Tuesday, June 30, 2009

July 2009 Releases

Hilcia's top three reads for July are Branded by Fire by Nalini Singh, Black Hills by Nora Roberts and A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James. Brie is looking forward to only one book this month, and that is The Devil's Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis.

June 2009
A few late releases missed from the June 2009 post.

6/30/09 Hidden Currents (Drake Sisters, Book 7) by Christine Feehan


July 2009
7/1/09 Love at Fitst Flight by Marie Force (review from Brie coming soon!)
7/7/09 Branded by Fire by Nalini Singh (Psy/Changeling Book 6)
When a brilliant changeling researcher is kidnapped, Dark River sentinel Mercy, a cat, and SnowDancer lieutenant Riley, a wolf, must work together to track the young man - before his shadowy captors decide he's no longer useful. Along the way, two dominants may find that submitting to one another uncovers not just a deadly conspiracy, but a passion so raw that it'll leave them both branded by fire.
7/7/09 Black Hills by Nora Roberts
7/7/09 Burn: A Novel by Linda Howard
7/7/09 Atlantis Unmasked (Warriors of Poseidon, Book 4) by Alyssa Day
7/7/09 Strange Brew (Anthology) Edited by P.N. Elrod with Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs
7/23/09 Wed Him Before you Bed Him (The School of Heiresses) by Sabrina Jeffries
7/28/09 A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James
Leopold Dautry, the notorious Duke of Villiers, must wed quickly and nobly-and his choices, alas, are few. The Duke of Montague's daugher, Eleanor, is exquisitely beautiful and fiercely intelligent. Villiers betroths himself to her without further ado.
After all, no other woman really qualifies. Lisette, the outspoken daughter of the Duke of Gilner, cares nothing for clothing or decorum. She's engaged to another man, and doesn't give a fig for status or title. Half the ton believes Lisette mad - and Villiers is inclined to agree.

Torn between logic and passion, between intelligence and imagination, Villiers himself drawn to the very edge of impropriety. But it is not until he's in a duel to the death, fighting for the reputation of the woman he loves, that Villiers finally realizes that the greatest risk may not be in the dueling field...

But in the bedroom. And the heart.
7/28/09 Mastered by Love by Stephanie Laurens
7/28/09 Destined for the Grave (Night Huntress, Book 4) by Jeaniene Frost
7/28/09 Skin Deep (Laura Blackstone, Book 1) by Mark Del Franco
7/28/09 Thorn Queen (Dark Swan, Book 2) by Richelle Mead
7/29/09 The Devil's Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis

Born into Florence's most illustrious Renaissance family, no one could match her for beauty, scheming, ambition, and cunning. Catherine de Medici's story is one of decadence and wealth. Making powerful enemies and powerful friends, she held France together as the Wars of Religion tore Europe apart, and her successor hailed her as "one of France's greatest kings."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mini Reviews: M/M Romance Reading Challenge - Part 4

I'm only half way through my list for the M/M Romance Reading Challenge and must finish by August 31st, so I better hurry. I did manage to read two short pieces under the New-to-Me Author category. I've had this author on my list for a while and decided to give her shorts a try during this challenge. So, today I'll be featuring, Angela Benedetti.

In The Driver's Seat by Angela Benedetti

Brian Stokes is looking for a new bed mate after his latest bed-buddy leaves him for a permanent partner. Benedetti draws Brian as a good looking and arrogant male used to having his own way. He's not interested in serious relationships, but would like to have someone who at least knows his likes and dislikes. He knows it won't take him long to find someone new... but, the gym where he works has the same faces and bodies -- been there, done that.

Brian walks in the locker room and notices someone fresh and different. Val turns out to be an old acquaintance. He worked at the gym during summers as a teenager and Brian was a kind of mentor to him back then. Things have changed.

Val is now a grown up man with assets that won't quit and Brian wants him on the spot. He figures he can teach Val a thing or two between the sheets and is surprised when Val seems reluctant -- but a date is on. Brian is in for an unexpected, if ultimately, pleasant surprise. The question becomes; who will be giving the lesson and who will be receiving it? Who will give and who will take?

Benedetti did a terrific job with this short Torquere Sip. I enjoyed how she wrote Brian and Val's surprisingly hot and erotic encounter, as well as, the quick pacing and phrasing of the story. Brian's internal dialogue and personal ramblings became a personal favorite.

M/M Erotica, D/s: Hot B+
You can read an excerpt for In the Driver's Seat here.


Candy Courage by Angela Benedetti

Take an old gentleman who mixes magic into his yearly Halloween supply of home made peanut brittle. Stir in a single father who takes his boy trick-or-treating, and throw in a gorgeous co-worker who lives in the area. There you have the recipe for Candy Courage.

Our main character Glen Bellamy is a single father who recently moved to the neighborhood. He and his son Georgie are out trick-0r-treating when they come by Mr. Fiorentelli's old home. The peanut brittle Mr. Fiorentelli gives the kids smells wonderful, but it is not store bought, so Glen is not about to let Georgie eat it -- that doesn't mean he himself can't have it.

A couple of more blocks and they unexpectedly reach the home of Neal Sampson. He is Glen's hot and smart co-worker, and he has a bit of a lusty crush on him. To his own surprise, Glen flirts and aggressively makes a date with Neal for the following day. Will Glen continue to have the courage he needs to approach Neal once the magic wears off? Will his shyness allow it?

I found this short Torquere Halloween Sip by Ms. Benedetti to be a sweet, hot read. She captured a moment, the consequences and its possibilities quite well.

M/M Erotica: Quick, Enjoyable, Sweet B-
You can read an excerpt for Candy Courage here.

In conclusion, I enjoyed both stories by this new-to-me author. These were both short reads but I found them to be solid. I'm looking forward to reading longer books from Ms. Benedetti. You can visit her here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Touched by Light by Catherine Spangler

WARNING: You'll find some spoilers in this review.

Touched by Light is the third installment in Catherine Spangler's Atlantis based paranormal romance series. I liked the first two books in this series, Touched by Darkness (Book 1) and Touched by Fire (Book 2), they kept me interested enough to continue reading -- both of them were B to B- reads for me.

Spangler introduced us to a world based on an Atlantis that existed millions of years ago and was destroyed by evil Atlantians. The souls of the good Atlantians, or warriors are reincarnating into "Sentinels" and it takes place in contemporary times. The souls of the evil Atlantians or Belians, those who destroyed Atlantis, are also reincarnating and committing terrible crimes. The "Sanctioned" supervise Sentinels and are more powerful, older and not altogether human. Over them, are the "Highly Sanctioned" -- spirits or lights who don't reincarnate, at least not so far. Sentinels track down and capture the souls of the Belians who are actively committing crimes. Once they have the evil/corrupted soul, it's dispatched to Saturn where it is restricted to do penance until purified. 

Of course there's a catch, Sentinels cannot sense Belians unless they find a "Conductor." Usually a Conductor is from the opposite sex, and he/she can help the Sentinel find the Belians best by having a "sexual conduction"-- although not necessary, it's the best way. The reason for this? Sentinels are spiritual beings who can only see psychically through the "upper chakras." Belians are earth bound and use the "lower chakras." Conductors allow Sentinels to use those "lower chakras" and that is how they have visions to pin point the Belians. This is where lots of the fun can be found in these books, especially if you like the erotic mixed with the paranormal.

Touched by Light focuses on Julia Reynolds and Adam Masters. We were introduced to both these characters in previous books. We met Julia in Touched by Fire and we know some of her history. We know she was raped twelve years ago and as a result, and by choice, she has become a bitter, lonely woman. Her main focus are her career as a professor at the local University and making sure her sister Marla, who is also a Conductor, is safe and happy. She wants nothing to do with her psychic abilities, Sentinels or visions -- especially if Adam Masters is involved.

In the last book Adam, a Sanctioned, figured out that he and Julia are perfectly matched. Something that is unheard of as the Sanctioned are celibate and don't have mates or perform conductions -- that is something left to the Sentinels. Now, however, Adam needs Julia. One of his Sentinels is missing in San Antonio and there have been violent Belian activities in the area. He suspects that Matt, who lost his wife recently to a Belian attack, has fallen to darkness. The danger is unimaginable and unprecedented, and only someone very powerful can take down a Belian who is siphoning off the powers of a Sentinel.

Talking Julia into helping won't be an easy task for Adam. She just found out her rapist will be released from prison within a few days and memories of the horrible event drive her to loose control. Control has been Julia's long-term companion and loosing it does not a pretty sight make -- especially after too many drinks and a confrontation with Adam. After more than a few tiring confrontations and manipulations by Adam, Julia finally agrees to help and off they go.

I'm afraid I lost patience with Julia early in the book. I understood that because she was raped, she needed to resolve more than a few personal issues. However, in my opinion, Julia had a huge case of the nasties. One minute she was gloaming Adam in her mind and the next minute she was hitting him with her cane -- she limps due to the attack by the rapist. Her back and forth, yes/no, I want him/I hate him, went on and on throughout the whole book (almost to the end) to the point where it just frustrated me.

She was supposed to be a strong heroine, yet she allowed herself to be manipulated into almost everything. Adam manipulated her into helping him, he even manipulated her into an engagement-- not because she didn't want to help him or because she didn't have the hots for Adam, but because she would not admit that she wanted both. Julia acted as if she resented Adam's manipulations, yet she would not make the necessary decisions to stop them. She accepted them grudgingly and waited for the last minute when there were seemingly no other alternatives left open to her. One of the most annoying heroines I've encountered in a book in recent times--even with her terrible history, I couldn't make myself sympathize with her.

As a Sanctioned, Adam is super powerful. His responsibilities encompass all the Sentinels and Conductors in Texas. He is like a GPS unit who can feel every one of these people who are under his care. A super alpha, Adam is supposed to be cold, brilliant, ruthless and manipulative. He is some those things in this book. He really wasn't all that overly alpha or cold or ruthless, although he was plenty manipulative -- he at least showed warmth and I liked him for that. He attempted to show Julia some tenderness. I don't think it was his fault that she was unprepared to accept it.  Although, the whole idea of Adam being celibate all that time sounded like a really great set up for the book, it doesn't seem to have panned out. Their sexual encounters were okay, but personally I didn't find them all that erotic when compared to the other books.

Spangler's world also suffered in this book in my opinion. During the Touched by Fire, Julia was supposed to have these super-conductor powers and used them effectively. In this book she was less than effective, more like a left zero in that respect. Adam was also less than effective -- his powers just didn't hold or live up to expectations. 

As a Sanctioned, Adam is supposed to "feel" and "know" where every single one of his Sentinels is at every single moment-- yet when at different times, Matt surfaced from being possessed by the Belian (some intervals longer than others), Adam attempted to contact him by cell phone. Cell phone? What happened to his internal GPS system? He could tell where Julia was having lunch, but could not pin point Matt when he resurfaced for longer periods of time? Sorry, that just didn't make sense to me.

Another thing that did not make sense? The Sanctioned are supposed to be celibate and not/never paired with a Conductor. Throughout Touched by Light, we are told over and over again how rare this pairing between Adam and Julia is in their world. Yet, the reasoning behind it is never explained. There are no consequences for Adam either... I mean, I kept expecting for something to happen to Adam because of this pairing, or for there to be some sort of meaning behind it-- but nope, nothing.

There are a couple of secondary characters in this book that were well developed and worth a mention. I'm concentrating on Miriam, Julia's student. She turns out to be a psychic and a legitimate Gypsy. For me, Miriam was one of the most interesting characters in this book. Not only because her background and her abilities are totally different from those exhibited so far by the women in these stories, but she was a breath of fresh air compared to Julia. Her psychic abilities were strong and I found myself wanting to learn more about her. I loved her personality and her relationship with her father. Her background is a bit of a mystery and it just made me want to know more. This is her second appearance in the series and her development in this book was excellent.

As you can see, Touched by Light is definitely not my favorite book in this series. This was a tough review for me, especially since the book is by a favorite writer. I give this one a C-

You can visit the author here. You can read an excerpt for Touched by Light here

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson's seventh-grade year has been surprisingly quiet. Not a single monster has set foot on his New York prep-school campus. But when an innocent game of dodgeball among Percy and his classmates turns into a death match against an ugly gang of cannibal giants, things get... well, ugly. And the unexpected arrival of his friend Annabeth brings more bad news: the magical borders that protect Camp Half-Blood have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and unless a cure is found, the only safe haven for demigods will be destroyed.

In this fresh, funny, and wildly popular follow-up to The Lightning Thief. Percy and his friends must journey into the Sea of Monsters to save their camp. But first, Percy will discover a stunning new secret his family-one that makes him question whether being claimed as Poseidon's son is an honor or simply a cruel joke.
The Sea of Monsters is the second installment in this five book Young Adult adventure series. After reading the first book in the series, The Lightning Thief, I couldn't wait to find out what happened to Percy and his friends -- you can read my review for the first book at Impressions...

As you can see from the above description, the book picks up at the end of the school year when Percy and his friends are due to return to Camp Half-Blood for the summer where they need to continue with training. However, by the time Percy, Annabeth and their new friend Tyson make it there, they realize that the place is no longer the same. It's being besieged by evil, as the magic borders are not holding. Thalia, Zeus' dead daughter's pine tree has been poisoned and this poison is seeping into everything.

In the meantime, Percy is dealing with more than a few friend troubles. He is having horrible dreams about his friend Grover who at the end of the last book went on a quest seeking the god Pan. In his dreams, Percy sees him running from a monster, terrified and in danger. He knows he must go save Grover... but even Annabeth doesn't believe him. Percy also discovers a truth about his new friend Tyson that makes him feel angry, uncomfortable and guilty. These conflicted emotions and reactions put him at odds with himself and with his friend Annabeth and they argue constantly over Tyson. The camp is no longer the heaven he had been looking forward to all year.

If you are familiar with the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, you know where we are headed. Percy must go with Annabeth and Tyson through the Sea of Monsters to save his friend Grover and Camp Half-Blood. His quest is full of danger and all kinds of new monsters we would encounter in Greek mythology are introduced -- Cyclops, sirens, beautiful sea horses and more. At times, it's easy to recognize them immediately and other times it takes a little while to figure out who is who. It's a tough journey for Percy and his friends. They're not always sure who is evil and who is redeemable -- but the action is non-stop.

The overall core of the series continues and, of course, it's the reason for all these events. Western civilization must be saved and Olympus with it. The real enemy is well known by now--Kronos, father of the gods and king of the Titans, the most evil of them all is behind these events. In this second installment his evil plans begin to take shape. As a character, at this point, Kronos is a shadowy figure -- we meet him sparingly through dreams -- however, we do meet his evil underlings and through them, Annabeth and Chiron we learn his history of violence and cruelty.

As a hero, Percy is slowly learning the weight and seriousness of his responsibilities. His mentor and teacher Chiron, the centaur, tries to explain it to him:

"Humans don't exist on the same level as the immortals. They can't even be hurt by our weapons. But you, Percy--you are part god, part human. You live in both worlds. You can be harmed by both, and you can affect both. That's what makes heroes so special. You carry the hopes of humanity into the realm of the eternal. Monsters never die. They are reborn from the chaos and barbarism that is always bubbling underneath civilization, the very stuff that makes Kronos stronger. They must be defeated again and again, kept at bay. Heroes embody that struggle. You fight the battles humanity must win, every generation, in order to stay human..."

Percy is beginning to realize he might be the "key" to many of the events happening around him and he is just not sure he'll survive. Our friend Percy and his friends are brave and true but will they continue to make the right decisions? Heroes have free will and the gods cannot interfere. Riordan leaves this installment with a twist at the end that will make it even tougher for Percy and the gods to defend themselves.

As a sequel, The Sea of Monsters did not disappoint me, it is just as exciting as the first book. The wonderful world Riordan created continues to be grow and manages to seem both simple and complex. As with the whole world of Greek mythology, there is always a dual meaning or a lesson to be learned in Percy's world. In his world, the anger of a child feeling ignored by a parent takes a dangerous twist and being ashamed of a relative for his inadequacies turns into a painful lesson.

Choosing my favorite Chapter titles from this book was tough, but I finally settled for "We Hail the Taxi of Eternal Torment" and "I Have the Worst Family Reunion Ever." Through the whole adventure, excitement, the dangers and funny moments, what really wins the day on this one are loyalty, friendship and compassion.

I'm going on to read the 3rd book in the series, The Titan's Curse. I give this second installment another Solid B.

You can visit Rick Riordan and find out more about this series here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hilcia's Weekly Reads



This has been a long week for me. Lots of work, exhaustion and battling bad weather hasn't allowed for much.  I did manage to finish reading a few books, although I only managed to review a couple of them. No time, no energy or gray cells left-over. :)

Started my week by reading Just One of the Guys by Kirsten Higgins, contemporary romance, reviewed here. A mixed bag for me, enjoyed most of the book but not the romance. Continued by reading and also reviewed Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews, a short story I absolutely loved! Sci-fi/Futuristic romance, well written and developed, this short story really made my week. *g*

Touched by Light by Catherine Spangler, a paranormal romance from a favorite author was my next pick. A book that I've been looking forward to reading and one I would like to review for Musings later on this week. 

Finished reading A Bride in the Bargain by Deeane Gist, an inspirational historical romance set in the Washington Territory during the Civil War. We highlighted it in our June 2009 Releases post and it was one of my picks for the month. I don't usually read inspirational books, this is a first. It caught my attention because of the setting and the plot.

I love Seattle, Washington. It's one of my favorite places and this is set during the 1860's. Ms. Gist uses historical facts to weave this romance -- quite a few of the characters in the book are based on people who existed during those times and all the newspaper clippings in the book are also taken from archives. Joe Denton needs a bride to keep his land and Ana Ivey is destitute and an orphan from Granby, Massachussetts. She becomes one of the Mercer girls. A woman, who together with 299 other women, war widows and orphans went West to marry or work after signing contracts with Mr. Mercer. Joe thinks he paid $300.00 for a bride. Ana thinks she paid $50.00 to work as a cook to Joe and his crew of lumberjacks. They were both deceived by Mr. Mercer.

I think I really enjoyed the setting and how well the research was done in this book more than anything else. Joe and Ana were a nice couple and I really enjoyed most of their interactions while she was staying in his home. He is a nice, lonely man who loves his land above all, but who obviously needs Ana in more ways than one. She is a young woman, 19 years old, who lost her whole family and is full of guilt and regret. Ana is what I call a plucky girl that won't back down but who still needs to grow up.

I grew impatient towards the last quarter of the book with Ana and later when the author decided to throw more obstacles in their path. The last dramatic obstacle definitely felt contrived and unnecessary and it took away from my enjoyment of the book as a whole. 

Still reading Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. It's a fascinating book -- slow going but one that I can't seem to put away. Interesting characters, world, plot and writing style. I'd love to finish this book this weekend. 

Next week I'll be picking up whatever strikes my mood. 

Not too bad for me, although not the best. How was your reading week? Any good reads?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins

Being one of the guys isn't all it's cracked up to be...

So when journalist Chastity O'Neill returns to her hometown she decides it's time to start working on some of those feminine wiles. Two tiny problems: #1 - she's five-foot-eleven of solid girl power, and #2 - she's cursed with four alpha male older brothers.

While doing a story on local heroes, she meets a hunky doctor and things start to look up. Now there's only one problem: Trevor Meade, her first love and the one man she's never quite gotten over - although he seems to have gotten over her just fine.

Yet the more time she spends with Dr. Perfect, the better Trevor looks. But even with the in-your-face competition, the irresistible Trevor just can't seem to see Chastity as anything more than just one of the guys...

This week I decided to start by reading a contemporary romance that sounded right up my alley and I thought, why not? I'll start with something fun and easy. Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins was supposed to be a book with two of my favorite tropes: friends to lovers and a secret crush. Well, it did have both those tropes, but there were other factors involved. 

In first POV, the book is told from Chastity O'Neill's perspective. She's a journalist who just moved back home where her whole family lives-- her parents, four brothers, their wives and children. Her father, brothers and her "forever" love interest, Trevor, are all firemen or in the life-saving business. Chastity is attractive, but some consider her too tall and too athletic looking. She's insecure about her looks and looking for a permanent relationship -- she wants to get over the crush she's had on Trevor since the third grade.  

Chastity's insecurities and her search for that permanent relationship set up the book and some truly hilarious situations in the book. She has great wit and her snappy thoughts / comments / comeback remarks are a hoot! The relationship between Chastity and her brothers are beautifully developed and you can really feel the warmth between them. The brotherly/sisterly love and banter is great.  The parents are going through a divorce and that part of the story is quite heartbreaking -- at least it was for me. 

One of my problems with this book was Trevor, the hero. He was likable as a guy, thoughtful and more than a bit insecure. But as a hero, I'm not sure weather he was likable or not... he was a kind of shadowy figure in the book seen through Chastity's eyes and for most of it, it seemed as if he cared for her as a sister or a friend. I never felt the chemistry between them.  

I know this is in first POV and we're seeing it from her perspective. But usually, somehow, as readers we get the hint, even when the heroine doesn't, that the hero wants her.  As a result, because the first POV wasn't well defined, there seemed to be a disconnect in this story. The hero not only felt shadowy to me, but at times it felt as if he were a secondary character. 

My other problem? There's a triangle for a while when Chastity finds someone she commits to, Ryan the surgeon, and she makes some decisions that bothered me. Now, Ryan was pretty well developed and I thought he took Trevor's place in the book -- not in the romance but in development. I thought this relationship really showcased Chastity's desperation. I'll admit that it produced some very funny moments as well as truly bad judgment on her part. 

Things worked out well in the end for her. I just wish we had more scenes like the last one in the book when Trevor and Chastity actually connected. The excellent humor and the great family relationship kept me reading this book to the end. I give this one a C

Visit author here. Read excerpt here
  

Inspired by Writing

I'm reading again. A little.

Anyway, I just came to a passage in my current read (God is an Englishman) and it literally made me stop, put the book down, think, pick it back up and read the passage again - then one more time for good measure. I've always been inspired by writing, but sometimes I read books that become so monotonous that I forget just how great reading a well written book can be.
She wore successive states of mind like petticoats picked up and put on at random so that it was a matter of chance which one was innermost and which would show when she hitched her skirt.

The choice was regulated, of course, by mood, but the factors that dictated the mood were beyond her control, so that she was never in the least sure how she would regard the future when she woke up or how it would appear when she blew out her candle and lay watching the moonbeams on the ceiling of the little room over the porch that she had been told to call her own.
Something I noticed about this book are the long sentences broken up by many commas. I'm a comma over user myself. I sometimes use them so much that I end up with a paragraph that is one continual sentence. I always go back and break the L O N G sentence up into smaller ones, though, because it was always taught to me that long sentences were wrong. But reading this book has me thinking... Maybe it's okay. Because as long as there are commas involved it's not considered a run on, right?

If this post seems at all random to you it is because of the wine in the glass that I am currently nursing.

Back to reading.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews

Old hatreds die hard. Old love dies harder.

On Meli Galdes' home planet, the struggle for power is a bloody, full-contact sport-in business and on the battlefield. For years her lethal skills have been a valuable asset in advancing her family's interests. She's more than earned her right to retire, but her kinsmen have one last favor to ask.

Kill the man who ruined her life.

Celino Carvanna's razor-sharp business acumen-and skills with a blade-won him the freedom to do as he pleases. There's only one thing he can't seem to control-his reaction to the mysterious woman who tantalizes his senses. Her eyes alone set his blood simmering, stirring ridiculous adolescent fantasies about breasts and honey. With a few words she dissects his soul. Who is she? And how does she slide so easily under his well-guarded skin?

It's almost too easy to draw Celino within the kill zone. Meli plans to revel in him in. Drink him in. Wring every drop of pleasure out of every moment.

And when she's sure he belongs to her, she will finally repay a decade's worth of pain-in a single, brutal dose of reality.
A Romantic Sci-Fi Futuristic short story by a favorite writer, Ilona Andrews -- how could I pass it up? I couldn't, of course. Silent Blade is not part of the Kate Daniels books or the upcoming series. Instead with this short story, Andrews gifts us with a complete romance set in a futuristic world--sharp, dangerous and sexy, we get more than just a glimpse of the world our characters inhabit.

Meli Galdes is biologically enhanced and has special abilities inherited through her bloodline. She is an oddity and perfect for her role as an assassin for her kinsmen. But Meli is tired of killing and all she wants to do is finish that last job and retire to her home and garden. Celino Carvanna's enhancements are different from Meli's but just as deadly. He is more than just a brilliant businessman. Celino is also the head of his family -- a super alpha, arrogant and unscrupulous man who is used to getting what he wants and whose fate has led him straight to Meli.

I loved Meli's character. In Silent Blade, Andrews gives us a heroine that is both a dangerous assassin and a vulnerable woman. Meli is the type of heroine I love in any romance -- a woman who is strong enough to love without becoming a doormat to the alpha hero or so strong that she makes him look like a wimp. Celino is an arrogant and ruthless alpha hero who is about to get his comeuppance, but he is also the type of man I like -- one who knows when to be aggressive and when to back off.

The world in which Meli and Celino live is developed so that we understand the reasons for their actions and reactions. We see both of them in action within their respective worlds -- Meli as an assassin and Celino as the ruthless businessman he is -- and learn their personal histories, but we are definitely not short changed when it comes to the romance or their intimate encounters. 

This is a short story and I don't want to give away too much or take away from your enjoyment. I have no complaints about this read, except to say I enjoyed it thoroughly and wanted more. I give this one an A

Visit the author here. Read an excerpt here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Brie's Weekly Reads

I normally rotate between more than a few books, but I've hit a bit of a slump reading wise and fell into a rut where nothing I picked up grabbed me. Because of this I wasn't going to put up a Weekly Reads post, but I figured, what the heck, and decided to share the two books I was able to stick with.

I finished Rewriting Monday by Jodi Thomas. It is the story of Pepper Malone, a big city journalist who ends up in small town Bailee Texas after being chased out of Chicago due to a story she wrote. Pepper takes a job at the local newspaper and strikes up a friendship with her boss, Mike McCulloch, that eventually leads to attraction and romance. The story is told in multiple point of views. There is the main one of Pepper's first person POV, and then it alternates to a few third person perspectives from Mike, Lorie who is the towns bakery owner as well a Pepper's new-found friend, and Lorie's ex husband, Heath. The newspaper has been experiencing some prank phone calls and when Pepper arrives the calls get worse and the paper gets vandalized. Mike and Pepper's relationship deepens through coming together for the common cause of figuring out who is behind the threats to the paper and its employees.

This book was a comfort read for me, one I could just relax and fall into. I was actually surprised that I was taken by surprise by who the perpetrator was. I'm usually good at figuring out mysteries, but I guess I wasn't doing much thinking while reading this book, just simply enjoying it. Rewriting Monday was a good book to pass the time with. I give it a B+ and look forward to reading Twisted Creek.

The second book that occupied my time is Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brian Sanderson, the first in the Mistborn Trilogy. I've been off and on with this book for months now but I think I've finally gotten into it enough that I'll be able to finish it soon. The problems I had with the story were that the first 100+ pages are filled with a lot of dialogue and not much action, also that many characters are introduced within that time span. I was very overwhelmed by all of this. Now that the characters have been established and the story has hit its stride, I'm thinking that I will enjoy this book immensely.

Hopefully, I'll be able to come out of my self proclaimed reading slump and read more this week, so that come Saturday I will have more to share. :)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Hilcia's Weekly Reads



I'm a happy camper this week. Yes, I'm reading again! Not as much as I would like to, but hey... I know I'm greedy when it comes to books. Some of the reads I had on my list were pushed back due to new releases I just HAD to read right away or other reads that came along. I do that a lot, but I'll get back to them this coming week. You wouldn't think with my list of books I would start my week by re-reading, right? But that's exactly what I did. *g*

I started by skimming the historical romance Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale and couldn't help myself -- had to continue reading. Did I enjoy it? You bet. Talk about an angst-riddled plot with great characters that you love or just love to hate! The story of Christian, a brilliant Duke who after suffering a stroke is unable to communicate verbally -- his hateful family ships him off to an asylum where he meets Maddy, a Quaker and daughter of a mathematician whom he knew before the stroke, and our tale really begins. 

I thought Kinsale did an amazing job of keeping her characters true to themselves and to that period in time. I loved everything about the story, even the hero's hated family members. I liked the way Kinsale gave the heroine enough character that even after falling in love, betraying her religious beliefs was a conflict for her. I thought it made their coming together tougher but sweeter in the end. And Christian? He deserved his fortune, his Maddygirl and anything else he wanted. This re-read was worth it for me.

Continued my week by reading Dial Emmy for Murder by Eileen Davidson, a soap opera mystery. I reviewed this book here, so I won't repeat my impressions of it, except to say that I'm glad I read it this week as it was a fun, light read. I really needed it and it provided a wonderful break from the other books on my list.

Ashes of Midnight by Lara Adrian was released and I wanted to read it immediately. I loved Veil of Midnight and I was very curious about Reichen's character. Adrian's paranormal series follows the Breed vampires and their Breedmates. At this point in the series, the Order -- a small group of warrior vampires -- is fighting more than just the bloodthirsty Rogue vampires. Dragos, an evil vampire, has resurrected one of the Ancients and is creating
a new breed of super strong Gen One vampires. In this book, Adrian focuses on Andres Reichen and Claire as the main romantic couple, plus the ongoing fight against Dragos continues. 

I was quite disappointed with Ashes of Midnight as a whole. I found the romance to be nice, but quite predictable. Although I liked Andres Reichen's character and understood him and his motivations, I didn't connect with the Claire, the heroine. I found her character to be contradictory. I also had a few questions about the world building. I truly couldn't understand why Claire had no clue as to her husband's, Roth, true nature. Shouldn't she be able to feel his reactions through their blood bond? How could she not have at least an idea of who this man was?  

A few unanswered questions that bothered me... Definitely a case of not connecting with the heroine and finding plot holes in the world building. Not my favorite book in the series, but as I said before, this series has not been a consistent one for me. 

Finished the week the way I started it, by reading a historical romance about a hero with a disability, this time it was The Madness of Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley. Brie reviewed this book for Musings, she summarized it beautifully, and so I'm just going to give you my impressions today. 

I had a problem with this book before I read it. I became curious as soon as I heard about it a while back. See, I wasn't sure the premise would work. I was told it involved a hero with Asperger Syndrome and my immediate question was, how is Ashley going to make someone who can't empathize with others (in this case the heroine) a hero in a "Romance" novel? Hmmm....

Well my friends, what can I say? By the time I finished the book, I could have cared less about the premise. I just wanted Ian and his Beth to get their happy ending. I became wrapped up in the "romance"-- the romance I thought I wasn't going to buy--bought it hook, line and sinker. Where there contradictions? There would have been if the name of the disease was mentioned in the book, but it wasn't -- Ashley does use the symptoms -- and frankly it became a mute question for me. I enjoyed the book for what it is, a beautiful romance with a gorgeous hero and his wonderful woman.
 
There were a few moments of frustration for me while reading the mystery and with the hateful Detective Fellows. The man is not the most likable of characters, but then I don't think he was meant to be. Loved the MacKenzie brothers -- yes, even Hart -- and I'll be right there waiting to read their happily ever afters.

I read two books for the M/M Romance Reading Challenge. I better hurry I only have a couple of months to finish my list. I'll be reviewing those next week, so I'll leave my comments for later.

What am I reading? I have three books going at the moment. Continuing with Bad to the Bone by Jeri Smith-Ready, although it has been placed on hold for a few days. 

Started Touched by Light by Catherine Spangler, third on her Atlantis mythology based paranormal series. I read the first two, Touched by Fire and Touched by Darkness and liked them both. I became a Catherine Spangler fan by reading her Sci-Fi/Romance "Shielder" series, one of my favorites to date. You know this one will be devoured.  

And the third book I started is Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, a Fantasy book that has been gracing my TBR pile for a while and one I've really been looking forward to reading. I have The City and The City, Mieville's latest release, but really want to read Perdido first.

That's it for me, a very productive reading week. How was yours? Any good ones? 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Simple Wishes by Lisa Dale

GOING HOME IS THE LONGEST JOURNEY OF ALL...

Adele couldn't wait to put her lonely childhood and hometown behind her. Amid the bright lights and hustle and bustle of New York, she built a life for herself--until one terrible mistake brought it crashing down. Now Adele is running again, this time to a cottage she inherited from her mother in rural Pennsylvania. And she's about to realize that a small town has more to offer than she ever dreamed.

An Artist and woodworker, Jay Westvelt knows a thing or two about living in the country. Adele is intrigued by her mysterious and sexy green-eyed neighbor, a man who took care of her house and soon cares deeply for her. But even as Adele's heart begins to soften toward him, secrets from her mother's past threaten to send her fleeing back to the city. Can Jay convince her to stay with him?

Only if she can learn an important truth: that happiness begins with SIMPLE WISHES.

I've been in the mood for contemporary romances lately and decided to search for one from an author unknown to me. I do this every so often and call them my random picks. If I get lucky, I find a new author whose work I'll follow. I was unaware Simple Wishes is Lisa Dale's first contemporary romance when the above description caught my attention. As it turns out this book is about much more than the romance -- although the romance is there, I didn't find it to be the focal point of the story.

Adele is returning to her mother's old cottage in Notch Lane. She never planned to return after Marge, her mother, died years before. The place held too many bitter memories of her lonely childhood and their estranged relationship. Now, she has no choice but to use it as temporary living space to regroup while searching for employment in New York City.

Getting back to the City as fast as possible, that's what Adele plans to do. She doesn't want to deal with old memories, hurts and guilts. She left home at age seventeen and never saw or spoke to her mother again. Theirs was a complex and dysfunctional relationship leaving Adele with conflicting emotions that affect her even as an adult. Returning to Notch Lane might force her to confront emotions she has ignored for too long. Dale does an excellent job of portraying both Adele's ambivalent feelings, as well as her anger and resentment towards Marge--an anger that is not allowing her to move forward with her life.

It is the leftover anger and resentment that Adele feels for her dead mother and the unresolved issues in their relationship that drive this story. Adele must come to terms with her emotions and confront her past in order to have a future. By now, she has become adept at running away when things get uncomfortable--the type of person who is most comfortable with superficial relationships, be they sexual or platonic, Adele cultivates neither. Intimacy is foreign to her.

The city, and all the people in it, were unpredictable, disposable on some level. Subject to change. So did she like it that way? It wasn't really a matter of like or dislike. She felt she belonged in the city, belonged to the city.

But Notch Lane is not New York City and Adele's life is about to change. Living in an isolated and rural area in the mountains, she has no choice but to meet and interact with her immediate neighbors. Soon she finds herself getting involved with them more than she likes or even appreciates.

Beginnings happen in moments, Adele thought to herself. Not hours, not days, not months. Life breaks down into scenes, sequences, and you hold them to you, examining each one by one, like picking through a handful of pearls.

When Adele meets Jay Westvelt, he is not what she expects he is more. Jay is a very private person and a brilliant artist. A man who has made very clear choices and knows what he wants from life -- the opposite of Adele. In many ways, Jay understands Adele better than she understands herself. Dale develops their personal relationship and eventual romantic involvement slowly. These two people get to know each other and their initial dislike grows into friendship, attraction and eventually into passion and love. Their coming together is not an easy or comfortable one. Adele's many issues, including her intimacy problems and inadequacies, make the conflict a difficult one to resolve.

Adele's closest neighbors in Notch Lane, Pat, Beatrice and their teenage granddaughter, Kayleigh, are very important to the story. Beatrice, a Korean born lady, becomes more than a friend to Adele. It is through Beatrice, who was a friend to Marge that Adele works through her resentment and anger towards her dead mother. It is with Beatrice Adele learns the intimacy and boundaries of friendship.

Adele is a thirty-one year old woman with adult feelings, but emotionally she seems to regress at times, almost as if she were stuck in an adolescent time warp. The relationship that she develops with Kayleigh and Kayleigh's own youthful struggles help Adele work through some of those issues. You will find this is the type of contemporary where secondary characters are as much a part of the plot as the main characters. In Simple Wishes they have as much to offer, as do Adele and Jay.

It's important to point out that although I was initially attracted to Simple Wishes by the romance, I was actually pulled in to the story first by the writing, and then by the characters. Dale writes more than a few beautiful passages in this book and although I did find some inconsistencies in the point of view--sometimes in the third person, sometimes in the first--it's always presented from Adele's perspective. The story itself is character driven and centers more on Adele and her personal struggles than on the romance, although the romance itself becomes part of those struggles and the resolution is sweet and worth the wait.

Development is extremely well done for both the main and secondary characters. Adele is explored to the fullest and there are few if any questions left unanswered about her by the time we reach the end. Beatrice and Kayleigh's characters are so well developed and are so key to this story that at times they become central--particularly Beatrice. Adele and Beatrice's relationship almost overshadows Jay and Adele's; it was that deep and meaningful. Adele's struggles were frustrating at times, but her growth, although slow, was palpable and well done. On many levels, a story about love and forgiveness.

Since this book was a random pick--will I look for Lisa Dale's next release? Yes. I give this one a B-

Visit Lisa Dale here. Read an excerpt for Simple Wishes here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June 2009 Releases

It's the first of June, and that means a whole month of new releases. Hilcia and I have come up with a list of upcoming releases that we are most looking forward to. I'm in the mood for Dark Fantasy so Green by Jay Lake and Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton tops my list along with Street Magic by Caitlin Kitteredge.

Heading up Hils list are some radically different books, The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist, and unable to pass up a good cowboy tumble, she chose Tied Up, Tied Down(Rough Riders) by Loralei James. Check out more June releases below.

6/1/09 Tied Up, Tied Down (Rough Riders) by Loralei James
6/1/09 State Secrets (Famous Firsts) by Linda Lael Miller
6/1/09 The Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist
In 1860s Seattle, redwoods were plentiful but women scarce. Yet a man with a wife could secure 640 acres of timberland for free. 
 


Joe Denton doesn't have a wife, though. His died before she could follow him to Seattle and now the local judge is threatening to take away his claim. In desperation, he buys himself a Mercer bride--one of the eastern widows and orphans brought to the Territory by entrepreneur Asa Mercer. 



Anna Ivey's journey west with Mercer is an escape from the aftermath of the Civil War. She signed on to become a cook--not a bride. When she's handed over to Denton, her stubborn refusal to wed jeopardizes his land. With only a few months before he loses all he holds dear, can he convince this provoking, but beguiling, easterner to become his lawfully wedded wife?
6/2/09 Skin Trade (Anita Blake, Book 17) by Laurel K. Hamilton
6/2/09 Street Magic (Black London Novels) by Caitlin Kitteredge
The first in the Black London series, this dark tale takes Kittredge's supernatural shadows to the next level. At 16, Pete Caldecott witnessed the apparent death of punk rocker Jack Winter after he raised an ancient spirit. Twelve years later, Det. Insp. Caldecott has followed in her dead father's footsteps at Scotland Yard. She follows a tip about a missing child and finds Jack, now a heroin junkie claiming intimate knowledge of a parallel realm called the Black. As Jack detoxes and more children disappear, he joins Pete's quest to find them, teaching her to use hexes and spells as well as her physical abilities in the fight against a rising dark power.
6/2/09 Carpe Corpus (Morganvile Vamps, Book 6) by Rachel Caine
6/2/09 Demons Not Included: A Night Tracker Novel by Cheyenne McCray
6/2/09 Sweet Persuasion by Maya Banks
6/2/09 Atlantis Unleashed (Warriors of Poseidon, Book Three) by Alyssa Day
6/2/09 Comanche Heart by Catherine Anderson
6/2/09 Red Kiss (Gods of Midnight, Book 2) by Deidre Knight
6/9/09 Green by Jay Lake
She was born in poverty, in a dusty village under the equatorial sun. She does not remember her mother, she does not remember her own name—her earliest clear memory is of the day her father sold her to the tall pale man. In the Court of the Pomegranate Tree, where she was taught the ways of a courtesan…and the skills of an assassin…she was named Emerald, the precious jewel of the Undying Duke’s collection of beauties.

She calls herself Green.

The world she inhabits is one of political power and magic, where Gods meddle in the affairs of mortals. At the center of it is the immortal Duke’s city of Copper Downs, which controls all the trade on the Storm Sea. Green has made many enemies, and some secret friends, and she has become a very dangerous woman indeed.
6/12/09 Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton
An ice age strikes a chain of islands, and thousands come to seek sanctuary at the gates of Villjamur: a city of ancient spires and bridges, a place where banshees wail the deceased, cultists use forgotten technology for their own gain and where, further out, the dead have been seen walking across the tundra.When the Emperor commits suicide, his elder daughter, Rika, is brought home to lead the Jamur Empire, but the sinister Chancellor plans to get rid of her and claim the throne for himself. Meanwhile a senior investigator in the city inquisition must solve the high-profile and savage murder of a city politician, whilst battling evils within his own life, and a handsome and serial womanizer manipulates his way into the imperial residence with a hidden agenda. When reports are received that tens of thousands of citizens are dying in a bizarre genocide on the northern islands of the Empire, members of the elite Night Guard are sent to investigate. It seems that, in this land under a red sun, the long winter is bringing more than just snow.
6/15/09 The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns by Elizabeth Leiknes
6/16/09 A Rogue of my Own by Johanna Lindsey
6/16/09 Knockout: An FBI Thriller by Catherine Coulter
6/16/09 The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
“The whole of Barcelona stretched out at my feet and I wanted to believe that, when I opened those windows, its streets would whisper stories to me, secrets I could capture on paper and narrate to whomever cared to listen...”

In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man, David Martín, makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city’s underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house lie photographs and letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner.

Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Close to despair, David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book unlike anything that has ever existed--a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, and perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realizes that there is a connection between his haunting book and the shadows that surround his home.
6/23/09 Wed Him Before You Bed Him (School of Heiresses) by Sabrina Jeffries
6/23/09 Dark Night: A Novel (Trouble Shooters) by Suzanne Brockman
6/23/09 Real Men Last All Night (Anthology) Lori Foster, Lora Leigh, Cheyenne McCray, Heidi Betts
6/23/09 Finger Lickin Fifteen (Stephanie Plum) by Janet Evanovich
6/23/09 Taken By Sin by Jaci Burton
6/24/09 Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
6/30/09 Rapture by Jacquelyn Frank

Monday, June 1, 2009

Dial Emmy for Murder by Eileen Davidson

Dial Emmy for Murder is a soap opera murder mystery by the author of Death in Daytime.  A soap opera star herself, Eileen Davidson is best known for Emmy-nominated roles on The Young and the Restless and Days of our Lives

I did not read Death in Daytime, so it was with a blank slate and absolutely no expectations that I began reading Dial Emmy for Murder. I knew this was a mystery set in the wonderfully dramatic world of soap operas and it sounded like too much fun to pass up -- especially since the writer herself is a well-known soap opera actress. I was expecting excellent details on that front and that's exactly what I found -- what I was not expecting was the humor or how much I would enjoy Alex's voice. The humor and the fast, flowing dialogue are what caught my attention from Chapter 1. 

Dial Emmy for Murder is a murder mystery with Detective Frank Jakes as the investigator, but our real heroine is Alexis Peters. A soap opera star with a Nancy Drew complex, Alex finds more dead bodies than she shoots scenes and nothing deters her when she decides to go after that next clue.  

In fact, we meet Alexis Peters when she arrives at the Daytime Emmys where she is about to present an award with Jackson Masters, a hunky co-star, who is running late. But is he? Jackson's dramatic entrance is an attention getter and fits right in with the surroundings -- a grisly, if darkly humorous, start to this whodunit. 

Alexis is an Emmy winner soap opera star--but not a diva, please--she left "The Yearling Tide" after being accused of killing one of the writers and now works for "The Bare and the Brazen" where she happily plays dual roles.  Alex met gorgeous Detective Jakes during that whole "Yearling" debacle (Death in Daytime)-- they worked together on that case and she's more than a little attracted to him.  But poor Alex has more than a few problems -- she has a long-time boyfriend, Paul Silas, plus ex-husband Randy the creep who is threatening to make an appearance after years in exile.  Her plate is full and getting fuller by the minute; soon a killer will make it overflow.

Alex is nothing if not persistent in her sleuthing and it doesn't seem to be beneath Jakes to use the situation to gain Alex's attention. The man is smitten! He is so smitten that he places himself in a precarious position at work and with his very strange partner. He and Alex click well as partners in the mystery and as a romantic couple. I was rooting for sweet, hot Jakes all the way.

Between her very demanding job, a murder investigation she can't stay away from, personal decisions she must make and a budding romance, Alex hardly has a minute to rest or take a sip from a martini. Except, of course, when she's visiting her best friend George and his partner Wayne -- these two characters had some of the best lines and became my favorite secondary characters. Their conversations were full of wit and comfortable best friend banter. I ended the book wanting more George and Wayne, never mind a martini.

There is a large cast of peripheral characters in the story, however when it comes to secondary characters there are only a few. These characters make brief appearances, in addition to George and Wayne, we meet: Jakes' reluctant partner, Davis; Connie the ever-disheveled manager who is always looking to pimp Alex another gig; Alex's wise mother, Mrs. Peterson and her sweet, young daughter Sarah.  Even though their appearances were few and far in between, I gathered definite impressions of individual personalities and characteristics through their interactions with Alex, as well as from her internal dialogue. The story definitely centers on Alexis, Jakes, the developing romantic relationship and mystery solving, but these secondary characters are all an integral part of it as well.

There was one very predictable moment and one of those pesky contradictory details that some of us always seem to catch when reading mysteries. Neither was enough to deter from my enjoyment nor did they take me away from the story. The climax was fast paced, exciting, and humorous. Best of all there was a bit of a twist I did not expect; those are always the best.

I found Dial Emmy for Murder to be a fun, fast paced murder mystery with well placed humor and some very dramatic moments--most appropriate for this book. The writing flowed and the details on the entertainment industry were excellent--they were weaved into and became part of the events beautifully without overwhelming the story. I enjoyed every minute of this book and was a bit sorry when it ended. 

It seems as if Alex and Jake will continue their adventures; the next one begins at the Playboy Mansion and I will be following it. I'm giving this one an A-

Dial Emmy for Murder releases June 2nd. Visit Eileen Davidson here. Read an excerpt here.