Friday, July 30, 2010

New August 2010 Releases I Can't Wait to Read!

Well, this has been one hot summer, the temperatures have been scorching and the hot new releases just keep coming. In July, I chose six new releases I couldn't wait to read and thankfully most of them were great reads! I did miss highlighting two must reads for me last month, Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley and A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James, both historical romances.

In August, there are six new releases I'm looking forward to reading. I've already read and enjoyed one of them, Sureblood by Susan Grant, a sci-fi romance, so that leaves five. Here are the summaries and release dates for all of them:

Sureblood by Susan Grant
Release Date: August 1, 2010

 (Review here)
Five years ago rival space pirate captains Val Blue and Dake Sureblood stole one incredible night together. But their brief, passionate history ended with the assassination of Val's father and the condemnation of Dake's clan. Now Val struggles to prove her mettle—to herself and to the dissenters amid her own people. Every successful raid is a boot heel ground into the burning memory of Dake Sureblood—and their secret son is a constant reminder of their shared past….

Ambushed and captured before he can clear his name, Dake Sureblood returns from a hell like no other to expose the true killer of Val's father. But as the identity of their enemy becomes chillingly clear, the former lovers must put aside their mistrust and join forces to protect their clans and their precious son.

Burning Up Anthology
Release Date: August 3, 2010

Bring these four authors together and it's sure to ignite a spark...

Angela Knight pairs a vampire warrior and his seductive captor in a battle against demonic predators.

Nalini Singh returns to the world of her Psy-Changeling series as a woman in lethal danger finds an unlikely protector-and lover.

Virginia Kantra continues the haunting tales of the Children of the Sea in her story of a wounded soldier rescued by an enigmatic young woman.

Meljean Brook launches a bold new steampunk series about a woman who strikes a provocative-and terrifying-bargain for freedom.

Lord of the White Hell by Ginn Hale
Release Date: August 15, 2010

Kiram Kir-Zaki may be considered a mechanist prodigy among his own people, but when he becomes the first Haldiim ever admitted to the prestigious Sagrada Academy, he is thrown into a world where power, superstition and swordplay outweigh even the most scholarly of achievements.

But when the intimidation from his Cadeleonian classmates turns bloody, Kiram unexpectedly finds himself befriended by Javier Tornesal, the leader of a group of cardsharps, duelists and lotharios who call themselves Hellions.

However Javier is a dangerous friend to have. Wielder of the White Hell and sole heir of a Dukedom, he is surrounded by rumors of forbidden seductions, murder and damnation. His enemies are many and any one of his secrets could not only end his life but Kiram's as well.

Demon from the Dark (Immortals After Dark Series,#8)by Kresley Cole
Release Date: August 24, 2010

Malkom Slaine: tormented by his sordid past and racked by vampiric hungers, he’s pushed to the brink by the green-eyed beauty under his guard.

Carrow Graie: hiding her own sorrows, she lives only for the next party or prank. Until she meets a tortured warrior worth saving.

In order for Malkom and Carrow to survive, he must unleash both the demon and vampire inside him. When Malkom becomes the nightmare his own people feared, will he lose the woman he craves body and soul?

Sin Undone (Demonica Series, #5) by Larissa Ione
Release Date: August 24, 2010

As the only female Seminus demon ever born, master assassin Sinead Donnelly is used to being treated like an outcast. She spent decades enslaved, and now vows she'll die before she'll relinquish her freedom again. Then Sin's innate ability to kill her enemies goes awry: She creates a lethal new werewolf virus that sparks a firestorm of panic and violence.

Half-werewolf, half-vampire Conall Dearghul is charged with bringing in Sin to face punishment for the plague. And she's no stranger: He's bound to her by blood, and the one sexual encounter they shared has left him hungering for her raw sensuality. Worse, Sin is the underworld's most wanted and Con soon learns he's the only one who can help her . . . and that saving her life might mean sacrificing his own.

Burning Up by Susan Andersen
Release Date: August 31, 2010

Though it's been years since the infamous Macy O'James stepped foot in Sugarville, Washington, everyone remembers what she supposedly did. The tiny town is still buzzing about her crime and lack of punishment.

Now back to lend her family a hand, Macy vows to hold her head high—especially at her high school reunion. But forget about the hottest man in Sugarville escorting her. Though she and fire chief Gabriel Donovan generate enough sparks to burn down the town, he's a law-abiding, line-toeing straight arrow. So not her type.

But maybe—just maybe—he can change her mind about that.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Poetry: Love Sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett-Browning (March 6, 1806 – June 29, 1861) was one of the most prominent English poets of the Victorian era. She was contemporary to such well-known poets as Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Woodsworth and the man who would later become her husband Robert Browning.

Elizabeth was born in County Durham, England. She was allowed to attend lessons with her brother's tutors and later became a highly educated woman, mostly through her own efforts. At age 20 her health was weakened by an undiagnosed illness of the lungs that quickly made her an invalid and plagued her for the rest of her life -- an illness that led to a life-long addiction to opiates.

Her early works were published from 1820 - 1844, beginning with The Battle of Marathon: A Poem and ending with Poems, a highly acclaimed and well-received book of poetry published in Britain and the United States.  Later in life, Elizabeth's writing was influenced by social issues affecting her times, including women's roles in Victorian society. This influence can be found in Casa Guidi Widows (1848-1851) and Poems Before Congress (1860) where she took a stand against social injustice, including slavery, child labor, and anti-government subversive movements in Italy. Her poetry writing style influenced American poets Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson.

Though Elizabeth was an accomplished poet and had what was considered a good body of work before she met Robert Browning, and she later wrote socially conscious works, including her well-known verse novel, Aurora Leigh (1857), she is best remembered for "Sonnets from the Portuguese" (1850). These are a series of love sonnets Elizabeth wrote while Robert courted her. 

Today I've decided to share two of these sonnets with you. These are both popular, well-known and beloved by many (especially Sonnet No. 43). I hope you enjoy them.

Sonnet No. 14: "If thou must love me, let it be for nought"

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
"I love her for her smile... her look... her way
Of speaking gently, for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of ease on such a day"
For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may
Be changed, or change for thee, and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheek dry,
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity.


Sonnet No. 43: "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review: Demon Blood (Guardian Series, #6) by Meljean Brook

Long before she was transformed into a Guardian and trained to fight demons, Rosalia knew darkness all too well. Raised by a demon, Rosalia learned to guard her heart—and her soul—until she found a man worthy of her love. Once, she thought that man would be the powerful vampire, Deacon…until he betrayed the Guardians.

After losing everything to the lies of a demon, Deacon lives only for revenge—and is taken aback when Rosalia offers to help. A vampire who has nothing—who is nothing—isn’t worthy of her attention. But Rosalia wants to do more than just look, and the explosive need between them can’t be held in check. And when Deacon’s vengeful quest creates a dangerous alliance of their enemies, she will be his only hope…
Well... and my love for Meljean Brook's Guardian series continues. I loved the last book in the series, Demon Forged, where the overall storyarc moved forward quite spectacularly. In Demon Blood, Brook slows down the pace and focuses the story on the central couple's romance. Rosalia and Deacon turned out to be a great couple and I loved their story.

As in all the Guardian series installments, the plot in this book is quite involved. Brook develops the romance as Rosalia and Deacon agree to go after a group of Belial's demons that are infiltrating Europe's vampire communities in an attempt to exterminate them. They work as a team and in the process discover a more sinister plot involving Anaria and the nephilim. In the meantime, Taylor is not adapting well to sharing her body with Michael's consciousness. There are some horror-like moments as the dual personalities inside Taylor fight for control. I was happy with the way things ended because quite frankly for a while there Michael was not in my good books.

Throughout the centuries as a Guardian, Rosalia's spends her time among humans and vampires, not Guardians, and as a result she often pushes boundaries and comes close to crossing lines. Initially Rosalia seems to be a straightforward woman with a plan, instead she turns out to be a strong, complex character. More than once I thought her actions throughout this story were questionable, if not downright rule-breakers for Guardians. Her capacity for love and sacrifice are immeasurable. However, she's no sacrificial lamb, she's the type of woman who takes action and does whatever becomes necessary for those she loves. A strategic genius, Rosalia has great talent for manipulation and she uses that talent to her advantage. The more I read Demon Blood, the more I liked Rosalia.

As for Deacon, well... I liked him as soon as he was introduced. Though he initially appears complex, unlike Rosalia, his is a more straightforward character. Deacon is a vampire who loses everything -- his loved ones, his reputation and his self-esteem -- survives, and has nothing left to lose but his life. His plan is to take revenge against the demons that exterminated his family and lovers, or to take as many of them with him as he can before he dies. As far as he's concerned, no matter his positive actions in the past or the present, the fact that he failed to save his community makes him unworthy of love or admiration. Deacon wasn't counting on Rosalia.

My first impression of Demon Blood was that the story was all about the love. Rosalia and Deacon's love for their communities, love for the human race, love for vampire communities, mother love, and love for each other -- and of course sacrifice. Both characters, but particularly Rosalia, are willing to sacrifice a lot for those they love. But don't get me wrong, it's not all about love and sacrifice, this story is also quite sexy! Meljean Brook knows how to create sexual tension and chemistry between the couples and there's plenty of that going on in Demon Blood, as well as some sizzling hot sexual scenes between Rosalia and Deacon.

By the end, my qualms about Rosalia's questionable actions and how they affected Brook's worldbuilding were pacified and I was content with the resolution to the overall storyarc, although I do wonder what will happen with Anaria now, but we'll see how that plays out in future installments. I loved both the romance and the characterization in Demon Blood, and as always I can't wait to read the next book in this series.

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Guardian Series, Book 6
Release Date: July 6, 2010
Grade: B+

Visit Meljean Brook 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

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Quotes & Thoughts: Summer, Baseball and Steve Kluger

Summer! For me, summer is nothing without the game of baseball.

I don't usually blog about sports, although I'm a huge sports fan, and baseball is my all-time favorite sport. There's nothing like a hot, lazy Sunday afternoon baseball game. I prefer looong games during sunny days and weather I'm watching them on television or at the ballpark, alone or with lots of company, it doesn't matter to me it's still heaven.

I love to read a good book with the sounds of a baseball game as background. I'm a bit (a lot) superstitious, and when my favorite team is playing and working on a win or a comeback, there are times when I'll look up from my book ONLY after that hit, home run, or strikeout happens -- and of course I won't remember what I was reading because I'm really paying attention to the game. My heart beats a mile a minute, and it's both an agony and a pleasure!

As a reader and a sports lover, it's interesting that I rarely mix the two. But recently, I've read a few books that integrate the game of baseball. Of those books, it is not surprising that the two that truly stand out are Steve Kluger's Almost Like Being in Love and Last Days of Summer. Why? Mr. Kluger obviously has a deep understanding of the game, and it seems as if he finds a way to integrate baseball into all his stories in one way or another. I have his entire backlist in my TBR, although I haven't yet read them all. Actually, Mr. Kluger is a Boston Red Sox fanatic, (see his website), so you know I must really love his writing... because well.. I happen to be a Yankees fan, and if you follow baseball you know what that means -- lots of rivalry there to put it mildly. ;P

In Almost Like Being in Love, a GLTB romance, one of Kluger's characters Craig (a jock) influences the other, Travis (a nerd), to the point where Travis lives his life while relating everything to baseball and its rules. He becomes a history professor at USC, and even there Travis relates history to baseball. I loved it! I think one of my initial thoughts and comments when I read this book was: "I'll never think about Alexander Hamilton again without thinking about baseball. Ever!"

Here's an example so you can see what I mean:
University of Southern California
Semester: 1998 From: Travis Pucket  Class: American History 206

"Alexander Hamilton and the Designated Hitter"

Issue: Once we'd won our independence from the Crown, how were we going to set up house?

Objective: Proving that baseball and the United States Constitution were founded on the same set of rules, as outlined in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton.

Argument: (extract)... If it hadn't been for the fact that conservative rich guy Thomas Jefferson (National League) and free-wheeling loud-mouth Alexander Hamilton (American League) detested one another on sight, the Founding Fathers might never have stumbled upon the same secret the populace had discovered years earlier on a rounders field: the dynamic upon which to build a true democracy and, incidentally, a Boston Red Sox legacy as well.*

*See, Carlton Fisk's home run off of Pat Darcy on October 21, 1975.
("We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.")
In Last Days of Summer, Kluger uses a combination of fiction and history when it comes to baseball. Set in New York during WW II and featuring the New York Giants as the central team, the story is chuck-full of baseball lore and references. Kluger's love of the game is more than evident in this gorgeous story about a rough, well-known baseball player and a smart-aleck(y), adventurous boy whose determination becomes legendary. Of course setting the story in New York City, Kluger also features "dem bums" the Brooklyn Dodgers as the Giants' main competitors, and of course the New York Yankees, although interestingly enough for the most part he seems to gloss over the Yanks... hmmm... I wonder why? [grin].

This book is not only a gorgeous read for all the reasons I detailed on my review, but if you're a baseball fan and a lover of its history, then it's just fun. If you (like me) can get lost researching stats, confirming exactly where Kluger uses fictional information and/or where he uses baseball history, then you can definitely have some fun with this book. As I mentioned, I'm a bit of a baseball freak (geek), so I've had tons of fun (and I'm not done yet) going through some of the stats, names and information Kluger uses in this book.

Of the historical baseball facts Kluger uses in Last Days of Summer, I'm going to highlight a favorite (my choice should not be a surprise -- my husband who's a diehard Dodgers fan didn't love my choice... oh well!). It is a newspaper-like article and stats page (pages 192 & 193) from Game 4 of the 1941 World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees:
Dodgers Snatch Defeat
From Jaws of Victory

Game 4 Upset When
Mickey Owen Drops Strike 3

(excerpt)... Brooklyn hurler Hugh Casey let loose with a perfect breaking curve to Yankee right fielder Tommy Henrich, who sung on strike three -- and whiffed. And that should have been the ball game. But the Brooks' usually topflight catcher Mickey Owen had other ideas when he missed the ball entirely -- and by the time he'd retrieved it from the Dodger dugout, Henrich had made himself at home on first. But that was only the beginning....

Yankees went on to win Game 4 by a score of 7-4 and the 1941 World Series. Hmmm... Charlie and Joey were NOT happy and of course they disagree as to what reaaaally happened, an argument that goes on between the two throughout the whole book. I love this story... just love it.


And of course since Carlton Fisk was mentioned above and bringing this post around to current events, I just HAVE to mention Jorge Posada! The current Yankees catcher who reached 1,000 RBI yesterday, having played 1,660 games throughout his career (NYY 1995 to present).

With that 1,000 hit, he joined an amazing group of catchers: Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk* and Ivan Rodriguez as the only catchers in Major League Baseball history to hit 250 home runs, 350 doubles and a record 1,000 RBI. You go Jorgie!


So what's your favorite sport? Do you have one? Any favorite sports (or baseball) related books that you would recommend?

ETA: Other recently read baseball related books:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review: Love in the Afternoon (Hathaways, Book 5) by Lisa Kleypas

I didn't mean to send love letters, but that is
what they became. On their way to you, my
words turned into heartbeats on the page.

Come back, please come home and find me.


Ahhh Beatrix, I loved this character and was intrigued by her for quite a while. From all the Hathaway sisters, she's the one who really made me curious. The girl who loves animals and can't seem to really adjust to society's rules and regulations -- uncivilized, direct and honest Beatrix. Who in that society could ever love her, right?

I'm so glad that in the end, Lisa Kleypas found the right touch and wrote a great romance for Beatrix. Kleypas begins Love in the Afternoon with a love letter and sets the tone for Beatrix Hathaway and Christopher Phelan' romance.

So there we are, Beatrix and Christopher's fall in love through letters. Lovely letters. They are letters full of honesty and deception, at least on Beatrix's side. Honest Beatrix begins writing to Christopher as act of kindness after her shallow friend Prudence Mercer refuses to answer a letter she receives from him -- a letter he writes from the front as he is fighting abroad for England.

However, Beatrix deceives Christopher by pretending to be Pru throughout their correspondence. She believes that he would not appreciate receiving a letter from her. Beatrix's memory of Christopher is that of a shallow, blond god with not much to offer but his good looks. He publicly made some hurtful remarks and judged Beatrix for her unconventional actions, comments she herself overheard. But the war and that one letter to Prudence touched her. What was written in that letter didn't reflect the man Beatrix thought Christopher to be, and what began as a small deception and an act of kindness turned into love and agony for Beatrix, and love, hope and despair for Christopher. See, Christopher falls in love with the woman on the page, words... words matter in this story.

I love this romance. It is not all wine and flowers and wounded animals, although there are plenty of those to be found, but it is about love and healing. Christopher falls desperately in love with the woman revealed through the letters believing she is Pru. When he returns, he slowly realizes that woman is not Pru, instead he finds unconventional Beatrix. There's passion between them... and I loved both the passion and restraint between these two, the sexual tension and the desperate love that oozes from both Christopher and Beatrix. Especially throughout the first three quarters of the book.

Christopher is not the same man who left England. He returns from the wars a changed man suffering from PTSD. He believes he's going mad and you can feel his conflict, desperation and anguish. So as I said this is not a story that is all love and flowers, there are other conflicts that present themselves along the way. I like the compromises Kleypas uses as a partial resolution to this storyline.

As secondary characters, the Hathaways make appearances and as this is the end of the series, there are resolutions to some minor issues. I again loved Leo in this installment, both his often-inappropriate sense of humor and moments of insight. There's a secondary story about a friend of Christopher's that is also part of the conflict that is satisfactorily, if easily, resolved.

I loved Love in the Afternoon. I think Beatrix and Christopher's lovely and passionate romance was an excellent way to end the Hathaway series. Beatrix was special and Christopher was the perfect hero for her -- all wounded and so in love. Married by Morning was a treat for me, but I must admit that I preferred the romance in this book just a bit more. I'll miss looking forward to new Hathaway stories, but will enjoy their journeys again through re-reads.

Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Hathaway Series, Book 5
Release Date: June 29, 2010 - Kindle Edition
Grade: A-

Visit Lisa Kleypas here

KMont's 2010 Year of the Historical Challenge

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review: Sureblood by Susan Grant

If you've read any of Susan Grant's Borderland tales then you will surely recognize the world and situations presented in Sureblood. If you have not and this is your first time, then prepare yourself for a great adventure - a science fiction romance type of adventure, Susan Grant style.

The Sureblood and Blues Borderland pirate clans, although not necessarily enemies, are rivals and tough competitors. When the new young Sureblood clan chief, Dake Sureblood begins breaking some of their unwritten raiding laws, it doesn't take long before the Blues retaliate and tensions escalate.

During just such a raid, Valeeya Blue, young raider-in-training and daughter to the Blues' chief, meets the young Sureblood chief and the two end up raiding together in order to survive an unknown enemy's attack. The two begin by admiring each other's courage and grit and an attraction grows from there. At a meeting of the two clans, Val and Dake steal away and enjoy a night full of passion where they make plans for a hopeful, united future.

Unfortunately, their clans and unknown enemies get in the way. Val's father is assassinated that night and the visiting Surebloods are blamed. Dake is allowed to leave Val's planet only to be ambushed and captured by the Drakkens before he can clear his name and that of his clan.

In the meantime, Val becomes chief of the Blues clan where she must prove her strength to her dissenters time and again. When she doesn't hear word from Dake, Val becomes an embittered and vengeful woman. Believing them guilty of her father's death, she goes after the Sureblood clan. When she finds herself pregnant with Deke's child, she lies to protect her position and the child from her own clan, her enemies and dissenters. During the five years Dake is away, Val becomes one of the Borderlands most feared and hardened pirates.

I really enjoy the world Susan Grant has created, and I'm so glad she focused this story on the pirates. The pirates are a wild and barbarous bunch; their culture is violent, although there's honor and discipline that goes along with all that violence. We meet Val when she's a young woman with potential and we go along for the ride as she matures and becomes a strong leader. We see her mistakes, self-doubts and victories -- and she makes plenty of mistakes along the way. The most glaring one being that Val lets her personal feelings and bitterness cloud her judgment, and it takes Dake's return and lots of proof to make her see the truth.

Dake on the other hand is a clear thinking man -- even when we first meet him as a young man feeling his way through new responsibilities as chief of his clan. He's actually a visionary who sees beyond the obvious and I really liked him as the central male figure in this story. Together, he and Val made a passionate and courageous couple -- a Susan Grant specialty. I actually love Susan Grant's male protagonists and the way they love their women, Dake is no exception.

This is the adventurous romance of two people who go through the ringer before finding that happily ever after. The science fiction details are there without overwhelming the story, and although this is part of the Borderland Tales series, the story stands well on its own. I loved getting to know quite a few of the large cast of well developed secondary characters, all of whom added depth to the story.

Sureblood is a book I recommend to science fiction romance fans, or to those who just want to read a great romance adventure full of space pirates, love and intrigue. I had a wonderful time reading it.

Genre: Science Fiction/Romance
Series: Tales of the Borderlands
Release Date: August 1, 2010
Source: Requested from NetGalley
Grade: B

Visit Susan Grant here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reflections on Contemporary Romance & Too Hot to Handle by Elizabeth Lowell

I've read a few recently acquired older romances and one of the things I've found interesting is how some of these books stand the test of time and some of them just seem... dated. This seems particularly evident to me in contemporary romances, weather it's the writing style, what was acceptable to write/include in romances at the time, fashion, dialogue and/or attitudes.

However thinking about it, that's the reason these books are called contemporaries after all -- the content reflects contemporary times, whatever those times may be. If well written, as time passes these contemporary books become a glimpse into the past. In a way they almost become historicals... I mean think about it. Read a contemporary book set in the 1950's, 1960's, 1970's and even the 1980's (don't kill me) and what do you get? A tiny piece of history... even if it's just in the style of writing and what was acceptable and popular during that era.

Pop culture is pop culture and contemporary fiction is a great way to glimpse these little pieces of history as we go along. However in this case, when referencing contemporaries within the romance genre there's a glitch. I've always found contemporary romances to be behind the times when it comes to relationships between men and women, specifically when it comes to women and their true roles in society -- in many cases I found that pop culture was often ignored as well. I think this applied mostly in romance books written in the 1970's, 80's and even 90's where in most cases women were still characterized as submissive, repressed or innocent/naive and even when portrayed as working or independent women, they somehow reverted to those roles. That has changed for the most part, although unfortunately not completely, within the contemporary romance genre.

I remember always being amazed, shocked and awed when reading contemporary romances in the 1980's and even in the 1990's when all (or almost all) the heroines were virgins -- not that there's anything wrong with being a virgin. It's just that after the 1960's sexual revolution, the one that came along with the pill, there seemed to be very few 25 and 30 year old virgins around. So the fact that almost all the heroines in contemporary romances were virgins, always left me wondering if those authors would ever write, or be allowed to write, about the rest of the female population.

I also always wondered when the time would come that female romance readers would stop judging those romance heroines who were not virgins... as sluts. It seemed that the romance genre would never catch up with the 60's sexual revolution or with contemporary female roles in society -- the independent working woman with freedom to choose a relationship when ready. Reality vs. fantasy. How we are vs. how we would like to see ourselves. Fascinating.

A great example of the type of contemporary romances that were being written during the 1980's, but one that is not truly representative of the era is Too Hot to Handle by Elizabeth Lowell. It's interesting because I enjoyed the first -- recognizing the style and the format, the types of characters and story. So this book is definitely dated in the way it is written -- the style.

Interestingly enough some of my old frustrations came back to the surface. This book was written in 1986, yet it could have been written way before that. There's little if anything there that reflects that era, so it's not dated when it comes to pop culture. It certainly has nothing to say when it comes to the reactions of an independent young woman in her 20's during that time -- definitely a retro-style romantic fantasy.

The book is 249 pages, the first meeting between the protagonists takes the first 85 pages of the book, and by end of those 85 pages, they want each other... badly. But the heroine is a useless/clumsy/city girl who's coming from Los Angeles and trying to get a job at the hero's ranch, and HE wants a real woman who will help him run that ranch.

The hero is one of those stereotypical ones who is hot for the heroine on sight, but who decides she's not good enough for him. So he turns hostile, mean and bossy because he's horny and treats the heroine like crap until about half way through the story. Once they get together, he then turns into a tender and hot sexin' machine. Their sexin' scenes go on for page after page and they are HOT -- the highlight is a super-duper HOT sexin' scene on top a horse! And it wasn't just because it was summer and they were ambling/riding through a meadow. Of course that's before he turns back into a mean jerk again... and then reverts to the tender hero by the end so they can have a happily ever after.

The heroine is a virgin in her 20's. She's one of those perfectly perfect young women who had a rough childhood and suffers in silence. And even though she lived in Los Angeles independently and left home at age 16, she has somehow managed to stay naive, innocent and untouched -- her hormones never kicked in until she met HIM. For our girl, it doesn't matter how mean or hostile the hero gets throughout their "romance," she just wants to please him. Of course, our hero gets turned on by the fact that she's a virgin and he calls her "my sweet little virgin" so many times... that I was actually relieved when he finally got rid of that impediment, and needless to say that first time was painless and glorious! And no matter how much of a jerk this hero is throughout the story, he is HOT and our heroine understands... and well... if you've read a book like this you know where it goes from there.

This book certainly brought back memories of many a contemporary romance and even through some of my frustrations, I had to smile and actually laughed at some pretty inappropriate times -- mostly when I anticipated the dialogue... the predictability of it all. The story was just so familiar it felt as if I'd read it many times even though this was the first time. I must admit despite all the frustration, Lowell wrote some pretty enjoyable hot scenes and I'm sure this book was probably quite popular during that time.

Unlike this book, there are a few contemporary romances that I think stand the test of time... but I'll save those thoughts for another post.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mini-Impressions: The End of the Adrien English Mysteries by Josh Lanyon

This is the truth here... I meant to write reviews for both Death of a Pirate King and The Dark Tide after I finished reading them back in May. The funny part of the story is that I was so caught up reading this series and the stories, I kept forgetting to well... write a review. 

So, what did I do instead? I kept going back to the books and just kept re-reading them and forgetting to write a thing. I just wanted to enjoy them, over and over again. It became what I'll be calling: My Adrien English Obsessive Cycle.

It has happened to me before where I find a favorite book and become selfish. I want to keep these books to myself. These are books I loved so much that I can't write or talk about them, and/or sometimes it takes me a while to share my thoughts. These books become my private joy and I hold them tight. 

The following are actually my first impressions of the books after I finished them with a few minor edits. 

Death of a Pirate King (Adrien English Mysteries, Book 4) by Josh Lanyon

I loved Death of a Pirate King. Lanyon begins this book two years after The Hell You Say ends, and I think the way he used the timeline was just brilliant. The timeline allowed for character growth for Adrien, and what I thought was more subtle character growth for Jake. It also allows the reader to experience the maturity to relationships established in The Hell You Say, as well as the long term consequences to Jake's questionable actions. I also loved the way Lanyon weaved the mystery and the main character's personal lives in this installment. The end was stunning and the perfect set up for the last book of the series. Grade: A-

The Dark Tide (Adrien English Mysteries, Book 5) by Josh Lanyon

When I finished the Adrien English series all I could think was... I love the way Lanyon finished it off and I want to read it again! The mystery in The Dark Tide parallels Jake's own life in many ways and it has a wonderful retro atmosphere that I just loved. Adrien's character really blooms, as we see just how far he has come from the time we met him. Jake is still a bit of mystery at the end and frankly I like him that way. I loved that Lanyon kept Jake's character true to himself to the end. Both characters go for an emotional ride in The Dark Tide as does the reader, and I think it is an excellent ending to what turned out to be a fantastic series.

I'll admit here that once I finished The Dark Tide, I went back and re-read favorite passages and scenes throughout the whole series and had a bit of a problem letting go of it -- addictive series, addictive characters. What more can I say? Grade: A

Visit Josh Lanyon here.