Friday, May 4, 2012

The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

After finishing The Raven Prince the other day I decided to continue my reread with the second book on the series, The Leopard Prince.  I remember really enjoying the story of Harry and George's romance. Again, Ms. Hoyt crafted a book that not only stands up to a second reading, but enchanted me all over again.

Title: The Leopard Prince
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Genre: Historical Romance
Format: mass market paperback
Series: The Prince Series

Wealthy Lady Georgina Maitland doesn't want a husband, though she could use a good steward to run her estates. One look at Harry Pye, and Georgina knows she's not just dealing with a servant, but a man.
Harry has known many aristocrats—including one particular nobleman who is his sworn enemy. But Harry has never met a beautiful lady so independent, uninhibited, and eager to be in his arms.
Still, it's impossible to conduct a discreet liaison when poisoned sheep, murdered villagers, and an enraged magistrate have the county in an uproar. The locals blame Harry for everything. Soon it's all Georgina can do to keep her head above water and Harry's out of the noose...without missing another night of love. 

From page one the attraction and tension between Harry and Georgina is intense.  Intense is a great word to describe this book.  The romance is intense.  The sexual tension is intense.  The intrigues and evil doings by the less than sane characters is very intense.

George grew up sheltered. There is much of the world of which she is not aware.  Simple things like how to lay a fire or how to slice bread.  Larger issues of country living such as the impact the death of livestock would have on the farmers and their families. She is not unintelligent, simply uninformed. She talks to Harry, learns from him.  She also teases and deliberately pokes at his outward calm. 

What sets George apart from the average HR heroine is the circumstances of her life.  She is a 28 year old woman who has never been married. She quite nearly fears marriage due to the nature of the relationship between her parents. Not abusive, but in no way loving. Their cold marriage gave Georgina no reason to seek out such an arrangement for herself. Financially, she has no need to.  A beloved aunt passed away leaving George a rather fantastic manor and grounds. She is a female land owner with no need for a husband to provide for her future.

Harry Pye is a rough man. Strong, solitary, salt of the earth.  He has no aspirations for a higher status in society. He wants to be left alone to care for the lands of which he is the steward. He is powerfully attracted to Georgina, but knows that their differing backgrounds and standing in society would impede any sort of relationship. He feels that all he could be is a stud to service his noble lady. Harry's belief, however, is no match for the strength of the attraction between them.

Together the two begin to investigate the suspicious deaths of the local sheep.  Neighbors begin to accuse Harry and danger begins to haunts the two lovers. Not only is their growing relationship battling class divisions, but the threat of danger hovering over Harry.

I loved this book. Despite Georgina's clueless moments, a few that teetered perilously close to being TSTL, I enjoyed her as a character.  I think it was her willingness to admit when she was uninformed. The sexual tension between the characters was explosive. Relationships between the primary and secondary characters were well written.  The suspense plot was dramatic, but not overly done.  It helped to move the story forward and provided plausible reasons for the lady of the manor to spend extensive time with her land steward.

I am so glad that I own a paper copy of this book.  It means I can pick it up again and again in the future. This just may become my go-to reread when I am jonesing for a great historical romance.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

WWR Wednesday: Little Alys!

I am so happy to welcome my friend Little Alys to WWR today to share about her preferences as a reader. I so love hearing what you all think and look for in a book. Big hugs and a happy hello to Alys! (please pardon the wacky formatting. I tried to fix it and ended up breaking the coding.)

What does this woman read? 
This woman is a die-hard romance fan. I love it in everything and it is usually a must have, but as long as it's printed and interesting, I will read. :D Granted, it has somehow became a fact that I MUST read or my brain will wither away faster than a frail flower in the desert heat. Really. My brain starts shutting down and the life seeps out of me like some jelly donut, so very often (to stay alive) I read whatever I can. Which means, I often go to several news outlet sights, scroll through as many blogs as I can, as well as visit a few science specific sites daily. Then again, even in those places I tend to pick topics I'm interested in, unless I’ve run out of stuff to read…then I venture forth ^_^.

At my highest point when my life ran like a clock with new batteries, I read at least a book a day (new or re-reading). On a pinch, I've been known to read textbooks and at my weakest point, the dictionary. Sadly, my spelling is still horrific as ever. Go figure. Lol.

Sadly life has a way of growing it's own way.

Lately, I use the internet as my reading source most of the time, but still manage to read a few books a month...mostly romance. Heh. Throw any books/stories at me and if I find it interesting, I will pick it up. Fairytales, folklores and mythology/legends, history, bios, sci-fi, fantasy, children’s books (of all ages), YA, mystery...anything. I do have exceptions, but that depends on the content. I'm so picky for such a story-addict.

What turns you on as a reader? 
Ah, a lot of stuff, but needs to be in combination. Lol. I'm so picky. >_< Basically, for a story to really work for me, several different aspects need to factor in. 1) Characters (I have a strong love of underdogs, wallflowers, betas), 2) the story itself, 3) humor! (it's a few rare and awesome books where I find myself laughing out loud while flipping through the pages and scaring people around me) and 4) being able to gleam something from the take something away when I have that last happy yet wistful longing sigh when I close the book. Lol.

1) A character does not need superpowers (although cool) for me to want to read the book. It has to be the personalities, the hidden depths, or their course of actions. Sounds simple enough, yet so very hard to write well. I like reading the unsung hero, or those average simple people that truly rise to the occasion with nothing more than their wits, intellect or even pure luck. Lol.

2) The story itself needs to be believible in its own world. Does not matter to me the genre or the age audience, a good book is a good book.

3) I think humor is the hardest part for any writer, since we all find different things to be funny. So in this case, I just hope for no angst (please see below). Still, to be able to laugh while reading a good book = awesome. I'd like the characters to be able to laugh throughout the book and I would like to be able to laugh with them. If that makes any sort of sense. And to bring it all together...

4) I prefer to have stories where I can learn something new, or see things in a different perspective. Whether it is political, historical, fantasy/sci-fi, or modern day… I want to learn something from these stories. It might be some historical fact, or personal growth, or as obscure as the name of a place that no longer exists, I love to learn from these stories. Every often, when I read a book and I come across something I do not know, I like to go look it up and expand upon it. To see characters, (the wallflowers, the nerd, the average character) be able to explore, laugh at the face of adversity and still pull through...well, there must be definitely something I can take away. Even if it ends up just me laughing in happiness at a wonderful story. 

Ok, onto the angst part I mentioned earlier... I do not like too much angst, repetition, and violence. Yes, I know these three factors are more a part of everyday life, but I do not like reading about them. I especially hate violence against women, children, or animals. This was the reason I stopped reading most mystery and crime novels (which I used to devour). Plus, the romance was always very lacking in there. Lol.

Whatever the story, I want a HEA, or even happily right now. I like knowing that the protagonist can grow and laugh at hardship and find her (and/or his) HEA. Heck, even though some of my most favorite books have bittersweet ending, the stories still contained various forms of love/romance that has managed to stay true and poignant I hold it close to my heart. So I’ve come to realize that whether there is any romance in the story was a good indicator of the story. :D

So, conclusion…romance story is the common thread. They tend to be the only books where I find strong characters willing to learn and adapt as well as rise to any challenge thrown at them. So off to read more romance! :D

*Little Alys, thank you so much for joining me here on WWR!  It was such a pleasure to have you on board for the day  :)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Re-Read: The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

I have been busy and distracted lately.  Too many things are pulling at my attention.  At times like this I find it difficult to get pulled into a new book.  My mind wanders and I just don't do the story justice. When this mood strikes I know that the best thing for me to do as a read is to go back to a well loved novel and do a re-read. Having been in the mood for an historical, and finding an inexpensive copy at the store, I recently picked up The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt.  I remember loving it the first time around and was curious to see if it stood up to a second reading.  The verdict? Most definitely!  What a great read this was, and just what I needed right now.  I pulled up the review I wrote about it back in 2008 (whoa! Exactly four years ago today!) Everything I said back then still applies now.  So in a fit of laziness, here is my review revisited. I jotted a few current notes in red so you can see my thoughts today compared to 2008.

Title: The Raven Prince
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Genre: Historical Romance

Back cover

THERE COMES A TIME IN A LADY'S LIFE...Widowed Anna Wren is having a wretched day. After an arrogant male on horseback nearly squashes her, she arrives home to learn that she is in dire financial straits. What is a gently bred lady to do?
WHEN SHE MUST DO THE UNTHINKABLE...The Earl of Swartingham is in a quandary. Having frightened off two secretaries, Edward de Raaf needs someone who can withstand his bad temper and boorish behavior. Dammit! How hard can it be to find a decent secretary?
AND FIND EMPLOYMENT.When Anna becomes the earl’s secretary, both their problems are solved. Then she discovers he plans to visit the most notorious brothel in London for his “manly” needs. Well! Anna sees red—and decides to assuage her womanly” desires . . . with the earl as her unknowing lover.

When it comes to historical romance, I like my heroines to be spunky. Spunky and not 18 years old. Maybe I am getting old, but I just can't connect to a heroine who is only four years older than the students I teach. I really am leaning more and more towards characters who are...mature. Hey, I'm turning 35 in a few weeks. It was bound to happen eventually.  So it was with great pleasure that I read The Raven Prince. I had heard about this book on another book blog (please don't ask which one, I have no idea. See? Old.) I figured, what the heck, I might as well check it out. When I saw it on the shelf of my local library I quickly plucked it up.  My memory or the book was so positive that I snatched up a copy when I saw it at the store recently for $4.

Anna Wren is a sweet little widow living in a small English town with her mother-in-law. Could be a bad set up, right? Not so, for these ladies. Mother Wren is that rare wonderful creature, a MiL who honestly loves the woman her son married (she even admits her son was a jackass.) It has been four years since her husband passed away, and funds are getting tight. Ana decides that it falls upon her shoulders to step up and earn some cash. She looks into the typical occupations for females (governess, companion to an old lady, etc.) but no one in their neighborhood is hiring. Walking home after a disappointing day of job hunting, Anna runs into the steward of the local nobleman. Huzzah! He is looking to hire a secretary for the Earl. You see, the Earl has a bit of an anger management issue. Temper temper! Hmmm... let's see. Here stands one woman looking for employment and one steward seeking to hire a secretary. What do we get? Women's Lib!!! Ok, maybe not. We get the story of the plucky widow working in a man's world. Temper? pfft! Anna has no problem with the Earl of Swartingham's temper. Perhaps that is because she first dealt with it on page one of the book when he nearly ran her down with his horse. He admired her pluck then, and it keeps her in good standing as him employee.  (Um, I used the word "plucky" a lot.  For that, I apologize.)

From day one, something about Anna speaks to Edward. She seems like a plain little country mouse, but her sexy mouth and sassy attitude just do it for him. So much so that he deems it necessary to hie off to London to visit Aphrodite's Grotto to ease the lust he is feeling towards his secretary (heehee, I accidentally typed sexretary.) Oh but she has him all figured out! Little Anna has a major case of the hots for the Earl. Seems like a mutual thing, right? Oh yeah. Well, if he wants to find his release it better be with her! With the help of two ladies of the night she recently provided aid to (against outcry from all and sundry), Anna travels to London where she dons a mask and participates in some sexing so hot it nearly set the pages of the book to flame. Damn! I'm gonna have to try out some of that. ::fans self:: After two nights of the steamiest love making a mask and an arm chair have ever seen, Anna flees London, realizing that hawt s3x is not enough. She loves him.  The realization that their interludes were a hollow mockery of Anna's feelings was quite heartbreaking.  

Of course, he finds out. Remember that temper I mentioned? Boy howdy!!! The anger runneth over. So does the angst. You see, Edward is engaged! He wants a family. Anna was married four years and no baby was ever conceived. Do you see the problem. Well, I won't say much more. I fear I have already given too much away. But let me just lay out a few more of my favorite points:

- any scene with Anna and Edward verbally sparring Anna gives as good as she gets. Edward actually likes that someone is willing to stand up to him.
- Edward's dog and Anna's quest to find him a name
- Edward and the rose bushes  Such a perfect gift.  At that point even Edward doesn't realize how telling the gesture was.
- Edward getting into brawls
- Edward's insane lust for Anna
- Anna being all feisty and spunky  Strong, determined... there are so many better words to use, Shannon!
- the fact that Anna is 31 years old
- Edward not being a perfect example of male beauty  This was a major issue for the character, but it in fact gives Edward character. All of the men in Ms. Hoyt's books are complex and not quite what they seem.
- Anna standing up to everyone to do what is right
- the hawt hawt hawt love scenes
- Edward's yearning for home and family
- the book

What I found weird:

- the fact that the author used both anatomical names (penis and vagina) and euphemisms (cavern) This actually did not bother me the second time around. I didn't even notice until I re-read this comment.
- the fact that Edward surrounds himself with such strange characters (his household staff) but we never get their stories I definitely want to know more about certain household staff. Edward hints that there is a story there, but never delivers.

The Raven Prince was a delightfully fun historical romance. I would go so far as to say this would be the book to give someone new to the genre. When you take into consideration that this is (I believe) Ms. Hoyt's debut novel, it is truly a wonderfully written book. I strongly recommend that you search this out and read it. I can't wait to read The Leopard Prince. The mysterious Harry gets his own story. I just know this man has hidden depths!

Grade: A

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

WWR Wednesday- Nath

So, my mind is even more fried than I thought. Not only have I neglected this blog, but I apologized to the wrong person on Monday. Nath, you are a patient woman. Here is your day. We love you. We thank you. We welcome you!!! Thank you for joining me here (belated as it is, ALL because of my swiss cheese brain.)

What does this woman read?

I wish I could say I’m an eclectic reader. Alas, I am not as I read exclusively fiction. Oh, I do read scientific articles here and there for work and newspapers to know in what world I live, but if it’s for fun, it has to be fiction and preferably romance. Whether it’s contemporary, historical or paranormal, there’s just something special about two persons falling in love with each other and working their way through a Happy Ever After ending :)

I’ll read other genres such as urban fantasy, fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, wuxia (kung fu stories) and general fiction as well, given there are strong romantic elements. I don’t really know where this romantic side of me comes from, but It’s been ingrained in me since I was very young LOL.

There is of course the occasional exceptions and that would be in the young adult genre - is an HEA ending believable when the characters are 16-17 years old? That’s why I’m extremely picky when it comes to contemporary YA. The other exception is manga and comic books. By the way, I grew up reading in French and therefore, when I say comic books, I’m talking about European comic books: Asterix, Tintin, “les Schtroumpfs” aka the Smurfs and so on. What do they have in common? Adventures and a strong sense of humor :) As for manga, if I read shoujo then I’m pretty much guaranteed to have romance in it. As for shounen, well it’s the same as comic books: adventures, humor, the character growths and the topic of series. If there’s romance, it’s a bonus, but not necessary for me. I guess it’s about expectations as well.

What turns you on as a reader?

Actually, for me, it’s not really about what turns me on as a reader... but what doesn’t turn me on ^_^; High school drama in contemporary YA, fairies in urban fantasy, vampires in paranormal romance and so on. As we read great amount of books, we all have our quirks :) Ultimately though, I’m willing to give a try to any books as long as I’m enjoying the read; whether it’s the characters, the world building, the suspense, the story, the humor or even the writing style that provides the entertainment. Or any combination of the above.

I do admit though, I enjoy reading about characters that are out of their comfort zones :) My favorite tropes are the “happy-go-lucky heroine thawing up the stuffy hero” and the hero or heroine unexpectedly become the guardian of young children. I also like klutzy heroines, beta heroes and razor-sharp minded characters :)

Then again, the most important at the end of the book though is that something has caught my attention and make me enjoy it :)

Monday, April 23, 2012


Whoa. Real life just buried me under an avalanche. Some of it is quite good, but stressful, nonetheless. I apologize to orianna. I have your WWR Wednesday contribution and am going to schedule it to post on Wednesday. I have been reading. I finished up two books in the last week. I will have reviews coming soon-ish. I swear! Ok, real life and real job beckon. Hope you all have a fabulous day. Let me know what you are reading. I need to figure out what to pick up next!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Please ignore this. I am being a (non-bookish) geek.

So on our trip down the coast I was able to relax and refresh myself. The ocean has amazing healing properties.  I was able to read a little bit, enjoy a cup or two or tea, soak in the Victorian ambiance of the B&B in which we stayed, and poked through gift shops and antique stores. 

I was able to feed my inner geek at one antique store in particular.  You see, I have been either knitting or crocheting for at least the past 10 years.  I started recycling and dying yarn about two years ago.  I have been itching to learn how to spin my own yarn.  Yes, big yarn dork.  Anyhow, I was going to start with a simple, and inexpensive, drop spindle.  It looks like an old spinning top.  One of those kids' toys.  I figured it would be a cheaper and simpler way to get my toes wet and see if I even like spinning my own yarn. 

And then we walked through the antique shop.

There was a spinning wheel.  Beautiful, reasonably priced, antique.  I fell in love. It is the dream to own one. Now I do.  I caved like a souffle and bought it.  It is missing a few parts that are pretty important, but I think I can jury-rig replacement parts for the time being.  Some day I will want to get the whole thing overhauled and real replacement parts made, but it will be pricey and I want to learn to spin first.  If I love it then the investment will be worth it. 

So here she is. My antique spinning wheel.  The final sign to herald in my utter dorkdom.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (Audio Book)

One of the reasons that I was excited about getting my new library card was that I could start checking out audio books again.  When I am at home I want to sit and read.  When I am in the car, however, I need to listen to something.  I'm sorry NY/NJ folks, but the radio stations out here just don't live up to the ones I left behind in Chicago.  Heck, even back home in the Windy City I would tire of hearing the same top hits over and over.  (I love you, Adele, but these stations here have played you to the point of annoyance!) So what do you do when you have at least 30-40 minutes in the car each way?  Listen to a book!

In the past I listened to The Westing Game, books by Tamora Peirce, and other books for class.  I tried Darkly Dreaming Dexter, but found it to be way too intense for my daily commute.  I need something witty and fun and (shockingly) not romance.  I have yet to be able to bring myself to listen to sex scenes read aloud by a stranger while traversing the NJ Turnpike.

So upon getting my new library card I headed straight to the audio-visual room of the library. Wow.  Um, that's a lot of books on cassette.  Do many people still check those out?  Thankfully, as I was about to give up, I saw the section of CD audio books in a separate alcove. (Side note:  this library make me sad. It is so poorly organized and neglected.)  The selection was pretty good and they even have mp3 books so you only have to worry about one disc. Much better than having to switch out the CD while in the middle of driving over a bridge.  The A-V department was closing up for the lunch hour due to low staff numbers so I hurriedly made my choice.  OH, what a fantastic choice I made!

Title:  Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
Author(s):  Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy
Format: audiobook
Series: I wish!

Synopsis:  The world will end on Saturday. Next Saturday. Just before dinner, according to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies written in 1655. The armies of Good and Evil are amassing and everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except that a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist.

I really don't want too say too much about this book and ruin it for those who have yet to read or listen to it.  What I can say is WOW!  Why did I wait so long to read/listen to this book??!!?  The characters are hilarious and charming.   You want a chance to browse through Aziraphale's used book store or have coffee with Crowley.  You are happy to have never met the Sisters of the Chattering Order.  You swear you know a girl just like Anathema Device.  You want to visit Lower Tadfield.  I swear I have taught a group of The Them.  The character list is long and brilliant. Even those who only appear briefly are vividly drawn.  For example, Mr. Young appears only a few times in the book and is described as a "serious minded man with a moustache smoking a pipe."  He does things "in accordance with tradition" and is not entirely comfortable comforting a baby because he has always respected Winston Churchill and has a difficult time patting tiny versions of him on the head.

The story itself kept my guessing quite a bit, which it rather impressive.  There are still a few things that my mind is mulling over weeks later, still trying to get straight in my head.  There is some room for interpretation about how things will play out in the future. Every detail is not laid out for the reader.  It is humorous and intelligent.  It respects the intelligence of the reader.

As an audiobook this was FANTASTIC.  Martin Jarvis was the reader and he did such an amazing job voicing all the innumerable characters.  He was recently in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, appeared on a handful of episode of East Enders, and did the voice of Nergal on the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy (among many other credits.)  This man is talented and I want him to narrate every British novel I read. Yes, he was that good.

Seriously, this was a great book, a phenomenal audiobook.  If you have never read it GO GET IT.  If you have read it...GO GET IT!  Seriously, the reading is too fun to pass up on and you never know what crazy little detail you will have missed the first time around.  The four horsemen?  The telemarketers?  The hellhound?  The awesomeness that is Pepper?  Like I said, GO GET IT!

Oh, and by the by, there appears to be a TV mini-series in production for this book. The casting possibilities are spinning through my head!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

WWR, Thursday: Christine!

Sorry for the delay.  I could site all sorts of valid reasons for not posting this sooner, but I'll be honest: Cape May, ocean, and wine tastings.  Those are the real reason this feature is coming to you on a Thursday night.  So without further ado, say hello to Christine of The Happily Ever After

What does this woman read? 
The majority of what I read is fiction, but I do read nonfiction now and then. I read from a variety of genres but romance--whether contemporary, historical, romantic suspense or paranormal--is hands down my favorite. I love the star-crossed lovers theme and have a particular affection for fairy-tale retellings. Other genres I read are young adult fiction, urban fantasy, straight fantasy, crime fiction, mysteries, general fiction and graphic novels. Graphic novels are a new source of reading enjoyment for me, having read my first one only a year ago or so. I've read fantasy, contemporary, non-fiction, memoir and classic graphic novels, including adaptations of Shakespeare! Go figure!

In nonfiction, I enjoy memoirs, books on gardening, health & lifestyle and cookbooks. Yes, I am naming cookbooks here because I often sit down and read them cover to cover as I would a novel. I also love a good craft encyclopedia.

What turns you on as a reader? 
I can be pretty forgiving regarding the depth and complexity of a book as long as I'm entertained. However, what really grabs my attention and favor are books with complex, consistent world building and character driven stories in which the main characters show emotional depth and growth. I love when a character has obvious flaws and insecurities and learns a bit about themselves through the conflict of the story.

Speaking of conflict, I love books with 'conflicting' conflicts. Give me shades of gray where the lines between right and wrong, good and evil are not so clear. Those types of stories make me really think about the characters' choices and second guess what I think I would do if I were in their shoes.

Ultimately I'm generally thrilled with a book in which well developed characters have experienced some valuable life lessons in the course of their story. Combined with the added bonus of a meaningful romance built around quality world building and character growth, and I am one happy reader.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Greetings from the coast

Hello all, Have no fear. I have not forgotten WWR or the Wednesday feature. It is there in the back of my mind. It is, however, quite far back there. You see, this week is Spring Break. For most of the adult world that means very little unless you have school age children. For us teachers it means a week of freedom and much needed relaxation. Currently, we are relaxing and taking in the sites at Cape May. It is my first visit, which I am thoroughly enjoying. We will return tomorrow evening, at which time I will upload Christine's WWR Wednesday thoughts a day late, I will upload my many photos, and try to put together my thoughts about this trip. I hope you are all having a stress free week. See you back here soon!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Werewolf Reading List

Oh my, where did this week go? I had planned to add a bit more to the blog for Werewolf Week. Between wrapping things up at school before Spring Break and preparing to head out on our upcoming trip, life has sucked up my free time.  Ah well, here I am squeaking in one last werewolf post just before the week actually comes to an end.

When I want a good werewolf or shape shifter story there are a few authors that are on my go-to list.  There are those books I have read and re-read to get my lupine fix. Sometimes the main character is the shifter. In some books they play a supporting role.  Whether the lady in the spotlight or the man on the sidelines, I just love these characters. 

It used to be that I would have to wait until October for a new batch of Paranormal Romances to be released. Halloween was always good for some otherworldly heroes.  Mostly this included vampires. I love me some blood suckers, but we are focused on their furry friends this week.  It used to be a rarity to find books with werewolf characters, never mind were-cats, were-bears, or were-guinea pigs. When Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance hit the big time scores of Halloween readers rejoiced. Vampires in January?  Demons in April?  Werewolves all year long??!!?!?  Huzzah!!!

So now these books are abundant.  With such abundance, however, comes overexposure and a vast disparity in quality.  There is the good and there is the bad.  Let us not dwell on the bad.  Instead, let us list the good.  Together, let's create a reading list of books we have read and found to be exciting, delicious, decadent and down right fantastic.  Share with us your favorite werewolf/shifter book and I will add it in an ever growing reading list.  Let's see just how extensive a list we can compile.

Werewolf/Shifter Read List

Alpha & Omega series  by Patricia Briggs
     On the Prowl (anthology)
     Cry Wolf
     Fair Game
Alpha Instinct  by Katie Reus
Desire Unchained  by Larissa Ione
Last Call Kamikaze  by Moira Rogers
Mercy Thompson series  by Patricia Briggs
     Moon Called
     Blood Bound
     Iron Kissed
     Bone Crossed
     Silver Borne
     River Marked
Night Play  by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Psy-Changeling series  by Nalini Singh
     click here for full reading order
Sin Undone  by Larissa Ione

So which books have you read that should be added to the list?  I know I am missing a ton.  Which books have you loved that all lovers of werewolves (and shifters of all shapes) should read?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

WWR Wednesday: Katie Reus

In honor of Werewolf Week and the release of Protector's Mate, Katie Reus has graciously agreed to join me at What Women Read as the first guest contributor to the new weekly Wednesday feature.  So without further ado, let's give Katie a warm WWR welcome!  WooHOOOOOO!!!  ::waves arms wildly::

What does this woman read?

Katie Reus: I read across a broad spectrum, but I’ll freely admit that romance is my go to genre. While I’m not big on the straight contemporaries (I need outside action), I tend to read a lot of paranormal romance and romantic suspense. Oddly enough, even though I write about shifters I read a lot more about vampires and other different supernatural beings. I also tend to gravitate toward series books, especially in pnr. If I like a world I want to keep revisiting it! Other topics I enjoy reading about are: military memoirs, military history, the ecology of various animals especially apex predators, world mythologies and criminal behavior to name a few.

What turns you on as a reader?

Katie Reus:  First, a really good back cover copy description will suck me in and make me pick up a book. But it’s all up to the characters to keep me hooked. I love a strong heroine, but the hero has got to be well, a hero. While I prefer my guys to be alpha, I also love a good beta now and then (Charlotte Stein writes some amazing betas). A hero can be a complete alpha but still respectful of his significant other. If he’s not then I don’t think he deserves the title ‘hero’. He deserves something more along the lines of a**hat. In romance it’s all about that chemistry and heat. I can overlook a lot of things including okay world building if the characters jump off the page. That’s not to say I don’t like action driven stories because I’m also a really big fan of external drama and I love it when things blow up or a couple is on the run from an evil villain, but I’ve got to connect with the main characters in some way. So…my rambling answer boils down to one thing: likeable characters.

Monday, April 2, 2012

What is it about werewolves?

Just what is it about werewolves?  What makes them so compelling? Why do I scan through book titles and descriptions, and find myself with a growing pile of books about Alphas and mates and pack relations? What makes them sexy instead of scary?

It is all in the writing, or course.  An author with a mind to create truly scary werewolves could do so with great success. A man who turns into a ravening beast, controlled by his base instincts?  This could be terrifying.

Or damn sexy.

The werewolf's history is as long reaching as that of the vampire.  Herodotus wrote of an ancient Greek tribe that transformed into wolves once a year for several days before returning to their human forms.  Ovid and Virgil tackled lycanthropy in their writing, as well.  The ability to change into animal form has been attributed to sorcerers, as well as saints.  Some scholars had even considered lycanthropy to be a form of devine punishment.

Werewolves and shape shifters cross cultural and international borders. You can read of the skin walkers in Native American legends. In Haiti Je-Rouge is a werewolf spirit that can possess the unaware and cause them to nightly transform into a cannibalistic lupine creature. While in Mexico the nahual does not kill, but instead steals cheese and rapes women.  Legends of such creature can be found in nearly all European countries, from Italy and France to Hungary and Russia.

Hollywood has long been fascinated with werewolves and shifters. You can look back to Lon Chaney Jr. to see the terror of a beast stalking the night.  An American Werewolf in London took a horror-comedy turn with the old trope. Werewolves have been portrayed as the villain (The Howling), the sympathetic victim (the Harry Potter series), and the oppressed (the Underworld series).  Legends of lupine shifters have been used to muddy the waters in such movies as The Brotherhood of the Wolf. (If you have not seen this movie I highly recommend you get it ASAP.)

Authors have taken an equally diverse approach to the theme. J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Patricia Briggs, just to name a few.  In Romance, however, the werewolf and their shape shifting bretheren are more often than not the heroes.  Not always, of course.  Just as there are good and bed humans, there are good and bad shifters.  What is important to note is that authors of paranormal romance treat their were-anything characters as they do their human characters, with the added bonus of powers and a mating bond.  The lycanthropy does not shape who they are at a deep moral level, though it influences how they might react.

As I said earlier, it is all in the writing.  An author who really puts the time and detail into world building creates a canvas against which these larger than life creatures can come to life.  Tough men with a strong protective instinct.  Men who are in control of themselves and their environment.  Men who are in control of their inner beast.  Werewolves are the embodiment of both our humanity and our animal sides.  These characters live within the greater world, but also within the world of their pack structure.  The laws that govern them tend to harken back to days of old, to feudal law. They are strong in mind, body and passions.  They will fight to protect what, and who, belongs to them.  If you threaten what is theirs, be prepared to face their wrath.  If you are the object of their desire... you just may be one lucky lady.

So what is it exactly that keeps me coming back to these werewolf and shifter centered Paranormal Romances?  It is everything mentioned above and something extra.  Some indefinable something.  These are men you would likely avoid in real life.  That deep instinctual fight or flight response would kick in and send you walking in the opposite direction.  But for the time it takes to read from cover to cover in the book, the reader can live dangerously.  You can flirt with the creature and live on the edge.  One can allow possessive behaviors to set their heart a flutter that would, in reality, have steam pouring from their ears. You can be overwhelmed and over powered and love it in the safety of the pages of a book.

Just what is it about werewolves?  It's just about everything.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Protector's Mate by Katie Reus

I adore Paranormal Romance.  It is quite possibly my favorite genre. Recently I have been all about the werewolves and shifters.  So here at WWR I am hosting a week about werewolves.  To kick things off, I present a review of a book out just today!

Title: Protector's Mate
Author: Katie Reus
Genre: Paranormal romance
Format: ebook provided by the author

Sysnopsis: After two years in a war zone, werewolf Felicia Serna has finally returned to find another pack has taken over her territory…and the new second-in-command is the very man who haunts her fantasies.

Alaric has wanted Felicia from the moment he laid eyes on her, and now he’s ready to claim her. When a threatening shifter begins stalking them, he’s determined to protect her…even if it means putting his seduction on hold. But even in the heat of danger, their red-hot passion cannot be denied.

I feel the need to preface this with saying that I have a love-hate relationship with novellas. I love the idea of them.  A short, quick shot of romance.  You aren't always in the mood for a long book.  The novella steps up to fit the bill.  At the same time, this short format usually leaves me... unsatisfied.  Just as the story feels like it is gaining some steam, the author rushes to wrap it all up.  You see, love-hate.

All that said, I jumped at the chance to read Katie Reus's newest release (OUT TODAY!)  I strongly enjoyed Alpha Instinct, so when she said new newest, Protector's Mate, was in the same vein I had to read it.

Felicia has baggage. Not your average emotional baggage, but a full matching set of traveling luggage. Her early experience with pack life caused her to leave home, choosing the life of a lone wolf. Against her Alpha's wishes, she went to college and then escaped to Afganistan to work as a nurse.  Returning home took more courage than facing the dangers of the war torn country. Upon arriving home, she is met with the news that her Alpha is dead and another has taken over his territory.  This news is delivered by Alaric, the one wolf capable of making her heart beat faster.  He arrives at the airport to pick Felicia up, with no prior warning.

The spark flare between Felicia and Alaric from moment one. Her ability to trust, however, poses quite a stumbling block.  Alaric knew the moment he met her years ago that Felicia was his mate.  He also knew that she was not ready for the relationship he wanted from her.  Alaric stepped back and gave her the time to grow into adulthood, unaware of the warped dynamic inside her pack and the damage it would do.  He kept tabs on her as she went to college and, later, when she was overseas.  Eventually he contacted her via email and began to build the foundations for their future relationship. Felicia wants to trust Alaric, but she learned her lessons the hard way with her previous Alpha. Her wolf knows that is can trust Alaric, but her human side was still wary.

Ms. Reus does a fine job of quickly building the world in which these characters live and developing enough of a backstory that you believe Felicia and Alaric have a connection.  There is a dangerous conflict that arises that provides both plot tension and a setting for steamy moments.

I did like the story.  I think Katie did a credible job of weaving all the treads together.  I do wish she had been able to put these characters into a full length novel.  There is so much more I want to know about their story.  I was not fully satisfied, but still pleasantly entertained. If you like novellas you should definitely read this one.  If you find the format too short you should skip and go straight to Alpha Instinct.  If, like me, you have that love-hate relationship with novellas... go for it.  If is certainly worth a read.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

WWR Wednesday- a new weekly feature!!!

Since the title, and theme, of this blog is What Women Read I thought it might be appropriate to start a special Wednesday segment.  It will highlight one reader/author each week who will share with us just what that woman reads (genres, authors, etc.) and what will make her read a book.  So to kick off this new feature I will share my answers to these questions.

What does this woman read?
As you may have noticed base on my posts on this blog, I love a good romance.  It can be steamy or sweet.  It can be contemporary, historical, paranormal, suspense, or a combination of any of the above. I am trying to branch out lately and spread my reading wings, but I do default to Romance time and again.  Outside the genre I find enjoyment in Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fantasy, children's literature, young adult, and the occasional straight up fiction.  I dipped my toes into the graphic novel pool recently and would love to try some more in the genre. It is a rarity that I will pick up a non-fiction book.  Reading for me is escapism. History is often too dry to distract me from the stresses in my life, so I need the excitement I find in good fiction.  That is not to say I will never find a NF book that I would love. I have been told repeatedly that I need to read No Reservations by Anthony Bourdain. I think, if I actually sit down and read it, I would likely fully enjoy his writing, as I find him to be quite entertaining.  That is what reading is to me, at the end of the day. Entertainment. The very best kind.

What turns you on as a reader?
For me it is all about the characters. Whatever the conflict is in the story, the characters have to be ones with which I can connect.  I don't need to fully understand them or identify with them, but I do need to feel a connection. If I dislike one of the protagonists it is almost a guarantee that the book will be a DNF.  Female leads in Romance must be strong enough to hold their own against the hero. She should also be strong enough to stand on her own. She should not be completed by the hero. She should be complemented.

As for specific tropes, there are a few that will grab me every time. Friends become lovers, lovers reunited, shifters (werewolves, etc.), the Beauty and the Beast theme, unrequited love.  As I type this I realize that many of these tropes provide the characters with a shared history.  I think this helps lend more credibility to the characters if the story moves forward quickly.  It provides a whole basis, a foundation, on which the relationship has already begun to be built.  Oooh, this also works in the "enemies" become lovers trope, just in a different way.

In all genres, world building is essential for me as a reader.  Create a richly textured world in which your characters live and I want to stay there.  This is especially true for books in a series.  If an author can write protagonists with whom I connect in a vividly created world, you have me hooked for your series.  Heck, I'll even go dig up your back list while I wait for the next installment in the series!  Authors who have been imminently successful at this are Patricia Briggs, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brooks, Julie James, and Suzanne Brockmann.  There are many others, but those are just to name a few.

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If any of you out there are interested in being a guest on an upcoming WWR Wednesday please let me know. I have someone special in store for you next week, and I am ever so excited to see what she shares!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Alpha Instinct by Katie Reus

I know I have one of Katie's books on my shelf at home. It has been gathering dust for AGES. WHY, oh why have I not read it yet?  I saw a review of Alpha Instinct on another blog and the plot just grabbed me. I am so glad I loaded up on my Kindle.

Title: Alpha Instinct
Author: Katie Reus
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Format: ebook
Series: book 1 in her new Moon Shifter series

Synopsis:  Ana Cordona has been a strong leader for the lupine shifters who survived after all the males and most of the females in her pack were mysteriously poisoned. As tough as she is, with no Alpha male, the pack is vulnerable to the devious shifter Taggart, who wants to claim both their ranch and Ana as his own. When Connor Armstrong comes back into her life, promising protection, it’s almost enough to make Ana forget how he walked out on her before—and reluctantly accept his offer to mate.

The minute Connor sees Ana again, it reawakens a raw hunger. He must have her for his bondmate—his wolf cries out for it. But his human side knows he must proceed with caution because of their complicated past. If he is to truly have her body and soul, he must go beyond his burning desire and win back her heart. Whatever it takes, he is determined not to leave her side again.

But Taggart and his rival pack are not their only enemies. A human element in town is targeting shifters. Their plan not only threatens Ana and Connor’s future, but the lives of the entire pack…

Since the death of her parents and nearly two-thirds of her pack, Ana has had to be strong. She has had to be the emotional and physical strength of the women remaining in her care.  With no men males left in their midst, the women's hold on the territory is tenuous, at best.  With threats from the neighboring pack, Ana is about at the end of the line when ghosts from the past suddenly reappear, just in the nick of time.

Connor loves Ana.  He has loved her for the past 50 years, leaving her behind did nothing to dampen his ardor. How could it when finding her so many years ago meant finding his true mate?  Connor has returned and he is not alone.  Once a loner, he now heads his own pack of Alpha warriors.  With Ana in need of an Alpha, Connor grabs the chance to have what he wanted so long ago: a life with the woman he loves.

If you are looking for a light read or if you don't want a story full of tension and tragedy.... just walk away.  If you crave the angst of thwarted love given a second chance this is your book.  If love strong characters who can stand on their own, but find strength in each other, this is the book for you.  If you are looking to get hooked on a new series with dark overtones, great world building, and a well structured over aching series plot, THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU!  Ana is facing the threat of her neighbor Taggert (a shifter no sane person wants to meet) while at the same time dealing with the loss of so many of her pack mates. Added to this is the continued hovering threat from an outside source.  Many possible culprits are thrown your way. A few who make sense as the villain, but you hope Ms. Reus has plotted a less obvious outcome.  Don't worry, she doesn't go the obvious route. I love that the reader gets closure at the end for the central plot lines, but the Big Bad is out there, ready for the next book in the series. You could read this book and walk away feeling as though you got answers at the end.  But why would you walk away from a series with such a strong start??!?!!?

Katie has so many threads running through this book.  You know she is going to pick up a new one and give the others a tug in coming books.  The addition of so many Alpha warriors into a pack of all women gives the potential for many books and much angst to come.  I, for one, greatly look forward to this.

Now I can't wait to get home and dig out the other book I own penned by Ms. Reus. I know I am in for something fantastic.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Last Call Kamakaze by Moira Rogers

As I mentioned in my last post, I am striving to expand my reading habits a bit with this revamp of WWR.  I read my first graphic novel. I am listening to an audio book written by two authors I have yet to read (a non-romance that I will review when I am done.... squeee! SO GOOD!)  

I have stuck pretty much with romance and UF for a long time.  They tend to hit all the right buttons with me.  I decided to stretch a little farther in the hat and steamy direction and downloaded an erotic romance. (I think that is what it qualifies as, but I am fuzzy on where some of the lines are defining these sub-genres.)

Title: Last Call Kamikaze
Author: Moira Rogers
Genre: Erotic Romance(?)
Format: ebook
Series: book 1 in the Last Call series

Synopsis: Zoe Bennett is an inexperienced werewolf in the grip of her mating cycle. With no pack and no mate, Zoe must brave the supernatural crowds of Last Call, the bar where your drink order tells everyone what you need.

Kamikaze: Werewolf in heat, looking for a temporary mate

The chase is on, and security specialist Connor O'Malley intends to win, if only because the sweet young woman at the bar looks unprepared for what the night might bring, in and out of the bedroom. Little does he know that, when he catches her, he may not be satisfied being just a temporary mate.

Hoo, boy!  Steamy is a good word to describe this story.  There is no question that this book crosses into the erotic zone.  The main objective of the story is the sex, however, Ms. Rogers (or the two women who form the author "Moira Rogers") builds into the story a fantastic connection between the two characters.  I have tried reading erotica in the past and just couldn't get into it. Sex scenes are great, but if there is no depth to the characters or I don't sense a connection developing, I just can't buy in.  In Kamikaze I was completely sold. Yes it gets hot FAST. Yes, there is some smexing in there that does not regularly appear in the romances I read. I didn't care. The scenes were well written, the two characters actually talked to one another between bouts of incredibly hot sex, and there was world building. I was impressed by this. The story was short and focused on the physical, but Ms. Rogers laid enough of a foundation that you can begin to see the world in which Last Call exists.  The bar itself, Last Call, is an incredibly clever vehicle for the sexy romps. A bar catering to Others where the drink menu includes, not just specialty drinks, but the message said drinks delivers to the crowd.  You order up an encounter along with your alcohol. 

The other thing I liked about Kamikaze was the characters.  Zoe and Connor are both werewolves, which help the reader believe they could form an attachment so quickly.  "Sensing you mate" won't forgive bad writing, but it can give good writing a boost so that suspension of dibelief can move you forward more quickly.  Both of the characters were smart, geeky, quirky individuals. I loved this.  Neither of them was your typical hot, sexy paranormal being. Hell, Connor convinced Zoe he was the male she should spend the night with by telling her that with him she would at least be with someone who understood her incredibly geeky t-shirt (computer tech humor.)  This charmed me. I had enough computer engineering friends in college to appreciate this, and to have it endear the book to me.

I really enjoyed this book.  Short, hot, and with a sweetness to it that will let you finish with a sappy smile on your face.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much I just loaded up the next book in the series. Oh yeah, to make this even better?  Kamikaze is a free ebook.  The others in the series are just $.99  A cheap good time? You can't beat that!

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Thanks to those of you who stop by here at WWR.  I know I was absentee for a long time.  I appreciate you heading over this way again! I feel as though I am still getting back into the groove of reviewing.  My reviews seem to end up shorter than average compared to others of you out there in the blogosphere. Let me know if there are any particular types of details you would like me to expand on in the future when reviewing.  Thanks again!

ETA:  ARGH!!! I can not for the life of me figure out what is wrong with the formatting on here.    Sorry about the oddly highlighted white section. IT WAS NOT INTENDED!  (Ironic that the characters in the story I reviewed are computer techies and I am having technical difficulties. Grr!)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol (my first foray into the world of graphic novels)

One of my goals in rebooting this blog is to broaden my reading habits a bit. I love romance.  That will never change.  Why should it?  Whether it is contemporary, suspense, paranormal, historical, or some other flavor, I just love it.  I do venture outside the genre on occasion and would like to do so more often.

To that end I tried something completely new to me.  My boyfriend is a big fan of manga, comics and graphic novels. He talks to me about the ones he is reading and I have begun to develop an appreciation for the genre.  I have been thinking of dipping my toes in the water and was given a perfect opportunity.  The art teacher at my school is, not surprisingly, a huge fan of the genre.  He and I often talk during our prep periods since my desk is housed in his classroom. He is wonderfully patient to share his space with me since I am “on a cart” at my school.  He is also wonderfully generous and lent me a graphic novel. I don’t think he could have picked a better book for me to start with. He definitely had paid attention to types of movies and entertainment I talked about. 

Title: Anya's Ghost
Author: Vera Brosgol
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Format: hardcover

As a newbie to the genre this book was perfect. Not only is it a standalone so that I didn’t feel like I was getting into a commitment with a long series, but the story was great.  What I loved is that the characters are so real. Forget about the ghost for a moment.  The main character, Anya, was so much like some of my old students that it was scary. Anya is a fairly well-adjusted teen with your basic self-image problem.  She fears growing round and cuddly like her adorable Russian immigrant mother.  She wants to catch the attention of the super cute sporty boy, but is disgusted with herself for being so typical as to be crushing on the popular boy. One who is, “the kind of boy teen movies tell you to like.”  I have taught this girl. Hell, in many ways I was that girl. She is awkward, though not a nerd. She is neither cool nor an outcast.  She and her friends exist in the middle ground that so many of us were part of.  Basically she is a realistic teen character.

The cast of secondary characters is great. Anya’s mom is flighty. English is her second language which causes little misunderstandings.  She is studying for the US citizenship test. Anya is proud of her mom for doing this and helps her to study.  Her mom believes that Benjamin Franklin was once president.  When corrected she declares that had he been president maybe our country wouldn’t be so messed up.  She is wonderfully round and comforting, a mother who would have snuggled her kids and wiped their tears away with her sleeve.

Siobhan, Anya’s best friend is this very androgynous tomboy who can talk Anya into all kinds of mischief.  Smoking in the school bathroom? Check. Climbing out the window during an incredibly boring lecture? Check!  Another classmate, Dima, is everything Anya fears people see her as: a geeky immigrant who can’t navigate the social niceties of him new home country. Then there is the ghost.  At first she seems to be a fairly sweet girl with a sad story.  I won’t give details so as not to spoil the story, but let’s just say that all is not what it seems. 

This book does more than tell the story of Anya meeting a ghost. It is so much more.  This is a beautiful story of family dynamics, friendship, the longing for acceptance, and personal evolution. Anya’s eyes are opened throughout the story. She is forced to see past the social mask of her peers. She develops a stronger sense of self and a deeper appreciation for the friends in her life. You put the book down at the end and feel that the character is going to continue forward as a better version of herself. 

I HIGHLY recommend Anya's Ghost to both experienced and virgin graphic novel readers. The wonderful style of Ms. Brosgol's art is clean and fresh, paring with the text in a way that makes it a bit magical. Go! Buy it! You will love this book.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Dream a Dream

I have this coworker with whom I like to chat.  She teaches the after school program for our 4th graders, a rambunctious group, if ever there was one.  She and I are both major foodies. Many a conversation has centered around a new restaurant we tried or recipes on the docket for that evening's meal.

I realized yesterday that we have passed into true "work friends" territory when our conversation turned to movies and the actors who, well, just do it for us.  She admitted to not understanding the appeal of Christian Bale, but finally "getting it" in regards to Brad Pitt when she watched Troy.  I admitted my unaccountable crush on Edward Norton.

I can't fully account for all of the twist and turns in the conversation, but I do remember that we touched on one of our favorite 80's shows, Beauty and the Beast.  Ron Perlman in make up strangely holds more appeal than when he is out of make up.  Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show (creepy!) lead us to a discussion of more men and musicals we loved.  How we went from Tim Curry to Hugh Jackman is still a bit of a mystery.

At the top of my list of favorite musicals is Les Miserables.  As some of you may know, it is FINALLY being made into a movie musical.  I can not express the level of glee I had upon this discovery. Seriously.  I then started to hear news of casting.  Ah, yes.  This is how we got to this part of the conversation.  Hugh Jackman is set to play Jean Val Jean. I am pleased with this bit of casting. He is lovely and has plenty of Broadway experience.  Javert is going to be portrayed by Russell Crowe.  I am going to reserve judgement on this news.  We shall see.

For a while I was livid.  LIVID, I say.  Why?  Well, early casting announcements included Taylor Swift as Eponine.  She is sweet and all.  I don't mind my students listening to her inoffensive lyrics. I just don't want her playing my favorite character in my favorite musical.  Just... no.  Thankfully, producer Cameron Macintosh stepped in a vetoed that idea. New casting was announced and the villagers rejoiced.  I shall endure Anne Hathaway as Fontine and find rabid enjoyment over Helena Bohnem Carter as Madame Thenardier.

To prepare myself for the musical joys that await us all I snagged myself a copy of the 25th anniversary concert performance of Les Mis. It is SO wonderful.  Well, if you ignore Nick Jonas.  Otherwise it is phenomenal. Lea Salonga sang I Dream a Dream in such a way that even my boyfriend (sweet, patient man) was impressed with the performance.  So for your listening/viewing enjoyment, I give you Les Mis.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Giving Chase by Lauren Dane

Title: Giving Chase
Author: Lauren Dane
Genre: contemporary romance (with some suspense)
Format: ebook
Series: 1st book in the Chase brothers series

Synopsis: Maggie is fed up with the guys in town. Small town life just doesn't give a girl many options for romance. The men are all either married, gay, an ex, or not worth the time. Well, with the exception of the Chase brothers. Those boys are hot, but so far out of her league that Maggie doesn't give them more than a panting... Er, passing thought. 

Then Shane Chase dumps cheese fries all over her. 

Shane acted like a complete ass after bumping into Maggie. He knew is was an accident, and all his fault, but something about that woman got under his skin. Whatever it is, she caught his attention. She caught his brother, Kyle's, attention, as well. Two Chase boys chasing after her? What is a girl to do? When Shane suddenly turns skittish and Kyle steps in with serious intentions, Maggie knows there is no choice. 

But danger is lurking in town. Maggie has captured the attention of another man. One who won't take no for an answer and takes exception to Maggie's growing love with Kyle.

This was my first time reading Lauren Dane's work so going into it I really had no expectations. I was in the mood for a contemporary, and a series about gorgeous brothers? Perfect! Shane, Kyle, Matt, and Marc are skirt chasers. Lovers of women who are enjoying variety. Hey, a reformed rake is always a great hero, so I' m not complaining. I liked the brothers. I loved their mother. Strong, loving, meddlesome. She is your typical Southern momma. Almost too typical, but the stereotype worked for the story. Maggie is the history teacher at the local high school. Being a teacher myself, I am a sucker for heroines in my field of employ. She is sweet, but has the worst inferiority complex. You find out that her mother is Evil Mom. The character is so awful that I had a difficult time buying it. She is a former beauty queen who is obsessed with beauty and image. Someone so focused on how she appears would never say and do some of the things Maggie's mother did in public. Particularly in front of one of the most important families in town. I understand, though, that this character's actions are such so that the reader can see why Maggie so strongly doubts her self worth.

I liked the characters and the small town life. I liked the overall idea of the book. Unfortunately, there were elements that kept me from becoming full immersed in the story. Some of them were things that would not bother all readers. There are certain words that will immediately pull me out of a story if they are overused. Pussy can be cute for a cat. It can be sexy when used occasionally in an extra hot scene. When it is the only word used to describe a woman's anatomy, and it is used multiple times in a paragraph, I start to cringe. Like I said, my issue. Many readers won't care.

There was also the whole aspect of her being involved with one brother and immediately jumping into a relationship with the other.  It bothered me at first. I had a hard time with her going from crying over Shane to getting physical with Kyle. I think if there had been some time between the two relationships (although she barely started dating Shane) I would have been ok with it.

The overall pacing pulled me from the story. It felt a bit as though there was this great story full of so much potential, but it was packed into a format that was far too short. Often there were times I stopped and thought, "wait, I want more here!" Important events were mentioned almost in passing. I think if the story had been given a longer format it would have had room to breath and grow. You could have seen Maggoe and Kyle fall in love in a gradual, real way.  It would have brought the story from average to quite good. Instead of feeling rushed (wait, the bad guy is obsessed to the point of stalking her after only two dates?) you could have gotten a story with not just great characters, but great suspense.

I didn't hate this book, I promise! It was a nice, quick read. There was enough in it that I enjoyed that I am curious to read book two. Enough that I will give the series a second chance. I mean, those Chase brothers are pretty yummy.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fresh Look For a Fresh Start

I have been tinkering all morning on this blog. I figured that if I am going to make a fresh start then WWR needs a fresh look.  It is quite a different look than before.  No moobs in the header.  Gone is the bright color scheme.  Actually, it looks a bit dark around here.  I'm not entirely sure if I like it. The header is rather bland, but the background seemed to need something simple over it.

What do you think of the new look? Any suggestions?  I am certainly open to any ideas!