Friday, April 30, 2010

Review: Rapture in Death by J.D. Robb (In-Death Series, Book 4)

In Rapture in Death, J.D. Robb begins with Eve and Roarke's off-planet honeymoon. Their time is almost over when a young technician commits suicide and Eve processes the scene. After Eve gets back on the job two more suicides take place. They all have a few things in common; there is no apparent reason for them to self-terminate and they all die with a smile on their faces. During autopsy, a tiny burn is found inside the victims' brains and Eve is convinced that these are not suicides but murder. She and Officer Peabody, who is now permanently assigned to assist Eve, are off to investigate. In the meantime, Mavis gets a shot at recording her songs with a partner. Leonardo and Mavis' new partner approach Eve and ask for Roarke's help in launching this new venture. All of this is happening, while Eve and Roarke try to find time for themselves.

One of my favorite parts of Rapture in Death is its theme. Robb uses predesposition vs. psychological theories  -- on based on genetics, the other on individual choice -- as utilized to study the human mind. These theories are not only used to go deep into the crime-solving part of the book, but to further develop Eve's character. Subliminal manipulation of the human mind ties well with this theme and also plays a big role. I've been waiting for more information on Roarke, and in this book that extra glimpse makes an impact.

I smiled throughout many parts of this book thinking that although Roarke and Eve's traveling part of the honeymoon was over, they certainly continued with it enthusiastically throughout all the mayhem. There are some incredibly sexy scenes between these two, and I couldn't help but go back and re-read a couple. Their emotional/loving bond continues to grow with their relationship, and I admit some of those touching scenes are favorites.

Peabody is becoming one of my favorite secondary characters with her dry humor and direct ways. And, it might be me, but Mavis and Leonardo got on my nerves in this installment. I think Mavis is getting more self-centered as the series goes along, even though I do still think she loves Eve. 

I really liked Rapture in Death. The characterization continues to be the draw for me and I enjoyed the psychological aspects used in plotting the murder investigation. I'm definitely hooked on Eve and Roarke's growing relationship and can't wait to read Ceremony in Death.

Genre: Futuristic Police Procedural
Series: In-Death Series (Book 4)
Release Date: September 1, 2006 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B

Visit J.D. Robb here

Christine's In-Death Reading Challenge - April Review 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Review: The Moonlight Mistress by Victoria Janssen

It is the eve of the Great War, and English chemist Lucilla Osbourne finds herself trapped on hostile German soil. Panicked and alone, she turns to a young Frenchman for shelter. Together they spend a night of intense passion, but their dangerous circumstances won't allow more than a brief affair.
Even with the memory of Lucilla's lushness ever present, scientist Pascal Fournier is distracted by his reason for being in enemy territory—Tanneken Claes has information Pascal could use against the enemy but, even more extraordinary…she's a werewolf.

After entrusting Pascal with her secret, Tanneken and her mate, Noel, are captured. Suspecting a rogue scientist rumored to have a fascination with werewolves is behind the abduction, Pascal knows he must act fast to save them. He's all too aware of Professor Kauz's reputed perversions and lust for control….

As war rages, Pascal and Lucilla combine efforts to stop Kauz, struggling with danger, power and secret desires transformed by the unyielding hunger for the beating of a lover's heart.
I picked up The Moonlight Mistress by Janssen thinking it was erotica with paranormal elements and a bit of a historical background, especially after reading the above book description. Instead I found much more. The story begins in Germany right as they invade Belgium and WW-I explodes and introduces the reader to Lucilla and Pascal -- the core couple. However, most of the story takes place in France after the Germans invade that country and as war rages on.

There are multiple protagonists in The Moonlight Mistress and some of them are part of an English battalion fighting in France. The war is not used as background, instead Janssen thoroughly develops the plot and cast of characters while incorporating well-written historical details and making the war part of the story. The reader is right there with those men as they dig ditches, sleep in the mud, and as they experience battles, hunger, losses and small victories. Janssen cleverly integrates the historical details into the paranormal aspect of the book; an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

The erotic scenes are great and don't overwhelm the story, although there are plenty. The couples are all likable and their relationships are thoroughly developed. There are M/F, M/M and M/M/F erotic scenes to go with the storylines Ms. Janssen weaves into The Moonlight Mistress. The M/F scenes start on the warm side with Lucilla and Pascal and get hotter as the story goes on. In the beginning sexual tension is used to develop the M/M relationship, however the sexual encounters are hot from beginning to end as is the M/M/F. You will find that all the female protagonists in the story are either strong women or women with a defined path.

The Moonlight Mistress is a well-written, enjoyable adventure with well-developed characters, hot, erotic encounters, and thorough historical details cleverly incorporated into the overall story.

Genre: Historical Erotica/Paranormal
Series: None
Release Date: Harlequin Spice - December 1, 2009 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B+

Visit Victoria Janssen here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mini-Reviews: Three Sisters Island Trilogy by Nora Roberts

This month I chose to re-read the Three Sisters Island trilogy by Nora Roberts -- the only trilogy by Roberts I had not re-read. I remember waiting for Face the Fire to release, then exchanging the whole trilogy for another Roberts trilogy at a used books store. That was back in 2002 and although I couldn't remember the details as to why I gave the books up, I did remember this trilogy was not a favorite. Last month, fellow Jersyan blogger Mariana from Hips Like Mine generously gave me the complete trilogy for my Nora Roberts collection and I couldn't help re-reading it right away.

Three Sisters Island Trilogy by Nora Roberts

Basis for the trilogy - Synopsis: Three Sisters is an enchanted island off the coast of Massachusetts that, through magic, was formed as a sanctuary by three frightened witches fleeing the Salem witch-hunts and persecution. Although the witches found love and security on the island for themselves and their offspring, each of them entered into an ill-fated relationship and died tragically after ultimately making the wrong decisions. Three thousand years later, their descendants Nell Channing, Ripley Todd and Mia Devlin have to break the grim pattern set by their ancestors, or the magic will cease to work and the island will sink into the ocean.

Known as the Circle of Three, each one of the present day witches has the same powers as their foremothers -- Air, Earth and Fire. Nell Channing is Air, Ripley Todd is Earth and Mia Devlin is Fire, representing three of the four elements. By using their collective powers and holding the Circle, each one of these three women will face a situation similar to what their foremothers faced, and each must make a choice. They'll battle evil and through love and magic will either win or lose it all.

Dance Upon the Air (Three Sisters Island Trilogy, Book 1)

In the first book Dance Upon the Air, after years of abuse, a faked death and a change of identity, Nell Channing (Air) runs away from her husband Evan and straight to Three Sisters island, a place that calls to her. She quickly finds employment at the local bookstore/cafeteria as a chef, where she works for Mia who also conveniently provides her with shelter. Nell doesn't know she is a witch or that with her appearance the Circle is complete, something she learns from Mia. While weary of both the law and men, she can't help but eventually fall for Sheriff Zack Todd, a charming and down-to-earth man whose tenderness, passion and protectiveness win her over. But, how can they find happiness, when Nell is hunted by her evil husband?

I liked Nell and Zack as a couple. Nell is the "earth mother" type, who cooks and bakes flawlessly and takes care of others. She's also frightened and fragile because she has been abused, but slowly regains her self-respect and strength throughout the story. Zack is the tender and passionate protector to both Nell and his community. A lot of time is spent going over Nell's abusive relationship with Evan, the backstory for the Three Sisters and building up to the climax, but frankly that climax was over in the blink of an eye and fell flat for me.

Heaven and Earth (Three Sisters Island Trilogy, Book 2) 

Ripley Todd (Earth) is happy with her life, protecting the island and working with her brother Zack as the island's sheriff deputy. A tough woman, not much frightens Ripley, except for her powers. She can't control them when she's angry and won't use them or admit they exist. This creates a conflict with ex-best friend Mia and for the Circle of Three. When gorgeous MacAllister Booke comes to the island research and investigate rumors of witchcraft, Ripley is suspicious of his motives, but soon can't resist his charming, geeky ways. To her surprise, soon there's magic flowing between Mac and Ripley in more ways than one. But, will she accept her powers, control her anger, and make the right choice before it's too late?

In Heaven and Earth, I really liked Mac who's a gorgeous, hot and sweet beta geek. He's an intelligent man who goes after his woman relentlessly. Mac knows how to handle Ripley and is tougher than she is, in a quiet and subtle way -- very sexy. Ripley however is not a favorite for me. While reading, I thought she needed a good dunking in the freezing ocean a couple of times until she came to her senses. Personality-wise, she is supposed to be tough but comes off as very angry throughout much of the book and that gets old and frustrating after a while. The evil Ripley fights is a combination human/intangible evil from the darkness. Although the climax is exciting, it contains some lack of judgment moments (TSTL), and that intangible evil is left unexplained.

Face the Fire (Three Sisters Island, Book 3)

Face the Fire is the end of the trilogy and Mia Devlin (Fire) and Sam Logan's story. She's the most powerful witch of the three, the one with the "fire power" -- pun intended. Mia and Sam were in love when they were teenagers but he left her and the island, breaking her heart. Of course now that he has returned, she's not giving him the time of day. He was a jerk and deserves it; still she decides to go to bed with Sam because she has the hots for him, except she won't give him her heart. However, in order for the curse to be lifted she must make a choice -- and her heart and love are the key.

Mia and Sam as a couple were frustrating even though their intimate moments sizzled and their second chance at love story initially caught my attention. Sam is hot, arrogant, protective, a straight shooter and sorry for his actions. As part of the curse, Mia ultimately has to make a choice: give her love to Sam again or lose the island. This part of the story drags until the very end as she goes back and forth for too long. Mia is arrogant about her powers and as much as she talks about the Circle of Three sticking together, she is too cocky about doing it all on her own -- this contradiction drove me nuts. Sam is also a witch and very powerful. He is the fourth element, Water, and Mia refuses his help even though she knows he has to be part of it all -- TSTL moves all around. Besides having to make a choice, at the end of this trilogy Mia has to fight an evil force. Unlike the evil Nell had to fight and similar to Ripley's, this evil is not physical but intangible. This would've been fine, except that even though its purpose is known, where IT comes from and what IT is, is never really explained. IT was just a dark, powerful, sticky, gooey eveeeilll... hmmm...

Conclusion: Well, definitely not my favorite Nora Roberts trilogy. I can see why I gave it up -- although this time I'll be keeping it for my collection. Dance Upon the Air has a lovely couple, sets up a trilogy that sounds interesting, but dwells too much on Nell's abused past and has an anticlimactic ending. Heaven and Earth has a sexy-geeky hero with an ever-angry heroine, and although there are some TSTL moments, I think it has the best plot and ending of the three books. And, Face the Fire was a frustrating read for me, with a romance that sizzled at moments but dragged with indecision until the end, and a disappointing end to the overall storyarc -- making this an overall average read as a trilogy for me.

Genre: Contemporary Romance w/Paranormal elements
Series: Three Sisters Island Trilogy
Released: June 2001, December 2001, June 2002
Grade for Trilogy: C

Nath's 2010 Re-read Challenge - April Review

Friday, April 23, 2010

M/M Review: Fatal Shadows (Andrien English Mysteries, Book 1) by Josh Lanyon

Fatal Shadows by Josh Lanyon is the first book in the Adrien English Mysteries series; a series I've been meaning to read since 2008. My friend Mary brought it to my attention and I finally, finally got to it! Why did I wait so long?

Lanyon begins this series with a murder mystery that had me turning the pages and racing to the end. I read it in one sitting. Fatal Shadows is chuck-full of atmosphere and at times it felt almost as if I were reading a "cozy." Although you won't find the knitting, cooking or baking theme in this book, there is a theme. You will find a circle of mystery writers, references to mystery books and authors, and of course the amateur sleuth, all of which give it that vague "cozy" feel.

I was quite taken with the setting in this book and thought Lanyon was clever in choosing Old Pasadena, California, a modern and bright place if I've ever seen one, and then endowing it with a feeling of darkness, mustiness and oldness that doesn't feel contrived. I think it's the old used book store, the alleyways, the old two story brick building where the bookstore is located and the old mystery books that Adrien sells. I could almost smell the dust on those books. Lanyon did an outstanding job of setting up both atmosphere and setting.

I really enjoyed the murder mystery and Adrien, as a sleuth, was both a crack up and quite good in his way of thinking. Adrien is a mystery writer and has a wonderful imagination; one minute he's trying to figure out whom the murderer is, in his own inimitable way, and the next minute he's just freaking out. Adrien's sexuality plays a big role in the storyline, even though this is not an erotic book or a romance. Homophobia, closeted gays and subtle prejudices are all part of the storyline.

Predictably, in this first book of the series, our main character Adrien is introduced to the reader as the main suspect in the brutal murder of his best and oldest friend Robert; a device usually used in mysteries to set up the base for a series and introduce the characters. Adrien's life is turned upside down when the police begin to investigate his life thoroughly as a murder suspect. When anonymous flower deliveries, unsigned sympathy cards with creepy poetry arrive, followed by silent phone calls in the middle of the night and other creepy events, it seems as if Adrien might've also become the main focus for the murderer. When Adrien reports these incidents, the police don't take him seriously. Desperate and afraid for his life and future, our amateur sleuth decides to go off on his own and conduct an investigation that leads to a dangerous and emotional climax.

Lanyon uses the crime investigation to deeply develop Adrien's character by delving into his past and present life. By the time Fatal Shadows ends, we are well acquainted with Adrien's life, his personality, quirks and thought process, providing an excellent base for the rest of the series. Quite a few secondary characters are introduced, multiple suspects and those who populate Adrien's life. Most are kept on the periphery and none are developed as deeply as Adrien in this installment.

I find it interesting that characters that are either downright homophobic, in the closet or just out of the closet surround Adrien, a man who is confident and comfortable with his own sexuality. Some of them wear their prejudices on their sleeve, and while some are vociferously and brutally homophobic, others are subtler in how they display their deep-seeded prejudices. In the case of the policemen conducting the criminal investigation, their initial disdain and contempt for Adrien and Robert's sexuality is palpable.

Jake Riordan, one of the two detectives investigating the murder, is the saddest of all these characters in my opinion. Lanyon develops Jake with a light a touch in this installment. However, we do get to know a few key facts about him. He's a tough cop, a "man's man" who has prejudices a straight man might have against gay men, but who leads a double life. He doesn't think of himself as gay, but has "homosexual" encounters of the "leather and BDSM" kind -- nothing touchy-feely or gay to his way of thinking. The man is deep, deep in the closet emotionally and intellectually. In Fatal Shadows, he doesn't seem conflicted about his life for most of the story; it just seems to be the way he deals. He is going to be an interesting character study.

There is no obvious set-up for the next book in the series, except for a developing attraction between Adrien and "closeted" Detective Jake Riordan. Fatal Shadows is a solid beginning to this mystery series, with excellent writing, wonderful atmosphere and setting, and excellent characterization. I look forward to reading the next installment in this series, A Dangerous Thing.

Genre: LGBT Mystery/Suspense
Series: Adrien English Mysteries
Release Date: 2007 Revised Edition
Grade: Solid B

Visit Josh Lanyon here

Anezthezea's - M/M Romance Challenge 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Buddy Review: Roadkill by Rob Thurman

It's time to lock, load, and hit the road...

Once, while half-human Cal Leandros and his brother Niko were working on a case, an ancient gypsy queen gave them a good old-fashioned backstabbing. Now, just as their P.I. business hits a slow patch, the old crone shows up with a job.

She wants them to find a stolen coffin that contains a blight that makes the Black Death seem like a fond memory. But the thief has already left town, so the Leandros brothers are going on the road. And if they're very, very lucky, there might even be a return trip...
Roadkill is the fifth installment in the Cal Leandros urban fantasy series by Rob Thurman. A series I'm thoroughly enjoying.

Today, you can find me at Breezing Through, with two lovely ladies, Leslie and Nath. The three of us had a wonderful time and lots of fun chatting and reviewing/discussing Cal, Niko, the gang and what they get up to in Roadkill.

If you've read at least a couple of the books in this series, you can just imagine this motley crew on a road trip... lots of dark fun and then some.

Warning: Expect lots of details and some spoilers with this discussion.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review: Her Colorado Man by Cheryl St. John

When eighteen-year-old Mariah found herself pregnant and unmarried in her small Colorado town, she disappeared. One year later, she returned with a baby—though minus the "husband" who had conveniently ventured off to Alaska's gold fields to seek his fortune….
But now, with handsome adventurer Wes Burrows turning up and claiming to be the husband she had invented, Mariah's lies become flesh and blood—and her wildest dreams a reality!

I finally read Her Colorado Man by Cheryl St. John, a Harlequin Historical I've had on my "to be read" pile since it released last December. I loved her book, Joe's Wife and have begun collecting some of the books in her backlist already. She also has a new book this month, To Be a Mother and I'll definitely be adding that one to my pile as well.

Her Colorado Man is the story of a young woman in 1800's Colorado who gets pregnant out of wedlock. Her grandfather sends her away to Chicago to have the baby and tells the rest of the family and the community that she met and married a man there, Wes Burrows. This man then left Mariah and their newborn child for Alaska to seek his fortune looking for gold.

Unfortunately, the name grandpa uses is the name of a "real" person. Through the years, grandpa's old friend Otto writes letters to the young boy pretending he is the father who is away in Alaska. When Otto dies, the "real" Wes Burrows receives the letters and through their correspondence falls in love with the boy. Wes then decides to come "home" to meet his son and to be a "real" father to a boy who he feels needs him. Of course, he doesn't take into account that a wife comes with the son too.

In Wes, St. John creates a tough, but sensitive male character who needs as much as he is needed. I was touched by his sensibilities, his need for love and family and willingness to give. Wes is a "good" man. Mariah on the other hand, is a woman who is ahead of her time, but also very much of her time. She has an outward toughness that hides her inner vulnerabilities. Mariah is independent within her family circle, but is very much restrained by her gender and circumstances. She is trapped by both and her independence is almost an illusion until Wes comes along. 

This was a touching story. St. John begins this romance by having Wes fall in love with the boy first, then with the extensive Spangler family, and at last with Mariah herself. Mariah is understably weary of Wes and really doesn't understand what he wants -- this stranger who comes out of nowhere and whom she has to accept or break her son and family's hearts by revealing her lie. She is quite ruthless with Wes for a long time, even when he is a gentleman and a sweatheart. I think her reactions are quite understandable under the circumstances.

The book is warm on the sensual scale and excellent when it comes to characterization. St. John really takes her time when it comes to developing the protagonists and their romance. She gives you the reasons behind both Mariah and Wes' motivations as we get to know their past histories -- some of which are complex, especially when it comes to Mariah's past experiences. The author also takes the time to develop the large cast of characters that make this story what it is, the Spangler family in particular. Through them, she also explores the setting and historical times by cleverly using the family's ties to the brewery industry to do so.

A well written and developed Harlequin Historical, with excellent characterization, Her Colorado Man was an enjoyable read for me. I loved the clever way in which the setting and history were incorporated into the story, as well as the sense of family and the unique way in which it influenced this romance.

Genre: Historical Romance - American
Series: None
Release Date: December, 2009 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B+

Visit Cheryl St. John here.

KMont's 2010 Year of the Historical Challenge - April Review

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Review: All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear

“At the closure of the slaughter, there remained upon the strand
One who fled, one who lived, one who chose not to attend…

So the Children singing came all to the slaughter
Stars and shining suns, sons and shining daughters…
And all the windwracked stars are lost and torn upon the night
Like candleflames they flicker, and fail to cast a light.

To begin with there was darkness, darkness, Light, and Will
And in the end there’s darkness, darkness sure and still.”

There is something about a post-apocalyptic/apocalyptic, Sci-Fi Fantasy story that does it for me – mix in some Norse mythology and it’s a win-win situation. Elizabeth Bear’s All the Windwracked Stars has all of the above and more. She uses mythology loosely to construct her world and if you are familiar with Odin’s crew of Gods and immortals, you will recognize their integration into Bear’s world, her characters and usage of language.

Our fantasy adventure begins with the end. It’s the end for the Children of Light and their world – survived only by Muire, a waelcyrge (valkyrie), and Kasimir, a valraven (two-headed, winged, war-steed). Muire, who thinks of herself as the “least” of all her sisters, is not a warrior; instead she is a poet, historian and artist. She survives by fleeing that final battle where all her sisters and brothers – the einherjar or immortal warriors -- die. That single act of cowardice, the guilt and shame Muire carries with her, become the driving force behind her actions throughout this story.

Fast forward twenty three hundred years later and the world is again dying. This time, surprise, surprise it is a world of men, who after rising and inventing medicine, philosophy, space flight and metallurgy now live in an era known as the Desolation, under the Defile – a contaminated earth full of deserts and bleached bones, un-breathable air and a dead sea killed by bio-weapons and never ending wars. Only one city remains, Eiledon.

When Muire finds a truman dying in the shadows of darkness, with no traces of blood or bodily harm, she recognizes the manner of death and knows the killer. An old, powerful evil from long ago has returned and she must hunt it and kill it, or die trying.

The gloom and doom that permeate the world Bear constructs makes this a tough read through the first third of the book. Muire’s self-recrimination, guilt and sense of worthlessness, while understandable, were tough to deal with at times. Thank goodness for Kasimir who serves as her conscience and represents the hope and promise of a possible future. He has the faith in Muire that she doesn’t have in herself, and recognizes the courage and Light she possesses. Although Muire is the main character, and a strong one at that, once Bear’s well-developed and fascinating secondary characters start to emerge, I became immersed in her world. They were the ones that made this story work for me.

Thjierry Thorvaldsdottir, Technomancer of Eiledon, is known as the savior of the dying city. A combination techie/witch, she reigns supreme in the Tower, a floating bubble-like city she created – a city above a city -- adored by her students and guarded by loyal servants, the moreau or unmen -- animals with human-like abilities. Thjierry and Muire might be the only hope left for Eiledon. The unmen play a small, if key, part in the story. Selene, the cat girl with her claws, whip and smarts, is the most memorable of the unmen characters. I was touched by her toughness, vulnerability and courage – a definite reminder of H.G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau.”

Mingan, the Grey Wolf is a tarnished predator, traitor to all, but most of all to himself. He is a dark, fascinating character that took hold of my imagination and didn’t let go, even after the book was finished. Possibly my favorite in this book, his is the character that brings us the closest to the tragedy and duality that we often find in Norse mythology. Based on a cross between Fenrir the Wolf and Hati, the sun-eater, Mingan, together with Cathoair, a young male prostitute and bar fighter, take over the page whenever they appear. Theirs is a complex relationship --Mingan hunts Cathoair, whom he both loves and hates and in turn, Cathoair haunts Mingan. Cathoair is both more and less than he appears to be. By becoming important to both Muire and the Grey Wolf, he also becomes a catalyst and central to this story.

As the story unfolded, defining the Dark and the Light became difficult, gray areas expanded and I found myself reading slower, savoring every moment, not wanting the book to end. And as I concluded my journey with Muire and her ragtag group of friends and foes, after experiencing depths of despair and selfishness, the power of friendship and love, I found that in the end, this book was mostly about redemption and self-sacrifice.

There is potential in this world for other great adventures. Hopefully, Elizabeth Bear will give us more. If you like Fantasy, Sci-Fi and mythology, this book is certainly for you.

Solid B

Visit Elizabeth Bear's site here. Read an excerpt from All The Windwracked Stars here.

Originally posted at Musings of a Bibliophile April 17, 2009

All the Windwracked Stars: A year later, a prequel, some thoughts & questions

A whole year ago, I reviewed All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear. It was my first ever review in blogland. I remember giving this book, the review and my grade a lot of thought. Not only because it was my first review, but because I was quite conflicted at the time. (I posted the review below for your convenience)

This was my first read by Elizabeth Bear and a fantasy book and I remember loving it for a lot of reasons. I didn't want the book to end. It's post apocalyptic/apocalyptic fantasy and it has mythology as a base, two devices I really enjoy in a book. Bear also throws the reader right into her world from the beginning, and that's something I appreciate when reading fantasy. The rest you can read on my review. However, the way she used mythology concerned me at the time and that was reflected in my final grade.

Bear uses Nordic mythology in All the Windwracked Stars, and her usage of it is subtle and well done -- if you are familiar with it. She uses mythological composits to create her characters, as in the case of the Grey Wolf, that I thought were brilliant. However, although I enjoy this type of subtle mythology-based fantasy story, I remember being concerned that those readers unfamiliar with Nordic mythology would pick up this book and would end up hating it. I thought that for them, some of the language used and even part of the story would be confusing and the subtleties would be completely missed. When I wrote my review, I even thought of recommending that readers might want to check out a book that I use as a tool to refresh my memory about Nordic mythology, The Children of Odin: The Book of Northern Myths by Padraic Colum. This is not a heavy mythology book, but a fast read and easy to use as a tool. At the last minute I deleted my recommendation, thinking that my review was already too, too long, lol! This is not something that would concern me now. :)

Interestingly enough, a couple of months ago while looking for a sequel to this book, I found that Elizabeth Bear wrote and released a "prequel" instead, By The Mountain Bound. And guess what the book is about? She addresses the mythology-based part of her world. When I first began reading By the Mountain Bound, I felt almost as if I were reading stories right out of The Children of Odin: The Book of Northern Myths, except that Bear uses her characters and still manages to tell her story. And yes... as with the Grey Wolf, she often uses composits of stories and characters.

However, you'll be surprised to hear that I was disappointed with By The Mountain Bound, even though I initially thought it was would be helpful for those readers who needed a deeper understanding of the mythology used in this series. The book itself is well written and the story is good on its own, heavy on the mythology. My concern is in how By the Mountain Bound effects All the Windwracked Stars as a prequel.

All the Windwracked Stars has a mysterious atmosphere, full of sensuality and sexual tension between the female and two males, and a subtle homoerotic connection between the males, plus a darkness to the book that keeps the reader turning the pages and guessing what's coming next. By going back in time and writing a prequel, Bear not only gives her readers a deeper understanding of the mythology, but she explores the backstory of the three central characters from All the Windwracked Stars. By telling their backstory, part of that mystery is voided and the sexual tension is released because the reader now knows the dynamics that drive the relationships between the central characters.

When I began reading this series, my hope was that the characters, their story and world would be developed and explored in subsequent installments. I wondered how Bear would reveal the characters' pasts as she moved forward with their future. I hoped that the confusing parts of the first book would be addressed in the second installment. After reading the prequel, where she went back instead of forward with the story, I now wonder how it would feel to read this series in a different order -- By the Mountain Bound first and All the Windwracked Stars second. I'm sure it would be a totally different experience. I would certainly view the characters in a totally different light.

What do you think? How do you feel about prequels? Do you enjoy getting the backstory on already established characters in prequels? Or, do you feel authors often use prequels as an easy way to further develop their characters or world? Do you read prequels first when you begin reading an already established series? In this case, which book would you read first?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Review: Courting Miss Hattie by Pamela Morsi

The news spread like brush fire through the whole county when widower Ancil Drayton announced his intention to start courting Miss Hattie Colfax. She was certainly spirited and delightfully sweet natured, and she'd managed to run her family farm almost single-handedly. But wasn't a twenty-nine-year-old lady farmer too old to catch a husband?

An Irresistable Suitor.

All his life handsome, black-haired Reed Tyler had worked Miss Hattie's farm--and dreamed of one day settling down on his own piece of land with the pretty young woman he'd sworn to marry. Hattie was someone he could tell his hopes and troubles to--someone he looked on as a sister. So he thought, until the idea of Ancil Drayton calling on her made him seethe. Until the night a brotherly peck became a scorching kiss... and Reed knew nothing would bank the blaze--and that his best friend was the only woman he would ever love.
Courting Miss Hattie is the second book by Pamela Morsi I read, and they're now both favorites and keepers. I loved Simple Jess, and this one is just as wonderful.

In Courting Miss Hattie, Morsi once again sets her story in an Arkansas farming community and captures both time and place. She tells the story of Miss Hattie, a 29-year-old spinster who has never been courted, until now. In Miss Hattie, Morsi again works with a character that is viewed as different by her community. She is respected, as an excellent farmer who owns her own land, is independent and knowledgeable and also happens to be an excellent housekeeper and cook. But Hattie is a woman, and as a woman in a community where girls marry at the tender age of seventeen, she's considered an old spinster and treated as such. The fact that Hattie's looks are lacking count heavily against her -- behind her back her nickname is "Horseface Hattie."

When local farmer and widower and father to a slew of children, Ancyl Drayton decides to come calling, you can feel both Hattie's pain and her hope for a future she thought she would never have -- a husband and children. I loved Miss Hattie. She is the perfect spinster/plain Jane type of protagonist that some of us love to read about in a book. Hattie isn't exactly your missish spinster, although she is definitely naive and has her moments. She is an independent woman who is direct and plain speaking and a tough and hard-working farmer. As a woman she is vulnerable, passionate and all heart. There is a joy in Hattie that makes her beautiful.

Reed Tyler? I could have eaten him up with a spoon. What a great character he turned out to be. He is younger than Miss Hattie, but he is a real man. Reed began working at the Colfax farm when he was a 14-year-old boy. After Hattie's parents died and left her the farm, Reed stayed to help her and became a sharecropper using Colfax land. Reed and Hattie are close friends and partners. His dream is to save his money to buy the Colfax farm from Hattie so he can settle down with his young wife once he marries. That is...until Ancyl begins courting Hattie.

Courting Miss Hattie is a wonderful friends to lovers romance. In a way, I hate to put it that way because it simplifies this story and it is more than that. The community at large, and Hattie herself, both see Ancyl's courting as a godsend and a favor to her -- all except Reed. He doesn't think Ancyl is good enough for her, as a man or as a farmer. I loved him for that. Reed begins to see Hattie as a woman and to seethe. Slowly, Ms. Morsi develops the story, and the sexual tension and romance between Hattie and Reed builds. And a passionate, joyful romance it is!

I have many favorite scenes in this book. The scene where Reed explains to Hattie that there are three different types of kisses: pecks, peaches and malvalvas, and Miss Hattie comes to love her "peaches," is a favorite. But, I think their overall joy and laughter in the midst of the discovery of their passion and love is what makes this romance stand out for me.

This review would be incomplete if I didn't mention a secondary romance that impacts Hattie and Reed's relationship. Morsi doesn't leave this romance behind in passion or in characterization; she takes her time with both. As in Simple Jess, she again develops a community that is vital and their down-to-earth, everyday interactions add depth to this story. The secondary characters are very much a part of Courting Miss Hattie and complete this romance.

This is another Morsi book I highly recommend for those who want to read a different type of historical romance in an American setting. In Courting Miss Hattie you’ll find a beautifully written, well-developed, passionate romance, with a friends to lovers theme, and an unforgettable secondary, lively cast of characters that has more to offer than your every day fare. This is definitely a keeper.

For other Morsi reviews, check out:
Courting Miss Hattie at Leslie's Psyche
Wild Oats at The Misadventures of Super Librarian

Genre: Historical Romance - American
Series: None
Release Date: August 26, 2009 - Kindle Edition
Grade: A

Visit Pamela Morsi here.

KMont's 2010 Year of the Historical Challenge - April Review

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Review: Simple Jess by Pamela Morsi

Simple Jess by Pamela Morsi was the first book I read by this author. My friend Reny sent it to me back in December and I read it then in one sitting -- she recommended it as her favorite Morsi book. As always, Reny was right on target with her recommendation, Simple Jess became one of my favorite historical romance reads of 2009. What a great book!

In March I read my second book by Ms. Morsi, Courting Miss Hattie and I loved it too! But, before I post my thoughts on that book, I wanted to share my thoughts on Simple Jess. I wrote this review in January and think it's about time I share it with you.

The last thing widow Althea Winsloe wanted to do was remarry. Unfortunately, her meddlesome mountain neighbors had other plans. So, one autumn night they banded together and gave Althea a shocking ultimatum: She was to find herself a husband by Christmas... or the town would do it for her! Althea knew she had her choice of any single man in Marrying Stone, Arkansas. Yet the only one she felt truly comfortable with was Simple Jess. Sweet and gentle, Jess wasn't as smart as your average man. But his tender manner stirred Althea's heart in ways she had never dreamed possible.

It would take a miracle to find a husband in Marrying Stone. But sometimes miracles are right under your nose...
Simple Jess is set in the Osark Mountains in 1906 and Ms. Morsi truly captures the setting. The cast of characters in this book is amazing and the story of Simple Jess and Ms. Althea is so touching it actually made me cry. But theirs is not the only story told in this book, there are secondary storylines about some of the people involved in Jess and Althea's lives that Ms. Morsi develops with much care. The farming community as a whole is so well integrated into Jess and Althea's lives and storyline that I found myself feeling as if I knew the people and the place. I could see them -- I really could.

Jess is a wonder of a character. He is hard working, gloriously handsome, honest and... simple-minded. He learned to work hard and to perform tasks by repeating and memorizing instructions. As a man, Jess has a few dreams of his own: he would like to have a gun and a team of dogs so he can hunt and provide for himself and he would like to have a woman. He knows he might be able to get the first two by working hard, but he figures the last will remain a dream. See... Jess is aware of his limitations and how the community views him and he has resigned himself to being "simple." Ms. Morsi definitely excelled in her creation of this wonderful character and more so in developing this romance. For those of you who have read this book, Jess won my heart at "sugar, coffee, cartridges."

Miss Althea is a widow with a child -- Baby-Paisley. She's had a tough life and is determined to continue on her own with her child. The community has interfered in her life and she must choose a husband between two beaus, Oather or Eben, to run the farm and to raise her child. I loved the way Ms. Morsi created Jess, but I loved the way Althea's character was developed in this story. We get to know Ms. Althea from the inside out, why and how she comes to love Jess. It is not easy for her to love a man like Jess or to make the decisions she must make. Morsi develops this part of the story and Miss Althea's character thoroughly and for me, that development is the key that makes this romance work.

Although this book has plenty of touching moments, I found myself laughing out loud at the amusing dialogue as I read along. But I must admit that Jess' sweet and naive thought process made me giggle more than once -- especially when it came to his sexual thoughts of Ms. Althea.
"Her hair hung down. It was real long. He hadn't known that. It hung down the front of her josie and kind of curled around those. . . those big round places that he tried not to think about. Her . . . her round places were really round. And they had points on the end of them. He could see the points through her josie." 
Simple Jess is a book I highly recommend to those who would like to read a different type of historical romance. This book is beautifully written, heart warming, with unforgettable central and secondary characters, plus the interwoven storylines make the community come alive without taking the focus away from the central characters. Simple Jess was a winner for me. Will I read the rest of Morsi's backlist? You bet!

Genre: Historical Romance - American
Series: None -- linked to The Marrying Stone
Release Date: April 1, 1996
Grade: A

Visit Pamela Morsi here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Review: Rebels and Lovers by Linnea Sinclair

It’s been two years since Devin Guthrie last saw Captain Makaiden Griggs. But time has done little to dampen his ardor for the beautiful take-charge pilot who used to fly yachts for his wealthy family. While Devin’s soul still burns for Kaidee, she isn’t the kind of woman a Guthrie is allowed to marry—especially in a time of intergalactic upheaval, with the family’s political position made precarious by Devin’s brother Philip, now in open revolt against the Empire. And when Devin’s nineteen-year-old nephew, Trip, inexplicably goes missing after his bodyguard is murdered, this most dutiful of Guthrie sons finds every ounce of family loyalty put to the test. Only by joining forces with Kaidee can Devin complete the mission to bring Trip back alive. And only by breaking every rule can these two renegades redeem the promise of a passion they were never permitted to explore. At risk? A political empire, a personal fortune, and both their hearts and lives.
Rebels and Lovers is a good addition to the Dock Five series by Linnea Sinclair. The book felt a bit like a transitional book in the series, but by the end it advanced the overall storyarc -- the war between the Empire and the Alliance. By focusing in the all important and powerful Guthrie family, Sinclair tipped the odds.

The above summary is really very accurate. Devin and Kaidee have known each other for years. He burned for her secretly then and has been dreaming of her ever since. Years ago her husband was fired and she chose to go with him, and Devin thought he would never see her again. But now that he's found her and she is a widow, Devin does everything to keep and win Kaidee.

Kaidee always thought highly of Devin. She sees him as a controlled, almost perfect man whom she respects and finds very attractive -- for her, he is also an impossible dream. To her way of thinking, she is not the type of woman a Guthrie would ever regard as an appropriate companion -- not with her history, her family, or her murky past.

I liked both characters. Devin is more beta than alpha... he doesn't remind me of Sully or Phillip. He's a thinking, numbers man, not a man of action, although he knows how to take care of himself. Sinclair balanced his character quite well on that front. I loved the way he yearned for Kaidee and his willingness to change his circumstances for her -- Devin the rebel. Kaidee is also unique to this series. She's a Captain and has certain qualities that do remind me of Chaz, but very few. She was a combination of tough and vulnerable that was perfect for Devin and for the situation. What Devin lacked, Kaidee had in spades and vice versa. She also has an interesing background and I'm curious to see how the Alliance uses her unusual contacts.

Rebels and Lovers begins as a fast paced book. I was caught up in the action -- Trip's disappearance, Devin's pursuit and Kaidee's situation in Dock Five. There are multiple characters introduced, some quite interesting, and we are reacquainted with old characters. Devin and Kaidee's paths cross in Dock Five and their race to save Trip is on. The action continues and it's pretty intense, with lots of twists and turns until they get off Dock Five -- this takes the first half of the book.

The second half of the book takes place for the most part on the ship, on an uncertain race to Port Chalo. During this time the pace slows down quite a bit. After all the action in the first part of the book, it actually felt very slow and protracted. Having said that, Sinclair used this part of the book to develop Devin and Kaidee's romance. In this part of the book is also where Devin and Kaidee try to figure out the how, why, and what is really happening to them. If you're a scifi fan, this is where you'll find a lot of those little details that make this genre unique.

Overall, Rebels and Lovers was a good read with a lovely couple, an excellent first half full of fast paced action, and a second half, that although necessarily slow paced for development, went on a bit too long. The book had an exciting, fast paced resolution and it ended on a high note -- it looks as if the Alliance and the Empire are jockeying for position. Although frankly, Rebels and Lovers did not have that exciting WOW factor that Gabriel's Ghost-Book 1, Shades of Dark-Book 2 and Hope's Folly-Book 3 had for me, it was still a solid addition to this series and I can't wait for the next installment.

Genre: Sci-fi/Romance
Series: Dock Five Series, Book #4
Release Date: March 23, 2010
Grade: B

Visit Linnea Sinclair here.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Review: Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

When Arlene Fleet headed off to college in Chicago, she made three promises to God: She would never again lie, she would stop fornicating with every boy who crossed her path, and she'd never, ever go back to her tiny hometown of Possett, Alabama (the "fourth rack of Hell"). All God had to do in exchange was to make sure the body of high school quarterback Jim Beverly was never found.

Ten years later, Arlene has kept her promises, but an old school-mate has recently turned up asking questions. And now Arlene's African American beau has given her a tough ultimatum: introduce him to her family, or he's gone. As she prepares to confront guilt, discrimination, and a decade of deception, Arlene is about to discover just how far she will go to find redemption - and love.
I read Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson when it was first released in 2005. It was Ms. Jackson's debut novel and one that made my keeper shelf for different reasons. This is a women's fiction book, but it's also considered "Southern Fiction." Ms. Jackson is from the South and those roots can definitely be appreciated and recognized in her writing, characterization, subject matter and humor.

Gods in Alabama is one of those books with an unforgettable first line, one that "hooked" me into reading it and became engraved in my mind. Every time I looked at my bookshelf and saw the title of the book, I remembered it.
"There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel's, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus. I left one back there myself, back in Possett. I kicked it under the kudzu and left it to the roaches..."
Thus begins this complex story written in first person as seen through Arlene Fleet's point of view. Lena left Possett, Alabama for Chicago ten years ago right after high school. At that time, she made a deal with God: she would not have sex, would never lie, and would never again return to Possett, Alabama as long as that one "god" she kicked under the kudzu and left to the roaches was not discovered.

For ten years the deal held up, she's now a teacher's aid at a local University and working on her PhD. Lena's African American boyfriend loves her and because he's also the son of a Baptist preacher, he seems to understand and goes along with her need for celibacy. But all of that is about to come to an end when to Lena's great surprise and frustration, Rose Mae Lolley from Possett shows up at her door with a question that Lena will not and cannot answer -- and Lena can't lie. Against her better judgment, Lena finds that after all these years she must return to Possett, Alabama to head off the troubles that Rose Mae Lolley brought back to her door. To Lena's way of thinking, God broke their deal.

Joshilyn Jackson begins this story at the end and works her way to the beginning of the story, making the beginning, the end. I remember the first time I read this book not being able to put it down because I wanted to know what happened in the beginning. It's fast paced, with only a couple of slower chapters in the middle and then picks up again to the end. We get to know what happens to Lena through some flashbacks, confrontations with her family, and Lena's dialogue with her boyfriend, Burr. It was a fascinating ride to the surprising twist in the end the first time, and an even better ride the second time around for me.

Gods in Alabama is an interesting mixture of heavy subjects and witty, humorous prose. Through Lena's guilt-ridden eyes and conscience, Jackson tells a story full of family conflicts, murder, rape, racism, guilt, redemption and immense love. She throws in a bi-racial romance and sets it all in a small southern town full of unforgettable characters. But, the best part of this book is that while reading about all these heavy subjects, all of which she addresses fully and without reserve, there is not a "heavy" feel to this book.

Jackson uses her gift for humor and wit to tell Lena's story and the writer's southern roots definitely show in the telling. There no such thing as southern "flavor" in this book, there is much more than that. The way she describes the setting, the usage of language and humour make you feel as if you're right there in Possett and these elements make the story come alive. The characterization was excellent in most instances, however in some cases she seemed to gloss over the characters and they came off a bit stereotypical. Lena and Aunt Flo's characters were flawlessly developed, but I do wish that cousin Clarice had been better drawn. She was an important character in this story whose motivations stayed 'sketchy' in my mind, both through my first read and this time around.

I thought Gods in Alabama was an excellent debut novel for Joshilyn Jackson. Then and now, I loved her gift for telling this type of story with wit and humour. I enjoyed Ms Jackson's writing style and meant to follow up on her other releases. I'm sorry to say I didn't. However, re-reading this book made me look her up again and it turns out that she now has a backlist I can enjoy. I'm interested in reading her second release, Between, Georgia. Also, this is a huge coincidence, but she has a new book Backseat Saints coming out June 8, 2010 featuring Rose Mae Lollie and I'll definitely be reading that one.
"There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel's, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus..."
Tell me that's not a great first line. Hah! :)

Genre: Contemporary Women's Fiction
Series: None
Release Date: April 13, 2005
Grade: B+

Visit Joshilyn Jackson here.

Nath's 2010 Re-Read Challenge - March Review

Thursday, April 1, 2010

March 2010 Reads and Minis: Lip Service by Susan Mallery, Dangerous Ground by Justine Dare, Dark Elves: Taken by Jet Mykles, Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb

March was a bountiful reading month for me. Although I had a tough month personally and didn't have the time to post and review much, thank goodness I was able to read. When it comes to quality reading, I would say that it was in the good to great category... lots of B and B+ reads with few exceptions.

This month I'm late posting my review for Nath's Re-read Challenge, but I did read the book and it will be coming up soon. :) My mini-review for Christine's 'In-Death' Challenge is included in this post. I read five new March releases, but I also read quite a few books that have been on my TBR pile for one month or longer and I feel great about that. It's too bad I didn't join the TBR Challenge, I'd be acing that one, lol! But, at this point it has become a personal challenge instead.

So here we go... my March reads:

1)Best Gay Erotica 2010 edited by Richard Labonté selected by Blair Mastbaum: B+ (Review here)

2) Dark Angel by Mary Balogh: B
3) Lord Carew's Bride by Mary Balogh: B+ (Reviews here)

4) Roadkill (Cal Leandros Series, Book 5) by Rob Thurman: A
I really enjoyed Roadkill. This series is getting better in my opinion -- darker. There are two different points of view, although Niko's is not used in this one. Cal's character is further developed in this book and I like what Thurman is doing with him. Definitely. I wasn't sure where she was going with these characters after the last few books, but now this series has gained new momentum. Both touching and chilling, Roadkill was a great read for me.

Upcoming Review/Book Discussion at Breezing Through with Nath and Leslie 

5) Something About You by Julie James: B (Review here)

6) Naked Edge by Pamela Clare: C- (Review here)
This was my one big disappointment this month. I was really looking forward to this book because I'm a Pamela Clare fan. I loved both Extreme Exposure and Unlawful Contact, and to a lesser degree (I loved Julian, had problems with the rest) Hard Evidence... so this was a highly anticipated book. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way for me. I still think Pamela Clare does a marvelous job of integrating romance and suspense... she certainly knows how to write the suspense and yet the reader does NOT miss the romance. She also writes highly erotic scenes and none of these things went missing from Naked Edge. However, there were other elements in this book that didn't quite do it for me personally. But since I'm a fan of her writing, you know I will be reading the next book in this series. ;D

7) Lip Service by Susan Mallery (Titan Sisters Series, Book 2): C-
Lip Service by Susan Mallery is not a book I enjoyed much. I had a tough, tough time finishing it although I must say it was not due to Ms. Mallery's writing, it had to do with my dislike the characters and the plot. I didn't like the central female character in this book at all. Skye Titan is the second of the Titan sisters and she's a widow. When she was 18 years old she gave up her love for Mitch and betrayed him because her "daddy" told her to, and married the man her father chose for her. Mitch joined the service and now after many years away and a crippling injury during service he finally returns home. Skye and Mitch are obviously still in love with each other and Skye proceeds to do everything in her power to get him to forgive her and trust her again.

Well, that's fine and good, but I thought it was bad enough that she betrayed her love for Mitch the first time when she was 18 years old and had "daddy" issues. However, she's now a full grown, supposedly mature woman, and she's still spineless. After begging Mitch to forgive and trust her, as soon as "monster daddy" put a little pressure on her, she was ready to do it all over again. I had absolutely no respect or sympathy for this woman. She certainly didn't deserve Mitch's easy forgiveness -- a lot of begging maybe? Plus, there's really no resolution to the rest of the storylines in the book -- the sisters' struggles with their half-brother Garth -- because that continues throughout the rest of the series.

I did enjoy some secondary characters. I particularly liked Izzy, the youngest sister who is a hoot. Her story is next on this series and I already have it on my TBR so I'll be reading it. Step-brother Garth gets more and more intriguing as the storyline goes along and I can't wait to see what the deal is with him. I have his book too. :)

8) Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie StiefvaterB (Review here)

9) Demon Bound (Guardian Series, Book 9) by Meljean Brook: B (Review here)
A key book in this squee-worthy Paranormal Romance series -- yes I'm squeeing! This book has a creepy female lead and a wonderful young and exhuberant hero. There are important revelations and turns of event in this book that really move the overall storyarc forward, so this is a must read for this series. I have Demon Forged and I'll be reading it in April. :)

10) Dangerous Ground by Justine Dare: B-
Dangerous Ground by Justine Dare is a book I've had on my TBR for quite a while. It turned out to be more suspense than romance -- an interesting take on a woman, Beth, whose teenage son is kidnapped in order to attract her dead husband's old team of undercover operatives, so they can be assassinated. Beth had been in love with Jess, a team member, before marrying Ian, her dead husband, who was the leader of the group. Jess is still in love with Beth but is still carrying the same old baggage that broke up their relationship all those years ago.

Beth is spunky and quite the brave woman. Jess is likable and although he is supposed to be the cool customer, he comes off as vulnerable and I felt for him. They go through some harrowing moments together. Although this book doesn't have many sexual encounters and/or sexy scenes in it, these two people have a connection and the book is about the two of them working out their differences and coming to a realization while fighting the villains and figuring out the who and the what of it all.

11) Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson (re-read): B+
Upcoming Review

12) Dark Elves: Taken (Book 1) by Jet Mykles: B-
This is an erotic M/F erotic/paranormal tale that came to me via Tracy from Tracy's Place. I haven't read M/F erotica for a while except for Lorelei James and certainly nothing in the paranormal side of things. This was an okay read for me. It's first in a series by Mykles... Dark Elves who live in the Dark Forest and take human women to mate because they don't have their own females. The women then have sex with different Elves until they find their truemate who is the only one who can impregnate them. Lots of sex play, M/F mainly, although there's some M/M play... and some background into the world of the Dark Elves. The sexual encounters in this particular installment were of the dominant/submissive type and turned out to be quite erotic. I have the other books and will continue the series. :)

13) The Rules of Seduction by Madeline Hunter: B
Upcoming Review

14) Blaze of Memory (Psy/Changling Series) by Nalini Singh: B
Upcoming Review

15) Rebels and Lovers (Dock Five Series) by Linnea Sinclair: B
Upcoming Review

16) The Boy Can't Help It by Gavin Atlas (M/M): B+
Upcoming Review

17) Courting Miss Hattie by Pamela Morsi: A
Upcoming Review

18) Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb: B  'In Death' Challenge

Immortal in Death is my favorite book in this series so far. In this third book of the series, Eve faces multiple challenges on both her personal life and the professional front. She's juggling an unexpected wedding that still baffles her, childhood memories and brutal nightmares are plaguing her, plus not one but two cases are vying for her attention. The first case is the murder of one of her weasels who turns out to be involved in some sort of "illegals" (drug) distribution or trafficking; and the second case is the murder of a famous model. Her best friend Mavis is the main suspect and accused of this murder. Eve asks for Officer Peabody to assist her and a friendship of sorts ensues. The cases turn out to be complex and there are twists and turns with more than one suspect involved as well as three other brutal murders.

I really liked the complexity of the storylines in this book, both the suspense/murder plots and the personal ones between Eve and Roarke. I love the way Eve's mind works when she's solving the crimes, her sense of humor and her harsh reality-based personality. There was a bit of both the expected and the unexpected when it came to the crime solving and I really enjoyed that part of it. Eve's vulnerabilities certainly came to the forefront in this book and we get to know more about both Eve and Roarke and how they fit together.

The secondary characters in the series are now taking shape and I'm enjoying getting to know them and figuring out who is who. Summerset continues to be my favorite secondary character and certainly the most intriguing. I still think Mavis is good for Eve's girly side, but I'm glad that she is developing a relationship with Office Peabody, another female with a great dry sense of humor who can understand Eve's "cop" side. An enjoyable installment and HEY... Eve and Roarke got married! I can't wait to read the next book to find out if she got in trouble during the honeymoon, lol!

That's it for March. I have quite a few reviews to write up or post, let's see if I can do it. You might get lots of Minis from me in April, depending on available time. So, how was your reading month? Did you read lots of great books?

Coffee, Dessert, NJ Bloggers & Books

March was a long month for me... so many things happened that it just seemed to go on forever. It has been a tough first quarter for me personally in 2010 -- tough changes, family health issues and other events -- but, I'm hopeful things will get better, afterall Spring is here!

However, March ended on a high note for me. After many emails, scheduling and re-scheduling, I finally met three beautiful, sweet and wonderful New Jersey bloggers in person! Last Saturday, Christine (The happily ever after...), Mariana (Hips Like Mine), Natalie (Reading 2 Learn) and I met for coffee and dessert and had the best time discussing books, blogging and just getting to know each other. I'm afraid we didn't take pictures to share with you. :( We were all so busy talking, talking, talking none of us thought of it -- I know I didn't. After my tough month, I really needed that. Thank you ladies for driving all the way up to meet me!

I came home with some books too. :) Mariana was getting rid of some books and I chose a few (didn't want to be too greedy, lol). And, I borrowed a few books from Christine. Here they are:

Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Getting Lucky by Susan Andersen and Summer in Eclipse Bay by Jane Ann Krentz are all backlist books from these authors that I've been wanting to read, and for one reason or another didn't buy or get to yet. So now I have them!

I read Nora Roberts' Three Sisters Island Trilogy a looong time ago. At the time, I decided to exchange all three books at a used book store for other Nora Roberts books I wanted to read. Mistake! For years I've been meaning to buy them again so I can make them part of my Roberts collection and so I can re-read them, now I can. Thank you, Mariana!

AND, because I don't have enough to read, lol... Christine, sweetheart that she is, offered to lend me Stolen Fury, Stolen Heat and Stolen Seduction by Elisabeth Naughton. I've been wanting to read this author for quite a while and now I have the opportunity. Thank you, Christine!

Note ALL the books are contemporaries. I'm still craving those a contemporary romances as you'll see when I post my March reads list later on. :)

Meeting Christine, Mariana and Natalie was a great experience. It's amazing how we just all sat around and talked as if we had been doing so forever. It was lovely to experience how the love of books and reading can bring people together in such a comfortable way. Hopefully we'll be doing it again soon. :D