Friday, December 23, 2016

Review: Playboy on her Christmas List by Carol Marinelli

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Carol Marinelli writes really great characters. I've enjoyed everything I've read by this author.

I liked that the playboy doctor, Daniel wasn't too awful or too perfect. He was a nice guy who was sincerely interested in Holly - a nurse at the hospital where he sometimes worked - and he wasn't quite sure how to handle his feelings for her after a one night stand starts to feel like something much more. Holly isn't really a one night stand sort of person, but she thought she'd never see Daniel again - he kept saying he was going to take off on a year old holiday - and she had a moment in which she decided to take a chance.

The holiday setting worked well as the hospital employees enjoyed their advent calendar chocolates and put together a Secret Santa exchange, all while planning the holiday work schedule and trying to figure out how to fit in time with their families.

Definitely would recommend to anyone in need of a fun, sexy holiday read, with believable, likable characters and an interesting story.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley. 

Review: A Cotswold Christmas by Kate Hewitt

I loved this book. The setup for the story is a bit absurd - in real life you should probably never do what Anna did. The bed and breakfast she booked for Christmas was flooded, so she goes off with Colin, a relative of the owner - thinking he's got a vacation cottage where she can stay. Turns out it's not a vacation rental, but rather an empty, unfurnished house. Colin feels bad about the situation, realizing Anna is alone for the holidays and her plans have been ruined, he does his best to try to make her comfortable in the empty house. The two quickly hit it off, feeling comfortable in each other's company, despite barely knowing each other.

This is a sweet story, very romantic and sexy without being explicit - which seems to work well in this story. This is the perfect, feel good holiday romance. An American attempting to run away from her heartbreak and be alone for the holidays meets the perfect man - who isn't at all what she ever would have considered to be perfect.

I liked this story a lot and would readily recommend it to anyone wanting something sweet and romantic, and quick, as it isn't a very long story. Perfect for an afternoon or evening read when the real life holidays get to be too much.

I believe this is the first in a series of books set in the same village. I'm looking forward to reading more. This is a very nice beginning and introduction to this area and characters.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Review: Christmas in Paris by Anita Hughes

I was really looking forward to reading this because I love Paris, and I ended up not liking this book very much at all.

The descriptions of Paris at Christmas were very nice. While I've spent time in Paris and am familiar with the city, I've never been during Christmas, so it was nice to visualize those areas I knew decorated for the holidays.

I also, for the most part, enjoyed the descriptions of the food. However, I got tired of the use of the word "bowl" - it got to the point where it was really starting to bother me by the end of the book. They had numerous "bowls of soup" as well as a bowl of chocolate mouse, and a bowls of cafe au lait. Couldn't they just have soup, isn't a bowl of soup implied?

As for the things that I didn't like - the characters. They were so shallow and obsessed with name brands. The main character, Isabel, did so much shopping. And her obsession with marrying a French aristocrat? She behaved like a spoiled teenager, not an adult who had a successful career.  And Alec, the man who was supposed to be the hero in the story - I guess - wasn't a pleasant person at all. He was bitter and angry and I'm not sure why anyone would fall for him. Actually, not sure why either of the characters would be considered at all appealing.

The romance in this story was not at all convincing. Most of the story is focused on Isabel trying to persuade a French aristocrat to propose marriage - even though she's known him for about three days. Alec sits in his hotel room and pouts about everything. Another large portion of the story is devoted to the characters' past relationships, especially their sexual activities with those characters - which is odd because there's not any sex between Isabel and Alec.

This was a strange book. I didn't find it romantic or heartwarming or anything like that. Very disappointing. Beautiful cover though.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley. 

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Review: Suddenly Sorceress by Erica Lucke Dean

I didn't enjoy this book very much. Never felt much of a connection to the main character. I thought the situation was a little too abrupt - there needed to be more of an explanation as to the cause of magical things that were happening. I saw this as someone who reads a lot of paranormal novels - so it takes a lot for me to think something is too out there.

This really just wasn't the type of book I enjoy, a little too light and fluffy for me. The characters were a bit too silly and I found that boring rather than entertaining. That might be more of a problem with me and my usual tastes and expections than the actual book.

I received this via NetGalley. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Review: Her Halloween Treat by Tiffany Reiz

The sex in this book is very hot and very good and well written. But other than that, there isn't much of a story at all. Main character returns home for brother's wedding, hooks up with brother's friend. And that's the story, which is fine if all you're wanting to read is something hot and sexy.

I was disappointed though that despite the title mentioning Halloween, the holiday had very little significance in the story. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and there aren't a lot of Halloween romances out there. I knew it wasn't a paranormal story, but had thought it would have something more to do with the day. Instead, at the very end they attend a wedding on Halloween and people dress up as characters from 80s movies. Halloween is supposed to be spooky and creepy, not Pretty in Pink.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Review: The Witches of Cambridge by Menna van Praag

As soon as October begins, I like to read nothing but witch themed books. I make a few exceptions, but I tend to set aside these books until this time of the year.

I started with Menna van Praag's Witches of Cambridge. I'd been looking forward to reading this for a while. I love academic settings. One of my favorite books is about a witch in Oxford. I'd hoped for something similar with this book in regards to intellectual stimulation. Didn't happen.

The book started out well, and I enjoyed the first half. Very light read, focusing on relationships and babies and baking. In the beginning though, it reminded me a bit of Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic, which I loved. But about midway through, I began to lose interest. I thought the beginning was written in the way it was as a way to introduce characters and establish  the setting, but it never moved beyond that style of writing. In fact, about halfway through, it became even more distant and choppy.

There are six different witches in this story, and each of them have their own story lines, with some slight overlap. It was hard to follow their stories though because we would get about four to eight paragraphs about one character, and then it would jump to a completely different story line. This happened for a significant portion of the book. It made it difficult to stick with the book. I think it would have worked much better as a collection of short stories, each character getting her or his own story, with the same characters making a few appearances. Had I not already been about 70% into the book, I would have simply stopped reading because I didn't care about the characters. I never felt any kind of emotional connection to what was happening with their characters. They were suffering with problems in their families, their marriages, problems with their children and lovers, and I simply didn't care because I never felt like we learned enough about the characters to understand what they were feeling.

Also there were a few factual errors that bothered me. One person is a professor of art, another is a student, so in the beginning, there are several mentions of art. As an art lover, I thought this would endear me to the book, but instead, I was just annoyed with the mentions of art. Klimt's The Kiss is not on display at the Fitzwilliam (it's in Vienna), nor is Van Gogh's Starry Night (that's in New York City) or his Church at Auvers (Paris). I know the story is fiction, but if someone is going to mention real works of art, maybe at least explain why they're on display in other places - special exhibition or something. For other people, this might not be a big deal. But I travel to a lot of art museums and have seen these paintings, and I teach art, and when I show students works of art or have them look up information about paintings, I also require that they find out where the painting is currently located. So maybe don't mention specific paintings if the rest of the info about the paintings isn't accurate?

Overall, I didn't enjoy this all that much. Started out well, but by the end, was kind of wishing I hadn't read it.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Review: Mine to Protect by Cynthia Eden

I really love Cynthia Eden's Mine series. She writes romantic suspense very well. This book was no exception. Very enjoyable, action packed, sexy, steamy read. Sometimes these books are exactly what you need.

My only issue with this book was that it has been awhile since I read the last book in this series and while reading this, when ever another character was mentioned I was struggling to remember the details of their situation. I've read another similar series by this same author since then, and was afraid I was getting the stories confused. Not a huge deal, and makes me think I may want to re-read those books - but so many other books that I want to read. Maybe a timeline with some brief descriptions would be helpful.  

Anyway, really liked this book. These are my go-tos when I need a quick escape. I know I'll be sucked into the story right away and it won't let up until the book is over. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Review: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

This book is so good. Gloria Steinem is one of my heroes, and reading this was like being able to hang out with her and listen to her stories. That's what this book is, a collection of stories of her life experiences, focusing on travel.

As someone who travels, I was especially looking forward to this book. Her travels though are mostly within the U.S. - mine tend to be outside of the country. She writes about how going to new places, working with different people has taught her about life and influenced her work. She also shares stories about her work for women's rights, as well as some personal stories about her time with her friends.

I was sad when the book was over, I wanted to read more because I'd thoroughly enjoyed what I did read. Hoping Steinem has many more stories to tell.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Review: This Wicked Magic by Michele Hauf

Another enjoyable read from Michele Hauf. This Wicked Magic is about witches, and dark magic.

After spending some time in the underworld, Certainly Jones returned with demons trapped inside him. This reminded me a lot of the way the demons exist in Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series. I've been suggesting this book to my friends who like that series.

Certainly wants the demons out, and he thinks he's found a way to do that, with the help of Vika. But things get complicated, and Vika's attempts to help end up backfiring. Next thing they know, Vika and her sister are in jeopardy of losing their souls.

Very good, sexy read, filled with dark and light magic, as well as a battle for their souls.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review: The Werewolf's Wife by Michele Hauf

I started reading this book while waiting for my car to be serviced. They took forever with the car, and I didn't even car because I was enjoying this book so much.

This is the story of a werewolf, Ridge, who years ago married a witch in Vegas, but the marriage ended as quickly as it began, and he hasn't seen her in thirteen years. He finds her, wanting a divorce, but learns she needs his help to save her son. After some time together, they aren't so sure a divorce is the right move.

Really good book. There are a few issues regarding timing that bothered me. An editor really should have corrected that. But I decided to over look it because otherwise, I really loved this book.

Another great paranormal romance from Michele Hauf.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Review: The Confectioner's Tale by Laura Madeleine

I wanted to read this because it was set in Paris and I think the cover is absolutely beautiful.

I like the style of the two time lines - a person in present time learning about a situation that happened in the past. In this case the main character uncovers a letter in her grandfather's things in which he's asking for forgiveness. She then begins to research what he could possibly have done. Her research includes finding a photo of a chocolate shop in Paris and searching for a painting of the same shop.

This summer, I read a a few books written in this same style - all set in Paris, all involving chocolate or art. This may have been my least favorite of those books.

I found the present day story line to be a bit over the top, she's trying to do this research and their is a rival historian trying to steal or sabotage her work. He's this villain, speaking ill of her grandfather in lectures and then stealing her notes in the library. Seemed a bit much.

And the past story line, again, I think it was supposed to be a dramatic love story, but it left me feeling cold. I didn't care all that much about the characters, I felt like the whole falling passionately in love part was sort of glossed over. All the build up seemed to be leading to something much more dramatic than the end result.
Felt a bit anti-climatic.

The book was okay, I didn't by any means hate it, but if I were going to recommend a book set in Paris, with a great love story and some history, I can think of several others I'd mention before this one.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Review: Pancakes in Paris by Craig Carlson

I enjoyed this memoir about an American who decided to start an American diner in Paris. It's well written and entertaining. He explains the process of how he first got the idea and then followed through, as well as the struggles of trying to run a business in Paris. I never knew all the details about their laws, and I found that interesting.

As someone who has been to Paris several times, I can't imagine craving American food while there. I sort of love the idea of a croissant and coffee for breakfast. However, I could imagine wanting to stop by later in the day, because I'm not a big fan of big fancy dinners. In Paris I sort of binge on baguettes and pastries. But maybe I'll visit one of these diners next time I visit Paris.

As someone who has always wanted to move to France, this makes me a bit hesitant of the process. I at least know I don't want to open up my own business.

Anyway, sounds like the author has been quite successful with his business, opening up several locations in the city.

I liked the book, provided an interesting perspective of life in Paris for a business owner.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Review: City of Darkness, City of Light by Marge Piercy

During a recent trip to Paris, I took a French Revolution walking tour. ( - highly recommend them, great way to learn more about the city's history.) Before this tour, my knowledge of the French Revolution was fairly limited. Oh, I knew all about Marie Antoinette and the guillotine and I'd visited the Conciergerie and Versailles on previous visits and learned a bit then. But to me, I had this grand idea that it was simply about the people of France deciding they wanted to rule themselves, and so they got rid of the royalty and lived happily ever after, or something like that. All very noble and patriotic and Les Mis (and yes, I know Les Miserables is not actually about the French Revolution, but rather an event that happened later.) Anyway, during the tour, we learned a bit about Danton and Condorcet and Marat, saw the cafes places where they met and plotted their moves, as well as where Marat died and was put on display in a bathtub. I learned enough to make me want to know much more.

Lucky me, I was recently sent a copy of Marge Piercy's City of Darkness, City of Light. I'd hoped to read it before my trip to France, but I hadn't gotten around to it. I'd been back from Paris for a week, and missing the city, I was reading only books set in Paris. With Bastille Day approaching, this book seemed like the perfect choice.

This book took over my life. I couldn't stand to put it down. I read it in the morning while on the treadmill and at night before I went to sleep, I carried my kindle with me everywhere, fitting in a chapter or two every chance I had. If I wasn't reading this book, I was thinking about it. When I slept, I was dreaming about it. And though I've been trying to ignore the news lately, it's nearly impossible and I kept finding myself comparing and contrasting the current state of politics with what was happening in France after 1789.

This book focuses on several different characters who played important roles in the Revolution. They have different backgrounds, different interests and different reasons for being drawn to the fight. For some it's ideology and for others, survival and practicality. The author does an excellent job of presenting these figures as very real people, people who have friends and family and lovers. Yes, they want to overthrow the monarchy, but they also want to be able to go to a nice home at the end of the day, or meet up with friends for conversation and a few drinks in the evening, and spend some quality time with their loved ones. We see these characters' lives get caught up in the Revolution, affecting their home and work lives, forcing them to make decisions they never thought they'd have to make. They all entered into this with seemingly good intentions, but the Revolution took on a life of its own. Eventually these people who thought they were saving their country find themselves victims of their own creation.

The book is written in such a way that the events are felt at a very personal level. You hurt for these characters as their lives begin to fall apart, heroes become the hunted as political power changes hands and all the things for which they fought and believed ends up being the ruin of many of these people.

What I especially liked about this book was the focus on the women involved in the Revolution. The women, desperate to feed their families, provided much of the initial fuel behind the Revolution. But as the movement gained momentum, as often happens, the men took over and suggested the women stay home and take care of their families. For a while though, they had some power and they created some much needed change - expanding rights for women that they had been previously denied. But revolutions are messy and sacrifices are made, leaving many wondering if their efforts had been in vain.

I liked this book so much. When I finished it though, I felt a bit lost. I'd become so engrossed in it for the past few days and then... over. Done. And my kindle was saying I had a half hour left in the book - but it turned out to just be a list of characters. (Which would be very useful had I realized it was there, probably says so at the beginning, but I wasn't paying attention. Will keep that in mind when I re-read book, which I'm sure I will do eventually.) I'm tempted to seek out other books about these characters, but at the same time, I feel so close to this version of these people, I'm not sure if I'll like reading others authors interpretations of them.

I do feel as if I have a much better understanding of the French Revolution and I have a new respect for the women involved, whose roles are often overlooked in history. Gives me a new perspective on France then and today.

I highly recommend this book to those with an interest in the French Revolution.

I received this book via NetGalley.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Review: The Bookshop on the Corner by Rebecca Raisin

I did not enjoy this book. I didn't like the characters, I didn't like the set up. Everything was much, much too perfect.

Sarah owns a bookshop, and she loves reading romances, but has no real romance life of her own. Then one day, a guy walks in who could be straight out of a romance novel. He's perfect and he's already madly in love with her. He's a writer, but took the assignment just to meet her because he'd glimpsed her at some other event - or something like that. (It's been a while si
nce I read the book - I'm really behind on reviews so details might be fuzzy.)

There was never any conflict. The man had no flaws. He didn't even know her and he was in love with her, ready to re-arrange his life for her.

I like a happily ever after as much as the next person - I love them, I love romance novels. But I need more of a story. These characters were so one-dimensional. They were simply perfect. Oh sure, Sarah, had her doubts about him, but she didn't have any good reason for her doubts, which just seemed silly. At one point the guy even says, this is the part of the romance novel where we're supposed to have conflict or something bizarre like that.

As much as I like the fantasy like happily ever after, I need the character to be a little bit more real.

And yet, having said all that, and not liking this book, I'm still curious about other books by this author. Maybe the problem was that this was a novella, rather than a complete novel?

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Review: The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown

The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown is what I consider to be the book of the summer. The book provides the perfect escape to Paris at the turn of the century, a bit of romance, and even more so a strong story about a woman discovering who she is and what she needs, rather than what everyone expects her to be.

I liked this book a lot. After having spent a week in Paris, upon returning, I binge read books set in Paris. It's my way of extending the trip, if only in my mind.  Was very happy when I got approved for a review copy of this book and started reading it right away. It did a wonderful job of returning me to the city.

Part of what appealed to me about this story was the importance placed on art, creating art and appreciating art. In the beginning of the story, Madeleine is working as a volunteer at an art museum, and she has a conversation with an art teacher who is there with her students. Full disclosure, I'm an art teacher, so this had me hooked right away. This art teacher said all the right things - all the things an art teacher is supposed to say, because it's what we believe, and why we do our jobs. Madeleine loved art when she was younger, but then she got older and set it aside as if it were a childish hobby. The art teacher tries to encourage her to return to painting if that's what she loved doing. This conversation plants a seed in Madeleine's mind.

She isn't happy with her current life. She came from a wealthy, socially influential family, and married into the same. She did it because it was what was expected of her, not what she wanted. She's never paid any attention to what she wanted.

But shortly after talking to the art teacher, and after another argument with her husband, she's on her way to a planned visit with her mother. And she decided that maybe she'll stay a while, no need to rush back home to a husband that doesn't even seem to want her around.

And while she's at her mother's house, she finds a journal belonging to her grandmother. Through this journal, she discovers a side to her grandmother that she never knew existed. Her grandmother had gone away to Paris and fallen in love with an artist.

The story moves back and forth between Madeleine coping with her current situation, as we also follow along with the adventures of her grandmother in Paris. Her grandmother's story inspires her to try to rewrite her own story, to turn it into something she wants instead of doing what everyone else expects her to do.

I loved the Paris scenes, as well as the inspiring story of Madeleine finally discovering her true passion. It's a great book. It's my current recommendation if anyone says, "I don't know what to read right now." And I know I called it the book of the summer, but it's perfectly suitable for fall or winter or whenever. As a school teacher, I become a little fixated on summer. This is not by any means strictly a beach read. It has a strong story, emotionally satisfying. Would gladly recommend this book to any of my friends.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Review: One Evening in Paris by Nicolas Barreau

I read this while I was in Paris. The cover is beautiful. The location in the picture on the cover is one of my favorite spots to take photos in Paris.

I really enjoyed the setting. The author described the city well. The story was focused on the areas where I was spending most of my time. That was purely coincidental, but for me, made the story more enjoyable.

The story was okay, but a bit far fetched. Alain owns a cinema in Paris, and every week he notices a woman attending the show. Finally he works up the nerve to ask her out. They go out have a wonderful evening, then she disappears. Around the same time, he's approached by a movie director and an actress, wanting to use his cinema for filming. The actress had fond memories of the place because she used to visit there when she was younger. The director sounds very much like Woody Allen and made me think of the movie Midnight in Paris.

As the movie is being filmed, Alain is becoming obsessed with finding this woman. I'm not going to give away the story, but I felt like there were way too many coincidences. Also part of me thought Alain came off as a really creepy, kind of stalkerish guy. For me, the logical explanation for the woman disappearing would be that she didn't want to see the guy again. And now that he'd asked her out, she didn't really feel comfortable attending the cinema anymore. If that was her place to escape to each week to watch old movies, he sort of ruined it for her by making it about him being interested in her. Of course, that wasn't the case, and this is supposed to be a love story. My theory was completely wrong, but still.

The very detailed Paris setting made the book worth reading, and if you aren't as cynical as me, the love story might be sort of sweet. It's an enjoyable quick read.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley. 

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Review: The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan

I liked this book a lot. I read it while I was in Paris, so I was visiting the same area described in the book.

This was one of several books I read this summer that are set in Paris and have two timelines. One set in present time and the other involving events of the past. In this book, following an accident at a candy shop, Anna ends up in the hospital, sharing a room with her former French teacher, Claire. To pass the time, the teacher helps Anna with her French. And when Anna is well enough, Claire helps Anna find a job in Paris at a chocolate shop owned by her former sweetheart, Thierry.

While in Paris, as Anna is getting used to her new job and becoming involved in the lives of those around her, we're also learning about Claire's past, when she was teenager in Paris falling in love with the charismatic young chocolate shop owner forty years earlier.

This was the second book I read in a row that involved couples who were separated from each other for forty years. As both Claire and Thierry's health declines, Anna becomes determined to make arrangements for them to see each other again, after all these years. Theirs is a very sweet, but sad love story.

I felt as if the author worked at minimizing the sad parts in comparison to the happy ones. But in doing so, I felt as though I was emotionally robbed. For some people this may seem like a good thing, but I felt like I wasn't allowed to properly grieve.

Really good book though. The Paris descriptions are wonderful, as are the details about all the delicious sounding chocolate being made.

Would recommend this for an enjoyable, sweet love story set in Paris. Will definitely be reading more by this author.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review: Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

Very well written, but so sad. Events in this story broke my heart, so many misunderstandings and missed opportunities, like a Thomas Hardy novel. But Hardy is one of my favorite authors. Despite feeling as if my heart were breaking over and over again, I enjoyed the book. Moyes writes stories that make me feel things I didn't think I was capable of feeling - things I never feel in real life.

I do recommend this if you want a good, emotional love story.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Review: Billionaire without a Past by Carol Marinelli

I loved this book so much. Billionaire without a Past is the third book I've read by Carol Marinelli and she's becoming one of my favorite Presents authors. She writes the best heroes. This is part of her Irresistible Russian Tycoons series - and all the men in these books were in a foster home together in Russia. They had terrible lives but have managed to become extremely wealthy and successful as adults. What I really like about these men is that they're so good to the women in their lives. Yes, they're powerful and rich and may have some playboy tendencies, but they aren't jerks. I hate that trend in a lot of romances - the guy is a jerk and then he changes over night because he's in love. These guys aren't jerks, at all.

In this book, Nikolai is attending his friend's wedding when he meets Rachel - friend of the bride. For years everyone thought he was dead, and he was okay with that because he was having trouble coming to terms with some events that happened in his past. He and Rachel hook up for the night, and it's just supposed to be for a night but it leads to more.

What Nikolai quickly realizes is that he isn't the only one with secrets in his past. While both he and Rachel have tried to move on with their lives, working hard to make sure they are not defined by their abuse, they have also allowed that to prevent them from finding love in their lives. Nikolai seeing how this has affected someone else enables him to confront his own trauma, as he tries to help Rachel work through hers. I felt the author did an excellent and respectful job handling a very sensitive subject. I felt this book delved into issues much deeper than the typical Harlequin Presents novel and did a great job at doing so.

This book was sexy and passionate and the love story was beautiful. I liked this book so much.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Review: The Vampire's Protector by Michele Hauf

I loved The Vampire's Protector. It has all my favorite things in it - vampires, demons, musicians, Paris setting, complex characters battling personal demons (both figurative and literal) of their own and a very steamy love story. I love this world Michele Hauf has created and the characters that inhabit it.

I think the last time Summer Santiago made an appearance in a book I read, she was just a baby in her dad's arms, calling Stryke a puppy (Moonlight & Diamonds). Now though, she's all grown up and working for the Council. On this particular job she accidentally resurrects the musician, famed violinist, Nicolo Paganini. I don't want to give away what happens, but he was an actual person, known as the Devil's violinist, so that should give you a clue.

This book was the perfect way to spend the rainy Memorial Day weekend.

Highly recommend to any fans of paranormal romance.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Review: Nobody But You by Jill Shalvis

I loved this book. This is the third in the Cedar Ridge Series, and I loved all three of the books, but this was one was my favorite.

The characters in this book are wonderful. Jacob is so sexy and Sophie is so messed up and goofy - trying to live on her boat - but such a fun character.

Along with the romance, there's the story of Jacob reconnecting with his family, after years of being away. The family situations bring a lot of realism and heart to these stories. They're more than just romances, they're also stories about family.

But the romance part is really great. I would recommend these books to anyone who enjoys contemporary romance, or anyone just thinking they may want to try contemporary romance. These are the perfect blend of sexy and sweet stories.

Highly recommend. Looking forward to reading much more by this author.

I received a copy via NetGalley.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Review: My Kind of Wonderful by Jill Shalvis

I liked this book a lot. I've only read three of her books so far (this being the second) but I feel like Jill Shalvis is going to be added to my favorite authors list because I loved these Cedar Ridge books.

Of the three, this was my least favorite, simply because I thought the heroine, Bailey, was a little bit too perfect. She'd been ill and was now trying to check off all the things she wanted to do, or something like that. Trying to live her life to the fullest. She's a great person, but she didn't seem like someone I'd want to hang out with.

Still, I really liked this book. Hud is such a nice guy, always trying to help out everyone else, he needed a nice girl, so someone like Bailey is perfect for him.

Very sexy book. Also, I really like all the other characters. The family, small town atmosphere is well done in this series.

Since reading these books I've been recommending them to all my friends.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Review: Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis

I liked this book so much. I read a little bit of it yesterday, and today, once I started reading, I couldn't put it down.

When a scandal causes her to lose her job at a prestigious salon in California, Lily returns to her hometown of Cedar Ridge after being away for ten years, feeling as if she has no where else to go.  She had good reason to leave and stay away, following a family tragedy for which she felt responsible. She didn't realize that when she ran away, she left behind a hole in Aiden Kincaid's heart. Upon returning, Aiden is one of the first people she sees - after a long drive, when she's got Cheeto stains on her clothes and a pile of junk food in her arms. What she and Aiden quickly realize is that despite their ten years apart, all the feelings they once had for each other are still very much there.

Lily considers her stay in Cedar Ridge temporary. The place holds too many memories and too much pain to ever consider staying there, and the last thing she wants is to get involved with someone who only reminds her of what she lost and the guilt that consumes her.

Aiden's got issues and guilt of his own as he tries to help out with the family resort, while also working for the fire department and be part of the volunteer search and rescue team. He never completely got over Lily, and he's not eager to get left behind by her again, and she's made it clear she has no plans to stick around. But he can't stop thinking about her. Sparks fly anytime they're near each other.

Eventually, they both begin to realize that running from their fears, and burying all their pain may not be the best way to live. Their paths keep crossing, and much to Lily's displeasure, she keeps finding herself in need of rescue - from spiders, flat tires and in one case, a baby bunny. And Aiden's job is to rescue people, so of course, he's always there for her.

I really enjoyed seeing how these two people worked through their issues and finally admitted they needed each other.

This book provided the perfect escape - likable, interesting main characters with plenty of flaws and plenty of reasons to look beyond their flaws; great, realistic supporting characters, as well; gorgeous setting in a Colorado resort town (I am very much a city person, but books like this make me want to pack up and relocate to the mountains); entertaining, believable backstory; very sexy, steamy, mature romance. I cannot think of a single thing that I didn't like about this book.

This is the first book I've read by this author, but I've already got the second book of this series on my kindle ready to start.

Highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys contemporary romance.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Review: Midnight in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

The books in Sarah Morgan's O'Neal Brothers Trilogy are some of my favorite romance novels. I loved those books so much, I recommend them to all my friends and have bought copies to give people as gifts. So I was looking forward to another trilogy from her. But I didn't like this book anywhere near as much as I liked those books.

The first part of the book is so slow. Took me forever to get through the first 30 or 40 percent of the book. Nothing was happening. Readers are told over and over again that Paige is in love with Jake and every time Jake sees Paige, he wants to take her to a dark corner and strip her naked. But I never got the impression that he felt anything near what she felt for him. If anything, he just felt sorry for her and protective of her. At one point in her life, she'd been sick and vulnerable and that had left an impression on him. The attraction between the two never felt genuine. The romance felt weak and forced.

I also didn't like all the other characters - the friends all seemed like caricatures - the super successful, organized one, the romantic one and the bitter one. It felt like such an obvious set up for the other books in the series. We're told multiple times that Paige's brother is concerned about one of her friends who has relationship issues because of her mother. Same story line as this book - big brother type feels protective of his little sister's friend. Not a fan of those story lines.

The story is okay, I didn't by any means hate the book, but I never felt any strong connection to the characters and it didn't have much of an emotional impact on me.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I'll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable

I enjoyed this book quite a bit.

Despite the title, the story doesn't actually take place in Paris. Most of it takes place in an English village.

There are two story lines, one in the present day, involving Laurel returning with her daughter, Annie, to a place where she spent time when she was younger. As Annie is trying to learn more about her mother's past, readers are also made aware of the events that happened thirty years earlier.

Annie meets a man in a pub who begins to tell her stories, providing her with the information she is seeking. I especially enjoyed the stories that took place in the past. And the the eccentric Duchess of Marlborough is an entertaining character. I like that the author does her research and includes these historical characters. Also having seen a Boldini exhibit last summer, I appreciate the art history. 

Sometimes I'm bothered by absurd coincidences, but that wasn't the case with this story. These seemed to make sense. 

Really good story. The past and present story lines worked well, kept the reading guessing for the most part as to the secretes waiting to be revealed.

My only issue was with the man Annie was planning to marry. He came across as a little too perfect and wonderful. Every time something would happen, Annie would email him for suggestions and then spout his advice as if he were some all-knowing being. For some reason, that really put me off.

Overall though, a really nice story, one I'd readily recommend.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Review: Meternity by Meghann Foye

I thought this was going to be some silly, funny book, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it - this being some prime vacation reading time at the moment - but I really liked the description and thought a light humorous read might be beneficial. This book turned out to be much deeper and meaningful than I expected. This book has be doing a lot of thinking about life and choices and things women have to go through in the workplace.

The main character was so real. As someone who has chosen to not have children, I could relate to her very well. Granted, I've never even considered faking a pregnancy, but I admit to feeling some jealousy - or rather a lot of jealousy - over people taking maternity leave. Yes, I know, I'm so selfish and horrible, I'll say it before anyone else does, no need to point it out. Babies are so important. I kind of think a few months to work on my writing or painting or traveling through Europe is also important, but I can't exactly ask for a few months off to do that, knowing that when I'm done I'll have a job waiting for me. And as a person with no children, I'm so very tired and smiling and saying, "sure, no problem", every time I have to take over someone else's responsibilities because they can't do it due to child related reasons. So, you see, this book resonated with me because the character in this story is having to deal with all of that. This book examines the idea that women are considered insignificant, unless they have a husband and/or a child.

In the beginning of the story, Liz Buckley, who works at a parenting magazine in New York City, is attending yet another work-related baby shower. She's stressed at work, overwhelmed with responsibilities and upset because she realizes she's going to miss her trip to Paris. Her emotional stress manifests physically, and around this time, a co-worker notices a pregnancy app on her phone. They assume her illness is related to pregnancy, "Not you, too?" they ask, and she doesn't deny it. In that moment, she thinks, maybe it is her turn.

 Her not so very well thought out plan is to use maternity leave to find some travel related free lance writing work and then quit her job. But her plan doesn't work out quite as neatly as she hopes. For the next six months, she's wearing fake bumps to work, while also finding that her new "condition" has people treating her different. People are being nicer, there's talk of a potential raise and title change - what she's been wanting for years, and being constantly overlooked. She can take off mornings for doctors appointments and spend the day working from home. And she begins re-evaluating decisions made in her social life. She's surrounded by people in search of "potential husbands" and she knows a lot of people who are settling for anyone who fits the description - not holding out for the perfect man. At age 31, she's trying to figure out what she really wants in life. She feels guilty for wanting something more than just a husband and a baby, because that seems to be enough for other people. Wouldn't life be easier if that was all she wanted, instead of wanting to travel the world and write important stories?

This is a story about self discovery. While faking her pregnancy, Liz does begin to create a new life - not in the form of a baby, but rather for herself. She's forced to examine her life and her choices and desires. What I really liked about the book is that there aren't any clear solutions. The perfect man doesn't show up. The perfect job doesn't magically materialize. She doesn't suddenly have an epiphany and decide that the answer to her problems is to actually get pregnant and settle down with a nice guy. Instead, Liz finally accepts that she needs to be honest and she needs to follow her dreams and she has to start taking chances.

Maybe I'm taking the story a little too seriously, but for me, this story really struck a chord. I'm about nine years old than Liz, but recently have been dealing with so many of these same thoughts with regard to career and life decisions.

I enjoyed this book, and will readily recommend it to any of my child-free friends. I think it might offend some moms though, especially those who are so caught up in the "mom culture" that this book describes at length. But then again, I don't know how moms think. Might be nice and a little enlightening for them to see things from a different perspective.

Also, very much enjoyed the New York City setting. Right out of college, I went to New York City, hoping to work in magazines. After a bit of temp work, I left, returned to Texas to work for newspapers, thinking I'd save up some money and then return to New York City. Almost twenty years later, still in Texas, completely out of the journalism business, but I visit New York City often. One of my favorite cities, and I thought this book captured the New York City lifestyle very well. 

Great book. Enjoyable read. But now I'm googling things like "travel writing workshops."

Expected publication date: April 26, 2016

I received a copy via NetGalley.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Review: Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson

I decided I wanted to read this after spending my morning at an art museum, in particular viewing a Caillebotte exhibit. I wanted to read a book set in France, something that involved art and this seemed like the perfect choice.

But I didn't enjoy this book very much. I never felt any sort of connection with these characters. I knew the story was tragic, and horrible things were happening, but I simply didn't care all that much because I felt like I never got to know or understand the characters. When the characters were plotting to get their revenge, I felt like I should be glad for them, but still, didn't care all that much. I felt very distant from the story, like I was observing from afar, but never emotionally invested in what was happening.

It took much longer than it should have for me to finish this book. At one point, I set it aside and read something else because this wasn't holding my interest.

I thought I'd really enjoy this book based on the description, but in the end I didn't.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Review: Her Werewolf Hero by Michele Hauf

This is such a good book. Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. There was never a point in the story where I thought it was okay to take a break and set the book down - that's how well-written and fast paced this is.

Bron, a werewolf, is a retriever, on a mission to retrieve the Purgatory Heart. What he does not realize is the heart is still inside a living person. Kizzy's a human, but her strong interest in the paranormal fuels her career as a photographer. She travels and posts on the internet what appear to be photos of paranormal landscapes. So she isn't all that surprised when she meets a werewolf and begins to understand that so many things she wanted to believe about the paranormal world are real.

Bron's not about to rip Kizzy's beating heart out of her chest. There has to be another way to save her and do his job. I loved these characters, and the chemistry they had together. Bron and Kizzy have both been in situations that now make them wary of relationships, but they can't deny their feelings for each other.

While there's lots of action and plenty of steamy
romance, the heart of this story is the theme of forgiveness. Forgiveness of those who hurt them and inflicted pain, as well as learning to forgive oneself. Bron and Kizzy are both haunted by events in their past. Mistakes made, and some bad decisions that caused harm to those they loved most. Because of the guilt, neither of them have been able to move forward with their lives. This story is very much about them finally learning to forgive those who hurt them, as well as themselves in order to learn to love each other.

Overall, really great book, which is what I've come to expect from Michele Hauf and the stories set in her Beautiful Creatures world. These are my favorite paranormal stories because there are so many different characters and always something new to learn about the people and creatures in this world.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Review: Castelli's Virgin Widow by Caitlin Crews

I liked this book lot. Caitlin Crews write some great romances.

This book involves the same family from Unwrapping the Castelli Secret - which involved step siblings having a secret relationship. In this story, the other brother falls for his dad's wife after his dad dies. The wife was one of his dad's many young brides. The situation is strange, and their father sounds like a complete creep. He married her to help her out, but they don't have sex (hence the title) so it's supposed to seem like she's not really a gold-digger. But if you marry someone for money? Anyway.

Luca strongly dislikes Kathryn - his step-mom. But because she was his dad's wife at the time of his death, she inherited a part of the family business and he's forced to work with her and be around her. Soon it becomes clear that the animosity is largely due to his attraction to her.

The chemistry between the two is intense. This book is so sexy, steamy and the story moves quickly. I finished the book in one sitting.

For a moment though, I sort of hated this story. I notice with a lot of Harlequin Presents that their is a very specific formula, which for the most part is fine. But sometimes the "black moment" or the moment when everything takes a turn for the worse and begins to fall apart feels too forced and obligatory. This story was one of those instances. This character who had previously been so kind and gentle upon discovering the woman he was with was a virgin the first time they had sex, morphs into a complete jerk, throwing out wild accusations upon receiving another bit of surprising news. It didn't seem to fit with his previous behavior at all. It simply felt like, "oh this is the part of the book where things have to go badly" so character must act in bizarre way to fit formula. That part of the story made me very angry.

He redeems himself fairly quickly though, so my hatred went away equally quickly. By the end of the book, I was pretty much loving this story again.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. There are few things better than a good Harlequin Presents to provide the perfect weekend escape when you're stuck at home. This did exactly that.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Review: One Sizzling Night by Jo Leigh

I've read two other books by this author, and loved both of them, so I was looking forward to reading this book. But this one didn't really work for me.

I never felt any sort of strong connection to the characters. I didn't find the story line involving their jobs - the security firm and art theft and all that - to be very interesting. The relationship between the characters felt forced and their sex a bit more athletic than what I consider to be sexy. They were both these amazing people always trying to impress each other with their strength and abilities. I guess I just didn't like them very much and grew tired of reading about how skilled and talented they were. Also, it felt like it took me forever to read this because I didn't care much about the story.

Overall, kind of a disappointing read.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Review: Project Virgin by Megan Crane

Project Virgin is a very quick, very hot, sexy read. Initially I didn't find the description of the book all that interesting, but Megan Crane, when writing as Caitlin Crews has written some of my favorite romance reads, so I decided to give it a try. Very glad I did.

I feel like this is the story Fifty Shades tried to be, or should have been. Wait, no. I hate it when people compare things to Fifty Shades because I'm not a big fan of that book and it gets way too much attention. I feel certain that the people who like it are people who haven't had a lot of prior exposure to good, sexy romance novels. When I learn that people like it, I always feel obligated to provide them with a list of better, hotter romance novels. Let me try this again.

This is how hot sex between an inexperienced, young woman and successful, powerful man should be written. Better? Maybe. I'm not usually a fan of this type of story. Big power imbalances make me uncomfortable. But this isn't so much a "billionaire story" - he's not crazy wealthy, but rather a very successful attorney at the law firm and he has connections at nice clubs and restaurants and a great view of San Francisco from his bedroom. Also, I get the impression that the woman in this story is just a few years away from being as successful and powerful as the man who has caught her interest.

Scottie is only a year out of law school, and a few hours out of a long, sexless engagement to a jerk. She's on her way to a deposition with Damon Patrick, one of the top attorneys where she works. He's sort of her boss - but not technically. On their way out of the office, he comments on the absence of her engagement ring. Then, much to her horror, while in the car, he happens to read a text message she's sending to a friend - and in doing so, discovers she's still a virgin. This results in some awkward conversation and confessions, that resume
at dinner, after their work day is over.

Scottie decides she's ready to make some changes, and Damon is happy to help her out.

What I especially liked about this story is that Scottie is smart, self-aware and completely in control of what she's doing. She's not being pressured into anything because she's ashamed or embarrassed. She's making a mature, adult decision and going after what she wants. She realizes she's spent too much of her life living in a way that someone else wanted. And I know Damon is supposed to be a "bad boy" as the cover describes this book as a "bad boy short" but he seems like a pretty nice guy. He's not being a creep and having to convince her of what she wants or needs. The only "bad" thing about him is that he has a lot prior sexual experience (which is sort of good thing in this case, you want a guy who knows what he's doing) and he's not romancing her, or trying to convince her he's in love with her to get her in bed. They both enter into this with a clear objective, and they're being very honest with each other.

I liked this story a lot. Can easily be read in one sitting. I think it's probably less than a hundred pages. But it doesn't feel too short. This isn't a grand romance, it focuses on one night with a few hints as to where that one night might lead.

This was exactly what I needed to read to balance out my previous read, the heavy nonfiction story about World War II.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Review: Captivating the Witch by Michele Hauf

I loved Captivating the Witch. Easily one of my favorites from this author - though I have quite a few favorites from her. According to my Goodreads stats, this is the nineteenth book I've ready by Michele Hauf and I'm going to guess that I've liked all of them, loved most of them. But as I said, this one stands out as a favorite.

What I liked most about the book are the two main characters.

Edamite Thrash is a demon who doesn't trust witches. He describes himself as an evil overlord, and others consider him to the be the leader of a demon mafia, but the truth is, he's taken on the responsibility of watching over the demons of Paris, and doing his best to keep the peace. Ed has made brief appearances in other books in the Beautiful Creatures world, as he's a half brother to Kir (Enchanting the Wolf) and Blyss (Moonlight and Diamonds). He had a rough upbringing and a difficult relationship with his parents. But clearly, despite being a demon and his sometimes questionable decisions - providing essentials for others - he's a very good guy.

Tamatha Bellerose is a witch who spends most of her time in the archives, surrounded by books. She'd like very much to study a demon and one day, late at night on her way home from work she literally runs into Edamite. It's an awkward encounter and after a strange mixture of a hostility and attraction, they go their separate ways.

Ed is trying to figure out why a coven of zombie witches are killing demons in Paris. He sends his minions (yes, he has minions) to bring him the most powerful witch in Paris, they return with Tamatha. The attraction between the two is still there, confusing to both of them, but undeniable. Also, they need each other for business purposes.

I really enjoyed their story, and seeing how they grew to like each other more and more and how their relationship went from something they intended to be fun and casual to something much deeper. These are two very serious, passionate people, with rough pasts that make falling in love difficult.

I also liked the setting - Paris - and all the magic and spell working in the story. When I go too long without reading a paranormal book, I am reminded of how much I love this kind of setting and world. Hauf creates some of the best paranormal atmospheres, I can easily visualize the magic swirling around the Paris streets she describes so well. Her characters live in a world filled with both light and dark magic, and a wide assortment of powerful creatures, in this case witches with a variety of skills and a demon who can transform into a unkindness of ravens.

Besides the very hot romance in the story, the investigation Ed is conducting provides an interesting story line which adds a few more complications to his and Tamatha's relationship.

Overall, really a great book. Highly recommend if you're a fan of paranormal romance.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.