Showing posts with label Re-read Challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Re-read Challenge. Show all posts

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Challenges & a Thank You!

I would like to thank Nath of Books, Books and More Books. Nath hosted one of my favorite Challenges last year, the 2010 Re-Reading Challenge.

Last week she had a big surprise on her blog! She gave away a $50.00 Gift Certificate to the person who completed the challenge on time every month. That lucky person was me!

So, thank you Nath not only for your generosity, but for all those hours of re-reading pleasure I enjoyed in 2010 because of your Challenge.

Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 YoTH and Re-Read Challenges - Completed!

I decided to finishing off my completed Challenge posts for 2010 this week.  I only have one more Challenge to complete and I'll be taking care of that by posting my last review of the year for the In-Death Challenge later on this month.

Year of the Historical: A 2010 Reading Challenge - Hosted by KMont of Lurv a la Mode

100% Completed December 11, 2010

I had an excellent time with this Challenge. I initially meant to read some of those books I already had in my TBR, but as it turned out I read a mixture of new and older releases. I explored works by some excellent authors AND found some favorite books through this Challenge: Pamela Morsi, Lavyrle Spencer and Cheryl St. John are three of those authors. Their books along with Steve Kluger's Last Days of Summer, Lisa Kleypas' lovely historical romances and Elizabeth Hoyt's Wicked Intentions also made my list.

Following is a list of books read, with a link to each review. As you can see some months I submitted more than one book and review for this Challenge.

Jan:   Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger (WW II) - Review here
Feb:   Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas (Re-read) - Review here
Mar:  Dark Angel/Lord Carew's Bride by Mary Balogh - Review here
Apr:  Courting Miss Hattie by Pamela Morsi - Review here
           Her Colorado Man by Cheryl St. John - Review here
May: The Endearment by Lavyrle Spencer - Review here
Jun:  Lavyrle Spencer: Morning Glory and Years - Review here
Jul :  Love in the Afternoon (Hathaways, Book 5) by Lisa Kleypas - Review here
Aug: Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley - Review here
Sept: Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas (Re-read) 
           A Separate Peace by John Knowles (Re-read) - Minis for both here
Oct:  The Doctor's Wife by Cheryl St. John - Review here
Nov: Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt - Review here
Dec:  A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist - Review here

Thank you KMont for hosting this Challenge!

The 2010 Re-Read Challenge - Hosted by Nath of Books, Books and more Books

100% Completed December 11, 2010

This was another fun Challenge for me! I tend to re-read books that I love, my keepers and comfort reads. I chose my re-reads at random, depending on my mood. Some of them I re-read before and have become comfort reads, as in Duncan's Bride by Linda Howard, and others I re-read for the first time. My reactions to some of the books were interesting, I enjoyed some of them more the second time around (A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist) and some of them a bit less (To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt), however my overall initial view of the books usually stayed the same.

Following is a list of the books I re-read, by month, with a link to all reviews posted. 

Jan:  Duncan's Bride by Linda Howard - Review here
Feb: Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas - Review here
Mar: Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson - Review here
Apr: Three Sisters Island Trilogy by Nora Roberts - Reviews here
May: To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt - Review here
Jun:  Mine to Possess (Psy/Changeling, #4) by Nalinin Singh - Review here
Jul:  Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling - Review here
Aug: Rising Tides (Quinn Brothers, Book #2) by Nora Roberts - Review here
Sept: Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, 
           Almost Like   Being in Love by Steve Kluger, Cullen's Bride by Fiona Brand, 
           Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard - Minis here
Oct:  Rising Moon by Lori Handerland - Review here
Nov: If You Desire by Kresley Cole - Mini here
Dec: A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist - Review here

Thank you Nath for hosting this Challenge!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

November 2010 Reads & Mini: If You Desire by Kresley Cole

November was a strange reading month for me. I hit some sort of wall early on and struggled to read the books I finished even though I enjoyed them. On or about the second week, I decided 'reader's fatigue' was setting in and decided to slow down my reading. I took out my yarn, knitting and crocheting needles and alternated between the two for the rest of the month. Then with the Thanksgiving holiday and my impromptu road trip, the reading slowed down even more. The result is that I finished a few knitting and crocheting projects, but didn't really finish reading any books the last two weeks of November, except for a few re-reads for my Challenge.

Challenge Update: I did meet all my Challenges this month. I posted my 2010 Historical Challenge review earlier this month. I read, posted my list and a comment for the In-Death Challenge and I'll be including a late Mini for the 2010 Re-read Challenge in this post.

November Reads:
Total Books Read: 15
New Reads: 12
Re-reads: 3

Favorite books this month?

Nath's 2010 Read-Read Challenge November Mini:
  • If You Desire by Kresley Cole
A while back I enjoyed this historical romance trilogy by Cole about the cursed Scottish MacCarrick brothers and decided to re-read the last two in the series. If You Desire is Book 2 of the trilogy and the story of Hugh MacCarrick and Jane Weyland, a couple who have been friends and in love from a tender age. However, due to a family curse that states that whoever marries a MacCarrick man will die, Hugh takes on a career as an assassin working for Jane's father and the crown and leaves Jane without an explanation. Years later when she's in danger, he returns to protect her and they reunite.

This book was fun, delicious and frustrating. Jane is a 'progressive' and she and her eight female cousins are outrageous and scandalous. They refer to Hugh as 'Tears and Years' because of all the tears and time Jane spent grieving for him. But by the time Hugh returns, she's more furious than heartbroken and once the two of them go into hiding, she makes his life impossible. She does everything in her power to seduce him and there's everything from sexual tension to sexual play and sweetness to hostility throughout the story. But Jane's modern outlook doesn't help her understand Hugh, and she comes off as more than a bit spoiled at times. Hugh loves her without barriers and in trying to protect her, he sometimes gives in too much. However, there's something about Hugh that I really love. It's probably the relentless love he felt for Jane and the whole Highlander aura. Grade B
Balance of Books Read:
  • Fair Game by Josh Lanyon: Solid B
  • The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan: B
  • Faith and Fidelity, Book 1 by Tere Michaels: B
  • The Dickens with Love by Josh Lanyon: B
  • Burning Up by Sarah Mayberry: B
  • Midnight in Death by J.D. Robb (Novella): B
  • Coming Clean by Inez Kelley: B
  • Love and Loyalty, Book 2 by Tere Michaels: C+
  • If You Deceive by Kresley Cole (Re-read): B
  • Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale (Re-read) : A+
So, how was your November? Any favorites or great recommendations? 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Review: Rising Moon by Lori Handeland (Re-read)

Over a city of wicked pleasures and dangerous passions...

Denizens of The Big Easy know its steamy nights can hide any number of sins and secrets. Private-eye Anne Lockheart is counting on it. Her life has been in a holding pattern ever since her sister Katie disappeared without a trace...but when a leads Anne to a jazz club in the French Quarter, everything changes. Rising Moon's proprietor, John Rodolfo, is mysterious in his own right, a gifted musician who reaches deep into Anne's soul and whose mere presence taps into desires she can't afford to indulge...there's a bad moon on the rise.

By going undercover at the Rising Moon, Anne can get close to people who know what goes on after dark--people like John, whose nocturnal disappearances are more than a little suspicious. But unlocking John's secrets is harder than Anne had anticipated. What's far too easy is surrendering to him. And now someone--or something--is stalking the innocent and the guilty, and waiting for Anne's next move...
I read the entire paranormal Nightcreatures Novels series by Lori Handeland a while back and of all the books, the three novels set in New Orleans (Crescent Moon, Midnight Moon, Rising Moon) are my favorite, and Rising Moon (Book 6) is at the top.  I remember writing the following note the first time I read this book back in February, 2008:
Rising Moon. I loved, loved, this book. I have to say this is my favorite of all the books set in New Orleans. The romance was great. John was great! The mood of the book was the best and the monsters were excellent because well... that whole gray area again -- good/evil -- who knows?! Will we meet (some of the characters) again? I wonder....
In that little note my reasons for loving this book were sketchy at best, although the meat is there. In Handeland's hands New Orleans becomes more than a setting, and as I re-read this story I again felt transported and through her writing experienced the music, the dark streets, the tastes and smells of the city, the fun and danger. The place attracts and repels the reader, it's both dangerous and beautiful. This sets up an atmosphere that is perfect for this mystery thriller / paranormal romance -- and this story is both.

The characters in this story are just as dark, dangerous and ambiguously attractive as the city itself. Even Anne, from whose perspective we see the events unfold, is not a black and white character. She's conflicted and lies when she has to to accomplish her mission -- that of finding her missing sister. Anne is a private PI with no life, a woman, who by her own admission, is not physically attractive and has no time for sex, men or relationships -- at least not until she finds her sister. That all changes when she walks into the Rising Moon club and meets jazz musician and club owner, John Rondolfo.

John's music is mesmerizing, his looks are hypnotizing and Anne can't seem to keep her eyes off him. But there's something wrong with John. He's beautifully dark and brooding, but he's also obviously deeply hurt and suffering, he's blind but not helpless and people around him and the Rising Moon disappear. Anne goes undercover as a waitress at the Rising Moon, hoping to find her sister and to help police Detective Sullivan find out information about the other mysterious disappearances. Soon Anne finds herself involved with John. He seems to be attracted to her in an almost desperate way, and her attraction for him grows by the minute no matter how dangerous the situation. The hot and steamy sexual scenes between John and Anne are as sultry and sensual as the setting itself.

As the plot moves along, and it moves along at a good pace, it's tough to figure out who is good and/or evil. The secondary characters are just as ambiguously gray as the central ones, making them excellent additions to this story. The reader never knows who to trust, or what twist or turn will come around the next corner. There are dark, scary moments that made my heart beat faster, Anne's TSTL moments (there are always some of those) gave me anxiety attacks, and although there were hints along the way I couldn't wait to figure out who was who by the end. There are all types of legends and monsters: voodoo, werewolves, loup-garou, and of course the Jäger-Suchers (Hunter-Searchers) make a brief appearance.

I enjoyed Rising Moon this time around almost as much as the first time. Anne's decisions (TSTL moments) frustrated me a bit more during this re-read, but not enough to make too much of a difference. This book really is a spooky and steamy read. I enjoyed the twist at the end and what I thought was an excellent resolution. Great read.

Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Nightcreature Novels (Book 6)
Release Date: January 7, 2007
Grade: B+

Nath's 2010 Re-read Challenge - October Review
Complete series:
Blue Moon
Hunter's Moon
Dark Moon
Crescent Moon
Midnight Moon
Rising Moon
Hidden Moon
Thunder Moon

The good news for me? After two years, Lori Handeland is again writing Nightcreature novels. A new installment Marked by the Moon is releasing on November 2nd, and I'll definitely be reading that one. :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hilcia's Weekly Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 30, 2010

Review: Rising Tides by Nora Roberts (Re-Read)

This month's re-reads were books that "called" to me. Does that happen to you? I began thinking about the characters in both books and just had to revisit them and their stories. One is a historical and the other a contemporary romance and both by favorite writers: Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas and Rising Tides by Nora Roberts.

What do these books have in common? Although quite different on the surface, at the core Derek Craven and Ethan Quinn share similarities, neither thinks they deserve happiness with the woman they love because of their past actions and violent beginnings. They are both hardworking men, content with their achievements, if not with their lives as a whole. They both love and yearn for their women with their whole hearts, and both find women who love and see them as they really are. I think it's interesting that these different stories written by two different authors with different writing styles called to me, yet in the end they did share a few common threads. As much as I would love to write about both books, at this time for Nath's 2010 Re-Read Challenge, I've chosen to write my review on the contemporary rather than on the historical romance.

Of the three brothers, it was Ethan who shared his father's passion for the Maryland shore. And now with his father gone, Ethan is determined to make the family boat building business a success. But amidst his achievements lie the most important challenges of his life...

There is young Seth, who needs him more than ever. And a woman he has always loved but never believed he could have. But beneath Ethan's seemingly still waters is a dark and painful past. He must learn to see around the shadows to accept who he is. Because through Ethan's past lies the future -- and his one chance at happiness...

Rising Tides by Nora Roberts is the second book of the Quinn Brothers trilogy. This story focuses on the romance between Ethan Quinn and Grace Monroe. Why did this story call to me? Well, although this is the middle book and many will say not the very best of the three, in my opinion Rising Tides definitely glues this trilogy together. I loved the characters in the first book Sea Swept, but reading this book is where I fell in love with the Quinns as a family.

I personally love Ethan's character. He is a quiet, strong and hardworking man with a rough abusive past that makes him vulnerable. The brother who stayed behind and works the Chesapeake Bay as a fisherman, and  the type of man that once healed, any woman would love to have by her side. Ethan is also a one-woman man. He fell in love with Grace when she was a teenager and she is "it" for him. So there's unfulfilled yearning going on in this story that makes Ethan and Grace's coming together that much more effective when it happens. Grace herself secretly felt the same way about him, so it's a double-whammy in that respect.

The other reason I love this book is the relationship factor. I've always admired Nora Roberts ability to create, build and sell relationships, and I've always thought the Quinn brothers as one of her best. The relationship between the three older brothers with all the arguing, fighting, teasing and loving is enough to make this a wonderful trilogy. But, their developing relationship with the youngest Quinn brother Seth, as he's introduced into their family after the death of their father Ray, takes the stories to a higher level.

For me, this is where Rising Tides comes in. I always felt that this is where Seth is really brought into the family fold, and Ethan is the one brother who really made Seth feel safe, accepted and truly acceptable to the Quinn family. Roberts cleverly accomplishes this by intertwining Ethan's and Seth's storylines and having both characters work out their issues while the romance between Ethan and Grace is developed.

Of course there's also the relationship between Ethan and Grace. There's lots of yearning and not a little interference that goes on this romance. Both characters carry baggage, some of them heavy and issues must be resolved before there's a happily-ever-after. Grace and Ethan, although in love, are both stubborn and each has his and her own battle to fight and win, providing the reader with both frustrating  and satisfying moments as their relationship develops and they come together. This is a well-rounded book about love, family and healing -- a book I revisit once every so often when it calls to me.

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Quinn Brothers Trilogy
Released: Jove 1998 Edition, 1999 Hardcover 3-1 Edition, 2001 Edition
Grade: B+

Visit Nora Roberts here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (Re-read)

This was actually an unplanned re-read. :) My husband asked me some questions about the end of this series and having read this book in 2007 when it first released, I remembered the overall plot but the details escaped me. I began skimming the book looking for the answers he wanted and when I couldn't find them... well... I got caught up and re-read the whole book! Definitely not planned since this book is 759 pages long! But, I'm glad I re-read it, now I'm ready for the upcoming movies and the details are fresh again. :D

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows is the last book of J.K. Rowling's amazing YA Fantasy series and although it is the one with all the answers and it provides an incredible finish, it is not necessarily my favorite.

The story picks up right as Harry is about to turn seventeen and the protection spell that has been keeping him safe throughout the years is about to expire. A rush by the Order of the Phoenix to keep him out of the hands of the Death Eaters and away from Voldermort is on... and the book begins with a bang! Lots of action, permanent changes and more losses for Harry.

As the powers of the Dark Lord gain strength so does his power over the Ministry of Magic, life deteriorates for the general population and specially for Harry's friends and the Order of the Phoenix. Muggles, muggle born magicians and their friends are particularly in danger and begin to disappear. In the meantime, Harry, Ron and Hermione stick to Dumbledore's plan to continue searching for Horcruxes in an attempt to weaken and destroy you-know-who. Terrible stories and rumors about Dumbledore and his family circulate and Harry begins to doubt Dumbledore's real intentions, his love and true character.

Once the three friends are forced to leave on their journey, the story meanders with Harry, Ron and Hermione going from pillar to post trying to figure out things without much success. Of course, everything they do and the little they do find out has a purpose and eventually it all makes sense and becomes part of the big puzzle, but in the meantime the whole process slows down the pacing in this story to a crawl. At this point, the book becomes a tough read for quite a while and this is a long book... but once you get past that, the fun begins again. I do recommend that during this slow time, even when tempted, you not skim because you'll miss important details as Harry chooses between what is right and what is easy once the Deathly Hallows come to light.

The pace picks up during the second part of the book as the pieces of the puzzle begin falling into place. This is a re-read for me, and it still amazes me how Rowling ties up so many threads and uses seemingly insignificant details from all the books in this series to come up with the final answers. I must admit to being a bit disconcerted about those answers in the end. They were quite "brilliant" actually... brilliant in their simplicity and always there, really. But I know I didn't figure out those answers until I read them, and that I really appreciated.

What else did I love about the book? The characterization. How can I not appreciate character growth and development? I figure when you feel as if you know characters inside out by the end of a series, that's great development and that happens with more than just the central characters in this series -- Dumbledore and Severus Snape are great examples. Secondary characters are so incredibly important to this series' great success. In this book, Neville is also one of those minor characters whose growth I most noticed and appreciated. He is such a key character and one I think is often overlooked.

The second part of the book is action packed, there's a great battle with sad losses and great victories, all of it quite spectacular. In the end I couldn't help but feel for Harry... all those losses and all that sacrifice along the way from childhood to young adulthood. I wanted happiness, peace, love and a family for him, he deserved that and more. Rawling does give the reader a glimpse into Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny's futures that I found sweet and a little nostalgic. A classic young adult series, no question about it. Brilliant!

Genre: YA Fantasy
Series: Harry Potter Series, Book 7
Released: July 2007
Grade: B

Nath's 2010 Re-read Challenge
Orannia's 2010 Big Book Challenge

Favorite Harry Potter books:
  • Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince

Monday, June 28, 2010

Review: Mine to Possess (Psy/Changeling) by Nalini Singh

I chose Mine to Possess as my re-read this month in preparation for the new release in Nalini Singh's Psy/Changeling series, Bonds of Justice. This is the book where Max Shannon is introduced and I wanted to refresh my memory.

I remember thinking what an interesting couple Clay and Tally made the first time I read this book. Clay seems like your typical DarkRiver changeling sentinel, possessive and protective, but there's more to him. Clay is half human and grew up as a human, depriving him of a healthy changeling environment, and except for Talin's, he did not have the touch and affection so necessary to changelings throughout his childhood. He killed to defend Tally and lost her with that one act of violence. His experiences during those formative years were traumatic and shaped him into a man with dark spaces, a loner in danger of going rogue.

Talin was abused and terrorized as a child and although she has come a long way and is now a determined woman with some strengths, it is clear that she's still traumatized by her past. She is a fragile and damaged woman, both physically and emotionally. Talin is a social worker with the Shine Foundation and as her children begin to disappear, twenty years after their separation she decides to approach Clay, the one man she feels is strong enough to help her. A man she both fears and loves, a man she lied to.

I must admit that Clay was always one of those changelings I found intriguing. His love for Tally from the beginning, his tenderness, passion, possessiveness, protectiveness and what he is willing to do for her had me at hello. On the other hand, it took me a while to like Tally. She rationalized her reasons for lying, fearing and rejecting Clay, and it seemed as if in every other chapter Tally changed her mind as to those reasons or came to a new realization. This was used to build up the sexual tension, but for me it became frustrating after a while. However, there is character growth for Talin and eventually she did grow on me.

I thought that as a couple they were both hot like new lovers can be, and sweet and comfortable like friends who have known each other forever. I loved that they were so jealous and protective of that friendship and wanted to keep it intact.

Mine to Possess is where Nalini Singh introduces the history of the Forgotten and the Shine Foundation with its director Devlin. I loved this part of the story and how Singh continued to expand the history of the Psy to include those who did not accept Silence, something that made absolute sense. Devlin had a small part in the book, but one that made an impact. Max Shannon, the human Enforcement detective with the impenetrable mind shield who is helping Talin track the missing children is also introduced and plays a smaller part. Ashaya, the M-Psy who is running Protocol One experiments for the Psy Council and her assistant Ekaterina play key roles in the outcome of the story.

This is a solid installment to the Psy/Changeling series that focuses on the romance while addressing the overall storyarc. Quite a few key characters are introduced in Mine to Possess, as Singh expands her worldbuilding to include the Forgotten and the human race as an important part of that world.

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Psy/Changeling, Book 4
Released: February 5, 2008
Grade: Solid B

Nath's 2010 Re-Read Challenge

Monday, June 7, 2010

Review: To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt

Helen Fitzwilliam has been mistress to the Duke of Lister since age seventeen, and they have two illegitimate children from this relationship, Abigail and Jamie. After years of living in fear, neglect and humiliation, Helen finally finds the courage to take her children and run away from the Duke. With a letter of reference, two bags of clothing, and using false identities, Helen and her children need a place to hide and find themselves in a desperate situation.

Sir Alistair Munroe, a renowned naturalist, has been residing at Castle Greaves as a recluse for five years with one servant as company. He decided to spare society the sight of his horribly scarred face after returning from a three-year journey in the Colonies where he was a victim of terrible torture during the Spinners Falls massacre. There's no question from Hoyt's physical description of Sir Alistair that he is not a sight easy to behold.

On a dark and stormy night, Helen and her children arrive at Castle Greaves in Scotland where she plans on becoming Sir Alistair Munroe's housekeeper. During their initial meeting, Helen is left speechless by Sir Alistair's appearance and rudeness. He doesn't expect anything different from her -- this beautiful woman and unsolicited housekeeper who just shows up at his doorstep. However, due to her desperate circumstances, Helen has no choice but to straighten her shoulders and go forth with her plans, if nothing else for her children's sake.

Alistair and Helen's initial interactions are both highly amusing and sad. Alistair doesn't want a housekeeper, least of all a beautiful one with children -- a lady who is obviously running away from a man and whose children are scared of his scars, an obvious reminder of what he lost. Helen doesn't really want to stay in the dirty, old castle with a beast of a man who is too uncivilized for words and scares her children. The work needed to bring everything up to acceptable standards alone is overwhelming. However she has been left with no choice and in her desperation Helen shows not only courage, but also ingenuity and perseverance. Her perseverance wins the day.

What is it about this book that I enjoyed so much? In re-reading it, I'll say that the answer to that question is that this story is about second chances.

Helen made a terrible mistake as a young woman and became mistress to the Duke of Lister. She had two children with this cold man who thinks of her and her children as no more than possessions. Yet after all those years instead of giving up on herself, she has the courage to leave and to think that she is worth more. She makes her own choices and even after she finds real love Helen stands up for what she wants. In Helen, Hoyt creates a female protagonist who erred, but who found the courage to look for that second chance at life and love.

But there's a second chance for Sir Alistair also. Alistair has no hope for a future due to the way society views his scarred face. He is lonely and has given up on having a life outside of his castle and profession. He doesn't dare hope for a family or love, but on meeting Helen, Alistair has the chance to have both and he flourishes.

I love seeing how Alistair slowly becomes less aware of his scars around Helen and the children and becomes the passionate man who needs her. The way he becomes more of a teacher and a mentor to the children, and eventually their protector, savior, hero and father figure, even though his is the face of a villain. In this story, not only do Alistair and Helen get their second chance at life, but they also provide a second chance for the children to have a family and happiness.

The outside conflicts in this story were resolved rather simply and quickly. To Beguile a Beast is mainly focused on the couple, Abigail and Jamie and everything else is really more of a background story. The Duke of Lister and his pursuit of Helen are used as a catalyst, but don't really take much page time. The ongoing mystery of who was the traitor at Spinners Falls is very much in the periphery, although there's a bit of speculation and set up at the end for the next book.

To Beguile a Beast is not a perfect book by any means. Besides the above mentioned, the secondary characters are glossed over and some of them, as in the Duke of Lister, are two-dimensional, while the main characters are well developed. However, there is something about Helen, Sir Alistair and the children that reached me the first time I read this book and during this re-read. I think it's definitely those second chances at life and love.

Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Legend of the Four Soldiers, Book 3
Release Date: May 1, 2009
Grade - Original Review: A-
Re-read Grade: B

Nath's 2010 Re-read Challenge - May Read Review

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mini-Reviews: Three Sisters Island Trilogy by Nora Roberts

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

Three Sisters Island Trilogy by Nora Roberts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Face the Fire (Three Sisters Island, Book 3)

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

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

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

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

Nath's 2010 Re-read Challenge - April Review

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Review: Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Joshilyn Jackson here.

Nath's 2010 Re-Read Challenge - March Review

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Review: Devil in Winter (Wallflowers Series #3) by Lisa Kleypas

A devil's bargain

Easily the shyest Wallflower, Evangeline Jenner stands to become the wealthiest, once her inheritance comes due. Because she must first escape the clutches of her unscrupulous relatives, Evie has approached the rake Viscount St. Vincent with a most outrageous proposition: marriage!

Sebastian's reputation is so dangerous that thirty seconds alone with him will ruin any maiden's good name. Still, this bewitching chit appeared, unchaperoned, on his doorstep to offer her hand. Certainly an aristocrat with a fine eye for beauty could do far worse.

But Evie's proposal comes with a condition: no lovemaking after their wedding night. She will never become just another of the dashing libertine's callously discarded broken hearts -- which means Sebastian will simply have to work harder at his seductions...or perhaps surrender his own heart for the very first time in the name of true love.
Devil in Winter was easily my favorite book in the Wallflower series by Lisa Kleypas, and the reason I chose to re-read it. The story of the unlikely pairing between shy Evie and the unscrupulous rake Sebastian St. Vincent.

While re-reading this book, I slowly began to remember why I loved it so much the first time and no, it's not because St. Vincent is one of the best reformed rakes around -- and one of the hottest. Evie has a lot to do with it.

Evie is a desperate woman who takes desperate measures, but although her actions seem impulsive, they are calculated for maximum results. Evie has the upper hand with St. Vincent from the moment she enters his home, and the arrogant, heartless fool doesn't stand a chance.

I was curious to read again how she does it -- how she tames this heartless rake. And, Sebastian is heartless and definitely a rake who has already proven he cares little for friendship and for others. In Evie, Kleypas gives us a heroine who does it all with kindness, love, passion and determination. There is nothing loud or overly self-confident about her. Yet, she is relentless once she makes up her mind and achieves the seemingly unachievable.

Sebastian's change from heartless rake to passionate hero is a bit of a roller coaster. His physical passion for Evie takes him on an emotional journey he's never experienced and one he's not prepared to handle. In St. Vincent, Kleypas gives us a hero who in the end not only finds love and redemption, in the process he also finds who and what he was meant to be all along.

One of the reasons Devil in Winter is such a big draw for me is the chemistry between Sebastian and Evie. Kleypas uses both sexual tension and intense, sizzling scenes to weave their story and it works. From beginning to end,even through the heaviest scenes in the book that chemistry is present.

"...You're my wife." A smile chased across his lips. "My better half, to be certain." Leaning over her, he nuzzled into the fine trendrils that strayed over her forehead. His breath was hot and soft on her skin. "My prize... my pleasure and endless desire. I've never known anyone like you, Evie." His lips touched gently at the bridge of her nose and slid down to the top. "You dare to make demands of me that no other woman would think of asking. And for now I'll pay your price, love. But later you'll pay mine...over and over..." He caught her trembling lips with his, his hands cupping the back of her head.
Evie's past is explored in detail in this book. On the other hand, Sebastian's past is touched on lightly in what I feel is a superficial and a rather off-hand manner. Interestingly enough, I was so taken by Sebastian St. Vincent's sexiness the first time I read this book, I didn't notice. During this re-read, I found myself wishing for a few more details about this man.

When it comes to secondary characters, Cam Rohan is the most prominent. He is introduced in Devil in Winter, as the bulk of the story takes place at Jenner's, the gambling club originally owned by Evie's father and now owned and managed by St. Vincent. Lillian, Annabel and Daisy, the other wallflowers, make appearances although they don't overwhelm the storyline.

Devil in Winter is one of my favorite Lisa Keyplas books and on my keeper shelf.

Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Wallflowers Series, Book 3
Released: February 28, 2006
Grade: A-

Visit Lisa Kleypas here.

KMont's Year of the Historical 2010 Challenge - February Review
Nath's 2010 Re-Read Challenge- February Review

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Re-Read Challenge Review: Duncan's Bride by Linda Howard

Reece Duncan lost half his ranch and all his dreams to his ex-wife, so when it came time for a family he did the logical thing: he advertised for a bride. She had to be willing to work, to bear his children and to settle for lovemaking in place of love. It sounded perfect -- until Madelyn Patterson arrived.

One look and he had to have her. Never mind that she was New York and nightlife to his own plain-spoken Montana ways. She was willing to herd cattle, wax floors and bake biscuits by the dozen. She was even willing to bear his children -- but at a price he couldn't pay. She wanted love -- and he was a man who had no love to give.
Duncan's Bride by Linda Howard is one of my favorite category romances. It has almost all the ingredients that makes it a favorite read for me personally and I couldn't help but choose it as the first book to review for Nath's Re-Read Challenge. Why is this a favorite romance read for me? Well, Linda Howard seems to hit the nail on the head when it comes to the characters and the development of Maddy and Reece's relationship.

This couple doesn't know each other from Adam. Reece makes a calculated decision to marry based on his needs, but as a rancher he doesn't have the time or the inclination to court someone. He decides to advertise for a wife and is up-front and honest in what he needs -- a wife who will help him in his isolated Montana ranch and who is also willing to have a family. Reece doesn't promise love. He is too embittered by his past experiences with his ex-wife and doesn't want to give anything, except his body. Reece is nothing if not honest throughout the whole story and I appreciated that about him.

Maddy lives in New York City, works at her brother's successful company in a redundant position created just for her, and doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. She is financially solvent and answers Reece's ad out of curiosity and a need for change. Maddy doesn't really expect anything to come out of her impulsive actions until she meets Reece. Both Maddy and Reece are physically attracted to each other once they meet and click on a more personal level as well, but at that point only Maddy is willing to take it further. Reece doesn't think she's the right woman for him and tells her straight out. Despite Reece's initial misgivings, eventually they end up together and Howard develops the relationship through months of hardship and beautiful intimate moments at the ranch.

Reece is a drop-dead gorgeous alpha hero with a high sex drive. He is very sexy, but he's also very stubborn and used to having his way. He has his honesty going for him, but boy does he have a chip on his shoulder about the ranch, his ex-wife and everything he lost. Reece does everything possible not to make the same mistakes twice. He's one of those heroes who you want to kiss and shake at the same time a few times along the way, but that isn't necessary; Maddy is there to do it for us.

The description of Maddy in the book blurb above is deceptive if you're thinking Maddy is a doormat willing to do anything for Reece. On the contrary, she is one of the most likable heroines I've encountered. Maddy is deceptively smart, persistent in her love, relentless when it comes to not giving up on Reece, the ranch or their marriage and she never, ever backs down from Reece. She does what needs to be done and the best part of it all is that Maddy does it all her way. Maddy's character makes this story and this relationship work for me.

Howard uses both sexual tension and some intense passionate love scenes in Duncan's Bride to develop Maddy and Reece's romance -- I loved both. As a matter of fact, there's a scene that takes place on the back of Reece's pick-up truck that ranks high on my list of favorite explosive love scenes and it has nothing to do with it being graphic. (Pages 128 through 133)

Of course Reece carries so much baggage from his previous marriage, we know the conflict will come to a head at some point. When it does, there are begging scenes in this book where Howard hits the perfect tone. If you enjoy well balanced begging scenes you'll love these.

Was this book perfect? No, of course not. However for me personally, the small flaws I noticed did not take away from the immense enjoyment of re-reading Maddy and Reece's romance again. For me this is a Grade A read and one I highly recommend.

Duncan's Bride is a 1990 Silhouette Moments release by Linda Howard, and an Award of Excellence winner. My copy of the book has the above cover, 1st Silhouette Books printing September 1990 (thanks to a wonderful friend), but I found two other covers for this book. You can look for it at your local library, but in my opinion it's worth hunting through the used bookstores to find a copy.

Linda Howard doesn't have a website. Find a list of the author's books here.