Thursday, September 30, 2010

Two-Fer Reviews: Ceremony In Death & Vengeance In Death by J.D. Robb

In Ceremony in Death, Eve is confronted with a few personal dilemmas after the death of a fellow police officer indicates he might have been dirty. While IAD requires the investigation, Eve becomes primary on a secret investigation where she must place Eve the cop before her personal feelings or loyalties. The investigation that takes her into an underworld filled with magic, a Satanic cult and the Wiccan religion.

I had a tough time getting through this book and was "stuck" at a certain point for a few months. I finally began re-reading it (again) and finished Ceremony in Death this month.

In Ceremony in Death, J.D. Robb explores the Wiccan religion, witchcraft and psychics in a futuristic world and I really enjoyed the way this particular part of the story was crafted and some of the secondary characters introduced - young Jamie, who loses his grandfather and sister to the Satanic cult, was a favorite.

The story itself takes quite a few twists and turns. Eve doesn't believe in magic or psychic powers and she is confronted with things she doesn't really want to understand. Roarke becomes her personal guard as she unknowingly places herself and others in danger while discovering the differences between white and black magic. Eve's personal loyalties are also questioned when she's asked to keep Feeney out of the investigation due to secrecy, placing her in an untenable position. This story had a few surprises for me. One of them was Eve's over-the-top treatment of a suspect while she was interviewing him. Sometimes I find that as an investigator, Eve can be purposefully blind when it suits her and the results are not always pretty.

Ceremony in Death ended up being a very good read for me, although not a favorite in the end. Although I enjoyed some of parts of the story, I was frustrated with Eve's lack of "vision" and her inability to consider other people's perspectives. J.D Robb highlighted Eve's weaknesses in this installment as an investigator: Eve's narrow views don't allow her to process facts and ideas clearly. Hopefully there will be further growth for her in future installments.

Genre: Sci-Fi Romance - Futuristic Police Procedural
Series: In-Death Series (Book #5)
Grade: B-

Vengeance in Death

In Vengeance in Death the title is perfect. Roarke's past comes roaring back with a vengeance as a killer starts by dismembering and disemboweling a man in a hotel room and calling Eve to solve a puzzle and the murder. Soon, as the bodies begin to pile up, Eve and Roarke come to the realization that all the dead are Roarke's old friends from his murky childhood in Ireland. What becomes quickly clear, as Summerset becomes the main suspect, is that Roarke is meant to be the killer's crowning glory in this game of revenge and murder.

One of the most violent and horror-filled books to this point, Vengeance in Death is also the book where Roarke's childhood and part of his past in Ireland is explored. This is a story full of tension and emotions, not only for Eve and Roarke, but also for their butler and Roarke's friend Summerset. In this story, Summerset's character is explored, as well as his relationship with Eve and Roarke.

This was an emotional read. There were moments when I didn't know who upset me more, Eve or Summerset -- they are both so stubborn, hardheaded and emotionally stunted, it's still tough to choose. Throughout this story there are times when Eve goes too far in her role as a cop, as does Summerset with his uptight prejudices. Neither gives an inch, no matter how much they hurt each other. At times, it was tough to read and to like or sympathize with either one of them. Instead, my sympathies went to Roarke who is clearly in the middle of two people he loves and who love him. That is not to say that J.D. Robb doesn't balance the scales. She does. Both Eve and Summerset work through tough issues in Vengeance in Death, as does Roarke, and all three make this an exciting read.

Great new secondary character introduced in this book? McNab, the new EDD computer geek who has the hots for Officer Peabody. I love the competitiveness between the two and McNab's easy way with both Eve and Roarke.

Vengeance in Death is my favorite book in the series so far. I really enjoyed the roller-coaster emotional ride the characters go through, while Eve and her team race to solve the mystery. The suspense in this book kept me involved throughout and the final outcome fits perfectly with the overall story. Eve and Roarke have some highly charged scenes in this book as well and those were not lost on me either. The fact that some light was finally shed into Roarke's past is a definite plus. And last, but not least, I love the way J.D. Robb continues to weave the futuristic aspects of her world into this series seamlessly, including them without overwhelming the story with too many details.

Genre: Sci-Fi Romance - Futuristic Police Procedural
Series: In-Death Series (Book #6)
Grade: B+ 

Visit J.D. Robb here.

Christine's In-Death Reading Challenge - September Reviews

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thoughts on Banned Books Week

It's National Banned Books Week (September 25 - October 2, 2010). This is a subject that resonates with me personally. I was born and until age 12 lived in a society where books were (and still are) heavily censored. So as a young adult, and to this day, having the freedom to pick up a book, any book, of my own choosing that focuses on subjects both orthodox and unorthodox, is a joy. It is a right that I value highly, treasure daily and one that I want my children and grandchildren to have in the future.

The American Library Association put together lists of the Top 100 Challenged books by decade for 1990-1999 and 2000-2009, plus the Banned Classics List. After going through all three lists, I noticed that although I haven't read many of the titles in the first two lists noted, I have read about half of the books included in the Banned Classics List, and still own most of them.

I couldn't help but notice that even in the 2000-2009 list, classics that influenced my younger years were included: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and a book that I re-read this month and discussed in one of my weekly reads posts, A Separate Peace by John Knowles. They even include some later titles that I still love and own such as The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende and Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. Of course these stories might not be for everyone, but they are valuable to many including me.

I've had Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez on my list of books to buy and read for a while, but didn't realize it was also on a list of Banned/Challenged books. What about you? Have you read any of the books included on these lists? Do you make a point of reading banned books?

Check out posts on National Banned Books Week at Lurv a la Mode and Leslie's Psyche.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cowboys & More Cowboys!

I mentioned in my last weekly post that I was reading Kathleen Eagle's, Once A Father and as it turned out I took it with me on my vacation, well.. that story stayed with me. In that same post I mentioned Wendy's great post Contemporary Cowboys: The New Black? and sure enough that also stayed in my mind throughout last week. I'm a huge fan of westerns, cowboys and ranchers, both in historical and contemporary romances. I've already read or have some of the books Wendy highlighted in my "to be read" pile... but there's more, Wendy said! So when I returned home I went hunting..., and sure enough I found some. :D

In addition to Kathleen Eagle's series and the great books Wendy posted, I found a few upcoming October releases by the Harlequin Silhouette Special Editions line that caught my eye. There are more out there, but I think the following are great additions. These authors have some great backlists, and the upcoming books are part of series about well-loved cowboys and ranchers. Well, the contemporary type, anyway.

Kathleen Eagle

Once a Father is the fourth book and Kathleen Eagle's new addition to her latest contemporary Western American series. The first book in this series features a sheriff, the second a washed-up rodeo cowboy, the third a Native American medicine man, or rodeo physician's assistant, and this last story an "Indian cowboy" as a hero. The female protagonists are also quite interesting: a hardworking nurse, two female ranchers and an army sargeant. So if you enjoy this current release, there are three other books out there to read and hopefully love. In order:
  • In Care of Sam Beaudry - 2010 RITA Award Finalist
  • One Cowboy, One Christmas
  • Cool Hand Hank
  • Once a Father - September 2010 release
You can visit Kathleen Eagle at her website for more information on her impressive backlist.

As far as October goes, Silhouette Special Edition has a quite a few new releases about those glorious cowboys and ranchers we all love. I'm highlighting three of them.

RaeAnne Thayne

New October 2010 Release

From RaeAnne Thayne, a personal favorite, there's a new release and the last book about the Wilder Ranch from her latest Cowboys of Cold Creek trilogy. In order:
  • A Cold Creek Homecoming 
  • A Cold Creek Secret
  • A Cold Creek Babyexcerpt here.
I've read a few of the older books from this series and enjoyed them and Thayne's writing style. I already have "A Cold Creek Homecoming" and will read it soon. Now I just need to catch up and purchase both "A Cold Creek Secret" and "A Cold Creek Baby." :)

You can find a complete list of RaeAnne Thane's Cowboys of Cold Creek series and other books by visiting her website.

Crystal Green

New October 2010 Release

From Crystal Green, there's a new addition to the Montana Mavericks: Thunder Canyon Cowboys series. This is the fourth installment in a continuity series written by different authors. In order:
  • McFarlane’s Perfect Bride by Christine Rimmer  
  • Taming the Montana Millionaire by Teresa Southwick 
  • From Doctor…to Daddy by Karen Rose Smith
  • When the Cowboy Said, “I Do” by Crystal Green - Excerpt here.
AND, if you like the Harlequin Blaze line, this author has a tempting back title that I'll definitely be checking out, featuring a sexy cowboy... One for the Road. Excerpt here.

You can find out more about Crystal Green, plus a complete list of her books by visiting her website here.

Lois Faye Dyer

New October 2010 Release
And from Lois Faye Dyer you can get in on the first book of what looks like the start of the new Big Sky Brothers miniseries. This looks like a great story about the prodigal cowboy returning to the ranch and his old love. It's set in Montana, one of my favorite places! So yeah... definitely going to get this one. :)
  • Cade Coulter's Return - summary here.
Additionally, Lois Faye Dyer has other series and single title books featuring ranchers/cowboys including a series she began writing in 2006 and was still actively adding titles to in 2009, The McClouds of Montana.

You can find a list of those titles by visiting Lois Faye Dyer's website here.

I think that's plenty to keep me happy for a little while. :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hi! Back from the Shore!

Sunset Walk
Hi everyone! Thank you all for the lovely send off and the great wishes. I'm back from my brief time away... I had a lovely time and except for a couple of cloudy and breezy days, the weather was fantastic! Hot and sunny days and cool evenings. Lovely.

I didn't do much more than vegetate and take walks in the mornings, during sunset and one evening during the full moon. That night the beach was so bright, a flashlight was not needed. The sight was so beautiful I wish I'd been able to capture it to share with you.

I came back just in time, it's raining today and it seems as if Fall was just waiting for my last day to arrive to make itself felt -- great break for me. :)

I did take a few pictures and as you can see, Long Beach Island, New Jersey is a beauty of nature and my favorite place when visiting the Shore. It's beautiful and quaint.

Seagulls at the Jetty

Seagrass and Roses

The Lighthouse

Dunes and Seagrass

Dunes at Sunset

As far as reading goes, did I read while I was there? Well... not really... can you believe it? I really DID take a break from it all! I finished Once A Father by Kathleen Eagle, and quickly skimmed Shamara by Catherine Spangler (re-read), a 2001 sci-fi romance from a favorite series -- I'll tell you all about those books later -- I wasn't in the mood for reading. Instead, I enjoyed nature, great conversation, walks and music. I went on this little jaunt with two of my brothers and had a wonderful time with them. But now with the rainy days of Autumn ahead, I look forward to reading and getting back to the daily routine. It's good to be back.

As you can see I didn't read much last week, what about you?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hilcia's Weekly Reads, and Gone Swimming...

Down to the Jersey Shore I go...

See you all in a week or so. :D

I'm taking a well-earned personal and blogging, end of summer break! In the meantime I'll leave you with my weekly reads post -- it's a long one, so you can take your time reading it. *g* I seem to be on a reading roll this month and don't want to fall behind.

I began my week by reading a few Linda Howard books I have on my TBR pile. My first pick was the suspense romance, Up Close and Dangerous. This was not a favorite. Bailey, a rich young widow in charge of her spoiled adult stepchildren's trustfunds and Cam, pilot and co-owner of the plane, crash on a mountain, survive, find out the plane crash was no accident, and fall in love. This book is more about survival after a plane crash than anything else. The romance was lukewarm at best, there was no real tension or suspense to the story, and the ending was rushed and a disappointment. The characters are likable and there are still moments where Howard's talent for writing great dialogue is present, plus survival details are provided in spades, but hmm... not a favorite. Grade C

Followed up with two short stories by Linda Howard. The first one was Blue Moon from the anthology Under the Boardwalk. In this short, Sheriff Jackson Brody is lured to rescue Lilah, a reclusive woman who's thought to be a witch and might be in danger. His trip down the Southern bayou river, during a hot and humid Summer day will lead him to a lover and murder. This short story was fast, electric and although not quite suspenseful, I thought it was a good short, Summer read. Grade B-

The second short by Linda Howard I chose was Overload from the Summer Sensations anthology. Tom and Elizabeth get caught up and locked down in their office building during a blackout that lasts about 24 hours. These two are ex-lovers but haven't seen each other for about six months. Tom will do anything to get her back, and Elizabeth just wants to keep her control. Well now... this story is HOT! And not just because of the heatwave that caused the overload and the blackout, lol! Overload is basically all about Tom and Elizabeth working out their issues, but Howard doesn't skimp on the sexual tension or the steamy scenes either. Pheww! Grade B

I then switched to some M/M Romance re-reads and kept Mariana company for a a bit longer during her Re-read Month. I began my re-reads with StarCrossed 1: Demon Tailz and StarCrossed 2: Opposite Ends of the Spectrum by Reno MacLeod and Jaye Valentine. Considered Paranormal/Horror the first two books in this series are my favorite and perfect pre-Halloween reads!

In Demon Tailz involving the demon Jace Burton and hunter Cash Rowan is the creepiest of the two. Cash is in pain and Jace is attracted to his darkness. From there a tale of love, loss and horror unfolds. In Opposite Ends of the Spectrum, MacLeod and Valentine continue their series by having a sex demon and an angel fall in love while held captive by humans. Jace Burton again makes an appearance and provides some of the darkness in this installment, as he's not your every day type of demon. However reading between the lines, the real monsters in this story are the humans. I love the thick, heavy atmosphere found in both these books and the pop and sizzle I get from the unexpected. Even when I knew what was going to happen, the suspense was still there... and the shock no less effective. For better enjoyment I listen to Darkness, Darkness by the Youngbloods while reading Demon Tailz, this song is highlighted in the book and the lyrics fit perfectly! Both books, Grade: B+

I continued my M/M Romance re-reads with two lighter romances by Amanda Young: Reckless Seduction and Reckless Behavior. I love a good May/December story and this is a good one. This is the romance between Cody and Dante. Cody is a young man who knows what he wants and goes after it in Reckless Seduction, and I still like the way Amanda Young writes the continuation of their story in Reckless Behavior, there's conflict and doubt between the couple, but it's not over done. Plus we can't forget that Dante is one hot dude! Combined Grade: B

And finished up my M/M Romance re-reads with an all time favorite, Tabula Rasa by Tori Temple. Cowboys, I love my cowboys! Teagan needs a heeler to join the rodeo and Cash is the man. They hit it off between the sheets, but Cash doesn't want more than that. After an argument and a misunderstanding, their affair comes to an end but their partnership continues. After Cash has an accident and suffers partial memory loss, Teag takes him home to his ranch and a real relationship evolves. But what will happen when Cash returns to normal? There's just something about Teagan and Cash that I love... maybe it's the way Teag falls for Cash without meaning to, the hurt and most of all the hope. His willingness to take what he can, while he can have it. I loved this story. Grade B+

I then switched to a category romance and read the fourth installment in Fiona Brand's SAS/Lombard series (2001), Marrying McCabe. I've read the first three books in this series and loved them. This is the story about the sister, Roma Lombard and Ben McCabe one of her brother's SAS friends. Someone tried to kill Roma and her brother Gray hires Ben as her bodyguard. This was one STEAMY book! The suspense was really well done and I enjoyed that part of it. McCabe and Roma fall in lust with each other immediately and then after that it's lust to love pretty quickly. There's a lack of communication between the two that's not quite resolved by the end. But what disturbed me about this book was the way condoms are addressed. Roma seems to have a problem with them... a BIG problem - she thinks of them as "dehumanizing." This condom theme is carried through for a while and truthfully I couldn't put it aside. Condoms weren't portrayed as being the "responsible" thing to do, but as kind of a dehumanizing, icky barrier used as a wall between a man and a woman. Her thoughts on this subject pulled me out of key scenes more than once. Grade C

And finished the week with Truly, Madly by Heather Webber! Review to come...

I'm actually reading a Silhouette Special Edition, Once a Father by Kathleen Eagle at the moment and will also review that book. The hero is a Native American cowboy and the heroine an army sergeant. Doesn't that sound like an interesting pairing? ETA: I saw this book and immediately thought of Wendy's blog post Contemporary Cowboys: The New Black? Check it out, I think it's true! At least I hope so. ;P

What are you all reading? I'm taking lots of books with me, let's see if they get read. :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Review: Burning Up by Susan Andersen

Though it's been years since the infamous Macy O'James stepped foot in Sugarville, Washington, everyone remembers what she supposedly did. The tiny town is still buzzing about her crime and lack of punishment.

Now back to lend her family a hand, Macy vows to hold her head high—especially at her high school reunion. But forget about the hottest man in Sugarville escorting her. Though she and fire chief Gabriel Donovan generate enough sparks to burn down the town, he's a law-abiding, line-toeing straight arrow. So not her type.

But maybe—just maybe—he can change her mind about that.
I'm going to begin by saying that my first reaction when I flipped that last page to Susan Andersen's latest contemporary romance Burning Up was "that was such a fun book!"

Macy O'James is returning to Sugarville, Washington to temporarily care for her cousin Janna. She left town right after graduation and made a success of her life as a music video star. Unfortunately, although she considers Sugarville her home, there won't be a welcome mat for Macy. A gorgeous woman with a body and face that make men drool, she was the victim of nasty rumors back in High School that began when she rejected a popular jock. But our Macy doesn't wear her heart on her sleeve and instead of shying away she dressed up to kill, rubbed her assets on everyone's faces, and let them all talk and wonder. That's our Macy! Of course there was also the car accident where three jocks were hurt... and Macy was the one behind the wheel of the car that hit them.

The situations presented in the plot are not necessarily new and some of the characters have a familiar feel to them at times, however it's all in the execution and Andersen definitely does that well in this novel. Macy is one of those characters, except that with Macy what you first see is not necessarily what you get. As Macy returns to town years later, she seems to be the same old girl, rubbing everyone the wrong way and flaunting her looks around the insular little town of Sugarville, the more bizarre her outfits the better. Andersen then proceeds to develop this character's public persona, as well as the real, vulnerable Macy as seen only by her family and close friends.

When Macy first drives into town, the first person she meets is the new fire chief, Gabriel Donovan and by the look in his eyes, she can tell exactly what he's thinking... "here's trouble." Gabriel is definitely attracted to Macy, but she's right... he immediately places her in the category of a "party girl" and decides to stay away from her. He's the type of man who's done sowing his wild oats, making mistakes and is ready to settle down with a nice, sweet woman. Gabriel is an uptight, stick-in-the mud who makes assumptions at-a-glance about Macy based on her looks and initially treats her accordingly.

And the fun begins! The best part of this book for me was reading how Macy drives Gabriel crazy and then how he goes from being uptight and reluctant, to a desperate, hot, steamy sexy man. The dialogue between the central characters is excellent and it's what made Burning Up a fun contemporary romance. Andersen uses sexual tension as a build up to the steamy sexual scenes that top it all off.

There is a secondary romance that was developed rather too quickly and although it provided some fun moments, I'm afraid it didn't quite hold my attention. Gabriel does get to show off his skills as a fire chief during an arson investigation and I thought that part of the storyline fit well with the rest. The secondary characters were a wonderful addition to the story, especially Sheriff Johnny and Macy's cousin Janna.

Burning Up is a well developed, hot and steamy, fun contemporary romance with a female protagonist I truly liked. Set in a small town, with judging and preconceived ideas that are shattered, some old plotting devices cleverly used by the author and great secondary characters, this is a book I really enjoyed.

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: None
Released: August 31, 2010
Source: Requested from NetGalley
Grade: Solid B

Visit Susan Andersen here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Release - Tented: Gay Erotic Tales from under the Big Top edited by Jerry L. Wheeler

Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Step right up and read stories both salacious and miraculous! Only fifteen dollars for the Grand Tour of Tented! That's three fins to meet the Great Masturbator! Three Lincolns to explore a post–apocalyptic future where every clown has his very own catamite! Yes, my friends, these stories are guaranteed to amaze, beguile, and captivate. That's the ABC's, my boy. Stay close, you might learn something.

We have acrobats ready to assume positions, knife–throwers blade in–hand, the stickiest cotton candy around, and a Hall of Mirrors to reflect your deepest desires!

Okay, you all know I love my anthologies, right? Here's a new release from Lethe Press I couldn't help but feature. How could I?  Tented: Gay Erotic Tales from under the Big Top edited by Jerry L. Wheeler.

There's the great cover that fits perfectly with the title and that blurb! However, the big draw to this anthology is that it includes excellent writers: Gavin Atlas, Steve Berman, 'Nathan Burgoine, Tom Cardamone, Dale Chase, Hank Edwards, William Holden, Sean Meriweather and more...  hmmm... definitely a tempting anthology. ;)

You can find it here and here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hilcia's Weekly Reads

I hope you've all had a terrific week. It's been a while since I've done my weekly reads post... about a year actually, but last week was a bit special and I decided to highlight it. Last month, my friend Mariana of Hips Like Mine announced that she was making September "Re-Reads Month." Although I'm not joining her for a whole month's worth of re-reads, I decided to at least keep her company for one week. Of course, I sneaked in a couple of new books too, (I couldn't help myself, lol) but for the most part I achieved my goal.

Since I'm also participating in Nath's Re-Read Challenge, this works out perfectly, don't you think? So, this month I'm killing two birds with one stone by posting some tiny-Minis in a weekly post style while I join Mariana in her Re-Read Month, and for Nath's Challenge. :D

As my first re-read I chose Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas. I love her Bow Street Runner series and Sir Ross happens to be a favorite in that category. This story begins with sexual overtones and thoughts and as the story unfolds the attraction builds between Sophia and Ross. Sophia's purpose behind working for Ross, who is a magistrate, is to gather information and avenge the death of her brother, but that doesn't last long. Frankly this whole story is really based on the sexual attraction between Sophia and Ross, and the conflicts between them are solved quickly along the way. However, I did enjoy the sexual tension between the two and I love a male protagonist who goes from being a stick in the mud to hot, sexy and passionate. That's Sir Ross! Plus Nick Gentry is introduced in this book.. :D Grade B.

After that, I totally changed gears and re-read A Separate Peace by John Knowles. This is young adult coming of age, classic American novel set in a New England prep school during World War II. I read this book years ago and have re-read it a few times, it's a favorite. The story of Gene, the intellectual, and Pheneas, the athelete, two young men who are roommates and great friends. This is a short book and an amazingly well written story. Knowles begins with a small, seemingly innocent incident that culminates in a tragedy. Through Gene's point of view, the author develops a story that delves into the dark side of human nature and subtly draws a parallel to those dark days in WWII, while simultaneously providing the reader with few light moments. There are some subtle homoerotic undertones to the story and unexpected depth to Gene, Finny and secondary characters. Grade A

Although A Separate Peace is a favorite, it always leaves me a bit down when I finish reading it. I needed an uplifting read afterwards, and chose to re-read a book that makes me laugh and has a happy ending, Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger. I reviewed this book already, so this is not going to be a mini. However, I'll say that this was the first time I read the book in print and it was a joy! My experience with Klugler's epistolary style was definitely enriched by reading this book in print vs. my first time around with the ebook format. And of course, I haven't changed my mind about the story itself and was left with a big smile and the warm fuzzies when I finished the book, so mission accomplished. :D Grade A

From there I went on to re-read Cullen's Bride by Fiona Brand! This was Fiona Brand's first category romance (1999) and the first book in her SAS series. It's a wonderful book set in New Zealand with a hot, bad boy hero whose childhood was hell! He pulled himself through, left town and came back to work the family farm. Rachel is a strong woman and female protagonist. She grew up with her father and four brothers after her mom died, so she knows what it's like to deal with overly macho and protective males. I loved their story. There's a bit of a mystery and lots of fighting of feelings on Cullen's part while Fiona fights for them. Brand's writing was excellent in this book with great characterization and plotting, plus her descriptions of the setting pulled me right into the story. I felt as if I were right there with Rachel and Cullen experiencing the storms, floods and breezes in the farm or the town. Grade B+

This is where I read two new books Ceremony in Death and Vengeance in Death by J.D. Robb, but those books are for Christine's Challenge, so that's okay, right? ;P Reviews for those books to come later.

And last, but certainly not least, I finished off my re-reading week with Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard. This is a suspense romance book I love. Sam and Jaine are favorite characters -- the dialogue and interaction between them always make me laugh, plus they have some sizzling hot, sexy moments and Jaine's peeping tom scene through her kitchen window is a classic! The friendship between the four friends, the "List" and again the dialogue are just so well done by Howard, I fell in love with the four women. There's depth, but there's also such lightness and humor to those parts of the story and the romance that I think that's what made the violence and the killings more shocking. The killer wasn't really scary, smart or mysterious... but the previously mentioned sense of shock provided the true horror to Mr. Perfect. Grade A-

That does it for my reads this week and re-reads this month, I think. :) What about you? What did you read this week?

Mariana's September Re-Read Month
Nath's 2010 Re-Read Challenge
KMont's 2010 Historical Reading Challenge -September Minis:
A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Minis: Soul Mates Series (Books 1, 2, 3) by Jourdan Lane

For the M/M Romance Challenge, I read the Soul Mates series by Jourdan Lane, Books 1 through 3: Bound by Blood, Deception and Sacrifice. I don't usually read M/M Paranormal Romance, so this was a bit off the beaten path for me.

Bound by Blood got my attention and I just had to know what was going to happen between the main characters Peter and Colin, but even with that curiosity pulling at me, I wasn't thrilled with the series as a whole. The first book was the best read for me, Peter a human bartender and Colin, a vampire who falls in love and takes him into his world of vampires, werewolves, and other shapeshifters. Colin is the head of his Coven and chooses Peter as his mate. This book sets up a world full of shapeshifter action, with lots of hot, sexy scenes and a romance between Peter and Colin that I enjoyed. At this point I definitely wanted to go on reading the series.

My problem with this series began with Book #2, Deception. The plot was all over the place and there were times when I just didn't know where the story was going. I didn't know what the heck happened but it definitely was not to my liking. Peter and Lucien began having relationship problems, as Peter wanted to be turned into a vampire and Lucien refused to turn him. Peter's answer is to have sex with the males he finds attractive (which at one point seems to be everyone around), but he wants Lucien to be faithful to him. In other words, he wants his cake and wants to eat it too. Ugh! There's also a storyline where there's a betrayal by a very close friend. In Deception, Peter turns into this spoiled character that has tantrums every other minute and this drove me crazy. His characterization is inconsistent, one minute he seemed tough and the next a total spoiled brat, and frankly, I couldn't understand why everyone in the Coven thought he was such a hot tamale.

I read the 3rd book, Sacrifice, just to find out what the heck Peter was going to turn out to be... but truthfully he was really on my nerves by that point, although I still liked Colin and some of the secondary characters. Peter is bitten by a werewolf and his body seems to be dying... he's not turning into a vampire or a werewolf so there's a question and a mystery there. This is the only thing that kept me reading at this point. Some scenes were quite tough to read, especially when his body's dying and he's half out of it and all of a sudden you know there's another threesome or sexual scene involving Peter in the offing. What the heck? Wasn't he just dying? But he has enough energy for a threesome? Really? The mystery of Peter's turning is resolved by the end, although of course there are some threads left hanging that are picked up in the next book.

After reading the first three books in the Soul Mates series, I found that there's only one real monster and that is the "Green Eyed" one: Jealousy. It is the cause of all the petty shit that goes on. I've never seen such a big bunch of needy, jealous men who are supposedly Alpha and all that... but that well... are not. [Sigh]

But if I'm really going to be honest with you all, what really frustrated me about this series was the fact that although I was frustrated with the weaknesses in the storyline and the characterization, I couldn't stop reading the darn books! LOL! Yes... this is one of those series that catches you unaware and gets you all hooked and next thing you know, like crack or candy on a stick, you can't stop reading it no matter what. Huh!

Genre: M/M Paranormal Romance
Series: Soul Mates (Books 1,2,3)
Series Grade: C

Visit Jourdan Lane here.

Anesthezea's 2010 M/M Romance Challenge

Monday, September 6, 2010

Minis: Linnea Sinclair, Loretta Chase, Lorelei James

I read the following books during the past month that I didn't get the chance to review them. One has been in my TBR for quite a long time and the other two are new releases, but all three are from favorite authors. Since I'm behind all my reviews, I figure it's time for a few mini-impressions. :)

The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair
In this steamy, suspenseful new novel from RITA Award–winning author Linnea Sinclair, a dangerously sexy space commander and an irresistibly earthy Florida police detective pair up to save the civilized galaxy . . . but can they save themselves from each other?

Bahia Vista homicide detective Theo Petrakos thought he’d seen it all. Then a mummified corpse and a room full of futuristic hardware sends Guardian Force commander Jorie Mikkalah into his life. Before the night’s through, he’s become her unofficial partner—and official prisoner—in a race to save the earth. And that’s only the start of his troubles.

Jorie’s mission is to stop a deadly infestation of biomechanical organisms from using Earth as its breeding ground. If she succeeds, she could save a world and win a captaincy. But she’ll need Theo’s help, even if their unlikely partnership does threaten to set off an intergalactic incident.

Because if she fails, she’ll lose not just a planet and a promotion, but a man who’s become far more important to her than she cares to admit.

I finally read The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair -- scifi/romance. This was definitely different from her other books. Most of the story is set on Earth, not out in space. It's actually quite an amusing story... and if you're a Trekkie, you'll recognize the tongue-in-cheek basis of the story. The zombies are NOT the type of zombies we think of... they're bio engineered space-monsters. There's a female commander, who with her team, comes to save the earth from zombies and in the process meets a male detective from earth who unwittingly becomes involved in the saving. There's lots of action, and of course a romance develops between the two main characters. Although there's romance, don't expect an excess of erotic scenes, the action/adventure takes precedence in this story. There are other Sinclair books I've enjoyed much more, however as always I did enjoy the action and romance and the subtle humor is a plus in The Down Home Zombie Blues. Grade B

Last Night's Scandal by Loretta Chase
After surviving the perils of Egypt, Peregrine Dalmay, Earl of Lisle, is back in London, facing the most dire threat of all: his irrational family . . . and Miss Olivia Wingate-Carsington. A descendant of notorious—but very aristocratic—swindlers, the delectable redhead has the ability to completely unhinge him and a long history of dragging him into her scandalous schemes.

Olivia may be Society's darling, but she's aware a respectable future looms menacingly. And so when Lisle is forced to go on a family mission, she sees this as the perfect chance for one last adventure—even if it is with the one man in the world she can't wrap around her finger. But really, she only wants to help . . .

Which is why Lisle and Olivia find themselves in a gloomy Scottish castle inhabited by spiteful ghosts and craven murderers . . . and a shocking secret: the greatest peril of all may be burning within their own stubborn hearts.
Last Night's Scandal by Loretta Chase is another book I read and enjoyed. Although not outstanding by any means, it turned out to be a fun read after all. Olivia and Lisle were a nice couple -- friends first... actually friends always, and then lovers. I liked the way this couple ultimately came to realize that despite the differences in their personalities, they couldn't keep their hands off each other because they couldn't live without each other. I enjoyed their fights and the dialogue, which switched back and forth from being mature to immature throughout the story. Olivia was quite DRAMATIC and Lisle definitely needed her and some of that drama in his life. This was a book I enjoyed, but not one that wowed me in the end. Grade B

Corralled: A Blacktop Cowboys Novel by Lorelei James
Sports therapist Lainie Capshaw has been rehabilitating injured cowboys long enough to know that a charming western drawl combined with a fine physical form doesn't mean you fall for the man.

So no one is more surprised than Lainie when she finds herself involved with not one, but two different men: Hank Lawson, a bullfighter, and Kyle Gilchrist, a bull rider. Lainie feels guilty about her two-timing, but it doesn't keep her from doubling her fun-that is until Hank catches her with Kyle.

She's shocked that Hank isn't mad. But she's more shocked to learn Hank and Kyle are hometown buddies. But when the men offer to share her-in every way-she knows that she's going to have to choose the one man who can give her the ride of her life...
Corralled is the latest release by Lorelei James, and the first book in her new Blacktop Cowboys series. This is the story of Lainie, Hank and Kyle -- an M/F/M -- and pretty much a threesome that takes place while on a road trip, with a "happily ever after." Hank and Kyle are with the rodeo and Lainie is with the medical team that attends to the rodeo cowboys when they're injured.

I usually love the way James writes threesomes because she doesn't make them feel like triangles and nobody gets left out, plus she writes really sexy and erotic scenes with a story behind it all. However, with this story the relationship between the three DID feel like a triangle. Although Lainie was ready and willing to go into the threesome and didn't seem to prefer one man to the other, the men themselves were competing for her affection. Their true purpose in entering the threesome was to gain her love and have her choose one of them in the end. There was jealousy and a push and pull to this story that didn't sit well with me. So, although Corralled is not my favorite story by Lorelei James, I do think it's a good beginning to her new series as it introduces some great characters and I look forward to reading the rest of the series. Grade B-

Friday, September 3, 2010

NJ Bloggers Meet, and a Mini-Haul

August is over and so are the lazy days of vacations and summer!

Last month was definitely a lazy month for me -- fast reading and slow-blogging -- but I did do at least one exciting bookish thing. Last week, our small New Jersey bloggers group met again. Christine, Mariana, Natalie and I met at the Cheesecake Factory Restaurant in Edison, New Jersey for dinner, yummy desserts and a long afternoon and early evening of conversation where we exchanged thoughts and books. Afterwards we went to the Barnes and Noble next door and had a wonderful time browsing and book shopping.

Of course we all forgot to take pictures -- again! It's too bad because all the ladies looked great, especially Christine who looks fantastic, all the biking and jogging really paid off. :D

Did I buy anything? A tiny haul, lol! This time Mariana gave me a copy of Tangled Up in You by Rachel Gibson, and although Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair is already part of my TBR in ebook format, I decided to purchase a print copy. I've come to the conclusion that I prefer reading Sci-Fi in print. So there were only two new releases in my mini-haul. :D

Thank you ladies for everything, I had a wonderful time!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

August 2010 Reads

August was an average reading month for me -- although I couple of great books there were no big surprises and no deep disappointments. That's good, right?

But wait, that's not quite right! I would like to highlight one short story I thought was excellent -- Here There Be Monsters by Meljean Brook included in the Burning Up Anthology: Grade A-.  That story certainly stands out and now I'm really looking forward to reading The Iron Duke and the whole series. :)

As for the rest of my reads, here's the summary for August:

Total books read: 16
New Reads: 14
Re-reads: 2

Favorite new reads this month:
I loved Cardamone's story "River Boy" in Labonte's Country Boys: Wild Gay Erotica Anthology when I first read it last year, and both the story and characters  (River Boy and Skink) stayed with me. I've been looking for something by this author and was happy when I found Pumpkin Teeth, a collection of his short stories. I was not disappointed.  
Cardamone's writing style is creative and the stories and characters are quite unusual. There's horror and fantasy with the exploration of sexuality as its core, "Tank" & "Suitcase Sam" are already favorites. He finishes some stories and leaves others with ambiguous endings that left this reader thinking and wondering more than once -- I'll definitely be re-reading some of them. Other stories stayed with me for their shocking and nightmarish qualities. I'm not into horror and this collection kept me riveted, that says a lot in my book. Category: LGBTQI Horror Released: October 23, 2009 by Lethe Press Books 

Burning Up by Susan Andersen (Upcoming Review)
One Season of Sunshine by Julia London: B
Not Without Her Family by Beth Andrews: C+
His Secret Agenda by Beth Andrews: C
The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair: B
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan (Upcoming Buddy Review)
Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley: C
New Normal by Jeffrey Ricker: B
Burning Up Angela Knight, Nalini Singh, Virginia Kantra, Meljean Brook: B
Love Me If You Dare by Carly Phillips (Upcoming Review)
Corralled by Lorelei James: B-
Demon from the Dark by Kresley Cole: B-
Rising Tides (Quinn Brothers Trilogy, #2) by Nora Roberts (Re-read): B+
Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas (Re-read): A

What about you? Did you have a favorite book, a big surprise or disappointment in August?