Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review: Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan

I loved this book, absolutely loved this book. Am not usually a fan of small-town, family, contemporary romances, but this one was perfect. Every time I thought the story was going to go in a direction that I generally find annoying, it took a turn in such a way that I did not find annoying at all.

PR professional from London who now works in New York City decides to work over the holidays, thinking it will be the perfect escape. She hates Christmas, avoids family, and she's getting a secluded cabin in Vermont to work on her new account, a struggling resort. But then she finds herself having to confront all her fears of family and love and holidays.

Last year, I won a contest with a website called Bookish, which was supposed to be a Harlequin holiday romance package including several books, such as this one. But then the package arrived, containing nothing but a photo album with pictures of people I didn't know. Turns out the package busted in transit and the postal service guessed as to who got what. (Imagine the surprise of receiving a bunch of holiday romances. Lucky person.) I was approved for a NetGalley copy, but it never appeared on my kindle. I remember several people having this problem at the time. So I assumed I was not meant to have this book. Then over the summer, I remember updating the kindle, and a slew of holiday stories appeared, including this one. But I forgot about it.

This was a case of finding exactly the right book at the right time. From Thanksgiving until the end of the year, I bombard myself with holiday romances. I wasn't all that impressed with this year's selections. I'd started two books that didn't really hold my interest, so I was searching for something different..

Then I saw this book mentioned as being free from the Harlequin website, remembered how I'd wanted to read it the previous year, so I went to get a copy, only to realize I can't read ebooks bought from the Harlequin website on my kindle. Then I discovered it was already on my kindle. So I thought I'd give it a try, since I wasn't enjoying the other books I was trying to read.

I started it on Christmas Day when flying out to see the family and found myself wishing my flight was a bit longer.

As someone who doesn't find the holidays an especially wonderful time of the year, as someone who has issues with family, as someone who generally prefers to be alone when others are blathering about togetherness, I could relate so very well to this character. Isn't there some saying about every cynic being a romantic at heart? Because we want that fairy tale and we've been convinced by the world that it is never, ever going to happen, so quit hoping. But this story. It's magical.

Loved the characters and seeing their emotional growth enabled by the perspective of outsiders. The setting made me ache for a snowy, secluded cabin to spend the holidays (even without the romance, that'd be kind of awesome). But most of all, loved the super steamy romance. Such a wonderful story. And I cried through the last two chapters - and I pretty much have a heart of stone - so that was

Highly recommend this book to anyone in search of a holiday romance that is both sexy and has a great story.

I received a review copy of this via NetGalley. (I also purchased a copy from when it was available for free as part of their holiday specials.)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Review: The French for Christmas by Fiona Valpy

I liked this book quite a bit. I very much enjoyed the idea behind the story - running away to the French countryside to escape the holidays. Evie is dreading Christmas and her friends offer to let her stay at their place in France.  In the process of running away, Evie is able to finally come to terms with the grief that forced her to run away.  She also meets some wonderful people in the area and rekindles her love of cooking.

But I'm only giving this three stars instead of the four I'd normally give a book like this because I had a problem with the way the story ended. I don't want to give away too much, but I didn't think the husband was treated fairly. He suffered the same loss, and for some reason he's supposed to be punished because he didn't give up on life the way Evie did? If he did something horrible that was deserving of the way he was treated it wasn't mentioned.  It sounded as if even when they were separated he continued to credit Evie with his success as celebrity chef.  He didn't run off and abandon her.  If Evie really wanted to honor her dead child, shouldn't treating the child's father fairly be part of that? The more I think about this, the more I'm bothered by it.

Overall, I enjoyed the characters and especially the setting and this is yet another book that has made me want to run away to France for the holidays.  I think a lot of people probably won't be as bothered as I was by the ending. There's still a nice, simple romance involved, but to me it seemed a bit generic and an easy solution when going another direction would have created a much deeper, stronger love story.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Review: Wild Holiday Nights: Holiday Rush\ Playing Games \ All Night Long

I love reading these anthologies over the holidays, and finishing a story a night. Overall this was a fairly enjoyable collection.

The first story, Holiday Rush by Samantha Hunter, is about a woman who runs a bakery in New York City. Her brother's friend from Texas stops by to check on her when her family is worried after her store is broken into. During their time together, they revisit an attraction they had for each other thirteen years earlier. I liked this story, but in the beginning, I was annoyed about how indignant the guy was about respecting his partner (Calla's brother). She's 30 years old and I found it insulting that he would think her brother had some control over who she slept with. They got over that fairly quickly though.

My favorite story was the second one, Playing Games by Meg Maquire. These two people run into each other at the counter for a rental car after their flights are cancelled. They'd known each other in high school - she'd dated his best friend. And they'd each secretly harbored a crush for the other. I loved the way this story played out as they made the long road trip home. Then when the roads get too difficult to drive, they have to pull over to a motel and of course, there's only one room left.  Things get very hot and steamy in that hotel room.  This story was really great - exactly what I want in a quick, sexy holiday story.

I didn't like the third story, All Night Long, by Debbi Rawlins, all that much.  A woman gets sent on a trip a few days before Christmas to get some papers signed. In the process she finds herself drawn to the man who is supposed to sign the papers. I found this story to be a little bit sleazy, the paralegal hooking up with the rich business guy. Might have worked for a full length story if there had been time to develop their relationship, but not in this short format. I sort of skimmed over this one because I didn't like it very much.

Overall though, worth the read for the first two stories, especially the second one.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Review: Christmas at Waratah Bay by Marion Lennox

I didn't like this book very much. I thought the characters were too perfect and a little boring. She's a super model and he's a rich rancher/tech success story.  I started this book thinking I would finish it in a night and it ended up taking me a week to read it because it never grabbed my interest. Very simple romance, no real conflict, a minor misunderstanding, but nothing dramatic.

And the extent of their physical contact was maybe a kiss. If a story isn't going to be interesting I tend to hope it makes up for that by being steamy, and this wasn't the case. This might be fine for someone who wants a simple, sweet, no conflict romance.  Not really the type of story I enjoy.

I received a review copy of this via NetGalley.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Review: The Little Christmas Kitchen by Jenny Oliver

One of my favorite holiday books last year was Jenny Oliver's Parisian Christmas Bake-off, so I was very excited to read this book.  This did not disappoint.  Another to add to my holiday favorites.

While I didn't like it quite as much as Parisian Bake-off, I still liked it a lot.

Ella has just learned her husband is cheating on her, so without giving much thought to her actions, she packs a bag and takes off to Greece to stay with her mother and sister - even though she's not been especially close to them since her parents' divorce when she was a teenager.

Her sister, Maddy, in the meantime, has dreams of going to London and singing in a club.  Ella offers her the use of her flat, since she won't be there.  So we have the two story lines - Ella, working at her mother's cafe in Greece while Maddy is wandering around London on her own for the first time in her life.

What I enjoy most about this story is the complex characters.  While the characters may at times perceive some of the others to be all good or bad, it's clear to the reader that isn't the case.  While Ella and Maddy are both adults, they've spent years harboring some child like anger toward their parents.  They had their reasons, but being in a new location allows both of them begin to see things from a different perspective. 

This book is all about finally accepting the past and yourself and your flaws as well as the flaws of the people you love.  That sounds kind of hokey, but it's actually really well written and the result is a fun story that has a very powerful underlying meaning to it.  

My only issue with the book (possible spoiler, if you're worried I might be giving something away, skip to the next paragraph) was the idea that Ella would prefer life in Greece to life in London.  I thought her life in London seemed pretty great.  I also have to admit to kind of hoping she would get back together with her husband - despite what he did, he seemed to still love her and she him.  I guess I just wasn't all that impressed with the romance in the story.  I think what I would have preferred to happen would be Ella saying maybe she needed a break from relationships for a while since she just got out of a marriage, and maybe taking some time to figure out who she was and what she wanted without a guy influencing her decisions.  

Overall though, I really liked this book.  While I was reading it, I noticed it was free on amazon for a few days and I tried to get everyone I know to download it.  And really, whatever the current price is, usually just two or three dollars, is completely worth it.  Very good holiday read.  Nice, fun story with a good message about family and self perception.  

I received a review copy of this via NetGalley.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Review: Jingle Spells: Naughty or Nice?\She's a Mean One\His First Noelle\Silver Belle

I loved this book. Such a cute and different take on Christmas. This anthology contains four stories about the Evergreens, the winter clan of witches who are in charge of Christmas. The stories focus on three brothers and their little sister and how they manage the Christmas industry from the town on Gingerbread in Colorado.

The stories contained in this anthology are written by Vicki Lewis Thompson, Rhonda Nelson, Kira Sinclair and Andrea Laurence.

I liked each of these fun, steamy romances. In the first story, Naughty or Nice?, Cole's college girlfriend hacks into their security system, forcing a reunion. He left her ten years earlier when he left college due to a family emergency and never returned. He felt that he could never tell her the truth about his family. But when he brings her back to Gingerbread to strengthen the security system she hacked into, he realizes he won't be able to leave her again.

In the next story, She's a Mean One, Ethan Evergreen, is the figurehead for the family business - which to most of the world is a successful ornament making company - but in reality is keeping the Christmas spirit strong. His biggest adversary has published a book trying to convince people that allowing children to believe in Christmas is a bad thing. It's up to Ethan to convince her there is value in Christmas magick. Along the way he also falls in love with this woman who he believed to be his enemy.

The third story, His First Noelle, is about Dash. His world is turned upside down when his ex-wife, Noelle, returns. A former CIA agent, she's back to take her father's place in security while he's ill. Noelle never felt like she belonged with the winter clan, her mother having been from the summer clan, and this caused a strain on her relationship with Dash. But they've both grown up some over the years they've been apart, and now they're willing to work through their communication issues.

The last story, Silver Belle, is about the sister of the family, Belle. For months she's had standing coffee date with Nick, a sexy construction worker (he does own his own business building Christmas-themed cottages.) He has no idea Belle is a witch, until she approaches him to fill the role of Santa (after Santa and Mrs. Claus disappear on a beach vacation a week before Christmas.) Belle is afraid Nick is giving up his whole life simply to be with her, and she doesn't feel she's ready or even wants to be the next Mrs. Claus. What she doesn't realize is the depth to which Nick has truly embraced Christmas magick.

While the stories aren't especially deep or profound, they're fun, and they're romantic and they're all about Christmas magick, and that's what makes these stories so enjoyable. I like that it's such a different and original depiction of how Christmas happens. 

Beginning around Thanksgiving, I try to read as many holiday themed stories as possible.  This is my second one of the year, and already I think I've found a favorite.  Hope we get more stories about this family in the future.

Highly recommend to anyone wanting a lighthearted paranormal twist to their holiday romance stories.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review: Christmas with a Billionaire: Billionaire under the Mistletoe\Snowed in with Her Boss\A Diamond for Christmas

Holiday romances are my indulgence during this time of the year.  I read as many as possible beginning around Thanksgiving.  This was my first of the season.

The common theme in these stories is a billionaire.  I usually avoid stories in which a character's main identifier is that he's a billionaire.  That just seems so boring and overdone.  That isn't to say I don't read my fair share of stories about rich men (I love Harlequin Presents) but I don't like for the most important thing about the person to be how much money he has.  I'm more interested in powerful and successful rather than simply, rich.  But this collection included a story by Maisey Yates, so I was anxious to read it.

But darn these romance novelists for giving false hope and allowing us to imagine that the handsome man in the suit at the airport might for a moment have a passing interest in the weird girl with purple hair, wearing a leather jacket and Doctor Who tshirt.

That's the thing about the billionaire stories, the gorgeous, successful, rich man is drawn to the awkward, quirky, creative girl who is short and a little chunky with crazy hair, not the statuesque blondes he's spent most of his life dating.  That's why weird girls, like me, enjoy these stories.  But my goodness, they are so very far from reality.

Anyway, the first story is Billionaire Under the Mistletoe by Carole Mortimer.  I didn't like this story all that much.  The writing bothered me with exclamation points at the end of almost every other paragraph.  The exclamation points weren't part of dialogue either, but rather describing the characters thoughts or impressions.  That seems more fitting for text messages, not a book. That should have been edited out of there.  Also, I didn't pick up on any strong chemistry between the characters.  I never felt any sort of connection to them.  Their attraction just happened without any real explanation.  I found it very difficult to believe a guy would be so attracted to the woman he hired to decorate and cook for the holidays, and after hardly knowing her at all, want her to join in with his family celebrations.  I didn't hate the story, but didn't love it.

However, I did love the second story, which is Maisey Yates' Snowed in with Her Boss.  Loved the couple in this book.  Even in a story this short, I felt like the characters were well-developed, and from the beginning, they had great chemistry.  The two had a history together, Amelia has worked as Luc's Personal Assistant for years.  He's used to her quirks, and tolerates things like her constant singing because she's an invaluable employee.  When they go to Colorado together to check out a property he's considering purchasing, they're mistaken as a couple.  Luc decides to go along with it, hoping to get a better deal on the property.  But a snowstorm hits and the two find themselves spending a lot more time together than expected.  The time trapped together, pretending to be what they aren't, results in them exploring the attraction they've had for each other and tried to deny for too long.  Very good story.  (Maybe because I'd just watched Homeland, I immediately pictured Raza Jaffrey as Luc when his "mocha" skin was mentioned.  Later it is mentioned that he's part African, so I realized my image was wrong, but it was already set at that point.  Also, this story would work well as a Hallmark holiday movie, granted some elements might not be appropriate for Hallmark, but they could figure it out.  It would be adorable.)

I also very much enjoyed the third story in this anthology, A Diamond for Christmas by Joss Wood.  Riley has been in love with her best friend's big brother, James for most of her life.  They have a history of three one night stands, with several years between each of them.  After the latest though, Riley's had enough.  She currently works for the family designing windows at their store in New York City.  She's planning to leave as soon as the Christmas windows are revealed.  But James isn't ready to let her go just yet.  I loved the history between these characters, and learning how they've drifted in and out of each other's lives over the years. Very nice story.  There seemed to be so much going on in this story, besides just the love story.  I'm curious as to whether there are or will be more books about this family.

Overall, I liked this anthology quite a bit.  The last two stories were great, perfect way to begin my holiday reading for the year.

I received a review copy of this via NetGalley.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Review: Moon Kissed by Michele Hauf

Moon Kissed was included with my copy of Forever Werewolf, but I wanted to give it its own review.  As I've probably said many times, I am not a huge werewolf fan.  I simply don't find them as sexy as vampires or as mysterious as witches.  But I've enjoyed the books I've read by Hauf thus far, so I figured this was a pretty safe bet.  

I did enjoy this book.  I liked the character quite a bit.  They're interesting, complex, funny, smart and sexy, something I've come to expect from Hauf's writing. This story begins with Bella running from vampires (though she doesn't realize they're vampires at first) right into the arms of Severo (who happens to be a werewolf.)  At first, he seems to be not much better than the vampires, but he is trying to keep her safe.  He's just a little hostile and aggressive in his methods.  For a while in this book, Severo walked a fine line between creep and hero.  But he got better as the real bad guys became clear.

Bella (who based on her description, I pictured as Clara from Doctor Who) is in danger because a close friend of hers has gotten involved with vampires.  Her friend's vampire lover is jealous of the friendship.  Severo has a long history with the vampire and will do anything to make sure Bella isn't hurt by this vampire.  This book has plenty of danger and action and hot sex.  

However, I have to admit that this book didn't do anything to change my general feelings toward werewolves.  I found the werewolf sex to be kind of icky.  I cringed reading some of those scenes. I found it very disturbing that Severo had no recollection of what he did while he was the werewolf.  It's almost like he isn't the werewolf but rather becomes possessed by this creature for three days out of every month.

I love the world that Hauf creates, with all the different creatures and their traits and histories.  I find myself wanting to read all of the books in her Beautiful Creatures world.  (I think there are almost 40 of them, so that's a lot of reading to do.)

This was included as the second story in Forever Werewolf, which I received via NetGalley.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Review: Forever Werewolf by Michele Hauf

I am not usually a fan of werewolf stories, as I tend to prefer vampires and witches, but I am a huge fan of Michele Hauf's writing, and I wanted something to go along with my Halloween mood, so Forever Werewolf seemed like a good choice.

For a werewolf story, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.  Trystan, part wolf, part vampire, is sent to Castle Wulfsiege to deliver a package for his father.  While there, an avalanche hits, and he throws himself into the rescue mission, which impresses those around him.  The avalanche results in his having to remain at the castle much longer than expected.  Trystan has always been a lone wolf, not part of a pack, and he finds himself enjoying being with a pack.  He's also falling hard for the Alexis, princess of the pack.

There's quite a bit happening in this story, with the pack leader suffering from a mysterious illness, and the rivalry between the princesses and Alexis' secret.  Trystan is thrown into the mess, and proves he can hold his own against angry and jealous wolves who feel threatened by his presence.  Plus Trystan has his own issues, ashamed as he is about his vampire blood.

I very much love the world Hauf has created.  There are so many characters with so much back story and connections.  Every time I read one of her Beautiful Creatures books, I find myself searching out other books that feature characters mentioned in the one I'm currently reading.  In this case, I want the story of Trystan's parents because I know those characters were also mentioned in The Company of Vampires books I read - and loved.

As is always the case with these books, there is a lot of action, plenty of danger and some steaming hot sex scenes in this.  Hauf is easily one of my favorite paranormal romance writers.

This copy of the book also included Moon Kissed.  I reviewed that book here:

I received a review copy of this via NetGalley.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Review: The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft

I liked this book a lot. Very well written. I wasn't sure what to expect from it - I put off reading it because I thought it was another "new adult" romance. It isn't at all. It's actually a very thoughtful story about a woman dealing with what might be the end of her dance career, and figuring out what she wants and needs in life. More about forming important bonds with family and friends and not a romance story.

Penny ends up in a hospital bed and she's told that she jumped off the balcony in a suicide attempt.  She's certain she wouldn't do that, but at the same time, she isn't sure what happened.  As she recovers from her fall, and bits of her past are revealed it becomes clear to the reader and to Penny that she was in a very dark place before she fell and landed on the baker's car under her apartment.

She spent her whole life dancing, trying to fit into a world that had no place for someone with her body type.  Despite all her work, she's horrified by reviews which describe her as "huge" - her presence on the stage assumed to be a contrast to the smaller dancers.  Even worse than the reviews was being left behind by her lover who used her to create his show but didn't need her anymore when he was ready to go on tour.

The story isn't simply about her size and her struggles with her weight, or even her struggles within the dance world.  As she is forced to leave dance in order to recover physically, she also begins to repair her inner self.  She sees the damage she's caused herself as well as the emptiness in her life.  She forms a deep friendship with her roommate from the hospital, as well as the baker, on whose car she landed.  She starts to see the world from a different perspective.

The characters are so well written, this is the sort of book that when it was over, I felt an emptiness.  I missed them.  I wondered what they were doing now, because they felt so real I knew their existence wasn't gone simply because the book had ended.

I'd recommend this book to anyone looking for a thoughtful story about a woman putting her life back together after thinking all of her dreams have fallen apart.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Review: To Defy a Sheikh by Maisey Yates

Maisey Yates' Harlequin Presents novels are some of my favorite romance novels.  Lots of romance and angst in extreme settings.

To Defy a Sheikh started a bit slow, but even so, for much of the book, I was thinking Ferran was one of my favorite heroes.  But that didn't last.

Things got a little too complicated toward the end.  He was switching emotions every five seconds, he wanted her to be happy, but he didn't want to her to want him, he wanted to be married, but he couldn't love her.  For me, it didn't make sense and didn't fit in with the character that we'd been reading about for the first 60-70% of the book.  Also, it was all so quick.  We had all this build up and development of their relationship and then it all fell apart.  I remember my kindle saying I only had ten minutes left in the book and thought, how in the world are they going to resolve all of this so quickly?

They did, but not in a way I found satisfying.  If anything, in the end, I didn't feel like their love was geniune at all.  For her it was simply the result of him being the first guy she'd ever been with and for him, it was more out of obligation than anything else.

I still enjoyed the book, but not quite as much as I usually enjoy these books.  Still provides all the necessary ingredients for a fun, quick, escape: a palace setting, tragic history, passionate characters.

If you're a fan of Yates' Sheikh books, then you'll probably enjoy this.  If you haven't read any of them yet, and want to try some, I'd suggest Heir to a Desert Legacy or Forged in the Desert Heat, those are some of my favorites.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Review: Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce

Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down.  I had plans to do some shopping and maybe go see a movie today, but I decided to use this sudden cold front as perfect excuse to not leave the house so I could keep reading. 

And yet, the story is so disturbing.  I've been reading a lot of romance novels lately - stories about good, tough women and men who may struggle with their feelings and have great sex and eventually live happily ever after.  This book is not that, this book is the exact opposite of that.  Maybe I was in need of some variety in my reading.  There are no lessons learned, no sign at all that there is some end to this woman's downward spiral.  If anything, I suspect my interest in the story is some sort of voyeuristic appeal.  It’s like watching a train wreck, a really well-written train wreck.  It’s gruesome and horrible, but you can’t look away.  Marie’s life and her behavior is so incredibly self destructive: drugs, sex, cutting.  And there isn't even the typical story of a bad childhood or abuse to explain it.  She chose all of this.  She had a supportive family, and a husband who loved her.  But she didn't want that.  She walked away from it and entered her own personal hell. 

While Marie clearly seems to love her daughter, she doesn’t love being a mother.  In fact, it was the realization that she didn’t want to be a mother that prompted her path of self-destruction.  She was a good girl who got pregnant shortly before graduating from high school.  Instead of going to college, she got married, had the baby, tried to live the life she was supposed to live and it didn't feel right.

This is one of those books I would place in a category I refer to as, "all their problems could have been avoided if only they'd had an abortion." (I seriously considered making this one of my goodreads shelves because for a while I felt like I was reading a lot of books about women who were in terrible situation that resulted from unplanned pregnancies.  Never do the characters mention abortion, that’s simply my opinion upon reading the stories.)  Let’s be honest, a lot of women’s problems are the result of having unwanted children – in fiction and reality.  I say this as someone who has always known that I didn’t want to have children.  My two attempts at having a pet had me on the verge of nervous breakdowns.  If a dog or a cat left me feeling like that, I can’t even imagine trying to care for a child.  Maybe that’s why this book was so appealing to me.  Because maybe it isn’t so difficult for me to imagine how life might fall apart when forced into a role that isn’t right, a role that the rest of the world claims is great and wonderful, but feels so wrong that a person will do anything, absolutely anything, to try and escape.

Another thing I really liked about this book was the setting.  The story takes place in Dallas, a Dallas that was familiar to me.  I recognized the streets, the restaurants, the people – and I don’t mean specific people, but rather the type of people.  This was the Dallas I knew in the late 90s, early 2000s, when I was in my twenties.  There was so much money in this city, so many men flaunting their money, new money trying to fit in with old money, and the women wanting so desperately for a connection to some of that money.  Maybe that still happens in Dallas, but a few years ago, I left my job in Dallas and became a school teacher in the suburbs, so reading this book was a bit nostalgic. These people weren't a part of my world, but I saw them, they were at the clubs, entering the VIP rooms, and at the Mavs games - not in the cheap seats.  I never set foot in any of the expensive eating establishments like where Marie works, but I was aware of those places (and now I’m really glad we never ate at any of those places because they don't seem all that special after reading about what happens behind the scenes).  My friends and I were more the Café Brazil than Dream Café sort.  
This book isn't for everyone and I suspect there are plenty of people who will hate it.  I enjoyed the book and yet part of me feels like I shouldn’t have.  It’s wrong to view someone’s disaster as entertainment, isn’t it?  But people enjoy horror stories, right?  And that’s considered acceptable.  If some sort of redeeming quality is necessary, view this as a cautionary tale.  This is what happens when a person loses control of life, tries to live a life others consider to be right and fails, and then has to self-medicate to try and forget that failure. 

I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Review: Marked by the Vampire by Cynthia Eden

A Vampire's Christmas Carol was the first story I ever read by Cynthia Eden, and I loved it.  I'm also a big fan of her Mine series, so I was looking forward to reading another vampire book by Eden.  Marked by the Vampire is the second book in the Purgatory series.  (The first book, The Wolf Within is the first book, and I believe the ebook is free, at least it was when I got it.)
I enjoyed this book, as well as The Wolf Within, but not as much as I expected I would.  It's entertaining, plenty of action and romance.  Purgatory is a prison for paranormals - werewolves and vampires.  But there's something bad happening there.  Olivia is a doctor who goes into the prison to do some research - she wants to know what makes paranormals kill.  But things go very wrong and Olivia isn't safe.  Shane's a vampire who is working undercover.  Luckily, he's able to assist Olivia in escaping when the prisoners break free.  

There's a lot of action in this book, the characters are constantly on the run or fighting, but I didn't feel like there was much depth to the paranormals.  I guess I wanted to know more about Shane and his vampire past, or how being a vampire affected his life.  He just seemed like a normal guy who happened to also be a vampire.  Also, I didn't feel any strong emotional connection to the characters' romance.  Nonetheless, this is still a fun book.

I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.  

I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Review: Mine to Have by Cynthia Eden

Not sure why I've taken so long to finish this review.  I know I started to write the review right after I finished the book, but it was a couple of weeks before the book was going to be released, so I thought, no rush.  Now weeks later... I blame work. Work always interferes with the fun stuff.

Mine to Have is the fifth book in Cynthia Eden's Mine series.  I like this series so much.  On Saturday morning, when I got the email saying I'd been approved for a review copy of this, I set aside any other plans I might have so I could do nothing but read this book.  And it was completely worth avoiding the rest of the world for a few hours.

This is supposed to be Saxon's last job, he's spent too much of his life working undercover, living pretend lives.  But he rescues Elizabeth and there's something about her.  I enjoyed the development of their relationship.  Elizabeth is a strong heroine.  She doesn't understand why people are after her.  She doesn't think she's done anything to cause a person to want to harm her.  As Saxon tries to keep her alive, they begin to unravel the mystery of why someone wants Elizabeth dead.

My only issue, and it was a very minor issue, is that I would have liked to have seen some more of the characters from the past books in the series.  On the other hand,
someone who hasn't read the other books in the series wouldn't have any problem at all starting with this book.  But you really should read the other books in the series, because they're really good.

This book delivered exactly what I've come to expect from the other books in this series.  Lots of action, danger, lots of twists and surprises, mystery and some very hot sex.  Makes for the perfect weekend escape when you can't actually escape for the weekend.

I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review: Beyond the Moon by Michele Hauf

I liked this book so much.  I started reading it this morning and couldn't put it down until I finished it.  This is the third book of Hauf's I've read, all three books being part of the Company of Vampires series.  I love these stories and these characters.  Vampires, witches, shifters, werewolves and vampire hunters, all living in Paris.

The characters are interesting, the stories are full of danger and romance.  Just the right blend of supernatural, violence and sex.

In this book, Verity, a witch is attacked by vampires and saved by Rook, a vampire hunter.  The two feel an instant connection, which baffles both of them.  Also, this connection they feel seems to be linked to the pendant worn around Verity's neck.  Years ago, acting on some inexplicable compulsion, Verity sensed a soul within a tree, and she carved it out and felt obligated to protect it until she found its owner.  Just so happens, many years ago, Rook made a deal with the devil that involved his soul being taken from him and buried in the ground.

But on the night of the attack, shortly after their initial meeting, the pendant is lost, and Verity is bitten by a vampire.  She has until the full moon to figure out a cure (her attempts at spells aren't working) or hope Rook can stake the vamp who bit her before she transforms.

So this is the story of Rook trying to reclaim his soul, and Verity trying to save hers, all while trying to handle the intense attraction they feel for each other.  Verity has a three date rule, but she figures out fairly quickly she wants more than three dates with Rook.  And discovering Verity is a fire witch, and seeing her perform with fire brings back some terrible memories Rook would rather not revisit.

I don't want to give too much away in this review, because part of what makes the story interesting is the way the backstory is gradually revealed.

Overall, this is a really great book.  I loved both Verity and Rook.
Lots of action, plenty of magic and some very hot sex.  I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys steamy paranormal romances.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review: Getting Off by Abby Green

This story is okay for a quick, cute, sexy read.

I almost quit reading after just a few pages though because I was bothered by the description of the couple's initial attraction to each other. I find it ridiculous when people first see each other and have some absurd physical reaction. Sweating, loss of breath, immediate sexual arousal so intense they have to leave the room. Really? That's a bit much. And her "vibrating clitoris" was mentioned three times in four pages (do editors not work on these stories?) - and this is all caused just from sitting at the bar stool next to this guy. Oh, and I did I mention this character has never had an orgasm before in her life, but she's that turned on by simply looking at a guy sitting next to her.

I thought the writing got a little better after that initial meeting. As I said, it turned out to be a cute story. New girl in the city meets a guy in a bar, takes him back to her place and has sex, but no orgasm. Evening ends awkwardly with each of them hoping to never see each other again. Then new girl walks into a bar looking for a job and guess who owns the place? And of course, they end up together again, and this time, guy is on a mission, as you might imagine. Had some very sexy scenes.

One other thing that bothered me though was the mention of Liam having some dark sexual history. For such a short story, it seemed unnecessary to introduce that storyline. He's a 29 year old attractive guy, working at a bar in New York City, he doesn't need to have a mean girlfriend in his past to provide him with a reason to have commitment issues.

As I said, story was okay, for a quick read.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Review: Breaking All Her Rules by Maisey Yates

This is a Cosmo Red Hot Reads and it is indeed red hot.

I enjoyed this novella quite a bit.  It's a short story about a woman who has spent her whole life focused on her work, trying so hard to please her family and be the "good daughter."  Then one day she shares a cab with a handsome cowboy, who looks very out of place in New York City, and accidentally picks up his phone instead of hers.

She tracks her phone back to his hotel and shows up to retrieve it, and standing there, looking at this cowboy with his shirt off, standing in his hotel room, she decides she's tired of always being the good girl.

I've said this many times in my reviews, but Maisey Yates is one of my favorite romance writers.  She creates the best characters.  Sometimes though, I think I like her characters because I always feel like I can relate to them on some level - not in the successful finance person sort of way, but rather the nice girl, focused on her work, too busy or uninterested in a "real" relationship, either avoiding relationships or settling for some that doesn't involve much effort.  And then someone walks into their lives and changes everything about the way they've always viewed relationships.  I like that idea, that someone might someday appear who makes taking a chance seem worthwhile.  Okay, I might get a little too caught up in these stories sometimes.

But I sincerely believe that the idea of meeting a man in a cab who makes a woman want to toss aside all her years of trying to follow all the rules is probably a woman's biggest fantasy.  The idea that it could be that simple, that one day he could just be there - this is why we read romance novels.  We know it will never happen, but isn't it nice to dream?

Very enjoyable quick, sexy read.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review: Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

I liked this book quite a bit, which isn't that much of a surprise, being that I've liked everything I've read by Susanna Kearsley.  It did take me a while to get through this book, which was a bit frustrating.  I think part of the reason it took me so long to read was because I started it right before school started up again, so I was busy finishing up my summer errands and getting ready to return to the classroom.  Also, I felt like not a whole lot happened until about halfway through the book.  I felt like I was still being introduced to the characters and setting and realized I was almost at 50%, according to my kindle.

However, I did still enjoy the book, not everything needs to be a fast paced, can't-finish-quick-enough, thriller.

As is often the case with Kearsley's books, the setting is described beautifully. This book takes place at a villa in Italy with a lot of history and ghosts lingering on the villa's grounds.  There are quite a few interesting characters inhabiting these grounds.

Alex, the owner of the villa has decided to stage a play - one written by his grandfather many years earlier.  The play was never performed because the woman for which it was written - his grandfather's lover - died before the play opened.

Celia Sands, a young actress from London, has been offered the starring role, and just so happens to have the same name - though no relation - to the original actress cast for the part, many years earlier.

Rupert, the man who raised her is directing the play, and looking forward to spending time with Celia and directing her in her first starring role.  However, he seems a bit annoyed with the choice of stage manager, which is confusing to Celia as she tries to figure out what kind of history the two men have.

Then there's Madeline, an older actress, with whom Celia has a vague connection, clouded with her own guilt over what she feels was her role in breaking up Madeline's marriage.

Those are just a few of the characters.  There are plenty of others to round out the story, but no need give it all away in this review.  The mix of these people all in one place, working together to put on this "impossible" play makes for a very engaging story.  Maybe I took so long to read the book because I liked being around the characters and felt no rush to get away from them.

I was also pleasantly surprised that I was wrong in thinking I already knew what one of the big secrets was.  At one point, it seemed obvious to me, only later to discover that wasn't the case at all. I like it when the mysteries are not obvious.

Anyway, I enjoyed this book.  I'd recommend it to anyone who likes Kearsley's other books, enjoys a well written story with a bit of history, a touch of supernatural elements and some romance.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review: Expose Me by Kate Hewitt

The Fifth Avenue trilogy were some of my favorite books from this summer, but Expose Me, the last book, was probably the one I liked the least.  Keep in mind though, I really, really loved the first two books.

I never felt the same kind of chemistry between the characters - Alex and Chelsea - that existed in the other books in this trilogy.  I didn't like them as much.  I felt like they tried too hard to be mean to each other, too hard to avoid getting involved.  To some extent that's expected, but it went too far.  To the point where I was thinking, why even bother?  Also because the character is named Chelsea in this book, and she's the host of a TV show, I kept imagining Chelsea Handler in this role.

It's been a few months since I read the book, and don't remember the details all that well.  I still enjoyed the book and am probably being too harsh in comparing it to the other two books in the trilogy.

But the important part of this book was bringing down Jason Treffen, the man responsible for the death of one of Alex's friends.  This book provides the conclusion of what has been building up over the first two books.  To some extent, the romance is secondary to these two characters completing this task.  Alex has to convince Chelsea to assist in bringing down this man who has destroyed so many lives.  This is a big part of the story, because Chelsea doesn't want to do anything that might harm her career - at the same time, she realizes this could be the kind of story that might make her career.

This is such a great trilogy, I highly recommend it - all three of the books provide some great reading entertainment.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Read: May 4, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Review: Fanning the Flames by Victoria Dahl

Victoria Dahl is one of those writers whose work I started reading because she's one of my favorite people to follow on twitter.  Seems like a really cool person, and in turn, that makes me want to read her books.  So far, I've very much enjoyed what I've read of hers. 
I remember last summer, she mentioned writing a story about a librarian who watched the firefighter next door running each day.  I was looking forward to that story because, well, my library shares a parking lot with a fire department and there are many jokes in my life regarding going to pick up books/check out the firemen.  Of course, I don't really do that.  But still, funny, right? Whatever.   However, I was a little disappointed that this wasn't a full length story.  And because it was so short, the romance felt a bit rushed.  I usually like a little more of people getting to know each other, more of a build  up.  I guess we are informed that these two people have known each other for a while, so it isn't as if they just met and fell for each other.  They do know each other, which was one of the obstacles in their relationship.  He'd been friends with her ex-husband and she had known his wife before she died.  

One of the reasons I may not have loved this story was because the main characters are older.  Absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it isn't something to which I can relate - being older and having kids and former spouses and such.  These aren't topics that resonate with me at all.   The older part, yes, to some extent, but that's it.  

As for their story, Lauren is a librarian who, despite always being attracted to Jake, has never acted on that attraction.  But she gets talked into going out with her co-workers one night, and he's there.  And he seems quite interested in her.  As you might imagine, the two finally give into their attraction to each other.  

I still liked the story, just not as much as I usually like Dahl's books.  At about 61 pages, it's perfect for a quick, sexy read.  And it's set in Jackson, the beginning of the Girls' Night Out series, and I loved the first book in that series, Looking for Trouble.  Some of the same characters are mentioned, making this well worth reading to know what's happening with everyone involved.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review: A Wedding in Provence by Ellen Sussman

I decided to read this while I was travelling this summer.  I like to read books that are set in the places I'm visiting while I'm there.  I started this while in France, visiting chateaux in the Loire Valley - so not exactly Provence, but the same country.

I read most of this book while on the train from Paris to Brussels, then Brussels to Bruges and back, and then Brussels to London.  It's an okay book, didn't love it, didn't hate it.  Sometimes those are the most difficult to review.

This is the story about an older couple going to Provence to get married at a friend's bed & breakfast.  The scenery is beautiful, but the people gathered for the wedding aren't feeling so fairy tale like.

There isn't anything too dramatic or horrible,  just a typical family drama.  Two sisters, one good with her act together, the other something of an irresponsible bad girl.  The irresponsible daughter shows up at the wedding with a guy she met on the plane.  The good daughter shows up alone, her boyfriend finding an excuse to avoid the trip.  Somewhere along the way the good daughter decides she's tired of being good and the bad daughter is forced to behave responsibly.  I found it a bit of a stretch to assume that their entire personalities were transformed based on the events of one weekend, but this is why it's fiction.

I didn't feel any strong connection to the characters.  In fact, I kind of disliked the couple getting married.  The mom especially seemed like a rather unpleasant person, and I don't think that was the intention.  I didn't ever get the feeling that this couple had some great love that was going to solve all their other problems.  The couple I liked more was the one running the Bed & Breakfast, despite their problems, they seemed genuine.

Overall, the book was okay.  A fairly quick read, it held my interest and did well to pass all the time I spent on trains.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

I wanted to write a really great review of this book, because it deserves one.  And I wanted to be able to say something other than, "OMG, I loved it!" because you know, that isn't especially intelligent.  And yet.

OMG, I loved it!

I read Discovery of Witches, the first book in the All Souls Trilogy, a few years ago.  I knew nothing about the book.  My library had just gotten the ability to loan kindle books, so I was looking at what was available.  Witches, I like stories about witches, I'll give it a try.

Immediately, I was lost in this world.  A witch and a vampire in Oxford.  Smart and sexy.  Romantic and intelligent.  I loved this book so much.  It's all I could talk about.  Anyone who would listen got lured into, "So, I'm reading this amazing book..."

But I didn't love Shadow of Night, the second book in the series, all that much.  Not a huge fan of time travel, though I've since read much more of it since reading this book, and I was bothered by some of the actions of the characters.  These characters that I loved so much in the first book seemed out of their element in the second book.  Diana busy keeping house and obsessing about getting pregnant and Matthew being a jerk, letting his friends treat Diana horribly.  I didn't understand what was happening.  They didn't feel like the characters I'd loved so much in the first book.  And yet, I knew they were the same, and I still cared about them.  It's a credit to the author to have created characters that can evoke this much emotion - I wouldn't get so upset about characters who didn't matter to me.  I might have been overly harsh about the second book, and I may have read it too quickly.  Though on my attempts to re-read it in preparation for the new book, I kept setting the book aside, getting upset all over again with the characters.  I ended up getting a copy of the audio book, and felt I liked it more that way.

And regardless of whether I liked or loved Shadow of Night, I was so anxious for the third book.  This was going to be the highlight of my summer.  I cheered and danced when I found out I'd been approved for a review copy via NetGalley.  (And I am not the cheering and dancing sort, not at all.  But I was that excited.)

You know how sometimes you want something so bad, and then you get it and it doesn't live up to all your expectations?  Not a problem here!  I loved this book.  Loved it!

For two days, I cut off all ties with the world, crawled in bed and read.  I was immersed in this world with these characters I loved so much, and all was right in the Universe.

Pretty much everything that bothered me about the second book was all gone.  Matthew and Diana are back in present time, he's back in the lab, she's back in the library.  These are the people I fell in love with in the beginning.  They're back to being equals, being two people in love, trying to make their relationship work under very difficult circumstances.  Besides being married and starting a family, they've got all kinds of family issues, and then we've got the congregation that doesn't approve of a relationship between a witch and a vampire.  It's all a mess, but they figure it out, together.  That's what I enjoy so much about this book.  They way they work together.  Nothing is easy for them.  There's all kinds of tough choices and heartbreak, but wow, when they get through all of that, it's pretty great.

I especially enjoyed reading about Diana embracing her powers.  She's full-on witch, unstoppable once she starts to get the hang of all the magic she possesses.  The best part is that she does this, while still maintaining the person she was originally.  This was my biggest worry, that's she set aside her career to be a vampire wife/den mother to Matthew's brood of vampire children, as well as their own children.  I wanted to see her still be her own person.  Plus, I love that Matthew, despite his excessive need to protect her and shield her from all harm, understands that she needs to be her own person, that she can't be his kept doll.  He also fully realizes that he loves her because of her independence and her strength.  Have I mentioned how very much I love this couple?

There were a few moments when I was bothered, when Diana goes on about how with children she'll have to give up her job.  Seriously?  What year is this?  I know they're vampire/witch babies, but you have like 500 immediate family members hovering around you willing to help out all the time if you're not comfortable with the idea of daycare.  (I would, however, like to point out that I liked the way the pregnancy was handled in this book, it was not the main focus of the story, which was a concern of mine before reading this story.  I wouldn't have been able to handle that.)

All the family members start to annoy me after a while also.  Part of me really wishes Diana and Matthew could just go off and have their own life, without dealing with twenty other people every single day.  But that's a personal issues, I'm not a big family person.  There was also a moment in the book when a choice was made that upset me quite a bit, but - no spoilers - in the end, I understood why the decision had been made.

Oh, and one other thing that bothered me so very much, I wanted to pause my reading and dash off a letter to the author or publisher.  When Diana reveals that she's married to a vampire and she's pregnant, her friend says something along the lines of, "That never happened on Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Then a comment is made about Joss Whedon.  Don't throw in these references if you haven't done your research!  There was indeed a vampire pregnancy on Angel, the Buffy spin-off (a Joss Whedon show).  And it was shocking and "oh my god, how is this possible? Vampires can't make babies!" sort of like Diana's pregnancy, oh and sort of like in Twilight and again in the new CW show, The Originals.  A shocking vampire pregnancy that no one thought was possible - not that original.  That's okay, it doesn't have to be, but don't try to act like it is.  Sort of like in Shadow of Night, when Matthew and Diana are talking about vampire fiction - like it's so different from their story, and really, it isn't.  Diana's telling him about the books, and she's pretty much describing him.  Oh well, not a big deal, but I'm a big Buffy fan, so that irked me a bit.

Anyway, I loved the book.  Those are minor issues, but I felt I should mention them to prove I'm not a blindly loving fan girl.  Over the past few weeks, after finishing, I'm almost jealous of those who haven't read it yet.  I think I may just read it again, at the same time as everyone else so I can join in the discussions.  I'm sure that like before, I read it too quickly.  Or maybe I'll wait until October and re-read the entire trilogy again.  Or listen to it.  That might be a nice way to spend the daily commute.

I most certainly recommend this book, especially to anyone who has read the first two books in the series.  This was well worth the wait.  If you haven't read the series and you're a fan of stories about vampires and witches, then you should, especially now that all three books are available.

Part of me hopes there will be more books about these characters, but at the same time, I think I'd be bothered by a story in which Diana and Matthew weren't the central characters.  I think of the Outlander series and how much I dislike the addition of all the extra story lines that take away time from Jamie and Claire.  I don't want to see that happen with these characters.  But I have enough trust in Deborah Harkness that I'll read whatever novel she writes next.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Review: To Love a Highlander by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

This book is what I consider to be pure, indulgent romance.  And I mean that in a good way.  It's probably the sort of book that someone who thinks romances are boring and sappy would dislike, but for those of us who want a really good love story, this is perfect.

There isn't a lot of conflict or angst - or rather it's there, but gets resolved without too much difficulty.  (And on this topic, I almost find the easy, quick resolution to be more realistic.  I was thinking about this as I read the book, stories in which people go out of their way and to great extents to hold grudges and carry out revenge are the less realistic characters.  In real life, won't most people just give in and do what makes life easier?)

There's just enough danger and violence to keep the story exciting - this is, after all a story about a highlander.  The setting is Stirling Castle - which I happened to visit while reading this book, so that added to my enjoyment of the story.

This is the story of Sorely and Mirabelle.  Sorely works for the king, and Mirabelle is the daughter of a Highlander who is visiting Stirling.  Years earlier, when in their teens, the two met, they danced together, but Mirabelle's father's men stepped in.  Sorely being a bastard wasn't considered worthy of Mirabelle.  But all these years, the two haven't forgotten each other, even though at first they don't mention what happened years before, leading the other to think they'd forgotten.

Mirabelle's father is in talks to have her married to someone she doesn't want to marry.  Lucky for her, this someone is an enemy of Sorely.  She goes to Sorely with a rather shocking request to make sure the marriage doesn't happen.

What I thoroughly enjoyed about this book was the way the author writes about these two characters wanting each other.  This is what I meant by indulgent romance.  The descriptions of their desires, the heat created from the slightest of touches are more intense than some actual sex scenes in other books I've read.  I very much enjoyed this, as it was perfect for pure escapism, though I'm fairly sure I may have been blushing as I was reading parts of this on the train ride to and from Stirling.  This is the second book I've read by this author.  The first was a prequel to this book, and I remember a first kiss seeming to go on for almost three pages, and enjoying every bit of it - thinking, this is what a kiss sh
ould be like.  That's how I felt with this entire book.  This is how romance should feel.  Every moment together intense and heated, before they've even touched each other.

This story is definitely steamy.  Also, I loved the characters.  Looking forward to reading the rest of this series and more by this author.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Review: One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

When I read the description of this book, it didn't sound like something I'd like. Struggling single mom, road trip, corporate guy with career problems.  None of these are things to which I can relate.  But the book is written by Jojo Moyes, and the two books I read of hers last year - Me Before You and Girl You Left Behind are two of the best books I've ever read.  So I decided to give this a try, and I was so glad I did.

Moyes has the ability to create characters in such a way that even though in real life, I have absolutely nothing in common with any of these people, I still felt like I knew them.  I still cared about them, and to be quite sappy - I was happy and sad for them, laughed and cried and all that.

I admit, near the beginning of the book, I didn't really like the mom in this story.  Jess is just so very noble, it gets annoying at times. She's too good to take her kids to McDonalds (personally, I don't go to McDonalds either - but if you're on a road trip with limited time and a limited budget, come on, it's isn't like a lifestyle change, it's just a quick meal).  Little things like that bothered me.

But in the end, I pretty much loved this story. Other than Jess, I really liked all the other characters in this story - the two kids and Ed were great.  They're all a little quirky and interesting, without being annoying.  There are a few rather absurd coincidences, but you know, this is fiction, and to tell the truth, real life has some rather absurd coincidences in it if you pay enough attention.  It was never to the extent where I was saying, oh whatever, that would never happen.  If anything, I had just the opposite feeling - like maybe somehow things fall into place in the world the way they're supposed to - sometimes.

This is the third book I've read by Jojo Moyes and I'm always impressed with her ability to create these characters and this world that feels so real and can evoke so many emotions. I spent all day reading this book and when I finished, I had that moment in which I felt like my own life was pathetically dull in comparison.  Don't get me wrong, I don't envy their situation, they had some bad things happen along the way, and I never would have survived that road trip - car sickness, a smelly dog, bad food, all at 40 mph.  Road trip from hell.  Would have been so much easier to have given them the money and put them on the train - but then there wouldn't be a story.   

This is such a good book.  I'm going to recommend it to everyone.  I honestly can't imagine anyone not liking it.  So add this to your summer reading list.  You'll be glad you did.

I received a review copy of this via NetGalley.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Review: Flying by Megan Hart

Based on the description of the book - a woman who escapes her life each weekend by traveling and picking up strangers in airport bars - I thought I'd enjoy it.  I travel a lot and well, my travel doesn't involve picking up men in airports, but I find the fantasy interesting.  Who hasn't thought of something like that while spending hours in airports waiting?

I started reading this book while in the airport, waiting to board a flight to London.  Perfect setting right?

But this fantasy was more of a nightmare.  Stella wasn't having hot sex with strangers, she was having sad, pathetic sex with other sad, pathetic people.  It kind of creeped me out.  All of a sudden, I was glad I was sleeping alone in my hotel room if that was the alternative.

I guess that was my problem with the book, the sex in the book wasn't what I would consider to be fun or enjoyable.  It was the result of people who hated themselves and didn't care much about anyone else in their lives.

Eventually, Stella meets a guy with whom she wants more than a one night fling.  Despite the distance they start trying to date and have a semi-normal relationship.  But even that relationship seemed to reek of desperation.  This guy wasn't at all worth the trouble it took to be with him.

For a romance novel, this book was really depressing, and it never got much better.  The happily ever after was possibly more depressing than the story of the couple being without each other.

I didn't like the story all that much.  It wasn't at all what I consider to be hot and sexy.  Just sad.  I don't need to read about sad people in uncomfortable relationships.  I read to escape that kind of thing.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Review: Scandalize Me by Caitlin Crews

This book is soooo good!  I usually hate reviews that are nothing but gushing about a story - this is amazing, so hot, et cetera.  But that's how I feel about this book.  Maybe I just haven't been reading the right books because it is rare that I enjoy a book this much.

I put off writing this review because I figured I'd post it closer to release date, and also because I wanted to come up with something other than, "OMG, this book is great."  (See first paragraph, that's what I wrote right after finishing the book.)  But now, months later, book has been out for a while, I've read about twenty other books since this one and I never got around to writing my review.

Anyway, I loved this book. This is the second book in the Fifth Avenue trilogy.   I might have even loved it more than the first book, Avenge Me, which I thought was pretty darn great.  This book continues with the characters doing their part to exact revenge on Jason Treffen for the death of their friend ten years earlier.  I loved everything about this book - the characters were interesting, strong, independent heroine (that's a must for me) with a secret past, and the former football player consumed with his own guilt about past incidents.  They had scorching hot chemistry, and I very much enjoyed seeing their romance develop throughout the book.

I highly recommend these books.  Great story, hot romance, likable
characters, doesn't get much better than this.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Read April 13, 2014.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Pre-review of The Book of Life

Let’s consider this my pre-review of Book of Life by Deborah Harkness, as I’ve been asked to not post a real review until the book is released on July 15.  I’m okay with that because it’s going to take me a while to put together something  a bit more intelligent than, “OMG, I loved it!  You must read this!”  That being said, I did love it, and you really should read it.  But anyway, I digress.

Instead of telling you about the book right now, I’m going to instead tell you about how much I wanted to read this book:

Sunday afternoon, I had a strange, horrible pain in my head.  I have headaches and migraines all the time, but this was something different.  This felt as if there were something small burrowing its way through my head.  For about twenty minutes, I was convinced I was dying.  I thought maybe it was a stroke or aneurysm.  I imagined that the burrowing I felt was a blood clot moving through my head, ready to shut down my brain.  I know this all sounds a bit melodramatic, but it was really bad.

I wondered if this was the sort of pain that I should call 911 about, but decided against that because I wasn’t entirely sure of the location of my insurance card.  And even with insurance, if I survived the pain, I’d wish I was dead after I got the hospital bills.  So I remained on my bed, in the dark, unable to move, my head hurting so much, death would have been welcome at that point.

My life sort of flashed before me.  You know, the way it does when you’re on an airplane and the turbulence is so intense, you’re convinced you’re never going to see land again.  You start making mental lists of things you should have done, meant to do, wish you hadn’t put off until later, grimacing about all the loose ends you never got around to tying up.  Everyone does that, right?  It isn’t just me, is it?  Whatever. Anyway.

As I waited for the end, preparing those lists, I’m glad to say I don’t have a lot of items on my list.  And that’s by design.  I make a point of doing what I want to do, rather than waiting for someday.  So that’s all good.  I’ve traveled, I’ve met people, I’ve done things. 

The first big regret that popped into my aching head:  Damn it, I’m never going to find out what happens to Diana and Matthew. 

Seriously, people, that’s what I thought.  And it upset me, because oh, to wait so long, only to have my head burst a month before the book is released. 

I love these characters so much.  Also, I’d recently finished listening to Shadow of Night, the second book in the trilogy, and so they’ve been very much on my mind.

Well, obviously, I didn’t die.  That was on Sunday, and now we’re in the early hours of Thursday morning and I seem very much alive.  I have no idea what caused that pain in my head.  Even after the initial pain passed, I remained on the bed for a couple of hours, afraid to move.  And my head is still sore in that particular spot and sometimes I have a twinge of sharp pain, but clearly, whatever it was wasn’t life ending. 

But my head is not the important part of this story.  I’m sharing this story to demonstrate that sometimes magic happens.  Sometimes the Universe listens and understands just how much you want something and the Goddess decides to smile on you.

Monday afternoon, I was checking my email and saw an email from NetGalley saying I’d been approved to receive an advance copy of Book of Life.  I was in my bedroom when I read this.  I cheered loudly – in my empty house – and then I’m pretty sure I skipped/ran down the hall to get to my computer to accept the book and have it sent to my Kindle.  Then I spent the next two days reading.  

You know how sometimes you want something so bad, and then you get it and it isn’t that great? – not the case here!  Instead, it was every bit as great as I’d hoped, maybe even better – and I had very high hopes.  Such a good book. 

I finished reading it Tuesday night.  Then I spent Wednesday in a bit of a daze, wondering what I’m supposed to do next.  Already missing these characters.  But it’s okay, because I can revisit them when I want, I know where they are – stored safely on my kindle.  Plus, I’ve got some pretty big travel plans in the near future - like next week - that will allow me to visit the areas where the story took place – Oxford, London, France. 

But yes, point of all this being, my life is now complete, for the moment at least.  And in my mind, it makes the title, Book of Life, seem even more appropriate.  

Actual review to be posted July 15.  

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Review: Burned by Sarah Morgan

This is okay for a quick read. I wasn't enjoying the longer book I'd been reading, so decided to read this before bed for something different.

I liked the main characters, enjoyed their storyline - young lovers who split up and then reunited after five years. (In my own reading and writing, I've noticed that's a storyline to which I'm drawn.)  

I also liked the London setting, the descriptions brought the city to life for me.

But I found the frequent mentions of the sister to be annoying. In general, not a big fan of the best friend/sister thing. The sister kept being mentioned, even when it didn't seem necessary. Things like, "He had a nice apartment, his apartment reminded her of the apartment her sister's boyfriend owned."

I would have rather the focus be on the two main characters - not the sister and her boyfriend - who I understand were main characters in a previous novella by this author.

Also, felt like there was a lot of repetition in the writing. Maybe instead of telling the reader over and over again about how she was clingy when she was younger, or how her parents had a bad marriage causing her sister decided to avoid marriage - we could have learned more about the current characters and their relationship.  Needed some very thorough editing, but I guess that would have made the story even shorter. Also, how many times do I need to be told that her sister has large breasts and she doesn't? Little things like that started to bother me about the writing and caused me to start doing a lot of skimming. I don't usually feel the need to skim something this short.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Review: Temptation in Shadows by Gena Showalter

A couple of summers ago, I was wanting to read more paranormal romance.    The book I wanted wasn't available at the library, so I decided to try Gena Showalters' Lords of the Underworld series, and I was hooked immediately.  I read the whole series - I think there were nine books at the time - one right after the other.  Loved them.  This was sort of the beginning of my return to reading romance novels.

But I haven't enjoyed Gena's latest books.  I don't know if they changed or if my tastes changed.  Temptation in Shadows being an older story, I assumed I'd like it, but I really didn't like it all that much.

It's a novella, only about 80 pages, and for something that short, I expect the focus to be on romance.  But there was quite a bit about some underground society who were turning people's brains into computers.  It's been a while since I read this, so I don't recall the details.  Also, I'm not even sure I understood exactly what was happening while I read the story.  I think it may have been a little too complicated for a novella.

Also, I didn't feel as if the romance was all that well developed.  There was no real explanation as to why they were attracted to each other.  We're just told they are, and then they're in love.  Okay.

But still, for a novella, a quick real that doesn't require much emotional involvement, this story worked just fine.  I turn to stories like this when I need to escape a long read that's dragging or I can't decide what big book I want to dive into next.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Review: Looking for Trouble by Victoria Dahl

I loved this book.  Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down.  This was how I spent my first weekend of the summer break - devouring this book.  Even though I'm not usually a fan of small town, contemporary romances - I still love Dahl's books.  Her stories don't have the elements that usually annoy me about small town stories.  Her characters are intelligent and independent.  

I liked the characters in this story and I enjoyed all of the back story about the families involved.  Sophie and Alex both have some messed up family histories, and both are wanting to do whatever they can to avoid the drama caused by their families.  But unfortunately, they can't avoid the connection made years ago between their parents, and all the gossip that accompanied that.  I enjoyed seeing how these two people worked through those issues and how their attraction for each other developed.  Plus, they have great chemistry and of course, the sex was smoking hot.  I also really liked that the happy ending didn't mean marriage and a baby.  Sometimes that's appropriate, but sometimes, when it doesn't fit with the characters, it really bothers me.

Books that I loved are some of the most difficult reviews to write.  I don't know what else to say about the book.  It's great, if you want a good, sexy romance story, you should read this. 

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Review: Break for Me by Shiloh Walker

This is one of those stories that didn't produce any strong feelings in me, good or bad.  When I first started it, I didn't like it much.  I'm not a big fan of small town contemporary stories, and this began with everything I dislike about that type of story - the fifteen best friends (slight exaggeration), everyone knowing everyone's business, the dwelling on past events - never moving forward.

In the beginning of the story, they go to a bar, and everyone there knows that Jensen is upset because it's nearing the anniversary of her mother's disappearance.  Everyone except the new guy in town, and they all get on his case for not knowing.  I guess they forgot to hand him a calendar of special events - things people get upset about in bars for the past decade.

I set the story aside, not planning to finish it.  But then one night, I wanted something short, something I could finish before I fell asleep, so I decided to give it another try.  And this time, I thought the story was okay.  Once the focus was on the two main characters, it got better.  In novellas, I don't want too many other things happening.  But this is also a prequel to a series, so I might have appreciated it more if viewed in that context - as just a small part of a much bigger story.  

I liked it enough that I may pick up the other books in this series, but didn't love it.  

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Review: Dating Cary Grant by Emelle Gamble

This is a very light-hearted story, and I know that's what some people enjoy.  I tend to read things that are a little grittier, I need more angst, more intensity. This book just wasn't the sort of thing I usually read.

I did enjoy the New York City setting and all of the movie references.

I had been looking forward to reading this book because I'm a big Cary Grant fan.  Based on the title and description of the book, I thought the character was going to have an affair with the ghost of Cary Grant or a Cary Grant look-a-like or something like that.  I was sort of hoping for that.

Instead this was more about a woman, Tracy, trying to save her marriage, or maybe escape her marriage.  Escape is how I viewed it in the beginning.  She had a job in New York City, and wanted to be near her job, while her husband was working as a small town mayor in Connecticut.  For someone like me, New York City seems like the obvious choice.  If you have the opportunity to live there, who wouldn't?  Maybe that's just me.

I suppose I hoped this was a story about a woman finding herself and figuring out what she really wanted out of life..  Okay, it sort of is, but what she found and what she realized she wanted wasn't what I would have wanted, so I guess that bothered me.  I wanted her to find what she wanted in the arms of a handsome, Cary Grant-like stranger.

In general, I don't like stories in which women are made to feel guilty because they want to pursue their careers.  I know I'm supposed to understand that she realized love was more important - but I didn't feel like I ever knew enough about her marriage or her husband to accept that.

I felt like there was a lot going on in this story - we have Tracy trying to figure out what she wants and the issues with her job, then there are these strange characters that keep popping up, then it's sort of a romance.  I think I would have enjoyed the book more if there had been a stronger focus on one of those elements - either make it more of a ghost story or more of a romance.  Overall, I didn't have any strong feelings either way about the book.  I didn't love it, didn't hate it.  It wasn't at all what I expected though, so that might have been what threw me off.

I'm sure this book would work just fine for someone who did want a sweet, nice romance that takes place in New York City, with a few appearance from some rather well-known ghosts.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: Avenge Me by Maisey Yates

I loved this book.  I really loved this book.  I'm probably going to end up buying a few copies of this book to give to friends who I think will also love this book. 

And before I go on, let me just get this out of the way, because every book out there seems to get compared to 50 Shades of Grey, and I'm sure that will happen with this one as well.  It's almost as if the author knew that would happen, and just to show you she knew, she threw in a few lines - such as the comment that they were too many shades of messed up to be together, and then there's a mention of the sky being a shade of grey. 

There is the element of domination and submission and such but that's where any comparison ends because I believe that even on her worst day, Maisey Yates can outwrite EL James, and she doesn't need the framework of a teenage vampire love story to do so.  Anyway, that said, I usually stay away from books that involve domination.  If I see that in the description or notice that people on GoodReads have tagged a book BDSM, I usually don't even bother to read it.  I found myself cringing for a moment in this book and thinking, no, don't go there.  But I kept reading and I'm glad I did.  This was the first time I've read about these situations and heard it explained in such a way that it made sense to me.  As I said, I don't read a lot of stories labeled BDSM, so maybe there are lots of great examples, but anyway.  Point being, as someone usually a little icked out about this, I wasn't icked out by this - icked, really putting that Master's Degree to work here, aren't I?

Now to the point of my review.  This book is so good.  This is the sort of book, I want all my friends to read, so we can discuss it later.  Intense storyline - dark, gritty, tragic; strong characters dealing with loads of internal angst, including a decade of guilt, as well as some messed up external circumstances with which these characters are having to cope - family problems, work issues, difficult friends - it's all there.  And, of course, it's got the usual elements of a Harlequin Presents - money, power and sex - and in this case, maybe more so than the usual Presents, abuse of all three.  Before I got my hands on this book, I kept reading about how this book was different from the usual Presents -  and it is, mostly in that it's longer, and there's more of a storyline, or rather a more involved storyline.  Usually the books focus on a couple and their relationship.  There is a couple and there is the focus on their relationship, but there's also a lot more happening.  These two people are a mission to destroy a man that ruined the life of someone who was very important to them.  That part of the story continues in the other two books in this trilogy.

I loved the characters in this book.  Strong female character, that's always a necessity for me to enjoy a romance.  Katy's determined and she's not at all intimidated by a guy with a lot of money, and she's very much in control of her life.  But before she can truly begin to live her life, she's got to avenge the death of her sister.  Austin is another big reason to love this book.   Austin wants the same thing as Katy, her sister having been one of his best friends.  For ten years, he's lived with the guilt of not having done more to help her.  But despite wanting to focus on avenging the death of Katy's sister - he also wants Katy, in a way that he feels he shouldn't.  The chemistry between these two is great and the sex, so hot.  I enjoyed reading about the way the two grew to care about each other.

I'd recommend this to anyone who wants a steamy, sexy read with a great storyline.