Friday, December 23, 2011

Still alive!

Well, there hasn't been much original content here lately, has there? My apologies for that. I spent months upon months with very little to keep me busy at work and the around mid-october, my boss finally figured out that I should probably earn my paycheck for a change. The semester is now over and with the holidays upon us, I have some downtime again. Yes, this is one of the perks of working for an academic library. The university is closed from the 24th until January 2nd. I go back to work for the 3rd and then I'm off on my annual Disney vacation with my family.

I have my fingers crossed that I'll be able to stockpile some original entries with my gloriously work-free time. I have a Wolf Lake/Werewolves recs entry that I've been working on since I started this damn thing. I've also been working on reading the 2011 nominees for the Romantic Times Reviewer Choice awards. I'm not sure if I want to smush what I've got so far in a compilation entry or try to look at each category individually. I need to catch up the month review entries for October & November and do the one for December, before doing another best of 2011 entry. *sigh* At the moment, the only thing I know for certain is that I am not the target audience for most category single titles.

It seems likely that I'll be able to get my hands on Photoshop early next year and I'll finally be able to spiff up this place. That title banner annoys the hell out of me. It's so bland and brown. Plus giveaways! The Pigeon has been stockpiling books since NY Comic-Con (yes, from two months ago!) and wants to reclaim the spotlight.

In any case, I hope y'all are having a wonderful holiday season with great books finding their way to you!

Review: Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star by Heather Lynn Rigaud

Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock StarFitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star by Heather Lynn Rigaud
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I...Well...Hrm. Where to start?

The last time I attempted to read Pride and Prejudice, I think I was a preteen. And I didn't like it. To be fair, Louisa May Alcott and Shakespeare aside, I don't like most of the books that were published before the 1980s. So I know the general outline of the story, but I'm shaky on the characters and their personalities. Therefore, I can't accurately judge Rock Star's take on the original source material. I can only judge it on its own merits.

I have never really understood the phrase "purple prose" before, since critics seem to apply it wholesale to the romance genre, but it seems to fit this book quite nicely. I had been under the impression that this was marketed for young adults, so the first graphic sex scene surprised me.  I read it with a raised eyebrow and then proceeded to skip the rest of them because they were, well, purple. It was the kind of writing that romance bigots hold up to 'prove' the romance genre is derivative and putting a pretty label on soft porn.

As for the rest of the book, I felt like I was reading fanfiction, an AU where Lizzy and Darcy are modern day rock stars. The book shines the most at moments when Rigaud isn't trying to shoehorn Austen's into the text. When Will acts like Will and not Darcy, when Lizzy curses because she's running late, when the bands are on stage, those parts are enjoyable reads. The best characters for me were Richard and Char because I don't really know the characters they were based on and they were wonderfully flawed. I could believe they were real, I could believe they occupied this world Rigaud had created. Richard is a sex and alcohol addict who takes responsibility for himself and strives to get better one day at a time. He makes a very conscious decision to be with Char and the reader can easily see why she wants to be with him. Char wasn't without flaws of her own and she reminded me of a woman I actually know. A quick spin through Wikipedia tells me that Colonel Fitzwilliam and Charlotte Lucas, the Austen characters, are relatively minor in Pride and Prejudice, so I'm guessing Rigaud felt free to put her own stamp on them.

Rigaud should have done herself a favor and used Pride and Prejudice as a jumping off point rather than a strict framework. The concept sounded incredibly interesting and I'm disappointed with what I got. In the future, I hope Rigaud, a modern day stay-at-home New Yorker mom, will choose to develop her own voice instead of trying to copy one that belonged to a British spinster who lived during the regency romance era.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review: One More Summer by Liz Flaherty

One More Summer
One More Summer by Liz Flaherty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I made the mistake of reading this at work. I thought, from the blurb and the cover, it was going to be a humorous Southern romance. It wasn't. It was Southern, but it wasn't funny and it wasn't a romance. I define a romance as a book that is focused on the relationship between two people with the obligatory happy ending. One More Summer wasn't about Grace and Dillon. It was about life and loss and all the messy things in between. This is not a happy book. There is death. The ending isn't 'happy' so much as it is hopeful. Everything is going to be okay, it says, you just have to keep moving forward.

I don't read a lot of fiction, so I'm not the best judge, but this felt quintessentially Southern to me. From the pace of the dialogue, the emphasis on community and food, the weather, it felt like I was there, observing these characters.

A lot of angst happens, but it's not angst for the sake of angst if that makes any sense. This story is told over the course of months, not days, and the characters react naturally to the events. Their emotions, their decisions, their relationships with each other, it all made sense to me. It felt logical, it felt real.

To be quite frank, I find myself a bit of loss for words. One More Summer is not for everyone and, if someone had told me what it was really about, I probably would have never read it. However, if you don't mind books that will leave you in tears and frantically trying not to smudge your eyeliner, read this. Read this and be comforted that someone else understands what you are going through or be grateful for a life free from this kind of pain.

I'm going to conclude this with a quote from the last chapter because it's representative of the book as a whole and demonstrates the author's gift with words.

“Remember the ‘hidden paths’ Jonah and Maxie had in their marriage ceremony?” she said. “I think all of life’s going to be that way. The paths will be curvy and maze-like sometimes, and even if you walk them two-by-two, there will be other people on the walk with you.”

“You’re probably right.” He held her gaze. “But do you want to stay on that two-by-two walk with me? I’m talking a lifetime here. No time-outs for good or bad behavior. If I have to concentrate on being your brother’s best friend for a while, you have to come with me. If Faith needs you more than I do, I’m coming along.” He looked around the room. “We come out of the attic together.”

“I’d like that more than anything.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Review: Dangerous Passion by Lisa Marie Rice

Dangerous Passion
Dangerous Passion by Lisa Marie Rice

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Blah blah blah. First off, this book was not as well edited as the previously two. There was a lot of repetitive language. Secondly, the heroine is very, very passive. She meets the hero, literally, in a hail of bullets and proceeds to turn over all control over her own life. No railing against fate, no recriminations, no 'let me at least pick out my own damn clothes,' nothing. She's perfectly content to remain trapped within four walls, painting, while the hero arranges everything. She doesn't even express an opinion about the food. It's all 'la la la, I love you, I shall go wherever you lead, la la la.' She does ask the hero at one point if he's a drug dealer. I could never be with a drug dealer, she says. No, he doesn't sell drugs. He sells weapons instead. You know the bad guy we saw in Dangerous Secrets? The hero is a kinder, more user-friendly, version. What. The. F!

The hero was very well-developed and very distinct, mainly because he was the driving force behind the plot. I actually liked him, despite his very clear anti-hero status, but next to the heroine's wispiness, he came off like a bit of a chauvinist. I feel like his feelings for the heroine were so intense that if she'd pushed at all or asked for anything, he would've made it happen, so long as it didn't compromise her safety.

Thirdly, the book felt very open-ended. There was a mole on the hero's staff and he was never punished for his betrayal. The author made a point of telling us how there was one 'servant' that the hero trusted above anyone else and then we never see them again. Even the Big Bad's downfall was, if you'll forgive the spoilerish pun, remote. There really was no closure on anything.

This would have easily been a four star book if the heroine acted like an actual person rather than a poseable sex toy. With regards to the series as a whole, I would definitely recommend the first two books. It's not even really a series as the books are basically stand-alones and don't appear to be connected at all. As far as Dangerous Passion goes, I'd give it a pass and jump right into the Protectors trilogy (starting with Into the Crossfire, which is actually inter-connected.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review: Hot Secrets: A Dangerous Lover Novella by Lisa Marie Rice

Hot Secrets: A Dangerous Lover Novella
Hot Secrets: A Dangerous Lover Novella by Lisa Marie Rice

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this via NetGalley. I've only ever read one of Rice's books before, Hotter than Wildfire. When I saw this, I thought it was related to that series so I requested it, but it actually goes with the Dangerous trilogy.

First off, while the file read 58 pages, the story itself is only 30 pages. This is an Avon Impulse title so it's $3.99 and I don't think any 30 pages of new content is worth that price. The quality of the story is excellent, but I wouldn't recommend paying more than $1.99 for it. The other 28 pages are excerpts for the three Dangerous books.

This book accomplishes its purpose, however, as my immediate reaction was to check my local library for Dangerous Lover, the first book featuring these characters. It grabbed me right away and I was immediately invested, despite not having any knowledge of the back-story. The story packs a lot of punch for only 30 pages and I liked how smart the heroine was. I don't think it really functions as an epilogue, but Hot Secrets gives a glimpse of the characters' lives during their happily ever after and assures the readers they are still being the people we grew to love.

Bottom line, I'm definitely going to get my hands on this trilogy and I would definitely recommend this book as a quick read, but I'd wait for a coupon.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Review: In Christofides' Keeping by Abby Green

In Christofides' Keeping
In Christofides' Keeping by Abby Green

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I feel that if I'm going to rate a book below three stars, then I need to explain why I rated it that way. Especially since this one is freaking nominated for an award.

I hate to keep re-using the phrase 'soap opera in a can,' but I can't think of anything else that describes how I feel about these books. The very best secret child reveal I've ever read was in Lauren Dane's Never Enough. In that book, the hero and heroine handled the situation mostly like adults and they always had the best interest of the child in mind.

By contrast, while she did have some basis for keeping the baby's existence a secret from the hero, the heroine, Gypsy, annoyed the ever-living shit out of me. Your child should come first. You get fired from your job, the job that's keeping food in your child's mouth and a roof over her head, because the hero's sudden reappearance makes you wibbly. Woman up. The hero, who is very wealthy by the way, tracks you down in the ghetto where you are living (with no heat!) and wants to move you to a better neighborhood, but you fight him on it because of your stupid pride. Woman up. Even if you believe you can cover your child's immediate needs, what about college? What happens if she gets sick? At least in Maya Banks's Wanted by Her Lost Love, the heroine kept the check the hero threw at her, just in case she needed it.

I'm not saying Gypsy should've rolled over and let Rico call the shots. She could have laid down some ground rules, like demanding a separate residence or child support or something. In fact, I feel like the whole book could have been solved with a two-hour couple's therapy session and a lot of 'How does it make you feel when your partner...' questions. It seemed like every freaking time Rico tried to initiate an adult discussion, Gypsy threw a hissy fit. WOMAN UP!

Also, because I am me and a champion nit-picker, the fact that Rico was able to whisk Gypsy and the baby to Greece without nary a word about passports didn't sit right. I would have thought that, even with private jets, you had to have some kind of documentation. Especially in today's day and age.

*sigh* I don't know. I've read categories that I've liked so I don't think it's entirely just me, but now I'm a little scared to read the other nominees.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Monthly Tally: November 2011

I did a little bit of re-reading this month, but I actually read a lot of new to me books and authors. Laurann Dohner, for example, was an author that was recommended to me via GoodReads and I read five of her e-books. Dohner's New Species does bear a marked resemblance to Lora Leigh's Breed series, but Dohner gives it more of an animalistic spin. I would continue reading the series if Ellora's Cave didn't make them so damned expensive. In addition, I read Maya Banks's Highland trilogy and got caught up on her Sweet series. November was also picture book months so I tried to catch up on my picture book TBRs. I only read eight of 'em, so clearly, I wasn't very successful.

However, two of them were particularly good. My favorite was E-mergency. The premise is that the letter E fell down the stairs and became injured. The other letters band together to cover for E so it can rest. The book was extraordinarily clever and filled with visual puns. It's not something I would recommend for a story-time, but I'd buy it for a young child learning their letters. The Adventures of Mark Twain by Huckleberry Finn by Robert Burleigh, on the other hand, I read aloud to myself in my best Southern accent. Huckleberry narrates Twain's life in homespun language. It gives a basic overview of Twain's life and I'd put it at elementary school level.

The best adult book of the month was Tsunami Blue by Gayle Ann Williams. It's a post-apocalyptic novel that I thought was entirely plausible. It wasn't very romance-y, but then it's hard to work in the beginnings of happily ever after when humanity is trying to rebuild civilization. Still, the writing was sharp, the characters were unique, and the action moved along at a nice clip. Just a spoiler for those who get squicked at the idea of animal cruelty, the dogs will be fine.

The worst book of the month was Suzanne Enoch's A Beginner's Guide to Rakes. As I said in my GoodReads review, I normally enjoy Enoch's books, but I just couldn't get behind the heroine. At all. I guess I prefer my heroines to not appear to be quite so cold and calculating, at least in historicals.

Category Totals

Romance: 46
Picture Books: 8
Children's Nonfic: 1
Nonfiction: 2
Science Fiction: 2
Young Adult: 1
Urban Fantasy: 2

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: Enchanted Again by Robin D. Owens

It is well known by those who follow me on my personal twitter that I have a deep love for Robin D. Owens's books. If I had to rank my top three favorite authors, it'd probably be Nalini Singh, Robin D. Owens and then Shelly Laurenston. So trust me when I say that I am incapable of giving this book anything below four stars. Because, honestly, it probably deserves three. Maybe even lower.

It hurts me to write that.

I liked the first book, Enchanted No More, I did! This is the feedback I sent to our buyer at the time:

 I  almost don't want it to be published so that it stays mine forever. I am trying to come up with words to adequately describe it, but I'm failing miserably. It's much better than the Llandra series and reminds me of that feeling I get when I watch the Harry Potter movies or the Dresden Files or Being Human. Like, the magic's really real. I _believe_. So great.

I can even tell you exactly where I was when I started reading Enchanted No More. I was in the horrifically dusty annex, on a lunch break from compiling an inventory of ancient periodicals, huddled over my iPad, eating a Subway's tuna on whole wheat.

Maybe my expectations were too high? I don't know.

In any case, something went horribly awry in Enchanted Again. All I can tell you is that it happened somewhere in the middle of the book and probably involved the hero. I wish I could point to some specific thing and be all 'Oh, if only Owens had fixed that,' but I can't. It was more like a gradual realization that the book was going off the rails. If this had been any other author than Owens, I likely wouldn't have finished it.

If you haven't read Enchanted No More, don't bother with this one because while it's only loosely connected to the first book, the assumption is made you already understand the rules behind this world. I liked the brownies, but the hero came off as kinda child-ish and sometimes I just wanted to grab the heroine by the shoulders & shake her.

I will read the third book when it comes out because it's Robin D. Owens, but I will probably be a little scared. And that makes me sad.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Review: Sweet Inspiration

Sweet Inspiration
Sweet Inspiration by Penny Watson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought this on Carolyn Crane's recommendation and, well, it was disappointing. Not disappointing in the 'Why did I spend money on this?' way, but more in the 'God, there's so much squandered potential' way.

It's a really interesting premise. To describe it in a nutshell, Santa has five sons and Sweet Inspiration is the story of the oldest. Nicholas Klaus is in line to be the next 'Santa Claus,' but his passion is baking. While on vacation before the Christmas rush, he comes across Lucy's bakery and her delicious cookies. There's an immediate attraction between them, one thing leads to another, and Lucy, without her express consent, gets whisked to the North Pole. At this point, she still doesn't know that the whole Santa Claus thing is real (except for the flying reindeer, apparently). She's in for a rude awakening when she wakes up and, as punishment for bringing Lucy to the North Pole without permission, Nicholas has to give up baking and step into Santa's boots.

The elves were hysterical. I could totally buy how Watson set up the North Pole and how she integrates it into our reality. I really liked the other brothers and I would read their stories if I came across them. Santa and Mrs. Klaus were a little two-dimensional. The only thing I can remember about them right now is that Mrs. Klaus can't cook and Santa is buff. The main problem for me was Lucy and Nicholas. Nicholas was a borderline ass most of the time and Lucy had that Disney princess feel to her. She accepts her changed circumstances with equanimity and barely gives two thoughts to what it will be like to leave her life behind. The elves all love her, of course, much like the Seven Dwarfs fawned over Snow White. I guess I wanted her to be more 'real.' I wanted her to react like any sane person would react after finding themselves in a fairy tale: lots of deep breathing and kicking Nicholas out of his kitchen so she can bake. I don't have the book in front of me at the moment, but I'm not even sure if we really find out with Mrs. Klaus does. I think there was a throwaway line about how she keeps everything running, like she liaisons between all the different departments, but it's not like anyone gave Lucy enough information to make an informed choice.

It was just frustrating to read because this could have been really, really great and instead it falls squarely into the 'meh' category. I have a feeling that this is Watson's debut and with a good beta reader or editor, her writing would have sparkled. Here's hoping the next book in the series, Sweet Magik, lives up to Watson's potential.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review: The Next Always

The Next Always
The Next Always by Nora Roberts

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I first found out that Nora Roberts was creating her own Inn, I checked out the website. That was probably back in 2009. Now, I have a pretty good memory for words and, while the website copy has changed slightly, portions of The Next Always felt like they were lifted straight from the website's room descriptions. I also knew that Turn the Page bookstore, that the heroine owns in the book, is an actual place where Roberts does her Maryland signings. I took another look at the website before writing this, and it looks like Vesta, the restaurant where one of the secondary characters (likely a heroine of a future book) works, is also exists in reality.

So here's my verdict. If you know nothing about Nora Roberts except that she writes books you like, you will probably really enjoy The Next Always. At its core, it's a sweet story about family, community, and the hopefulness of love. However, if you have already heard of BoonsBoro, MD and checked out a website or two, The Next Always will seem like a commercial in book format. It's weird because I doubt Roberts is hurting for money and if she wants to drive traffic to the inn, lower the room rates! In this day and age, it's a lucky person who can spend $300 after taxes for one night's stay.

While I adore the J.D. Robb books, for me, in recent years, nothing Roberts has published under her own name has been able to top the Irish books (Born in Fire, Jewels of the Sun, Irish Thoroughbred, etc.). I've read everything she's put out, but the last book I actually bought was Blood Brothers in 2007. I keep hoping that she'll go back to Ireland, but, in the meantime, I'm looking forward to Celebrity in Death!

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: It Had to Be You

It Had to Be You
It Had to Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm pretty sure I read this book back in the day, but I didn't really remember it and since I've been on a sports romance, I decided to re-read it. It Had to Be You was published in 1994 and the book's age shows. I'm a big technology person and talk of answering services & landlines dated the book for me. In addition, the talk about safe sex, while certainly important and realistic, smacked a little of 'Hey, did you hear about this scary new HIV thing?' Why, yes, I do believe that I know about HIV. I also know that, according to a 2009 CDC report, the rate of STD transmission has dropped and is now more likely to occur in ethnic groups & the gay community. I think Phoebe and Dan, two straight, white, members of a high economic status, will be okay if they use protection. They spent more time on STDs than on the possibility of getting pregnant. You'd think that given how much Dan wants to be a father, the thought would have crossed his mind.

I think the other thing that diminished my entertainment was the fact I didn't particularly like the hero. Dan basically juggles two women, sleeping with the heroine while dating someone else. He's very dismissive of Phoebe on multiple occasions and the dude has communication problems. He's like your typically good ole boy. There's also a bit at the end where he basically beats the crap out another person. It's meant to be justifiable and Phillips's kinda glosses over the specifics, but Dan clearly has a violent streak buried within him. Phoebe fell in love with him way faster than I thought was realistic and I didn't quite get why.

The book really read more like fiction than a romance. It wasn't about Phoebe and Dan as a couple. It was about Phoebe overcoming the trauma of her past and her father's dickhood. It was about Dan overcoming his own dickhood. They had to grow as people before they could be a good couple.

I don't know enough about sports to really gauge how well those portions held up over the last seventeen years. An eight million dollar contract seems a bit low to me, but Google reveals that a standard contract would be for four years and two million dollars a year is actually on the high side for a wide receiver, so I don't know. I kept thinking about the movie Moneyball. While that was baseball, I think most of the same principles apply when managing a team and, in that respect, It Had to Be You was right on the money.

My public library system has the rest of the books in this series and I do plan on reading the next book in the series. It'll be interesting to see how it compares to It Had to Be You.

Review: Altered Destiny by Shawna Thomas

Altered Destiny
Altered Destiny by Shawna Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To put it quite bluntly, I didn't love this book, but I respected the hell of out it. It actually reminded me of a cross between Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear and Elizabeth Vaughan's Warprize series.

Altered Destiny is your classic 'two races divided by racial prejudice/historical malfeasance are now at war over land/resources' story. Neither side is blameless nor 'good.' What really intrigued me about this book is the world Thomas created. She gives us just enough of the back story that the reader can make certain assumptions, but doesn't provide anything concrete. It appears that Altered Destiny is set on our world after a nuclear event that destroyed most of the existing civilizations and altered or mutated what remained. However, it could just as easily been some alien world where there was some kind of solar event. Thomas makes reference to animals and plant life that fit what currently exists, but they are different enough to indicate we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Except for horses. Horses don't seem to be any different, which I'm guessing was a convenience thing, because they are the main mode of transportation. This world seems to be at the technology equivalent of the 1700s.

Despite the skillful world building, this is a four star book for me because of two related reasons. First off, this is a book about war. It may be a war fought with bows and arrows, but it is a war nonetheless. Hard decisions must be made and there is collateral damage. This leads into the second reason: Thomas kills off a significant secondary character. It was a death that meant something and did help the story advance, but damn, it was heavy. This is not a book to be read as stress relief.

I do recommend this book, but know what you're getting into. There are a few sex scenes, but I feel like this would be a good rec for older high school students. It's got that apocalypse feel, a dash of vampirism, and an ending that offers a measure of realistic hope for the future.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Monthly Tally: September 2011

Okay, so as promised, I'm only going to highlight a few titles from my reading this month. If you're curious about what else I read, you can check it out at GoodReads. I read 54 books last month and most of them fell into the 'meh' category.

In my opinion, the best book I read last month was Ecstasy Untamed by Pamela Palmer. You can read my review of it over at GoodReads. Yes, I only gave it four stars, but as I said, the book only works if you have read the previous books in the series. Call it the former bookseller in me, if you'd like, but I think I should be able to pick up any book in a series and still know what's going on. This is not to say Palmer doesn't recap some crucial information, but the book loses a lot if you're not emotionally invested in the characters. It comes out on October 25th and if you've read the Feral Warrior series, this is an auto-buy.

The worst book I read in September has to be Darkest Fire by Tawny Taylor. I won't reiterate why, as you can read it for yourself here, but I definitely don't recommend it. This book was part of my attempt to tackle some of the older titles in my TBR journal. I'm finding that I'm more flexible about my reading selections now that I'm not working at Borders anymore.

Angels of Darkness and the Storm Born graphic novel both got five stars from me. I'll be honest, a large part of that rating for Storm Born was the artwork. I'd read Richelle Mead's novel back in the day, but I wasn't particularly thrilled with it and the sequel, Thorn Queen, has been languishing in my TBR for quite a bit. However, the prose of the graphic novel parses the novel down to its essence and the art elevates it with its beauty. Sea Lion Books is going to be at NY Comic Con this year and I'm going to see if I can pick up one of the loose issues at their booth. As far as Angels of Darkness is concerned, obviously I never got around to writing that longer review as my personal life took a dive into Shitsville. I stand by everything I said over at GoodReads and I rec it for any paranormal fan who likes their stories with a dash of grit and darkness.

On Thea Harrison's recommendation, I bought Ilona Andrews's Silver Shark. I'm a big Andrews fan so I was willing to spend the money. It's a space romance, different from Andrews's normal fare, and unusual in narrative. However, there were times when it could have benefited from some editing as certain parts were confusing and there were several noticeable typos. It kinda killed any desire I had to go back and read the first book or purchase something else. So I wouldn't necessarily recommmend it, but I do hope Andrews eventually decides to revisit this world in a proper novel.

At the beginning of the month, I read Janye Castle's (aka Jayne Ann Krentz) Canyons of the Night. It was when I wrote the review for this book that I realized something was admiss. I'd always thought that Amaryllis, Zinnia, and Orchid were connected to the Harmony series. After all, they both focus on humans wiwth psychic powers tht arrived on the planet via a 'Curtain.' I started re-reading the older books and discovered the flower books are set on the world of St. Helens. It's funny, but I kinda feel like Krentz plagurized herself. I mean, Orchid was published in 1998 and the first Harmony book, After Dark, was published just two years later in 2000. To make myself feel better, I've started pretending that the Curtain opened up once and several colony ships went through, each to a different planet. I post-it noted several sections of my copy of Amaryllis for comparison purposes, but it got packed away as I prepared my room for new windows. I would like to do a more in-depth look at some point.

Category Totals

Romance: 41
Horror: 1
Young Adult: 2
Comic Strip Collection: 1
Graphic Novels: 4
Children's Nonfiction: 1
Picture Books: 2
Mystery: 1

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review: Game for Anything

Game for Anything
Game for Anything by Bella Andre

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I know what you're thinking. Another sports book? Really?

Okay, here's what I was thinking: "God, I'm tired. I should start reading Blood Rights because Kristen Painter is going to be at Comic-Con this weekend. But I'm tired. And I don't want to stare at my computer screen while I eat my hot pockets. I don't feel like starting a new author right now. I just wanna read. I downloaded those football books last night. Because I liked the one I won, From This Moment On. I read the last one (Game For Love) already. It didn't suck. Andre is a pretty consistent author. I'm just gonna read one of these."

On the brainless read front, it delivered. The plot was fairly simple. Ty and Julie knew each other in high school, she lost her virginity to him, and the morning after was a disaster, fraught with miscommunication. Fast forward ten years, he is a superstar football player with a bad personal reputation and she is the image consultant hired to straighten him out. There's lots of sexual energy and more miscommunication, now sprinkled lightly with personal growth.

Now that I'm emerging from my hot pocket haze and my brain has started to sort through the different aspects of the book, I find a lot of WTF-ery is emerging. Like the ending. I mean, this was a pretty straightforward contemporary. However, the ending was a grand reveal worthy of a Scooby Doo episode. While this is slightly explained by the aforementioned grand reveal, I don't think Ty necessarily needed a image consultant. He didn't have a DWI, get caught doing drugs, nor did he have a revolving door in his bedroom. By today's standards, his perpetual house party is actually pretty tame. It seemed like he was still doing his job, showing up to practice, etc. So one would think Julie, as an experienced image consultant, would have kinda been like 'Huh? Something ain't right here.' A much better take on this concept is Jill Shalvis's Slow Heat.
This was also another book that takes place during its sport's off-season. As a result, there's actually not a lot of football in it, aside from a few scenes in the weight room. I would have liked at least an epilogue with Julie in the stands, watching Ty play. The reader also meets a grand total of ONE of Ty's teammates who, not-so-coincidentally, happens to be the hero of the next book.

I am definitely going to read the next book at some point, but I would recommend this series for those times when you just want to be mildly entertained without taxing your brain. I should really re-read the Susan Elizabeth Phillips football books now.

Review: Ecstasy Untamed (Feral Warriors, #6)

Ecstasy Untamed (Feral Warriors, #6)
Ecstasy Untamed (Feral Warriors, #6) by Pamela Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am seriously wrestling back and forth over giving this five stars or four. I think I'm going to stay at four because if you have not read books 1 and 5 in the Feral series, you will not love Ecstasy Untamed as much as I do in this moment.

I don't think I can articulate properly why I love this book. The phrase that keeps springing to mind is "it was a culmination," which really doesn't make any sense. Let me ponder on a suitable analogy for a moment.


Okay, this is the best I've got. It's like Girl Scout cookies. Like, the majority of the year, you're like Girl Scout cookies, whatever, Keebler's tastes just as good, and then you order a box because your co-worker is nagging you, and then you kinda forget about it because there's that delay in between, and then the box arrives when you're cranky & PMS-ing, so you open the box, take a bite, and when the flavor hits your tongue, you're like, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED AND IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW and then you're all sad because you only ordered one box and you have to wait until next year to order more.


Now I want Tagalongs.


Pamela Palmer is not one of those authors I think about very often and I've found her books to be a bit hit or miss. I still read 'em because shifter romances are my crack and so when this e-ARC became available, I snapped it up. I think that was, like, over a month ago. The heroine, Faith? Awesome. The hero, Hawke? Awesome. Cameos of pretty much every supporting character we've ever met? Awesome. Massive overall series plot arc advancement while tying up loose ends? Awesome. If you like the Feral series, you will love this book. I'm not quite at the point where I think the average paranormal reader should make their way through the first five books to get to this point, but if book seven is as wonderful as book six, I will be.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: Storm Born Volume 1

Storm Born Volume 1
Storm Born Volume 1 by Richelle Mead

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Down & dirty review because I gotta be somewhere in about ten minutes.

Sea Lion Publishing contacted me as they seemed to have done with a lot of people and sent me the first three issues of Storm Born. The collected version will have issues 1-4 so I haven't seen the complete book as of yet.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not a Richelle Mead fan per say. I think she's a good writer, but her books tend to go to dark, angsty, places and I don't like angst in my romance.

However, I have read Storm Born, back when it first came out, and let me tell you, the graphic novelization is way better. I actually couldn't remember if I'd read it or not, but as I started to read the first issue, it all came flooding back. The art is phenomenal, Grant Alter has stripped away a lot of the extraneous detail that bogged the story down, and Eugenie is free to shine as an awesome heroine.

I have to say, I really love the way the sex scenes were handled. You never see masculine or feminine bits, but the hiding of them never seemed contrived. The body language is completely natural and sometimes you could almost see movement on the page.

If the art by Dave Hamann wasn't so fabulous, the writing couldn't carry the book alone, so this is really a perfect pairing. Comparisons should be drawn to Patricia Briggs' Mercedes Thompson books as Mercy and Eugenie are the same type of heroine.

Gotta run, but I rec this and I hope it does well enough for the later books in the series to be covered so I don't have to read them!

Review: Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes
Behind the Scenes by Natalie J. Damschroder

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So this isn't coming out until Halloween, which is a little over a month away, but Carina Press doesn't have any 'wait until' guidelines over at NetGalley and I'm feeling too lazy to log into Blogger.

I realized when I was almost finished with this book that I tend to think of these books as Carina Press books rather than a Natalie Damschroder book. I figure it's because I've never heard of most of these authors, but then I catch myself trying to compare Behind the Scenes to Falke's Captive. It's apples and oranges, Self, apples and oranges.

Anyways. The book. The heroine is Kennedy, a security specialist who dedicates herself protecting others. She normally sticks to taking jobs from humanitarian organizations because her older brother was killed while working for a Doctors Without Borders-type group. Due to machinations by her father and old family friends, she gets drafted into protecting a movie set. Kennedy doesn't take the threat seriously at first, but soon learns the bad guys are taking it very seriously indeed. She gets entangled with the leading man, Roman, who then becomes a target for the bad guys.

So. Good stuff. Kennedy is the kick-ass, take charge, type of heroine. She may not be in the military, but she is a soldier nonetheless. Her strategy was smart and she was a good leader. The reader gets a very in-depth look at what being in personal security means. The book also moved along at a very fast clip.

Bad stuff. Next to Kennedy's strong presence, Roman paled. Here's this Brad Pitt-esque movie star and he barely registered. In addition, the relationship development got greatly overshadowed by the action. Damschroder makes it a point of saying that Kennedy & Roman are having nightly chats over a long period of time, getting to know each other, but the reader doesn't get to see any of it. I twigged onto the bad guy's identity about halfway through, but Damschroder threw in enough red herrings that I wasn't positively sure until the last quarter of the book.

I don't read a lot of romantic suspense so that could factor into my general meh-ness about Behind the Scenes. I admit, I wanted more of the rich and famous lifestyle & less of the screaming and dodging. If you like romantic suspense, I'd rec you give this a try and you'll probably rate it four stars. Everyone else, go read something by Shannon Stacey or Cindy Spencer Pape.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: Falke's Captive

Falke's Captive
Falke's Captive by Anna Leigh Keaton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't know if this really deserves four stars, but it's getting them for two reasons. First of all, Falke's Captive makes sense and I'm still shaking my head over Chaos Tryst. Secondly, you rarely see this kind of plot in shifter romances. There was that brief scene at the end of Shelly Laurenston's Here Kitty, Kitty! and, the beginning of, oh, crap, what was it? Um, The Jaguar Prince, I think. I mean, there are many books where shifters are hunted by scientists and the like, but very few where they are shipped off to the zoo or 'tagged' (I'm excluding Jennifer Ashley's Pride Mates series as the purpose behind those collars don't fit this scenario). I like seeing what realistic situations modern-day shifters could find themselves in and being tranq'd & tagged by a wildlife researcher certainly fits the bill.

I admit to skimming through the sex scenes, not because they were bad, but because there were a lot of them and I was on lunch at work. Reading about anal sex is a little surreal when the co-worker sitting next to you is on the phone, arguing about a bill. It did feel like the sex scenes kinda outnumbered the plot scenes, but that's not exactly unexpected with this type of book. This is also the second book in the series and, despite not having read the first one, I was able to follow along quite nicely. I respect an author who can continue a series without info dumping or ignoring the first book entirely.

I'm starting to get the after-lunch sleepies so it's definitely time for my vitamins. To wrap up, I'd rec this for fans of Crystal Jordan. I'd have priced this at $3.99 instead of $4.99 (don't ask me why, it just doesn't feel like a $5 book and it's only 174 pages. Harlequin Presents are usually another 20+ pages for the same price), but if you can get a coupon somewhere, check it out.

Review: Chaos Tryst

Chaos Tryst
Chaos Tryst by Shirin Dubbin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This seems to be my week for the almost-greats. Y'know what I mean. I'm referring to those books that inch along the tightrope between 'Eh. It was good,' and 'This was awesome,' and they invariably fall off the wire somewhere in between. Chaos Tryst took the plunge closer to the 'Eh' side, which was disappointing.

Ariana (aka Ari) is a returner, a person who retrieves stolen artifacts and returns them to their rightful owners. She's also the daughter of two trickster gods, Anasai and Inari, and she's inherited a large chunk of their chaos magic. Maks's origin is somewhat fuzzier. He's a Bear shifter, the middle of three brothers, and he's the only one who got chaos magic from their mother. Maks makes a big deal out of being half Russian and half Gypsy, but since I'm not really up on Russian or Gypsy mythology, I couldn't really tell you where his parents fall on the the power scale or what Maks really is. Maks's characterization is where the book started to lose its balance. Ari is very clearly defined. She is a tricksy girl who tries to use her powers for good. When she's being tricksy, her kitsune spirit overlays itself on her physical body, but she doesn't actually turn into a fox. Maks literally turns in a bear and the bear seems to have its own consciousness because the bear knows it wants Ari while the man is still reluctant. Maks the man is also sulky as several of characters call him and he is largely inscrutable. You don't really see him fall in love with Ari. He goes from being murderously pissed off to I guess I'll help her out to We shall be wed!. I raised my eyebrows at that.

Furthermore, the world Dubbin has created bears the potential to be fascinating. It's like a cross between the comic book series Fables by Bill Willingham and Wen Spencer's Tinker (I need Spencer to write faster. Like seriously). However, the reader is never given any framework for understanding it. It's like there's a refugee camp crammed full of every mythological being ever created, regardless of ethnic origin, and inhabitants refer to themselves as Faebles. To make things more confusing, the implication is, Ari aside, that the characters' first language is of the country their myth originated from. For example, Inari's dialogue reads like a native Japanese speaker translating her thoughts into English. Maks's dialogue has a Russian flair. So it begs the question: why are they here and not there, and why is English the common-use language?

It sounds nitpicky when I re-read it, but I firmly believe that if an author is going to create an elaborate fantasy world, they need to establish a logical framework within it. When Maks and Ari touch, their chaos magics spiral together and create havoc. Okay, I can buy that, but why? Is it because they are meant to be together? Did their magic ever spring out of control when they were children? Can they manipulate events to kill someone? Is chaos magic only passed down trickster bloodlines? Why did Maks inherit the magic, but not his brothers?

Also, after some chaos incidents, Dubbin throws in a section, '2 minutes prior' or whatever, where the reader is told how the chaos incident happened. I don't understand why this wasn't just part of the story. Why do I need a flashback for this? Why can't it be in the linear narrative?

I can keep asking question after question about various aspects of the story, which is basically my point. A story can have a good foundation and be crappy (see the vast majority of fanfiction), but if the foundation is riddled with cracks, the story is going to collapse within itself.

I'm keeping this at three stars because I would read a sequel. The flaws within Chaos Tryst are definitely fixable so another story set in this world has the potential to be very good, if it can just keep its balance long enough!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Review: Darkest Fire

Darkest Fire
Darkest Fire by Tawny Taylor

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'd written a very long, very scathing, review of this book and then I hit one of my bookmark buttons by accident. Bye bye, review. I kinda want to cry now. Bad enough I had to suffer through this book and then I lose my five+ paragraphs on top of it? Heartbreaking.

Here are the highlights:

1. The back blurb is completely misleading. This is not a paranormal. Rin and Drakos do not know each other. Drakos does dom other subs, but he doesn't have intercourse with anyone but Rin. Rin has no big secret. She marries him to rescue her sister, which she pretty much tells him right away.

2. Taylor misrepresents post-traumatic stress disorder. I have PTSD and the symptoms she eventually gives Lei, Rin's sister, are characteristic of depression. Also, Lei is astonishingly psychologically and physically healthy, considering she's been held in sexual captivity for over a year.

3. There are a bajillion plot holes and things that are never explained. I tried to see if there was an ebook prequel of this series, but Taylor's website is out of date and poorly organized. So anytime you ask 'why,' expect to be disappointed.

4. The plot doesn't flow smoothly. There are odd time jumps. The worst one happens towards the end of the book. On page 253, the end of Chapter 21, some characters are in mortal danger. They may not survive. Page 254 begins Chapter 22 and it opens with a sex scene. We don't find out the fate of the characters until page 258 and then we also find out it's 'months later.'

What kills me about all of this is that I think the bones of a good book were there. If Taylor had opened with a prologue, shortened Lei's captivity & read the DSM-IV, and the plot kinks were fixed, this would have been a decent book. I would say the sex scenes were fairly hot, but at that point, I couldn't stop WTF-ing.

So there you go. It all boils down to that: Darkest Fire is an epic WTF book. I won't read the other books in the series when they come out, but I'm not saying I wouldn't read other books by the author. I would just do so with extreme caution and maybe with a spotter.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review: True Vision

True Vision
True Vision by Joyce Lamb

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I probably would have given this book three stars up until page 307, where I promptly declared the heroine a bitch. I totally sided with the hero, Noah, and if I'd been him, I wouldn't have come back. The heroine, Charlie, should've had to go to him. And then she's all righteous, "Well, of course, I did that." I wanted to slap her.

Also, what the hell was the deal with her mother? Charlie, at times, wants to protect her despite the fact the woman hit her as a child and STILL DOES. Charlie is also incredibly loyal to her father, who didn't lift a finger to keep his wife away from his daughter. This chick needs serious therapy. It's like watching Stockholm Syndrome in action. In any other book, Charlie would've moved outta town, leaving her past & abusers in the dust, only coming back when forced to.

In addition, there's a bit of a jarring moment on page 158 where a minor character launches into a diatribe about what's wrong with newspapers today. I had to check the copyright date because I seriously thought the book was published in the late nineties. On 9/11/01, you know how I got my news? A Roswell message board because the cable went out and I was forced to beg for news from fellow fans. You know how I get my news now? Twitter and my local paper's iPhone app. And you know what all those things have? Ads. You want to get your message out to people, you better learn how to adapt to technological changes. I would have thought a self-professed billionaire would grasp that little fact.

On the positive side, the action zips along quite quickly. The illusion is helped along by the shortness of the chapters. There are sixty-eight chapters, but just 321 pages. Also, I didn't figure out ahead of time who the big bad was. I wasn't entirely sure why the big bad snapped and went on a rampage, but I certainly didn't think it was that character.

This was one of those cases where I think the author has the ability to write something great, but this was a poorly plotted book. If I came across the sequel, True Colors, I'd read it, mainly because I liked the character who will be that hero. I'm on the fence about the heroine. She already feels a bit wishy-washy to me.

Review: Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey

Okay, so I'm fairly new at the whole 'reviewing ARCs for the Internet' thing. In the past, I was either blowing up Twitter (see Dragon Bound) or maintaining a covenant of secrecy between myself and the romance buyer. I didn't want to be labeled as the girl not to send books to because she told the buyer of a national chain that the last one sucked. Now, of course, it doesn't matter anymore so I'm free to blast my opinion everywhere.

I like this series and it got a good write-up in Romantic Times so when I saw it was available in NetGalley from Luna/Harlequin, I hit that request button wicked fast. Now, according to the NetGalley publisher guidelines, I'm supposed to wait until a month before the book comes out to review it. I don't particularly get the logic behind that because I'd think you'd want the buzz to start early and then carefully feed it until the book's release, but what do I know, I was just a bookseller for 9.5 years. To further make my life difficult, I'm not entirely sure when this book is/was coming out. I have it down as a June publication and NetGalley has it as June 28th, but Amazon and GoodReads says October 18th. So it's currently August 24th and God knows when you're going to be reading this. Hello from the past!

So, right, the book. First off, do not bother reading Beauty and the Werewolf if you have not at least read The Fairy Godmother. If Harlequin is smart, they will do a Fairy Godmother giveaway before Beauty comes out. Maybe they did, clairvoyance is not one of my skills. If you are already in possession of Beauty without having read any of the previous books and are being stubborn, here's basically what you need to know.

There are the Five Kingdoms, kinda like that 10th Kingdom made-for-TV movie, but much less self-aware. Hovering over these Kingdoms is Tradition. Tradition is like gravity or atmosphere, a natural force that the average Joe doesn't think about much, but that brilliant scientists study like mad. In the Kingdoms, a woman may be a wonderful person until she marries a man with a daughter and she slowly turns cruel. The youngest of the three brothers may find himself questing for a princess. Not doing a favor for the old woman in the road could have severe repercussions, you dig? Basically, Tradition tries to make fairy tales happen, even if the people at the center of these tales would much rather have ordinary lives, thank you very much. Fairy Godmothers are the ones who try to combat Tradition and manipulate it so wicked witches aren't roaming the countryside.

Now, Lackey is kinda smart here, because one would assume based on the title and main character's name that we are dealing with the Beauty and the Beast tale. In fact, Lackey starts off with Cinderella, turns to Little Red Riding Hood, and then begins to incorporate elements from Beauty and the Beast, but she mixes in other archetypes as well. The book is almost meta in the way it encourages you to pick apart the various story elements.

Despite by published by Harlequin's Luna imprint, this is not a romance and is more of a mystery set in a fantasy world with a few romantic elements thrown in. There are two main male characters, Eric the Gamekeeper and Sebastian the wizardly Werewolf. I have to admit, I wasn't entirely sure who Bella, the heroine, was going to end up with. I also had my suspicions as to who the dastardly evildoer was, but again, I wasn't certain until just before the grand reveal. Part of my uncertainty was due, again, to the way Lackey kept shifting the characters' archetypes. Eric, in particular, goes through a multitude of labels, Tradition at work.

The one quibble I had, and this is not a little one, was the fact that some of the plot elements seemed to be recycled from Lackey's older book, The Fire Rose. Wolfy wizard isolates young female in his very large residence where the only other human is a male who is assisting the wizard in some way and they are waited upon by seemingly invisible servants. During her stay at the residence, the female discovers the existence of magic (it's the exact same kind in both books) and Wolfy wizard takes her on as an apprentice. Over the course of the book, they fall in love and an evil is vanquished. Even the fate of the Wolfy wizard is kind of the same. However, I will say that the characters themselves are very different. Rosalind in Fire Rose is very prim and studious. Bella from Beauty is intelligent, but she has more street smarts and she's able to take care of herself. Fire Rose's hero, Jason, is an egotistical jackass whereas Beauty's Sebastian is more of a gentleman and a milder personality.

If I had to rec only one, I'd probably opt for The Fire Rose, simply because it stands alone quite nicely. However, fans of the Five Kingdom books will enjoy this newest installment. Quite frankly, if you're a Lackey fan, you should read Fairy Godmother anyway! This series would also appeal to fans of Kristine Grayson and possibly fans of N.K. Jemisin as well.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pottermore & Me

I know most of the reviews and posts I have done so far have been romance oriented, but the imaginary subtitle of this blog is "Things I Read." One of my favorite series is, of course, the Harry Potter series. I tend to look askance at anyone who says they haven't read it. I don't expect you to necessarily love it (I have my own issues with some of the later books), but how do you not at least try Sorcerer's Stone? My little brother doesn't like them at all, but he's read them and, thanks to his now-wife, he's seen all the movies. He's even been to the Harry Potter part of Orlando's Universal Studios and admits it's kinda cool. Jim Dale's Harry Potter audiobooks are also among the only audiobooks I can listen to without getting bored. The man is seriously talented.

I am getting distracted. Before you know it, I'll start raving about Ron/Hermione and how Steve Kloves is obviously a Harry/Hermione shipper and, well. Moving on.

So Harry Potter was not yet available in e-book form and J. K. Rowling had all this extra story material lying around. Earlier this year, Rowling and Sony announced they were joining forces to create Pottermore. I wasn't quite sure what Pottermore was really going to end up being, but they were doing a competition for beta spots and I'd be dammed if I didn't get one. It's Harry Potter, after all.

I got my spot on the fourth day of the competition and then I waited for my welcome email to arrive. And waited and waited and waited. They were purposely rolling out the invitations slowly as to avoid crashing the site. My email finally arrived on Saturday morning.

I admit, I was a little disappointed by how it looked. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I think I wanted it to sparkle.
Now, here's the problem. The day I got my spot was the first day that the competition was really available to us in the United States during the day. If I remember correctly, it was something like 10am EST. All the previous clues had been aired at too-fucking-earlyAM EST. Presumably, a lot of other Americans were able to get their spot on the same day and, therefore, also got their welcome email on a non-work day. As the internet-savvy know, when a large group of people, in the general vicinity of each other, all attempt to log-on to a website at the same time, bad things happen.

Like this. I've been seeing this message A LOT.
I wasn't really able to log on until Saturday night, presumably when most people either gave up or went out drinking or both. So what do I think of the whole Pottermore experience when I'm not seeing the dreaded Purple Screen of Doom? Honestly, I'm kinda meh on the whole thing.

Somewhere along the line, I read a blog post online where the author compared Pottermore to Facebook games and it really is the same kind of principle. It's basically a hidden image game with a potions component that's similar to waiting for your crops to grow in Farmville. I admit, I thought it was cool when my cauldron exploded from being overheated, but that was due more to really, really poorly written instructions rather than my own incompetence. I relied prettily heavily on the Exploring Pottermore tumblr to make sure I didn't miss anything. The creator behind that tumblr also links to some handy-dandy youtube videos that walks you through the potions.

You can also practice casting spells, but the dueling portion has been removed for the time being, which leads finding stuff and making potions the only way you can collect points for your house. Speaking of which, the Sorting Hat ceremony was pretty damn cool. It asks you seven questions (supposedly, they are different for most users) and based on your answers, you get placed in your house. Now, if you're familiar with the basic tenets of each house, there are some questions that are easy to skew if you want a particular house.  For example, one question asked me if I wanted to create a potion that would give the user wisdom, power, love, or glory. However, my very last question showed me a signpost and asked me to pick between left or right. I agonized over this choice. Left or right. In the end, I went with right because I'm right-handed and, therefore, left-brained. My theory was that most people would pick the direction associated with their handness and then the computer would associate that with the appropriate hemisphere of the brain. I may have overthought this a bit, but that's how you know I ended up in the right house.

It's just what I wanted!
It's interesting, but when you get access to the Great Hall and you can see the House Cup standings, so far, there seems to be a pretty even amount of people split between the four houses. Last I was able to check, it was like 72,000 and change in each house. I wonder whether the sorting algorithm was designed that way or if most people just happen to naturally fall into those four personality categories.

On the meh side of things, you are pretty limited by what you can explore and collect. The potion ingredients regenerate so you can collect them continually for free, but other than that, once you've picked up that chocolate frog card or book, there's no reason to re-visit a chapter. The graphics are Mary GrandPre's illustrations brought to life. The Whomping Willow in Chapter 13 is amazing. The chapters are divided up into two or three moments, so it's not like you're reading the book as you make your way through Pottermore. Instead, in each moment, you can zoom in three times and the possibility exists for different items or animations at each zoom level. Oddly, there is no sound or music. This might just be a function of the beta release and it's definitely the biggest complaint I've seen so far.

There is additional new material that J.K. Rowling has contributed to the site, most notably a detailed biography of Professor McGonagall. I also enjoyed reading about the Wand lore trivia. You do get chosen by a wand at Ollivander's and I liked seeing what my wand said about me. The wand selection was another set of questions and I think my wand fits me rather well.

I can't help it, though, I giggle at the description.
I'm not quite finished with the Sorcerer's Stone yet as I was up to the last chapter when I got booted. I currently have a potion brewing at the moment, but if I can't get back onto the site shortly, it will get ruined and I only earn one house point for Ravenclaw, "just for trying." Clearly, Snape is not the Potionmaster overseeing the firsties right now. Book 2, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, is not scheduled to be released until "early 2012." So, if you weren't lucky enough to get into the beta, don't worry. You'll have plenty of time to catch up once general registration starts in October. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I think all of us in NY remember 9/11 in different ways. For some of us, it's an anniversary that gets marked once a year by a moment of silence before life carries on. For others, it's a day that colors every breath, a scar that can still hurt. If you get a group of strangers together in New York, the question almost always comes up: Where were you when the Towers fell? It's become an ice breaker of sorts, a communal experience that links people together. If you didn't lose someone, you know someone who did.

My father works in the City, but he was up in midtown and he was able to get home to my mother & brother that night. His company had worked with Cantor Fitzgerald in the past. Cantor Fitzgerald lost over 600 of their 900-odd employees. After 9/11, they moved their offices temporarily into my dad's building.

Mom was working for an animation studio in 2001. Her co-worker was Liz Gardner, wife of Thomas Gardner, a firefighter in HazMat 001. I probably said hello to Liz once or twice when I came by to see my mom, but I never met her husband, a man who lost his life when the South Tower fell. To paraphrase what many have said, when people were running out, the firefighters were running in.

I met my best friend in 2002. On 9/11/01, she'd been living in New York for less than two months, having moved here after marrying a FDNY firefighter. She would tell me later, how she felt that day, the terror and anxiety of not knowing where her new husband was. His house was based in Brooklyn. He was far enough away that he didn't get to what's now Ground Zero until after the Towers fell. He worked the Pile, though, and when he came home, his gear would be caked with dust. If she dropped him off, they'd hose her car off before she drove away. The thick gray sediment got everywhere.

It's been a year of change for me, every month bringing something new, some new crisis or surprise to be handled or dealt with. It's been pretty evenly divided between good and bad, and so this year I decided to do something I hadn't done since 9/11/01. I watched television coverage of the event.  In 2001 and 2002, I collected books on 9/11. They're currently tucked away in a plastic bin underneath my bed. I don't read them because it's enough to know I have them. I also have a DVD of CNN coverage that I've never watched. I still remember, I don't need to be reminded.

Yet, today, spur of the moment, I decided I wanted to watch, I wanted to see it again. I watched the Smithsonian documentary, "9/11: Day that Changed the World," and it was interesting re-evaluating things from a more adult perspective. I was 19 when the Towers fell and, while I vehemently disliked Bush, I remember watching his address that night and giving him props. Watching the documentary, I gained just a little more respect for him and I could see how this was a situation he was handed, one that caught everyone in the government by surprise. I still think he was a gawdawful president, but I finally saw the man who cared about his country above all else.

The other documentary I watched was From the Ground Up, which focused on five firefighter widows and the good they've tried to bring from their husbands' senseless deaths. This was a documentary about hope and about rebuilding. There is a moment from the film that is still resounding in my head. One of the widows, Kate Richardson, is filmed while giving a tour at Ground Zero. She lost her husband Bob McPadden of Engine 23.  Framed in a window, in a room overlooking the footprints where the Towers stood, she says she had felt like her life was over, that her husband had been her future. Her grandmother shared with Kate a story about a family relative who'd written letters to the wife he'd left behind during World War II. If I die, he wrote, don't let this war ruin two lives. Kate jabbed her finger at the window and said, in essence, "They took 2977 lives that day, but I didn't let them take mine."

It is a concept that seems so simple and yet so daunting at the same time. You remember those lost by living, by making your life the very best one you can. You honor their sacrifice by being worthy of it. 

The terrorists, the rapists, the murderers, the abusers, all the horrible people and traumatic events that have occurred, they have taken so much from the world. Don't let them take you too. 

Always remember, never forget, but live beyond it all.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Winner of @CynthiaEden giveaway!

This is the Pigeon.

You may remember him from such books as The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog and giveaways like Discourse on fanfic, plagiarism, & @CynthiaEden's Deadly Heat. That contest ended on September 1st. Seven days ago. 

The Pigeon is very sorry he's late.

The Pigeon has a good reason, though. See, there was this hurricane. 

See that arrow? That's where the Pigeon nests.

The Pigeon lost power for five days. It kinda threw things out of whack. The Pigeon has promised, however, that he will be much more timely with all future giveaways. There were two entries for Cynthia Eden's Deadly Heat, Blue Shedevil and Kissablesweet1. Thank you for participating, ladies!

There was going to be video of the Pigeon drawing the winner, but it turns out that the Pigeon's wings are too short to reach into the rubber band jar entry receptacle. He'd like to announce the winner, though! 

He's so excited, he can barely contain himself!
Congratulations, kissablesweet1!  Please email me at ladylioness81 at yahoo dot com with your mailing address and the Pigeon promises he will mail your book out right away. Another giveaway will be forthcoming as soon as I can make up my mind. Follow the blog or @lionessbkshelf so you'll be ready!

Monthly Tally: August 2011

From TBR journal
  1. Retribution, Sherrilyn Kenyon
  2. In the Arms of a Marquess, Katharine Ashe
  3. It's Always Been You, Victoria Dahl
  4. Touch if You Dare, Stephanie Rowe
  5. Taken by Fire, Sydney Croft
  6. Raising Kane, Lorelei James
  7. Changeling Moon, Dani Harper
  8. The Angel in my Arms, Stefanie Sloan
  9. Wickedly Charming, Kristine Grayson

  1. Love Story, Jennifer Echols - This is actually an adult fiction title. I think I've read a YA by this author so when I saw it on S&S's galley grab, I, well, grabbed it. It was a good story, I read it in one sitting, but it is not a romance.  Read it expecting romance, like I did, and you will be WTF-ing by the end. Read it expecting fiction and you will be satisfied.
  2. Queen of the Sylphs, L. J. McDonald - I actually have a half finished blog entry that has a working title of 'L.J. McDonald needs to get away from Dorchester.' McDonald has a ton of potential and it's being squandered at Dorchester.

Books Read Along the Way
  1. Game for Love, Belle Andre - I probably picked this up because I was in sports romance mode. I'd been debating it for a while, but I held off until it went on sale. It wasn't fabulous, but it was good. The hero is a football player.
  2. Dragon Blues, Edie Ramer - I either got this for free or bought it for .99. I can barely remember my reaction now. I remember thinking it was okay. Main character is a dragon. Probably would've given it about 3 stars.
  3. The Devil in Disguise, Stefanie Sloan
This is the last monthly tally that will be done in this format. Now that I've started using GoodReads, it's a much easier way to keep track of what I read each day. It should also produce more accurate totals. Next month, I think, I'll focus on a few specific titles. Here is my profile if you want to follow me and here is the rest of what I read in August.

Category Totals

Romance: 34 + 4 ARCs
Science Fiction: 1 + 1 ARC
Young Adult: 2
Comic Strip Collection: 1
Humor: 1
Fiction: 1 ARC

Theme: Sports Romances

I've decided that as the mood strikes me, I'll categorize some of the books I've read together by their prominent theme. I read a lot of sport-themed books in August so I'm starting with that. I'll try to go back and add new titles as I read or re-read them. Whenever  I can, I'll also try to link back to any reviews I've done.


Changing the Game - Jaci Burton
Squeeze Play - Kate Angell
Strike Zone - Kate Angell
Sliding Home - Kate Angell
Double Play - Jill Shalvis
Slow Heat - Jill Shalvis


Flat-Out Sexy - Erin McCarthy
Hard and Fast - Erin McCarthy
Hot Finish - Erin McCarthy
The Chase - Erin McCarthy
Slow Ride - Erin McCarthy


The Game of Love - Jeanette Murray
Game for Anything - Bella Andre
Game for Seduction - Bella Andre
It Had to Be You- Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review: Tall, Dark, and Lonesome by Debra Dixon

Tall, Dark, and Lonesome by Debra Dixon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this free via a Twitter giveaway run by Sue Grimshaw with the file supplied by NetGalley. It's part of the relaunch of the Loveswept line and according to the copyright page, it originally came out in 1993.

I have to say, it holds up pretty well. Dixon did a good job of including in just enough technology to make it feel modern without specifying a particular model or brand that would date it today. Sure, you'd think cell phones would be mentioned at least once and it's more likely the heroine, Niki, would be a blogger today, but the absence of these things wasn't too jarring.

Basically, Niki gets drafted by her newspaper editor to go on a cattle drive run by the hero, Zach. Zach, unknown to Niki in the beginning, is a successful businessman and potential politician. Niki is wary of getting involved with him because she's well aware of the scrutiny politicians face and she comes with major baggage. However, the chemistry between them is fierce and they end up together.

If I think about it too much, I'm going to talk myself into dropping the story down a star because there are some plot holes along the way. However, it was exactly what I wanted, something easy to read while I tried to distract myself from the possibility of another ice cold shower because we still have no freaking power. I liked the dogs and found Niki was delightfully spunky at times.

My main quibble is that it was shorter than I expected. The page count on Adobe Digital Editions said 248, but Tall, Dark clocks in at 141 pages. I'm assuming the rest of the file contains previews for other books in the line. I didn't bother reading it. I have to say, I'm definitely glad I didn't buy it, although 2.99 isn't that bad of a price. I would've been pissed if the page count was listed at 248 and I was gypped out of 107 pages of story. That's practically a whole 'nother book! However, if you like the short Harlequin and Silhouette books with a Western flair, you'll enjoy this.

Review: Canyons of Night by Jayne Castle

Canyons of Night by Jayne Castle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Since we still have no power, I read this book by flashlight and dawn's early light. So not kidding. And it turns out dust bunnies can come off as a little creepy when you're in pitch darkness. I am convinced, by the way, that dust bunnies are actually the evolved form of the aliens who originally colonized Harmony. The way Castle writes them, they seem almost sentient at times and Rex underscores that idea in Canyons.

Canyons is billed as the third book in the Dreamlight Trilogy, but could very easily stand alone, so long as you'd read other Harmony books. I did question the sudden appearance of the Rainshadow Preserve, but I think Castle did try to connect it back a bit to the older Harmony books (Amaryllis, Orchid, Zinnia). It's interesting that Castle/Krentz excludes those books from her list on her website. Are we supposed to think they are separate? Was there a second 'Curtain' that took a whole 'nother bunch of colonists to a separate planet, but allowed them to evolve the same way? I have to re-read them. Maybe I'll go on a Jayne Castle kick since I'm done with my sports craving.

I was mildly disappointed and impressed by this book at the same time. It's not anything new. It's your standard Castle book, complete with psychic peril and off-the-charts powerful characters. I was kinda hoping for the 'childhood friends turned lovers' trope, but that's not what I got. There's this line in the beginning where the hero, Slade, talks about how he's only on the island for six months because he's working on this project. I was all "Oh, that's so sweet, he came back to woo her." Nope, he's starting his own business. It was a tad deflating.

Charlotte started off mildly interesting for me because she had panic attacks when she uses her gift, which is a new one. Castle doesn't usually write heroines who are disabled in some way. It's her heroes that usually the damaged ones. However, it's not really pursued and it remains in the realm of an inconvenient side effect.

Despite the lackluster story between Slade and Charlotte, what impressed me was the way Castle set up the next trilogy. There's the slightest hint of what's lurking in the Preserve. A possible hero is introduced at the very end and we also meet two secondary characters who will likely be very important in the future. I also loved the kid, Dixon Devin, actually, (I don't have the book available at the moment. If I get power back tonight, I'll edit the correct name in). I really hope we see him again. Castle likes to throw in a young, practically an orphan, boy in her stories every now and then, and it would be a treat to actually get to watch one grow up.

Bottom line, I'd either recommend you get it from the library or wait until the first book in the next trilogy is released, whenever that will be. You'll likely need to read Canyons to properly prepare for the next trilogy, but it's not exactly a must-read.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Notes from the Blender by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

Notes from the Blender

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book gets four stars because it's perfect. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but it was really too perfect. I felt like it was the basis for a teen comedy starring Emma Stone. I mean, I'd pay $9 to see it, but it was a glossy version of normal.

There's a lot of emotion thrown around. Dec is angry at his mother's death. Neilly is overwhelmed by all the changes in her life. Dec is horny and Neilly has a crush. Things could go horribly awry, but how do these teenagers deal with this intense feelings? They talk about them. They go to therapy. They are self-aware and they think things through. They are the most adult, mature, teenagers ever.

Despite the unreality of teenagers who understand and conceptualize exactly what they're feeling, it was a good read. I admit, part of the initial appeal of this book for me was the assumption it was a stepbrother/stepsister romance, which is a favorite trope of mine. Blender avoids that. There's still romantic elements, but overall, it's a light mostly angst-free read.

In short, it's for fans of the movie Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and anyone who wants to believe these are the kind of teens that are going to be the future of our world.

Review: The Game of Love by @jeanettemurray

The Game of Love
The Game of Love by Jeanette Murray

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So I have been without power since just after 9am on Sunday the 28th, thanks to Hurricane Irene. As a result, I am tired, cranky, and frustrated. All I want to do is yawn and glare at things. Don't expect great revelations from this review. Fair warning.

Anyways, I really liked this. I've been on a sports kick lately, and I went to another baseball game last night, so I was in the mood for something good. This is an ebook from Carina Press. The hero, Brett, is a former NFL star, now a high school football coach. Chris is the heroine and she is a former tennis pro, now the tennis coach & math teacher for the school (I think it's supposed to be a public school, but it reads like a private). The story is already unique for featuring two star athletes as protagonists.

Game of Love is not really about sports so much as it's about dealing with your past and the value sports can have. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm inclined to agree that sports often take precedence over the arts in high school, but that's not the point of this story. The point is that Chris is gun-shy after getting out of an abusive relationship with a NHL star. She's immediately inclined to think Brett's a misogynistic meathead. Rather than be turned off by her man-hating ways, Brett's intrigued because she's clearly not a 'pro-ho' and she's strong enough to stand up to him.

That, by the way, is the main reason I loved this book. I'm a strong-willed person and I need a guy who has the balls to tell me no. I broke up with my last boyfriend because he was too nice. I walked all over him. So to read about a hero who purposely sought out a strong woman? Hot. Add on the fact that Brett cares about his students and is willing to learn from his mistakes? Scorching.

Another sign of a good book is an immediate desire to seek out more by the author. While reading Game, I wanted to go read Jared's & Katie's story. Also, anything about Brett's brothers. Unfortunately, this seems to be the only book by the author. I wouldn't be surprised if Murray had the manuscripts in a drawer somewhere, but they were too raw for publication. Carina Press is intriguing me lately with its ability to sniff out strong contemporary authors.

In conclusion, I'm giving this a five star review because I felt it was a strong story that would appeal to a wide variety of contemporary readers. Also because it distracted me from my grumpiness for a while. It's not quite Holy Shit worthy, but I still highly rec it. Would appeal to fans of Shannon Stacey and Jaci Burton.