Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review: The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed

Every summer, Samantha Wheland joins her childhood friends—Isabel, Kendra and Mina—on a vacation, somewhere exotic and fabulous. Together with their mixed bag of parents, they've created a lifetime of memories. This year it's a beach house in Honduras. But for the first time, their clan is not complete. Mina lost her battle against cancer six months ago, and the friends she left behind are still struggling to find their way forward without her.

For Samantha, the vacation just feels wrong without Mina. Despite being surrounded by her friends—the closest thing she has to family—Mina's death has left Sam a little lost. Unsure what direction her life should take. Fearful that whatever decision she makes about her wealthy French boyfriend's surprise proposal, it'll be the wrong one.

The answers aren't in the journal Mina gave Sam before she died. Or in the messages Sam believes Mina is sending as guideposts. Before the trip ends, the bonds of friendship with her living friends, the older generation's stories of love and loss, and Sam's glimpse into a world far removed from the one in which she belongs will convince her to trust her heart. And follow it.
The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed is her debut novel. This is a book that left me with mixed feelings and deep thoughts about life, death, friendships, family, love and more. Although I'm sure many consider this novel women's fiction, for me it had a more literary flavor, perhaps because of the style in which it is written, the prose, and the depth with which the different subjects are approached.
Birth and Death are the two occurrences in a person's life that seem to say one thing: we are not the ones calling the shots. "The only consolations are love and best friends." That's what Mina told me two days before she died.
That's how this story begins and right there is the substance of this story. After losing Mina, Samantha herself feels lost, and grief and guilt make her question a lifetime of personal decisions. She wants to grieve on her own but her friends won't allow it, and Isabel, Jesse, Lynette, Cornell and Arshan come down to Tegucigalpa, Honduras to help her go on. All of them, including Isabel and Kendra go through the grieving process, consolidating their friendship and love, and going through a journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Mina seemed to have been the axis around which the rest of the friends rotated and although dead, she is very much a part of their rough journey.

Through Samantha's character and quantum physics (and what some would call magical realism), Cloyed goes forth in her attempt, a creative one if I may say so, to disprove the fact that "we are not the ones calling the shots." You'll find references to both the Copenhagen Interpretation and the Many World Theory -- which theorizes that there are "a number of parallel universes, and everything that could possibly have happened in our past, but didn't, has occurred in the past of other universe or universes."

However, although science is very much a part of this quest, there's also a mixture of interesting characters in this story. Isabel is half-half Panamanian/American, Kendra is half-half African American/White and Mina's parents were born in Iran with Samantha being the red head American in the group. The author uses this mixture of races and cultures, as well as the setting in Honduras, to address racial and cultural differences. And as if that were not enough, while relating their personal experiences, the Baby Boomer parents in the story also get into history as the reader is treated to their personal struggles and first person points of view on the 1960's U.S. Civil Rights struggle, the Iranian Revolution and South American politics, as well as and the struggle of the Garifuna population in Honduras where the group of friends is staying.

There's a generational theme in this story. The parent's older generation making a connection with the younger one by imparting experiences often fraught with controversial subjects, but flawed or not, all leading in one way or another to lessons in life and love. The friendship and bond between Sam, Isabel, Kendra and Mina is deep, the connection between them supposedly making them stronger. Instead I found them to be fragile, fragile to the point of brittleness and therefore easily broken and in need of saving. The younger women's sense of hopelessness weighs heavily for most of this story, even through the lighter moments.

As you can see this is an ambitious undertaking by Ms. Cloyed, and although the four friends are there as characters, as is the journey of the self, this not necessarily your typical women's fiction read. This is where my mixed feelings come in about The Summer We Came to Life, as some of its strengths can also be considered its weaknesses. At one point there are as many meaningful subjects discussed or debated as there are shifts in points of view. Those constant shifts were problematic for me through the beginning of the book, and even a few times later when I sunk into the story. On the other hand, I quite appreciated Cloyed's creative blending of magical realism (if magical realism is her objective) with science, and found both her prose and in-depth characterization to be excellent throughout.

Finally I'll say that The Summer We Came to Life is not an easy read, but it is one that made me think and that's always a plus for me. This is Deborah Cloyed's debut novel and it's very good in my opinion. I would like to see what comes next from this author.

Category: Women's Fiction
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Mira, May 31, 2011
Source: ARC Planned Television Arts, Ruder Finn
Grade: B-

Visit Deborah Cloyed here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Dreaming of a Summer Day...with Jacquie D'Alessandro

This weekend marks the official beginning of the summer in New Jersey. The beaches open and everybody is planning on heading for the Jersey Shore this long holiday weekend. Well, not everybody. Some of us will be staying behind and yet others will be taking advantage of the beautiful warm weather by having barbecues and family get togethers. But I'm envious of those heading to the shore this weekend!

I've been reading Jacquie D'Alessandro's contemporary romance book, Summer at Seaside Cove and I can almost smell that sea salt. I want to feel the sand between my toes, take a walk on the beach and hear the waves roar in the evenings. Nick and Jamie are killing me! I wish I were at that beach in Seaside Cove romping around the waves with a dog, playing catch with a tennis ball on a beautiful day with a gorgeous dog like Nick's Godiva. Sigh... I dreamt about it last night.

It is going to be 83º F or 28º C today! It's all Jacquie D'Alessandro's fault that I just don't want to work that half day I have scheduled today and I'll be dreaming of a summer day at the beach all day long. It is perfect weather for a summer read, maybe I'll just do that later on today instead. :)

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Minis: Somebody Wonderful by Kate Rothwell and Under Her Skin Anthology

Somebody Wonderful by Kate Rothwell

Well... this was such a fun book! It was a different historical romance read, not only because the setting and time period felt fresh to me, but because the characters also felt rather unique in their own way.

While visiting New York City, Timona Calverson is kidnapped and taken to a brothel. After a daring and rather improbable escape, she is rescued by Irish cop and recent immigrant Mick McCann. Mick takes Timona to his small tenement apartment and although he thinks she's a prostitute and doesn't believe her story, kindly nurses her back to health. Timona, however, is from a prominent and eccentric family and known the world over for her wild escapades and extensive travels.

I love that Somebody Wonderful is set for the most part in the late 19th Century New York City slums, and that it's both a romance and an adventure. What type of adventure? Well, I absolute agree with the book summary which states that, "Timona's adventures formed the blueprint for the Perils of Pauline." The central characters certainly made this an entertaining read, and the secondary played their roles quite well. As far as the romance goes, I really enjoyed Timona's "slyness" and determination, especially when it came down to making Mick her man, as well as Mick's initial prudish attitudes toward women and almost too perfect personality. However, the fact that Mick and Timona communicated, minimizing misunderstandings between them, was a big plus. Somebody Wonderful is a romance that left me with smile. Grade B+

Under Her Skin with Jeaniene Frost, Meljean Brook and Ilona Andrews

This was a good paranormal romance anthology with three good stories by favorite authors. All three of these stories were previously published in the Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance, which I've not read. However, I'd already read Meljean Brook's story "In Sheep's Clothing," so in reality I only read two out of the three stories in this anthology.

Jeanine Frost's "Pack" is a short story about a hiker who gets lost in the woods and is attacked by wolves, bitten, and turned into a werewolf against her will. Although the premise for this story is not quite unique, I found Frost's werewolf "pack" quite interesting. Most of all I liked the fact that the woman in this story didn't accept her situation readily. The length of the story didn't affect its impact and the story feels complete. Grade B

"Grace of Small Magics" by Ilona Andrews is another short story with a familiar premise. This one is about a woman who must repay a family blood debt to another magical clan by providing a service. I like the world building in this short story and would love to read more in this setting. Andrews uses tension, fear and action to showcase the characters. I particularly enjoy when Grace realizes she has more to offer than her paltry small magics. The weaknesses in this story are the romance, which is underdeveloped, and the lack of details within the story, probably due to its length. In this case, a longer version would have been a plus. Grade B-

Monday, May 23, 2011

Meeting a Friend, NYC, Dinner and Books!

This post is late! I had a crazed, long working week and wasn't able to put up my posts last week, but better late than never... right?

Last Tuesday evening I finally had the opportunity of meeting in person one of my oldest on-line friends, and wasn't that just the best treat?! Indigene (Indie Reviews) and I met on-line in 2007 and since then have been trading book recommendations and conducting our own, and often lengthy, in-depth book discussions through emails.

Well, Indie finally came all the way from Ottawa, Canada to New York City and of course we had to meet each other in person, even if it was for one day or one evening. We met at the Port Authority and took a taxi to one of my favorite little places in the West Village, La Lanterna Caffe on McDougal. I love that little place because of its atmosphere, service, food, good wine, great coffee and desserts, but the best feature is that you can sit there all night and they won't bother you or throw you out! LOL!

It's a good thing too, because Indie and I sat there from around 5:45 p.m. to around 10:30 p.m. talking, discussing books, talking and just.... talking. Let me tell you, those hours were not enough! We share a mutual love of history, politics, literature and the LGBT genre, and it was wonderful to be able to discuss in person the books and authors whose works we love. And how about the fact that it felt as if we had known each other forever? We just picked up where we left off on those emails... how great was that?!

Of course we brought each other a little "hello, it's nice to meet you" present, and guess what it was? Not much of a guess when it comes to book bloggers, right?

Indie gifted me with two unique Canadian surprises: a delicious bottle of Maple Syrup -- my husband was licking his chops before I got through the door, lol! And I was ecstatic when I unwrapped one of Indie's favorite books, a novel I've been wanting to read ever since she reviewed it for Three Dollar Bill Reviews, The Summer Between by Canadian author Andrew Binks. Here it is!
On the ‘wide, slow river’ in front of his home, twelve-year-old Dougaldo Montmigny navigates the dark waters of homophobia and racism while realizing his parents’ disintegrating relationship and the complexity of his own feelings for a summertime playmate. Dougaldo’s transitional ‘summer between’ is a lesson on love, desire, and innocence lost.
In turn, I gifted her with two of my favorite books.

The first was a book I simply loved and wish everyone would read! My 2010 LGBT Speculative Fiction top pick and Lambda 2010 finalist under their SF/Fantasy/Horror Category, Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories by Sandra McDonald. The second book was another 2010 release, but one I read and loved this year, The Perfect Family by Kathryn Shay. I'm hoping Indie enjoys these books as much as I did.

Indigene is just a lady in the best sense of the word -- warm, extremely bright and just as lovely in person and she is on line. It was a pleasure meeting her in person and I missed her company as soon as we parted. Thanks Indie for a wonderful evening! Let's do it again -- hopefully next time we won't have a whole week of pouring rain and we'll make it to the LGBT Bluestockings Bookstore. I promise! :D

Saturday, May 21, 2011

ARC Review: Kiss of Snow (Psy/Changeling, Book 10) by Nalini Singh

Kiss of Snow is one of my most anticipated books of 2011! I would like to thank KMont for indulging me and my love of this series by forward her ARC, just so that I could devour this book early. As you'll see below, I loved it!

ARC review with no spoilers

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…
Ohhh, Hawke and Sienna! What can I say about their story? For me, it was most definitely worth the wait. Hawke is as delicious an alpha as I expected him to be and Sienna turns out to be a great match for him. I loved this pairing much more than I expected to, but perhaps I should have known better by now. After all, this is Nalini Singh and she knows how to write an excellent paranormal romance. In Kiss of Snow you'll find tension, lots and lots of sexual tension, plus the romance and more than a few of those hot, sizzling moments that Singh is known for.

We all know by now that Hawke has been trying to avoid Sienna like the plague for years. Hawke thinks he's too old for her, and well... he kind of is! Sienna makes him feel things he doesn't want to feel, and since his mate died at a young age, Hawke believes he can't bond with Sienna. Sienna on the other hand has been fascinated and emotionally affected by Hawke from the moment she joined the SnowDancer pack with her family. These two have been pushing each other's buttons for years, but now that Sienna is 19 years old and back at SnowDancer full time the tension between them is off the charts. Hawke decides to find a female to soothe his wolf, and Sienna decides it is time to get her man.

This is a May-December relationship and the story must be well crafted to make the connection between the characters believable. In Kiss of Snow, Singh uses a fine touch while further developing Sienna's character and her relationship with Hawke. Sienna's character growth can be measured from beginning to end by her actions and reactions, as well as in Hawke's reactions to Sienna.

Sienna is a 19 year old young woman, and toward the beginning of the story that shows both in her uncertainty and actions, but from a young age she also suffered torture at the hands of the Psy and in many ways is older than her years. This aspect of Sienna's character is believable and that for me turned out to be key in making this relationship believable. I love the way that Sienna just blooms once she decides to take control and goes after her man. This is where her incremental growth and self-confidence can be measured as the courtship progresses. It's lovely and very well done.

Sienna is both vulnerable and strong, but Hawke is a delicious alpha and acts accordingly. He's stubborn, possessive, protective, bossy and more... but as always what makes him and his alpha attitude acceptable in this situation is the fact that Sienna calls him out on it and, young or not, takes a stand. I love that Hawke doesn't necessarily back off either, but instead modifies his approach. Smart wolf!

There's a secondary romance between Walker Lauren and Lara, the SnowDancer healer. I loved this romance! Walker was ohhhh so tender and unexpectedly hot! Go, Walker! The segments that told their story did not take the focus away from the main couple's romance, but instead served to break up some of the tension at key moments, plus it was wonderful to get to know this quiet character.

And yes... I loved all the action within the overall story arc. The overall story line moved along, and although in the end it seemed almost like a slow move, many small details are revealed along the way that make an impact. In Play of Passion we saw the Psy Council split, with Anthony and Nikita teaming up to protect their territory against the Scots. In Kiss of Snow, the story arc continues as we see Henry and the Pure Psy make their move against the San Francisco territory and more specifically, SnowDancer. Sienna's powers are revealed in all their agony and glory in these segments which are quite cleverly weaved into the romance.

The whole pack is involved in the action and characters from previous stories are highlighted with key contributions. I particularly loved Judd in this story as he continues to grow in depth and breath as a character. The cats from the DarkRiver pack also play key roles in the romance and battle. There's a lovely thread involving the kitties that I won't spoil, but look for it! It is lovely.

I enjoyed the last few books of this series and remember loving Play of Passion. However for me, Kiss of Snow ranks up there with my very favorites of this series Slave to Sensation, Caressed by Ice and Branded by Fire. I love the way Singh extends the courtship between Hawke and Sienna throughout the story to make it a believable one, the sexual tension is off the charts and the payoff is worth it! The Psy/Changeling series is ten books long and for me it's still going strong. I'm still in love with the Psy and the Changeling characters in this series and can't wait to read that next book.

Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Psy/Changeling, Book 10
Publisher/Release Date: Berkley, May 31, 2011
Source: ARC received from KMont Lurv a la Mode
Grade: A

Visit Nalini Singh here.

My Psy/Changeling series reviews:
Mine to Possess, Book 4
Branded by Fire, Book 6
Bonds of Justice, Book 8

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Impressions: Dragon Bound (Elder Race, #1) by Thea Harrison

Half-human and half-wyr, Pia Giovanni spent her life keeping a low profile among the wyrkind and avoiding the continuing conflict between them and their Dark Fae enemies. But after being blackmailed into stealing a coin from the hoard of a dragon, Pia finds herself targeted by one of the most powerful–and passionate—of the Elder Races.

As the most feared and respected of the wyrkind, Dragos Cuelebre cannot believe someone had the audacity to steal from him, much less succeed. And when he catches the thief, Dragos spares her life, claiming her as his own to further explore the desire they’ve ignited in one another.
So yes, I picked up Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison and had tons of fun reading it last week. Fun! This was a fun, solid paranormal read. I loved the overly alpha dragon and the banter, plus it was hot and sexy.

In the beginning I didn't think the world building was anything to write home about, what with the Fae and Goblins, the older than old, bored-to-death dragon, the half-breed Wyr young woman who captures his attention, and the whole New York setting that reminded me a bit of Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter's world for about a second. However, quickly enough I began to really enjoy this world Thea Harrison created with its different Elder races, magic, humans and all the struggles that go along with those tricky relationships.

The best part of this fast-paced story for me was the dialogue between the two characters. The banter that developed between Dragos and Pia was excellent. Dragos was such a beast! He was portrayed as an over-the-top, uber alpha dragon who just didn't know how to filter what came out of his mouth. Pia was no better. She called it the "lunatic in her," and it made for some great dialogue between these two.
"Pia." He spoke like the words were ripped out of him. "Don't you dare leave me. I swear to God, I will follow you into hell if I have to and drag you back by the hair."

One corner of her mouth lifted. She put her hand over his on her cheek. She said, "You say the most god-awful things."
And he did. He really did say the most awful things throughout the book! As old as he was, the beast never learned the meaning of the words finesse or romance, and Dragos was "born along with the solar system" -- that's old. Twenty five year old Pia, whom Dragos refers to as "a baby, nothing but a moment, a heartbeat," teaches him a thing or two along the way. Talk about a May-December romance!

Dragon Bound turned out to be a great read for me with a few niggles here and there. There were a couple of open-ended threads and unexplained events within the story line, as well as one big thread to do with Pia's shifting that just kind of fizzled at the end. And although Pia held her own against Dragos, I thought she tended to be more submissive than strong. But none of these niggles were enough to spoil the fun for me. I also really enjoyed the secondary characters in this book, particularly Rune, Graydon and Tricks, so you know I'll definitely read the second book in the series, Storm's Heart.

Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Elder Race, #1
Publisher/Released: Berkley/Penguin, May 3, 2011- Kindle Edition
Grade: B+

Visit Thea Harrison here.

Winners: Impressions... 2nd Anniversary Giveaway!

Thank You!

This last week I celebrated my second anniversary here at Impressions by hosting a giveaway.

By using, two winners were chosen from a total of fifteen participants. Each will receive a $25.00 gift card from either Amazon or Barnes and Noble (their choice).

Congratulations to the winners of Impressions' 2nd Anniversary Giveaway!

#7 - NATH

#14 - TRACY

Kindly send me an email to claim your prize.

It has been a wonderful two years. Thank you all for participating, but most of all for stopping by and for your warm wishes and congratulations.


Friday, May 13, 2011

New Releases: June 2011

Blogger is back up! I missed my Thursday post, but here it is on Friday instead.

June has some good upcoming releases, certainly quite a few I'm looking forward to reading. I'm highlighting six books and including four genres in this post. And, as I've been remiss in highlighting LGBT books this year, I've chosen two for June. :D


Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey
Release Date: June 2, 2011

Welcome to the future. Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer, Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.
This is a science fiction space opera! It says on the cover that it's a "kickass space opera." I've been in the mood for some straight science fiction reading this year and I'm really looking forward to reading this book. I'm hoping for lots of action and suspense in outer space.


Hexed with Ilona Andrews, Yasmine Galenorn, Allyson James, Jeanne C. Stein
Release Date: June 7, 2011

Magic Dreams by Ilona Andrews
Old legends and frightening nightmares came to life in Magic Dreams. The shapeshifting Tigress Dali Harimau finds herself in deep water when she must challenge a dark being to a battle of wits, or risk losing the man she secretly longs for.

Ice Shards by Yasmine Galenorn
Iris Kuusi, a Finnish house sprite who lives with the D’Artigo sisters, must journey to the frozen Northlands to confront the crazed shadow of her former lover she’s accused of murdering, so she can break the curse keeping her from marrying the man she loves.

Double Hexed by Allyson James
It starts, innocently enough, with a leaky faucet. Janet calls her plumber, Fremont, to help fix a faucet in a guest room, when all hell breaks loose—literally. Blood sprays from the faucets and a message appears on the mirror in blood: “You are doomed.” Janet and her friends find themselves locked in her hotel, victims of a hex cast by a very powerful sorcerer. Cassandra, Janet’s Wiccan hotel manager, believes the sorcerer is one she’s come to Magellan to hide from, and he’s one of the most powerful entities in the world. As Janet and her friends frantically work to release the spell before the sorcerer kills them all, they realize that their worst enemies might just be themselves.

Blood Debt by Jeanne C. Stein
Bounty-hunter-turned vampire Anna Strong is visited by three witches who ask her to right an old magical wrong. Anna will have to live up to her name to make it through alive…
This anthology has magic, hexes, and Ilona Andrews contributed a story to it... 'nough said! LOL, no that's not all... just kidding. I've said before that I love reading anthologies to explore works by new-to-me authors. In this case, three of the four authors are new to me and I'm really looking forward to reading these novellas.


Slant by Timothy Wang
Release Date: June 12, 2011

James, an Asian college student who likes video games and romantic comedies, decides he's gay. With his intensely logical and linear MIT mind, he identifies all the parts of himself he believes are offensive to others, and methodically changes them one by one. In the pursuit of total self transformation--including body, skin, hair, clothes, personality, and behavior--James becomes completely lost and bewildered, having lost any trace of the person he once was. Along the way, he betrays himself several times for love, lust, and money--engaging in dangerous drug use and sex to please his first boyfriend, Stan, and manipulating his admirer, Michael, to pay for plastic surgery on his Asian eyes. After Stan dumps him, obsessed with love, he'll do anything to get Stan back...
This gay fiction novel just looks like it's going to be a really interesting contemporary read. Don't you think? This is Timothy Wang's debut novel and I'm looking forward to reading it. Love new writers. :)


Come Unto These Yellow Sands by Josh Lanyon
Release Date: June 14, 2011

Sometimes the adventure chooses you.

Lover of fine poetry and lousy choose-your-own-adventure novels, Professor Sebastian Swift was once the bad-boy darling of the literati. The only lines he does these days are Browning, Frost and Cummings. Even his relationship with the hot, handsome Wolfe Neck Police Chief Max Prescott is healthy.

When one of his most talented students comes to him bruised and begging for help, Swift hands over the keys to his Orson Island cabin—only to find out that the boy’s father is dead and the police are suspicious. In an instant, the stable life Swift has built for himself hangs on finding the boy and convincing him to give himself up before Max figures out Swift’s involvement in the case.

Max enjoys splitting an infinitive or two with his favorite nutty professor, but he’s not much for sonnets or Shakespeare. He likes being lied to even less. Yet his instincts—and his heart—tell him his lover is being played. Max can forgive lies and deception, but a dangerous enemy may not stop until Swift is heading up his own dead poet’s society.
I'm gloaming Josh Lanyon's work this year. I've already read quite a few of Lanyon's last release and backlist books this year, but a new release? Of course I'm going to read it! Plus this one has a nutty professor and a Police Chief in it. I looove nutty professors! :D


Waking Up With The Duke (London's Greatest Lovers, #3) by Lorraine Heath
Release Date: June 28, 2011

They are masters of seduction, London's greatest lovers . . .

Renowned for his bedchamber prowess, Ransom Seymour, the Duke of Ainsley, owes a debt to a friend. But the payment expected is most shocking, even to an unrepentant rake—for he's being asked to provide his friend's exquisite wife with what she most dearly covets: a child.

Living for pleasure, they will give their hearts to no one . . .

Lady Jayne Seymour, Marchioness of Walfort, is furious that such a scandalous agreement would be made. If she acquiesces, there must be rules: no kissing . . . and, certainly, no pleasure.

Until love takes them by surprise.

But unexpected things occur with the surprisingly tender duke—especially once Lady Jayne discovers the rogue can make her dream again . . . and Ransom realizes he's found the one woman he truly cannot live without.
This is the Duke of Ainsley's story. I really enjoyed the first two books in this series and have quite curious about Ransom. But my goodness, this story sounds... hmm... interesting. No?


Silk Is For Seduction by Loretta Chase
Release Date: June 28, 2011

From the Design Book of Marcelline Noirot:
The allure of the perfect gown should be twofold:
ladies would die to wear it . . .
and gentlemen would kill to remove it!

Brilliant and ambitious dressmaker Marcelline Noirot is London's rising star. And who better to benefit from her talent than the worst-dressed lady in the ton, the Duke of Clevedon's intended bride? Winning the future duchess's patronage means prestige and fortune for Marcelline and her sisters. To get to the lady, though, Marcelline must win over Clevedon, whose standards are as high as his morals are . . . not.

The prize seems well worth the risk—but this time Marcelline's met her match. Clevedon can design a seduction as irresistible as her dresses; and what begins as a flicker of desire between two of the most passionately stubborn charmers in London soon ignites into a delicious inferno . . . and a blazing scandal.

And now both their futures hang by an exquisite thread of silk . . .

And the wonderful Loretta Chase has a new book releasing, so I have to read it of course. This from Loretta Chase's website:
   "... summer brings a new series somewhat connected to the Carsington books. Three young women from an aristocratic and thoroughly disreputable family (imagine Olivia's distant Dreadful DeLucey cousins), use talent, imagination, wile, and guile to try to succeed in business in London. The first story opens in Paris in 1835, during Longchamp, when the ultimate in high fashion is on display. There will be fabulous clothes, gorgeous men, and devious, ambitious women."

I love that this is the beginning of a new trilogy from Ms. Chase and I can look forward to reading at least two more books. Yes!

Those are my highlights for the month of June. How about you? What books are you looking forward to reading next month?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Minis: Harper Fox, Jill Shalvis, Jodi Thomas

It has been a while since I posted mini-impressions. So today instead of one long review, I decided to post three minis on my latest reads.

Driftwood by Harper Fox (Goodreads review)

I loved Harper Fox's prose, characterization, the chosen setting and atmosphere in this story. Fox's characters are complex, flawed and quite human (and that obviously counts as a plus for me). I couldn't stop reading the story of these men who were acutely hurt by either war or violence, and their painful journey toward healing through a little tenderness, love, self-awareness, lies and angst.

I had to suspend disbelief during the climactic scene with the "villain" due the physical condition both Flynn and Tom happened to be in. However, by that time I liked the story and characters to the extent that this did not become a big detriment to my overall enjoyment of the story.

After reading Life After Joe, Nine Lights over Edingburgh and now Driftwood, Harper Fox is fast becoming a favorite author in this sub-genre. (LGBT) Grade B+


The Heat is On by Jill Shalvis

The Heat is On is another hot and sexy Blaze by Jill Shalvis and part of her Santa Rey series. The story of Bella the sexy baker, and Jacob the Tall, Dark and Drop Dead Sexy Detective begins hot, sizzles through the middle and ends in a scorching heap. There's a dead body, shootings and a need for protection (lots of protection). Great chemistry, baking, some role play, action and romance.

Bella's the type of woman who moves on from town to town and doesn't commit to relationships. Jacob is a cop whose love life has been severely affected by his job. Lack of communication between Bella and Jacob toward the last third of the book became frustrating, but other than that, this was a quick, enjoyable, hot contemporary. (Contemporary Romance) Grade B


Twisted Creek by Jodi Thomas

Twisted Creek is a lovely and heart warming story that features a young woman, her grandmother and an undercover ATF agent as main characters. Allie and her Nana make a place for themselves in the small lakefront town of Twisted Creek, Texas after Allie inherits property from an "uncle" she has never met. They join a community of misfits, slowly bring them together and eventually become a family. There's also a secondary story line related to a mystery/suspense that brings the community together and strengthens their bond.

As Allie tries to figure out if she really belongs at Twisted Creek and weather or not she should allow herself to dream again, through conversations, intimate moments and passionate encounters, she falls in love with Luke.

Twisted Creek is a great read. The relationship between Allie and her Nana is lovely, tender, touching and frankly it made me tear up more than once. The secondary characters have depth and contribute as much to this story as do the central characters. I love that! And last, but not least, the romance between Allie and Luke is developed slowly and it's heartfelt. There are no graphic sexual scenes, but they're not necessary to make the romance between this couple an enjoyable one. Twisted Creek is a well-rounded story with a sweet and lovely plot, excellent characterization, an interesting if somewhat predictable secondary plot, and a romance I enjoyed. (Contemporary Romance) Grade B+

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Impressions is 2!!! Celebration + Giveaway

Hey, I've been hanging around here for 2 whole years already! Where has the time gone?

Two years ago I began my blog under the name Impressions... (now Impressions of a Reader) as a place to keep track of my reads. I wanted a little corner of the blogosphere with a blank page where I could write down my personal thoughts -- not necessarily reviews. Well, the place has evolved in two years, as has the name  of the blog itself. I ended up writing those reviews after all. However, it still feels like that small, intimate corner of the world where I can write those personal thoughts and impressions whenever the mood strikes.

I've made some great on-line friends and this past year met some of those wonderful ladies in person! Thanks to all of you who stop by on a regular basis -- readers, bloggers and authors -- to comment or just to visit me. :) It has been a lovely two years.

To celebrate my 2nd Blogoversary I'm giving away 2 - $25.00 gift cards to either Amazon or Barnes and Noble (your choice) to 2 lucky winners. Please leave a comment before Sunday, May 15th, 1:00 p.m. to enter.

Oh, and isn't it great that my anniversary falls on Mother's Day? Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful moms out there! I hope you're all having the best of days.

ETA May 15th: The giveaway is officially closed.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Latest book haul!

I rarely write up posts about books I add to my ever growing "to be read" pile, but I'm a bit excited about my latest additions. So here's my own random version of those "book haul" posts I love to visit. :)

I do love to buy those older backlist books and hunt for used books and deals. The following are in that category. Sunshine is a 2003 vampire book I heard about a long time ago when I didn't hmm... read books about vampires. I recently heard it mentioned again (don't remember where) and decided to read it. Nath and Tabitha highly recommend the Jennifer Estep UF series, and I've had the first book in my TBB list for a long time. Phyl recommended Miranda Neville's historical romances a while back and they just looked good! I purchased the three fantasy books below for the 2011 Women of Fantasy Book Club -- I'm already reading War for the Oaks by Emma Bull! And I found Kate Rothwell's historical romances at Amazon while searching and thought they looked interesting.

Used print books:

Kindle additions:

Here's Rick Riordan's latest release, The Throne of Fire. I decided to get the Kindle edition this time, instead of the print book. I also added two LGBT books by two favorite authors, Harper Fox and Josh Lanyon -- I continue to gloam Lanyon, and am slowly catching up with his extensive back list -- I finished The Dark Farewell last night! Then, there's Cherie Priest...I read Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest last month, and although it wasn't an outstanding read for me, I liked her writing. Renee recommended Bloodshot, Priest's latest UF series, so it went on my TBR. I also decided to buy Priest's short steam punk story Clementine, to give that world a shot. And last, but not least, I just had to buy this Blaze by Jill Shalvis! It's part of her Santa Rey firefighter series and I can't believe I missed it. Hot!

My SFR books! I bought three more... Enemy Within and latest release Enemy Games by Marcella Burnard, plus I pre-ordered Blue Galaxy by Diane Dooley, a Sci-Fi Romance that's releasing on May 9th!

Okay, that's it! I really did get some great prices on those used books! Oh well, until the end of the month, that's when I'll be looking for all those great new releases. :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Review: A Lesson in Secrets (Maisie Dobbs #8) by Jacqueline Winspear

In this story, Maisie is far from the insecure young woman we fist met on that first book, the one trying to come to terms with loss, pain and differences in class. I like that Maisie seems to have come into her own as a woman and a professional.

In A Lesson in Secrets Maisie is again coming to terms with loss, except this time she's dealing with the death of her long time mentor Maurice Blanche, as well as with the fact that she is now a young woman of independent means. Her personal life has also taken a new turn, as Maisie has entered into an affair with James Compton, Lord and Lady Compton's son. So, this is an adult and very different Maisie indeed.

Maisie has been recruited by the British Secret Service to help investigate St. Francis College and she returns to Cambridge where anti-government activities are suspected. Scotland Yard is also investigating illegal immigration as a possibility. So while James is off to Canada taking care of business, Maisie goes undercover at the college posing as a philosophy professor.

I like that this continues to be a historical fiction mystery series. This story is set in the period between WWI and the beginnings of what will become WWII. Hitler is just beginning to stir in Germany as his book Mein Kampf has been published. A murder takes place soon after Maisie joins the college staff and the investigation is off. Maisie discoveries include Nazi sympathizers, and while the British Secret Service concentrates on the Communist "red" threat, Maisie has her doubts. The investigation takes quite a few twists and turns with Maisie doing most of the investigative under cover work.

What did I like? As with the first book, I liked the historical fiction aspect of A Lesson in Secrets, the setting and atmosphere. I think those are the strengths of this series so far. The plot is also quite interesting and I like that it was two-pronged, involving the crime investigation into the death of a pacifist which brought the readers into the WWI conflict, while details uncovered during the same crime investigation took a different turn by showing how seemingly insignificant and ignored events would later become significant moments in history, bringing the readers into what would become the WWII conflict. Both of these plot lines were really very well done and I highly enjoyed them.

What didn't I like? Maisie as the main character continues to be tough to relate or connect to on different levels. To a certain extent, she almost seems to be emotionally disconnected from those around her, although she's portrayed as a kind person with a psychic empathic connection to others. I don't "feel" it though -- there's a distance there that doesn't make it seem real.

Maisie's detecting skills are also questionable in this story. She's under cover and yet by the time she was in the college a week, I would have been surprised if most of the key characters didn't know it! Hush, hush was the word... and yet she didn't exactly know how to keep things on a confidential level. Her detecting tactics are quite obvious and I admit to being frustrated with them.

I liked some of the secondary characters, particularly Scotland Yard Detective Richard Stratton whose presence in the story was strongly felt even though he was not quite key. Is it me, or is there more chemistry between Stratton and Maisie than between Maisie and James? I was left wanting more of this character and less of James.

In summary I highly enjoyed the plot, the setting and atmosphere in this book, as well as some of the secondary characters. The main character remains the one average aspect of this series, and I find it interesting that I want to continue reading it despite that fact. It goes to show how important writing, plotting, setting, atmosphere and secondary characters can be to a story.

Category: Mystery
Series: Maisie Dobbs (Book #8)
Published: March 22, 2011
Grade: B

Visit Jacqueline Winspear here.

Series Reviews:
Maisie Dobbs (Book 1)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Featuring SFR Review: Children of Scarabaeus (Scarabaeus 2) by Sara Creasy

Edie Sha'nim believes she and her bodyguard lover, Finn, could find refuge from the tyranny of the Crib empire by fleeing to the Fringe worlds. But Edie's extraordinary cypherteck ability to manipulate the ecology of evolving planets makes her far too valuable for the empire to lose. Recaptured and forced to cooperate - or else she will watch Finn die - Edie is shocked to discover the Crib's new breed of cypherteck: children. She cannot stand by while the oppressors enslave the innocent, nor can she resist the lure of Scarabaeus, the first world she tried to save, when researchers discover what appears to be an evolving intelligence.

But escape - for Edie, for Finn, and for the exploited young - will require the ultimate sacrifice...and a shocking act of rebellion.
Children of Scarabaeus picks up where Song of Scarabaeus left off, with Edie in need of neurotoxin and the Crib fast on their heels. Edie and Finn are captured again, except this time it's the Crib and Natesa that take them and some of the same problems previously faced by these two are reprised. The Crib uses Finn's leash against Edie and she will do anything to keep him alive, even if she has to give up her dreams of freedom.

Natesa is working on Project Andra and soon Edie discovers that the Crib is using children from her home planet of Talin to work on the project. But as this project begins to falter and other massive scientific failures throughout the galaxy come to light, Scarabaeus once again becomes the focus for the Crib and Edie and Finn find themselves on their way to that planet.

The repetition of events, the capture and the way Finn is used against Edie, was disappointing to me. That whole story line just felt too familiar, too soon, even though the events take place on a different ship and this time it's the Crib instead of rovers that do the torturing.

Slavery is a thread in this story, as Finn, Edie, the children and even Natesa are portrayed as nothing more than slaves to the Crib in one way or another. Of the children I loved Galeon, a 7 year-old boy who steals every scene where he appears. Even though he's brilliant, he acts like a child and humanizes this story and in the process does the same for both Edie and Finn. This little boy manages to touch Edie and even the too practical Finn.

I still loved the planet Scarabaeus and how it evolved by the time our protagonists' return, and of course the creepy-crawlies that still abound there. The sci-fi details are carried through in this installment from the last book and the world building continues at a slower pace. The romance does permeate this story more so than in the first installment, although again it is slow going and more on the realistic side of things. I liked that the romance doesn't take the focus away from the sci-fi storyline and yet the connection between Edie and Finn can be felt throughout.

The final resolution takes place in the planet of Scarabaeus and it's both exciting and climactic. I liked the way Ms. Creasy works all the world building and character details into the ending. Although again as in Song of Scarabaeus, the secondary characters don't have the depth I prefer to encounter in such stories, the main characters do make up for that flaw. There are sci-fi and plotting details galore in this book, however the plot meanders a bit and is not as well defined as that first book.

Children of Scarabaeus is definitely worth reading, there are no plot holes, the world building is tight and all ends on a satisfying note, even though there's also a feeling of deja vu at that point. The romance aspect of the book is well integrated into this story, as Ms. Creasy uses a combination of sensual tension, yearning and a realistic touch to build on the already established relationship. This is another solid science fiction romance installment by Ms. Creasy and, although I wish the end of this two-book series had been more exciting for me, I definitely look forward to reading her future works.

Category: Science Fiction Romance
Series: Scarabaeus #2
Published/Released Date: Harper Collins, March 29, 2011- Kindle Edition
Grade: B

Visit Sara Creasy here.

Song of Scarabaeus, Book 1
Children of Scarabaeus, Book 2

Sunday, May 1, 2011

April 2011 Reads & Minis

April! What a long month! I read and read and read... it felt wonderful to be able to read like that again. My schedule remains the same at work (busy), but I've basically slotted in time to read and blog into my calendar and things are working out for me. Reading time relaxes my mind and is very important to me personally, so I'm feeling quite relaxed this month. LOL!

This is going to be a long post, so without further ado here's my update for April:

Total Read: 24
LGBT: 7 (Mystery: 6 -- M/M Romance: 1)
Contemporary Romance: 5
Historical Romance: 4
Sci-Fi/Fantasy: 3 (Fantasy: 1 - SFR: 1 - UF: 1)
Paranormal Romance: 3
Mystery: 2

Favorite Books this Month:
  • Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh - KMont from Lurv a la Mode sent me her ARC copy and you know I whopped and hollered when I saw that envelope! I dropped everything else and read this book until it was done. I'll post my review later this month, but let's just say that Hawke and Sienna's story was worth the wait: A
  • The Sergeant's Lady by Susanna Fraser: B+ (Upcoming Review)
  • A Lot Like Love by Julie James: B+ (Upcoming Review)

Here come those B's:

  • In a Dark Wood by Josh Lanyon was a mystery/horror story that takes place in the New Jersey woods! This story deals with one of those urban legends that will make the hairs in the back of your neck stand up straight. The Jersey woods give me the creeps on the best of days, and this short story didn't help at all! Mr. Lanyon pairs up our writer, Tim with a cop. They go on their first date on a hiking trip up to the New Jersey Pine Barrens, and let me tell you things go from bad to worst. I loved this short, short story, Tim's character with his deep personal problems and fears and the fantastic, horrific outcome of that trip. I wish this terrific short horror story had been longer and that there had been more page time to develop the characters further, Tim in particular. Grade: B
  • Four and Twenty Blackbirds (Eden Moore #1) by Cherie Priest. This book was my 2011 Women of Fantasy Book Club April read. This is book one in Cherie Priest's Eden Moore urban fantasy series. I loved, loved the Gothic Southern atmosphere of this book, with it's old dysfunctional family history and crazy characters. The beginning of the book pulled me in and kept me reading, particularly when Eden was a little girl and she was just discovering things around her. However, things changed later on in the book when it comes to Eden and the plot became more... predictable and dare I say, less exciting. Eden is an angry girl who becomes an angry and at times glib woman, and makes one mistake after another. She has certain abilities, goes on an adventure to find out more about her past and in the process kicks butt, despite the fact that she doesn't really know what the heck she's doing or why. I liked her better when she was a little girl. However, I did love, love the Southern atmosphere and the history in this book as well as world building where Priest mixes ghosts with the African voodoo culture. The writing flows and it was a quick read, so in the end this book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Grade: B-
  • A Vintage Affair by Josh Lanyon is one of those books I picked up last Saturday. This story takes place in a southern mansion in Georgia and it involves wine and a murder. Austin is a sommelier and he's down in Georgia to assess the value of a wine collection. Instead he finds murder and hot, but closeted, Jeff Brady. The two have one mind-blowing night together while the murder is investigated, but things won't go anywhere since "gay" is not done in Georgia. I enjoyed this story and again Mr. Lanyon excels at creating atmosphere and transporting the reader to place and time. Both Austin and Jeff as characters were well portrayed. There's an M/F/M scene in this book that might bother M/M only romance readers (and took me by surprise), but that I thought was quite appropriate when taking the plot into consideration. My only problem with this story was that I thought the crime investigation took a back seat to the rest of the story, and we were "told" how it all ended, not shown. Grade B-

And this Month's C's:
  • Giving Chase (Chase Brothers #1) by Lauren Dane was a cute contemporary romance with lots of erotic scenes thrown into the mix. I enjoyed the family atmosphere, the Chase family and friendships between the female protagonist and her closest friends. I also loved the close bond between the Chase brothers. However, the plot itself seemed to lack focus with a heroine that was insecure about her looks, problems with her family, a stalker, and the heroine dating a different brother before she settled for the main character, Kyle. The focus on the men's looks got old after a while and in a way it took away from my enjoyment of their yumminess. Grade: C
  • Kiss Across Swords by Teal Ceagh is a paranormal romance that uses a few different devices. It's a time travel, vampire tale that includes a menage (M/M/F). I enjoyed the time travel aspect of the story as it went back in time to the Crusades and the fall of Jerusalem. The story itself made sense in that way, however, I did not enjoy the menage aspect of the story. The erotic scenes were quite good, but although the sexual aspect was well done, there was a lack of emotional connection between the three main characters involved that I could not dismiss. The female was attached emotionally to one man more than the other and the one male seemed more attached to the other than to the female... the emotional connection didn't feel balanced, although we were told that it was. Grade C-
That's a LONG post for a long reading month! A happy one for me, although as you can see it was a mixed bag when it came down to grades. However, thinking about it... there wasn't one single book that I disliked terrible, and although there were quite a few average reads in the bunch there were more solids and some outstanding reads that I just loved!

ETA: The books are listed by grade, and then by how much I enjoyed each book compared to the rest. Tough decisions!