Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dark Fire by Robyn Donald

Dark Fire (Too Hot to Handle, #4) (Harlequin Presents, #1735)Dark Fire (Too Hot to Handle, #4) by Robyn Donald

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aura loves her fiance Paul, but she doesn't love him that way that she feels for Flint. To Aura, Paul is comfort and safety. Flint is danger, white hot passion, and as far from 'safe' as possible. But Flint keeps pushing at her, tormenting her with the desire she feels for him, and the fact that he thinks she's nothing but a gold digger. That makes Flint a big jerk in my opinion. Even if he is right and Aura is making a mistake marrying Paul. He might try to deceive himself into thinking he's doing it for his friend's own good, but the truth is he wanted Aura for himself.

I felt bad for Aura. She really did want to do the right thing, and she knew she wouldn't marry Paul when it became clear that she was so blatantly in lust with his friend. If only Flint had trusted Aura to do the right thing.

I can't remember if I've read this before. Chances are I did, but I still enjoyed it. The passion and the emotional intensity are all there in this story. Aura's situation tugged on my heart, and I think with her emotional integrity, she deserved her happy ending. I wasn't 100% convinced that was with Flint until the end, and then I was satisfied that he truly did love her. I loved the epilogue, because it showed how they were meant to be together, and also things are resolved with Paul and Flint and Paul and Aura.

I think this is one of Robyn Donald's best books. Flint is definitely her style of cruel hero, but I saw some things in him that redeems him in my eyes. I enjoyed this book.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud

Heroes of the ValleyHeroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud

4 out of 5 stars

Heroes of the Valley turned out to be a good book to listen on audio. At first I wasn't sure how much I'd like it, but I ended up enjoying it immensely.

Halli is a roguish, endearing young hero who wrapped himself around my heart. Although he was quite a prankster, he was a good kid at heart. He didn't really get a chance to shine until he broke free from the mold of his family and their expectations for him. This took him on a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment about his world. Everyone in the Valley lives in the shadow of their great ancestors, who all died in a standoff with trolls that were plaguing the humans of the Valley. Now, they are nearly worshipped by each of the twelve houses founded in their names. Halli grew up with tales of the bravado of his ancestor, Svein, and wishes to commit similar feats of bravery to have his name listed in the hall of heroes. That's a bit hard to do with the current situations. All weapons are outlawed and any disputes are judged by the Lawgivers, women of the twelve houses.

When Halli's uncle Broda is murdered by Olaf of the Hakonsons, Halli is determined to avenge his uncle. He goes on a journey deeper into the valley, and comes to realize that heroism and bravery is not the way it sounds in the stories he was weaned on.

Halli makes it on my heroes I love shelf because he is a great kid. He is brave in a real life way. He gets himself into some very sticky situations, but he fights his way through with his ingenuity and his determination. He's not unaware that others view him in a negative light, but he doesn't let that stop him from doing what he believes is right. He stands up for himself, and others, and I loved his pluck. He's an outrageous kid who tells it like it is, and that's a trait that I can't help but admire. And Halli saves the day in a great way, not just to be labeled as the Hero, but because it's the right thing to do.

Jonathan Stroud keeps the reader guessing where Halli's adventures will lead him next, and this makes for a book that is nothing like I expected. I'm still trying to work my mind around the twist near the end that I completely didn't expect.

Heroes of the Valley has some good messages for younger (and older readers) about being true to yourself, standing up for what you believe, and using your wits instead of resorting to violent actions. There is violence, yet it's not pointless. Instead, violence in this story is used to illustrate something important. Violence doesn't make you a hero just because you are capable of using brute force to harm others and end lives. There is a place for it, but we must all question when is violence necessary, and count the cost of that violence, which can be a lot greater than we previously anticipated. In this story, the reader sees what kind of man Svein really was, and you have to wonder if he's truly a hero. Or do our heroes truly have feet of clay that merely make them the humans they were all along, despite their fantastic, lauded deeds. I truly believe that each person has it in them to be the hero, merely by standing up and doing what's right when they find themselves in those situations that don't even seem very grand. But their actions can be crucial, and how they react to those situations can define them and how confrontations end up being resolved, for the better or worse.

I didn't have a lot of expectations for this, but I ended up a satisfied listener. I think the narrator did a good job, and he brought the characters to life in a distinctive manner that fits the story, and had me listening intently. I am glad I was able to meet Halli, and his young girl friend Aud. They are definitely the true heroes in this story.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Groom's Ultimatum by Kim Lawrence

The Groom's Ultimatum (An Inconvenient Marriage)The Groom's Ultimatum by Kim Lawrence

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this one was very cute because it dealt with unrequited feelings between two step-siblings in a sweet, sexy, and humorous way. Sean and Sara spent years not dealing with their lust/love for each other. In fact, Sean was warned off of Sara by her father (and he wasn't going to act on his feelings for the then seventeen-year-old girl, and him ten years older). Her father was Mr. Mixed Signals. He set up Sara to work for Sean, asks Sean to marry Sara when he thought Sara was knocked up by some mystery guy, but he had also warned Sean off of Sara. Make up your mind, Dude!

Sean was too busy trying to hang onto his bachelor life, and he shied away from accepting he loved her because of the fact that Sara was going to be emotional high maintenance. But why was he ready to kill the guy who got Sara pregnant, and willing to forgive her supposed nymphomaniac excesses? Of course, the reader knows that Sara is neither 1)pregnant, nor is she 2)a nymphomaniac. After they got amorous and Sean sees Sara's flat stomach, I couldn't fathom how he thought she could be six months pregnant. I have seen some women who didn't show a whole lot, but pretty much every woman has a baby bulge at six months. Sara's belly is as flat as a pancake. But Sean still persists in believing she's preggers! Finally, she manages to convince him otherwise, and then he's mad because she's a virgin. And she's mad because he lets it slip that her father sent him over. All the amorous emotions go out the window (well not really).

Sara ends up moving back home when she finds out that Sean's mother (and her step-mother) is possibly dying of leukemia. And Sara's manipulative dad tells her that Sean and Sara are getting married. Of course, why not take their reluctant attraction to its natural conclusion--the nearest bed? They'll go along with the pretend marriage, and have some fun in the process. However, both have to acknowledge that their feelings are LOVE, not lust.

I really liked what happens towards the end. It made me go, aww! Sean gave in to his feelings in a big way, and it was sweet. The epilogue was good too, humorous and very much evident of the love between this not-so unlikely couple.

This won't work for everyone. It's a bit goofy, but I love the sweetness and the fact that Sara and Sean aren't at all able to fight their long-held feelings for each other. They really like each other, and need each other in their lives to be happy. It was nice seeing them lose that battle.

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Spanish Magnate, Red-Hot Revenge by Lynn Raye Harris

Spanish Magnate, Red-Hot Revenge (Harlequin Larger Print Presents)Spanish Magnate, Red-Hot Revenge by Lynn Raye Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book sure did get my blood pumping. If you like your romances intense and passionate, then this book will do the trick. I had all kinds of emotions stirring through me as I read, not all of them positive. At times I hated Alejandro. He could be a real jackass. I felt his pain at the loss of his daughter, but I resented that he wanted to blame Rebecca for everything. On the contrary, I liked and respected Rebecca a lot. She was emotionally susceptible to Alejandro, but she fought it and tried to stay in control. She was a lot more patient with him than he deserved. But for her, she had to be, because she'd never stopped loving him. At the end, I couldn't fault her for her behavior. Although Alejandro could be a real jerk, I was glad that he did apologize and try to make things right with Rebecca in the end.

This is the first book I've read by Lynn Raye Harris. I like her writing, and she definitely delivers a dramatic, sexy, passionate romance story. When it comes to Harlequin Presents, that's what I look for. So I'll be reading many more of her books (which is good, since I have a lot of her books in my pile).

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Burn by Crystal Hubbard

BurnBurn by Crystal Hubbard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Crystal Hubbard has delivered a great story of a woman trying to start a new life, and break free from the prison of fear that her abusive, controlling ex-husband held her captive to. For readers who enjoyed movies like "Sleeping with the Enemy" and "Enough", this book will strongly invoke memories of those stories, but Ms. Hubbard has put her own spin on that storyline of an abused ex-wife on the run from her crazy, stalker ex-husband.

Ms. Hubbard teaches me as an aspiring writer how to use language to tell a story. She always stimulates all the five senses when she writes. She beautifully describes colors and imagery, that give this novel a three-dimensional feel. I liked how she uses the language of color to describe how different Cinder's relationship is with Gian to her painful marriage to Sumchai Wyatt. Whereas everything was grays, blacks, and whites with Sumchai, there is a dazzling array of colors, each vibrant with Gian. Her descriptions of food were so scrumptious, I wanted to jump into this story and start eating. And the love scenes are very descriptive and evocative, making me think about sex and how it can express the feelings that a couple has for each other to a degree that I usually don't when I read a romance. Also, I appreciated how she wrote Gian as a hero in an inspiring, appealing way, but also showed that he was just a man, not a superman. In this case, Cinder didn't need a champion in the traditional sense. She needed to find her inner champion, and Gian helped her to do that.

The characters in this story came to life, fully realized. Cinder was a deep person, not perfect. A real woman. It's really easy to cast judgment on abused women, and say, I'd never let a man do that to me. However, it happens more than not that a woman ends up in a relationship that starts out good, and then finds that her life is completely controlled by a man who doesn't know what the meaning of love is. In this book, I could see how Cinder went from point A to point B, and woke up one day realizing exactly the extend of the control and games her husband had over her. Some of his cruel tactics made me so angry, and I couldn't imagine being in that situation. Yet, I didn't feel the need to judge Cinder, because being in love with someone does give them a control over you that allows you to put yourself in situations that can be just as unhealthy as Cinder's, and there is a large component of psychological damage, steadily inflicted that allows a person's will to be weakened to the extent that they feel that this is the norm. There is also that fear and shame of speaking out and telling others what is going on. Fear for oneself, and fear that this person might hurt them as well. As with the slow procession from lover to victim that unfolds with Cinder, we see her slow healing and the psychological breakthroughs that allow Cinder to come back from that edge and reclaim her sense of self, her identity, and control of her life. I think this was written brilliantly, and unlike film media, I could see deeper into the abused wife scenario. I admit that this was a harrowing journey at times, too. You think in your mind, how could someone associate this with love. How could you deliberately hurt your wife that way. It was clear that Cinder's ex-husband was a deeply mentally ill person, but not one that I ever felt sorry for. Not when he truly didn't want to get better. At the end of this story, I was cheering loudly for Cinder, having gone along the way every step with her and seeing how hard she worked for her emotional/mental/physical victory.

Gian was a hero that I just adored. He was a very good man--a lovely mix of oh-so delicious masculinity, stability, honor, sweetness, and gentleness. Not to mention sexiness. I liked how he was a man with a military past that had colored him, but he had some conflicted feelings about the violence he had to commit as a soldier. When he told Cinder why he ran a martial arts dojo, it was a very profound thing. I know I've heard it before that martial arts helps a person to empower oneself on a level that makes it easier for them not to kill someone, but it made even more sense from the vantage point of a man who had to kill people for a living, and was subjected to the violent acts of others. There wasn't anything I didn't love about Gian. He was a fully-realized kind of hero. The one that you can drool over and respect, and think how much you'd admired and be drawn to him in real life. It wasn't that he was perfect, and no man or woman is. He was just perfectly lovable.

I loved the integration of martial arts styles and philosophy in this story. It was clear that Ms. Hubbard did her research, and she built a beautiful story around it. I never felt subjected to 'info-dumping'. Instead I found the facts and descriptions very intriguing. Of course, being a long-time fan of Asian martial arts, in the real world, and in the cinema, that gave me just one more thing to like about this story.

As one of my friends on GRs touched on, I loved the diversity in this story. You have such a beautiful mix of ethnicities, which is how I see the world being. Not one palette, but so many colors, coming together to make an intriguing society, each contributing to the world in which they live. I loved the scenes of Gian's employees at the dojo, Cinder and his mutual friends, and their trash-talking and playing around. Also how they helped each other and stood up for each other. I even liked how things worked out with one employee who really acts like an idiot over the course of this book.

This is my third book by Crystal Hubbard, and my praise for her is well-earned. She is such a good writer, and she delivers a beautiful love story, one that is more than just romance. It's fiction that hits on many cylinders, and gives the reader even more than they expected. Burn is a book I'd highly recommend.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the SowerParable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For this pleasure reader, there wasn't much pleasure in reading this book. Even still, I was compelled and drawn in. Octavia Butler was a very good writer, and I am glad I did get a chance to finally read one of her books. The narrator, the actress Lynne Thigpen, did an incredible job. Now, when I think of Lauren, I will picture her voice, feminine but strong and rich. I also liked the way she varied her voice to reflect the different characters speaking.

Lauren was a protagonist that rubbed me the wrong way at times (as she did those who knew her in this book). And yet, her strength and the powerful humanity of her won me over. I love reading about strong women, and that is definitely Lauren. For her young age, what she accomplished, despite the odds, must be recognized. She is a true leader, and she is the kind you want to follow, because they ask no more of you than they demand of themselves. I loved the way she brought a small group of survivors together, empowering them, and encouraging them to protect each other and themselves.

The world was bleak, depressing, disturbing, disheartening. Any joy was fleeting, any laughs and 'happy' moments as I listened were greatly appreciated. Hearing of the atrocities that were normal in this post-apocalyptic California setting was not an easy thing for me. At times, I had to remind myself that it wasn't truly the reality (although the way thing are going, this story seems like prophecy). When I got out of my car, I had to pull back out of this book and get back to my normal reality. And I am grateful that this was just a book, even though my senses didn't seem to accept that at times. This book has a powerful message in it that is very timely. The society that we know and love is on the brink, and if we don't stand up, we might find ourselves working as wage slaves, having police and government who hurt us more than they protect us. Politics are not something I go on about in reviews, but this is something that struck me as real about this story, so I have to talk about that in this review. This scary message definitely gets me thinking, and hoping that the United States doesn't end up like this. Not destroyed by some catastrophic event that you might usually find precipitating societal collapse, but chipped away and slowly eroded into a horrible future like a nightmarish dream. More scary because it is so very plausible.

I have to say that I liked that Lauren founded a spiritual movement that kept her small band of compadres together. But, on the other hand, I deeply disagreed with the mantra that "God is change." I was taught (and believe) that God is the same today, yesterday, and forever. My mind and heart won't accept that God is malleable and that we shape God. I can understand that Lauren is about empowering and allowing oneself to be shaped, and to shape back by the forces around them; to survive no matter what, to grow stronger. I just don't think that we have to make God into some concept that is far from the truth to feel strong. In my mind, what I believe is that God is our rock--although we are buffeted by the harsh things we suffer, we can stand on His never-changing promises. Anyway, I don't mean to preach in this review, I am just saying what I feel about the Earthseed religion that Lauren founded. If I was in this story, I would be on board with her mission of creating a home and a community, but I could never accept her concept of God as change. I am glad that she found strength in it and was able to inspire her friends and companions though.

One other thing that I liked about this story is that more than half of the main characters are non-Causcasian. Not that I don't like reading about white characters. I am totally fine reading about any character of any ethnicity. However, it is good to see a main character who is black, who embodies many traits that I love and respect in a protagonist. To see people of color finding their way through some horrible circumstances, seeing the strength from within that compels them forward. Diversity is important to me, and I loved that Lauren's band was diverse, ethnically. And for all their diversity, they were a found family, helping, standing for and with each other, protecting their unit against all threats.

This is not the kind of book I will read often, because I like to read stories that take my mind off the ugliness of life, and that empower me by giving me hope and enjoyment. There is both empowerment, and a tentative hope in this story. But it's a long, hard journey to reap the harvest of those kernels, those small seeds, in my consciousness. Ms. Butler did such a good job of sowing that seed in the tough, unfertile ground of this story, and for that I commend her.

When I eat my Wheaties, I will try more of her stories.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

AngelologyAngelology by Danielle Trussoni

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I am so glad I found this on audiobook at the library. It turned out to be a very good medium for this story. I have to say that for a slow starter, I really got drawn into this book, and when it ended, I had separation anxiety!

Two things kept me from giving this a five star rating:

1. The slow, meandering start. I was initially thinking, uh-oh, this might turn out to be a real snoozer. Boy was I wrong!

2. The ending was a cliffie that really got my blood pressure up! I didn't like the way this novel concluded at all. I hate feeling like I'm being manipulated to read the next book in a series, and it felt that way. I'd rather read a book series that has books that begin and conclude in a natural way. Some resolution, but threads that encourage me to pick up the next book. That was so not the case here. I would have kept reading anyway, but now I feel like my arm is being twisted to read the next book.

Things I loved about this book:

1. The scholarly tone wouldn't work for everyone, but since I am a bookworm nerd who likes to research topics that are of interest, I could really get into the angelologists and their penchant for delving deeply into subjects in their field. And their subject knowledge.. .Wow! Most of the main characters were in one way or another scholars or people who really knew their stuff. They spent their lives reading and immersing themselves in the past. That spoke to me.

2. I loved the epistolary format, a significant portion of the book written as parts of journal entries and book excerpts. It was executed very well. One would think that this would make the book dry, but it didn’t.

3. The narrator was fantastic. She did a gorgeous French accent (and believe me, most of the book is in various French viewpoints), and she made each of the characters sound very different. With the male viewpoints, her voice was lower and conveyed a male speaking. She really brought them to life, and brought a vivid image of the story to life, and I could get an idea of what each character was like based on the way she spoke their parts.

4. Ms. Trussoni gets the duality of angels. They are so beautiful they are irresistible, but there are so powerful and dangerous that one never truly forgets (or shouldn’t to their regret) their celestial nature, so far above humans. And then, there are the nephilim. Oh my goodness. They were so evil! I had hopes that creatures of a once divine origin, so beautiful to look at, would have some goodness inside. Not at all! I was continually surprised at how sinister and even corrupt they were. They thought absolutely nothing about humans, or God, or their celestial origins. They were all about obtaining and keeping power on earth.

5. Angelology itself as the focus of this book. Who knew? Wow! It’s more than just being an angel scholar. It’s your life, and there is no sacrifice too great, as I learned as I read. It’s all for a purpose, to prepare for the battle against very powerful foes, the nephilim. The people in this avocation that we become acquaintances with in this book suffer so greatly, and as I listened, it was clear why. Their foes were such that it took all their energies to fight them, and losing one’s life could be a given at any time.

6. Ms. Trussoni did such a good job of tying all the various narrators together. The story spans over a thousand years (well actually goes back to biblical times), but it all plays a part, and each narrator took my attention and held it hostage as I listened.

7. Percival Grigori was a fascinating villain. There were times I felt really sorry for him, and other times I hated him. His highly complicated relationship with Gabriella Levy-French Valco made for some good reading! The societies that the nephilim had built and how they became the ones controlling all the power and money in the modern world felt so plausible, part of me wonders if this is truly possible. It kind of makes sense!

Final Thoughts:

Although the ending was a buzz kill, I was very impressed overall with this book. The angel parts were surreally intoxicating. I found I cared about the characters, and I was so engaged with their struggles. This book found my angel love and pulled me tight to the narrative. The unreal beauty of the angels, the black hearts of the nephilim, the intense struggle of the frail humans against unimaginably strong (but strangely frail in some ways) celestial creatures. But then, those angelologists have some serious tricks up their sleeve. If you are a reader who loves angels, you should add this to the reading list.

Overall rating: 4.5 celestial stars.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Demon from the Dark by Kresley Cole

Demon from the Dark (Immortals After Dark, #10)Demon from the Dark by Kresley Cole

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I am in gushing mode, which means I have lots of clunky metaphors and a bit of unwise hyperbole. Don't hold it against this book or its author. It's all me!

I make no apologies for my deep love of this series. It rocks. This series is premium when it comes to paranormal romance. Hands down. With Demon from the Dark, I felt that intense love grow like a rose bush on Miracle Gro fertilizer.

Ms. Cole has written a flawless book here. She wrote a hot, hot romance with two characters that I loved, flaws and all. She also had me believing that these people could fall in love with each other, even though they couldn’t speak the same language initially. I didn’t expect to be such a huge fan of Carrow when I met the party girl witch in Dark Desires After Dusk. But I do love her. It took me about five minutes into reading this to think, “I like her a lot.” Actually, the scene at the end of Pleasure of a Dark Prince had me feeling positively towards her. Now, I have to think she’s my favorite heroine in this series. Sorry Sabine!

A huge theme of this story is feeling abandoned/rejected/unwanted, like no one in the world truly loves you and accepts you. For Malkom, this was illustrated in a much more violent, heartbreaking manner. Malkom made my heart bleed. I could understand why he was such a violent, untrusting person who felt that being alone was the best option for him. I won’t go into all he suffered because I feel that this book needs to be read. You have to get to know Malkom the best way, by reading his story. But suffice it to say, no kid should go through what Malkom did. I so wanted him to have a beloved wife and a family. I wanted him to have that with Carrow and Ruby. Oh man, I just loved him. I was glad that Carrow ends up proving that she loves him and is worthy of being his fated mate.

In the case of Carrow, she finds herself in an untenable situation, and she is going to have betray the male that she falls deeply in love with. Normally, I would be raring at the bit, foaming at the mouth at what she did, because I hate deception. In this case, I could understand her dilemma. She ends up becoming the adoptive mother of an orphaned daughter of a friend murdered by Carrow’s human enemies. The thing about it was, Carrow acted like a parent. Parents have to make tough decisions. Their primary responsibility is to care for their children. She was over a barrel, and I respect that she stayed true and did what she had to with the intent to protect Ruby. And this decision almost cost her true love, putting her in that same situation of having love and affection denied to her, as she suffered as a materially privileged, but emotionally-starved young girl.

This situation shows what a masterful writer Kresley Cole is. She takes a scenario where you’re like, “This can’t end well,” and keeps you glued to the pages as she proves that it can, and has you enjoying the ride so much, you feel desolate when the book is over. That was this book (and all her books) in a nutshell. Also, did I mention, this woman knows how to write hot, hot, hot, really hot romance. For me, this was the hottest of her books. I think part of that was because I felt the intense pull that Carrow has on Malkom, and vice versa. They were like two powerful magnets exerting forces of attraction on each other (and pulling the reader along because the energy is so powerful). Ms. Cole manages to use every amorous moment to build the steam up until it’s about to explode and turn the book into a fireball. I really needed a fan as I read this book, and not just because Oblivion is like Yuma, Arizona with the thermostat turned up several degrees.

I honestly can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this book. Well, except that I wanted to find out what happens to some of the other Loreans who got abducted by the Order. I am gnawing on my knuckles to find out what happens between Melanthe and Thronos, and I really want to know more about Declan and Regin. Good thing I am reading Dreams of a Dark Warrior next month.

Kresley Cole, you kick paranormal romance butt and take names. You and the WARDen usually go neck and neck for this reader, but this book puts you in first place now. I’m not just being flattering when I say that my life is so much richer since I started reading your books. I have so much love for the Immortals After Dark series! (Off to fondle my copy and add it to my bookcase with my other beloved IAD books).

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Fire and IceFire and Ice by Diana Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fire and Ice is one of Diana Palmer's older books that I hadn't gotten the chance to read until now. I loved the humor and the snappy dialogue between the characters. Margie is fiesty enough to handle a man like Cal, even if he did have the ability to find her weak spots with pinpoint accuracy. However, she did the same for him. You could tell that if there was any spellcasting, they were both mutually affected. Both Margie and Cal had bad first marriages that scarred them and made the both hesitant to seek commitment. For Cal, it was a wife who cheated on him more than once; and Margie had a controlling, rapist husband who had given her fears of sexual intimacy. Now, they were both pretending to be footloose and fancy free: Cal limiting his interactions with women to one night stands with sophisticated women, and Margie, keeping men at a distance, and cultivated a notorious persona that fit her job as a romance author.

They enter each others' spheres through their mutual siblings. Cal's brother falls in love with Margie's sister. Cal's brother has to convince him that Margie's sister is suitable for marriage, which ends up with them spending time at the family's summer house in Florida. Under close proximity, the powerful feelings between Cal and Margie blossom, not only attraction, but genuine liking, leading to a love that neither feels is safe, but they can't imagine living without.

Although Margie is largely sexually inexperienced, she felt like a mature, confident woman in many ways. I liked that she was able to keep Cal on his toes. I also liked that he had to acknowledge her as a woman who he couldn't push around, a woman worthy of his respect and love, nothing like his ex-wife.

For die-hard Diana Palmer fans, all the things that attract one to her stories are there: the sizzling sexual tension, the funny dialogue, the very manly hero, and the sweet, good-hearted, and in this case, fiesty heroine. Although not my favorite by this author, definitely a solid read, and it will go on the keeper shelf with all my other Diana Palmer books.

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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Heart on Fire by Charlotte Lamb

Heart on Fire (Harlequin Presents, #1467)Heart on Fire by Charlotte Lamb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is nothing flashy or showy. It's just well written and a good love story. Most of all, I loved Claudia. She was feisty and tough, and sweet, and determined. She didn't let Ellis walk all over her. He had to do some serious pursuing to claim her heart, which is the name of the game for me. I liked Claudia's relationship with Ellis' father, Quentin, who was a very grumpy person. I liked that she was able to look past that, and see why he was so hard to deal with. Additionally, Claudia's gentle maneuverings help to heal a painful rift in the family between Ellis and his dad. And she did it in a classy way. Claudia was very down to earth, which I appreciate. I loved her "Rich people are crazy (although not in those words)" moment. One thing that bugged me was, did she ever get compensated for the overtime she put in working for Ellis at the beginning of the book? When you work for a living, you think of such things. One thing is for sure, she could have him up on a serious sexual harassment suit were this not Harlequin Presentslandia. I'd recommend this book to Harlequin Presents readers.

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Saturday, July 02, 2011

When Darkness Comes by Alexandra Ivy

When Darkness Comes (Guardians of Eternity, #1)When Darkness Comes by Alexandra Ivy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sadly, this is a very weak three stars. It was sooo hard to read this book. It just didn't keep my interest. My attention kept wandering, until there would be an appealing snippet that caught it, and then it would be off again.

Honestly, this is not a bad book. It's just underwhelming to a die-hard paranormal fan who has some favorite series that Bring It. I know that it's First Book Syndrome, because there are some ideas that I like about this series, that will make me keep reading (which is a good thing since I bought the subsequent books). I know some of my friends who have similar tastes enjoy this series, so that makes me hope I will find the next books appeal better.

What I liked:

*I liked Abby a lot. She has had a tough life, and she's very down to earth, adaptable, and strong-minded without being annoying. She has an everyday, regular girl appeal that I liked. She is the type of woman who can take it on the chin and doesn't throw herself into a sobbing heap when things get hairy. I admire her for what she overcame with her abusive father and two parents that were alcoholic. And she didn't stay in denial too long when her life got weird. She saw the evidence and adjusted her worldview accordingly.
*Dante was also likable. He had that sexy old world vampire vibe that I liked a lot. I appreciated that he really cared about Abby and had been half-way in love with her since the book started.
*Viper. Oh my! I really liked him. I can't wait to read his book! I liked that he was Boy Scout prepared. He had a solution to most situations, and that made it fun to see what relics he had to deal with various situations. And I liked his loyalty to Dante. He was a good friend.

What could have been better:

*The worldbuilding felt...unfinished to me. There were some mildly tantalizing elements that made my interest perk, but they teetered off too often. I do think she introduced some interesting characters in the PNR world of this story that make me want to keep reading, so that's a plus.
*Paper Tiger villain. The main villain was lame....He was the type to get others to do his dirty work and he just didn't impress me. I did like that she turned things around and gave a more intense climatic situation. But things still fizzled a bit on that score.
*Although I felt that Abby and Dante had good chemistry, the love scenes didn't really enthrall me. I guess I just have high standards for paranormal. I don't want to compare, but when you read some of the other top series, you do have a benchmark that you expect from books in that genre.

Final Thoughts:

I admit I was disappointed with this one. It was so hard to keep reading at times, but I persevered. At the end, I was glad I finished it, not just because I hate dnf'ing books. At least I got to meet some pretty cool characters like Abby, Dante, and Viper (who is kinda droolicious) But I still have hope that the next books can turn it around.

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