Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday to Friday: Snowball in Hell & Josh Lanyon Reading Marathon

Last Friday I was home for the day. It was a beautiful day of rest and I decided to spend the day relaxing by reading a few of Josh Lanyon's LGBT mystery and/or crime detective stories.

Snowball in Hell (Doyle and Spain, Book 1)

I began my Lanyon marathon by picking up his latest release, Snowball in Hell. Setting 1940's Los Angeles during WW II. A Los Angeles detective and a journalist with a death wish investigate the kidnapping and murder of a wealthy man. Our journalist, Doyle, becomes the main suspect while trying to keep his sexuality a secret. Certain aspects of this story fall under the "noir" category: the setting, time period, sexual motives behind some of the actions, some of the secondary characters and incidents, and certainly the atmosphere created by Mr. Lanyon. However, the main characters -- the detective and the journalist -- are not gritty enough to make this a completely dark crime detective story.

The story is successful on different fronts, the murder mystery is well done with all those small details picked up by the writer and no threads left open ended. Red herrings are used as a device, but nothing is outlandish and everything makes sense in this story. The investigation follows a logical pattern and I liked the way it stayed in the forefront together with the developing relationship between Detective Spain and Doyle.

The relationship between Spain and Doyle is based on mutual attraction, suspicion and fear at first. Doyle seems to "fall" fast and hard for Spain, while Spain on the other hand takes longer to own up to the attraction. Surpringly, although he's a widower and has never had a "relationship" with a man, Spain is also the one with the coolest head. Mr. Lanyon portrays a self-destructive Doyle who can't come to terms with his sexuality and the limitations it places in his life, and whose suffering is heart wrenching in this story. There's no real "resolution" to this relationship in the end, although Mr. Lanyon leaves it on a positive note that I'm sure he'll address in the follow-up books in the series.

Where I thought the novel was less successful was in its portrayal of secondary characters. They are not well defined and felt more like outline drawings that lacked shading and depth. I'm sure there will be further development for the recurring characters in this series and look forward to that. In summary I think this is another solid beginning by Mr. Layon to a series that is rich in atmosphere with a fascinating couple as central characters. Grade B

Dangerous Ground (Dangerous Ground, #1)

I went on to read Dangerous Ground, a contemporary thriller romance by Mr. Lanyon. Now this one was a bit of a surprise and I thought it was bit different from other books I've read by this author. The two main characters are investigators that stumble into a crime scene while camping out. The story takes place entirely on a mountain as the two main characters try to resolve their personal problems while trying to avoid getting killed by the villains. I enjoyed the different setting and some of the thrilling action, and there is a rather erotic scene in a hot spring that was quite steamy. However, neither the characters nor romance really caught or kept my attention and I didn't enjoy it as much as other books I've read by this author. Grade C

The French Have a Word

I continued my marathon by reading the short story, The French Have a Word. A man is in France and meets an old friend who during his young adulthood was his bodyguard. Trust. That's basically what this little short story is all about. Trust and love. This story is very short and not quite as satisfying or complete a read as the rest of Mr. Lanyon's works (short stories) have been for me. Grade C

Slings and Arrows (Petit Morts, #2)

And I finished the day with another solid by picking up Slings and Arrows. This novella by Mr. Lanyon is set in a college campus and all the players are college students going through big changes in their lives. The story takes place during the Valentine Day holiday and it involves a stalker.

The main character is a young man who is making decisions about his life that don't necessarily mesh with that of his old roommate or friends. His career goals have changed and that unsettles some of his friends. Now the man that he's attracted to is also not one that his friends like either. This man's personality is not overly attractive or easily understood by his peers. I liked the way these characters were portrayed. The youth and the passion, plus the doubts and lack of confidence that go along with that youth, were all captured quite nicely by Mr. Lanyon. Grade B

I had such a wonderful Friday with Mr. Lanyon's books that I picked up a few more on Saturday, but that's another post. :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday Review: Slow Dancing on Price's Pier by Lisa Dale

A family learns that time can erase mistakes when the heart remains true- from a refreshing new storyteller.

Fifteen years ago, Garret Sorensen's family, trust, and heart were destroyed when Thea Celik betrayed him and married his brother. Now they are divorcing. Garret's ready to finally mend his relationship with his brother. But being back in Newport, Rhode Island, triggers a lot of memories-all leading back to Thea.

Thea's not ready to let go of the Sorensens-even if it means being around Garret. As they cautiously circle around each other-finding themselves drawn together-they realize following their hearts could cast them adrift.
Lisa Dale always seems to surprise me. There's something about her books that seem to touch me in one way or another, it's that writing style of hers that does it every time.

Each chapter of Slow Dancing on Price's Pier begins with Thea's newspaper column From "The Coffee Diaries" by Thea Celik. In this one page column Thea explores the history of coffee, but of course there's more there as each gorgeous little story applies to her life and to that of those around her. I love the way Dale uses them in conjunction with the story.
"It's fire that forces the transformation from seed to bean. Roasting alters the seed's makeup -- an intense molecular restructuring.

In that way, I think coffee cherries aren't much different from people. Heat and pressure change us. When we walk through fire -- and we all do at some point -- we come out the other side to find ourselves altered. If we're lucky, we become richer, more complex, more alluring people because of our trials. But sometimes, we just get burned."
Slow Dancing on Price's Pier is a complex story of friendship and love that involves one woman, two brothers, and a family. It's a triangle that begins when the three are carefree and young and ends years later after their great friendship has been interrupted by competition, jealousy, wrong choices, misunderstandings and yes... love.

The story begins with Thea and Jonathan's separation after years of marriage. The news comes as a shock to his family, friends and to everyone on Price's Pier where Thea runs her beloved coffee shop. Unbeknown to everyone, Jonathan cheated on their marriage, yet he refuses to talk to Thea, see her, or to pick up his own daughter for the weekend. Instead, Jonathan sends his brother Garrett to take care of his responsibilities.

Garrett and Thea have not seen or talked to each in fifteen years, since Thea married Jonathan. He hates her, doesn't want her as part of his family and makes no bones about it. But Garrett finally has a chance to reconcile with his brother now that Jonathan is divorcing Thea, so he'll do whatever is necessary for his brother and agrees to play go-between. He even gives Jonathan a divorce party, here's his toast:
"Sometimes a man has to take the long way to find out a woman isn't who he thought she was. You know what they say. It's hard for a man to lose a woman. Sometimes, it's damn near impossible. Believe me, I've tried. "

"Jeez, Garrett." One of his friends cut in. "Whose divorce party is this anyway."
Garrett and Thea's meeting is a tough one. He's hostile and shocked to finally see her again... she's just shocked to see him, to feel his hostility and just wants him to go away. Thea doesn't want to lose the only family she has left in the country -- Garrett and Jonathan's family -- especially as her own parents are back in Turkey, and she's afraid that this is the end of that relationship. Garrett is honest with Thea about the fact that he doesn't want her to be a part of his family any longer and acts the ass with Thea. But... but... there is such history there! As Dale begins to slowly unravel their story, the reader discovers that there are such strong emotions and more than enough reasons behind all these initial uncomfortable actions.

Thea on decaffeinated coffee and Jonathan:
Serious coffee drinkers know the importance of decaf coffee when it comes to round-the-clock consumption....Whatever the method of decaffeination, most decaf coffees still contain some small amounts of caffeine. There's just no way to get rid of it completely. Nature insists. 
Garrett and Jonathan met Thea when they moved to Newport, Rhode Island as teenage boys. Their friendship was deep and meaningful while it was on equal terms and they balanced each other's weaknesses and strengths. Garrett was the star athlete who loved to take risks while Jonathan was studious and methodical, but Thea was a bit of both. She stepped in between the brothers and became the much needed balance. Unfortunately after Jonathan graduated and went away to college and Garrett was a senior in high school, Thea and Garrett fell in love and the dynamics changed between the three friends. The circumstances and choices made by these three young people changed their lives in ways that affected them for the long haul.

Thea on a real cup of coffee and Garrett:
"The fact is, there's nothing in the world like a good cup of smooth, dark coffee -- but as with so many things, sometimes it takes a substitute to make you appreciate the real thing." 
What did I like about this book? Well, I don't like triangles because I tend to like one man (or woman), and really dislike the other. I thought it would bother me that the triangle includes brothers, but in the end it didn't make a difference and it didn't bother me at all. In the beginning this story was tough because Jonathan didn't seem to have any backbone as he didn't take responsibility for his actions, and Garrett despite his confused thoughts, was quite hostile toward Thea. Thea herself seemed to be more concerned about keeping Jonathan's family at any cost than about her own personal happiness.

However, as Dale unravels the story (and yes she uses flashbacks a few of times), everything falls into place and there's an understanding of the characters and their human actions and reactions. Particularly if you take their youth into consideration. Their present actions and reactions, on the other hand, are a different matter. Although the reactions by the adults are still human and flawed, I thought at times they also came off as immature. Jonathan and his family seem to me to be pretty selfish in many ways, just as Thea seemed to be too darn accommodating.

But did I enjoy the romance? Yes, I did. I loved that the emotions between Garrett and Thea felt real -- especially those coming from Garrett. Weather it was hostility, contempt, passion or love, Garrett's emotions oozed out of him. It's true that Thea compromised her feelings, but what they all did was hide from reality. Frankly by the end of this story I liked both characters and really enjoyed their story.

Slow Dancing on Price's Pier is a family drama by Ms. Dale full of memorable characters and situations, as well as a memorable romance. I continue to enjoy her prose, and particularly the way she balances out (what I think of as) this fusion between women's fiction and contemporary romance. It just seems to get better with every book she writes. I look forward to reading her next book and hope we don't have too long a wait before that next release.

Category: Contemporary Romance/Women's Fiction
Series: None
Released: Penguin Publishing, April 5, 2011 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B+

Visit Lisa Dale here. Read an excerpt here.

Other books by Lisa Dale:
Simple Wishes
It Happened One Night

Friday, April 22, 2011

This 'n That

It's Good Friday and I'm home today. Hope all those who celebrate Easter have a great weekend planned with their families. The same goes for all my friends who are celebrating Passover this week.

Today, April 22nd, is also Earth Day. It marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Environmental issues are important to me personally on a day to day basis, but this date reminds us all of its global importance.

"The fight for a clean environment continues in a climate of increasing urgency, as the ravages of climate change become more manifest every day. We invite you to be a part of Earth Day and help write many more victories and successes into our history. Discover energy you didn't even know you had. Feel it rumble through the grassroots under your feet and the technology at your fingertips. Channel it into building a clean, healthy, diverse world for generations to come."
Moving on to the "bookish," I would like to give a shout out to an old friend who just joined the blogosphere. My friend Indigene has finally decided to move the contents of her prolific and popular Life Journal to her brand new LGBT blog, Indie Reviews.

Indigene is not new to reviewing, as a matter of fact she's a veteran and if you read LGBT you've probably read her insightful, thorough, and beautifully written reviews at the Rainbow Reviews site or at Three Dollar Bill Reviews, that is if you haven't visited her LJ. So go on over and check out Indigene's latest review of Rick Reed's Out on The Net, and give her a big welcome.


And last, but not least, after years... and I mean years (I love to exaggerate) of whining about Twitter, I've opened an account! I don't know what the heck I'm doing with it or how to use the darn thing, except that I know you follow people and they follow you.

My schedule is such that I don't seem to have the time to visit all my friends as often as I used to (boooh on that), and I'm looking for some interesting book discussions. I remember reading somewhere that in Twitter there are such things happening. However, I've yet to find them. :( I know... I know... I don't know what I'm doing yet. I find that I'm reluctant to just hit that "Follow" button on all and sundry and feel as if I'm intruding on other people except on those who I know will welcome seeing my name (at least I think so, lol), so maybe I just don't get it yet.

Anyway, that's my Twitter story. I need to be pointed in the right direction to find some of those great book discussions, so if you have some advice... give it up.

And now on to choose some books to read this weekend!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Impressions: Maisie Dobbs (Book 1) by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs isn't just any young housemaid. Through her own natural intelligence—and the patronage of her benevolent employers—she works her way into college at Cambridge. When World War I breaks out, Maisie goes to the front as a nurse. It is there that she learns that coincidences are meaningful and the truth elusive. After the War, Maisie sets up on her own as a private investigator. But her very first assignment, seemingly an ordinary infidelity case, soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets, which will force Maisie to revisit the horrors of the Great War and the love she left behind.
"I'm really taken with how the plight of English soldiers, during and after WWI, is depicted in this mystery novel. I'm loving the details, and the characters so far. Just went backward in time to Maisie's childhood and I'm surprised that I'm enjoying that part of it as much as her "present" time."
Those were my first impressions of Maisie Dobbs, Book 1, after having read the first part of the book. Frankly, I was taken with the historical fiction aspect of these mystery novels. Jacqueline Winspear makes much of those small WWI historical details in post-war London that give this novel a unique atmosphere. The characters that populate the novel have all been affected in one way or another by the war, and even ten years later are dealing with its effects.

This first book does contain a mystery, however it's main focus is Maisie Dobbs herself. The character is introduced and her background is thoroughly explored and developed for the reader. In the first part of the book we meet Maisie ten years after the war ended as a newly minted psychologist-investigator working on her first solo case. This is a short section that leaves off with many questions about both the case and Maisie herself.

On the longer and more detailed second part of the book, we flash back to Maisie  as a young, orphaned girl who goes to work at Lord and Lady Compton's household as a downstairs maid. This second part of the book is where Winspear really gets to the nitty gritty details of what makes this main character tick and to the basis of the story. Masie's life is covered from childhood through young adulthood. Her brilliance and intelligence are recognized by the Comptons and rewarded. Lady Compton and Maisie's mentor Maurice Blanche encourage her to study at a college for girls in Cambridge, however at the onset of the war Maisie decides to do her part as a nurse and soon departs for France.

By the time the third part of the book comes along, we know Maisie and most of her story. This is where the mystery is really developed and takes its unexpected turn -- all of it related to the war, the soldiers and the lingering effects of post-war trauma for them and the country itself. There's danger and I enjoyed the investigation part in this section as it reveals part of the history I mentioned before.

I enjoyed this book for its setting, atmosphere and historical fiction details. The time period was certainly a plus for me as well. Maisie as a character is endearing in some sections, but there is a certain restraint and perfection about her that makes it difficult to connect with her character emotionally at certain times. Even when in love, Maisie seems to be a too cautious and measured woman. There's a "new age" aspect to the story and her character that threw me off and didn't seem to fit into this story.

Some of the secondary characters were well developed while others seemed one-dimensional. However, I'm hoping that throughout the series the author will do a better job of characterization on that front. Unexpectedly, I did cry at the end of this book. Those soldiers got to me, and there's a particular story involving Maisie that broke my heart.

Although I wasn't overwhelmed by this first book in the Maisie Dobbs series, I did go on to read the latest release, A Lesson In Secrets, Book 8, as I was curious to see how Maisie fared after all that time, and will read the next release in the series.

Category: Mystery/Historical Fiction
Series: Maisie Dobbs, Book 1
Publisher/Released: Soho Press, July 1, 2003 - Kindle Edition
Grade: Grade B

Visit Jacqueline Winspear here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hilcia's Weekly Reads & Minis

A weekly reads post two weeks in a row! What do you know? April continues to be a great reading month for me. I'm on a roll, and it's about time!
  • I began the week by finishing off Maisie Dobbs, Book 1 by Jacqueline Winspear, a mystery set during World War I in London. This was a great way to begin my week as the atmosphere in this novel really caught my imagination. I have prepared a review for later on in the week. 
  • Needing a break from mysteries, I decided to read a genre that I haven't read this whole year, M/M Erotic Romance. I picked up Twice the Cowboy by James Buchanan since I loved her book Cheating Chance. Unfortunately Twice the Cowboy did not live up to my expectations. This romance fell into the insta-luv category, and although Buchanan writes some hot and erotic interactions, the whole "love and commitment" part of it came a bit fast and furious for my taste. Of course these are cowboys and I love them so I enjoyed that aspect of the story, plus I also liked that the protagonists are from different cultures and Buchanan addresses some of the differences not only within the cultures, but how gay men can are treated. Unfortunately the Spanish language is butchered in this novella and the editing for it is non-existent. For me personally that was enough to pull me out of the most intimate moments, as the language is used liberally throughout the book and especially during sexual encounters. Grade C-
  • I continued my week by picking up the latest historical romance release by Susanna Fraser, A Marriage of Inconvenience. This is a new-to-me author and the book was a pleasant surprise. I highly enjoyed some aspects of this story and yet other parts of it were not quite what I expected. I enjoyed her writing, though, and as you'll see later on in the week I picked up another book by this author. Upcoming Review.
  • And because I needed another change of pace, I chose to read a book that had been on my TBB list for a couple of years, The Demon's Librarian by Lilith Saintcrow. I wrote a post when I was reading the book and as you can see I enjoyed some aspects of this book, particularly the fact that Chess is a rather protective head librarian and has a great sense of humor. This was the best part of the book for me and the best aspect of her personality. 
Unfortunately, there's a certain unevenness to this story that left me feeling disappointed in the end. Chess' characterization is quite contradictory. She's a tough librarian who goes out there to take care of demons on her own and has a wonderful way with words, but she's all talk and no action. Once she's out there, the "hero" (and he's a good hero) does all the killing and all the saving, until the very end. But for most of the book, she just... freezes? And for a smart woman shows some pretty bad judgment. I'm not quite sure what happened there. The book also feels like the beginning of an urban fantasy series, but it has an epilogue tacked up at the end that gives it a sort of "happily ever after/happily for now" feel to it. So, in the end this read was a mixed bag for me. Grade C
  • I was so curious about the next story written by Susanna Fraser, that I couldn't wait to read The Sergeant's Lady. This book was actually written prior to A Marriage of Inconvenience, but chronologically it comes afterwards. This story I really enjoyed for the different setting, the plot and characterization. I read it in one sitting! Upcoming Review.
  • Jacqueline Winspear was another author that was read twice this week. I decided that I needed to know what happened to Maisie Dobbs, and since I had A Lesson in Secrets (Maisie Dobbs #8) in my TBR already, picked it up and also read it in one sitting. It's interesting to note that although there are 6 books in between, I was able to pick up the threads of Maisie's life and continue on without a problem. I'm sure there are many details missing, but the core was there and I didn't seem to miss much. Upcoming Review.
  • And last but not least, I picked up a western historical romance and Jodi Thomas' latest release, Texas Blue (Whispering Mountain #8). I finished this book on Saturday and posted my review on Sunday, so you know I enjoyed it. This was a solid read that left a smile on my face when I turned that last virtual page. I really do enjoy western historical romances and wish more of them were released during the year. 
  • Of course right after Texas Blue I wanted more cowboys and picked up Rough, Raw and Ready (Rough Riders #5) by Lorelei James and re-read it! This is one of my favorite (if not my favorite) installments in that series. I've already posted a review, so I won't go over the details again. It was wonderful to revisit Chassie, Trevor and Edgard. This is one of my all time favorite M/M/F erotic romances and one that I'll re-read every so often, even if I don't mention it. Thanks to Mariana for posting those excerpts and reminding me of how much, and why, I enjoy this book.
Well, that was my reading week. I noticed that I'm reading and enjoying more historical romances this year, so that's good for me. Last year, I seemed to hit the wall with them. I'm also keeping pace with reading a few more mysteries and am enjoying those as well. And how was your reading week?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Review: Texas Blue (Whispering Mountain, #5) by Jodi Thomas

Gambling man Lewton Paterson wants to marry into a respectable family. After fleecing a train ticket, Lewt makes his way to Whispering Mountain. But seducing a well-bred woman is hard, and Lewt realizes that to entice a McMurray sister, he'll need to learn a thing or two about ranching-and love.
Texas Blue by Jodi Thomas is the fifth installment in her Whispering Mountain western historical romance series, however I'll preface my review by saying that for those who have not read the previous books, this can easily be read as a stand alone.

Ranger Duncan McMurray's uncle Teague placed him in charge of making sure three eligible men from respectable families would arrive safely at Whispering Mountain in the hopes that his three daughters would marry. Unfortunately at the last minute Duncan rushes to Mexico with the Texas Rangers on a mission, and the prospective grooms must make their way to Whispering Mountain by train on their own.

After seeing his friend Duncan off and joking about courting at Whispering Mountain himself, gambler Lewton Paterson knows that he's not the type of man who would be welcomed there. Lewt, however, has impossible, personal dreams of having a wife, a real home and a family... a normal life that he's never experienced. He decides to take a gamble and with little hope and a lot of dreaming takes the place of one of the chosen men on the train.

Emily McMurray is in charge of the ranch while her parents are away and resents having strangers thrust upon her and her sisters. She's too busy to entertain men and since she won't ever marry anyway, why bother? Em and her sisters, Rose and Beth, hire a friend to take her place so she can to run the ranch in peace. However, she doesn't get away cleanly. Thinking she's a hired hand, Lewt asks Em to help him understand ranch life so he can court one of the McMurray sisters with more ease. She does! Oh... she's relentless and tough as she puts this greenhorn through the paces of ranch life. It was fun to read how he struggles, and yes... I did feel for him too. Poor Lewt!

I must say that this part of the book is my favorite. Em and Lewt become reluctant friends through this time. He's not really attracted to her as a woman, as she's really a plain woman who dresses like a man, and Em is afraid of men due to childhood trauma. However, Em can't help but admire Lewt's persistence, kindness and understanding and in the end he wins her trust, and in comparing Em to the other women, Lewt can't help but admire her personally, period. My favorite scenes are Lewt and Em's conversations on the porch swing, Lewt teaching Em how to kiss so she'll know how it feels, and Lewt holding Em's hand. How sweet are those scenes?

Unfortunately the whole story doesn't take place on the ranch. There's a rush to rescue Duncan in Mexico, and the story alternates at some points between Duncan's dire situation and Em and Lewt's developing romance. As much as I enjoyed Lewt and Em's part in the rescue and the important part that played in the outcome of their romance, I'm afraid that for me Duncan's personal situation was distracting as a set-up for his story. I didn't enjoy his part of the story at all.

Texas Blue was a heartwarming romance. I loved Lewt Paterson. He broke my heart with his longing for a family and most of all for the way he loved his Em. And I loved that Em was a tough woman through and through who allowed herself to trust and be vulnerable for this one man. It's interesting and quite appropriate that there's really no graphic sex in this novel, yet it's not really necessary at all to feel the passion or the love between the two protagonists. I loved the way Jodi Thomas conveyed that part of the story.

Category: Historical Romance/Western
Series: Whispering Mountain, #5
Publisher/Released: Berkley-Penguin, April 5, 2011- Kindle Edition
Grade: B

Visit Jodi Thomas here.

Texas Rain, #1
Texas Princess, #2
Tall, Dark, and Texan, #3
The Lone Texan, #4
Texas Blue, #5

Friday, April 15, 2011

Review: My Lord Scandal (Notorious Bachelors, Book 1) by Emma Wildes

I've been meaning to read this series for quite a while. An old friend from the now defunct Phade highly recommended Emma Wildes a while back and I meant to read her works then. Nath assured me that this is a wonderful historical romance series by this author. Well, finally!

Alexander St. James may be a thief of hearts, but he is no burglar. Nevertheless, he must recover and item belonging to his family to avoid a scandal, and so he has stolen into the home of Lord Hathaway, only to come upon the beguiling and chaste Lady Amelia in her bedroom, wearing little but a look of surprise. Alexander leaves Amelia breathless-but is it from fear or excitement? Captivated by her beauty and charmed by her intellect, he ignores the scandalous whispers as he sets out to seduce the woman of his dreams...
My Lord Scandal is the first book in the Notorious Bachelors series by Emma Wildes. She begins by telling the story of Alexander St. James and Lady Amelia Hathaway, a well-known rake by reputation and a rather naive young lady with what was considered a "disability" in her time.

What did I like about this book? There's romance, intrigue, a mystery, well-developed characters and a plot line that kept me reading until the last page was turned. Alexander and Amelia are the type of characters that you like at first and the more you read about them, the more you love them.

There's a certain lack of conflict between Alexander and Amelia's romance that makes this an interesting read. There's no real angst there between them... instead they fall in love and fight others in order to have a relationship. I loved the way they both stood up for each other and their love. I liked that although Amelia was the "virginal" female protagonist, she was also honestly passionate and seductive without the coyness or over-the-top innocence found in similar characters.  Portraying Alex as the "reluctant" rake who inherited his older brother's reputation was also a rather unexpected twist to that type of character.

The intrigue and mystery in the story kept me reading, although the final resolution was a bit anticlimactic for me. However, not enough to dampen my enjoyment of the romance or characters. Of the secondary characters, Amelia's Aunt Silvie was my very favorite with Alex's two friends and future male protagonists coming a close second. I already have the second book, Our Wicked Mistake, and hope to read it soon.

Category: Historical Romance
Series: Notorious Bachelors, Book 1
Publisher/Released: Signet-Penguin, September 7, 2010 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B

Visit Emma Wildes here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

... On my current read: The Demon's Librarian by Lilith Saintcrow

I'm currently reading Lilith Saintcrow's The Demon's Librarian. I've had this book in my TBB list since 2009 and became interested in reading it again after reading her novella in the Dark and Stormy Knights anthology last year. Oh well... I do get to the books on my lists sooner or later.

Anyway, I couldn't help but come back here to share a couple of snippets with you all. Chess, the Jericho City Public Library's head librarian, had me in stitches throughout the beginning of the book with her personal ruminations about her joys and frustrations.

With libraries closing left and right around the country at this very moment, this first quote (from a book published in 2009) is the first one that caught my eye:
While the good citizens of Jericho City would pay
thousands yearly for plastic surgery and to pad the pockets of
the mayor's friends, they simply would not vote a couple of
measly bucks onto their property taxes to take care of her
library. Lovely. Remind me to spit in a city councilman's
coffee cup the first chance I get.
Page 4
And after killing the demon, this one made me laugh because yeah... it just sounds so easy in the books, but imagine how tough it would be in reality. Plus, that last line! The bold lettering is from me:
She coughed and gagged again, trying not to lose
everything she'd ever thought of eating in the last week. The
books always make this stuff sound so goddamn easy. They
don't mention the smell. Or the way getting hit in the face
with a tentacle as big around as your thigh hurts.
Her eye
was puffing closed, she could feel it throbbing and swelling to
almost the size of a baseball.


Chess swallowed dryly, pleading with her stomach to stay
down. The smell of garbage coated the back of her throat,
and she probably had gotten some of the slimy water in her
mouth. I don't think it's good for my image to blow chunks all
over a ... what's this thing called again? Either a skornac or
just plain Demon-With-Many-Arms. Particularly allergic to a
fire-consecrated demon-hunter's knife. One more case where
an ounce of research is worth a pound of "oh fuck."
Page 5
Later Chess has to deal with Mrs. Pembroke, an older lady who seems to think almost everything in the library contains "smut" and should be removed from the shelves. Here "the Indignant" comes in to demand that "Huckleberry Finn" be removed from the library's Young Adult section:
"Won't you sit down, Mrs. Pembroke?" Chess inquired
sweetly. "It's so good to see you. May I offer you a cup of
tea?" Or a face-to-face with a tentacled demon in the sewers?
I think that would be just up your alley, Pem.

Pembroke clutched her small purse to her solar plexus as if
strangling a small pet dog against her cardigan. "No ... no
tea." She sounded shocked. Relations between Chess and the
Indignant had been icily polite ever since the great Barbara
Cartland fiasco, with no détente in sight.

After dealing with an octopus-looking demon, Pembroke
the Indignant didn't rattle Chess nearly as much. Page 14
I've always been envious of librarians... working with all those books on a daily basis. *sigh* Of course, Chess is not your everyday librarian since she's out fighting demons, but I'm enjoying this aspect of her character.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Review: The Bargain by Mary Jo Putney

Mismatched lovers and unexpected attraction catch fire in this timeless novel by the New York Times bestselling author and legend in historical romance Mary Jo Putney. . .
Forced to wed to keep her inheritance, independent Lady Jocelyn Kendal finds an outrageous solution: she proposes marriage to Major David Lancaster, an officer dying from his Waterloo wounds. In return for making her his wife, she will provide for his governess sister. But after the bargain is struck and the marriage is made, the major makes a shocking, miraculous recovery. Though they agree to an annulment, such matters take time. . .time enough for David to realize he is irrevocably in love with his wife.

Haunted by her past, Jocelyn refuses to trust the desire David ignites in her. She never counted on a real husband, least of all one who would entice her to be a real wife. But some bargains are made to be broken--and his skilled courtship is impossible to resist. . .
The Bargain by Mary Jo Putney is the re-release of a book originally released in 1989 under the title The Would be Widow.

Jocelyn Kendal must marry immediately in order to keep her inheritance and independence. Major David Lancaster is slowly dying in a hospital ward from wounds received at Waterloo and is concerned about his young sister's future. Jocelyn makes a shocking proposal to David, if he marries her so she can keep her inheritance, she will endow his sister and take care of her after his imminent death. He accepts the bargain.  However after a miraculous recovery from his wounds the bargain becomes a problem for both of them. David finds himself falling in love with his wife and begins a courtship, while Jocelyn refuses to acknowledge there is more than just friendship between them.

There's more to this story though. From the beginning Jocelyn had her eye on the Duke of Canover as the man who would be her future husband and/or lover, but since time was running out and she could not bring him up to scratch, she settled for David instead. The Duke of Canover only makes a few appearances, but it is Jocelyn's musings and the decisions she makes involving him that affected this story for me. In many ways, her deepest thoughts are about him and not David. Jocelyn spent so much time avoiding her feelings for David that this reader never really made that emotional connection between them, at least from her side, until almost the end of the story. David's feelings for Jocelyn are quite palpable throughout.

Jocelyn also comes off as a cold and rather calculating woman toward the beginning of the book, and frankly it took a while before I even liked her as a character. However, Putney develops Jocelyn and as the real woman emerges there is warmth and character growth by the end of the story.

And what of the secondary characters? There's Sally, David's sister, who plays a major role in this romance and ends up having her own secondary romance in the story. I loved her personality, loyalty and inner strength, as well as her romance with the talented doctor Ian Kinlock.

Although The Bargain is not my favorite historical romance by Mary Jo Putney, there are still parts of it to admire. I liked the way Putney made me reconsider both Jocelyn and Sally's characters after an iffy beginning, and David is an admirable character from beginning to end. I love the secondary characters in this book, from the footman who gets to bring his brother home from the hospital to recover from war wounds, to Sally and Ian's romance. And after all that, I ended up rather intrigued by the Duke of Candover's character at the end.

Category: Historical Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Zebra; Reprint edition April 5, 2011
Source: I won this book at Moonlight to Twilight Blog from MsM!
Grade: C+

Visit Mary Jo Putney here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hilcia's Weekly Reads

Hey a Weekly Reads post from me! It's been a while since I posted one of those, right? But then, it has been a while since I read enough books in one week to do so. Also, two posts in one day... that doesn't happen often around here either. But hey... why not? I've had a good beginning to April and decided to share it with you.
  • Chill (Jacob's Ladder, Book 2) by Elizabeth Bear was a book that I began reading in March, but finished in April. This is the followup to Dust, the book that obsessed me back in February. It turns out that as a middle book, it was not as gripping as the first one and it took me a long time to finish it. It does suffer from a bit of the "middle book syndrome" in my opinion. The gorgeous world building is set, the principal cast of characters have been introduced, and now it's a matter of getting them to that finale. There's development of the characters and there's another interesting quest that furthers the overall plot line, but overall it was not as interesting as that first book, Dust. I am, however, really looking forward to reading the end of the trilogy and can't wait for this crew to get to their awaited destination, the planet. The book Grail has been sitting on my coffee table all this time and I just can't wait to find out what happens in the end. Grade C+
  • I continued by picking up one of my most anticipated March releases, Children of Scarabaeus (Scarabaeus, Book 2) by Sarah Creasy, the second and last book in her Scarabaeus series. This is the follow-up book to Song of Scarabaeus, a book that I really enjoyed reading and reviewed by February. I have a review on the works, but I can tell you that I definitely look forward to reading other books by Ms. Creasy in the science fiction romance sub-genre.
  • The Sweetest Thing (Lucky Harbor #2) by Jill Shalvis came next on list, and that was a wonderful surprise for me as you can read on my review. I didn't really like Tara, the female protagonist, in the first book and I truly dislike triangles, but ended up giving this book an A! The majority of my re-reads are contemporary romances and this book will be placed on that section of my bookshelf once I get the print edition. :)
  • I followed by picking up another highly anticipated read, It Happened One Season (Anthology) with Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D'Alessandro and Candice Hern. I took my time reading this anthology and read other books in between the novellas -- I actually finished The Sweetest Thing and Children of Scarabaeus in between novellas. As my Sunday Mini post states this was a mixed bag, but one I enjoyed.
  • Yesterday I finished Slow Dancing on Price's Pier by Lisa Dale. This book was one of my anticipated releases for the month of April, and a book I've been looking forward to reading for over a year. I'll be reviewing it, so I won't say too much except that I continue to enjoy Ms. Dale's writing and the way she puts together a story, as well as her in-depth characterization.
  • And last, but not least, yesterday I began and finished reading Kiss Across Swords by Teal Ceagh. I won this book over at lovely Leslie's blog, Leslie's Psyche. I downloaded the ebook and just... read it right then and there! It's an erotic, time travel, vampire tale -- MMF. The author was a guest on Leslie's blog on March 31st and I remember loving her post about Claddagh Rings, and also being intrigued at the time because well... the characters in this story go back to the fall of Jerusalem during the Crusades. It seemed as if the historical details alone would be up my alley. Plus, hey, time travel, vampires AND MMF... what's not to look forward to, right? I will be sharing a bit more about this book with all of you soon.
At this moment I'm reading Maisie Dobbs (Book 1) by Jacqueline Winspear. I have Winspear's latest release A Lesson in Secrets on my TBR already, but I decided to at least read the first book in the series to get an idea as to the character before reading her last release. I'm about 29% into the book (Kindle edition), and this is what I had to say in my Goodreads update:
"I'm really taken with how the plight of English soldiers, during and after WWI, is depicted in this mystery novel. I'm loving the details, and the characters so far. Just went backward in time to Maisie's childhood and I'm surprised that I'm enjoying that part of it as much as her "present" time."
That's it for me for the week! Wish me luck, maybe I can do another one of these next week too. :D How was your reading week?

Sunday Mini: It Happened One Season by Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D'Alessandro, Candice Hern

It Happened One Season was an interesting historical romance anthology, and as with many an anthology a mixed bag for me. All the authors stuck to the one plot line they planned to follow: the second son of an earl who is back from the war and needs to marry to provide an heir for the family because his older brother has daughters and no sons. The female protagonist is considered a spinster, plain looking and has never had a beau or in some cases experienced real love.

However, even though all the authors had to follow the above mentioned plot line, each story is very different and tailored to each author's writing style. I specially liked Stephanie Laurens' novella, The Seduction of Sebastian and Mary Balogh's Only Love. Both novellas had well-plotted stories and romances that grew slowly but surely. The characterization was also excellent for novellas and they both felt like much longer reads. Hope Springs Eternal by Jacquie D'Alessandro was the weakest story in my opinion, with a rushed romance and very little conflict; and Fate Strikes a Bargain by Candice Hern was a good read, but not one that stayed with me.

Congratulations to Phyl from Phyl's quilts and books! Your idea for the book was wonderful and I enjoyed reading how the different authors went about interpreting it.

Category: Historical Romance
Series: Anthology
Publisher/Released: Harper Collins March 29, 2011 - Kindle Edition
Grade: C+

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday to Friday: Historical Fiction and Leonardo Padura Fuentes

So how was your week? Mine is finally done! It's still rainy and cold in Jersey, but at least I'm home cozy and warm at the moment. I had a long working-week, but it turned out to be good with one book-related event this last week and some really nice reads.

Last Friday night, as a last minute outing, my brothers invited me to go along with them to meet Leonardo Padura Fuentes, a favorite author, in an evening at the Instituto Cervantes New York at Amster Yard in New York City. Mr. Padura was hosting a chat where he was discussing history and fiction in his latest release, the literary historical fiction novel El Hombre Que Amaba a Los Perros -- you might have seen that book mentioned here before. I've also mentioned my favorite works by him to date, the Inspector Mario Conde series.

It was an informal chat where basically he explained the process used while researching the novel, although he did address the fictional part of the book briefly. However, most of the evening was taken up with questions and answers about Trotsky's fascinating character, as well as that of his assassin, Rafael Mercader.

The key points for me came when he focused on how to pull together all that historical research he gathered throughout five long years and put together a fictional novel.  His points:

  • Respect historical moments when writing the fictional aspect of the story. 
  • Construct fiction as logically as possible while combining it with history. 
  • Characterization is key, especially that of the fictional characters in the book. In El Hombre Que Amaba a Los Perros that would be Ivan, a seemingly insignificant secondary character, but the very important narrator of the story.
  • Take into consideration that in a historical fiction novel there is no mystery as the end is usually well known. 
  • The narrative, making it fast paced and constructing the plot into a novel instead of a historical piece, is key.

Mr. Padura was quite gracious and the question and answer session, where not only this book but his other works were discussed, lasted quite a long time, and he and his beautiful wife gave of their time afterward as well. I took the opportunity to speak to him personally and he signed my book. Meeting him was an unexpected pleasure. 

About the Author: Leonardo Padura was born in 1955 in Havana and lives in Cuba. He is a journalist and writer of novels and essays, as well as screenplays. His literary works include a number of short-story collections, literary essays and nine novels translated into over 15 different languages but international fame came with the Havana Quartet, all featuring Inspector Mario Conde.

The Inspector Mario Conde Series:
  • Pasado perfecto (1991). Havana Blue (2007)
  • Vientos de cuaresma (1994). Havana Gold (2008)
  • Mascaras (1997). Havana Red (2005)
  • Paisaje de otoño (1998). Havana Black (2006)
  • La Neblina de Ayer. Havana Fever (2009)
  • Adiós Hemingway (2005, novella); published with same title in English in 2006 - the first of his books to be translated into English.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Review: The Sweetest Thing (Lucky Harbor, Book 2) by Jill Shalvis

Two Men Are One Too Many . . .

Tara has a thousand good reasons not to return to the little coastal town of Lucky Harbor, Washington. Yet with her life doing a major crash-and-burn, anywhere away from her unfulfilled dreams and sexy ex-husband will do. As Tara helps her two sisters get their newly renovated inn up and running, she finally has a chance to get things under control and come up with a new plan for her life.

But a certain tanned, green-eyed sailor has his own ideas, such as keeping Tara hot, bothered . . . and in his bed. And when her ex wants Tara back, three is a crowd she can't control-especially when her deepest secret reappears out of the blue. Now Tara must confront her past and discover what she really wants. If she's lucky, she might just find that everything her heart desires is right here in Lucky Harbor.

I loved this book! It's interesting because Tara wasn't my favorite character in Simply Irresistible (Lucky Harbor, Book 1), and if you read the above summary, the first thing that hits you is the fact that a triangle is part of the story. Triangles are not the love of my life when it comes to tropes, but I just loved this book!

Tara has her hands full running the Lucky Harbor Inn with her two sisters and trying NOT to fall again for her past love, hot and dazzling Ford, when after two years of separation her ex-husband shows up in town asking for a reconciliation. But that's not all... no, not for poor Tara. The whole town gets into the fun of things and plaster her situation on Facebook and Twitter and decide to run a poll as to who's going to win Tara's heart -- and the fun really begins. On top of all that her lifetime secret "shows up" at her doorstep and things really get complicated.

In The Sweetest Thing the story is focused on the romance and the two main characters -- everything else revolves around them. Shalvis uses more of the "lovers reunited" and "second chance at love" tropes in The Sweetest Thing than the good old triangle in my opinion. The plot is not only well developed, but it's also interesting, romantic, scorching hot, and amusing. To top it all off, the secondary characters complement this story perfectly. I loved the growth in the sisters relationship, as well as the small town atmosphere that permeates the story, without too many characters taking the focus away from the main couple.

The Sweetest Thing is another true contemporary romance novel with the hot style that Shalvis is known for, plus a wonderful family and small town atmosphere full of amusing laugh-out-loud moments. I loved the main characters, both Ford and Tara, their romance and the journey to that second chance at love. Now I can't wait to read Chloe and Sawyer's story.

Category: Contemporary Romance
Series: Lucky Harbor, Book 2
Publisher/Released: Forever March 28, 2011 - Kindle Edition
Grade: A

Visit Jill Shalvis here.

Simply Irresistible, Book 1
The Sweetest Thing, Book 2

Monday, April 4, 2011

New Releases: May 2011

May new releases! I can't wait for most of these books to release. Does it show? ;P

I loved, loved Song of Seduction by Carrie Lofty and now I can't wait to read Portrait of Seduction in May. And what about the next Kate Daniels book, Magic Slays? Now there's a book that I'll read hot off the presses. Let's not forget Nalini Singh's Kiss of Snow... I mean, it's Hawke and Sienna, finally! So yeah... I can't wait for May releases.

Additionally, I just read a book by Emma Wildes that I really enjoyed, so I went looking for more books by this author and One Whisper Away was right there as a new release. And... well... how can I not read Julia Quinn's Just Like Heaven when it's all about one of the infamous Smythe-Smith sisters? After having all those characters in her previous books sit through those horrific musicales given by these sisters, I must find out more about them.

Portrait of Seduction by Carrie Lofty
Releases: May 2, 2011
Austria, 1805

Greta Zwieg forges masterpieces. With her copies on their walls and the original paintings safely hidden, the noble families of Austria can rest assured their treasures will survive Napoleon's advances. But now Greta’s uncle is changing the rules, selling her counterfeits as originals. Greta abhors the deceit. Anxious for her family's safety in a perilous time, she is nevertheless determined to put things right.

Oliver Doerger is living a lie of his own. Acting as valet for his aristocratic half brother, Oliver thwarts an attempt on Greta's life and is overwhelmed by the forbidden passion that flares between them. Although he's not truly a servant, he is a bastard and a spy--certainly no match for a woman of such exquisite quality.

Though both fear discovery, they cannot resist each other. When the truth comes out, and the city falls into chaos, Greta and Oliver will be forced to choose: love or duty?

One Whisper Away by Emma Wildes
Releases: May 3, 2011
Lady Cecily Francis is resigned to become the wife of Lord Drury, the man she suspects her sister is pining for. But upon her first scandalous encounter with the exotic Earl of Augustine-the American whom everyone is whispering about- Cecily is intrigued by the possibility of a more exciting life. If only she could contrive some way to marry the unconventional earl instead....

Around town he's known as Earl Savage. Although he inherited his title legitimately-and, with it, responsibility for his three half sisters-Augustine is half American and part Iroquois. He can't wait to settle his father's estate, marry his sisters off, and return to his native soil. Until charming Lady Cecily has him considering a prolonged stay in England...

Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews
Releases: May 31, 2011
Kate Daniels has quit the Order of Merciful Aid, but starting her own business isn't easy when the Order starts disparaging her good name. And being the mate of the Beast Lord doesn't bring in the customers, either. So when Atlanta's premier Master of the Dead asks for help with a vampire, Kate jumps at the chance. Unfortunately, this is one case where Kate should have looked before she leapt.

Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh
Releases: May 31, 2011
Since the moment of her defection from the PsyNet and into the SnowDancer wolf pack, Sienna Lauren has had one weakness. Hawke. Alpha and dangerous, he compels her to madness.

Hawke is used to walking alone, having lost the woman who would've been his mate long ago. But Sienna fascinates the primal heart of him, even as he tells himself she is far too young to handle the wild fury of the wolf.

Then Sienna changes the rules-and suddenly, there is no more distance, only the most intimate of battles between two people who were never meant to meet. Yet as they strip away each other's secrets in a storm of raw emotion, they must also ready themselves for a far more vicious fight...

A deadly enemy is out to destroy SnowDancer, striking at everything they hold dear, but it is Sienna's darkest secret that may yet savage the pack that is her home-and the alpha who is its heartbeat.

Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn
Releases: May 31st
Honoria Smythe-Smith, the youngest daughter of the eldest son of the Earl of Winstead, plays the violin in the annual musicale performed by the Smythe-Smith quartet. She's well aware that they are dreadful. In fact, she freely admits (to her cousins) that she is probably the worst of the bunch. But she's the sort who figures that nothing good will come of being mortified, so she puts on a good show and laughs about it. Marcus Holroyd is the best friend of Honoria's brother David, who lives in exile out of the country. He's promised to watch out for Honoria and takes his responsibility very seriously. But he has his work cut out for him when Honoria sets off for Cambridge determined to marry by the end of the season. She's got her eye on the only unmarried Bridgerton, who's a bit wet behind the ears. When her advances are spurned, can Marcus swoop in and steal her heart in time for the musicale?

So, what books are looking forward to reading in May?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Quotes and Thoughts: A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear

Female Influence
"Perhaps sometimes it was wise to listen to a woman. Not that he would have to learn, unless he wasn't chosen. Wolfcarls did not marry. But for a woman's voice to speak reason when a man's counseled cowardice --- there was shame." Page 7
The female's influence is a thread that begins as a subtle one and one that runs deep within A Companion to Wolves. At first glance it is tough to recognize this thread since the book is packed with male central characters, testosterone and, from the beginning, that psychic bond between man and wolf seems to be the main focus. However even through that bond, our main character Njall or Isolfr learns that there's no shame in listening to a female and that her influence can sometimes be the most powerful. The thread is carried throughout the story as Isolfr and his friends battle trolls and meet the powerful svaltarfar who dwell under the mountain.

"You must decide what your honor is, Njall, and hold to it...." Page 11
Honor is another key thread throughout A Companion to Wolves. It is what drives Isolfr's actions from the beginning when he is 16 years old and gives himself as tithe to the wolfheall against his father's wishes. Honor is ingrained in Isolfr, but it is the above advice given to him by his mother -- a female that knows the true meaning of the word -- as he is leaving the keep that stays with him throughout the story. Holding his honor is a decision that will place Isolfr in deadly danger, but one that will make a great man out of him.

Pack sense
"He could smell the night around him -- the snow and the dark and the sap running up branches, the first green tang of spring. He could smell Sigmundr beside him, smell the wolves and the men, each individually, smell Brandr's sour fear and his determination, smell his own confidence -- for, unlike the other young men, he was a jarl's son and this was not his first time in battle -- and he thought if he closed his eyes and concentrated, he might be able to pick out the scent of the moonlight on snow. Moving, all moving, like a great, coordinated dance, and he bit his lip to keep from laughing in delight." Page 21
Without pack sense there would be no book. This is what makes the story truly amazing. The authors explore social structure, hierarchy, even political and amorous ambitions and how they affect a group. There's the beauty as shown by the above quoted passage but there's also the raw brutality expected of both wolf pack and man. Man's ambitions and outward civility, as well as the animal's need for domination and or submission are both captured by the writers. The authors also go out of this circle and explore how this group is viewed, and therefore judged, by outside society.

However within the wolf pack, the authors also address the female role. The leader of the wolves is a female. She chooses her mate and controls the pack, and in turn her chosen brother (the man) becomes the most influential male. This brings me back to the thread of female influence, as this female doesn't just represent the mother or mate in the story, instead without her or her brother there would be no cohesion to the pack. In A Companion to Wolves when a female wolf is born there is cause for celebration, as opposed to the world of men where females are not held in high esteem.

Do the central characters realize what females contribute to their lives and to the outside world? Does the role of the female wolf within the pack impact the men's outlook on their world? You'll have to read the book to find the answers.

Final Note: I chose to focus my post on this one point because I found it a fascinating thread in a book that features an all male character cast as the protagonists. The raw and rather brutal scenes that make this story such a fascinating read, combined with the main character's personal realizations, all kept pointing me in this direction as well. However, I just wanted to point out that this is a beautifully written, moving fantasy story focused on the characters -- human and non-human -- their relationships, battles, and most of all honor.

Friday, April 1, 2011

March 2011 Reads & Minis

April already! Nature is playing a joke on us on the eastern US... it's supposed to be Spring, but instead we had rain mixed with snow on the first day of the month. Can you believe it? No Spring for us yet.

March might have been cold, but my reading and blogging picked up and I'm quite happy about that. The reading month was not as spectacular as February, but then those months don't come along too often. However, it was a good solid month for me when it comes to quality.

Unfortunately I did have one DNF, and that was the book I chose to read for my 2011 The Women of Fantasy Book Club, Prospero Lost by L. Jagi Lamplighter. I won't review it, but I'll just say that neither the story nor the characters engaged me long enough for me to want to read the whole book. I hope my next choice is a better fit for me.

Here's my March 2011 recap:

Total Read: 11
Contemporary Romance: 4 (includes Erotica:1 & Contemporary w/Paranormal Elements: 1)
Historical Romance: 2
Fantasy: 3 (includes LGBT fantasy: 1)
Urban Fantasy: 1
Sci-Fiction: 1

A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear is a gorgeous fantasy story and easily my favorite book of the month. There were so many aspects that I loved about it -- first and foremost the writing and then of course there's the interesting plot and characters that populate this absorbing tale. This is an interesting study of bonding between man and animal, social structure within a group, and man's outward civility vs. his raw basic side. I also found some very interesting threads on the female role in a book that is full of male central characters. (Upcoming Review) Grade: B+

Chimera (Book 1) by Rob Thurman was the second book I read by this author this month and another highly enjoyable read. This one is a science fiction thriller that took me for a ride on a road trip with two brothers. The story included good science fiction details in a contemporary setting. It was full of danger, angst and brotherly love. I cannot wait to read the next book, Basilisk, which is told from Michael's point of view. Grade B+

Blackout, Book 6 in the Cal Leandros Novel by Rob Thurman was initially a disappointment that turned out to be a pleasant surprise for me. I enjoyed this urban fantasy installment and the way it focused more on characterization than on action. It felt different and it worked. I can't wait to read the next book to see where Cal and Niko go from here. Grade B+

My Lord Scandal: Notorious Bachelors by Emma Wildes: B
Upcoming Review

The Bargain by Mary Jo Putney: C+
Upcoming Review

The Shattered Gates (The Rifter, Book 1) by Ginn Hale was a solid beginning to her 10 episode serialized fantasy series. I was engrossed with the world building and intrigued enough by her characterization that I can't wait for the next episode to come out in April. Let's see how that develops. It's a different way to read a book, isn't it? Grade B

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman is the basis for the film with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman (1998). I really enjoy that film whenever it pops up and was curious about the book, so I picked it up. Well, it turns out that the book is different but... better in many ways.

First I'll say that Alice Hoffman's writing is definitely a plus -- not flowery or abundant in details that bog the story down, but lyrical enough to catch certain moments and situations beautifully. The characterization is excellent and in-depth. The story is really about three generations of Owens women and how they deal with their special "magic" throughout their lives. Magic is lighter in the book than it is in the film and the interaction between the sisters, aunts and young daughters, plus the romances are actually better! I loved that Sally's young daughters, who are teenagers, feature largely in the story and give the book a touch of YA without making this a young adult read. The story had a couple of slow moments throughout, but I still read it in two sittings. Grade: B

The Last Goodbye is Sarah Mayberry's latest category romance release. Although this is not my favorite book by Mayberry, she again delivered a complete story and compelling characters. I particularly enjoyed the depth of character found in Tyler and the way his issues were resolved. The romance worked for me, although I thought that Ally's character needed a bit more depth for a better understanding of her actions at the end. Grade B-

Saddled and Spurred is the second book in Lorelei James' Blacktop Cowboys series. I always enjoy James' writing and her erotica details in a book are quite hot! This story focuses on the two main protagonists and doesn't include a threesome, as some of her other works do, however it is still quite steamy. Having said that, I'm not quite enjoying this series as much as I have enjoyed her Rough Riders series in the past. Let's see what the next installment brings since I'll definitely read it. Grade B-

Here Comes the Groom is the first book I've read by Karina Bliss, and although it was not at the top of my list, it won't be the last book I'll read by this author. The story itself was enjoyable with a friends-to-lovers trope and some highly amusing moments in the midst of some pretty serious issues. I enjoyed the combination of all of these, plus the characterization. Unfortunately the transition from friends to lovers didn't quite work for me. Grade C

Of Wine and Roses was a free read at Ilona Andrews' website for a while and it's now going for about 0.99 cents, so it's worth reading! Andrews' is one of my favorite writing teams, so why not? I enjoyed this short fantasy story and although the story was amusing and cute, I found the world building to be average and as a result did not find it engrossing. Grade C


Well that's it for March! It didn't turn out to be such a bad reading month at all... plus, I noticed that there's progress this month and I reviewed more of my current reads, so I'm getting back on the blogging horse. My favorite book was A Companion To Wolves. What about you? What book did it for you this month?