Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: Understood by Maya Banks

Title: Understood
Series: Unspoken
Author: Maya Banks
Read copy: eBook
Published: December 19, 2006
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
ISBN: 1599983028
ISBN-13: 9781599983028

When she breaks free from the bondage of her past, he’ll be waiting.

Jake Turner committed the ultimate mistake of falling in love with his best friend’s wife. The distance he puts between them costs both him and Ellie Matthews dearly. Jake will never forgive himself for not seeing what a bastard his friend was. Now that Ellie is free from her nightmare, Jake waits, needing and wanting. He’ll be there when Ellie is ready to spread her wings.

My rating:

A sex-fest with a side story of a battered woman and the man who’s wanted her forever.

I’m not a big fan of battered-woman storylines, except when that terrible experience makes her a better and worthy heroine (which seldom happen, by the way—they usually just use their fears to hid behind instead of going back to the living, and it’s the hero that has to literally drag them out of their hole, but is still afraid of their “fragile” state and she spends the majority of the story throwing tantrums and he feeling guilty).

Well, this also wasn’t one of those “you-go-girl-show’em-who’s-in-charge” storyline, because the best way for the heroine to “solve” her problems was to run away. But at least the hero didn’t spend the majority of this short story feeling guilty...just heart-broken. Which is just the best way for a battered woman to “grow and mature”. Hurt people like some of them hurt you.

Still, the sex was good. I missed an actual plot, though.



Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review: The Return of Rafe MacKade by Nora Roberts

Title: The Return of Rafe MacKade
Series: The MacKade Brothers
Author: Nora Roberts
Read copy: eBook
Published: June 20, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 1459213238
ISBN-13: 9781459213234

Ten years after disappearing from Antietam, Maryland, the bad boy has returned. Cleaned up and successful now—and still dangerously good-looking—Rafe MacKade sets the town on fire, and tongues wagging.

Lovely newcomer Regan Jones is intrigued—what kind of man could cause this sort of talk? She's just about to find out....

My rating:

Oh, wow. No matter the "age of material", Nora Roberts simply never disappoints. I don't know how the woman did it/does it/will probably continue doing it, but she always delivers. (I found that the stories by her that didn't really "sing" to me were just read at inopportune moments.)

And this little, ole gem was no different. With just the right amount of romance, suspense, family, and friends, and a haunted house thrown into the mix, this was a winner the moment I picked it up. Wonderful characterization, just the right touch of wilderness and darkness in Rafe, and annoying primness in Regan, great pacing, a little danger thrown in with an abusive bastard, three additional MacKade brothers that were just itching to tell their stories (and I can't wait to read them)...And the smokin' hot sex scenes written the way Ms. Roberts does—nothing explicit, but packing a sensual punch that always leaves me reeling.

A great start to the four-book series.



Review: Hide in Plain Sight by Michele Albert

Title: Hide in Plain Sight
Series: Avalon Prequel
Author: Michele Albert
Read copy: eBook
Published: May 1, 2006
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing
ISBN: 1416523073
ISBN-13: 9781416523079

APPEARANCES ARE DECEIVING

Fiona Kennedy can tell a forgery from the genuine article in a snap. Drop-dead-sexy Grif Laughton, however, is not so easy to read. He's clearly a masterpiece of the male variety — and the attraction he sparks is definitely the real thing. But Grif is a man of secrets, and the potentially priceless manuscript he's asked her to appraise is just one of them.

PASSIONS ARE DEADLY

But someone is willing to kill for the manuscript, and Grif reveals that he's a mercenary, hired to protect Fiona. Is he really who he seems, or is he just using her as bait? On the run from an unknown enemy, Fiona gives in to her all-consuming need for the man who may be her one chance for survival — or her final chapter.

My rating:

A completely new author for me, and though it didn't blew me away, it delivered quite a punch. The difference was in the fact the hero was using the heroine to gain his goal, she found out pretty quickly, he admitted the whole thing, and he spent the rest of their time together acting like a bastard and pushing her away.

So what is so different, you ask? He almost succeeded in pushing her away. He thought he actually didn't deserve to be happy, that he deserved the life he was living, and didn't want anything to do with her, because she was a distraction...There was no "maybe I'll convince her to give me a chance". Nope, he told her he was a bastard, that he was only using her, she hated his guts, and that was almost it...If it wasn't for that bullet and the hero realizing he was getting "too old for this shit", if I'm allowed to quote the dynamic duo from Lethal Weapon.

Though the whole "I hate you, you prick" didn't sound that convincing from her mouth, when she couldn't wait to get naked with him again, and the "reversion back to self" didn't sound that convincing either, due to the whole "I hate you, you prick" from before, this was still a pretty good ride, story-wise...And I'm rather curious as to the series after this prequel, because the big boss intrigues me. A lot. The whole thing is very similar to Justine Davis' Redstone Incorporated series, but that's probably why I'm intrigued as much as I am.

And the bad guy was a beauty to read as well. I really hope he makes an appearance in latter books as well, because I don't think he's said his last words yet (seeing how he got away and all).



Review: My Hero by Marianna Jameson

Title: My Hero
Author: Marianna Jameson

Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: June 7, 2005
Publisher: Signet
ISBN: 0451215656
ISBN-13: 9780451215659

Southern romance writer Miranda Lane may be famous for her sensitive heroes, but her new editor wants a brooding, sexy cop that female readers will die for. Unfortunately, cops leave Miranda cold, so she turns to the arrestingly handsome Detective Chas Casey. The commitment-shy Chas is the perfect role model for her book. Soon enough she realizes that she's losing her heart to a man who specializes in drive-by romance. Now she's writing her own personal love story with a hero like no other-and a happy ending all her own.

My rating:

I don't usually have problems with rating books I've read, but this one was a tough cookie. Even while reading, I couldn't quite decide whether I loved it, liked it, or disliked it (notice, there's no "hate" in there).

At times (well, most of the time) the heroine really went on my nerves with her preconceptions about men and cops (in general). Yeah, I've been known to say men are dogs, but even in saying that I know not all men are dogs. The heroine in this one, didn't. Well, she did, she just didn't want to acknowledge that truth. And in doing so she really tried my patience.

So what's with the rating, some of you will ask. Usually, when I want to bitchslap a heroine I usually bestow a rather low rating on that book, but Miranda kinda grew on me. Like mold. Slowly, but surely. And in the end I actually ended up liking her. Don't get me wrong, she was still a pill, but a rather likeable at that.

There wasn't much story in this one, not really, and what there was, was pretty predictable, but this book was a great beach-read. Light, fluffy, funny, slightly annoying (especially when it came to a 30-something year old woman with enough sex-issues to fill a dictionary and a 30-something year old man with enough other issues to fill another dictionary), sexy, and sweet. And that for me (minus the annoyance part) is what a beach-read is all about. I don't expect philosophy, I don't want a head-ache, and I don't want my arm muscles to scream in protest at the weight.

And My Hero filled the bill (with the annoyance part thrown into the mix). Though there wasn't much story, I still loved the characters to bits.



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: Skin on Skin (anthology) by Jami Alden, Sunny, Valerie Martinez

Title: Skin on Skin
Author: Jami Alden, Sunny, Valerie Martinez

Read copy: eBook
Published: July 1, 2007
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
ISBN: 0758226306
ISBN-13: 9780758226303

Mouth to mouth, body to body. When it comes to sex, nothing should get in the way of unbridled carnal pleasure. And this summer three of erotic romance's boldest new voices show you exactly why barer is better in three novellas that will take you to the heights of naked desire...

"China Doll" by Sunny

When Rand and Anna meet in the lush heat of an Indonesian hotel, it's strictly one night only for two strangers looking to banish the ghosts in their pasts. But more than their skin is bared when they come together in the tropical heat, and before long they're aching for more.

"Tempted" by Jami Alden

Friends as well as coworkers, Lauren and Tony have maintained a strict hands—off policy with each other—until an out—of—town party gives them an excuse to share a hotel room. And when they do, their clothes come off—and the new rule is definitely hands on.

"Hot Wired" by Valerie Martinez

Spending a summer in San Francisco before starting her career, Lola is looking for fun. And when she meets the driver of a fire—engine red pickup—a guy with plenty of muscle under his own hood—she finds herself in for the hottest, hardest ride of her life.

My rating:

Jami Alden’s Tempted was the best of the bunch with two friends crossing that tricky boundary to lovers, yet still hoping to get back to being friends after a hot’n’steamy weekend. You can guess how that one worked out.

Fun, sexy, sweet, sad, cute story that I won’t mind re-reading in the future.

If only I could say the same for Martinez’s Hot Wired and Sunny’s China Doll. Bland and boring, and Hot Wired didn’t make much sense to me.

I guess I should’ve read them first and then relish JA’s story with gusto, not let it “ruin” the rest of the anthology. ;)



Monday, June 20, 2011

Review: Smart and Sexy by Jill Shalvis

Title: Smart and Sexy
Series: Sky High Air
Author: Jill Shalvis
Read copy: eBook
Published: April 1, 2007
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
ISBN: 0758224419
ISBN-13: 9780758224415

Noah Fisher has worked for months to make Sky High the most prestigious charter airline in California. He's long overdue for a break—something involving ski slopes, cold beers, and hot ski bunny babes. The itinerary doesn't include being hijacked by Bailey Sinclair, gorgeous widow of one of Sky High's wealthiest (ex-) clients. But here they are, and being crammed in a cockpit with the scared, stubborn, unbelievably sexy former model he's been fantasizing about invokes Superman tendencies that could get Noah in serious trouble.

Bailey is desperate to find the stash of money hidden by her conniving, thieving late husband—before the bad guys he owed find her. It's a long shot, but nothing compared to the gamble she's taking by being so close to Noah. Every minute in his company has Bailey thinking about doing crazy, reckless things like touching, grabbing, kissing...and oh wow, being kissed right back...

My rating:

What a pitiful excuse for a romantic suspense novel. More like plotless sex disguised as a story.

The suspense was blah, the hero was a cardboard, one-dimensional dummy, the heroine was a TSTL, air-headed (who changes outfits in the middle of a flight-for-life) bitch with trust issues (he was in deep shit right alongside her and she still refused to tell him everything, because she feared she would put him in danger...hello, bullets flying!)...

And there was too much (rather meaningless) sex.



Friday, June 17, 2011

Review: Come Monday by Mari Carr

Title: Come Monday
Series: Wild Irish
Author: Mari Carr
Read copy: eBook
Published: November 6, 2009
Publisher: Ellora's Cave
ISBN: 1419925601
ISBN-13: 9781419925603

Monday's child is fair of face...

After the death of her mother years prior, Keira Collins became a surrogate parent to her six younger brothers and sisters, her own dreams put on hold. At twenty-seven, she's finally pursuing a college degree. Between classes, working at the family pub and still tending to siblings, she's no time for romance. So why is she spending all her rare free time fantasizing about hot Professor Wallace bending her over his desk?

Will Wallace recognizes Keira's unfulfilled desires, her habit of hiding her beauty, her obsessive need to command every aspect of her life. But Will has needs of his own-and they run far darker than Keira's. As he initiates her into his lifestyle, offering sweet punishments and sweeter rewards, Will's sexual authority slowly strips away some of her precious control. The one thing Keira's not ready to relinquish...

My rating:

Well, I'm surprised at how much I actually liked this novella. I'm not a big fan of BDSM stories, because the woman is usually the sub and I cannot fathom giving someone so much control (despite the claim that the sub holds all the control in the relationship), but I liked this one, because it was obvious Keira, though being the sub, had the control in her relationship with Will, the big bad Alpha Dom.

Just the fact that he was an English teacher, something (at least) I associate with glasses and tweed jackets, was deep into that lifestyle, and a Dom to boot, was sort of refreshing, but then he met this woman, a natural sub, and she simply turned his world upside-down, and though she let him dominate her, in the end she was the one who dominated him.
I loved the dynamic in this relationship. I just loved it.

The rest, well, we could've been spared a few things, because the more "explicit" the story went, the more it somewhat lost its connection to the plot, slowly turning into PWP territory. Thankfully, though, there was the "big obstacle" in the end that needed to be overcome, providing much needed "grounding" and plot to a story that was flailing under all the sex.

4 stars to the story (beginning and end) and the relationship aspect.



Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: The Reluctant Nude by Meg Maguire

Title: The Reluctant Nude
Author: Meg Maguire

Read copy: eBook
Published: April 4, 2011
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
ISBN: 1609284194
ISBN-13: 9781609284190

Chipping away at her resistance, one touch at a time...

Fallon Frost’s late foster mother had done so much to heal the wounds of her damaged childhood. So when a lecherous developer plans to bulldoze her old home to make room for a strip mall, the practical, ordered life Fallon has built for herself is threatened.

Then he makes a twisted proposal. He’ll leave the land alone if she poses nude for a sculpture that’ll end up in his collection. Seeing no other choice, she heads for Nova Scotia—only to find something totally unexpected. A sexy, hot-blooded, infuriating sculptor.

Guarded, sexually detached Fallon is a challenge Max Emery can’t wait to tackle. Yet with each tap of his chisel, he uncovers a woman who rekindles a dream he thought lost. Home, family…love. And the closer he gets to her core, the harder it becomes to accept that he’s carving her naked body for another man’s eyes.

As progress on the sculpture almost grinds to a halt, their fragile fantasy world collapses under the weight of reality. Threatening Fallon’s one chance to save her foster mother’s land…and any chance she and Max have to find love.

My rating:

Oh, wow. My first Meg Maguire book and it blew me away. I'm still stunned, really, at Ms. Maguire's wonderfully masterful touch when it comes to characterization. Fallon and Max were so vivid in my mind's eye, so utterly perfect in their imperfections, they truly seemed real.

An amazing story of self-discovery and self-discovery, teaching us all a lesson of trying to be open, no matter what. Sure, bad things come along, but if we're so walled up afraid to let bad things in, good things will be left out as well. That's what Max, in his cryptic, weird way taught Fallon, and the reader alongside her.

And I'm probably speaking for many normal, (im)perfect women out there—I want me a Max. ;)

As I wrote before, this was an amazing little story and I cannot wait to read more by this talented author.



Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: When Day Breaks by Mary Jane Clark

Title: When Day Breaks
Series: KEY News
Author: Mary Jane Clark
Read copy: eBook
Published: July 10, 2007
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 0061456322
ISBN-13: 9780061456329

On the day she died, Constance Young was the undisputed star of morning television. But her plans to move herself and her loyal audience to another network were cancelled when she ended up at the bottom of her swimming pool. And the fabled unicorn amulet that Constance had been wearing during her final hours—a gift from King Arthur to his beloved Guinevere and the centerpiece of the upcoming Camelot exhibit at New York's Cloisters museum—is missing.

A morning show veteran and now anchor of the KEY Evening Headlines, Eliza Blake is shocked by the death of her former colleague, and is determined to discover who wanted Constance out of the way . . . and why. To do so, she enlists the aid of three KEY News coworkers: "Jane-of-all-trades" Annabelle Murphy, who can switch from producing to sleuthing at a moment's notice; charming and fearless cameraman extraordinaire B.J. D'Elia to add brains, brawn, and a much-needed male perspective to the team; and Dr. Margo Gonzalez, on-air psychiatrist, who understands the complex puzzles of the human mind. Calling themselves "The Sunrise Suspense Society," they set out to get to the bottom of the heinous murder, in a case that will test their ingenuity and their courage to the very limits.

The deeper they dig, the more twisted the trail to Constance's killer becomes—as the list of suspects grows longer by the minute. Was it her spurned and enraged medievalist lover, or a muckraking author who blamed her for ruining her life? Perhaps money was the motive, and Constance's sister, jealous of her wealth and fame, was responsible. Or possibly someone at Key News was angry enough—or frightened enough—to commit cold-blooded murder. The one sure thing is that Constance Young made a lot of enemies—and now one of them is Eliza's enemy as well. And the closer she and the Society get to unmasking the murderer, the closer they each get to dying, suddenly . . . and brutally.

My rating:

A twisty suspense/thriller set in the "glitzy" world of TV-news. I actually loved the multiple POVs, the plethora of characters and their woes, the descriptions of rivalry between the anchors, the constant guessing as to who the killer might be...The bodies kept on piling and so did the suspects.

The narrative flowed nicely, the pacing was good, and the writing ingenious and engaging. And though there was a little bit of romance thrown into the mix, I cannot say I'd miss it if it weren't there. This was a suspense/mystery novel in the first place.

I don't know if Ms. Clark is related in some way to Mary Higgins Clark, but the styles were pretty similar, and that's probably why I loved it so much. MHC is one of my favorite authors in this genre.
I actually wouldn't mind reading more books (in this series).



Review: Eat Prey Love by Kerrelyn Sparks

Title: Eat Prey Love
Series: Love at Stake
Author: Kerrelyn Sparks
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: October 1, 2010
Publisher: Avon
ISBN: 0061958034
ISBN-13: 9780061958038

Wanted: Bride. Must love children. Mortals need not apply.

Carlos Panterra is looking for a mate, a woman who will love and care for the young orphans he's recently taken under his wing (or paw, as the case may be). When the shape shifter spies the beautiful Caitlyn, it's like sunshine amidst the darkness. At last, he's found the perfect woman, except...

Caitlyn Whelan is mortal. Worse, her father is the head of a CIA agency bent on hunting the undead. Still, Caitlyn knows that Carlos is the man for her, shape shifter or not. So she jumps at the chance when her sister offers her a job to work with him, determined to show Carlos their attraction is more than just animal magnetism. But danger lurks in the night, and their unleashed, untamed passion might just get them both killed...

My rating:

This is the first book by Kerrelyn Sparks I've read, and I guess it won't be the last, because I loved it. It had humor, it had romance, it had vampires, shape-shifters, suspense, hot lovin', suspense, and drama.

But what struck me most of all—I didn't hate the heroine. I loved her to bits, actually (though her I'm-not-good-enough fears grew a little tiresome). Who needed some screws tightened in this story was the hero with all his I-want-her-but-can't-have-her, I-have-to-save-my-race-even-if-I-have-to-marry-a-skanky-were-panther, my-young-stepchildren-will-have-to-save-the-race-if-I'm-not-able-to mentality. If I were the heroine I'd grab him by the head and slam it into the wall. Repeatedly. I'm so glad she didn't give up. Maybe he didn't really deserve her, but she didn't give up. Loved it.

And the book had a nice dose of humor to go with the main dish of shape-shifter/romance/suspense plot. You gotta love an author who doesn't take herself too seriously and has (obvious) fun writing her stories and characters. Especially her heroine that, despite aiming for the chest every time, hits her targets (a little bit) lower.

"There's no bright side," Phineas objected. "The man's got no gonads."
"But she hit the target," Carlos said.
"The man has got no gonads," Phineas repeated forcefully.
"It was an accident." Caitlyn set her gun on the counter. "I was aiming for his chest."
"You blew his pecker to Connecticut," Phineas muttered.
She grinned. "I think you have issues, Phineas. It was only a paper pecker."