Sunday, May 22, 2011

Games Girls Play by Deanna Lee

Why I read it:  I picked this one up after seeing a tweeted recommendation from Jane and Dear Author.  Thx Jane!

What its about:  This is a very sexy series of  3 erotic romance novellas  about 3 women who run PR company and represent sports stars.  The stories are linked by one fairly unsatisfying suspense plot which really didn't go anywhere.  Fortunately, I'm in it for the romance anyway so I was able to put that aside pretty easily.   I'm not sure the blurb made it entirely clear I was going to get 3 short stories rather than 1 full length novella but it was a good read nevertheless.

What worked and what didn't: The writing is strong and I liked the characters quite a bit.   I sometimes had trouble working out who was talking and there were a few abrupt changes of topic in the same paragraph or scene without any warning - at first I thought this might be a function of the fact that I had to adjust the font size as the native was too small.  But, when I put it back to the original size to check, the same problems existed.  I thought it finished abruptly and I would have liked to have known how the menage in the last story was going to work out longer term.  However, it was a very engaging book and I raced through all three.  I really appreciated the way Tara and Joshua (of the first novella) discussed their likes and dislikes and the "rules" of their relationship in a straighforward manner.  For instance, after a business meeting during which Tara calls him on his behaviour:-
"We can play games in the bedroom, Joshua.  I'm pretty sure I'll let you do anything you'd like to me when it comes to sex.  I wasn't lying when I said I was a sexual submissive.  I enjoy pain and I like being dominated but that does not mean I'll tolerate your disrespect of me."

"I respect you."

"You snapped at me like I was a child in front of two employees and your manager.  Even when you first contracted me and you were fighting me left and right on the image plan you never spoke to me that way.  If I can't trust you to treat me with courtesy and respect in public, in front of others, how on earth am I to trust you in more intimate matters?"

..."You're right of course.  I came in here angry...  That isn't, however, an excuse for speaking to you so rudely.  It won't happen again."
I also liked that once it was discussed, it was done.  No re-hashing and no repeats.

What else: The stories weren't long enough to go off into tangents about how they would set up rules or the dichotomy of the bedroom and the boardroom -  those things weren't ignored (good) but they weren't issues either - that wasn't the point of the story.  I liked that they were there, dealt with quickly and sensibly and the story moved on.

I will definitely be looking out for more from this author.  I liked her writing voice and the characters she created here very much.

Grade:  B+

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Breaking the Rules by Suzanne Brockmann (narrated by Renee Raudman and Patrick Lawlor)

The latest offering (and the last one, at least for a while, sadly) in Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooters series, Breaking the Rules, is jointly narrated by Renee Raudman and Patrick Lawlor.  The parts of the book told from a female POV are read by Raudman and the male POV sections are read by Lawlor.  Both narrators read both female and male dialogue.  That sounds a bit strange but it actually works.  And, as Brockmann is known for her head-hopping (which I personally don't mind), it makes it easier to follow who's talking - most often the book goes from a male to a female POV, so you immediately know that there's a change.  
What it's about: This is the 16th instalment of the Troubleshooters series and it is not a stand alone story.  Brockmann writes interlinked and long story arcs over numbers of books -   Eden & Izzy's story started a few books ago and Dan & Jenn's started in the previous book, Hot Pursuit.  I like the whole series and recommend them but don't start here.   
Billed as Izzy's story, I found the book to be quite evenly split between the Dan/Jenn and Eden/Izzy storyline against the background of a suspense plot involving a child sex slave ring.  I would have liked more of Eden and Izzy - I wasn't 100% convinced they'd worked everything out by the end - I was nearly there but I probably needed one or two more heart-to-hearts to be truly satisfied.   Personally, I never had a problem with the Eden/Izzy pairing. The age difference didn't bother me - I never saw Eden as a child.  And Izzy is amazing.  I don't mind Dan Gillman but he's just not Izzy! I enjoyed Izzy's storyline and his character a lot more - he's more heroic and more emotionally honest and way more funny.

What worked for me:  I found Lawlor's voice very well suited to the style of the book - he sounds like he's in his late twenties/early thirties and the contemporary (and often expletive-filled) language rolls off his tongue naturally.  I also thought he did the female voices very well - feminine without sounding like he was doing a bad drag impersonation.  There wasn't a lot of differentiation between the male voices but I didn't find it hard to follow who was talking.  I'm a fan of Raudman already so I knew that her sections of the book would be very very well done.  She is fast becoming my favourite narrator -  maybe coming close to edging out even Davina Porter - she does male voices very well and her subtlety and ability to express emotions through the narration are most excellent.   

What didn't: I'm the kind of person who gets annoyed by tangents - if someone is saying something and gets interrupted, I want them to be able to get back to the original point and complete it - it's one of those things that makes me yell at the TV during panel/interview shows.  In this book there is a lot of a character (any number of them) starting a thought and going off into something else and then finally (!) making his/her way back to the original point.  I may have coped better with this in print - I would have scanned forward and then gone back to the new topic I think (being the orderly person that I am!) but on audio, this represented more  of a challenge to me and I was a little bit "get on with it already" and "what did you start off saying?" and "you'd better finish that thought or else" - which says two things - one that I was really hooked by the story but also that I kept being pulled out of it. Also, I would have liked to have known what happened to Patrick Singer III who was stuck in the Crossroads "pray away the gay" camp - that storyline kind of dead-ended.   

What else: Overall, this was, for me, a solid and really good addition to the TS series - even though there was hardly any of Jules in it (le sigh).  I love Brockmann's stand alones too even though I'm a bit sad that she's taking a break from this series, as long as she keeps on writing, it's all good. 

Grade: B+

Monday, May 2, 2011

April Reads

On paper/ebook

Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts - B - see my full review here.

On the Edge by Ilona Andrews - C+/B-. I liked this one but didn't love it as much as the Kate Daniels series books. It took me a little while to cotton to the world building and get a clear picture in my head of how things work.  I liked Rose and Declan and I thought the kids, Jack & George were very well written.  I wondered that Rose fell in love a bit quickly.  She'd only known Declan about 2 weeks before she told him she was in love.  Now, I appreciate that they were in a pressure-cooker situation but she was someone who'd been burned before in love (and very badly) and hadn't actually had any good experiences with romance.  I could see that she would love him but the speed of it made me think it was more because the plot needed it rather than that it made sense for the character.
The very end, while fairly predictable, made me smile.
Overall, I liked it.  It's a good start to a series and I think it will pick up as I get used to the worldbuilding.  I'm looking forward to William's story.  I liked him too! :)

Indulgence in Death by JD Robb - B+ - see my full review here.

**pick of the month**
Hot Pursuit by Suzanne Brockmann - A- I'd forgotten how much I enjoy the Troubleshooters series.   This one has Sam & Alyssa, introduces Jenn to Dan (Gillman), and some Robin & Jules, plus there's a suspense plot about the serial killer known as the Dentist - first introduced in some of the free shorts Brockmann wrote for fans of Sam & Alyssa.  Sam & Alyssa and Robin & Jules are probably my favourite 2 couples of the whole series (and that's quite hard to say because really, I have totally enjoyed this series).
I really enjoyed it - the only thing which bothered me was that I really started to notice the author's habit of saying "And, yeah, okay" variations on those 3 words - after so many books, it's getting a little old for me.  But really, if that's the only thing I can think of, that's saying to me that this is a pretty great book.    In fact, I enjoyed it so much I went back and re-read Hot Target - which is the book where Jules first meets Robin. 
**pick of the month**

Hot Target by Suzanne Brockmann - B+ (re-read). This is actually one of my favourite books in the series.  I really like Cosmo Richter and, of course, as I said above, this is the book where Jules & Robin meet  (oh, the angst!) so that's icing on the cake.  It holds up really well on a re-read.  
Brockmann does have an agenda to push gay rights and tolerance - something which is a good thing but sometimes her politics can come across as preachy rather than what the character would actually do or say - I found this in Infamous for example.  Having re-read this one, I realise she's did it here too but I found it more... organic to the book and less "obvious" (in terms of the author's agenda as opposed to the character's) and so it worked better for me. 

Force of Nature by Suzanne Brockmann - A-/B+ (re-read). I'll admit I just read the Jules & Robin bits - I wanted to catch up on their story before I re-read All Through the Night.  If only the bedroom door had've been just a little more (or a lot more) open, I'd have been in romance heaven!

All Through The Night by Suzanne Brockmann B+. This one is really for fans of Jules & Robin. It's a novella (longish at 270+ pages) and it doesn't pretend to have the usual Troubleshooters story arc.  The story charts the course of Jules & Robin's wedding from proposal to reception and readers get to have a brief catch up with many of the other TS characters, including Sam & Alyssa.  I enjoyed it as I had done when I first read it.  My only bugbear is that the sex scenes were too tame - in  m/f scenes the author, while not super graphic or anything, usually gives more detail, but most of the m/m was fade to black.  I'm not sure why.

Naked Edge by Pamela Clare- B+.  This is Katherine ("Kat)" James,(the I-Team's newest environmental reporter)  & Gabe Rossiter's story  and Book 4 of the I-Team series.  It is a very enjoyable and hot romance with good suspense and a very sexy alpha hero.  The plot involves shady goings on in park lands with a Native American sacred connection. The author's attention to detail regarding the Native American culture was very interesting without being overpowering or feeling like some sort of message was being delivered - Kat is a half Navajo Indian and her culture is part of her character - these parts felt very organic to the story.  It also made sense that Kat would fall for Gabe - apart from the hotness factor, he is a Mountain Park Ranger (which is actually a police-y type function in the US - here in Australia it's more about flora and fauna management) - but not only does he do the job, he loves the job.  His love of the outdoors and nature give him his own connection to the environment which serves to connect Kat and he on another level.  The epilogue was a tad saccharin, but I still enjoyed it!  
I really don't know why it took me so long to read this one - it had been languishing on my TBR almost since its release.    I can trust Ms. Clare to deliver a hot sexy romance with a compelling suspense story which doesn't overpower the relationship aspects.  I can also trust her not to write stories where the hero and heroine are getting it on when they're bullets flying or something equally ridiculous.    I thought Gabe was an awesome, somewhat tortured hero, a little flawed but nevertheless willing to give up everything for Kat. (awww!)  Having seen some of those rock-climbing types on the TV, I had a fair idea of just how ripped he was too!  I think he's my favourite "I-Team hero" so far.... bearing in mind that there is a new I-Team book out in May, it's possible he will be knocked of his perch fairly soon though!

Unlawful Contact by Pamela Clare - B+. (I-Team #3)  A really enjoyable romance, a hero to sigh over, hot sexxoring and a ripping, if slightly unbelievable, plot.  Hero even kills spiders FTW!!  This is Sophie Alton (I-Team Cops & Courts) & Marc Hunter's story.  "Hunt" escapes from prison (which is the slightly unbelievable - or at least I hope it is - part) taking Sophie hostage in order to find his missing sister and her 8 month old daughter.

Extreme Exposure by Pamela Clare- B+ (I-Team #1).  After reading Unlawful Contact, I was inspired to do a re-read of the first two I-Team books - getting read for the May release of Breaking Point, don'tcha know?  I remembered I liked it but I'd forgotten how much and it held up very well on a re-read, even knowing in advance who the bad guys were.  The story follows Kara McMillan, I-Team environmental reporter and Senator Reece Sheridan - Ms. Clare manages to make an US Senator sexy - well done!!
Hard Evidence by Pamela Clare - B. (I-Team #2)  Another re-read.   Follows the story of I-Team reporter Tessa Novak and Julian Darcangelo, undercover FBI liaison and Russian mafia sex trafficking ring.  Once again, the suspense doesn't overwhelm the romance and they don't do the nasty while being shot at or anything silly like that.   The scenes where Tessa is in jail for 24 hours on a felony charge were chilling - they are, I believe, based on the author's real life experience as a journalist.  Humiliating and scary.   Holds up well on  a re-read.  Julian is a very sexy hero.  Yum. 

The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton - C  (Let's face it, that cover deserves to be extra large..... *sigh*) Best. Cover. Evah.  Sadly, the book didn't live up to the promise of the cover.  It was okay but not great.  I kept getting the feeling that I knew what the author was trying to get to but it hit just shy of the mark many times throughout the book.  There were some good parts but (and I can't believe I'm saying this), there was too much sex.  Tara and Mick had sex in just about every encounter - and sometimes it was a bit jarring - like when they were will out of breath afterwards and all of a sudden they're having a deep and meaningful (D&M) discussion - it just kind of felt out of place.  I also felt Mick's "secret" (which I won't give away here as it is spoiler-y) was inconsistent - sometimes it was troublesome and other times it was no big deal. It was by no means awful but I just didn't love it and I really wanted to. 

Animal Magnetism by Jill Shalvis - B.  An enjoyable, fun, sexy read about boarding kennel operator Lilah Young and just-in-town-for-a-month, I-don't-do-relationships, pilot Brady Miller.  
I really enjoy Shalvis' writing style and it wasn't many pages before I was highlighting text in my book - the banter between the characters is very very good.  
Like this (where Lilah is enjoying a chocolate donut):
"Would you like a moment alone with that?" he asked, amused.  And also a little turned on.

"Everyone has their price"
"Yes, and mine is chocolate.  Offer me some and probably I'd follow you anywhere," she admitted.
"Well, you're still a stranger"
"I told you my  name."
"I'd need more than that."
He just looked at her, smiling.  They both knew he'd had her at chocolate.

I remember reading a less than favourable review somewhere around the place shortly after the book was released - the reviewer didn't like Lilah - thought she was too perfect and didn't have a character arc.  With all due respect to that reviewer (whose name I'm sure I will remember after I publish the post), I disagree.  I didn't think Lilah was perfect, and while the growth was mainly Brady's I thought that there was also growth for Lilah in the story. 
I did note some copy editiing errors - eg, I don't think "unstableness" is really a word - wouldn't "instability" work better? - and there were a couple of scenes where Lilah did something like put the puppy on the floor and then a page or two later, the same puppy was being put on the floor by Brady.  There was a recent kerfuffle about the copy editing of the latest Lora Leigh book which was published by the same publisher - I don't know if its endemic or not.  Fortunately, I like Shalvis enough not to get too hung up about it even though that sort of thing does tend to grate and throw me out of the story.
I'm looking forward to Adam  and Dell's stories - I think Dell is next. *rubs hands together*

Demonica: Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione - B- Interesting world building, a sexy hero and a kick ass heroine on the plus side. A lot of characters and mythology to keep track of and some forced/dubious seduction at the start and an abrupt end without solving the central suspense plot let the book down a bit but I was nevertheless interested enough to buy and download the reast of the series on the strength of this book.

On audio

First Drop of Crimson by Jeaniene Frost, narrated by Tavia Gilbert - C+.  I think this is my least favourite of the series so far. (Note, it is Bk 1 in the Night Huntress World books but it fits in between Bk 4 and 5 of the Night Huntress - ie Cat & Bones - series). I have a thing about "big misunderstanding" plots - they tend to frustrate me. This story had quite a bit of the h/h misunderstanding each other and not just, you know, TALKING to clear it up. (Bugs me IRL too!). From my understanding of the character in prior Cat & Bones books, I got the impression of Denise as a... well, not slutty but very confident in her femininity and her power to attract men. In this book, even though her husband had died a year earlier and she was still grieving, she couldn't seem to fathom that Spade was interested in her and that struck me as more of a plot device than it being what I would have expected from the character.
I would have liked more information on how Denise coped with the no children thing - that had been very important to her before. Also, what was going to happen with Spade drinking her blood? The end left me with some questions unanswered. It was a pleasant listen but not my fave.

Eternal Kiss of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost, narrated by Tavia Gilbert -  B-.  Dude! What's going on with the cover model's face? He looks like he's been in a fight. So NOT how I picture Menceres!
I liked this one better than the previous book - no big mis this time. I did guess pretty early what Menceres' vision/lack of meant, but overall, an enjoyable story. I liked Kira and thought she was a good choice for Menceres' lady.

This Side of the Grave by Jeaniene Frost, narrated by Tavia Gilbert - B-/C+.Another enjoyable listen. I'm a bit Night Huntressed out now though - 7 in a row is about my limit.  Glad there is some time before the next book so I can re-group and give it my best.

Loyalty in Death by JD Robb, narrated by Susan Ericksen B+. I love this series.  I've read the book 2x and now I've also listened to the audio.  This is the first book where McNab and Peabody get together - I hadn't remembered it had taken so many books actually.
Another excellent installment and Ericksen as usual does a sterling job of the narration.

Breaking the Rules by Suzanne Brockmann, narrated by Patrick Lawlor and Renee Raudman  - B+.  Full review here.

Witness in Death by JD Robb, narrated by Susan Ericksen - B.  I'd forgotten how far along in the series it actually was when McNab and Peabody first got together - another enjoyable audio instalment of a great series.