Monday, January 31, 2011

January Reads

On paper/ebook

Marry Me by Jo Goodman - B-.  This is a follow up to Never Love a Lawman, featuring new Reidsville doctor Cole Monroe and local girl Rhyne Abbot.  I found it quite hard to grade.  I enjoyed it very much when I was reading it and was eager to continue, but when I closed the book at the end and reflected on it, there was nothing that really stayed with me.  Still, an "average" Goodman is better than average if you know what I mean.  Others have liked this one better than NLAL whereas the first one grabbed me a bit more.

His for the Holidays by Carina Press- B - I reviewed LB Gregg's contribution Mistletoe at Midnight a little while back (I gave it a B- at the time) and I finally got around to reading the other stories this month.  And, can I just say - nice covers!! *fans self*

Nine Lights Over Edinburgh by Harper Fox - B-.  This is a story of a divorced alcoholic policeman (James)  (sounds sexy huh?) who is trying to bring down a criminal who kidnaps women and girls and sells them to the highest bidder.  He meets a Mossad agent (Tobias) who is in the UK on secondment to a politician's security detail and then James' daughter is taken by the criminal.  James and Tobias have little time to find James' daughter before she is sold to some evil pedophile type.  I was a bit worried about whether there'd be "inappropriate sex" - after all James' daughter has just been abducted and I thought *sexy times* in those circumstances would be... off.  Well, I needn't have worried.  There is sexual tension and a bit of fooling around but mostly the focus is on getting the child back safely.  After (it's not a spoiler that she's found is it?), that's when there's *sexy times*.  So, on the one hand, there wasn't enough sex but on the other it would have been inappropriate to put more in really.  I don't think the suspense plot was all that plausible but I did enjoy the relationship between James and Toby. And James did turn out to be quite sexy.  Go figure.

I Heard Him Exclaim by ZA Maxfield - B+.  This one was my favourite of all four books in the anthology.  Chandler has been appointed the guardian of his newly orphaned niece, Poppy and is taking her to his parents house where he plans to hand her over to them, feeling inadequate to raise her, as much as he loves her.  On the way, he meets up with Steve, who isn't feeling the Christmas spirit this year - until he meets Chandler that is.  The relationship between Poppy and Chandler was especially well done and I really liked how the relationship developed between the two men.  I would have liked a little more between the last chapter and the epilogue - I wanted to know how Chandler decided to keep Poppy and more on how she was doing after the death of her parents, but I understand the space constraints of the format.  Nevertheless, a really good sexy story.  I haven't read this author before and I understand there is a fair sized backlist for me to dig into.  Yay.

Icecapade by Josh Lanyon - B-.  Former jewel thief Noel Snow and FBI agent Robert Cuffe hook  up in this one.  It felt a bit short to me and I would have liked a little more depth.  Also, the references to brand names felt a bit overdone - it's not something I usually notice.  Still, a pleasant story which encourages me to read more Lanyon - I think I may prefer a longer story from him - because I really liked the style and wanted to know more about Noel and Robert.

Bad Boys, Bad Boys by Mia Watts - B.  Cute sexy short about two previously straight cops who fall for each other.  Re-read to refresh my memory before I read Mack and Geo's second instalment.

Reasonable Doubt by Mia Watts - B-.  Sexy short.  It was good to see Mack and Geo still together after a year but there were some pretty serious topics brought up which weren't given enough attention IMO and some of it was a little bit hokey (The rings?  Mack is not a demonstrative person - he doesn't like PDA's so would he really wear a ring like that? It's a bit out there isn't it?).  However, I like Mack and Geo and hope to read more about them.  Also, this cover is much better than the first one.

One Real Thing by Anah Crow and Dianne Fox - A-.  This is a gem.  Nick and Hollister ("Holly") have been friends since college. Holly is a bit of a screw up and Nick looks after him.  After Nick marries evil bitch wife, his friendship with Holly goes the way of the dodo but he keeps up with Holly's doings by virtue of  websites like TMZ.  When Holly gets into trouble, Nick goes and helps him out, gets him back on his feet.  Then Nick splits with evil bitch wife and he's the one in crisis and it's Holly's turn to help Nick.    It is then that Nick realises what Holly has known forever but thought he could not have - they are "it" for each other.  That's a really ordinary way of describing this very special story.  It stayed with me after I finished it (always the mark of a great read).  At the risk of offending (which is not at all my intention but it may come out wrong), this is the first time I've read about a D/s relationship which I "got".  I've read and enjoyed other books with this theme but not with any real understanding of how it came to be, what made each partner want that sort of relationship.  I've seen reviews (most particularly by Sarah Frantz over at Dear Author) where she explains that it just "is" but I've never before really understood.  In this book, I did.  Their relationship is very symbiotic.  I could see (shown not told = excellent) what Holly got out of being submitted to Nick.  I could see what Nick got out of dominating Holly. I could see they both needed it and I could see it was beautiful.  And sexy too.  The only niggle I had was that it wasn't terribly clear to me that Nick was bisexual.  I got the impression that he had been straight and straight only until his relationship with Holly commences (after he splits with evil bitch wife).  But, there were a couple of comments along the lines of "it's been a long time" from Nick which indicated this wasn't the case.  The comments were in the sex scenes and, because I wasn't expecting it, they kind of threw me out of the story a little.   However, that could just have been me. Sarah Frantz in her review didn't feel that way at all, so YMMV.  This was an excellent, moving, touching book and my pick of the month.  Yum.

Naughty and Nice by Carina Press - B-.  I reviewed Believe by Lauren Dane back in November (I gave it a C+/B-) and I read the other 3 stories this month.

Holiday Sparks by Shannon Stacey - B.  I really liked this one.  Chloe Burke goes to her hometown to house-sit for her parents and, after an electrical incident, decides to get their wiring upgraded for Christmas.  Enter Scott Quinn, electrician who's had a crush on Chloe since High School.  But Chloe is a Boston girl and Scott is a hometown boy.  Can a holiday fling become something more?   Fun. Sexy. Good.

All She Wants For Christmas by Jaci Buron - B-.  Small-town-girl-made-big country music star Riley Jenson comes home to film a biography for one of the entertainment channels.  There she meets up with ex Ethan Kent (who has 2 sexy brothers I'm hoping to read about one of these days), a widower with a young daughter who's a big Riley Jensen fan.  Riley left town after finding Ethan in bed with former BFF Amanda (mother of Zoey - the daughter).  The attraction is still there, can they get over what happened in the past?  I enjoyed this quite a bit, even thought it was a little saccharine at the end.  I would have liked just a little more detail on exactly how they were going to organise their lives (it's not a spoiler to let you know they end up happy ever after is it?) and I was serious about wanting Brody and Wyatt's stories.  I can so imagine the movie of the week of this one!

Unwrapped by Megan Hart - C+.  This one is about newlyweds Leah and Brandon taking a holiday away from the family for Christmas.  It was definitely sexy but I thought the conflict about babies was a bit contrived. I probably would have enjoyed it better if I had read the earlier story involving this couple (- on Goodreads there is a mention of Taking Care of Business and No Reservations which feature Leah and Brandon.)

The Courtesan's Daughter by Claudia Dain - C-.  This was hard for me to grade.  There was a lot to like and some very amusing moments.  Sophia (the Courtesan of the title) was a very intriguing character but the romance was between Caro (the daughter of the title) and Ashdon and there just wasn't enough of it.  In the end, I didn't totally buy the HEA - there just wasn't enough depth to the relationship - lust yes? but love? I wasn't convinced.  I didn't understand why they were in love.  I didn't see it happen - there just wasn't enough for me to believe it.  So, it must be graded lowish on the scale because I didn't buy the romance.  Also, and tellingly, it took me about a week to read.  It was only 260 pages long and normally a book of that length would take me only a day or two.  This tells me that I wasn't in a hurry to get back to it.  In fact, I started to choose watching the television than reading it.  Ultimately, I read romance novels for the romance and this book was more about the machinations of the Courtesan to get her daughter her HEA than the romance between the H/H themselves.  However, I know that Jane Litte from Dear Author and Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches Trashy Books love this series (and plenty of other people too) so don't just take my word for it. 

Force of Law by Jez Morrow - C.  Okay, shortish, story about a very rich man (Law) and a mechanic who used to date Law's cousin.  I could have used some more character development.  I didn't quite get what was so good about Law myself.

McKettricks of Texas: Tate by Linda Lael Miller - C.   I don't read a lot of Westerns but I thought I'd give this one a try.  Tate is the eldest McKettrick brother.  The McKettricks are filthy rich (they're compared to Ewings in the book).  He's divorced from bitchy wife Cheryl and has twin 6 year old daughters.  His old flame is Libby Remington - they were going out until Tate "knocked Cheryl up" when he was away in college and had to marry her. I thought the conflict was a bit glossed over - after all, Tate cheated on Libby and dumped her when Cheryl got pregnant.  Libby had been humiliated as the whole town knew what had happened and pitied her.  Even though years had passed, I didn't quite buy the "I forgave you ages ago" thing.  While I didn't think Tate would cheat on her again, I wondered if that was a proximity thing (ie, he was planning to stick close to Libby anyway) and I wondered why Libby thought he wouldn't cheat.  There were a LOT of characters in this book and some of them I, frankly didn't understand why they were there.  They didn't seem to add anything to the forward movement of the plot (eg, the lawnmower/ostrich lady).  I think Ms. Miller has written many McKettrick books and even though this is the first in the most recent series, I wondered if the other characters had been in previous books and appeared in this one as a "catch up" for fans.  The sex scenes were pretty hot and I liked how Tate was with his daughters but in the end the book didn't really grab me.

The Tourist by Clare London - B. Interesting short about a ghost type being who inhabits corporeal bodies, hopping from person to person for fun and sexy times - he calls himself a tourist, hence the title. The concept was interesting and different. The book was well written and, despite the tourist's initially expressed wish to keep his visits to sex and lust only, there's heart to it too.

By the Book by Scarlett Parrish - B+/D.  Reece and Georgia are a sexually adventurous couple who invite a third in from time to time to spice things up.  For Reece's birthday, Georgia brings her best friend Sarah to put on a bit of a show and give Reece *the best birthday evah*.  Reece, who works in a library, meets Daniel Cross, a novelist, when he comes to return some books and stays at the library to do some writing.  There is an instant connection.  Daniel is bisexual ("do you have a pulse?"  "then I'm flirting") and outrageous and smokin' hot (both to Reece and to me as a reader).  Georgia's keen on a the idea of Reece "returning the favour" he had on his birthday so Daniel joins Georgia and Reece for a night but there is no sexual contact between the boys - Reece is straight.  Or, until he met Daniel, he thought he was anyway.  When Georgia suggests a rematch, Daniel declines unless some m/m action is on the table too - Daniel wants Reece any way he can get him and Georgia is hot and sexy so it's not a chore or anything, but to have Reece so close and naked and not touch - not gonna happen.  Dilemma.    To cut to the chase, Reece wants Daniel AND Georgia - can he have them?

I found this book very hard to grade.  On the one hand, I was truly enjoying it right up until the end - so it would have been B+ at least.  But the end was too ambiguous for me - (this is hard to explain without giving away spoilers, but I don't think it's fair to give them away here, so I'll do my best) - as in most romance books, there is a conflict which keeps the main characters apart and the end should be a resolution to that conflict.  Well, I didn't see a resolution to the conflict.  Just a few extra pages or an epilogue may have done the trick, or just some inner monologue from Reece (the story is told from his 1st person POV) even but it wasn't there and that made the ending a D.   If I'm lucky, Ms. Parrish will write a Christmas short or something and I'll get the resolution to the conflict (or the certainty of it at least) I crave.  (note to self: check out author's website just in case.)
There were some problems with the book, it was a little light on the relationship building between Daniel and Reece and there was almost no relationship between Georgia and Daniel.  But, when I was reading those things didn't bother me, I was caught up in the emotion of the story and desperate to know how it ended.  Unfortunately, the ending didn't give me the closure I needed. YMMV.

As an aside:
Can I just say that this was described as "novel length" at LooseID and I paid USD$6.99 for it.  At 178 pages on my Sony reader, I thought it was a bit shorter than a novel.  No complaint to the author, but I thought the LooseID pricing was a bit high for the length of the book, which is (or nearly) a MMP price.  I have struck this at LooseID before with other books too.  Maybe I'm becoming more tightfisted with my $$ as I'm getting older...

On audio

Archangel's Kiss by Nalini Singh, narrated by Justine Eyre.  B-.  Unfortunately, my listening pleasure suffered because I was on holidays when listening to this one and there were long breaks in between listens - doing snorkelling and spending time with kidlet and hubby etc.   I have the book and plan on reading it one of these days and Archangel's Consort is on its way to me from the Book Depository too.  Raphael is hawtness.

My online audiobook friends have been urging me to try Karen Marie Moning's Fever series and they were especially excited because of the January 18 release of Shadowfever, the final book in the series.  They had a re-listen of the series in the lead up to the latest release and I decided to hop on the bandwagon.  Also, I'm participating in the Speaking of Audiobooks Listening Challenge on AAR this year and Darkfever meets my "start a new series, see if it hooks you" category.  It did.  Oh boy did it.

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning, narrated by Joyce Bean - B+  Told in the first person, this is the story of Mackayla Lane, debutante Southern belle, who travels to Dublin to investigate the death of her sister and finds out there is more going on than she ever thought.  She is a Sidhe (spelling? sounds like "she") seer (because I'm listening to these books, I know how to say the words but have no clue how to spell them, forgive me.  I do plan on getting the books now though - I think I'd like to read them too.) who can see Fae.  She meets the mysterious Jericho Barrons and starts her quest to avenge her sister.  I'm told that this is the book where she is "pink Mac" - and some people get impatient with her because she's blonde and a bit ditzy and very privileged.  Over time however, she turns into "black Mac" (I think I have that right) and she becomes much more kick-ass and therefore much more popular with readers/listeners.  It took me a little time to get into - part of that was because of the "pink Mac" thing and part of it was because the world building was so different (I haven't read any Moning books before - though I understand the Highlander novels have a simlar mythology) it took a bit of getting used to.  I think it is probably easier to me to pick up a new "world" on paper than on audio but I got there in the end.  I'm very very glad that I will be able to listen to all 5 books in a row and don't have to worry about cliffhangers.  I've been finding excuses to do housework so I can keep listening-  the mark of an excellent audiobook IMO!!

Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning, narrated by Joyce Bean - B+  The second book in the series, it basically picks up where Darkfever leaves off.  I've come to think of this series as one book, in five parts.  I think I'm likely to grade the series as a whole after I've listened to them all.  I've stuck with B+ for now because, as much as I'm enjoying the stories, I don't know what's going to happen; I don't know who Mac ends up with (although I'm hoping it's Barrons); I don't know who Barrons is; I don't know for sure that the world building will be consistent through the series and that it will all make sense in the end.  My friends tell me it is and it does and there is a HEA (and thank the Lord for that or the whole series would become a wallbanger for me!).  But, with so much unknown, I'm hedging my grading bets. 

Faefever by Karen Marie Moning, narrated by Joyce Bean -B+.  Joyce Bean is doing a great job narrating this series.  I understand that the next two books are jointly narrated by Natalie Ross and Phil Gigante - so I expect they aren't told in first person POV anymore.  Nevertheless, Joyce Bean has really helped bring this series alive for me.  Her male character voices are very very good - especially Barrons and she does really well with the accents.

ETA:  I have started Dreamfever now and Natalie Ross does most of the narration.  Phil Gigante just does the bits where one of the male characters speaks.  I quite liked Joyce Bean's Barrons, but Phil Gigante does have a yummy deep voice and I think he get's the "not quite Irish" accent down a little better.  As much as I enjoyed it, Joyce Bean's Barrons sounded quite Irish to me and it was little odd as the book desribes his accent as not really Irish and hard to pick it's origin.  I'm getting used to Natalie Ross and she certainly gets the angst of those early Mac scenes.


Chris said...

I loved One Real Thing, too!

Lori said...

Sounds like a great readiing month.