Saturday, August 29, 2009

...On Weekends and a New Look!

My weekend started with a Friday night full of family I haven't seen in umpteen years, dinner and conversation. I have a cousin visiting from my native country who I haven't seen since I was 12 years old! Believe me when I say that was a long time ago... 

It's amazing how wonderful it is to see a familiar, unfamiliar face after all those years. He looks so much like our long lost grandfather it's uncanny. What seemed even more amazing to me was the fact that there were no uncomfortable silences. We talked and talked as if trying to catch up in one evening after all these years was the thing to do. It was an unexpected and special evening.

After such a nice Friday night, I woke up this morning with lots of energy and feeling cheerful. I decided to blog about my evening and started thinking... (always a dangerous thing for me)... hmmm... Impressions just doesn't really reflect my personality! The place has been feeling a bit dark and cramped -- I like wide open spaces. Does that happen to you? It was happening to me with my old set up. Soooo, what better way to remedy that problem than to look for a different, lighter, brighter and more open look. 

I liked this three column template with the white background. I think the place looks more open, less cramped... I'm a bit of a "red" person (if you haven't noticed yet), so those red letters had to go UP! I tweaked the HTML a little bit and I'm still playing with the format, but I think it's starting to look a little better. 

You'll probably see changes in the upcoming week as the experimentation continues -- not sure yet if I'll keep the header picture, although I kind of like it. What do you think? Do you like this header?

I'm a bit of a newbie when it comes to working Blogger and must thank my friend Nath for sending me to the right place and for her suggestions. Thank you, Nath!

So, what do you think of the new look? Any suggestions?  

Friday, August 28, 2009

September 2009 New Releases

There are quite a few new releases coming up in September. I've chosen the top seven books I'm most likely to read and a few I can't wait to get my hands on. 

September 1 - Never Love a Lawman by Jo Goodman

Ahhh, a western! Lots has been said lately about them, and rightly so, during the GREAT WESTERN DRIVE. KristieJ from Ramblings on Romance blogged and recommended some excellent westerns last week. Leslie from Leslie's Psyche and Nath from Books, Books and More Books also blogged to spread the word... so I just had to dust off some oldies. I don't need too much encouragement since I love them, so I'll be kicking off my September reading about our hero sheriff Wyatt, and Rachel the woman who in order to inherit, must marry him. Yesss.... back to the good ole West. 

September 1 - Must Love Hellhounds by Ilona Andrews, Charlaine Harris, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook

Ilona Andrews became part of my favorite authors' list after I finished reading the Kate Daniel's books earlier this year, and then followed that up by reading the wonderful and complete short story Silent Blade. Magic Mourns about a three headed dog who left the gates of Hades unguarded to follow a mysterious scent to the real world looks promising and makes this anthology one I want to read. Add to that Nalini Singh's Angel Judgment, a short story about her hunter-guild UF/Romance series and this anthology becomes a "must read" for me. The Britlingens Go to Hell by Charlaine Harris and Blind Spot by Meljean Brook are the cherry on the top of this yummy paranormal treat.
September 1 - To Catch a Bride by Anne Gracie

This looks like an interesting historical romance set in Egypt. It was a recommendation from a friend, so we're both going to read it. This will be my first Anne Gracie book and I'm really looking forward to it. Different setting and a new author -- two things I love. My friend loves this author, so I'm hoping I will too.

John Twelve Hawk's previous novels about the mystical Travelers and the Brethren, their ruthless enemies, generated an extraordinary following around the world. The Washington Post wrote that The Traveler "portrays a Big Brother with powers far beyond anything Orwell could imagine..." and Publishers Weekly hailed the series as "a saga that's part A Wrinkle in Time, part The Matrix and part Kurosawa epic." Internet chat rooms and blogs have overflowed with speculation about the final destiny of the richly imagined characters fighting an epic battle beneath the surface of our modern world.

In The Golden City, Twelve Hawks delivers the climax to his spellbinding epic. Struggling to protect the legacy of his Traveler father, Gabriel faces troubling new questions and relentless threats. His brother Michael, now firmly allied with the enemy, pursues his ambition to wrest power from Nathan Boone, the calculating leader of the Brethren. And Maya, the Harlequin warrior pledged to protect Gabriel at all costs, is forced to make a choice that will change her life forever.
September 22 - Tempt Me at Twilight (Hathaways, Book 3) by Lisa Kleypas

Well, Poppy is finally going to get her book and she's supposedly marrying the "villain" -- I love bad boys, the Hathaways and Lisa Kleypas, so this book is one I can't wait to get my hands on. :)

September 29 - Doubleblind (Jax Series) by Ann Aguirre

Sirantha Jax isn't known for diplomatic finesse. As a "Jumper" who navigates ships through grimspace, she's used to kicking ass first and taking names later -- much later. Not exactly the obvious choice to sell the Conglomerate to the Ithtorians, a people whose opinions of humans are as hard as their exoskeletons. 

In Ithiss-Tor council meetings aren't the only place where Ambassador Jax needs to maneuver carefully. Her lover, March, is frozen in permanent "kill" mode, and his hair-trigger threatens to sabotage the talks -- not to mention their relationship.

But Jax won't give up on the man or the mission. With the Outskirts beleaguered by raiders, pirates, and the flesh-eating Morgut, an alliance with Ithiss-Tor may be humanity's only hope. Which has Jax wondering why a notorious troublemaker like her was given the job...
September 29 - Grand Junction by Maurice G. Dantec

I love post-apocalyptic tales and this one is combined with science fiction. I couldn't resist. I have Babylon Babies by Dantec and frankly I've been dying to read some of his work. However, this one sounds much better to me than the book I already have on my TBR pile! So you know what I'm going to do, right? I'm going to start with Grand Junction and read the other one later! I know, I know... but this is the one pulling me at the moment. 

September 2009 has been a long time coming. I blogged about the The Golden City (Book 3 of The Fourth Realm Trilogy) by John Twelve Hawks, when I realized this book was finally going to be released. After such a long wait, I'm more than ready for it. 

I remember devouring both Grimspace and Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre September of last year and wondering how on earth I was going to wait a whole year to read more about Jax, March and Vel's next adventure in Ithiss-Tor... now it's almost here!  

And, how can I not be excited about a new Hathaways release by Lisa Kleypas! She's one of my favorite historical romance authors. Throw in an anthology with two other favorite authors, Ilona Andrews and Nalini Singh; a western romance by Jo Goodman and some post-apocalyptic, literary sci-fi by Dantec and I would say it's going to be a great reading month for me!

What new releases are you looking forward to?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Review: Dancing in the Moonlight by Raeanne Thayne

Lieutenant Magdalena Cruz had come home... And though all she wanted was to be alone, infuriatingly handsome Dr. Jake Dalton -- of the enemy Daltons -- would not cooperate. And she needed him to, because the walls around her heart were dangerously close to crumbling every time he came near...

Jake had spent most of his life trying to get closer to Maggie, with little to show for it. But she was the woman he'd always wanted, and no injury in the world could change that. Now if only he could convince her that the woman who stood before him was beautiful, desirable, whole... and meant to be his...

Dr. Jake Dalton is part of the ranching family of the Cold Creek Daltons. He and his two brothers, Wade and Seth, survived their childhood with their tough and dishonest father, Hank. They have all built lives they can be proud of and none more than Jake, who is now the dedicated and hardworking sole physician in Pine Gulch. Despite all these accomplishments, Jake is a lonely man who spends his days working long hours and takes little time for himself.

Maggie Cruz is home. After a tour of duty in Afghanistan that ended in the loss of a limb, numerous surgeries and five months of rehabilitation at the Walter Reed Army Hospital, Maggie is ready for some tender loving care. Rancho de la Luna and her mother Viviana can provide that for her, and frankly she doesn't feel she has too many options at the moment. With her nursing career at an end and her self-confidence in tatters, is there a better place to hide than home? Maggie is not taking Jake into consideration.

There is a history between Maggie and Jake. They grew up together and although both their fathers are dead, what happened between them still affects Maggie's view of Jake and his family. Her contempt for all things Dalton is evident from their first meeting early in the book and Jake seems to be her focus. Jake on the other hand can't stay away from Maggie -- he always had feelings for her and now she's back, in obvious pain and needs him. He's not about to stay away.

Dancing in the Moonlight has that 'secret crush' trope that I love to read in this type of romance. Thayne does an excellent job of bringing these two characters together and developing their relationship. The fact that they've known each other their whole lives helps with the development and gives them the background history needed to make the romance a believable one.

Maggie's struggle through her physical and emotional trauma was both believable and touching. Her cluelessness when it came to Jake's feelings was also understandable under the circumstances. She was carrying a lot of baggage and we share Maggie's growth by seeing her go through different phases: pain, insecurity, stubbornness, pride and self-awareness. Jake's persistence, patience and understanding were just what Maggie needed. He was a wonderful hero, if a tad too perfect at times. Neither an alpha nor a beta, Jake certainly knew what to say and when to say it. I liked him and wanted him to get his woman.

There is a sense of community in the book as secondary characters are kept in the periphery, with Maggy's mother, Viviana, and her uncle, Guillermo, highlighted within the story. The focus is kept squarely on the couple as is customary in these romances.

It has been a long time since I read a Silhouette I wanted to recommend -- Dancing in The Moonlight is that book. Needless to say I enjoyed it and will not only check Thayne's back list, but I'm also looking forward to her new release.

Dancing in the Moonlight is part of Raeanne Thayne's Silhouette Special Edition Cowboys, Cold Creek series. This is Book #2 in the original trilogy featuring the Dalton brothers: Light The Stars (Book #1) and Dalton's Undoing (Book #3).

Ms. Thayne has an extensive back list of Silhouette Special Editions, Silhouette Suspense and Silhouette Intimate Moments books. A Cold Creek Homecoming, a new Cowboys, Cold Creek series release is scheduled for September 2009.

You can visit the author here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

...on Lazy Summers, Reaching Goals & Natural Disaster by Chris Owen

Summer has really taken its toll on my reading schedule -- too many family functions, lazy weekends, busy work days, unexpected emergencies and just things that seemed to crop up. Hmm.... too many lazy days, I think.

So, I was going to do a Weekly Reads post, but can't do that since I haven't really read that much this week -- 2 books . Then I was going to do a Latest Reads post and... well... I read the last book I had left for the Challenge! I'm finished, done!  So, my post changed for the THIRD time *g* and here it is... 

My latest read was Natural Disaster by Chris Owen, my last book for the M/M Romance Reading Challenge. Yay! I posted a complete list of books and reviews at Musings today and it feels wonderful to have accomplished this. Reaching this goal in the midst of all I've had going on this summer made me feel like celebrating today. So, I decided to post my last review for Natural Disaster at the Manhole @ The Phade to celebrate with the whole team! But I wanted to share some of this with you, so here are some of my impressions of this, my last Challenge book.

Natural Disaster is the continuation of Jake and Tor's love story as told by Chris Owen in Bareback. It takes place a few years later when these two men have an established life as a couple with responsibilities. A tragedy brings Jake's teenage nephew, Jacob, into their lives and they must adjust everything to accommodate not only the new addition to their family, but the new feelings that come with it. Grief, loss and joy are all a part of this book as is the importance of family -- the main focus of this piece. 

Owen continues the wonderful work she started in Bareback when it comes to characterization. For me, it was wonderful to see both Jake and Tor evolve and grow in their relationship. Jacob's character is well developed, although I don't think he worked through his grief as well as Jake -- that part of the story needed further development in my opinion. I thought Jacob's recovery was a tad too fast and easy under the circumstances.  

Overall, this is a solid story highlighting the passion and love between Jake and Tor, while giving us a complete story full of family love as well. A great way to finish the Challenge!

Yay! Yay! and Yay!

Monday, August 17, 2009

...I'M OK, UR OK Blogger Award

Tracy from Tracy's Place passed this colorful, and truly cool award on to me a couple of weeks ago. Of course, the meaning behind the words is what it's all about.

Quoting Lisabea from Nose In a Book makes it easy for me to pass on this wonderful award to a couple of bloggers who "review across the spectrum of romance, who do so with laughter and a good will, and who aren't limited to the expectations of their audience. They open doors."

I'm passing this most wonderful of awards to Ms. Moonlight(Elizabeth Jules Mason) from Moonlight to Twilight Blog and to Carolyn Crane (CJ) from The Trillionth Place -- two ladies whose blogs definitely fit the above description for me and whose reviews and posts I really enjoy.

Thank you, Tracy!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

M/M Review: Out of Bounds by T.A. Chase

Can a sexy nightclub owner convince an all star basketball player to risk it all?

Professional basketball player Kasey Johnson makes a point of keeping his sexual preference under guard and out of the public eye. Empty, off-season flings are all he can look forward to until he retires. He figures his secret is safe -- until he meets Ingram Fletcher, a nighclub owner who ignites a passionate inferno in his body.

Gram has lusted after Kasey ever since the long, tall basketball player was traded to Phoenix a year ago. But with Kasey's twin brother running interference, up until now Gram's been unsure if it's safe to make a play. Then some incidental contact in the crowded club leads to a kiss that starts Gram wondering if a relationship is possible -- now, and beyond March Madness.

A romantic weekend together answers that question. Now the only one remaining is if Kasey is ready to make a fast break out of his comfort zone.
In Out of Bounds, T. A. Chase touches on a few different themes: gays in professional sports; coming out to the public; privacy vs. the public's right to know. Most importantly Chase focuses on a man's personal needs and happiness vs. his career and having viable future. This is Kasey's dilemma and the one he and Gram must face together.

The contrast between Kasey and Gram's developing relationship and the almost brittle desperation we see in Garrett, Kasey's twin brother, is startling and it serves Kasey well. The protective and close relationship between the brothers was both exasperating and touching -- just as those brotherly relationships tend to be.

Kasey and Gram's story as told by T. A. Chase is full of sexual tension and eroticism. The chemistry between these two is scorching, as is the love that flourishes between them. Although their first encounter comes quick, Chase develops their relationship. Kasey's slow realization that their relationship might be worth more than a few encounters, and Gram's unrelenting and surprising commitment won me over.

Out of Bounds is a wonderful addition to my growing T. A. Chase collection.

M/M Romance Erotica: Hot B+

Find this book here.

Originally posted at Musings of a Bibliophile August 11, 2009

...on the Hybrid Zone and Perdido Street Station

"...the point where one thing becomes another. It is what makes you, the City,the world, what they are.... the zone where the disparate become part of the whole. The hybrid zone." (Mr. Motley to Lyn). Perdido Street Station by China Miéville.

In Perdido Street Station, Miéville constructs a world where the bizarre and the recognizable often coalesce -- not for the weak of heart, or for that matter the weak of stomach.

New Crobuzon, his characters and their lives all seem to be hybrids -- made of different parts that not always seem to fit together, yet work. They are shocking, but like a car wreck on a highway so fascinating, they make it impossible to look away from the page.

From the characters to New Crobuzon, a character in itself, the world in Perdido Street Station seems to be a place where transitions are blunt and yet become unseen by those who are trapped living the experience.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Reviews at Musings

Upcoming Reviews:

Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale is a book I've had on my TBB list ever since I saw it highlighted at the Galaxy Express last March under their 'Steampunk' recommendations. A book I looked forward to reading and saved to savor like candy for the end of the Challenge. *g*

Out of Bounds by T.A. Chase was an erotic trip through the world of sports. He addresses the prejudices still rampant in that world and the pros and cons of being "out" for an athlete -- but also the decisions that must be made by the man. I'll be reading more T.A. Chase.

Reviews Posted at Musings:

The Edge of Impropriety by Pam Rosenthal, a historical romance from a new-to-me author. I was curious about this book and just had to give it a shot. My thoughts are posted at Musings as more impressions than review mode. A book that surprised me in more ways than one.

No Limits by Alison Kent is a contemporary romance book that I won at the author's website in a contest. This is another new-to-me author and I read this book without any expectations or knowledge as to style. This book had an interesting mixture of characters and atmosphere.

Islands by Samantha Kane, a beautiful love story set in World War II with wonderful characters and atmosphere. This one made me sigh.

Summer has taken its toll and I'm not reading as much as I usually do, but I'm right on track with the M/M Challenge. One more to read, and after this week... one more to review. So, that's okay, right?

After I'm done with those... I'll have to tackle the huge TBR pile this challenge has created... all the wonderful new authors discovered and backlists to investigate. It seems I'll be overflowing with hot new reads to keep me warm come the winter. :) Plus, this second half of the year, I'm planning on reading more Fantasy / Sci-Fi Romance and Contemporary Romance.

See you at Musings!

Edited: All reviews can be found here at Impressions. 

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Review: No Limits by Alison Kent

Simon Baptiste's latest SG-5 mission just went south in a major way. It seems like a good time to take are of some business back home in Louisiana. Simon knows it ain't going to be pretty. He's got old enemies in Bayou Allain who won't exactly roll out the red carpet. But Simon's first night back is more than he bargained for: Not only has the homestead gone to hell in a hand basket, but there's a half-naked woman hiding inside it -- a woman whose face Simon knows all too well. It's Michelina Ferrer; the sultry spokes model for her family's Ferrer fragrance empire -- and Simon's been starting at her picture on a billboard outside his Manhattan apartment for weeks...

Micky Ferrer came down to Bayou Allain looking for her old college friend, only to discover that Lisa Landry has been missing for days. As soon as Micky starts asking questions, someone runs her car off the road. She's hiding out in the old Baptiste place when Simon shows up -- and he's the hottest thing she's laid eyes on since she got to town. Simon agrees that something strange is going on and that Lisa's disappearance may be tied to it. As he and Micky search for answers, the sweltering heat makes it hard to keep their heads straight on their hands off each other...even as they unravel the small-town secrets that some people are willing to kill for...
Alison Kent is a new-to-me author, and No Limits a no expectations type of read. I understand this book is part of a long series -- the SG5 -- however, I think it reads well as a stand alone. The above book description is very thorough in the way it outlines the plot, so I'll just outline my thoughts.

No Limits gives us enough Cajun flavor without really steeping us into the culture or the true southern atmosphere of the Bayou. We get a sense of that flavor from some of the phraseology, usage of language and pacing, but the details are not really found here to provide heavy atmosphere.

Micky, as in Micky Mouse, reminded me of a cross between a super-model and the type of celebrity we see pictured in tabloids all too often. Although initially developed as an immature young woman who acts before she thinks and is adept at running rather than taking responsibility for her actions, her character does show some growth throughout the story. Simon is a character you'll recognize easily. He is a sexy ex-military, ex-mercenary who now works with the SG5 team. He is an alpha male who is not overdone in this story, although a bit brooding. I found the dialogue and tension between these two characters better than the chemistry.

King, Simon's cousin, is one of a memorable cast of secondary characters. A wonderfully brooding Cajun, King caught my attention from the beginning and kept it to the end of this story. Some of the most heated sexual scenes in this book are between King and Paschelle -- King's friend with benefits. As a secondary story, King and Paschelle's troubled, sexual relationship became my favorite part of the book. I certainly looked forward to every single scene where both these characters were included.

The mystery/suspense in the book was a disappointment for me. The villain of this piece is known almost immediately as is the reason for the crime. There didn't seem to be any surprises at the end.

No Limits was a mixed bag for me. I thoroughly enjoyed parts of it and thought Ms. Kent's secondary characters made the story -- from Judge Bear and pitiful Lorna to sexy King and Paschelle. However, I felt the suspense was lacking and the ending felt more like a "happily for now" than a "happily ever after." This book gets a C+ from me.

You can visit the author here. You can read an excerpt here.

Originally posted at Musings of a Bibliophile August 8, 2009