. It’s pure bad luck that she managed to hit two of my pet peeves in one book, and really, only one is offensive, while the other merely demonstrates what can happen if your author and copy editor are both from the same region. Still, I was pretty darn ticked, and what good is a blog if you can’t write a good rant?

So let’s begin with the southern stereotyping. Some authors use the stereotype of the dumb southerner drinking moonshine and using colorful expressions straight from The Andy Griffith Show to comedic effect. Shelly Laurenston, to my knowledge, has never lived in the South, and yet her hillbilly characters are a riot. Yes, she uses the stereotypes, but her books are FUNNY, y’all. The author-we-shall-not-name, however, has only one character from the south and that character is dumb as dirt. She’s supposed to be endearing in her empty-headedness and inability to do basic math, but frankly, after years of hearing about how in the North the schools are better, the arts are better, and down South we’re all just a bunch of barefoot hicks waving confederate flags, I have little patience for this type of character. And when I think about all the beautiful southern towns I’ve lived in compared to some of the industrial cities in the North, that just chaps my hide.

I could have overlooked this character if it were not for the persistent misuse of the contraction y’all. The author-we-shall-not-name uses the contraction y’all throughout the book in place of the singular “you.” Dear friends, y’all is PLURAL. It is the contraction of the two words “you all.” You can only use y’all when you are referring to 2 or more people. You cannot address one person as y’all, that’s just wrong! This actually confused me at times, because the character would be talking to one person and address him/her as y’all, and I’d have to go back and re-read, because for Pete’s sake, WHO ELSE IS SHE TALKING TO???

Now, I understand that in the North you’ll hear the expressions “youse guys” or “you ‘uns” or even “yinz”. These, too, are plural expressions. Let’s replace the y’all in a sample conversation with youse guys to demonstrate how y’all cannot be used as the second person singular.


Me: Hey, Tom, youse guys have spaghetti sauce on your tie.

Tom: (looking around) It’s only me here, Rebe.

Me: Duh, that’s why I said YOUSE GUYS. Yinz should also examine your fly.

Tom: Um, I’m the only one here and I’m only wearing one pair of pants.

Me: Well, don’t forget to leave the gun and take the canoli!

This misuse of the contraction y’all drove me crazy. Seriously, if you’re going to make fun of us, at least get the vernacular right! So,that’s my rant. I could expand on the misspelling of “y’all” that I’ve seen in other books (sometimes it’s written as ya’ll – shudder), but I’ll save that for another day. Lord help the author-who-shall-not-be-named, but as God is my witness, Ah shall nevah buy her books again. Bless her heart.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review of C.E. Murphy's Wayfinder

Title: Wayfinder
Author: C. E. Murphy
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Formats: Trade Paperback & ebook
Source: NetGalley
Publication Date: September 6, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5
Wayfinder is the second book in the fantasy Worldwalker Duology, and I highly recommend that you read the first in the series before reading this one. I did not, and while there’s a short plot summary of the first book, Truthseeker, at the beginning of the second novel, it’s actually more confusing than if you simply pick up the second book and start reading. That said, this was an outstanding fantasy with romantic elements, and I’ve already started reading several of Ms. Murphy’s other series because of how much I enjoyed it.
The second novel of the duology picks up exactly where the first leaves off, which is why I suggest you read Truthseeker before beginning Wayfinder. I should warn you that this review will reveal spoilers for the first book, so be prepared. In Truthseeker, Lara Ann Jansen is a tailor in present-day Boston, and she always knows when a lie is told. She learns the importance of her gift when she meets Dafydd ap Caerwyn, a Seelie elf who has been searching for a Truthseeker in this world for over a hundred years. Dafydd wants her to return to his world, the Barrowlands, to uncover his foster brother Merrick’s murderer. To make a long story short, Lara learns that Merrick staged his murder and is acting against Dafydd and his father, Seelie king Emyr. Dafydd is seriously injured when attacked by creatures sent by Merrick, and Lara is forced to leave him with his brother, Ioan, and return to Boston to search for a staff that she hopes will save Dafydd.
As Wayfinder begins, Lara is returning to the Barrowlands with the Worldbreaker, the staff that she’s hoping can save her Seelie lover. The staff has a mind of its own, and despite yielding to Lara’s powers, demonstrates a dangerous inclination to destroy worlds. When Lara arrives, she discovers that although only a day has passed in Boston, more than six months have passed in the Barrowlands, leaving Dafydd’s fate up in the air. When she learns that he is so ill that his body has been sent to the Drowned Lands, she decides to journey there in an attempt to rescue her love. She and her companions face numerous trials in their attempts to save Dafydd and possibly reunite the now divided Barrowlands, but as Lara begins to develop her power as Truthseeker and arbiter of justice, she learns that Merrick’s deception might not be the worst she’ll uncover, placing everyone she cares for in danger.
Fantasy is not my favorite genre, but this book is compelling for many reasons. The world building is complex without being overly complicated, and I like that you get a feel for the terrain of the Barrowlands. The physical descriptions of the different regions were almost tactile, and I think this was an effective method of immersing the reader in the new world. The differences between the Seelie and Unseelie courts juxtaposed with the impressive descriptions of the Drowned Lands make for fascinating reading. Characters’ physical traits also reflect the region in which they live, making for a rich fantasy world that I very much enjoyed.
Another selling point is that the characters are intriguing and well developed, especially the female protagonist, Lara. While the romance is not the focus of this novel, Dafydd and Lara’s relationship is charming, although I should mention that if you’re interested in lots of smexy times, this book might not be for you. That said, it is clearly Lara’s journey as a Truthseeker that is the focus of this novel, and as such, it is highly successful. We see Lara grow more confident in her abilities and demonstrate her willingness to use them to intervene in this new world. I particularly liked her time in the Drowned Lands, as she displays heroic qualities when faced with unfavorable odds and stubborn companions.
My only complaint about the novel is that if you have not read Truthseeker, the sections of the second book that take place in Boston with Lara’s best friend Kelly will leave you confused. I’m not really sure that in the end Kelly and her fiancé were all that necessary to the overall story arc. It’s clear that these sections resolve some questions raised in the first book, but Dafydd and Lara’s rescue of his brother Ioan and the resulting destruction could have been accomplished without Kelly’s presence. If you’ve read the first book, you will have more of a connection to these characters, but if you start the series with Wayfinder, the drama between Kelly and her fiancé is distracting at best and annoying at worst. Their easy dismissal from the Barrowlands later in the novel merely reinforced my belief in their superfluity.
In the end, this is easily one of my favorite fantasy reads this year, and I highly recommend it. I do want to emphasize that you should read Truthseeker before beginning this novel. But given the stellar writing and lush landscapes of the Barrowlands, I can’t imagine that reading the entire duology would be much of a chore.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Review of Adrienne Giordano's A Just Deception

Title: A Just Deception (Private Protectors #2)
Author: Adrienne Giordano
Publisher: Carina Press
Formats: Ebook
Source: NetGalley
Publication Date: September 5, 2011
Rating: 3 out of 5
Have you ever had a friend who’s smart and well-educated but makes incredibly dumb decisions? If so, you’ve met Isabelle DeRosa, heroine of Adrienne Giordano’s A Just Deception, the second book in Ms. Giordano’s Private Protector series. I absolutely loved the first book, Man Law (read my review), so I was really looking forward to reading the second book in this series. Unfortunately, I feel really conflicted about this second book. Like the first, the outstanding portrayal of the relationships between the male characters and the smoldering sexual tension between the hero and heroine are its strengths, but I was really uncomfortable with several of the decisions the heroine makes over the course of the book.

Isabelle De Rosa is a lawyer working in her uncle’s high-profile criminal defense firm. When her creepy cousin Kendrick makes a surprise appearance at the firm, she contacts Taylor Security for help updating her home alarm system. They send former SEAL Peter Jessup to help her out, and the two immediately set off sparks. Before they can act on their attraction, Kendrick turns up murdered and both Peter and Izzy are suspects in his death. When the FBI approaches Izzy to go undercover at Kendrick’s charity’s compound in Ohio, she accepts the job in an attempt to prove her innocence in Kendrick’s death. But the more she learns about the cult-like charity, the more she’s going to need Peter’s help to expose the truth. Neither one counts on falling in love complicating everything.

This novel has many strong points, and my favorite is undoubtedly the great interaction between Peter and the other members of Taylor Security. The dialogue between the male characters is hilarious and really well done. We don’t always see such strong relationships between male supporting characters in romance, but Ms. Giordano seems to pull this off effortlessly. The give and take between the men spills over into the male-female relationships as well, since the dialogue between Peter and Izzy and the other female characters is engaging and witty. This also reflects the excellent pacing of the novel. The mix between suspense, action, and romance is just right, ensuring that you’ll keep turning the pages, while the sexual tension between Peter and Izzy leaps off the page.


The problems I have with the book all have to do with Isabelle’s character. She was sexually abused by her cousin Kendrick for more than seven years as a child. Ms. Giordano does an outstanding job of portraying Izzy as a survivor rather than a victim, and you’ll want to cheer when Izzy manages to fight off Kendrick’s advances. However, she makes several decisions over the course of the book that struck me as so bizarre and frustrating that it interfered with my enjoyment of the book, hence my comments at the beginning of this review. We learn that Kendrick’s father, Izzy’s uncle, convinces Izzy and her mother to cover up Kendrick’s abuse when it’s discovered, which is frustrating but unfortunately doesn’t strike me as all that unusual. What drives me nuts, though, is that despite this, Izzy works in her uncle’s law firm! I just do not understand this decision. She explains this away as saying that her uncle “owes” her career because she saved his by covering up the abuse. She believes that working at the top criminal defense firm in the state will catapult her career. This seems like the stupidest decision a rape survivor could make, especially since the chances of her running into her abuser, her boss’s son, are pretty darn high.

The second highly questionable decision she makes occurs when Kendrick attempts to rape her again, this time as an adult. Thanks to her determination never to be a victim again, she’s able to beat the stuffing out of him, get away, and call Peter for help. We then learn that Kendrick got into the house because he used his father’s key!!! It gets worse, though. She refuses to call the police, insisting that she and Peter return Kendrick to her uncle, because she doesn’t want to involve the family. What?!?! The family IS involved, because your cousin tried to rape you!! This becomes all the more confusing when she acknowledges to Peter that she worries that her family’s decision not to prosecute Kendrick has allowed him to sexually abuse others. If she’s that concerned about it, why does she refuse to involve the police? I could understand if, as a criminal defense lawyer, she decided not to press charges because of how a trial could destroy her life, but she never even mentions this, instead focusing on not involving the family.

Because of her past, Izzy’s sexuality is understandably an issue throughout the novel. Ms. Giordano does an excellent job of portraying Izzy’s problems with intimacy with Peter, which I find to be highly believable. Her intimacy issues complicate her relationship with Peter later in the novel when she makes questionable decisions about how to elicit information from the leader of Kendrick’s charity. I found this section to be difficult to read because of its content but well executed, even if as a reader you want her to make better choices.

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get over Izzy’s decisions concerning her family. She’s portrayed as a survivor who’s working hard to overcome her past, which is admirable, but her insistence in remaining in such close contact with family members who have betrayed her in unforgiveable ways strained my credulity and seriously affected my enjoyment of the novel.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review of Sofie Kelly's Sleight of Paw

Title: Sleight of Paw (Magical Cats #2)
Author: Sofie Kelly
Publisher: Obsidian Mystery
Formats: Mass Market Paperback & Ebook
Source: Purchased
Publication Date: September 6, 2011
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
This is a lighthearted cozy featuring librarian Kathleen Paulson and her two magical cats, Owen and Hercules, in small town Mayville, Minnesota. In this second installment of the series, Kathleen is determined to discover who killed Agatha Shepherd, a former school principal who loved children and helped several teens turn their lives around. When Agatha's body is discovered outside the local diner and Kathleen's friend Roma is arrested, Kathleen decides to investigate Agatha's murder.
I absolutely loved the first book in this series, Curiosity Thrilled the Cat, (see my review) so I was eagerly awaiting the release of this second book. While I enjoyed Sleight of Paw, it wasn't quite as good as the first.
This book is just as funny as the first, with several laugh out loud moments and zany supporting characters. Local artist Maggie is probably one of my favorites, since she's hysterically funny. The novel begins with Kathleen and Ruby helping Maggie stuff a "body" into Ruby's SUV so they can set up an exhibit Maggie put together on local sports for the town's Winterfest. It turns out that the body is actually a mannequin dressed to look like NHL star Eddie Sweeney. Apparently he's so lifelike that members of the small town believe that Ruby's dating the player on the side, which leads to some funny moments. Also, magical kitties Owen and Hercules make a few appearances to comedic effect as well, even if Fred the Funky Chicken (my favorite from the first novel) is not quite as prominent here. I like that in both this and the first novel the cats are important to Kathleen and help her investigation but are not the primary detectives.
While the writing is well done and the characters engaging, the mystery fell a little flat for me this time around for several reasons. The first is that I spotted the villain almost immediately. In fact, I was a bit stunned that he did turn out to be the villain, because it seemed so obvious. The second reason this cozy wasn’t quite as successful for me has to do with the protagonist, Kathleen. In the first novel, Kathleen was implicated in a murder, and she conducts her investigation in an attempt to clear her name. However, in Sleight of Paw, her reasons for looking into Agatha’s death are less personal. Detective Marcus Gordon warns her not to interfere several times, but Kathleen continues to investigate. At times it felt as if she were channeling Angela Lansbury in Murder, She Wrote, butting in where she really wasn’t needed, whereas her involvement in the murder investigation in the first book felt much more natural. And the denouement results from a TSTL moment when in spite of everything her friends tell her, Kathleen goes by herself to look for evidence against the villain. This bothered me a lot, because I really like her character, and she never struck me as being quite that dumb in the first book.
I was also a bit disappointed that the hint at an incipient romance between Kathleen and Detective Marcus Gordon didn’t develop in this book, although there are several scenes with the two that are certainly promising. Hopefully future books in the series will continue with the romance.
Despites its flaws, this is an engaging and irrepressible mystery that’s a lot of fun to read. I’m definitely looking forward to the third book in the series and hoping that we’ll see more of Marcus Gordon in it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Review of Ann Christopher's The Surgeon's Secret Baby

Title: The Surgeon’s Secret Baby
Author: Ann Christopher
Publisher: Kimani Romance
Formats: Mass Market Paperback & Ebook
Source: NetGalley
Publication Date: August 23, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5

This category romance was a delightful find! I’ve written elsewhere that category romances are not my favorite genre, mostly because the heroes seem to be jerks and the heroines doormats, but Ann Christopher’s The Surgeon’s Secret Baby was a pleasant surprise, because it could have so easily followed that formula but did not. The romance was sexy and the characters so very likeable that I will soon be seeking out more of Ms. Christopher’s books.
The novel begins with FBI analyst Lia Taylor following Hopewell General Hospital’s chief of staff around the facility. She was caught hacking into the hospital’s sperm bank database, but instead of facing prosecution, she’ll be shoring up the hospital’s computer security system. During the tour, she overhears a doctor telling off an intern and lets him know her low opinion of bullies. Naturally this means that the Doctor Bradshaw she’s looking for later turns out to be said bully. Never fails, right? And the situation becomes all the more awkward when she informs Thomas Bradshaw that he’s the father of her son, eight year old Jalen. Thomas believes Lia is nuts, until she shows him a picture of her son and tells him that she and her now-deceased husband had used a sperm bank and Thomas is in fact the biological father of her son. Lia isn’t looking for a handout, however. Jalen has polycystic kidney disease, and after a bout with E.Coli two years before, he’s desperately in need of a kidney transplant. Lia’s hoping that Thomas will prove to be a match and be willing to donate a kidney to save her son’s life. The resulting sparks that fly between the doctor and the Special Agent are a complete shock to the single mother and doctor, leaving Lia wondering how the doctor will deal with the shocking news that he has a son who is dying and if the two should act on their smoldering attraction.
There was so much to like about this book! Children in romances can often be little more than props, but Jalen was a hoot and extremely believable. I like that he’s a real character instead of a plot device that brings the two protagonists together. His toys are all over his room, and when Lia makes the faux pas of calling his pajamas “jammies,” big boy Jalen corrects her IMMEDIATELY, which made me laugh. His reaction to his birthday present also struck me as true to life, since his parents put a lot of time and effort into choosing his present, only to get a lukewarm reaction to a gift they thought would thrill him, a response I’m sure all parents can relate to. They can also relate to Lia’s terror over the thought of losing her son so young. While hacking into a hospital’s database seems extreme, I suspect most parents will understand her willingness to do whatever she can to save her son’s life.
Lia and Thomas’ romance is also a huge selling point, as it’s fun and sexy. Lia feels a natural reluctance to enter into a relationship while her son’s health is so precarious, especially since Thomas wants to be part of Jalen’s life, complicating any future relationship between the two. I particularly liked that the two acknowledged their attraction for one another but allowed the romance to develop gradually, which is difficult to accomplish in category romance, since the books are relatively short. And the scene in Thomas’ office when they “play doctor” was smoldering.
I even find the “big misunderstanding” towards the end of the book to be not only believable but perhaps even inevitable. Given Jalen’s health and how stressed and exhausted Lia is throughout the book, I think her reaction to Jalen’s visit to the emergency room and Thomas’ choices completely natural. What makes this stand out for me, though, is that the two protagonists are both mature adults who react in a reasonable manner to very trying circumstances. I like that while they have a fight, they manage to work things out and don’t turn it into a huge drama.
I do have two small complaints about the novel, however. The first is that Lia seems to be completely isolated in the book. We see Thomas interact with several male friends and colleagues (which is pretty darn funny, by the way), and his father, a retired admiral, is an important character in the book as well. But we don’t see any of Lia’s friends or family, which strikes me as odd, because it’s never addressed. Is she an orphan or estranged from her parents and her deceased husband’s parents? Has she had to deal with Jalen’s illness all on her own while working a highly stressful job in the FBI? The absence of her friends and family is all the more notable because of how involved Thomas’ father is in the book, and while I think we’re supposed to consider her a strong, single mother, I’m not sure how having a support system would have changed that.  
My second complaint is more a matter of pure curiosity, as I don’t think it detracts too much from the novel – I just have to wonder why Thomas donated to a sperm bank to begin with! This is never dealt with, and I kept wondering about it throughout the book. I can certainly understand his shock at being confronted with a son 9 years after the fact but no mention is made of why he donated in the first place. Again, I don’t think it detracts from the plot, but it did drive me a bit crazy while reading.
Overall this was one of the more engaging category romances I’ve read in a while. I love reading contemporary romances with reasonable, mature adults, and this is definitely a charmer. If you’re in the mood for a short, satisfying read with appealing characters and smooth writing, I highly recommend The Surgeon’s Secret Baby.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review of Seanan McGuire's One Salt Sea

Title: One Salt Sea (October Daye #5)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW Books         
Formats: Print & eBook
Source: Purchased
Publication Date: September 6, 2011
Rating: 5 out of 5

I hit the bookstore lottery when I made a trip to Barnes & Noble this weekend. I found an early copy of Seanan McGuire’s One Salt Sea, which I promptly devoured and have spent way too much time re-reading ever since. If you haven’t read any of the October Daye series, you are seriously missing out, as Toby Daye is my all-time favorite Urban Fantasy heroine! I don’t say that lightly, as I like a lot of Urban Fantasy. But McGuire’s books set in San Francisco and the world of Faerie stand out among the UF crowd because of her taut writing, fascinating characters, and complex plots. Toby is one of the most compelling heroines I’ve read, mainly because she’s an intriguing mix of vulnerability and toughness. Toby is a changeling, and despite getting the stuffing beat out of her on a regular basis in previous books, she always manages to rise to the challenge set before her. If you’re looking for a Happy Ever After, you won’t find one in these books, as the fae are a dangerous lot, but the changeling private detective copes with the intricacies of the two worlds remarkably well, allowing for a Happy For Now.
One Salt Sea begins with everything right in Toby’s world, so you know that something truly horrible has to be on its way. As the novel begins, Toby’s sparring with Sylvester, the Duke of Shadowed Hills and her liege. He convinces her to take on a teenaged squire, Quentin, whom we’ve met in previous books. She’s also dating Connor, her childhood sweetheart who’s a selkie. Unfortunately for Toby’s peace of mind, someone has kidnapped the children of the Duchess of Saltmist, an undersea duchy, and unless Toby can find the two boys within three days, Saltmist will begin an all out war on the Queen of Mist’s territories, threatening everyone and everything Toby cares for. To add to the tension, the search for the kidnapped boys becomes frighteningly personal for Toby when her own daughter is taken.
One of the reasons I love this series is that the books are always intense, because no one character is truly safe. Even though the fae want to believe that they are immortal, they can be killed, and despite Toby’s best efforts, sometimes the innocent suffer unintended consequences of her actions. This particular book is all the more poignant, because we witness Toby’s pain over her damaged relationship with her daughter. Since there are no guarantees that any character is safe, the tension remains high throughout the book, especially when Toby’s daughter is kidnapped. We’ve learned in previous books that even if Toby can save her daughter, there’s a good chance that Gillian will be changed forever.
While you can read this book as a stand alone novel, I think you would be better off beginning the series from the beginning, as you need some background information in order to understand Toby’s circumstances. Her relationship with her daughter is complicated because of events explained in the first book that are not elaborated on here. Reading the scene when Toby discovers her daughter’s been taken and visits Gillin’s father is difficult because of its intensity, and I had to put the book down and come back to it, because it’s so powerful. We haven’t seen Gillian since the first book in the series, Rosemary and Rue, and her reappearance in One Salt Sea reminds us of Toby’s heartbreaking situation with her daughter, made all the more painful because Toby’s existence as a changeling prevents her from explaining to her mostly human daughter the truth about her disappearance more than fourteen years before. Once again Toby finds herself forced to make difficult decisions about the daughter she loves, and you feel her despair at her helplessness when faced with what she must do.
The book is a heart pounding adventure, as McGuire skillfully maintains the tension throughout the novel with non-stop action. In previous novels Toby has finally accepted her role as a hero, and here we see that she has definitely grown more skilled in dealing with the world of Faerie, although she never feels as competent as her friends and enemies believe her to be. McGuire’s deft plotting will keep you turning the pages, wondering what could possibly happen next and how Toby will deal with it.
Also, what I’ve always loved about these books is that the mythology is both complex and consistent. You never see characters suddenly displaying powers that appear out of nowhere, and the chaotic world of Faerie, while as confusing at times to Toby as it is to us, is gradually revealed as the plot unfolds. Even though there are many types of creatures within this world, you’ll never find yourself confused about names or powers, which is impressive.
I don’t know that I would call the October Daye books romances, although they have strong romantic elements. I’ll confess that I was disappointed to see that Connor was the boyfriend referenced in the blurb on the back of the book, because I’ve always been a big fan of Tybalt, the king of the Cait Sidhe. Connor’s always struck me as eager and uncomplicated despite his messy marriage to Rayseline Torquill, while Tybalt is more of a bad boy type – Rawr! Despite Toby’s relationship with Connor, Tybalt figures heavily in the book, and there are definitely sparks with Toby, suggesting that we’ll see more of him. We also see an easy friendship developing between Toby and Tybalt, which in the past has been a more contentious relationship than it is here. I can’t wait to see future books in the series to see how the tension between them is resolved.  
This book made my weekend! It was such a pleasure to read, as are all the books in the series, and I am thrilled that it more than exceeded my high expectations. I definitely recommend this one as a must read!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Review of Cindy Spencer Pape's Motor City Wolf

I’m continuing to feature a rescue dog a day as part of the “Write a Post, Save a Dog” bloghop. Today’s pooch is my sister’s pit bull, Dittany. Dittany was a real pistol when my sister adopted her 10 years ago, but with lots of training and love, she’s made a great pet!

Title: Motor City Wolf (Urban Arcana #3)
Author: Cindy Spencer Pape
Publisher: Carina Press
Formats: Ebook
Source: NetGalley
Publication Date: August 29, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5

This was the first book I’d read by Cindy Spencer Pape, but as soon as I finished it I went online and purchased the first two books in her Urban Arcana series. Motor City Wolf is a short read (only about 64,000 words), but it’s action packed, and the romance skillfully developed. I read it while reading several other books for review, and once I started it I couldn’t put it down. Ms. Pape writes in several genres, and I’m looking forward to reading more of her books in the future.
Detroit is one of my favorite settings for paranormal romance, and Ms. Pape does the Motor City right in her Urban Arcana series. Motor City Wolf is the third book in the series, but I had no problems entering her world and meeting characters new to me but familiar to fans of the series. Fianna Meadows is an exiled Fae who’s been turned mortal and forced to work at manual labor as punishment for her involvement in a Fae racial purity movement. She’s working as a waitress at werewolf Greg Novak’s bar, but from the first she is a much more sympathetic character than one would think. It’s made clear that her role in the racial purity movement stemmed from misplaced family loyalty rather than any belief in the movement’s principles. Greg is attracted to Fianna and is impressed with her strength of character, but he’s reluctant to act upon that attraction since he’s her supervisor. When Greg’s grandfather, the Prime Alpha Werewolf, demands that Greg marry by the end of the year, Greg seizes the moment and declares his intention to marry the now-human fae. But when werewolves start dying in mysterious attacks, Greg and Fianna must face the threat together while dealing with opposition to their upcoming marriage.
There are many things to like about this novel, but the strength of the characters is what really sold me on it. You really like Fianna. She made some bad decisions in the past by trusting the wrong people, but her regret over those decisions is palpable. She’s vulnerable without being weak, and it’s entertaining to see how she’s adapted to living as a human. By learning her own strength, she becomes all the more attractive to Greg, which in turn makes the hero all the more appealing to us. Greg has befriended Fianna while fighting his feelings for her, because he believes that it would be inappropriate for him to act on those feelings since she has no choice about being his employee. It would be so easy for the book to get bogged down in Greg’s fighting this attraction, but Pape has written Greg as a reasonable, mature adult male, and quite frankly it was a relief to see the two characters interact without big misunderstandings. Despite the sparks that fly when they first meet, their relationship develops over time, and it’s a pleasure to read.
The book is action-packed as well, and I enjoyed how the mystery behind the violence facing the werewolves is resolved. When I went back and caught up on the first two books in the series, I realized that even though the story arc is completed within the book, it also fits well within the overarching arc of the series. My only complaint is that I was able to identify the villain fairly early on. I was also bothered by the overly sexualized and negative portrayal of Sofia Bartok, something aggravated when compared with Fianna’s innocence, fair skin and blue eyes, but this is a minor complaint.
It was a pleasure to read this paranormal romance by Ms. Pape, and I can’t wait to read more of her books. My only regret is that it was so short, but fortunately I can look forward to future books in the series.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Review of Bonnie Vanak's The Shadow Wolf

As part of the “Write a Post, Save a Dog” bloghop, here’s a picture of my parents’ dogs, Henry and Minnie! Minnie is a border collie mix and came from the local humane society, while Henry is a mutt my parents found online from a rescue. Minnie’s been with our family a long time and is a real sweetheart, while Henry’s got the funniest looking tail we’ve ever seen. They both go nuts whenever we visit. How can you not love that? And now on to the review of Bonnie Vanak’s The Shadow Wolf.

Title: The Shadow Wolf
Author: Bonnie Vanak
Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne
Formats: Print and Ebook
Source: NetGalley
Publication Date: August 23, 2011
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Originally, I thought that this book would be the first 2 out of 5 stars review for the blog, but after careful consideration, I think it’s more like 2.5 stars, because despite the many “Oh, puh-LEASE” and “You’ve gotta be KIDDING me!” moments, at least the writing flows smoothly and the pacing is well done. The premise of the book was intriguing enough for me to request the ARC from NetGalley, but I later realized that this is the tenth book/novella in the Draicon series. This makes me wonder if I would have had a different reaction to the book had I begun the series from the beginning. For these reasons, I’m bumping the rating up to a 2.5 from a 2. I can’t recommend that you spend money on it, but while I don’t consider it a good book, it wasn’t necessarily a bad one either.

The novel begins with Megan Moraine, shadow wolf, on the run with her two young cousins, Jillian and Jennifer. In this paranormal romance, Shadow Wolves are werewolves who can turn invisible. Years ago, they migrated to an island to escape persecution from other Draicon wolves, but when a few shadow wolves tried to out all werewolves to humans, the Draicons decided to imprison Shadow Wolves on the island. Megan has escaped from the island with her 7 year old cousins to return the girls to their father. When enforcer Gabriel Robichaux shows up at the restaurant they’re eating at, Megan fears that he’ll live up to his reputation as a brutal killer and murder the three shadow wolves. What she doesn’t realize is that Gabriel has been using his Enforcer role as a cover to secret Shadow Wolves to safety. Earning Megan’s trust becomes all the more difficult when the two realize that they’re destined mates. Can the two find safety while battling an overwhelming attraction?
This novel just didn’t work for me. As I mentioned earlier, the writing flows smoothly and the pacing is well done in the novel, so Ms. Vanak is clearly an experienced writer. Unfortunately, several of the tropes that appear throughout the book are my least favorite in paranormal romance. I’ve always been skeptical when the heroine is in extreme danger and yet notices how amazingly hot or sexy or overly muscled the hero is. Really? I just find that hard to believe, but even though Megan is exhausted and starving from being on the run with her 7 year old cousins, she feels an immediate attraction to Gabriel and sparks fly. I realize that my distaste for this trope is probably a personal preference, because I’ve complained about this to the DH when reading romantic suspense, and he finds it completely believable that under stressful conditions you would be attracted to someone. When I’m tired, I’m really cranky, not horny, (as the DH well knows) so I’ve never been a fan of the “the world’s about to end, let’s knock boots” trope. Also, I’m not a fan of the one true mate concept, and Gabriel and Megan are “destined mates.” To me the “destined mates” concept in paranormal romance feels like a shortcut that allows the author to skim over the romance and skip to the smexy times. So this just felt like one more coincidence among many that pop up throughout the book.
Speaking of coincidences, they occur so frequently throughout the novel that it strained my credulity more than once. There were several “deus ex machina” moments that felt heavy handed. The further I read the more incredulous I got, because special powers and creatures with different abilities seem to appear at random as needed. The three female shadow wolves were gifted with psychic powers that conveniently aren’t mentioned until just when the group needs them, and they would be attacked at random moments by creatures called morphs that can turn into anyone or any animal at will. I kept thinking, “Whaaaaat???? Where did this come from?”
The appearance of Tristan, the Immortal Justice Guardian, really pushed my buttons. He appears at pivotal moments in the text when the plot seems to have stalled a bit and finagles events to achieve the happy ending for everyone. I was hoping that this was limited to this novel, but the same thing occurred in the novella “Darkness of the Wolf” that’s included in the book, so I’m guessing he’s a recurring character in the series. I found him to be incredibly frustrating, because just when the author seems to have written herself into a corner, he magically appears and straightens everyone out.
The biggest “Oh no, she DIDN’T” moment came when we learn that Megan’s a 26 year old virgin. Yes, they do occur, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility, but we learn that female Shadow Wolves are being sold to brothels and that Megan has had to fight off Draicon wolves repeatedly, so this just seemed a bit too old-school romance for me. Her being a virgin adds nothing to the plot or characterization whatsoever and strains belief. But the absolute limit for me was when Gabriel and Megan made love for the first time, and he tells her that he gets “bigger” after coming, and they’ll have to wait awhile before he can withdraw. After that I just had to put the book down and walk away, because it was just too ridiculous for words.  
Clearly I was not a fan of this book. I first read the ARC at the end of July, believing that the book was releasing August 2, but when I realized it wasn’t coming out until August 23, I put off writing the review. Last week I decided to reread the book in order to refresh my memory for the review, but I just couldn’t finish it a second time. It felt too contrived and over the top. The novella included with the novel is completely in keeping with the style of the novel, so I just can’t recommend this book.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Labor Day Weekend Preview

Despite having Monday off from work, next week is going to be busy! Here’s a preview of some upcoming reviews, plus a list of books being released on Tuesday, September 6, that I’m really excited about.
This week I’m participating in the Write a Post, Save a Dog bloghop. Here’s a picture of my favorite rescue beagle, Lettie! This is probably the only action shot I have of her since she's usually busy sleeping. What a great life, right? I’ll be posting pictures of other family rescues along with my posts all week long. If you are thinking of adopting a dog or cat, I highly recommend getting one from your local shelter or a rescue society. The pets we’ve adopted have made fun and loving companions.
Upcoming Reviews:
Motor City Wolf by Cindy Spencer Paper This was a fun, short paranormal romance that was a bright spot among some not-so-great books by other authors I was reading at the time. I enjoyed the book so much that I purchased the first two in the Urban Arcana series. Definitely recommend this one!
Shadow Wolf by Bonnie Vanak This Harlequin Nocturne will have the dubious distinction of being the first 2 out of 5 stars review on the blog. There’s lots of lusting after one’s destined mate while fleeing for one’s life, plus a deus ex machina moment that drove me nuts. It comes with a short story at the end and the deus ex machina bit appears yet again. Yikes.
The King’s Courtesan by Judith James I’ve just started this historical romance and so far so good. I’m intrigued to see how the conflict is resolved, since the King marries his favorite mistress off to an Earl so she’ll be close to court. That’s gotta make for some interesting politics.

New Releases this Week (September 6)
Just to make it all the more difficult to focus on teaching next week, here are some long-awaited releases by several of my favorite authors. I’m hoping I’ll luck out and find a few of them early at the local bookstore!
Archangel’s Blade by Nalini Singh This fourth installment of Singh’s Guild Hunter series features archangel Raphael’s right hand man, er, vampire, Dmitri. Since Dmitri is smokin’ hot and I love the world building in this series, I cannot WAIT to read this one. Early reviews have been very positive.
One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire I’m excited about the fifth book in McGuire’s October Daye series because the blurb on Amazon says that Toby’s dating again. Dare I hope she’s dating sexy Cait Sidhe king Tybalt? Love this Urban Fantasy series, and Toby is one of my favorite UF heroines. This might be my favorite book cover of the series as well.
The Dragon Who Loved Me by G.A. Aiken Anything Shelly Laurenston writes under the name G.A. Aiken is pretty much an autobuy for me, because her books are sexy and hilarious. How can you go wrong with that combination? This is part of her Dragon Kin series, and features Cadwaladr clan dragon Rhona the Fearless and Northern dragon Vigholf the Abhorrent. This could make for some funny, funny reading.
Sleight of Paw by Sofie Kelly I loved Kelly’s debut mystery cozy, Curiosity Thrilled the Cat (see my review), and I can’t wait to read this second book in the series. The end of the first book hinted at a romance between a detective and the librarian heroine with her magical cats, so I have high hopes for this book.