Wednesday, April 30, 2008

DIK: I have jumped on board the sinking ship

So a gaggle of fabulous book bloggers were chatting the other night about (what else?) books. Much like the conversations between my best friend and me during our trips back and forth to college, the topic turned to survival. Best gal pal and I would discuss who we would have in our harem of men (Robbie Williams for the hot dirty sex, Nathan Fillion for the fun hanky panky, Alan Rickman to read us the morning paper... you get the idea.) These book loving fiends devised the Desert Island Keeper list: the six books you would need with you when stranded on a desert island. With each gal bringing along six books (no repeats) they would have a library of 36 titles. That was until some of us sneaky, jealous bloggers decided to stow away in their pants, back packs, and bras. The library shelves are quickly filling up. So what books would I have to have with me in the name or reading survival?

1) Sabriel by Garth Nix
Nix creates such a rich, vibrant world in his trilogy. As the first in the series, the land the the mythos is revealed in Sabriel in such a way that you feel you already know it all. This book can stand alone. There is no cliff hanger (unlike book 2). Between the covers you get a strong heroine, incredible magic, a hero, battles, intrigue, and so much more.
2) Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
This is, hands down, my favorite Urban Fantasy series of all time. I love it. How could I survive on a desert island without Mercy Thompson? Mercy is a no-nonsense kind of gal. She does not need to accomplish great heroic deeds, yet she is not a victim. She is your average woman in a world that is far from ordinary. A skin walker, she was raised among the werewolf community. Now she owns her an auto body shop and tries to keep a low profile. That is kind of hard to do when your neighbor is the head of the local werewolf pack, one of your customers in a vampire, and a newly turned were shows up on your doorstep with trouble following in his wake.

3) Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard
Sam Donovan. Need I say more?

4) Over the Edge by Suzanne Brockmann
The Troubleshooter series has provided me with hours of Alpha male entertainment. I could not leave for the island without at least one of them in tow. I chose Over the Edge because of Stan Wolchonok. He is strong, quiet, steady, Alpha, passionate, intense, and desperately love Terri. He is the quintessential average to slightly less than good looking guy made hot by the way he acts and feels. Stan is the kind of man you want in real life. He would lay down his life for Terri, but he does not try to hold her back in an effort to keep her safe. Ms. Brockmann imbued this character with such quiet intensity. I want a Stan for my own.

5) Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban by that disgustingly rich woman
Hey! You said you wanted a variety of genres. This is my favorite installment of the series. You get Lupin! Sirius! The Marauders Map! You know, we may want a break from romance once in a blue moon. Blasphemy, I know.

6) The Bride and the Beast by Teresa Medeiros
I had to throw in a historical. I was tempted to add The Raven Prince since I loved it so much, but we already have one of Ms. Hoyt's other novels on the island. I don't know what it is about this book that I love so much. I have read it more often than most books on my shelf. Mr. Perfect may be the only other title I have read as often. The theme of redemption, love overcoming all... ::sigh::

So yeah, that's my six. I hope you like them!

Get the word out!

Just a quick update/news flash.

For those of you who read and loved Enchanted Inc., you do know it is the first in a series, right? OK, good. Well, here is the good news, the fourth book in the series was just released. Don't Hex With Texas should be available at a book store near you. Go buy it! Shanna has a fifth book planned and in the early stages of writing, but the publisher does not currently have plans to publish it. Want to change their minds? Want to read more about Katie and MSI? Then we need to send a message by purchasing her current releases.

Go spread the word!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Forget Prince Charming

Title: Forget Prince Charming
Author: Natalie Stenzel
Genre: Category Romance/ Harlequin Flipside

Back cover

Haley Watson has kissed one too many Prince Charmings -- those major hunks with major character flaws. She caught her latest ex-hunk warming up for their romantic weekend by having sex with his secretary. So if all princes are jerks,
then geeks -- aka frogs -- must actually be a sweet, reliable, overlooked species. Natural habitat: computer stores and libraries.
But just when Haley has a real live geek in her sights, her new neighbor Rick Samuels -- the Anti-Nerd -- starts in with the charm. Haley informs him that she dates only hotties with pocket protectors and thick glasses.
Rick resents Haley's stereotyping and feels it's time to teach Haley rule #1 of the Genus Geekus...
Some frogs really are just frogs. And some princes are frogs in disguise.

If you are looking for a sweet, fluffy, fun (and short) read, look no further. In Forget Prince Charming we meet Haley Watson, a girl who realizes that she just might be a bit shallow. You see, she dates men who are good looking, successful, and seemingly nice. Sounds great, right? Well, except she allows their good looks to blind her to their perfidious deeds. She is a sucker for a hawt body and charming smile. After she catches her latest boyfriend holding a... "private conference" with his secretary on his desk, she swears off dating any more princes. Henceforth she would only date "frogs", aka geeks. Her new neighbor, Rick, was having none of this. He no longer looked like the geek he was, and he wants her all for himself. As their friendship grows, Rick "helps" Haley with her geek hunt, sabotaging her every step of the way.

Ms. Stenzel did not break new ground with her book. There is nothing innovative about it, but it is cute. There were moments when the timing was unclear. I had to backtrack a time or two to double check if a day had passed or a week. The only other thing that bothered me was that Haley and Rick seemed to blow things out of proportion at times. She is making a conscious decision to seek out geeks to date. He thinks she is being mercenary and shallow. Yes, she is making this decision based on the geek stereotype, but it stems from a desire to be less shallow and find a good guy. She is misguided, he is pig headed. Despite that, I had fun between the pages of Forget Prince Charming. So much so, that I am going to keep my eyes peeled for her other books.

Grade: B

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cookin' up trouble

I am cooking up some big plans over here in the WWR kitchens. What kind of plans, you ask? Well, it involves the book club, a battle royale, hot Alpha males, a possible contest, and hawt men.

Oh yes, it will be the Marvelous Men of May!

More info is coming soon. Need a hint? How about this?

Cosmo.... the list goes on!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Long live the Alpha male

Hello, my name is Shannon, and I am an Alpha-holic.

Yes, that's right, I do love me some Alpha males. Sweet, sensitive, and tender? pfft! Only if he is also strong, arrogant, sarcastic, protective, slightly possessive, lusty, and fully in charge (or at least tries to be.) When it comes to my reading habits, the beta guys never win. I need the likes of Roarke, Sam Donovan, and, well, any of the Brockmann men. These men with the tough exterior and the soft inner filling, they just do it for me. They are pure sex in a uniform/cowboy boots/leather/fur/fangs. Hey, if I am going to read for escapism, I want to read about the kind of guys I will never meet (and might not really want to get involved with in the real world.)

It is with big sighs and fluttering heart beats that I share two books with you.

Title: Dreaming of You
Author: Lisa Kleypas
Genre: Historical Romance

I know, I am really late to the party when it comes to Derek Craven. Now that I am here? My love for him is only outmatched by the size of his attitude. Mmm, baby. That is one amazing hero. Damn!

From Ms. Kleypas' website

In the shelter of her country cottage, Sara Fielding puts pen to paper to create dreams. But curiosity has enticed the prim, well-bred gentlewoman out of her safe haven -- and into Derek Craven's dangerous world.
A handsome, tough and tenacious Cockney, he rose from poverty to become lord of London's most exclusive gambling house -- a struggle that has left Derek Craven fabulously wealthy, but hardened and suspicious. And now duty demands he allow Sara Fielding into his world -- with her impeccable manners and her infuriating
innocence. But here, in a perilous shadow-realm of ever-shifting fortunes, even a proper "mouse" can be transformed into a breathtaking enchantress -- and a world-weary gambler can be shaken to his cynical core by the power of passion...and the promise of love.
I loved both the hero and heroine. Sara was sweet and innocent, yet sassy at the same time. I worried that she might be TSTL, since the book opened with her all alone in the slums of London, but she proved pretty quickly that she was more than a pretty face. Derek was so wary and closed off. You hurt for him. You wanted to comfort him. You wanted to smack him upside the head for ever being involved with that evil, crazy skank Lady Ashby. Seriously, that bitch was CRAZY! Derek is so Alpha. So prickly. So sexy. The way he completely held himself back from Sara, controlling all his impulses to try and protect her from his wickedness. Ugh! And when she leaves London and he pines for her.... pines! le sigh

If you love the Alphas like me, and have not read this, go out and get your hands on a copy of Dreaming of You. You will not regret it!

Grade: A- (There was a strange little lull in the story right after they get married, but the action gets moving again.)

Title: White Lies
Author: Jayne Ann Krentz
Genre: Romantic Suspense (with a big psychic twist)

From Amazon

As a level 10 para-sensitive, Clare Lancaster can tell for certain when someone is telling the truth. So Clare knows that her half-sister, Elizabeth Glazebrook, isn't lying when she says her husband, Brad McAllister, is trying to kill her. But Brad is murdered instead, and as the first person to find his body, Clare becomes the Stone Canyon Police Department's favorite suspect. With no evidence to tie her to the crime, Clare is allowed to return to her old life in San Francisco. But six months later, her father, Archer, summons her back to Phoenix. Her unique gift tells her not only that there is more to her father's new business "consultant" Jake Salter than he would like her to believe but also that she is in grave danger.
If you like your Alphas with a psychic twist, Jake Salter is your man. This man is hawt! Ms. Krentz has always fed my Alpha love. She may actually have been my introduction to that fine species of men. She continues to assuage my yearning with White Lies. Jake is a Hunter, a psychic detective, of sorts. He is passionate, arrogant, mysterious, sexy. Roawr! Clare is a strong, no-nonsense chick. Don't mess with her, and don't lie to her. She will know. I love the world JAK has created, the paranormal senses she has gifted her characters with. Human lie detector. A Hunter. These are well thought out skill sets. The reader was first introduced to them in her book Second Sight, a historical in which the Arcane Society mythology is established. White Lies is the second book in this "series". It is a pretty loose series since the books are jumping back and forth between historical and contemporary. The books share the mythos and the legends, but you can read each as a stand alone.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What do you think?

The other day I was having a very interesting conversation with a friend of mine. We were discussing how we received our sex education. My mother was very open. She sat me down when I was in 4th or 5th grade and gave me The Talk. You know the one I am talking about...

"Someday soon your body will start to mature. You will become a young woman..."

I got descriptions, explanations, and the diagram of the "upside down pear". In later years, she was the one who told me about The Baton (a drag bar in Chicago) and introduced me to the wonderful world of Sue Johanson (the sex grandma on Oxygen channel.) My friend, on the other hand, learned nothing from his mom. Apparently, she is rather conservative about sex. He gave credit to Love Line for his sex ed. I had to agree. Love Line was an eye opening show. My poor virgin mind would real from some of the things I heard on there. Actually, it was more that it boggled my mind that people are that stupid. Oy!

The other source that I admitted to gaining my education from was the romance novel. Oh, the things I have learned from the pages of a good book. My friend's response? "Huh, I have never read one of those." That made me giggle. The thought of him kicking back with a Regency romance? Priceless!

That got me thinking, though. What if he was actually open to reading one? I could see him agreeing to do so, if only out of curiosity. Then again, I could also see him approaching it as research. Research that, put into action, would be greatly appreciated. SO... the question I ask of you is this:

What book(s) would you recommend for a first time male romance reader?

Monday, April 21, 2008

I have survived!

Yes, I have survived the weekend of wedded craziness. Of course, it was craziness of the very best sort: friends, pretty dresses, open bar, dancing, awesome DJs, family, a wedding date, and seeing my best friend commit her life to the man she loves. It was enough to make even the most cynical heart melt. Seeing as I am an ooey gooey romantic on your average day, I was a puddle of happiness. Not convinced? Need to see some photographic proof of my happiness?

Amidst all of the fun and adventure, I was able to capture a few moments to finish reading White Lies by Jayne Ann Krentz. She was one of the first authors that I completely fell in love with back when I was a newcomer to the romance genre. I rabidly hunted down any book that she wrote. It didn't matter what name it was published under. JAK contemporaries, Amanda Quick historicals, Jayne Castle futuristics. I devoured them all. Her heros were the candy I craved. Mmmm... Needless to say, I was delighted when I saw White Lies on the shelf of my local library. I still need to piece together all of my thoughts on this book, so I will wait to say more. I will post my real review in a day or two. In the meantime, I will state that I was very much entertained by this book. It didn't entertain me as much as seeing my best friend get married, but then again, not much in life could compare to that! :)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Enchanted Inc... let us discuss!

Woo hoo! The deadline is here. Today is the first ever WWR book club discussion. I'm excited, are you? :)

I won't say much about the book here. I shall save it for the comments so as not to spoil anyone for this fun read. So...

- What did you think of Enchanted Inc.?
- What did you think of the heroine, Katie, and her voice?
- Did the 1st person POV work for you? Were you able to gather enough of a feel for the other characters?
- Ms. Swendson made an interesting flip in terms of the archetypal personalities of the two main men, Owen and Rod. How did you feel about this?
- As a non-New Yorker, how well do you think Ms. Swendson did at capturing the feel of the Big Apple (with or without the addition of magic)?
- What are your thoughts on this alternate, yet very similar, world in which the characters live?

Wow, I actually came up with a few questions. Feel free to answer or ignore them, but definitely tell me what you thought.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Meme time!

Tagged by Thea

ONE Word Answers (yeah right, one word...)

You are feeling: groggy

To your left: my sweet kitty

On your mind: school, i have to adjust some grades today

Last meal included: cottage cheese

You sometimes find it hard to: get motivated

The weather: sunny and beautiful (finally!!!)

Something you have a collection of: perfume oils (I adore Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab)

A smell that cheers you up: fresh baked bread

A smell that can ruin your mood: fresh baked bread (unless it is gluten free I can't eat it)

How long since you last shaved: um... Friday. I'm giving the legs a rest so they can be supa smooth for my best friend's wedding this weekend

The current state of your hair: bed head

The largest item on your desk/workspace (not computer): the pile of papers to grade

Your skill with chopsticks: Mr. Miagi taught me well

Which section you head for first in a bookstore: the new release shelf

Something you're craving: potato chips

Your general thoughts on the presidential race: I am getting sick of the nastiness, but I still have a favorite

How many times have you been hospitalized this year: none

Favorite place to go for a quiet moment: Tea Essence (tea house)

You've always secretly thought you'd be a good: CSI

Something that freaks you out a little: small air planes (there is irony in this, trust me)

Something you've eaten too much of lately: crap

You have never: sung karaoke

You never want to: live in the country

I tag... Carolyn Jean (unless you have already done this meme)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some many titles, so little time...

After my post about the piles of undesirable books I have acquired from my coworker (bless her heart, but I just can't bring myself to read half of those books!), I decided to take some of your advice and looked up used book stores in Chicago. There are a good handful of them scattered around the city. Most try to be all high brow and snooty, snubbing our favorite authors and genre. What are they thinking? Why ignore the biggest money maker in publishing? Silly, pretentious book snobs. After checking out a couple of places online, I found one that stated on their website that they sell romances. Huzzah! I loaded up a bag with 15 books I did not want (that is their limit of trade ins per visit) and headed out the door. I arrived at Kate the Great's Used Books this evening after a full day of teaching. Baby, I was ready for some books! The place is small and cozy, with walls covered in books. There is not an immense selection, but it is pretty good. The gal behind the counter was friendly and knowledgeable, chatting about favorite authors and books in romance. They bought back 10 or 12 of my books and started my trade in account. With $12 in credit, I started my shopping! Their policy states that you can pay half of your total with trade in credit. They will keep a record of any addition credit you have accrued. Fantastic! I am so pleased! I unloaded 15 books (the ones they did not take are being donated), I purchased 4 books, and still have over $4 in credit waiting to be spent. Oh happy day!!!

Now, between the trip to Kate the Great's and my stop at the library yesterday, I have more than enough books to read. What is in my pile, you ask?

White Lies by Jayne Ann Krentz
The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick
The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt
Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Cruisie and Bob Mayer
Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts
Forget Prince Charming by Natalie Stenzel
Kiss of Crimson by Lara Adrian

Where do I even begin? Oh wait, with White Lies. That one of due back to the library... tomorrow. Oops. Gotta renew that one. Kiss of Crimson will have to wait. I refuse to read it before I read Kiss of Midnight. I have that whole reading a series in order OCD. Sadly, they did not have a copy of KofM.

Ah, there is nothing quite like that feeling of looking at a new pile of books, all just waiting to be read. It is a pile of possibilities. A pile of mystery. A pile of romance. A pile that is loudly calling my name!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Book Club Reminder

Hello my friends!

I just wanted to drop a quick reminder (for those of you who are busy reading Enchanted, Inc.) that the book club deadline is just a few short days away. On Thursday I will put up a separate discussion post for all who have read the book. I won't have any specific questions for you to answer. Not this time around. Mostly, because I am drawing a blank as to what would be appropriate to ask. If any of you have discussion topic suggestions feel free to post them here and I will work them into the post on Thursday.

I hope you are enjoying Katie, Owen and Enchanted Inc. I can't wait to hear what you all have to say!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Title: Bitten & Smitten
Author: Michelle Rowen
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Back Cover

There's a new vamp in town...
Dear Mom,
I might be a wee bit late for Cousin Missy's wedding. It's been a tough week. Turns out, my blind date from hell was literally from hell. Guy bit me. Next thing I know, I'm being chased all over the city by vampire hunters. And did I mention that I got fired, too?
Bright side-I met a man. Thierry de Bennicoeur. How great is that name? Anyway, he's sexy, six-hundred years old, and a tad suicidal, but no one's perfect, right? And we have a deal-he's gonna show me the ropes of the vampire world, and I'm supposed to help him end his existence. Or maybe I'll just try to convince him life is worth living-no small challenge with the mostly immortal, let me tell you. I'll admit it's a complicated relationship. But with any luck, I just might have a date for that wedding after all...
Hugs and Kisses, Sarah

As a single girl, the words "blind date" send shivers down my spine. The "nice, funny" guy you have been set up with, turns out to be a loud jokester who enjoys stories featuring bodily functions. Or perhaps he is the guy, ala Harry Met Sally, who reaches across the table to pluck a hair from your head with which to floss his teeth. In Bitten & Smitten Sarah’s blind date does far worse than that, the evening ends with stakes aimed at her heart and a dive into the local river. Vampirism by blind date. Not a good end to your evening.

After her date is killed by local vampire hunters, Sarah is saved by a suicidal vampire hottie named Thierry. He takes her back to his, condo, and grudgingly helps her out. Sarah does not believe what has happened. I’d like a giant order of denial with my cup of blood, thanks. Sarah leaves with Thierry’s business card in hand, ready to put the night behind her. It is all a dream. Uh huh, keep telling yourself that. Denial runs deep, much like the river, until an unfortunate incident at work ends with Sarah being fired. The clouds finally part, and the sun shines down upon the obvious: blood sucking vamp. Sarah runs to Thierry for help at Midnight Eclipse, a tanning salon on the bad side of town. A tanning salon? Yup, that’s right. It truly is a tanning salon, that also happens to be a front for a local vamp night club. Thank you Forever Knight! If only the host was as fabulous as Jeanette. After meeting with her, Thierry agrees to help Sarah with one condition, once she has adjusted to her new life she must help him end his. Suicidal vampires are not as sexy as you might think.

The book chronicals Sarah’s first week as a vampire. Damn, this girl catches no breaks. After a rocky start, I was drawn into the story. Sarah was a little bit Bridget Jones mixed with Buffy on one of her flakier days. You didn’t always like her or her decisions, but you kept cheering for her. Her best friend is a complete flake, her new vampire cohorts are a ton of fun, Thierry is mysterious, the bad guys are despicable, and her family is wacky. A character is introduced half way through the book to shake things up. You figure out who the traitor is long before Sarah does. It is a fun ride. Yet in the end, I felt that the HEA was completely forced. Not enough development between the H&h. Why? Well...

There has been much discussion lately over a readers POV preference. Third person, first person, first person present tense. Everyone seems to have a strong opinion. For a long time I avoided stories written in first person POV. I just had a difficult time connecting to the characters. The recent Urban Fantasy craze has forced me to open my eyes a bit. How can I denounce first person POV when I love the Mercedes Thompson books so much? When written well, experiencing the story from inside the heroine’s (or hero’s) head can be a wonderfully different perspective. Sadly, it is not always done well. The biggest failure is to focus so much on the heroine, that you lose any sense of connection with the hero (or vice versa.) This is my major complaint regarding Bitten and Smitten. Thierry de Bennicoeur had the potential to be a fascinating hero, but in an attempt to make him mysterious (and through the first person POV) I felt more connected to a secondary would-be hero. I wanted to know more about Thierry. How did he feel about Sarah? I mean, they get their HEA, but it took a leap of faith on the readers part to believe it. You knew Thierry and Sarah were supposed to get together, since they are the H&h of the story, but you almost wanted to rework the ending with Quinn as the hero.

I think if the book was marketed as fantasy or urban fantasy, I would not have a problem with this. Heck, if it was either of those two genres, the author could have left the HEA as a possibility for the future, not a done deal. Since this book is labeled paranormal romance, the author is obligated to give us the HEA. Bitten & Smitten would have work so much better as the first in a series, much in the way of Moon Called and Dead Witch Walking. Why force the HEA when you could allow it to develop more naturally over the course of a few books? Show us how they fall in love. Show us how Sarah continues to adapt to her new life. What about her family? What about her job prospects? Give us more.

Heh. Here I go shooting my mouth off before doing my research. So yeah. Ms. Rowen has written two more books in this series. Perhaps I shall check them out. Here's hoping there is more romance in the following books, since all we got in this one was a few hot smootches. I want The Sex in my romance novels!

Grade: B- rocky start that ended up turning into a fun romp, forced HEA ruined the glow

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Title: Forbidden
Author: Suzanne (The Great) Brockmann
Genre: Romance

Back cover

He was gorgeous as sin, but definitely off-limits...He’d saved her from a drenching storm, had gently placed her in a steaming tub, and looked great in firelight, but was that reason enough for Kayla Grey to kiss a handsome cowboy with reckless hunger? Cal Bartlett couldn’t believe he’d nearly made love to the woman who’d betrayed his brother’s memory, but when she insisted Liam might be alive, shame warred with desire. Would loving her mean losing him again?
Forbidden yet undeniable attraction is at the heart of Suzanne Brockmann’s sizzling, sensual novel of love and sacrifice. He’d never burned for a woman, never known the wild abandon of white-hot need that marked a man and woman as soul mates, but once he’d tasted paradise, could he give her up?

As I mentioned in a comment over on kristie(j)’s blog, I am a sucker for Brockmann’s writing. I swear, the woman could write a manual on how to operate a potato peeler and I would read the damn thing (and it must be noted that I rarely read the manuals for anything I buy.) I have a serious blindness when it comes to her books. You have heard of being color blind? I am Brockmann blind. I love all of her books. Even those, like Forbidden, that are not her best.

Forbidden, a reprint of her 1997 release, is the story of Cal and Kayla. They meet when Kayla rushes out to his ranch to tell him that she has received information regarding the death (or possible survival) of his only brother, Liam. Kayla has only just arrived in town when she is caught outside in a major storm. Tall, dark, and sexy comes riding to her rescue on the back of his horse. Mmmm, baby! They don’t even know each other’s name, but he just saved her life and the attraction is undeniable. But wait! Not only is Cal sex in a pair of cowboy boots, but he is a gentleman. After a steamy make out session he steps back, respecting the fact that she is nearly dead on her feet after barely surviving the storm. It is only as he walks away with plans to meet for dinner the next night that he tells Kayla his name. Oh no! Cal???!!!?!? THE Cal? The big brother of her not-quite fiancĂ© who died two years ago in San Salutiano? The Cal she came to town to talk into going to San Sal to investigate the rumors that sudo-fiancĂ© may still be alive? THAT Cal? Well, shit.

Long story short, with the revelation of their identities, they decide the budding relationship is forbidden (oooh! Name origin.) Together, as they search for clues to the truth about Liam, they fight their attraction. There is sexual tension, flying bullets, a wild motorcycle ride, sexual tension, a mysterious man, a shady military group, rebel forces, and more sexual tension.

It will be obvious to anyone who has read Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series, that this is one of her earlier works. It has all the elements that make her stories riveting, but in a slightly underdeveloped infancy. You can see the potential and appreciate how she has developed as a writer. Cal is sweet and strong, but not quite as Alpha male as her SEALs. As with most novellas, I wanted a bit more. More story, more development, more of the characters. That is the nature of the novella and category romances for me. If there could just be another hundred pages...

Grade: B

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mini review: The Blackmail Pregnancy

Oh boy. Doing grades for over 700 students really kicks my butt. You would think I would have gotten used to it by now. Somehow I always think I have more time and few papers to grade.

Since I have been neck deep in eight-beat rhythm compositions and performance reflections, I have not had much time to read and no time to blog. In my last post I teased you all with what I was convinced would be a smoldering pile of poop. The foreboding sounding category romance The Blackmail Pregnancy. (see photo is previous post)

Back cover blurb

Millionaire tycoon Byron Rockcliffe storms back into Cara's life, even though their marriage is long finished. Knowing that Cara's design business is on the verge of collapse, Byron offers to save her from financial ruin by giving her the contract of a lifetime. Although he says his proposal comes with no strings, there's a catch: he's not looking for an interior designer to complete his luxury home- he wants Cara to furnish him with a baby.

Um, no strings? Isn't that whole "You must give me a baby" thing all bound up with strings?

I started reading this book with some serious dread. I am not generally a fan of category romances. They are too short, too cliched, and are usually populated with characters I can not stand. This book somehow managed to be all of that, and yet somehow entertaining. I know! I hate to even admit that I may have enjoyed parts of it. Here's a super quick breakdown of the book:

Too short: The book was not long enough to fully develop the story line. It rushed through important moments and glossed over issues. The author could not flesh out her characters enough in the short format in which this was written. (see Character Flaws.)

Too Cliched: They first fell in love at a young age. Hot, passionate, and foolish. They made mistakes that drove them apart for years. (aka: The Big Misunderstanding) Deep down they still love one another, though neither would admit it. It is only because of their hot sex monkey chemistry that they can not stop thinking of one another. Or could it be, could it be.... LOVE!

Character Flaws: He is strong, demanding, and cynical. She is feisty, wounded, and vulnerable. Her best friend is the most cookie cutter stereotype of a gay man ever to grace the pages of a novel. (Thank God for Suzanne Brockmann!) All the children are precocious. She is wounded. She plays the victim. He doesn't know when to cut his losses. Seriously, I would have dumped her ass long before the final page.

I have to say though, the sex was pretty hawt. It was even plentiful. I would speculate that there was more sex per chapter in this 187 page story than in most of the books I have read in the past year. You get a lot of bang for your buck (so did the heroine.)

Overall, it was cheesy and occasionally annoying with a heroine I wanted to smack upside the head by the final chapter. Yet, it was hawt and often times entertaining. Considering it was a category romance that took an afternoon to read, I guess it's not to horrible.

Grade: C not wretched, not good, just somewhere in the no man's land in between

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Taking stock and getting a good laugh

It is a beautiful sunny Spring day in Chicago. The kind of day that puts a smile on my face and energy in my attitude. Oddly, these are the days I tend to find motivation to do some cleaning... an indoor activity. Go figure. Today I attacked my front bedroom. Well, calling it a bedroom might be a bit misleading. The entire room is about the size of a queen bed and there is no closet. I suppose it is more of an office that has morphed into a large storage closet. I shall put on my rose colored glasses and call it my library. While still in need of a number of hours of elbow grease, the room is starting to resemble that romanticised description. It sure is full of books. Books, a desk, more books, a comfy arm chair, additional books, Christmas decorations that I am too lazy to carry up to the attic, and (of course) books.

I did not realize just how many books there were. You see, I have this coworker. About a year and a half ago we discovered that we shared a love of trashy romance. I wasn't alone! We began passing along the books we were reading. What a great way to read new books without having to buy all of them. There is one small issue: our ideas of quality romance are not the same. I think I may have gotten the short end of the stick. While I was passing along my Nora Roberts, Lisa Kleypas, and Julia Quinn, she was giving me Diana Palmer, Leigh Greenwood, and category romances. I know, I know. There are good category romances out there. Just... not most of these. (It should be mentioned that she buys most of her books at a used book store. Most of the wonderful titles don't find their way to those shops. On occasion yes, but not as often.) Ah well, what we lack in quality is made up for in quantity. I have a ton of books that she has passed my way. How many? Take a look!

The problem is, I have little to no desire to read most of these books. Some look good. (The Nora Roberts and some Catherine Coulter.) Some are books I purchased. (Kim Harrison and Teresa Medieros) Most are from her. How do I motivate myself to read them? How can I justify additional book purchases when I have so many waiting to be read? Now, don't think those are my only books. I have a pile from the library. A pile I want to reread. A bookshelf full of titles I have previously read and refuse to pass along (I just LOVE them!)

How do you justify a new book purchase? How do you find the motivation to pick up a book that does not excite you?

I am about to start a new book. Time is a consideration right now. My book club deadline is in two weeks and I need to reread Enchanted Inc. I have grades due on Thursday for nearly 700 students. There are other real life responsibilities looming. BUT I WANT TO READ!!! And that pile of books is mocking me. Therefore, I shall snag one of the category romances. It is short and, good lord!, the title is just so horrifying! How could I not read it?

So what do you think? Horrible? Horribly good? What do you think it will be about? Will I need to scrub my brain with a Q-tip afterwards? Am I completely crazy?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Slightly Sinful

Title: Slightly Sinful
Author: Mary Balogh
Genre: Historical Romance

As the fires of war raged around him, Lord Alleyne Bedwyn was thrown from his horse and left for dead—only to awaken in the bedchamber of a ladies' brothel. Suddenly the dark, handsome diplomat has no memory of who he is or how he got there—yet of one thing he is certain: The angel who nurses him back to health is the woman he vows to make his own. But like him, Rachel York is not who she seems. A lovely young woman caught up in a desperate circumstance, she must devise a scheme to regain her stolen fortune. The dashing soldier she rescued from near-death could be her savior in disguise. There is just one condition: she must pose as his wife—a masquerade that will embroil them in a sinful
scandal, where a man and a woman court impropriety with each daring step...with every taboo kiss that can turn passionate strangers into the truest of lovers.
The person who said there is no such thing as too much of a good thing... is wrong. Sometimes enough is enough. When I first started reading the Bedwyn series I was so excited. I love a good series. I have this severe OCD that insists I start at the beginning and read the books chronologically. It absolutely drives me crazy if I read a new book only to discover it is part of a larger series (unless I lucked out and grabbed book number one, of course.) There is just something so satisfying about following characters you love through their world, seeing them evolve. But I digress. The Bedwyns. Too much of a good thing. There are just too many siblings.

OK, maybe it is not that there are too many Bedwyns, and more the problem that Ms. Balogh has too few plots. Out of the six books three or four have the same plot device: the fake engagement (the FE). Come now, Ms. Balogh, you are better than that. I know there are the standard recycled plot devices commonly used in romance novels. Individual writers may use the same one in more than one of their stories. It is just lazy to use it four times in a row in a series. Did you think your readers would not notice?

That is not to say the book was bad. If I had not recently read the two books that preceded Slightly Sinful (Slightly Tempted & Slightly Scandalous) I most likely would have found this to be a fun, thoroughly enjoyable read. Instead I was disappointed by the lack of originality.

The two main characters, Alleyne and Rachel, were your conventional historical romance H&h. She was young-ish, innocent, with a past that has left her in dire straights (financially, not the band. That would just be weird.) He is the brother of a Duke who is independently wealthy, but has not found his path in life. He is hit by a bullet, falls from his horse, and is left naked and dying upon the fields of Waterloo. She finds him, takes him home and nurses him to health. He has no memory. (Pesky bump to the head!) He is still noble. She is still poor. But wait! She is an heiress who will come into her fortune on her 25th birthday or upon her marriage. A scheme is hatched. He shall pose as her husband so she can receive her fortune. Blah blah...

The romance is started slowly, which I can appreciate. Then suddenly... SEX! And it was not good sex. It was disappointing sex (for the reader and the characters.) No I don't believe that sex should be a perfect bliss filled moment every time for every character, especially when she is a virgin. However, it should happen at a point in the story where is feels natural. This felt forced on the reader. eh. They work it out. Things get better. HEA

The aspect of this booked that saved it from being completely banal were the secondary characters. Rachel is taken in by her former childhood nurse who is now working as a lady of the evening. Ok, she is a whore. Not my word. Ms. Balogh refers to them as such repeatedly. I think this is her attempt to be all "they are WHORES, but truly lovely people. Don't judge a book by it's cover!" The four lady birds are hilarious. If only the heroine were as fabulous. Feisty, fresh and fun. They fit together like the pieces of a puzzle, each with her own strengths. In addition, there is a former military sergeant who has taken on the duties of valet for our hero. He is not your standard issue valet. He continuously offers his unsolicited opinion and is ready to act as bouncer for all of his new friends. He's big, burly, and wears an eye patch. How could you not love that? Even Rachel's uncle is a dear. You are lead to believe he is a cold, hard man. In the end you love him. Without these characters I would have lost interest in the book. They kept me reading. If only Ms. Balogh had imbued her H&h with as much vitality as this supporting cast.

Overall, the book was not terrible, but it was not great. Some scenes seemed to be drawn out endlessly, while other were rushed through or glossed over. I have enjoyed other installments of this series far more. Check out Slightly Married. I am half tempted to skip the final installment, but there is that OCD, again. I'm only one book away from finishing it all. Can I possibly stop now? I'll have to think hard on this. In the meantime, I think I may take a hiatus from historical romance. I may have ODed. I just can not connect with the heroines any longer. Have I hit my saturation point or am I simply getting too old to relate to an 18-22 year old virgin who has barely even spoken with a man? Ooh. Maybe it's not the age, but the lack of experience. Perhaps I am too much of a hussy to relate :)

Grade: B- (without the supporting cast this would have been a C at best)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Gotta try the new toys

I am a sucker for gadgets. Kitchen gadgets, musical gadgets, technology gadgets. Any of it is fun for me. Never have you seen someone derive so much delight from opening up a Christmas gift to discover the Rabbit wine bottle opener. Oh the rapture! I don't drink that much wine. Seriously! I just think the bottle opener is so damn cool it is enough of an excuse to uncork a new bottle. Anyhow, I love romance, and what is more romantic than a glass of wine reflecting the flickering candle light as I read about my favorite Alpha male heroes doing dirty, dangerous deeds?

So today when I logged into blogger I noticed something new. It has probably been there for quite a while, but I have been distracted by my ever growing TBR list. Seriously, the thing is multiplying like bunnies! They were reminding users to try out "blogger draft." Hmm, how could this possibly be better than the version I already use? Oh, it is. So very much cooler. Why? They test run their new gadgets (or features) on blogger draft. Check out my sidebar, thar be new things!

I have a poll! My first ever. So simple to create. Fill it out, fill it out!!!!!

I have a new blog/link list. This one lists them in order of the most recent update. How great is that? Now all I have to do is peek at my blog roll to see if anyone has posted something new since I was last online. Spectacular! (Yes, I am lazy. Yes, I know I could try an RSS feed. This just seems way cooler to me.)

So now I am all jazzed up about my new features. My new gadgets. Try them out, they're fun. I need to get reading. I swear that TBR list has grown since I first started typing this post! Good god, I think it is taking over my family room. I hear rumors that there are plans for westward expansion. They have their beady little book eyes on my bedroom and kitchen. I must shore up my defenses and halt the imminent invasion! I must have strength. I must defend my territory. I must read!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Force of Nature

Title: Force of Nature
Author: Suzanne Brockmann
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Florida private investigator and ex-cop Ric Alvarado's life is spiraling out of control. His beautiful new Girl Friday, Annie Dugan, is far more interested in fieldwork than filing, and despite Ric's best efforts to ignore the attraction, sparks are flying between them. Then one of Ric's clients turns femme fatale and tries to gun down an innocent man. Thanks to quick thinking and even quicker reflexes, Ric comes to the rescue, only to learn he's done a very good deed for some very bad people. Suddenly Ric finds himself deep undercover with Annie, working for notorious crime boss Gordon Burns. One mistake from Ric's painfully inexperienced partner and they're both dead.

FBI Agent Jules Cassidy's life isn't in much better shape. For years the FBI has been trying to prove Gordon Burns's ties to terrorist activity. Now, thanks to Ric and Annie, Jules has found a way into the lion's den. But in the course of his investigation, he comes face to face with Robin Chadwick, the charismatic but self-destructive and closeted movie star for whom Jules feels a powerful attraction. Robin's in town promoting his latest film -- and Gordon Burns is a star-struck movie buff. With Robin and Jules's help, Ric and Annie are soon entrenched in Burns's organization, surrounded by killers who may already have executed an FBI infiltrator. Before long the couple realizes that many more lives than their own will be at stake if they make a false move. As the heat between them reaches dangerous levels, so do the risks they're willing to take -- in the line of duty, for the sake of loyalty, and in the name of
something that runs even deeper...

I have a crush. A big crush. It is true devotion. No matter what, I always stand by my love. Luckily, my love does not disappoint me. Oh no, I am consistently given only the best. Who is this crush? Suzanne Brockmann. Well, her writing and characters. Oh how I love them. No one does Alpha men like Brockmann. What is it about an Alpha man that is so compelling? Truly, given the following choice , what would you choose?

a) beautiful, sensitive, sexy, compassionate, gentle, sweet man

b) beautiful, strong, sexy, snarky, tough, badass, dangerous (with a hidden sensitive center and a bit of a jealous streak) man

If you answered A then you are either lying or have terrible taste in men! There is just something about an Alpha man that just makes my fallopian tubes twitch. Roawr!!! So when I saw Force of Nature on the shelf at my library I knew I was in for a treat. Brockmann has been feeding my love of the Alpha for years with her Troubleshooters/Navy SEAL series. This was book 11 of the series. Yes, that's right, the 11th story chock full of Alpha cock..iness. Mmmm.
Annie and Ric have known one another since she was 11 years old. She grew up with him hanging around, a friend of her brother's. Years of longing, misconceptions about one another's personal lives, and a boat load of smartass teasing. How could you not love this couple? Add to that the fact that we met Ric briefly a few books ago. A typical Brockmann move, introducing us to characters before they are featured.
Speaking of characters we have met before: Jules Cassidy. Oh my sweet Jules! How I adore thee! If you were really real we would be BFFs. Yeah yeah, I know Alyssa is your BFF, but I could take her. What? She is a sniper? She could eliminate me from 5 football fields away? Oh, but she would be more likely take me down in hand to hand combat? Um, could I bribe her with chocolate instead? I mean, there was that hawt scene many books ago that included her, Sam, and a bottle of chocolate sauce.... guh!
ehem. Back to Jules. He has been one of my favorites for years. We first met him 10 books ago. Yeah, Brockmann has been teasing us with him for years. Funny, sweet, strong, bad ass, funny, beautiful, and gay. The big gay FBI agent. He is fantastic. The poor guy has had his heart shredded and, finally, FINALLY, we get his story. Enter Robin Chadwick, action star, sister of Janey who's married to Cosmo (go read their book). Two years ago he was confused and so far in the closet he couldn't see the fabulously coordinated outfits hanging in front of him. Now he has come to term with his sexual orientation, but is still ensconced among his Armani suits. The yearning and love is so heartbreaking.

I loved this book. It has Alphas, hawt sex, longing, love, action, bad guys, crime, Sam Starrett, humor, Max Bhagat, a crazy little dog, a crazy ex-porn star... the list just keeps going. A week or so ago a discussion was brought up over on Dear Author regarding romance novels dealing with big issues. FON is packed full of them: homosexuality, prejudice, alcoholism, suicide, cancer. All are handled well, but the issues between Robin and Jules are dealt with in a sensitive and honest way. This is due in large part to the fact that Brockmann's son is gay. Having such an important inspiration in her life has helped her to bring real beauty to these two men. While I will probably not hunt out GLBT romances, I have loved reading about Jules' journey. Best yet? There is a novella that focuses on their wedding!!! I can't wait to pick it up!

Now, all of the being said, if you have not read the other books in the series DON'T YOU DARE read this book. Start from the beginning. Trust me on this. Tom and Kelly (the H&h in the first book) are the only ones you do not meet before they receive their own book. Oh, and they don't disappear after getting their HEA. You keep getting peeks into their lives. LOVE it! So yes, go check out these fabulous Alphas from SEAL team 16 and Troubleshooter. Trust me, if you like them strong, loyal and hot... these boys are for you.

Grade: A