Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Journeyman's Ride by Marie Harte

Spyders and cannibals and pissed off gods, oh my!

Duty-bound to journey across the Damned Plains to rescue her cousin, the Princess of York, from ruination, Miranda Anvers makes her way to Endville where she hopes to enlist the aid of Danner, a journeyman well known for his guide skills. Miranda is counting on Danner to get them to the fabled Crystal Palace where her cousin is being held.

Journeyman’s Ride was a fun, exciting and sexy adventure where in this world of godbolts, blessed lightning, cannibals, mechanical spyders and really angry gods, anything can happen – and usually does!

I have to admit, it took a couple of chapters before I was able to get the flow of the writing and understand the way the world worked, but once I did, I couldn’t wait to read more. I enjoyed the unique mix of Regency England and Old West, and found the contrasts in cultures often amusing. All in all, the world that Marie Harte created really worked for me. There was nothing on the author’s website to indicate whether or not there will be a sequel, but the world was so complex and interesting that it has the makings of a great new series.

While I enjoyed the story quite well, I was surprised by these two quotes because the words are spoken by a goddess, and the gods and goddesses in this story seemed very shallow and selfserving:

Demise smiled at them, her bright eyes so white it hurt to look directly at her. “You, Danner, are a true son of Odin. You seemed to flourish all on your own, forced to forage for yourself while Odin fixed the problems of men and gods alike. Sound of mind and body, you were traveling through worlds from the time you could walk. But we hadn’t paid enough attention. Your spirit withered without affection, because praise without care only means so much.”

“For all our immortal flaws, Danner, the gods love. Sometimes we love too much and our darker passions cloud our judgment. But not to love is the greatest sin.”

Journeyman’s Ride is my first taste of Marie Harte’s writing and I’m definitely looking forward to reading more by this author. 4 of 5 stars.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Breaking the Rules by Suzanne Brockmann

Breaking the Rules is the 16th installment of the Troubleshooters/SEAL Team Sixteen series, and from what I understand, it’s going to be the last for awhile. In this book we get two romantic relationships in the making, both centered around a single plot, and no easy feat, that. But in my opinion Ms. Brockmann pulled it off with flying colors.

If you’ve been following the series you’ll know the background of Izzy and Eden’s turbulent relationship and where Breaking the Rules is going, but here’s a reminder in case it’s been awhile since you read the last book. From the cover –
Sometime in the not too distant past, the once torrid romance between Eden Gillman and her Navy SEAL husband Izzy Zanella took a drastic cooling turn. Both seem permanently wedded to mutual disdain, but then something happens that changes the chemistry: Eden discovers that her younger brother Ben is the victim of abuse by his stepfather. To rescue him from the tyrant's custody, she knows that she must reconstruct her tattered relationship with the man that she had most cherished. What she doesn't yet realize is the full saving strength of that lovers' reunion.

That’s as far into the plot as I’m going to go, other than to say that the other couple in the story is Dan Gillman and Jennilyn LeMay, whose relationship also ended on a sour note before it ever had a chance to begin.

To be honest, I hadn’t planned to ever read this book because I wasn’t all that sure I’d be able to enjoy it. Honestly, those Gillman siblings left me less than impressed at the end of the last book and in fact, I was pretty well miffed with them both. Eden, even though she was young and immature, seemed very selfish to me, more-so than her age would have excused, and Dan… well Dan was just an ass and there was no excuse for him. There was no doubt in my mind that the best thing for Izzy and Jennilyn would have been to cut their losses, walk away, never look back, and forget they ever heard the Gillman name.

Thank God that didn’t happen, because for me this book ended up being all about the relationships!

I found myself quickly engrossed in the story and while I still had issues with some of Eden’s choices, I have to say that Izzy had more than his fair share of not-too-bright decisions, too. There were many times when I really wanted to yell at them both and tell them that they were too needy, too insecure to be in any kind of relationship together, let alone a romantic one! Fortunately by the end of the book I could see that they truly did love one another and keeping in mind that not all relationships are perfect, but if two people want to make it work, they can. That’s the hope I have for Izzy and Eden.

Now, as for Dan and Jenn - If you read the last book you’ll recall that he had said some rather crappy things about women who are not built model thin, and he said it in ear shot of Jennilyn who is a healthy, attractive, plus sized woman, who he was sleeping with. I was so, so angry. So. Angry. Not because the comment was just about the size of the woman, but because it was about how much easier heavy women are to get into bed and keep there because they don’t have as many options as skinny women do - they're needier and are grateful for what they can get.  And I was even angrier than Jennilyn didn’t kick his sorry ass out the door. Where was her pride?? Instead, she gave him the chance to prove himself and at the time I really, really thought she was pathetic. Wow… very few books have touched a nerve with me the way this one scene, in this one book, did. Just thinking about it after all this time sends my blood pressure up a few notches! My point in telling you all this is that because of what took place before, I had a hard time cheering for Danny and Jenn’s happily ever after. I just didn’t get the level of groveling I needed from Dan to prove to me that even though he was an ass back then, he’d redeemed himself enough to deserve such a wonderful, caring woman as Jennilyn. By the end of the book, even though I wasn’t one of their biggest fans, I did find myself happy for them and hoping that their life together would be one of nothing but happiness.

As I said, the only reason I wanted to read this book was to find out what happened with both couple's happily ever afters. The story itself - the underlying plot - was good, but there were definitely times when I wasn't interested in what was happening and skipped ahead to the relationships. I wasn't as impressed with the flow of the story as I have been with past books but still found that I couldn't put it down. So despite the angst, the misunderstandings and the many Too Stupid To Live moments from some our characters, namely those Gillmans, I really enjoyed this book. But, I need to get something off my chest. Here goes:

Over the last several books we were introduced to Jules Cassidy, a gay FBI agent who I adored! Funny, sexy, intelligent… he had all the makings of a great character and I loved his role in the stories, especially his happily ever after which was so well deserved! So what’s the problem? Well, I’ve started to feel like Ms. Brockmann is using her books as a soapbox from which she is lecturing her readers on tolerance and acceptance of those among us who are gay or lesbian. Yes, it sucks that there are still people out there who think they have the right to tell another human being who they can or cannot love. And yes, I understand that they are her books and that she can write them how she sees fit, but there reaches a point when, as a reader, I get tired of being preached to and this has become an ongoing theme in the last few books. Anti-war, racism, prejudice, or save the Abbot’s Booby… regardless of the issue at hand, I feel that musicians, celebrities, authors, and in this case, Ms. Brockmann specifically, would do better to reach out to people other than her devoted fans who have followed the series from the beginning and who have loved every minute of it.

I can only imagine what it would be like to live with so much intolerance and hatred directed at me because I don’t fit someone else’s idea of what “normal” should be, but it’s one thing to promote public awareness by writing stories and scenes in which your characters show us what it’s like, and it’s another thing entirely to beat your readers over the head with it, book after book. Ms. Brockmann, I admire your dedication to this cause that is so near and dear to your heart, but we get it, and we stand with you, however we aren’t the ones who are in need of the constant reminder.

So, now that I have that off my chest, for those who are still with me, I’d like to share two of my favorite quotes from the book. They both come from the hilarious mouth and mind of Izzy Zanella, and are a small sampling of the witty writing that I loved so much in this book.

“You don’t need that information,” Cassidy said. “Unless you can reassure me that you’ll limit your participation to surveillance only.” He cleared his throat rather loudly.

“Cross my heart,” Izzy said, “and if I lie, sweet baby jeebus can poke me in the eye.”

“Fabulous,” Cassidy said, dryly. “I’m completely reassured.”
“Call me when you arrive,” Dan said, still doing his best imitation of the admiral of the fleet, but then added, “Please.” Probably only because Jennilyn was standing beside him and had given him a nudge. No doubt about it, the woman brought out the non-asshole-ish side of the fishboy.

“I will,” Izzy said. And if Dan could play nice for Jenn’s benefit, Izzy could do the same. “Thanks for calling me.”

There was a pause; then: “Thank you – for helping like this. I, um, really appreciate it, man.”

Izzy hung up his phone, aware that somewhere to the South Satan was ice skating while flying pigs did loop-de-loops overhead.

I’m hoping that the information I heard, that this would be the last Troubleshooter book for a long while, is wrong. I love Ms. Brockmann’s heroes and heroines, the exciting storylines and the truly wonderful happily ever afters that have kept me coming back for more. There are still so many amazing characters waiting to tell their stories, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that one day they’ll get their chance.

I'm giving Breaking the Rules 4 of 5 stars solely because of Izzy, who I unashamedly adore. There's just something about this incredible Navy SEAL who, despite his physical, mental and emotional strength has such a vulnerable heart. I just want to bring him home and love him forever.

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's In His Kiss by Julia Quinn

Thank heavens for Spring Cleaning!

A year or so ago I began reading Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series and after devouring the first six books back to back, I set them aside and moved on to something else. Well here I am a year later and in the spirit of “Spring Cleaning,” I decided I’d catch up on those books that were just sitting on my shelves collecting dust, and that included the final two Bridgerton books.

Gareth St. Clair is in a bind – that’s what the cover blurb tells us. Though I must admit, the first time I read that I was sure it said, ‘Gareth St. Clair is blind,’ so imagine my confusion when his eyesight seemed perfectly fine to me. It’s not that I was wishing him any harm or ill will, but I was all ready to embrace him as a vulnerable hero who needed someone to shine brightly in his lonely, dark world. Well, clearly, it’s my eyesight that is lacking.

Where was I? Oh, yes… Gareth St. Clair is in a bind, and they aren’t kidding! His mother, brother and paternal grandmother are all long since deceased, and his father hates him. He has only one person who loves him, and who he loves in return – his grandmother, the one and only Lady Danbury – who really did steal the show. Despite Gareth’s perfect eyesight, I really did adore him, and he truly was vulnerable, but in ways that aren’t quite so apparent.

Hyacinth Bridgerton is such a funny young woman. Sweet, smart, outspoken… I really loved her character. And there was something else about her that just seemed so honest, and so real. I loved how she accepted her imperfect self, and in fact, embraced it!

It’s In His Kiss was such a wonderful story. The glaring contrast between Hyacinth Bridgerton’s life and family, and that of Gareth St. Clair, made this at times heartwarming as well as heartbreaking, but leave it to the Bridgertons to look beyond titles and peerage, to see the worth of the person within, and embrace him. This was one of those books that’s the perfect combination of lighthearted and serious, and was an absolute delight to read.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Come the Spring by Julie Garwood

It’s been over a year since I read the last novella installment of Julie Garwood’s The Claybornes of Rose Hill series, so I decided it was time to bite the bullet and get it done!

Come the Spring is Cole Clayborne’s story, who I fell in love with in the earlier books. I’ve been dying to read this, but reviews and comments from friends and other readers had me concerned that it might not measure up, which is why I waited so long. I had hoped that maybe if I put some time between my last reading and this one, Cole might stand a fighting chance, because For the Roses totally swept me off my feet and became an all time favorite feel good read. So yeah, it’s pretty hard to follow in those footsteps. I’d like to say that time away and the old “absence makes the heart grow fonder” adage was true, but that’s not the case. I won’t go into a lot of details about why I feel this way, but I will touch on some of my thoughts about the things I loved and didn’t love about this book.

This was a really sweet story, and incredibly sad, too.

Cole – in the previous books he was larger than life. He had such a strong presence, and this charisma about him that had me nearly drooling every time his name was mentioned. I didn’t see that in this book. To me, he was much more reserved, almost a watered down Cole Clayborne. He was still funny and I enjoyed him, but I have to be honest and say he’s not the Cole I remembered or was looking forward to revisiting.

Daniel Ryan – Finally we get to meet this US Federal Marshall who has been the bane of Cole’s existence ever since he lifted a compass off of Mama Rose that was a gift meant for Cole. What’s what, you say!? A Federal Marshall picking some poor woman’s pocket? Yes, that’s exactly what happened, and the story behind it and his reasons for it were pretty funny.

Now, despite my earlier comments, I do want to make it clear that this was a really sweet story. I enjoyed the romance, the mystery and the characters. It’s definitely worth reading to wrap up the series, it just didn’t have that magic that I’ve come to expect from a Julie Garwood historical, and I'm giving it a 3.5/5 stars.

Monday, June 13, 2011

When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

Just what the doctor ordered!

I’m a big fan of historical romance novels, but admittedly the genre can become a bit tedious due to storylines and characters who are confined to the particular roles and behaviors of their era. I’ve read just about every kind of historical romance, from those of the light and fluffy variety to those that leave my emotions in a tattered mess. Well, I’m happy to say that When Beauty Tamed the Beast struck a perfect balance of both, and was an absolute pleasure to read. It wasn’t an angsty story at all, and I found myself constantly smiling and frequently even laughing out loud at their ridiculous banter. The dialog throughout the book was priceless with such sarcasm and dry humor that I just couldn’t wait for the next confrontation to take place. And while it was a very funny read, my heart ached for both Piers and Linnet and the internal battles they both fought.

At first, I couldn’t put my finger on what it was that was so appealing about our hero, Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant. He’s a gruff, offensive, belligerent doctor whose bedside manner could leave one contemplating the upside of death. Add to this that he’s not known for being stunningly handsome and I have to ask myself why I was so drawn to him. His no nonsense approach at telling patients they were going to die seemed so callous, and yet, oddly funny. There was something vaguely familiar about him, but I just couldn’t quite decide what that was. Then one of my Goodreads friends asked me if I recognized the similarities between Piers and Dr. Gregory House of the popular television show, House, who I happen to adore. Of course! Why didn’t I recognize it? Maybe it was because I haven’t watched the last couple seasons of the show because Dr. House, as a character, seemed to move away from the man I had come to adore in the earlier seasons. Piers, on the other hand, is exactly what had me falling in love with Gregory House in the first place.

Miss Linnet Berry Thrynne is a beauty who hasn’t been ruined by it. It’s odd, because she knows she’s beautiful because everyone says she is, but it doesn’t seem to matter much to her. Well, not until she faces the possibility of losing her looks. I really enjoyed her as a heroine, and she’s the perfect match for Piers, who needs someone he can’t trample with his cutting words and offensive manners. She’s strong, independent, and every bit as smart as Dr. House’s counterpart, Dr. Lisa Cuddy. Yes indeed, Piers and Linnet are a perfect match!

Now, before you get all offended that Ms. James might try to secretly copy this popular television show, there’s something you need to know; she didn’t do it secretly at all. There’s an author’s note at the end of the book in which she comes right out and states that the character, Dr. Gregory House and the Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital greatly influenced her story. But all that said, Ms. James did an incredible job of making Piers unique. In fact, maybe he really did exist and Dr. House developed his technique based on Piers’ work! ;)

When Beauty Tamed the Beast is a great second installment to the fairy tale inspired Happily Ever Afters series, and yes, was just what the doctor ordered! It was fresh, passionate, funny, sexy as all get-out and an absolute delight to read!

5 of 5 stars.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Unlocked by Courtney Milan

Because even wallflowers fight back…


This might be the best novella I’ve ever read. It was such an emotional story, one that had me in tears one minute and laughing the next. It’s a story filled with hurt and sadness, hope and happiness, forgiveness and love.

Years earlier, a callow, cruel Evan and his cousin, Diane, ruined a young woman’s debut into society, and pretty much turned Lady Elaine Warren into a pariah. She lost any hope of marrying well, and as if it weren’t enough, Diane continued the tormenting and teasing long after Evan fled England, unable to face Elaine and the pain he’d caused her. But now he's back, and determined to make things right!

I wasn’t sure if I could forgive Evan for the devastation he’d caused Elaine all those years before, but Ms. Milan created such a powerful story with believably human and perfectly imperfect characters that I couldn't help but fall in love with him and cheer for his and Elaine’s happily ever after.

Note - Unlocked is book 1.5 of the Turner series, and a novella of 28,000 words, or about 111 pages. It's worth well more than the .99 cent pricetag