Saturday, June 30, 2012

Taking a short break!

I will return very soon with a summary of my June reads, a mid-year recap, reads update and reviews, but for the next week... just taking a much needed short summer/holiday break from everything.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer Reads: Beach... or anywhere that's hot!

Playa Nibujon
Picture taken by my cousin F. Ma
Hey... it's hot, hot, hot... at least it's really hot this weekend in Jersey (100 degrees F), and the temperature is going to stay that way for the rest of the weekend and next week. Are we all dreaming of the beach yet? I know, I am!!! You see the picture of that beach? My family grew up swimming on that beach, and I'm dreaming of it right now...

Next week there's a holiday, and many of us will be heading to the beach, (down the shore), or to other summer places to get away from it all. What better time to get some nice reading done? Here are a few recommendations from my recent list of books read and from past years. If you're interested in reading some full-length summery contemporary romances, you can always pick up:

The Lucky Harbor Series by Jill Shalvis includes the original three books that I loved and the latest releases, which I plan to read during this next week, but for a hot summer day? The Sweetest Thing! Here you'll find a book that will make you want to run for the boardwalk, another one with a great seaside romance and an unforgettable dog! And yet another one about two people who begin a summer affair and find love.

The Sweetest Thing, #2 (2011)
No Tan Lines by Kate Angell (2012)
Summer at Seaside Cove by Jacquie D'Alessandro (2011)
Crazy for Love by Victoria Dahl (2010)

And, if just want to pick up some shorter reads that won't take too much time out of your day, I loved and recommend the following three books -- all three are favorites:

Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry (2012 Contemporary Romance)
A Little More Scandal by Carrie Lofty (2012 Historical Romance Novella)
Her Secret Fling by Sarah Mayberry (2010 Contemporary Romance)  

Here are some LGBT recommendations: two enjoyable anthologies full of short stories where you can find sunshine, love or fantastic seafaring tales, an excellent fantasy novella with romance a police-procedural, and a full-length light, summery, young adult mystery read.

Boys of Summer edited by Steve Berman (2012 Contemporary Anthology)
The Touch of the Sea edited by Steve Berman (2012 Fantasy Anthology)
Point of Knives by Melissa Scott (2012 Fantasy Novella)
Mystery of the Tempest: A Fisher Key Adventure by Sam Cameron (2011 Contemporary YA Mystery) 
That's it! I'm going to go enjoy my hot, hot weekend and pick up a summer read! Enjoy your weekend. Stay cool!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Releases: June/July 2012

Today is a great day for new releases! I have them all nice and cozy in my Kindle already. :)

However, there were a couple of June releases that I missed! Books that I'm really excited about reading, because they are written by a writer who make it to the top of my favorite list last year. So in a way, this is an author highlight and a new release post since two of the books I'm highlighting are by the same author, Mr. Elliott Mackle. The rest of the books are July 2012 releases that I will definitely read.

Captain Harding and His Men by Elliott Mackle
Release Date: June 1, 2012
When a C-130 bound for Southeast Asia explodes on takeoff at remote Wheelus Air Base, Libya, handsome, hard-charging Captain Joe Harding instinctively realizes that the cargo list--''medical supplies and radio tubes''--was faked. When Joe's newly-married workout buddy does a swan dive off a fifth story balcony in downtown Tripoli, Joe refuses to accept the semi-official verdict: suicidal depression. And when Joe's tennis partner, the son of the American ambassador, decides to celebrate his eighteenth birthday by appearing unannounced at Joe's BOQ door, the potential difficulties of their love-match must be addressed--seriously and without delay.

Continuing the adventures and misadventures begun in Elliott Mackle's award-winning Captain Harding's Six-Day War, Joe and his fellow officers and airmen contend with a highly decorated but sexually abusive wing commander (who happens to be Joe's boss), a closeted Pentagon official fighting to save his career, a CIA agent who may be an impostor, and shipments of British weapons that fall into the hands of anti-royalist rebels. When a kidnapping goes terribly wrong, Joe must fight for everything he holds dear: duty, honor, country and love.
Captain Harding and His Men was actually slated to release in August, but released early in June. I noticed almost immediately because I bookmarked this book at amazon! I've been hunting this story down (checking up on it) ever since I read and loved the first installment, Captain Harding's Six Day War last year, and by June 5th this novel was in my Kindle. For those of you who also enjoyed the first book (or who want to give this series a shot), check it out... it's out already!


Title: It Takes Two by Elliott Mackle
Release Date: June 6, 2012
February, 1949. Fort Myers, Florida. It started out to be such a nice day. But early morning gunfire at the Royal Plaza Motor Hotel changed all that. One white man is dead. One black man is dead. The white man's widow has just crashed the investigation and is waving a gun around. Dan Ewing, who isn't supposed to be there, barely escapes getting shot. Saving his bacon is Lee County detective Bud Wright. Dan and Bud are more than just fishing buddies. But that's one secret of many in this small town.

Dan is the manager of the Caloosa Hotel, a class act if you're just passing through, but a provider of card games, call girls, mixed drinks and other special ''services'' for members of the ultra-private Caloosa Club. This doesn't sit well with everyone in town, including a wealthy car dealer, the KKK, and Bud Wright, despite the fact that he's sleeping with Dan. But the car dealer is the dead white man, the black man is the husband of his wife's former maid, and the sheriff, Bud's boss, seems determined to steer the investigation off track. So what does the apparent murder-suicide have to do with the Caloosa?

Former journalist Elliott Mackle takes this wonderfully realized ''why-done-it'' to fascinating levels as he explores the various factions of a small southern town facing the giant implications of a rapidly changing society in the postwar years. It Takes Two, Mackle's first novel and a Lambda Literary Award finalist returns to print.
Also out in June from Mr. Mackle, his first novel It Takes Two. This book was out of print and was re-released in both print and ebook formats by Lethe Press. I looked and searched for this book last year and could not get my hands on it. I wanted to read it right away after finishing Captain Harding's Six Day War, and that was frustrating. Sooo, for me that was great news! It Takes Two was a Lambda Literary Award finalist and of course it had some excellent reviews when it was first released. I received this book for review from the author, and of course you know that yes... I already read it! If you have NOT read this excellent novel yet, check it out it's available again. Review to come!


The Last Policeman: A Novel by Ben H. Winters
Release Date: July 10, 2012
What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway?

Detective Hank Palace has faced this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. There’s no chance left. No hope. Just six precious months until impact.

The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. The economy spirals downward while crops rot in the fields. Churches and synagogues are packed. People all over the world are walking off the job—but not Hank Palace. He’s investigating a death by hanging in a city that sees a dozen suicides every week—except this one feels suspicious, and Palace is the only cop who cares.

The first in a trilogy, The Last Policeman offers a mystery set on the brink of an apocalypse. As Palace’s investigation plays out under the shadow of 2011GV1, we’re confronted by hard questions way beyond “whodunit.” What basis does civilization rest upon? What is life worth? What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?
The Last Policeman is another novel that I accepted for review. Now... how could I pass it up? It's the first book in a pre-apocalyptic "whodunit" trilogy, with a pretty odd sounding central character. The blurb for this book definitely grabbed my attention. I haven't read anything by this author, although I think most of us will recognize a couple of his previous titles, namely Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters and the bestseller Bedbugs.


You Will Meet A Stranger Far From Home: Wonder Stories by Alex Jeffers
Release Date: July 14, 2012
Ten recent stories that wander back and forth along and across the boundaries between realistic, fantastical, and science fiction.
This is the only description I could find for Mr. Jeffers' latest collection, You Will Meet A Stranger Far From Home: Wonder Stories, except for a list of titles a small summary about each story at the author's site, plus a few advance reviews... some very good ones! You can read titles and descriptions here. I've read two of those stories already (in different anthologies) and loved them.

It's no secret that Jeffers is a favorite author, his book The Abode of Bliss: Ten Stories for Adam was a favorite last year, so I'm not missing this collection.


Title: Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews
Release Date: July 31, 2012
After being kicked out of the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid, Andrea’s whole existence is in shambles. She tries to put herself back together by working for Cutting Edge, a small investigative firm owned by her best friend. When several shapeshifters working for Raphael Medrano—the male alpha of the Clan Bouda, and Andrea’s former lover—die unexpectedly at a dig site, Andrea is assigned to investigate. Now she must work with Raphael as her search for the killer leads into the secret underbelly of supernatural Atlanta. And dealing with her feelings for him might have to take a back seat to saving the world…
Gunmetal Magic is Andrea's book! From the Kate Daniel's series by Ilona Andrews! Am I going to miss it? Heck no!! She's one of my favorite characters from this series, and I can't wait to read this book to see how the Andrews team develop Andrea into a central character. Andrea and Raphael... Hah! Yeah!


There are only three July releases in this early release post. I will post more later! Are there any books you are looking forward to reading in July?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review: Starlight (The Christies #2) by Carrie Lofty

Passion sparkles forever . . . in the shining eyes of a true love.

An esteemed astronomer, Alex Christie, the eldest and most steadfast of the Christie siblings, has never possessed his late father’s ruthless business drive. But to protect his frail infant son from his cruel father-in-law’s bid for custody, the young widower must undertake Sir William Christie’s posthumous million-dollar challenge: to make a Glasgow cotton mill profitable. At sea in an industrial world of sabotage and union agitation, Alex meets Polly Gowan, daughter of a famed union leader, who hopes to seize a mysterious saboteur without involving the police.

Because a sympathetic mill master would aid her cause, Polly becomes Alex’s guide to urban Scotland. From soccer games to pub brawls, Alex sees another side of life, and feels free for the first time to reveal the man—vital and strong—behind his intellectual exterior. Polly is utterly seduced. Their ambitions, however, remain at odds: Alex vows to earn the mill bonus to save his child, while Polly fights for the needs of her people. Is there strength enough in their sparkling passion to bind them together in their quests—and in a lasting love that conquers all?
In Starlight, Carrie Lofty successfully combines all of the ingredients that I love about her romances. The atmosphere created by the gritty setting in this novel serves as an excellent backdrop, giving this romance the perfect historical touch. The characters that populate the story, both central and secondary, also make it happen, beginning with Polly who definitely belongs in the setting, and ending with Alex whose character grows by leaps and bounds right before our eyes.

Alexander Christie is the late William Christie's eldest son. In his controversial will, the industrial mogul leaves Alex the Christie Textile Mills in Glasgow, Scotland with the proviso that he must manage the cotton mills and make a profit within two years in order to receive a $1M bonus, however if he fails, his inheritance will be reduced to $500. Alex is not a businessman, but an astronomy teacher at a Philadelphia university and a widower with a sickly infant son. He resents the situation and doesn't care about the money until his powerful and unbalanced father-in-law threatens to take his beloved son Edmund away, giving Alex the resolve to fight for a future and make a success of his endeavors in Glasgow, Scotland.

Glasgow 1881 is a hotbed of trouble. The cotton mills masters are all powerful, uncompromising and always looking to make the biggest profit, as a result, masters don't care about poor workers' conditions. Mill masters certainly don't negotiate with workers' unions, and when crossed their wrath is often violent and deadly. Polly Gowan is a mill worker and has taken her father's place as the respected leader of the peaceful workers' union. She works at Christie's Textiles where after a suspicious explosion, workers are blamed, the usual suspects rounded up by constables and goons alike, and she meets the new master Alex Christie under difficult circumstances.

Reluctantly, Polly becomes Alex's guide through the troubled political situation with an eye on bringing him over to the union's side. But pretty quickly these two people from different worlds, who stand at opposite ends of this explosive situation, become passionately attracted to each other. Alex and Polly act on that attraction and begin a torrid and passionate affair that has all the hallmarks of a disaster in the making, where each keeps information from the other and trust is gained and broken on both sides.

I loved Polly's character, flaws and all. The first thing you notice about Polly is that she understands her people and selflessly cares about them. She is giving, passionate and tough as nails. Initially, Polly falls in lust with Alex and is willing to take a chance on taking just a few moments for herself (having a little fun), until her feelings for him begin to complicate matters and loyalties are questioned. Her feelings reflect Alex's who also becomes torn between what he feels for Polly and what he has to do to keep his son safe from his father-in-law.

Alex, I adored. Alex almost has a split personality. In Flawless, he is described as an astronomy teacher and that led me to visualize his appearance as that of a rather refined and sophisticated young man. Reading A Little More Scandal prior to reading Starlight, helped me visualize the differences in Alex's physical attributes and physicality. Lofty beautifully captures the duality to his personality and even to his physical appearance in this novel -- both Alex's rough side, the one that comes from William Christie, and the astronomy teacher or New York society gentleman.

Alex is basically sexually starved after what was practically a platonic marriage to a woman he knew since childhood. He is such a beautiful man in so many ways -- passionate, tender, rough, tough, protective and even sexually naive. Alex's attraction to Polly is instant and his passion is boundless. It's interesting because Polly loves Alex's protectiveness, but simultaneously resents his propensity for playing the 'knight' who rescues ladies in distress. I understood Polly!

Together, Alex and Polly are explosive, heartbreakingly tender, frustrating, and loving. Polly is really the aggressor in their sexual relationship. He is passionate but whenever he tries to be a gentleman, she is the one who repeatedly drives and pushes him to the next level in their sexual adventure. Polly is no coy miss! Alex and Polly do resolve their immediate differences as master and textile mill worker in a big climactic scene, although unfortunately there are no scenes showing how the changes affect Calton.

I loved Starlight. The setting, atmosphere, characters, conflict and passionate romance all drew me and kept me reading. There's no way I will miss reading the next installment in The Christies' series. Highly recommended.

Category: Historical Romance
Series: The Christies
Publisher/Release Date: Pocket/June 26, 2012
Source: eARC Novel Sidekick
Grade: A-

Visit Carrie Lofty here.

Series-The Christies:
Flawless, Book #1
A Little More Scandal, Book #1.5
Starlight, Book #2

Friday, June 22, 2012

Review: Taxi Rojo by Erik Orrantia

Taxi Rojo is my first read by Erik Orrantia. The setting is Tijuana, Mexico. That right there is one of the reasons this book grabbed my attention. For me, the setting alone presented many wonderful possibilities for this story, and I couldn't wait to meet Orrantia's characters.

With Taxi Rojo, Orrantia creates that combination of LGBT fiction with romance/love stories that I seem to enjoy so much these days. And yes, if the definition of romance is for couples to find a happily ever after, there are at least two full-fledged romances and the beginning of another one in Taxi Rojo. Of course these are no cookie cutter romances, gay or otherwise. Orrantia's characters are everyday people struggling to survive in a place where survival is the word of the day, and their romances are not fantasy filled, but take place as they struggle with the harsh realities of every day concerns. I think of these as reality-based romances.

The story begins when six strangers share a taxi from downtown to Playas, a neighborhood in Tijuana, Mexico. While on their way, there is a tragic accident where the driver and a passenger are killed. The passenger is a gay old man who is found with no wallet or identification. The rest of the passengers survive and forge a bond through this terrible experience that changes their lives.

Orrantia highlights each central character from their individual points of view beginning with Pancha/Pancho, a transvestite and performer who dreams of finding a man who will accept her for whom she is. She's just not sure that her long-term lover Eduardo is that man. After the accident, Pancha finally finds the resolve to clarify her position to Eduardo. Julia is a poor, guilt-ridden, hardworking woman that lives for her family but has allowed herself to become a doormat. The death of that unknown old man in the taxi deeply affects Julia, and slowly she strives to make things happen for herself, including allowing a man in her life. Julia's character also serves to make a social statement. Through her character, Orrantia makes the argument and shows the need and growing frustrations that comes from the daily struggle of having to cross that border on a daily basis to make a living.

Rigoverto, Cristian and Toni's lives become intertwined when, in the evening of the accident, Rigo and Toni hook up while Rigo's partner Cristian is away. Rigo and Cris confront two conflicts in this story; dishonesty/lack of trust due to Rigo's lies and a more serious conflict that arises as a result of medical testing that will affect Cris and Rigo's lives forever. Each character struggles with the emotional aftermath and consequences of their actions, as well as with the possibility of a future together or apart. In the meantime, Toni's denial of his sexuality is as wide as the River Nile. I found this character rather compelling because he's not just in the closet or on the down low – he’s in complete, utter denial. As a result of his encounters with Rigo, life also changes for Toni, and as his homosexual encounters gain momentum that denial changes to extreme homophobia.

There's a lot of denial going on in this story and all the characters seem to rationalize their actions in one way or another until the accident takes place. Afterwards, most of Orrantia's characters work through the denial, rationalization, and conflicts, while others can't come to terms with reality and cross the line. On a personal note, I enjoyed all the stories but must admit that Pancha and Eduardo's romance became my favorite and particularly like the queer twist that Orrantia brought to their happy ending.

Although there are multiple points of view used in Taxi Rojo, Orrantia delivers a tight narrative by using the bond established by the characters through the accident and the old man's death. As the setting, Tijuana is incorporated into the story so seamlessly that it almost becomes another character that the author explores to its fullest extent with all its gritty flaws exposed. There are happy endings in Taxi Rojo, moments that may seem to be just a bit too happy or convenient in the end. But in my opinion if anybody deserved happy moments and happy endings, these characters with their ordinary lives and struggles, did. Well done!

Category: LGBT Fiction/Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Cheyenne Publishing/April 10, 2012
Grade: B+

Visit Erik Orrantia here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

TBR Review: Logan's Outlaw (Men of Defiance #4) by Elaine Levine

Confident and coolheaded, nothing shakes a Man of Defiance—except a woman he can’t resist...

Sarah Hawkins survived capture by the Sioux, but after her escape she faced public scorn. Now, she’ll do anything to start over, and the dusty town of Defiance promises the anonymity and security she needs. Before she melts into the shadows, though, it’s her mission to put a great injustice to rights, and that means jeopardizing her safety once more.

But this time, she’s not alone. Without meaning to, Sarah has fallen under the protection of Logan Taggert, a rough-and-tumble trader unused to caring for others—and yet unable to ignore the tempting, tenacious woman’s plight. Though she refuses to trust him, Logan won’t leave her side, keeping her one step ahead of danger…even as she takes hold of the very thing he never thought he’d risk: his heart.
Logan's Outlaw by Elaine Levine is the fourth installment in the Men of Defiance series. I read Leah and the Bounty Hunter, Book 3 and enjoyed the "real, somewhat gritty western" atmosphere in that story, and plan on reading the complete series. Logan's Outlaw is a western romance with plenty of violence and events covering the not-so-pretty history of the West. This story takes place during the painful times when the Sioux Nation was in flux, when gold was found in the Black Hills, and while some tribes were left with little choice but to move to reservations, others fought to maintain their way of life.

The story begins with Sarah, a white woman who survived torture as the white captive of a Sioux chief. This beginning worried me a bit, I've read these types of books before (from the 70's and 80's) where Native Americans are often demonized or romanticized. However, pretty quickly I realized that in Logan's Outlaw, Levine goes out of her way to portray both sides of the story. I can't tell you how politically correct the book is, you'll have to decide that for yourself, I can say that it is apparent that Ms. Levine conducted research before writing this story and did not romanticize either side.

Through Sarah, Levine explores life in the aftermath of a surviving white captive who was tortured and married to a Sioux chief. Also through Sarah, the author addresses the subject of how land, when not gained through treaties, was taken through foul means. Through White Cloud and his people, Levine explores the wisdom of the culture and how deeply they were wronged, and through Chayton her exploration goes into the pain and loss of the plains people.

Logan is the linchpin in this story. His position as a trader allows him to straddle both sides, and he appreciates and experiences the pain from both sides. Actually Logan turns out to be the perfect knight for a woman like Sarah. He understands what she went through, has endless patience with her, and all the right connections and courage to save her from her Sioux husband and to protect her from white scorn. There were very few moments when Logan showed his flaws... and even then, his reasoning was quite human. I wondered a few times along the way if there are men out there with his kind of patience. As a fictional romance hero, though, he is just that... quite a hero.

The romance between Sarah and Logan serves as the central focus. When Logan meets Sarah at a coach stop, she is a wounded, traumatized soul. Logan takes one look at beautiful and haunted-looking Sarah and fearing that the coach leaving to Cheyenne is headed for danger, appoints himself her silent protector and joins the group on their journey. That journey is a harsh one. They are attacked by a band of Sioux warriors, their coach is burned and the passengers killed. Although Sarah and Logan survive through Logan's knowledge and brave cunning, their adventures through Cheyenne, Defiance, and eventually to the Circle Bar Ranch continue to be filled with danger.

Levine uses the journey and the different obstacles that Logan and Sarah encounter along the way, including persecution by some goons that are after Sarah, to develop their relationship and romance. When Sarah and Logan find out that she is wanted for forgery, Logan marries her and slowly but surely begins the process of helping Sarah heal from the terrible fears and horrible nightmares that plague her from her days as a captive. She doesn't believe she'll ever be able to have a normal relationship with a man again, and he's willing to have her on any terms as long as he can protect her. How can Sarah not fall in love with Logan?

There's nothing pretty about some of the violent scenes portrayed in this story. There are burned bodies, scalpings, and people are killed ruthlessly. There's no sparing a character for the sake of making this a pretty romance, even as the characters experience their happy moments. This is a warning for readers who cannot tolerate violence with their romance.

Levine's prose is not complex or lyrical, as a matter of fact I find it rather straight forward and easy to read and the dialog can be said to be awkward at times, however the plot carries the day in this romance. Levine handles Sarah's healing, the aftermath of being tortured and raped, quite well (those torture and rape scenes are not shown in the book). The action is there from beginning to end, with quiet, romantic moments in between where Sarah and Logan get to know each other. Logan's attraction is instant and more protective than passionate in the beginning with passion taking over later on in the story.

Logan's Outlaw, like Leah and the Bounty Hunter, is a gritty western with both central and secondary characters that are confronting seriously hurtful situations. In contrast, the romance is sweet and by the end of the story there's a sense that the love found by our couple will endure. A quick western historical romance read, full of action that might not be enjoyed by everyone.

Theme: Western Romance
June Review
Category: Historical Romance/Western
Series: Men of Defiance
Publisher/Released: Kensington/March 2012
Source: Kensington Books
Grade: B-

Visit Elaine Levine here.

Rachel and the Hired Gun
Audrey and the Maverick
Leah and the Bounty Hunter
Logan's Outlaw

Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: No Tan Lines by Kate Angell

There's a place where the ocean meets the shore, where kicking off your shoes and baring some skin is as natural as sneaking under the boardwalk for an ice cream cone and stolen kisses. But life isn't all a beach for Shaye Cates, even if her idea of an office is a shady umbrella at the water's edge equipped with cell phone and laptop. Steely-eyed Trace Saunders is the incredibly irksome fly in her coconut tanning oil. And running a kids' softball team with her long-time rival is going to have everyone in her little Florida town buzzing. Her scads of laid-back relatives and his whole uptight clan know that Shaye just wants to play ball while Trace thinks only of business. But beneath the twinkling lights of the ferris wheel, the magic of sea and sand can sweep away every inhibition...Suddenly, it's summertime, and the lovin' is easy.
No Tan Lines by Kate Angell (or Barefoot on the Boardwalk as I tend to think of this story) is a quick, light read. It's a good summer or beach read... I mean it has the sand and waves, the boardwalk, the fair, and most importantly, the romance.

The story began with lots of potential and a great background story. The Saunders and the Cateses are two families who have been feuding for 100 years. Barefoot William was once a united beach town in Florida, but became divided into Barefoot William and Saunders Shore by Central Street and bitter enmity when Evan Saunders moved to town with his capitalist ideas. One side became a high end resort beach town, while the other remained family and tourist oriented, offering a boardwalk full of fair grounds, fun shops, and casual dining where residents and tourists can just have fun and well... walk barefoot. This casual approach to life vs. the more formal high end style is what keeps the two sides of the town apart for 100 years. And of course it's also what makes Shaye Cates and Trace Saunders bitter enemies throughout their lives. After all, it's tradition!

We first meet Trace at sixteen when he walks into a candy store located at Barefoot William, where Shaye and her cousin Kai are working the counter. There's a great confrontation between the two where in the end Shaye comes out the winner -- I loved that scene. Years later, Shaye represents the interests of the Cates' family businesses on the Barefoot Williams boardwalk, and Trace runs the Saunders' businesses on the Saunders Shore side of town. When both towns need to negotiate rights to the beach for a volleyball tournament, Shaye and Trace must meet face to face and the real fun begins.

There's a sense that these two would do anything to get the upper hand on the other, no matter what! The problem? The more they keep an eye on each other for sneaky attacks, the more the attraction grows between them as they share walks on the beach, ferris wheel rides, lunch meetings and more. But breaking with 100 years of hostile tradition won't be easy.

I really enjoyed the overall atmosphere in this story. The beach town with the boardwalk, the beach, the rides, the waves and sand made me feel as if I were there at Barefoot William. I wanted to walk on that boardwalk and enjoy an ice cream cone. The Cates clan gave the story a family atmosphere, and the hostility between Shaye and Trace, their competitiveness, and initial shenanigans were fun.

I think for me the romance between Shaye and Trace worked up to a certain point. I could feel their attraction and knew that, at least Trace, was ready to forgive and forget. I wasn't too sure that Shaye was really ready to meet Trace in the middle, and frankly their give and take was more enjoyable for me than their actual sexual encounters once the affair between them began in earnest.

This story, however, has multiple points of view and two other romances that are inserted in the middle of Shaye and Trace's, so that the focus of the story is constantly shifting. This became a distraction and pulled my interest away from the main couple. The timeline became a problem at one point, particularly toward the end when a new couple, Sophie and Dune, were introduced and the focus remained on them for quite a long time. This was an enjoyable story line, but one that definitely detracted from the main romance.

Overall, No Tan Lines is a contemporary romance that began with lots of potential, but that somewhere along the line lost its focus and ended up as an average read for me. I still enjoyed some aspects of the story, and think that this is a book that can be enjoyed as a light beach, or summer read. By the way, Dune and Sophie? They make an excellent couple and stole the show, and I'm hoping that there's a book in the near future about those two. I'll read it!

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Barefoot William
Publisher/Release Date: Kensington/May 29, 2012
Source: Kensington Books
Grade: C

Visit Kate Angell here.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Review: Point of Knives: A Novella of Astreiant by Melissa Scott

Set in an alternate pseudo-Renaissance world full of magics, pointsmen, wizards, necromancers and deadly political games, Point of Knives by Melissa Scott is a brand new novella that links the classic original fantasy Astreiant duology -- Point of Hopes and Point of Dreams -- by closing the gaps between the two books.

In Point of Knives, Scott's main characters Adjunct Point Nicolas Rathe and ex-soldier Philip Eslingen, now Caiazzo's knife or bodyguard, are thrown together again by unusual circumstances surrounding the double murders of father and son Grandad Steen and Old Steen, both rumored to have been pirates.

Circumstances are further complicated when Old Steen's son, Young Steen, claims his personal effects and an until-then-unknown wife shows up making the same claim. Seeking compensation for moneys owed, Caiazzo also lays claim to the man's possessions and dispatches Eslingen to represent his interests and to help Rathe with the investigation.

Nico and Philip can't help but be glad to be close again after last summer's affair, and although they know that neither can afford too close a relationship, both hope that the circumstances don't affect their friendship or their feelings for each other. Rathe is known for his excellent insight and trusts Philip even as he knows that as Caiazzo's knife, thug or blade for hire, Philip owes him loyalty. However, his feelings are deeply involved.
[...] he would only sound besotted. And I'm not, he thought. Not besotted. Fond of him, friendly with him --- gods, it was easy to slip into the habit of the summer, too easy to treat him as comrade and friend --- and if he was honest with himself, yes, he could become besotted. Could even --- He refused to utter the betraying verb, even in his own mind.
Nico and Philip agree that during the investigation they will take advantage of their time together as winter-lovers with a promise not to ask more from each other when that time ends. But will they? The murder investigation takes them from Point of Hopes' narrow streets into the dangerous neighborhood that is Point of Knives, and slowly becomes a coil that involves a deadly political game, gold, magists, alchemists, necromancers, and that when unraveled might prove deadly to Nico and Philip.

Point of Knives picks up on events a few months right after Point of Hopes ends and expands on the already established relationship between Nico and Philip. I was taken with the complexity of the world building in this fantasy, as well as with the excellent characterization. The police-procedural aspect of the novel is intricate and complete, with a gruesome beginning, excellent investigative work and a surprising, satisfying resolution. More importantly, it is through this key aspect of the story that Scott cleverly incorporates fantasy, adds details to her world, and develops a lovely romance.

The characters that populate this fantasy are regular folk that somehow stand out in this world where magics and alternate history intertwine so seamlessly and are so well crafted, that after a while all of it seems possible.

Points of Knives is a gorgeous addition to the Astreiant series. Melissa Scott takes this fantasy, fills it with memorable characters, and gives the reader more by incorporating a fully developed romance and a police procedural with enough twists and turns to satisfy the most finicky of readers. Highly recommended.

Category: LGBT/Fantasy
Series: Astreiant Novels
Publisher/Release Date: Lethe Press/July 1, 2012
Source: eARC Lethe Press
Grade: A-

Visit Melissa Scott here.

Point of Hopes, #1
Point of Knives, #1.5
Point of Dreams, #2 (To be re-released October 12, 2012) 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

TBR Highlights: Speculative Fiction, Fantasy, Gay Fiction

On Wednesday of this upcoming week some of us will be reviewing one book from our TBR (to be read) piles. My stack of books to be read has been growing and growing for a while. Today, I would like to share with you some of the books that I've yet to mention in my blog, but that I've quietly added to that pile.

I know there are a lot of new releases that I want to read coming out at the end of June, but there are always other books out there that catch my eye, books that I hunt or flag until they release, or books that I finally purchase after placing the title on my list of "books to buy." I've added quite a few of those books to my TBR within the last month. Here are five of them:

The Croning by Laird Barron (Night Shade Books, May 2012) 
Strange things exist on the periphery of our existence, haunting us from the darkness looming beyond our firelight. Black magic, weird cults and worse things loom in the shadows. The Children of Old Leech have been with us from time immemorial. And they love us. Donald Miller, geologist and academic, has walked along the edge of a chasm for most of his nearly eighty years, leading a charmed life between endearing absent-mindedness and sanity-shattering realization. Now, all things must converge. Donald will discover the dark secrets along the edges, unearthing savage truths about his wife Michelle, their adult twins, and all he knows and trusts. For Donald is about to stumble on the secret...of The Croning.

From Laird Barron, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of The Imago Sequence and Occultation, comes The Croning, a debut novel of cosmic horror.
Last year I "discovered" Laird Barron when I read one of his magnificent short stories. For a while now I have slowly been reading his awesome book of short stories, Occultation And Other Stories. Laird Barron certainly has a gift for writing speculative fiction/horror. The Croning is his debut novel and I was keeping my eye out for this title's release so I could scoop it up immediately!


Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards (Night Shade Books, May 2012)
Many tales are told of the Syldoon Empire and its fearsome soldiers, who are known throughout the world for their treachery and atrocities. Some say that the Syldoon eat virgins and babies-or perhaps their own mothers. Arkamondos, a bookish young scribe, suspects that the Syldoon's dire reputation may have grown in the retelling, but he's about to find out for himself.

Hired to chronicle the exploits of a band of rugged Syldoon warriors, Arki finds himself both frightened and fascinated by the men's enigmatic leader, Captain Braylar Killcoin. A secretive, mercurial figure haunted by the memories of those he's killed with his deadly flail, Braylar has already disposed of at least one impertinent scribe . . . and Arki might be next.

Archiving the mundane doings of millers and merchants was tedious, but at least it was safe. As Arki heads off on a mysterious mission into parts unknown, in the company of the coarse, bloody-minded Syldoon, he is promised a chance to finally record an historic adventure well worth the telling, but first he must survive the experience!
Okay, Scourge of the Betrayer is a fantasy book that came up in my list of recommendations at amazon in May when it released. I picked it up right there and then because from the blurb it just sounds like the type of book that I would love to read when I'm in the mood for fantasy. I'm hoping to get a break in my reading schedule soon so I can give it some time!


Wonder by Dan Boyle (Lethe Press, January 2011)
Have a gay Caltech professor and his dying mother uncovered the secrets of the mind... and the universe?
Tom Flaherty's mother is suffering from a strange form of dementia that causes her to journey back in time; especially when she's housecleaning and finds personal items that trigger her memory. But Maude Flaherty's travels--from the Scopes Monkey trial in 1925 to the 1936 Berlin Olympics to the Civil Rights March on Washington in 1963--might be the evidence Tom needs as a Caltech physicist to develop a unified theory of space, time, and place and reconnect with a society he's lost touch with since the loss of his partner a decade ago.

As Tom attempts to determine just what is happening to his mother, the sense of wonder that disappeared with Ken's murder returns and his renewed quest for the meaning of life leads him to the national spotlight. Housecleaning is both a gay love story and a family drama, questioning science and faith and how scientists see the universe as God.
My friend Indigene reviewed Wonder by Dan Boyle back in September 2011, and her write up made this book sound so interesting that it went on my "list" of books to purchase and read. I finally purchased it and it's now in my TBR. It sounds like a fascinating read, right? My kind of read. *g*


The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (Harper Collins, 2006)
A man broken in body and spirit, Cazaril returns to the noble household he once served as page and is named secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule. It is an assignment Cazaril dreads, for it must ultimately lead him to the place he most fears: the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies who once placed him in chains now occupy lofty positions.

But it is more than the traitorous intrigues of villains that threaten Cazaril and the Royesse Iselle here, for a sinister curse hangs like a sword over the entire blighted House of Chalion. And only by employing the darkest, most forbidden of magics can Cazaril hope to protect his royal charge — an act that will mark him as a tool of the miraculous . . . and trap him in a lethal maze of demonic paradox.
Now, here I have a book that I've been wanting to read for a long time. I placed a hold on reading this book because I wanted to get through the Vorkosigan Saga first, but you know what? I'm just going to read it! I'll get through Miles and his adventures slowly anyway. I just want to read this book!


Taxi Rojo by Erik Orrantia (Cheyenne Publishing, April 2012)
Tijuana-the melting pot of Mexico, the gateway to the U.S., the armpit of Baja California. Two million souls struggle for survival, each searching for a way to become...something, anything better. Fate brings a few strangers together one night in a crowded taxi rojo. When the red taxi crashes down a canyon, it creates a connection between the passengers that, like the international border within sight of the crash, draws a line between triumph and defeat, hopelessness and perseverance, life and death.

Boyfriends Rigo and Cristian confront their demons when a supposedly innocuous tryst gets out of control. Pancha looks for love in a complex world of ambiguous gender and sexual identity. Toni's biggest problem is self-acceptance in a culture that has ingrained in him the idea that real men are macho and self-sufficient. Julia's faith is challenged as she toils to make a living and support her disabled sister, while feeling paralyzed by her sense of responsibility and lingering guilt. Even in Tijuana, light can be found in the darkness. Facing fears and giving of oneself pave the road to strength and freedom, while stubbornness and denial lead only to demise.
Indigene has been recommending Mr. Orrantia's works to me for a few years now. I have Normal Miguel in my TBR and have yet to read it (shame on me), but I saw Taxi Rojo, and between the title, the setting and the blurb, it just drew me and I couldn't pass it up. So it seems as if this will be my first Orrantia read. Finally (Indie)!


So these five books in my TBR pile are of the non-romance variety, and they're all Kindle editions. Next month, maybe I will have some print books on my list, as well as some romance. :)

Have you read any of these books? Are any of these books in your own TBR? I "discovered" Laird Barron last year and am really appreciating his writing, and a genre that I thought I would never read -- horror. Have you "discovered" a writer that grabbed your interest the way Barron grabbed mine? 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review: A Night Like This (Smythe-Smith #2) by Julia Quinn

Julia Quinn has the touch when it comes to penning light, amusing historical romances. A Night Like This, the second book of the Quinn's Smythe-Smith quartet, is just such a romance.

The Smythe-Smith women are excellent fodder for comedy with their infamous musicales and the fact that they are oblivious when it comes to their lack of musical talent, but as we found out in Just Like Heaven, they are also loyal, determined, warm and rather insightful when it matters. The male Smythe-Smiths seem to possess similar characteristics.

Daniel Smythe-Smith, the Earl of Winstead has been through a tough three years running around Europe and dodging Ramsgate's killers, but now he's back in England and so happy to be back home that he even appreciates the cacophony of what passes as his cousins' music at the annual Smythe-Smith musicale. The young earl, however, is stunned by the beauty of the young woman murdering the piano keys. Thankfully, she's not a cousin, but he will find out who this beautiful woman who stopped his heart and knocked out his breath is, and follows as she runs off after the musicale ends.

Anne Wynter is hiding from a dangerous someone in her past, and her hiding place is as governess to the Pleinsworth family's young daughters, the Smythe-Smith cousins, Harriet, Elizabeth and Frances. Anne is asked to replace the eldest Pleinsworth sister Sarah on the night of the infamous Smythe-Smith musicale, and as fate would have it she meets Daniel Smythe-Smith, gets kissed and falls just a tiny bit in love with the charming young earl, whom she knows can never be hers.

Daniel is relentless in his pursuit of Anne. He blackmails Sarah and manipulates his aunt and family so he can spend time with her at his country estate. There, Daniel and Anne spend some of the most beautiful and fun days of their lives together, as they entertain the young Smythe-Smith cousins, spar, kiss, and quickly fall for each other. But Anne knows that her secret past and current position as a governess won’t allow her dream of a relationship between them to become a possibility. A dangerous carriage accident that leaves Anne hurt and Daniel thinking that Ramsgate is again making an attempt on his life, quickly brings this interlude to an end and reality to the forefront.

A Night Like This was such a lovely read, there's no other way to describe it. Daniel is one of those joyful, charming characters, that's tough to dislike, no matter his foibles. I absolutely understood why Anne fell in love with this man. There are fun and romantic moments galore in this book. Yes, lots of amusing moments to lighten up your day. Anne is just as likable. She keeps her secrets well and although she falls hard for Daniel and is truthful about her feelings for him, she also keeps her head and uses common sense. Good for Anne.

I loved the secondary characters in this novel. The Smythe-Smith cousins, Harriet, Elizabeth and Frances provided lots of the confusing-like dialog that made this novel so amusing and also gave it a bit of a young, refreshing touch. But the one secondary character who really got my attention was Hugh Prentiss! I hope, hope, hope that he gets his own romance soon, because he stole every single scene where he appeared. Yes, I fell for Hugh big time people.

Of course there's a big climactic scene where Anne is rescued, although to be fair, she was in the process of rescuing herself when the troops arrived. The climactic scene with the villain and the circumstances behind his reason for persecuting Anne are both over the top, but somehow they fit this Smythe-Smith series -- particularly the rescuing and the troops-to-the-rescue scene. I won't say more since I don't want to spoil it for readers.

I didn't review Just Like Heaven, but can tell you that so far I'm really enjoying this series by Julia Quinn. A Night Like This is just what I expected too, a light, fun, romantic read with lots of great characters. Julia Quinn almost always hits the spot for me with her solid romances, so now I'll look forward to the third book of this fun series.

Category: Historical Romance
Publisher/Release Date: Avon/May 29, 2012
Series: Smythe-Smith Quartet
Grade: B

Visit Julia Quinn here.

Just Like Heaven, #1
A Night Like This, #2

Monday, June 11, 2012

Review: The Touch of the Sea edited by Steve Berman

It is summer time. Some of us dream of the sea and the lulling sounds of mesmerizing waves, the smell of sea salt, forever skies, and sunshine. Mariners have always referred to the sea as she . . . but when I picked up The Touch of the Sea edited by Steve Berman, I knew there would be one difference and was ready to sit back, relax, and dream some more while enjoying eleven stories of men, myths, adventures, love, and the magic of the sea.

I found the magic. It is there in mythology-based stories as in Chaz Brechley's Keep the Aspidochelone Floating, the gorgeous seafaring myth-based story full of greedy pirates and an exciting whale hunt that become part of Sailor Martin's adventures along with his obsession and love for cabin boy Sebastian. And in The Stone of Sacrifice where Jeff Mann combines Gaelic mythology with a few of his signature erotic scenes in a story of love lost when a man unknowingly calls the god Shoney and the lure of new love becomes an obsession.

I found the dreams. They are there in stories of mermen luring the incautious or the fated to the sea, as in Out to Sea by John Howard, The Calm Tonight by Matthew A Merendo, and in Ban's Dreams of the Sea where Alex Jeffers creates a mesmerizing fable where through erotic dreams, alluring sea creatures lure men and women into the sea. And again in Air Tears, a beautiful story about changes, choices and looking forward, Damon Shaw weaves a tale where as payment for a kiss and an erotic encounter by the sea, a man may never again return to land.

I found the adventure. It is there in The Bloated Woman by Jonathan Harper and in Wave Boys, Vincent Kovar's excellent seafaring adventure full of boys with tribal rituals, pent-up desires, a kraken, youthful aggression, pride and loss. This is my favorite story of the anthology due to the strong narrative voice, the excellent world building, and characters that drew me in from the first page. I wanted more of this story . . . just more. Then, in Night of the Sea Beast, Brandon Cracraft returns to 1956 and with this period piece, he mixes monster movie making, ala Creature Features, with Greek mythology, a multiple murder investigation, and a wonderful tale of brotherhood.

And of course I found love. There's loving of one sort or another in all the stories, but some are about that second chance at love or lost love. 'Nathan Burgoine's Time and Tide mixes up old Naiad myths with a tale about accepting gifts and love when a man returns home to the call of the sea and an old lover. And there's The Grief of Seagulls by Joel Lane. His is a story of coming to terms with love lost where after grieving for ten years, a man meets his dead lover come to life for one night of passion.

Overall, the stories in The Touch of the Sea are well crafted and while all are entertaining, some tales are downright mesmerizing. They also fit this anthology perfectly so that by the time I finished reading, I could smell the sea salt and feel that sunshine. Fun!

Category: LGBT/Speculative Fiction
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Lethe Press/May 15, 2012
Source: Lethe Press
Grade: B

Visit Steve Berman here.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Author Spotlight: Lee Thomas, Jan Steckel, Eduardo C. Corral

On June 4th, the 24th Annual Lambda Literary Award winners were announced. Congratulations to all the winners! I was particularly happy to see winners from LGBT dedicated small print presses like Lethe Press, Bold Strokes Books and MLR Press.

Today, however, I'm highlighting two winners whose works I read and highly recommended because they were both such excellent reads: Lee Thomas whose book The German was on my 2011 top ten favorite books list, and Jan Steckel whose poetry book The Horizontal Poet I particularly enjoyed reading earlier this year.

Lee Thomas - The German (Lethe Press, 2011)
A finalist for the 2011 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel and the Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBT Science-fiction/Fantasy/Horror title.

Set during the height of World War II, The German examines the effect a series of ritualistic murders has on a small, Texas community. A killer preys on the young men of Barnard, Texas, leaving cryptic notes written in German. As the panic builds all eyes turn toward a quiet man with secrets of his own, who is trying to escape a violent past.

Ernst Lang fled Germany in 1934. Once a brute, a soldier, a leader of the Nazi party, he has renounced aggression and embraces a peaceful obscurity. But Lang is haunted by an impossible past. He remembers his own execution and the extremes of sex and violence that led to it. He remembers the men he led into battle, the men he seduced, and the men who betrayed him. But are these the memories of a man given a second life, or the delusions of a lunatic?
Lee Thomas is the Bram Stoker Award and the Lambda Literary Award-winning author of Stained, Parish Damned, Damage, The Dust of Wonderland, and In The Closet, Under The Bed. His latest novel The German was released to critical acclaim in March, 2011.

Lee currently lives in Austin, TX, where he's working on a number of projects.


Jan Steckel - The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011)
Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Nonfiction title.

Jan Steckel is an Oakland, California writer, a Harvard- and Yale-trained former pediatrician (now retired due to an acquired physical disability), and an activist for bisexual and disability rights. Her first poetry chapbook, The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006), garnered critical acclaim and won the Rainbow Award for lesbian and bisexual poetry. She won the 2008 Gertrude Press Fiction Chapbook Award, and Gertrude published her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks.

Her fiction, poetry and nonfiction have appeared in Yale Medicine, Scholastic Magazine, Bellevue Literary Review, Harrington Lesbian Literary Quarterly, Red Rock Review and elsewhere. She has won numerous awards, and her work has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Oakland, California with her husband, Hew Wolff.

The Horizontal Poet is her first full-length poetry book. (Zeitgeist Press, 2011).

Congrats to both!


And since I'm highlighting winners, LGBTQ authors, and it seems as if poetry is in the air, here is a bit of information about a poetry book I read this past week by Eduardo C. Corral, Slow Lightning. (actually my husband and I read this book together and to each other) Although I'm highlighting a tiny excerpt from his amazing poem "Self-Portrait with Tumbling and Lasso," I'll quickly say that "Variation On A Theme by José Montoya" is by far my (and my husband's) favorite section of the book. Carl Phillips words from the Foreword describe Corral's style quite eloquently. This is an "A grade/5 star" read for me -- one I'll be enjoying for a while -- and a book that I highly recommend.

Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral (Yale University Press, 2012)
Yale Series of Younger Poets Volume 106
The Yale Younger Poets Prize

"We can make of what would blind us a conduit for changed vision, suggest Corral. In these poems, a cage implies all the rest that lies outside it; any frame frames a window through which to see other possibilities unfolding. . . . Like Robert Hayden, Corral resists reductivism. Gay, Chicano, 'Illegal-American,' that's all just language, and part of Corral's point is that language, like sex, is fluid and dangerous and thrilling, now a cage, now a window out. In Corral's refusal to think in reductive terms lies his great authority. His refusal to entirely trust authority wins my trust as a reader." Carl Phillips, from the Foreword 
Self-Portrait with Tumbling and Lasso
My soul is whirling
above my head like a lasso.
My right hand
a pistol. My left
automatic. I'm knocking

on every door.
I'm coming on strong,
like a missionary.
I'm kicking back
my legs, like a mule. I'm kicking up
my legs, like
a showgirl.
         [excerpt - Page 21]
Eduardo C. Corral's poems have appeared in New England Review, Ploughshares, and Poetry, as well as other journals and anthologies. He received a Discovery/The Nation award and was selected for residencies at the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. He is a recipient of a 2011 Whiting Writers' Award.

The Yale Younger Poets Prize is the oldest annual literary award in the United States. The competition is open to any American under forty years of age who has not previously published a volume of poetry.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

New Releases: June 2012

June Releases are almost here already! There are quite a few books that I'm looking forward to reading this month. As always, I will highlight only a few from my list.

These are books that I can't wait to read!


Title: Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

Title: Hex Appeal edited by P.N. Elrod
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Fall under the intoxicating spell of their hex appeal…

In the magical world that lies hidden beneath our own, witches and conjurers play deadly games. They know just the right spell to kill a man with one kiss—or raise him back again. And they’re not afraid to exact sweet revenge on those who dare to cross them. But what if you’re the unlucky soul who falls victim to a conjurer’s curse? And if you had the power to cast a magic spell of your own, would you use it?

In this bewitching collection, nine of today’s hottest paranormal authors tell all-new, otherworldly tales. Spellbinding stories featuring bigfoot, albino vampires, professional wizards, resurrected boyfriends and even a sex droid from the twenty- third century named Silicon Lily. But as our conjurers are about to discover, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hexed. And sometimes, even the best spun spells can lead to complete and utter mayhem.

Title: Scandal Wears Satin (Dressmakers #2) by Loretta Chase
Release Date: June 26, 2012
From the Journals of Sophia Noirot: A dress is a weapon. It must dazzle his eye, raise his temperature . . . and empty his purse.

A blue-eyed innocent on the outside and a shark on the inside, dressmaker Sophy Noirot could sell sand to Bedouins. Selling Maison Noirot's beautiful designs to aristocratic ladies is a little harder, especially since a recent family scandal has made an enemy of one of society's fashion leaders. Turning scandal to the shop's advantage requires every iota of Sophy's skills, leaving her little patience for a big, reckless rake like the Earl of Longmore. The gorgeous lummox can't keep more than one idea in his head at a time, and his idea is taking off all of Sophy's clothes.

But when Longmore's sister, Noirot's wealthiest, favorite customer, runs away, Sophy can't let him bumble after her on his own. In hot pursuit with the one man who tempts her beyond reason, she finds desire has never slipped on so smoothly . . .

Title: Thief of Shadows (Maiden Lane Series #4) by Elizabeth Hoyt
Release Date: June 26, 2012

Winter Makepeace lives a double life. By day he's the stoic headmaster of a home for foundling children. But the night brings out a darker side of Winter. As the moon rises, so does the Ghost of St. Giles-protector, judge, fugitive. When the Ghost, beaten and wounded, is rescued by a beautiful aristocrat, Winter has no idea that his two worlds are about to collide.


Lady Isabel Beckinhall enjoys nothing more than a challenge. Yet when she's asked to tutor the Home's dour manager in the ways of society-flirtation, double-entendres, and scandalous liaisons-Isabel can't help wondering why his eyes seem so familiar-and his lips so tempting.


Title: Starlight (The Christies #2) by Carrie Lofty
Release Date: June 26, 2012
An esteemed astronomer, Alex Christie, the eldest and most steadfast of the Christie siblings, has never possessed his late father’s ruthless business drive. But to protect his frail infant son from his cruel father-in-law’s bid for custody, the young widower must undertake Sir William Christie’s posthumous million-dollar challenge: to make a Glasgow cotton mill profitable. At sea in an industrial world of sabotage and union agitation, Alex meets Polly Gowan, daughter of a famed union leader, who hopes to seize a mysterious saboteur without involving the police.

Because a sympathetic mill master would aid her cause, Polly becomes Alex’s guide to urban Scotland. From soccer games to pub brawls, Alex sees another side of life, and feels free for the first time to reveal the man—vital and strong—behind his intellectual exterior. Polly is utterly seduced. Their ambitions, however, remain at odds: Alex vows to earn the mill bonus to save his child, while Polly fights for the needs of her people. Is there strength enough in their sparkling passion to bind them together in their quests— and in a lasting love that conquers all?

Title: Caliban's War (The Expanse) by James S.A. Corey
Release Date: June 26, 2012
We are not alone.

On Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer planets, a Martian marine watches as her platoon is slaughtered by a monstrous supersoldier. On Earth, a high-level politician struggles to prevent interplanetary war from reigniting. And on Venus, an alien protomolecule has overrun the planet, wreaking massive, mysterious changes and threatening to spread out into the solar system.

In the vast wilderness of space, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been keeping the peace for the Outer Planets Alliance. When they agree to help a scientist search war-torn Ganymede for a missing child, the future of humanity rests on whether a single ship can prevent an alien invasion that may have already begun . . .

Caliban's War is a breakneck science fiction adventure following the critically acclaimed Leviathan Wakes.

Title: At Last (Lucky Harbor) by Jill Shalvis
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Amy Michaels loves her new life in Lucky Harbor. A waitress in the local diner, she's looking forward to her first weekend hike through the mountains. But when a wrong turn takes her off the trail, she finds herself up close and personal with forest ranger Matt Bowers. And even though she's tempted to kiss that sexy smile right off his face, she won't make the mistake of getting involved with the town heartthrob.

A former cop whose life went south, Matt doesn't let anyone get too close. But something about the feisty beauty caught his eye the moment he first saw her in the diner. After a hot night under a starry sky, Matt can't deny their attraction-or the fact that for the first time in a long time, he feels the stirrings of something more. Now it's up to Matt to help Amy see that, no matter what is in their past, together they can build a future in Lucky Harbor.

I enjoyed Scalzi's work at the beginning of the year and frankly Redshirts just looks fun! Also, I read Dark and Stormy Knights edited by P.N. Elrod in 2010 and it turned out to be pretty solid, so there's an anthology I don't want to miss.

Do you know what's interesting besides the fact that the rest these books are releasing on the same date? Chase, Hoyt, Lofty, Corey, and Shalvis wrote some of my favorite books last year and most were from these same series. It is going to be tough choosing which book to read first. It looks like my end-of-month reading schedule will be busy, busy, busy. :)

What about you? What books are you looking forward to reading in June?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

May 2012: Reads + Updates

May is over! During May I celebrated my 3rd bloggiversary by reading and reviewing books by authors whose works I have recommended throughout the past three years. Favorite authors.

I was lucky that many of them had recent releases, and was able to read and/or review books by Mary Balogh, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Mayberry, Carrie Lofty, Nalini Singh, Lisa Dale, Alex Jeffers and Steve Berman. And since I love to 'discover' new-to-me authors, there a few of those in there too. I'll be following up by reading Catherine Lundoff, Sally MacKenzie and Annika Martin. :)

As you can see, May was definitely a great month!

May Books Read: 20
 Contemporary: 5
 Historical Romance: 6
 Paranormal Romance/Sci-fi: 1
 Fantasy: 1
 LGBT: 7 (Fantasy=2, Romance=5)

1.   The Proposal by Mary Balogh: B-
2.   Range of Ghosts (Eternal Sky #1) by Elizabeth Bear: A-
3.   Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff: B
4.   Firooz and His Brother (Free Short Story from Wonder Stories) by Alex Jeffers: *NG
5.   The Last Boyfriend (Inn BoonsBoro #2) by Nora Roberts: C+
6.   College Boys by Daisy Harris: C
7.   Addicted to You by Bethany Kane: C+
8.   Under Her Uniform by Victoria Janssen: B-
9.   A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale: B+
10. The Charm School by Susan Wiggs: B+
11. Boys of Summer edited by Steve Berman: B
12. The Hostage Bargain by Annika Martin: B
13. Hard Tail by J.L. Merrow: B
14. Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry: B+
15. Frog by Mary Calmes: C+
16. A Little More Scandal by Carrie Lofty: B+
17. Bedding Lord Ned (Duchess of Love #1) by Sally MacKenzie: B-
18. Permanently Legless by J.L. Merrow: C+
19. The Seduction of Phaeton Black by Jillian Stone: (Upcoming Review)
20. Tangle of Need (Psy/Changeling #11) by Nalini Singh: B
     *NG = No grade yet, will save it for the book release (Great story though!)

Upcoming Reviews:

Currently Reading:

If you go by my grades, my top reads last month were Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth BearHer Best Worst Mistake by Sarah MayberryA Little More Scandal by Carrie LoftyThe Charm School by Susan Wiggsand A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale. However, those "B" grades were really enjoyable too! 

How about you? Did you find any treasures in your book pile last month? 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Review: Bedding Lord Ned (Duchess of Love #1) by Sally MacKenzie

Determined to find a husband, Miss Eleanor "Nell" Bowman attends a ball put on by the Duchess of Greycliffe, fondly referred to as the Duchess of Love. But she roundly dismisses the suitors the matchmaking hostess has invited on her behalf. For it’s the duchess’s dashing son Ned, Lord Edward, who long ago captured Nell’s heart—and roused her desire. All it takes is a pair of conveniently misplaced silky red bloomers to set the handsome widower’s gaze on this unusual girl who is clearly more than meets the eye…

After more than a year of mourning, Ned longs to finally start anew. At first glance, the birthday ball his mother has thrown in his honor is decidedly lacking in suitable mistresses. But he senses something unexpectedly alluring beneath the veil of Nell’s plain exterior— something she’s anxious to reveal, and the lonely Lord is incapable of denying...
Trope: The secret crush
Setting: A triple birthday party at a country estate
Male Protagonist: Clueless
Female Protagonist: Helplessly in love
Helping Along: A thieving cat, a misplaced pair of red silk drawers, two brothers, and matchmaker extraordinaire, the Duchess of Love

Nell's secret crush on Ned has lasted a lifetime, literally, but Ned chose to marry her best friend instead. He has been a widower for three years and Nell has been turning away all suitors in hopes that someday Ned will turn to her and see her as a woman and not a friend, with no results. During this year's birthday ball she's determined to let him go and allows the Duchess' help to find another.

Ned grieved for his dead wife for three years and is not interested in his mother's matchmaking efforts. However when he arrives at his mother's country estate for the birthday party and retires to his room only to find a woman, rump in the air, digging under his bed, unbelievably his body comes back to life. Except that the woman turns out to be 'good old Nell.' Ned then decides that maybe it is time to look for a wife to fill his nursery and agrees to his mother's matchmaking plans, and those plans don't include Nell.

Bedding Lord Ned by Sally MacKenzie was fun, funny and sweet. Ned needed a few fights, a thieving cat, a shot of brandy to the face, a whole household, plus I believe a few shots to the head to see what was in front of his face. Nell should have used the red silk drawers earlier and more fun would've been had all around!

The cat was priceless, the red silk drawers excellent bait, and the Duchess of Love and her Greycliffe stole more than a few pages in bedroom scenes, while Ned thoughtlessly bumbled his way around and Nell worked up the nerve to fight for her man. The secondary characters helped to establish the fun atmosphere and Ned's brothers were wonderful. Ash's story about a failed marriage that lasted only one night promises to be a good one, and Jack! Now there's a fun young man with a bit of insight about females. These two brothers stole the spotlight and I look forward to reading their stories.

Category: Historical Romance
Series: Duchess of Love
Publisher/Release Date: Zebra/June 5, 2012
Source: ARC Kensington Publishing
Grade: B-

Visit Sally MacKenzie here.

The Duchess of Love, #.5 (Bonus novella included with this book) 
Bedding Lord Ned, #1