Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September 2009 Reads

My September reads weren't too bad. I'm happy with the results, although I didn't get to some books I absolutely wanted to read this month. They are still at the top of my TBR pile and I'm hoping to get to them in October. With work gearing up and lots of personal commitments, I rearranged my pile to accommodate my momentary needs. Soooo, short reads came into play peppered with a few longer ones in between.

I'm still behind with my reviews, so this month I did review some of my August reads. Head Over Heels by Susan Andersen, A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James is posted at Musings of a Bibliophile, and of course those fun buddy reviews I did with Nath of Moonshine and Madhouse by Rob Thurman are posted at Breezing Through. I didn't do as well with my reading, but much better with my reviews this month. :)

Let's see what happens in October!


1) A Cold Creek Homecoming by Raeanne Thayne

2) His Second Chance Family by Raeanne Thayne

3) Must Love Hellhouds by Charlaine Harris, Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook

4) Never Love a Lawman by Jo Goodman

5) Deathwish by Rob Thurman

6) Dona Nobis Pacem (M/M) by Willa Okati

7) Hex in High Heels by Linda Wisdom
Upcoming Review at Musings of a Bibliophile

8) Tempt Me at Twilight by Lisa Kleypas

9) His Convenient Husband (M/M) by J.L. Langley

10) Love in the Library (M/M) by J.M. Snyder

11) Don't Look Back (M/M) by Josh Lanyon

12) Unrequited (M/M) by Abigail Roux

13) Love Means No Shame (M/M) by Andrew Grey

14) The Tudor Rose: A Novel of Elizabeth of York by Margaret Campbell Barnes
Review at Musings of a Bibliophile

15) On the Edge by Ilona Andrews
Upcoming Review

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Review: Tempt Me at Twilight by Lisa Kleypas

He was everything she'd sworn to avoid...

Poppy Hathaway loves her unconventional family, though she longs for normalcy. Then fate leads to a meeting with Harry Rutledge, an enigmatic hotel owner and inventor with wealth, power, and a dangerous hidden life. When their flirtation compromises her own reputation, Poppy shocks everyone by accepting his proposal -- only to find that her new husband offers his passion, but not his trust.

And she was everything he needed...

Harry was willing to do anything to win Poppy -- except to open his heart. All his life, he has held the world at arm's length...but the sharp, beguiling Poppy demands to be his wife in every way that matters. Still, as desire grows between them, an enemy lurks in the shadows. Now if Harry wants to keep Poppy by his side, he must forge a true union of body and soul, once and for all...

I've been following the Hathaway series by Lisa Kleypas and looking forward to reading all about Poppy Hathaway and Harry Rutledge. After finishing Tempt Me at Twilight I found that I liked some parts more than others. I read this book in basically one sitting and found it to be a quick read that concentrates mostly on Poppy and Harry's romance. That's what drives the book and what kept me reading.

In Tempt Me at Twilight the relationship doesn't really develop until after the marriage takes place. Harry is attracted to Poppy immediately and wants her for a few reasons -- he's attracted to her physically, her intelligent conversation and bright personality are a "curiosity" to him, plus he thinks she'll be an asset to him as a hostess for his business. He's ready for marriage and for the first time, Harry is interested enough in a woman to consider taking the leap. He then proceeds to ruthlessly manipulate the situation so he can have what he wants.

Poppy is on the rebound and heartbroken when Michael Bayning doesn't propose marriage. Michael's father, Lord Andover, thinks Poppy is beneath them socially and not an appropriate candidate as a wife for his son. Michael doesn't have the fortitude to go against his father's wishes and Harry promptly takes advantage of the situation, compromises Poppy and asks her to marry him. Poppy agrees to marry Harry even though her family disapproves of him. However, once they are married, the relationship takes quite a while to develop, especially from Poppy's side. Poppy likes Harry, but he is the one who is totally bowled over -- it definitely takes her time to appreciate and then love Harry. I enjoyed the sexual tension and thought the heat between them was worth the wait.

Harry Rutledge is portrayed as both manipulative and ruthless, but I liked that he was upfront about it. He lets Poppy know from day one exactly the type of man he is, and that type of manipulative honesty almost always wins me over. Not a black and white kind of man, he has more enemies than friends and doesn't really care one way or the other. He fights for what he wants and gets it. In this case, he wanted Poppy. Was he ruthless? Yes. Did I mind? No, I thought his was a flawed and likable character. I particularly liked that Harry was capable of tenderness and exposed his vulnerable side to Poppy. More than character growth, I thought Kleypas revealed Harry's character. He is still manipulating and ruthless at the end, but the characteristics that made him the right man for Poppy were always there. Poppy just needed to discover them.

Poppy was also a revelation in many ways. In the previous installments I never connected with her -- she was just... there. But Poppy comes alive in this story from the beginning. She wants the "normal, predictable" life she never had as a Hathaway -- this is what drives her. Poppy initially falls in love with Michael Bayning because she thinks he can provide her with that normal, predictable life she craves. She's refreshingly smart and I thought charming, bright, and quite naive -- maybe too naive. In Poppy we do see character growth and I liked that Kleypas had that growth come from both her love for Harry and from Poppy's insights into herself.

The Hathaway family was nicely brought into the picture and the hotel staff contributed to the story, without overwhelming or taking away from the romance. Leo and Ms. Marks were highlighted, but Beatrix is the one who caught my attention. She seems to be developing into an interesting and eccentric character. I thought there were times in this story where she exhibited more insight than Poppy -- in a Dr. Doolittle kind of way.

I was frustrated during the last third of the book when I thought Poppy's naiveté bordered on lack of insight. For example, by that time I thought she ought to have had a better idea of how to deal with Harry and how he felt about Michael. The purpose of the short suspense plot included in this part of the book also frustrated me and escaped me since by then, every one's feelings were out in the open.

I can't end my impressions of Tempt Me at Twilight without mentioning Leo and Catherine Marks. After reading the revelations at the end of the book, I was left wondering why the hostilities between Harry and Catherine were so over the top at the beginning. Those same revelations again become part of the convenient family ties that Kleypas seems to be weaving into this series. And, I must say it -- was it necessary for the epilogue to leave that bit about Leo and Catherine dangling? Did we really need the tease? It wasn't necessary for me, but I'll be waiting for the next book to find out what happened.

You can visit Lisa Kleypas and read an excerpt for Tempt Me at Twilight here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Review: The Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Elizabeth of York, the only living descendant of Edward IV, has the most valuable possession in all of England -- a legitimate claim to the crown.

Two princes battle to win Britain's most rightful heiress for a bride and her kingdom for his own. On one side is her uncle Richard, the last Plantagenet King, whom she fears is the murderer of her two brothers, the would-be kings. On the other side is Henry Tudor, the exiled knight. Can he save her from a horrifying marriage to a cut-throat soldier?

Thrust into the intrigue and drama of the War of the Roses, Elizabeth has a country within her grasp - if she can find the strength to unite a kingdom torn apart by a thirst for power.
The times between King Edward III of England and Henry VII, the first Tudor King, were full of intrigue, bloody battles and civil war. The Lancastrians and the Yorkists, descendants of the prolific Edward III both had a legitimate claim to the crown and they were tearing the country apart by warring against each other. This has always been one of my favorite times in English history to study and just enjoy. When I realized the Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes was available, I had to read it.

In the The Tudor Rose, Margaret Campbell Barnes begins by introducing a young Elizabeth of York in 1483, right as the French King Louis XI breaks the betrothal contracts between his son, Charles The Dauphin and Elizabeth. The book covers Elizabeth's life up until the birth of her last child. Throughout The Tudor Rose, Campbell Barnes weaves history and fiction seamlessly. There were a couple of instances where creative license was taken, but for the most part she uses known history accurately and beautifully. I love the way she develops and explores the characters in this book. She specifically explores the duality in their personalities and lets the reader be the judge.

When we first meet young Elizabeth, the French King's rejection feels more like a personal affront than a matter of state. Elizabeth quickly realizes that as the daughter of a King, she is not just a woman -- she is more a chess piece in the game of political alliances. This single act of rejection serves to make her aware of the ambitious and cruel acts of men -- a theme explored by Campbell Barnes throughout the book. A few months later, her father is dead and this lesson will serve Bess well.

Fearful of Richard of Gloucester, the King's younger brother and his closest relative by blood, Bess' mother, the calculating Dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville, calls on her powerful Woodville relatives and attempts to take control of the new King, young Edward. When Richard thwarts her, she quickly moves the rest of her children into sanctuary. During their time in sanctuary, a seventeen-year old Bess is seen as the one who consoles her mother and takes responsibility for her siblings. Although young, Bess is quite sharp and recognizes her mother erred against Richard, however she soon loses faith in Richard's promise to be the young King's protector. Not long after, when he imprisons her two brothers Edward and Richard, and ceases the crown for himself all hope seems to disappear, as Richard of Gloucester becomes King Richard III.

At this point, Campbell Barnes tells us the account of the two princes in the Tower. Did Richard have the princes murdered? Bess agonizes as certainty and doubt plague her throughout her life. In the midst of loss and grief Bess' mother approaches her with the idea of a betrothal to the Lancastrian, Henry of Richmond. Horrified at first Bess refuses, but with confirmation of her brothers' murder and the realization that she is now the legitimate heir to Edward IV, she hastily agrees to marry Henry.

After a failed plot by Henry's supporters to cease the crown, Elizabeth is finally set free from sanctuary and returns to court with a public promise from Richard that she and her sisters will not be harmed. Soon after, Richard's son dies and Queen Anne of Neville goes into decline. During this time, we not only see Richard's duality, but Elizabeth's true understanding of it. After the Queen's death, Richard shocks Elizabeth by proposing a marriage between them in an attempt to secure the crown. This incestuous proposal gives Bess the impetus to seek help from powerful Lord Stanley and the second plot against Richard III is set into motion and succeeds.

In The Tudor Rose, Richard III's character just took over the pages. The way Campbell Barnes weaved history with fiction when it comes to this particular character was fascinating. Elizabeth's reactions to him were portrayed as those of a confused and troubled young woman who admired his accomplishments and talents while recognizing his faults. The battle where Richard loses his life to the Lancastrians is one of the most touching and fascinating narrations in this book. I couldn't stop reading and was just as arrested, horrified and admiring of him, as was Elizabeth herself.

Although Elizabeth looked forward to giving herself to her husband and hoped for a good marriage, she was to be disappointed. King Henry VII is portrayed as a cautious man whose cruelty is cold and who lacked passion. Bess describes Henry as a man who could "neither love nor hate." For a warm, giving woman like Bess who came from the passionate Plantagenets, this was a tough road. Campbell Barnes also explores the duality in Henry's character through Bess' doubts about his actions. Impostors, one of which claimed to be Bess' adored brother, Richard of York, plagued Henry's reign. He was a man who cared much for hoarding money and things and who left the crown well stocked for his successor, Bess' favorite son, King Henry VIII.

Elizabeth of York, first born to King Edward IV of England and Elizabeth Woodville took the motto a "Humble and Reverent Queen." She was a giving, warm woman who gave much of herself to her family and the people around her, yet kept little for herself. She's portrayed as someone who was loved dearly by those around her, but who craved the passion denied her by her husband, King Henry VII. She suffered dearly throughout her life and never stopped grieving for her young murdered brothers, especially for the youngest Richard, Duke of York. However, a Plantagenet through and through, strong and focused she forged ahead and gave birth to the Tudor dynasty. The only English Queen to have been the wife, daughter, sister, niece, and mother to English Kings, she gave herself to her family and her people.

First released in 1953, The Tudor Rose is a classic. If you love historical fiction like I do, this is a book I know you'll enjoy.

Review based on ARC copy from Sourcebooks.

Books by Margaret Campbell Barnes you might enjoy.
The Tudor Rose
Brief Gaudy Hour
My Lady of Cleves
King's Fool

Originally posted at Musings of a Bibliophile September 28, 2009

Buddy Review: Madhouse by Rob Thurman

Half-human Cal Leandros and his brother, Niko, aren't exactly prospering with their preternatural detective agency. Who could have guessed that business could dry in New York City, where vampires, trolls, and other creepy crawlies are all over the place?

But now there's a new arrival in the Big Apple. A malevolent evil with ancient powers is picking off humans like sheep, dead-set on making history with an orgy of blood and murder. And for Cal and Niko, this is one paycheck they're going to have to earn.

Madhouse is the third installment in the Cal Leandros urban fantasy series.

After we finished reading Moonshine, the 2nd book in the series, Nath and I continued chatting as we started reading Madhouse -- we couldn't seem to stop talking about Cal and Niko. Originally, we thought of posting a combination review of both the 2nd and 3rd books. However our discussion was so extensive, eventually Nath had to split it up into two separate posts.

If you're interested in this series and would like to read our buddy review for Madhouse, you can find it at Breezing Through.

A big THANK YOU to Nath for chatting, discussing, and reviewing the first three books of this series with me. I had the best time!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

...On Winning & M/M Book Shopping!

This last week the winner of the M/M Reading Romance Challenge was announced by Anesthezea/Christina of I Heart Paperbacks. Guess who won the Gift Certificate to All Romance eBooks? Me! Thank you again Anesthezea.

So, you KNOW I went shopping... here are my picks:

Don't Look Back by John Lanyon - Peter Killian, Curator at Constantine House in Los Angeles, wakes in the hospital to find himself accused of stealing a tenth century Chinese sculpture. Peter knows he's not a thief -- but that's all he knows. Why is hot and handsome Detective Mike Griffin so sure he's guilty -- and so hell-bent on seeing Peter arrested? And why is Peter having these weird dreams about an unseen lover?
This is my first Josh Lanyon book! Can you believe it? I've been meaning to pick up his Adrien English mysteries forever and still have those books on my list of books to buy. I decided to give this single title a try first before getting into a series. I'm really looking forward to it. :)

His Convenient Husband by J. L. Langley - Innamorati, Book 1 - At the tender age of seven, newly orphaned Micah Jiminez lost everything and got lucky. The Delaney family opened their hearts and their hone, treated him like one of their own. One Delaney in particular, though, became more than a brother to Micah. The handsome and protective Tucker is the man to whom he wants to give his love. But a single passionate night together, Tucker rebuffs him and hightails it to Dallas to pursue his dreams. Leaving Micha to pick up the pieces of his broken heart - and feeling like a fool.
J. L. Langley is a favorite of mine. The Tin Star is still one of my old time favorite contemporary western M/M books. So, you know I couldn't pass this one up... especially with that title, lol!

Unrequited by Abigail Roux - Vic Bronsen has a problem. He's stuck in a rut, uninspired by his job, and in love with a man who has no clue. Thinking a change of scenery and company will do his aching heart some good, he goes off on a road trip with his best friend, only to find that the answers to his problems may have been right there in front of him all along.
Hmm... unrequited love, angst, a road trip, best friends. Yeap! Had to get this one, plus I haven't read Abigail Roux's work either, so a great way to start, don't you think?

Patient Eyes by Andy Eisenberg - Jaden is in a bind: he's an eighteen-year-old college student who doesn't make enough money at his part-time job to even afford food. So when one of his house mates introduces him to gay-for-pay porn, he reluctantly agrees to take part. During his first scene, Jaden meets Brendan, and he's stunned to find himself falling in love.
Now this one? I don't know... it looked like it might be HAWT and well... I mean.. gay-for-pay porn and he falls in love after shooting the first scene? I have got to read it! *g*

Saturday, September 26, 2009

...On Changes, Cloudy Days & a Ray of Sunshine

Manhattan Clouds by V. Richardson

Changes. Sometimes they are as predictable as the seasons. Fall is here! Already. Cool, cloudy days abound and those can be lovely and treasured. There's a beauty and a fascination to those cool, turbulent and cloudy days that peaceful, clear ones don't hold. Those are the perfect days for introspection, study and if caught under a cloudburst some character building.

If unexpected, do we really appreciate those changes -- those cloudy days? Not always -- not until they are over and we either see the devastation left behind, or the fruitful results of the unexpected cloudbursts. But how to reach the sunshine when mother nature is in control and we're in the midst of those clouds?

Autumn. What a marvel of nature. Leaves are falling and all is dying, but the colors are rioting and more beautiful than ever! Even more beautiful than in the spring... one last hurrah before all is gone! But during this last hurrah, the clouds, changes and cloudbursts, do you still search for that ray of sunshine? Where do you look for it?

Sunflower Morning by J. McGuiness

I often find it in simple everyday things, a book, a friend, a conversation... and sometimes in the most complex of nature's gifts. The sunflower, a sturdy, complex ray of sunshine for a cloudy day. A smart flower that follows the sun from east to west during the day, and readies itself at night by facing east to start its quest for sunshine all over again. Thinking of the complexity that makes a sunflower, its spirals and its daily quest, always makes me pause and lifts my day.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Buddy Review: Moonshine by Rob Thurman

After saving the world from his fiendish father's side of the family, Cal Leandros and his stalwart half-brother Niko have settled down with new digs and a new gig -- bodyguard and detective work. And in New York City, where preternatural beings stalk the streets just like normal folk, business is good.

Their latest case has them going undercover for the Kin -- the werewolf Mafia. A low-level Kin boss thinks a rival is setting him up for a fall, and wants proof. The place to start is the back room of Moonshine -- a gambling club for non-humans. Cal thinks it's a simple in-and-out job. But Cal is very, very wrong.

Cal and Niko are being set up themselves and the people behind it have a bite much worse than their bark...

In case you haven't noticed, lately I have become obsessed with reading the Cal Leandros urban fantasy series. Last month, the lovely Ms. Nath invited me to review Nightlife, the first book in this series, at Breezing Through and we had a blast! But, we were both so excited about this series that even after we finished the review, we continued chatting about Moonshine the second book in the series. Next thing we knew, we had enough e-mails to put together ANOTHER review. So, yes... all that chatting paid off, lol!

So, for a review of Moonshine by Rob Thurman, 2nd Book in the Cal Leandros Urban Fantasy series, please go to Breezing Through and we'll chat some more!

ETA: Note, expect lots of wonderful little spoilers with this review. :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

New Cover: Mind Games by Carolyn Crane

So here it is, Mind Games by Carolyn Crane. Yes.... that's Ms. CJ from The Trillionth Place. She posted the cover on her blog this morning and I have to say I'm loving it, that is a HOT cover!

Mind Games, the first book in Crane's new Urban Fantasy trilogy is scheduled to release March 23, 2010. The second book is slotted to release September of next year. We don't have an official blurb available at this time, but we did get this bit of information from CJ herself:
Mind Games is the first in an urban fantasy trilogy about a hypochondriac who joins a psychological hit squad. It takes place in a fantastical Milwaukee/Chicago.
I'm loving both the cover and the title. After reading that little bit about the series, the title really seems to fit.

Congratulations CJ!

Friday, September 18, 2009

...On Friday and Cowboys

Well, it seems as if this was western week at Impressions... Westerns are a personal favorite and was excited when I saw KristieJ, Wendy, and Sybil decided to hold The Great Western Drive. They had the best recommendations and my list of books to look up or re-read is now even bigger. I don't need too much encouragement to read westerns, weather they are in a historical or a contemporary setting, those rugged men of the West do it for me. Love the cowboys. Yee haw!

I actually planned on posting a third review today on another historical romance western I'm reading, unfortunately work and real life intruded on both my reading and writing. Instead, I'm leaving you this week with my idea of what a cool, gorgeous cowboy hero looks like -- the fantasy type named "Jake." (Yes, I named him *g*)

Mmmm... well, I actually stole "Jake" shamelessly from a friend who gave him as a gift to another friend, lol! I stepped in and said "MINE".... she very gracefully stepped aside so I could share him with you all. (I promised her we would take care of him). Isn't that a gorgeous belt buckle? And don't you just want that hat? Hmm... yes...well, enjoy!

Happy Friday, everyone!