Saturday, October 30, 2010

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis

Why I read it:  I discovered Jill Shalvis a few years ago and she has become an autobuy for me - especially her full length novels.

What it's about:  Maddie Moore is heading to the small seaside town of Lucky Harbor in Washington State, where she has been left a one third share in a the Lucky Harbor Resort by her recently deceased mother.  She has 2 half sisters (all different fathers - her mother was a bit of a free spirit) that she'd like to connect with.  She's lost her job and she's recently ended a relationship with a scumbag who had control issues and hit her so she's sworn off men.  Arriving in Lucky Harbor, the "resort" is a virtual ruin, there's no money and the sisters don't get along all that well.  Plus, she nearly runs a very hot biker off the road - so she's off to a good start.  Can she find a home, family and love in Lucky Harbor?

What worked for me:  I really liked this book.  Maddie was trying hard to regain her confidence and stand her ground and she was very likeable in the process.  But what made the book was Jackson Cullen III (Jax) - *le sigh*.  He was one amazing hero - gorgeous, sexy and sweet.  (In fact, there are at least 3 hot guys in Lucky Harbor - luckily there are 3 sisters so there's no prizes for guessing what's going to happen - book 2 in the series comes out in April next year - but don't worry, there's not much sequel bait.)  Jax and Maddie have instant chemistry but of course, as Maddie has sworn off men, she's reluctant to start something.  Also, she's busy trying to refinance the resort to fix it up - her sisters want to sell it but she wants to stay and make the resort a success - so she doesn't know how long she's going to be around.  Plus, Maddie is understandably skittish about a big male getting close to her - Jax picks up on it very quickly and it was very sigh-worthy how protective he felt of her and how he was certain it wasn't Maddie's fault (of course) and how he wanted a few minutes alone in an alley with the scumbag ex to teach him a lesson.  Jax is very gentle (even though he's big and muscular) and would never hit a woman.  Even when Maddie believes that, it takes a while for her body to stop the conditioned flinch from a sudden movement near her face and I liked that Jax was patient with this.  Jax has some secrets too - related to his profession as a lawyer. He left the rat race a few years before the story begins because he didn't like who he was there and come home to Lucky Harbor to kick back, help in his friend's bar and  do some very fine carpentry work and renovations  but he also does occasional legal work for locals who need things.  And he's bound by privilege so there's things he knows but he's legally bound not to reveal to Maddie much as he wants to (cue mysterious music).  The plot isn't particularly ground breaking or new but the characters are so darn likeable and I really didn't mind.  The sisters and Jax (especially Jax!) were so well drawn that it was a pleasure to spend time with them. 

I liked the humour (which is typical of Ms. Shalvis' writing style and one of her many attractions for me) -
The sun was so bright it hurt her eyes and head, and also her teeth, which made no sense.
"Hangovers are a bitch" Jax said and dropped his sunglasses onto her nose. [isn't he sweet??]
I also liked the sexual tension which starts almost immediately and only builds -
Maddie was behind him, working really hard at not looking at his butt.

And failing spectacularly.

So when he unexpectedly twisted around, holding out his hand for the clipboard she was now holding, he caught her staring at him.

"I, um - You have a streak of dirt," she said.

"A streak of dirt."
"Yes." She pointed to his left perfectly muscled butt cheek.  "There."
He was quiet for a single, stunned beat.  She couldn't blame him, given that there were both covered in dirt from the filthy attic.  "Thanks," he finally said. "It's important to know where the dirt streaks are."
"It is," she agreed, nodding like a bobble head.  "Probably you should stain-stick it right away. I have some in my purse."
"Are you offering to rub it on my ass?"  She felt the heat flood her face and he grinned. "You're a paradox, Maddie Moore.  I like that about you."

"Is that because I said nothing was happening between us, and then I..."

"...Wanted to touch my ass". He finished for her.  "You can, by the way.  Anytime."
And really, that right there, is why I liked this book so much.

What didn't work for me: There wasn't anything that particularly bothered me about the book.  Sure, there wasn't anything earth-shatteringly new in the plot and the mystery wasn't much of a mystery (still, I won't give it away here *grins*) but really, the characters were what made the story work.  In a less skilled author's hands, it would have been meh, but Jill Shalvis writes good character and she's especially good with the male POV so it worked.

What else:  Jax was an excellent hero and this was a really good, funny, sexy, contemporary romance.  And possibly my favourite Jill Shalvis so far. I'll definitely be picking up book 2 but, I'm probably looking forward to Chloe's book (3) more.

Grade:  B+

Monday, October 11, 2010

September Reads

I've been slack and haven't posted in ages.  In my own defence, last week I was sick - but before that, I was just busy.  I had fully intended to post a review of Suzanne Brockmann's Infamous last month as well as my "September Reads" post but I just didn't get to it.  I'm hoping I'll find some time for it this month because it's good enough to deserve its own review.

I did have a busy reading and listening month so all is not lost.

On paper/ebook:

Infamous by Suzanne Brockmann - A-.  Isn't the cover pretty?  It still catches my eye on the shelf.  You gotta love a mysterious sexy cowboy!!  I really loved this book.  Sure, there were a couple of things that bothered me - I felt the author spent a bit of time on the soap box for gay rights and anti-smoking - not that there's anything wrong with either of those things - just that it kind of clanged within the book - like a wrong note striking during a piano performance.   However, I was able to put that aside, partly because it was mostly toward the beginning of the book and partly because the rest of the book was just that good.  I've missed Suzanne Brockmann - I always enjoy her writing and her stand alone contemporaries are gold for me.  My favourite is still Hearthrob (which I am hoping to revisit on audio in October) but this one is right up there.    AJ was lovely.  True hero material and I had a soft spot for Jamie too.  Not a perfect book but boy howdy - pretty darn good.
His Penniless Beauty by Julia James - C-/DNF (I got 136/142 pages in before I quit).  This one just didn't do it for me.  It was just "meh".  I found myself skimming almost from the start and I couldn't even bring myself to skim to the end.  I didn't care about the characters enough.  This one had good reviews from other sites but I just couldn't get into it.  Sorry.
The Purchased Wife by Michelle Reid - DNF.  This was a true DNF. It would have been a wallbanger except it was electronic.  I picked it up after reading raves about this author's work on Dear Author - Jane is a big fan.  Maybe I picked the wrong book to start (I have 2 others on my reader which I haven't been brave enough to read so far) but this "alpha hero" took a wrong turn RIGHT AT THE START OF THE BOOK into asshatville and I couldn't see him redeeming himself.  Apparently there is world class grovel at the end of the book but I didn't want to read it.  The heroine is in hospital after a car accident and our hero comes in and leans over her and threatens her ("I'll hurt you") with physical violence if she doesn't do (something which I now can't recall and don't care enough to look up quite frankly). That was the last of a number of straws and I shut it down.  Not sexy or heroic.  Just yuk.  Not my kind of hero.  Others have disagreed though, so YMMV.
Chasing Smoke by KA Mitchell - B+.  Having had a couple of disappointing HP experiences, I decided to try a new-to-me title from a trusted m/m author, KA Mitchell.  As usual she didn't disappoint.
Regularly Scheduled Life by KA Mitchell - A.  I love an angsty read and this m/m romance had it in spades.  It was also one where with start off with a well established couple which was a nice change.  One of the guys is injured in a school shooting and it is the story of what happens to their relationship in the aftermath.  I really cared about Sean and Kyle and I'm happy to see that there is a book (Not Knowing Jack) featuring Tony and Jack (friends of Sean and Kyle) coming out in December so I can catch up with the boys again soon. Highly recommended.
Kindred in Death and Fantasy in Death by JD Robb - both B+.  I really like the in Death series.  I know some people complain that some books are too procedural and not enough with the romance and others have been concerned with actions Eve has taken in previous books which they think were not in character from a moral perspective.  Me?  I just like them.  I haven't had nearly enough of Eve and Roarke yet.  While I like the books better which have more of their relationship, both of these books sucked me in easily enough.  There is something special this author does to make me care about the characters who are horribly murdered at the beginning - in only a few pages, I've connected enough that I'm really invested in the outcome.
The Darkest Hour by Maya Banks - C+.  I was a bit disappointed in this one.  I agree with the AAR reviewer - I think it tried to be too much for too many.  I had such high hopes too.  Okay, but not great. I did have some time for the cover though! :)   I do generally like this author though, so I will pick up the next one in the series for sure.
Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas - A.  I really liked it.  I read Blue Eyed Devil first (won it from the Book Binge - thx ladies!) and then wanted more so I read Sugar Daddy (not as much of a success for me - too light on the romance too much on the women's fiction for my tastes) but I was back to a winner with Jack's story.  Does anyone know if Ms. Kleypas will write one for Joe?  I want.
Take No Prisoners and Whisper No Lies by Cindy Gerard - both C+.  Both are Black Ops Inc stories. A bit better than okay, but just a bit... thin, I think.  Not enough character, not enough romance - RS-Lite.  I enjoyed the EDEN books better.  Still I have the next one on my TBR so I will read it (one of these days).
Naughty Neighbours by Cara North - C+.  Very short (44 pages) novella which had an interesting premise but took a turn to WTF-town towards the end that had my scratching my head.
Willing Victim by Cara McKenna - B-.  I liked this one - I picked it up after Jane from DA recommended it - for my romance soul I would have liked a little more as it ended a bit abruptly.  Somewhat surprisingly, I quite liked Flynn.
Friday Night Bites by Chloe Neill - B-. Not quite as engaging as I found book 1 of the series, but still good.
But, Twice Bitten - B+ - sigh!  Ethan and Merit!  Yes!   I am soooo looking forward to the next installment and have pre-ordered it from The Book Depository.  Sadly I still have to wait until like NEXT MAY!!
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs - A.  I'm an official Mercy Thompson convert.  I think it was the Ethan and Merit that had me picking up this one off my TBR pile.  I had been a bit nervous about it - was it going to be enough in the romance department for me?  I'm so glad I did though.  I loved it!  I immediately went and ordered the other books in the series (which have STILL not arrived after 2 WHOLE WEEKS!!! grr) and then went back and re-read Alpha and Omega and Cry Wolf (both A) because I just couldn't bear to leave Mercy's world.  Then, I read Hunting Ground - another A - which I had had for some time too.  After that, I was forced to go to the library and borrow the next few Mercy books - but more about that next month - Hunting Ground brings me to the end of reading in September.

So, that's like 19 books - while some of them were novellas, that's a pretty good effort for the month I think. Plus:

On audio:
 I continued my JD Robb glom with Rapture in Death, Holiday in Death, Vengeance in Death and Midnight in Death - all B+  Susan Eriksen is a great narrator and even though she's a girl and I'm not into girls, there's something about they way she does Roarke's voice that gives me the shivers.... is that weird? :)  I have all of the in Death books on audio now so I'll make my way through them as takes my fancy.  Lucky me.
Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt - DNF.  I think this was me though. I think I wasn't in the mood for a historical listen so I put it aside and moved on.  I do intend to get back to it at some stage  when I'm feeling the regency vibe - I think I'm likely to enjoy it then.  So, not really a true DNF.  More like a TTFN.
Blue Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas narrated by Renee Raudman - A.  I loved it when I read it and I loved it when I listened.  I do like when Hardy rumbled that there's not gonna be enough left of scumbag Nick to fill a matchbox.   Excellent narration.  Excellent story.
The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockman narrated by William Dufries (I may have spelled his name incorrectly).  I've recently been gifted with loads of audiobooks I hadn't been able to get my hands on before, including most of the Troubleshooters series.  I enjoyed the book but I have to say it was even better on audio.  A real winner - A.