Thursday, May 28, 2015

When Enemies Marry by Lindsay Armstrong

When Enemies MarryWhen Enemies Marry by Lindsay Armstrong

My rating: 3.25 of 5 stars

I wasn't sure I liked this book very much initially. It's a bit on the dry side.  Lucy comes off as very young, which isn't intrinsically bad, but it's harder to believe in the love story between her and Justin, who is 10 years older and seems like he's robbing the cradle.  It's like he can't decide whether to treat her like his teenaged ward or his adult wife. and Lucy seems to take her cues from him, not to mention feeling resentful for being trapped in a loveless marriage.

However, with time, my opinion did improve of this novel. I think it still feels a bit coming of age, and at the same time, it's about a marriage of convenience which slowly and convincingly becomes a love match.  I will say that the last ten-fifteen pages were the strongest part of the book.  I gained needed clarity on what Lucy's issues were and how Justin felt for her.  I don't mind how older Harlequin Presents don't show you what the hero is thinking. I think it's sort of like a love mystery, trying to guess the hero's feelings based on his behavior.  In this case, you don't really know where you stand with Justin. I did believe he had feelings for Lucy, but I didn't see much intensity from him.  And while I thought he was completely over his ex, apparently he hadn't moved on 100% emotionally until he realized what he felt for Lucy.

I like my Harlequin Presents emotionally intense and with plenty of drama and angst. This one didn't have quite enough of any of those for my tastes. However, the writing was good enough that I did feel that it deserves more than 3 stars. I'll settle for 3.25/5.0 stars.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Harmony by Sienna Mynx

HarmonyHarmony by Sienna Mynx

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I pulled this one up on my Kindle because I was watching the HBO movie "Bessie" with Queen Latifah (who is the definition of awesome), and I wanted to read something set at this time, and especially IR. I had downloaded is specifically because of the time setting and the storyline, and this was the perfect time to read it.  I wasn't disappointed. This was a very good book.

Disclaimer: I will use the term 'colored' for black people because that is what black people were called at this time.  This term is not appropriate to use anymore, but in the context of this story, it's timely.

Harmony sings the blues at the Cotton Club.  Music is in her soul and it's her gift, how she pours out her anguish over the loss of her grandmother and her man.  Her dreams of escaping a life bound by the restrictions of race and lack of money are given full rein when she sings.  When her brother goes missing, she exploits the fact that powerful gangster Vinnie Romano seems captivated with her voice.  She asks him to help her find her brother, knowing he'll have a price, and one that she's willing to pay.  Set in a time of Prohibition when gang violence is near an all time high, this book delivers on the intensity.

I bought in on the chemistry between Harmony and Vinnie from their first meeting.  I like that you initially don't know what Vinnie's motives are.  He's a hard man and he keeps his heart buried deep. Coming over from Sicily with nothing, he's earned his status as a Boss with blood.  And Vinnie definitely has an intimidating vibe.  I like dangerous heroes, although I can't same I'm fond of mobsters.  They aren't my cup of tea since I don't like brutality and the ruthless killing for profit and status associated with that kind of business.  What hooked me in with Vinnie was his extreme appreciation for Harmony's singing and his love of blues music, a music that was strictly colored music at this time. They actually called them race records.  For Vinnie to connect with such soulful music showed that he was deeper than he might have appeared.  While at first, you don't get that race isn't an issue with him, you wonder that it can't be if he would connect so deeply with a culture so different from his own.  Vinnie made me care about him. As Harmony sees his layers and the lion's heart he has, so did I. I appreciate loyalty and honor, and I don't tend to associate those with mobsters, but Vinnie clearly has those traits.  He's a fascinating guy and I could see why Harmony loved him.

Harmony is equally layered. She's tough and independent and fiery passionate, but also sweet and demure. She's an artist and a believer deep in her soul, a dreamer, even in this world where colored people aren't allowed dreams. I loved how determined and fearless she is at the end of this book. That was a really bad and scary situation and she did something that only a lioness would do to save her man. Kudos to her for that. 

I remember there is a great movie that I saw a long time ago called "Machine Gun Blues", starring Cynda Williams and Nick Cassavettes, about a colored blues singer who falls in love with an Italian mobster. It has a sad ending (sorry for the spoiler), and I always wished it had ended differently. I would like to thank Ms. Mynx for giving me a happy ending version of that seemingly doomed love affair.  There is a time in this book where you aren't sure you'll get a happy ending, and I think I hardly breathed as I read the final pages of the book.  The thing about Kindle books is it tells you how much time you have left in the book, and the last 20% was agony for me.  But Mynx delivered.

I have a problem with erotica, and I try to avoid it. I just don't like all the 'anything goes' sex. I like to know there will be limits on what kinds of sex acts are depicted in the book.  I don't mind steamy vanilla sex and plenty of it (so long as it doesn't take over the story), but I don't like the kinky stuff.  A reference during the first love scene had me worried, but that stuff didn't take place on screen in the book, so I heaved a sigh of relief.  While I do think this did have a bit more sex than strictly necessary, I can understand how important it was to show the passion and desperation of these two lovers, and how their love comes to the surface past their guarded armor and facades.

I won't say I'm a mafia/mobster romance fan, but I really did like this book.  And since I'm a sucker for Early 20th Century romance, and I like reading about the 20s and 30s, it kind of comes with the territory.  Prohibition was a very violent period in American history, and there are a lot of untold stories. I loved seeing what it was like a young colored woman and her Sicilian lover, that they did have a chance at a happy ending, even in their world of blood and strife.  I learned some historical facts as I read that found very fascinating, such as which states it was legal to marry interracially during this period. 

The writing was crisp and very organic and visually-stimulating.  I felt like this was a cinematic read, and I would love if someone did make a movie out of this one day. I would definitely go see it!  The music aspect was well-conveyed and integral to this story. The editing was pretty good, with only a few errors, mostly near the end.

I'd have to give this 4.5/5.0 stars because this was an intense, passionate and involving book that kept its hooks in me even when I was afraid to keep reading.  I really cared about Harmony and Vinnie and I wanted desperately for them to get their happy ending together.  I can see why Sienna Mynx is such a popular author.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Separate Rooms by Diana Hamilton

Separate Rooms (Harlequin Presents Plus, #1732)Separate Rooms by Diana Hamilton

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This had a rocky start, but I liked it quite a bit overall.  Honey was feisty.  In fact, it kind of reminded me of "Taming of the Shrew" because Honey was so prickly and rebuffed any attempts at seduction.  Ben isn't a flashy charmer who gets off on being offensive like Petruchio, but rather takes the tactic of disinterest.  Surprisingly, it does hurt Honey's feelings, although she's sick of being seen as a sex object because of her beauty and curvaceous body.  The "Taming of the Shrew" aspect is more that Ben actually woos Honey into relaxing the icy walls around her heart and wins her by loving her for her.  She has some valid reasons for being wary of men who seem only attracted to her looks.

I think Ben did play a little too lukewarm at times.  If was I was Honey, I would have thought he was disinterested as well. I think that's part of why I didn't give this four stars. I like when the hero is crazy about the heroine and it's easy for me to tell that as a reader, even if the heroine can't because of her issues.  In the end, Ben finally came clean, but it left it almost too late.

I liked this quite a bit in the end, even though the "hot and cold' back and forth got a bit tedious at times. It was a nice diversion and I'm a sucker for a good marriage of convenience storyline.  

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Glass Slippers and UnicornsGlass Slippers and Unicorns by Carole Mortimer

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I'm torn on the rating for this book. It was cute, indeed.  I expected a lighter romp when I reached for this, but it wasn't quite as light as I expected.  It's one of those books that it's hard to age.  The storyline is more on the modern side, but there are aspects that make it feel more vintage. I didn't expect for Darcy's absent-minded facade to hide serious emotional scars from an event that happened six months prior. 

It took me a while to figure out Reed. I thought he was hiding feelings for Darcy, but it seemed like he was still tomcatting around. At least, he had stuff at his recent ex-girfriend's house that he had left there.  That implies they were sleeping together. I'm hesitant to believe in people being in love when they are still sleeping with other people.  Some may feel differently, but when it comes to romance, I'm a stickler for that sort of thing.  In the end, his beautiful gesture to Darcy won me over. He's actually quite the closet romantic.

I like how even in her older books, Carole Mortimer manages to write very sensual even when things aren't descriptive. That was another reason why it was hard to date this book.  I was surprised at Reed's family's acceptance of him bringing over girls and sharing a room with them.  That's part of why I was questioning the age of this book. I didn't think this would happen much in a pre-1990s book.

I really liked Darcy. I think that her struggles to recover from a very traumatic experience are poignant. I also liked her because she was very sweet.

It's a silly thing, but I get a little disapointed when the hero in a HP book is American. I think Reed is about half and half, but I figured he spoke with an American accent. I miss my British heroes.  It's part of why I like HP books.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars  ( I wasn't quite as satisfied with this, hence the lower rating)

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Anne Stuart Out of Print Gems by Anne Stuart

Anne Stuart's Out-of-Print GemsAnne Stuart's Out-of-Print Gems by Anne Stuart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an ongoing read that I started almost exactly a year ago.  I checked the date, and wow, that's symmetry.  I have made an effort to do some rereading because I want to recapture the magic of romance books in my life.  Anne Stuart is the best, in my opinion.  I could do worse than spend a year with her.  I squeezed these in when I could, so that's why it took me a year. :)

I wrote reviews for each of the books as I read them.  I won't post all the reviews here, because they are quite long. I will instead give my brief thoughts, and you can look up the long reviews if you are so inclined.

Night of the Phantom:  This was never one of my favorites by Ms. Stuart, but it stands up to a reread. There are aspects I appreciate more than I did when I read it initially. It definitely captures the magic of "Phantom of the Opera" and the Beauty and the Beast motif.   4/5 stars.

My long review

One More Valentine: I was really feeling this book when I did my reread.  I have a fondness for the early 20th century and the idea of one of the victims of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre getting a happy ending appeals to my die hard romantic.   4/5 stars

My long review

Cinderman: A fun superhero romance that should be a primer for excellent romantic chemistry.  Loved it! 5/5 stars.

My long review

The Soldier And The Baby:  Definitely one of my Anne Stuart desert island keepers. I love romance where the H/h is on the run and have to use their skills and wits to survive nature.  I also liked that the heroine was a novice nun and the hero was a dangerous man.  Such chemistry. 5/5 stars

My long review

Overall, this comes out to 4.5 stars (since it was 50/50 in the ratings). 

I highly recommend getting this volume for your Kindle. It's not as inexpensive as it was, but it's still a good bargain, considering that all of these are out of print, and if they were in print, it would cost more to get copies of each book. If you're a fan of Anne Stuart, it's a must have. If you want to see what some of her older category books are like, this is a good opportunity.  The prospects are good for all these to get reissued, at least as ebooks, so you might be able to get these individually again.  I definitely want these all to come back in print, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's soon.

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Cinderman by Anne Stuart

CindermanCinderman by Anne Stuart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I reread this out of the Anne Stuart's Out-of-Print Gems, which I've been working my way through for many months (almost a year, actually).  I think this is definitely a gem.  I mean, who doesn't like the idea of a superhero romance?  I'm a comic book geek, and Dr. Daniel Crompton could be right out of the comic book school of superhero origin stories.  A lab accident grants him some crazy abilities that he has to learn to master.  Add in a love interest with whom he shares an adversarial relationship and crazy chemistry, and that romance story actually writes itself.

One of the many things I loved about this is that both Daniel and Suzanna are highly intelligent.  Suzanna has a PhD in physics, although she doesn't lord it over.  Instead, she uses her snark and her sarcastic t-shirts as her offensive and defensive weapons.  Daniel is one of those genius guys that rightfully you will find slightly obnoxious because he's not a people person, and he doesn't even try to be a friendly person. He actually starts this book as a jerk, but their experiences melt that icy shell around him and his heart. and all along, even if he wasn't a nice guy, he had good morals (for the most part). And he doesn't take crap from people. Personally, I really like a cold hero who melts for the heroine.  In real life, I've met some smart guys who were pretty annoying.  I've never met a super-duper hot smart guy who was annoying. I'd actually look forward to that.

I like that Stuart doesn't try to explain his powers.  All we know is that he got doused in goo created by a lab explosion. It's vague enough that I can go with it.  I liked the description of his abilities and how he learns to control them.   It makes for a fun story.  I like all the subtle references to his heat and how it seems to attract Suzanna, who seems to always be cold.  Even though that is a factor of his abilities, you know it's also a metaphor of their attraction to each other.

But the best thing about this book was the chemistry between Daniel and Suzanna. The kind of chemistry you don't have to go to college to appreciate.  Although they start out as mental adversaries, their journey to happy ever after makes sense and is believable.  Stuart knows how to write chemistry.  The love scenes are great, sexy and emotional, even though this is a category romance, so it doesn't get descriptive. I don't care what anyone says, Anne Stuart is a master writer, and this little gem of a category romance proves it.

Daniel's got the allure that makes a woman want to dive in, once he stops freezing Suzanna out with this facade of arrogance.  It feels organic to see Suzanna's perception change of him as she gets to know him.  And it's apparent that Daniel was probably mean and freezing Suzanna out because he never was indifferent to her in the first place. To think he remembers what shirt she was wearing when they first met at a press conference. Aww, how sweet!

If I could make a list of Anne Stuart books I would love to see as movies, this would be near the top of my list. It would be just plain fun and it's really an awesome romance story. 

I'm really glad I got to reread this!  I hope it gets rereleased again, even though I have a print copy already. :)

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Fire and Ice by Anne Stuart

Fire And Ice (Ice, #5)Fire And Ice by Anne Stuart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finally finished my reread. It was taking too long!  I'm glad I finally just gave in just read this straight through the past couple of days. I alternated between the Kindle version and my paperback, which is a little more beat up than it was when I started.  Purses are not the best habitat for books, but what can a bookworm do? 

My thoughts this time around:

*Reno, you are such a brat, and how I love you.  You sexy thang! Why did it take you so long to admit you were crazy about Jilly. You were a goner from the beginning. I wish you could have refrained from putting your big cowboy boots in your mouth so much because you were trying to push her away.

*This book is really kind of chaotic at times.  It's okay though. I liked the wild pace and the energy. It felt like an Ice book, but on speed.

*Jilly sure did have a potty mouth. I think it's a function of her age and trying to put on armor against the world. Her mother is an idiot, and her father is barely around.  Other than her older sister, Summer, she practically raised herself.

*I thought the fist fight between Reno and Taka was hilarious. They really did act like family.  It was funny how even Reno was scared of Taka.  Taka is pretty scary, except maybe to Summer.

*I haven't had the pleasure of visiting Tokyo, but this book makes me feel like I did. 

*I loved this book just as much. A wild, crazy love story. Complete escapism, with two people who are young, gorgeous, and in love. Sometimes that's exactly what I need to read.


Rain is definitely my Reno. He doesn't have the waist-length red hair, but it's not much of a stretch to see him with that look. Here's a picture of him after he cuts his hair and dyes it black.


Romola Garai definitely reminds me of Jilly. In the book, she has brown eyes, but otherwise, she pulls of the rebellious, but innocent, and highly cerebral persona of Jilly very well.

Reno is a lethal weapon, I decided he would be a sai. Technically sais aren't sharp except on the tip. They are mostly a defensive weapon, but a sai is a nasty weapon in the right hands.  Reno plays like he's feckless, but he's just as lethal as the other men of the Committee, and he's also Yakuza, which is a double whammy.

I needed this book right now!

Original Review

I loved this book.  I know a huge part of it was the Japanese hero. What can I say?  I absoutely adore Asian men, and Reno is such a interesting guy. He's not a nice guy, but boy is he sexy and in the heart he is a decent human being.  He is one reluctant to fall in love hero, but deep down I think he fell for Jilly at first sight. He makes her pay for loving her though.

This book is action-packed and you don't get much down time. But it added to the almost Bonnie and Clyde appeal (without the overt criminal elements).

Boy the sex scenes are probably the steamiest I've read in an Anne Stuart.  You really get the tension and the fire between Reno and Jilly. Jilly has no ability to resist Reno, and she knows it.  Heck, I'm not sure I'd do better resisting him.  I'm still trying to figure out Jilly's failed sexual experience.  I'm scratching my head over that one.

For some reason I wasn't digging Reno's red hair. That bothered me a lot. I could deal with the tattoos, which has shown how I've changed in the years.  But the red hair just didn't sound attractive to me. Probably because I love the glossy black hair of Asian men.  Yum! 

I have a secret fascination with the Japanese Yakuza, which was delightfully indulged somewhat with this book. I loved the tidbits about Japan that Stuart throws in. Not like a person who researched Japan, but truly loves the city and its inhabitants. This book made me want to jump on a plane and go to the country. 

I was a bit worried about Jilly being so young, but it really didn't ruin the book for me. I think the way Stuart dealt with her young age was appropriate. She wasn't always certain and didn't always react the right way to situations, but who does at the age of 20.  Reno also shows that he is a twentysomething and somewhat rebellious type, and so his actions were fitting.

I love the Ice series, although they definitely go there for romances. This book is no different. I think this one is my favorite because Reno is not as machine-like and completely apathetic about morality as the other heroes were (Don't get me wrong, I still love Bastian, Peter, Taka, and Killian for all their ruthless killerness).  In fact, Reno has to work hard not to feel anything, particularly for Jilly. It's clear early on that Jilly is his Achilles' heel, although he makes her believe he can't stand her.  If you're looking for a nice little romance with normal people who always do the right thing, and no body count, don't read this book. If you want an adrenaline ride with two characters who passionately love each other, even though they know it's folly, I think you will love this book. I adore Anne Stuart, so I was along for the ride.  I thought the frenetic, intense, crazy adventurous theme of the book juxtaposed with glimpses into Japanese culture were thoroughly enjoyable.  The book even ends with a wild climax that makes you wonder what these two will be up to in the future, but you don't doubt for a second that they will stay together because they are soulmates.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cinderella, Volume 1: From Fabletown With Love by Chris Roberson, Shawn McManus (Illustrations), Cover Art by Chrissie Zullo

Cinderella, Vol. 1: From Fabletown with Love (Cinderella, #1)Cinderella, Vol. 1: From Fabletown with Love by Chris Roberson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cinderella is a Fable, an ex-wife of Prince Charming, and an internationally active spy.  She's been a spy since shortly after she came over from the Land of the Fables, with Bigby Wolf as her spymaster. 

This is an incredibly fun graphic novel.  Cinderella has plenty of energy and authority as a spy.  She uses her benignly pretty debutante and shoe store owner facade as a weapon along with others in her arsenal. This Fable can take care of herself and get out of some of the tightest spots. She even has 'assets' who help her along as she needs them.  Assets being magical animal Fables with unique skill sets.  On this mission, she teams up with another recognizable character from the world of fairy tales and fables, that you might know as Aladdin. They make a good team, and share humble origins.  Cinderella even faces some shadows from her own Fable past.

The story is strong and the artwork is gorgeous, especially the cover art by Chrissie Zullo. Her work is beautiful and luminous, showcasing a Fae delicacy to this lethal spy.

Even with a different writer, the spirit of the Fables series remains strong, and its focus on strong women prevails with Cinderella showing how spying Fable-style is done right.

I liked the fairy tale "Cinderella," as a die-hard, inveterate fairy tale aficionado, how could I not? But I definitely love the idea of Cinderella as an international spy even more. On to the next adventure.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Best of Wolverine, Volume 1 by by Chris Claremont, Frank Miller, Barry Windsor-Smith

The Best of Wolverine, Vol. 1The Best of Wolverine, Vol. 1 by Chris Claremont

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I found the older comics a bit dated in storyline and the artwork. It was nice to get some of James "Logan" Howlett's backstory, all the same. It was really interesting to discover that Wolverine's first appearance was in The Incredible Hulk.  Seeing these two guys throw down is quite an experience.

I'm having to be honest and say I can't stand Mariko. Definitely not worthy of Wolverine's pining.  I couldn't help comparing this as I read to the most recent Wolverine movie, "The Wolverine," which I love, except for a few aspects. I think I prefer the movie versions of both Mariko and Yukio.  Yukio wasn't bad, but I didn't like how she was so moony over Wolverine. I did like how kickbutt she was and kind of edgy.  All the ninja stuff was cool (as they always are).  I think Wolverine's adventures in Japan shape him in pivotal ways, and I feel that it helps to temper his animalistic nature. 

Wolverine will always stand out as an antihero who is quite heroic. He learns through the School of Hard Knocks how to use his healing factor, formidable strength, and lethal fighting skills, not to mention his adamantium claws to best advantage.

Rereading "Weapon X" brings to mind why Logan is so conflicted as a character. How they deliberately and ruthlessly tortured him to bring out that aspect, and why he will always struggle against it now. And that makes him even more admirable that he can temper his beserker rage to fight with the X-Men and others on the side of justice.

If you're newer to the Marvel Verse, and want to find out the origins of Wolverine, this is worth tracking down.  Just keep in mind that some of the older stories are from a different era, and frankly, like the sophistication of modern graphic novels. However, "Weapon X" is not to be missed by anyone who is intrigued with Wolverine.

3.5/5.0 stars.

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Metzger's Dog by Thomas Perry

Metzger's DogMetzger's Dog by Thomas Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd have to say this isn't my typical type of book, so I'm glad it was selected for Action group's read this month.  I found it enjoyable.  I think that if this was a movie, it would be a Steven Soderburg movie for sure.  I could see his touch all over the movie adaptation.

What I liked:

*I liked the wry and subtle humor.   You have to be paying attention to see it, and it's highly ironical.  The CIA's big thinkers believe their culprit is anything from the Russians to a huge terrorist cell, but it's not anything of the sort.  Their antics to resolve the situation only seem to make things worst.  I felt kind of bad rooting for Chinese and his gang, but they were seeming more and more like the good guys in that situation anyway.  This book doesn't give a person the best view of the CIA, that's for sure.
*I liked Doctor Henry Metzger and his dog.  I wish they were in the book more.  Considering that the book is named after them, I expected more of an appearance. But when they are there, they steal the scenes.  I think Perry is an animal person. He seems to understand their psychology and how they seem to run the households in which they live and often leave their persons baffled.
*The descriptions were very well rendered.  I used all my senses as I read this book. The narrative is never wordy, which would have lent this book to boredom, considering that some much of the narrative hinges on theoretical sociological research.
*This whole book is deftly plotted.  I think it could have easily fallen apart, considering the subject matter. But it doesn't.
*I think Margaret is one of the strongest characters. Surprisingly Chinese Gordon takes a back seat to her. She is really the brains of the operation. 

I wasn't at all sure what I'd get when I started this book. It's kind of like when you go to a restaurant and let your companion pick something off the menu, and you decide you like it.  It's a win on both sides.

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Her Russian Billionaire by Theodora Taylor

Her Russian Billionaire (50 Loving States #2)Her Russian Billionaire by Theodora Taylor

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Having a Russian hero is always a nice start. But it has to meet other qualifications, and I'd say Theodora Taylor did that very well. The beginning has one of the best openings I've read in a romance for a while. The language is almost lyrical in those scenes.  I have to say that Alexei is just about scrumptious.  He's fierce and dangerous/lethal-vibed, but he's also a teddy bear deep down. That combination is so irresistible.  I liked very much how Alexei was three-dimensional. While part of him really despised Eva, and was determined to hurt her and get revenge, his heart didn't want that, and he'd never truly stopped loving her.  He was very sighworthy.  There is no question that Eva is the right woman for him, and I felt his pain and unresolved feelings over their breakup deeply, even though I wasn't sure that Eva was 100% to blame as he thought.

Eva was very likable.  She is one of those people that you can't help but like if you spend more than five minutes together. I think her parents didn't realize how lucky they are to have her, considering how terrible they acted towards her.  I figured she had a good reason for leaving Alexei, but my jaw dropped when it's revealed why she did.  For some reason, I wasn't expecting that.  You might say, 'well, duh,' but it was a surprise to me.  I normally don't like the plot that is a huge aspect of this book, but I can understand why Eva chose to make that decision, and I like how it was dealt with between Eva and Alexei.

Deep down, I will always be a Harlequin Presents geek. I loved that this has many of the HP tropes that I dig, but with a dangerous twist. And with a black heroine!  That's just about perfect for me.  I liked how Alexei was wining and dining Eva, but he was also wooing her by doing couple stuff.  And having South Padre Island as a rendezvous was a bit novel.

So why not five stars? I doesn't quite feel like a fiver to me. I think a large part was the rough sexual language. I am not a big fan of that, honestly.  I think the love scenes were very steamy, but I could have done without the big words that seem obligatory in a steamy romance book nowadays.   Personal preference. Thankfully, Taylor keeps the love scenes kink-free (wipes brow). I would have regretted if I had never gotten to meet Alexei just because the book was too kinky for me.  Also, it could have been a tad longer.  I think that for its shorter length, it was a satisfying story, but this easily could have been longer with more depth. 

I'm so picky with five star ratings lately. If I wasn't getting so stingy, this could have been a five. But it was darn close.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

Thanks so much to Teneatha for the Kindle Loan!

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Wolverine: Back in Japan by Jason Aaron (Text), Adam Kubert (Illustrations)

Wolverine: Back in JapanWolverine: Back in Japan by Jason Aaron

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Pretty good.  Lovely color and artwork.  Crazy action.  This is the Wolverine that most will know and love.  Some interesting twists with Mystique and the dicey situation between the Hand and the Yakuza, and our esteemed hero in the middle.  Things get a little confusing towards the end. But overall, stays pretty coherent and there is no disconnect between the script and the artwork.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

X-Men: No More Humans by Mike Carey (writer), Salvador Larroca (illustrator)

X-Men: No More HumansX-Men: No More Humans by Mike Carey

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This was almost four stars. I just felt that the storyline wasn't as clear as it could have been. I loved the artwork, and the story idea was interesting.  I think there's a part of me that gets skeptical when crucial technology isn't explained, and I felt the details about the device that was opening portals between our Earth and others, wasn't explained enough for me.  I was a bit lost with some of that aspect of the story.

One of the more interesting characters was Raze. I didn't know that Wolverine had a son with Mystique, but he's about what one would expect.  Lethal, cunning, sociopathic, more of Mystique's personality than Wolverine. Mostly, I'd say, "The Gang's all here." X-Men fans will like the variety of characters that show up, but I can think of few that I missed in this roundup.   The art and the colors were brilliant and beautiful. Salvador Larocca is one of the best comic book artists around.

I don't read as much X-Men. I guess I feel I'm a bit oversaturated with it due to sufficient coverage they get in the movies and tv. I've wanted to read more, but I'm just dipping my finger in right now. This was a nice choice, since the story isn't too locked into an arc. It looks like it might be a one shot.  If you ask me, I'll always choose X-Force over the X-Men.  Just a personal preference.

Based on what I've read of Carey with his Felix Castor The Devil You Know series and the The Unwritten The Unwritten, Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity graphic novels, this doesn't feel distinctly like Carey's writing. It's good, but doesn't really stand out to me.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Black Widow, Vol.1: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmondson (writer), Phil Noto (illustrations)

Black Widow, Vol. 1: The Finely Woven ThreadBlack Widow, Vol. 1: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmondson

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Black Widow is definitely going up my list of kickbutt heroines to die for.  Her backstory is tragic and conflicted, and it informs the choices she makes.  Black Widow is trying to make up for the red in her ledger when she worked as a KGB agent. She takes missions so she can send money to the families of people she hurt back in the day.  And she navigates the spider's web of the world she inhabits, where black and white doesn't exist.

Phil Noto has such a distinctive art style.  It is very retro, and his color palette is muted. But it works.  The action is rendered so excellently, and with this storyline, that's an absolute must.  The writing is excellent as well.  Storylines are twisted without being convoluted or incomprehensible, very much an asset with the graphic novel format, where there isn't a lot of room for long descriptions or narratives.  Together Noto and Edmonson make an excellent team. The Spider motif is conveyed excellently without being too blatant. If I had one quibble, I wasn't sure about the Cyrillic.  It doesn't seem to translate very well.  I admit I am a novice to Russian, but from what I know I'm not sure about it being accurate.

I can't say there's anything I didn't like about this volume. I am hooked and find this to be one of the stronger Marvel NOW titles I've read. 

If I had to recruit a team of kickbutt artists, Black Widow would definitely be on my list!

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Catwoman, Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Ann Nocenti, Rafa Sandoval (Illustrations)

Catwoman, Vol. 3: Death of the FamilyCatwoman, Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Ann Nocenti

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this series.  I am definitely liking Selina Kyle, for the most part. However, the panels are rather difficult to read in some issues, and the art quality isn't always up to par. But, when it's good, it's very good. I especially liked the art in the last issue, which features Selina's interesting backstory.  I think the writing could definitely have more clarity. There is a disconnect between the action in the panels and the storyline, and it left me confused, especially in the first issue. I did like the cameo of Batman, I mean who doesn't like when Bats shows up? I wasn't always the biggest Bat/Cat shipper, but I'm slowly coming around (if he can't be with Wonder Woman, that is).

I'll keep reading this.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Time Bomb by Justin Gray (Goodreads Author), Jimmy Palmiotti, Paul Gulacy (Illustrator)

Time BombTime Bomb by Justin Gray

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Picked this up from my library, and I was pleasantly surprised.  This quartet of special operatives were tasked to go back one day in the past to avert a disaster caused by the activation of an underground Nazi missile carrying deadly biotoxin that could easily end the human race.  They end up in 1940s Germany just months prior to the end of the war.

Excellent action, with artwork that gives this a cinematic feel. The characters feel unique, and it's an interesting view to have one of the team members as a black man in Nazi Germany, although they didn't delve into it as much as one would expect.  However, this is a really quick time period (24 hours), and it's practically nonstop. It gets very interesting.  I didn't really understand the technology, but that's not a deal breaker.  I liked the various gadgets that the team took with them, and they were all extremely capable and lethal. 

I'm a bit of a WW2 geek, so I'm glad I was able to read this. I'd like to read more about this team.

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Thursday, May 07, 2015

An Arabian Courtship by Lynne Graham

An Arabian CourtshipAn Arabian Courtship by Lynne Graham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I suppose I have read this, but I don't remember. That's fine, because I liked experiencing it without any preconceived notions.  I liked this quite a bit.  Polly is young, but she's doesn't act addle-brained as some of Graham's more recent heroines. Don't get me wrong, I love LG's books, but sometimes I wish she didn't seem to make them so silly (especially over the hero because he's so good-looking).  Polly in a difficult situation, having essentially been sold into marriage by her greedy father (who has gotten his family into dire financial straits, with four younger children and a wife of delicate constitution).  Polly believes she has no chance for love, since her true love doesn't see her as anything but a friend.  When she meets her future husband, Raschid, she might be impressed by his good looks, but his personality leaves a lot to ask for.  Plus, he makes it seem like she'll be living in a modern version of purdah.  But she can't really say no. Polly is nervous and drinks a bit too much at the wedding, so she doesn't make the best example of herself at the wedding.  So far their marriage is off to a very bad start.  It's pretty certain that Polly won't have to worry about losing her heart to her husband.  Or so it seems.

I will always like arranged marriage and marriage of convenience books. It's a great way to put two people into very close proximity and where they are forced to build a relationship without any expectations of insta-love or sex.  Raschid was far from likable at first, but he wasn't trying to be.  It turns out that he's a very good man.  Deeply honorable and with a core of kindness that over time Polly gets a chance to see.  Like many of Graham's heroines, Raschid doesn't know what hits him.  His silly English bride who he at first thinks the worst of, steals his heart in a big way, and with him determined never to fall in love.  His first marriage, also arranged, went very badly, and he still has some very deep wounds that haven't healed.  Polly is haunted by the spectre of his so-called perfect first wife (traditional and culturally appropriate to Raschid), and she thinks that Raschid's rejection is out of his enduring love for his wife.    I felt sympathetic to Polly and for her in this tough situation.  I couldn't imagine how tough it was to have so much of a change in culture she was experiencing, plus with a husband who can't seem to stand her.  Over time, her viewpoint shows that things aren't as black and white.

I liked that this was a bit more serious than some of her newer books, with a more mature-seeming hero who isn't a womanizer or playboy.  At first, I didn't like the way he was treating Polly, but there was a good explanation for that.  I think it's more than evident before the book ends how much he loves Polly.  I almost always like Lynne Graham's heroines, and I did like Polly quite a bit.

It's a good one worth tracking down for Lynne Graham fans.

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I, Vampire: Wave of Mutilation by Joshua Hale Fialkov (Goodreads Author), Andrea Sorrentino (Illustrations)

I, Vampire, Vol. 3: Wave of MutilationI, Vampire, Vol. 3: Wave of Mutilation by Joshua Hale Fialkov

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Andrew Bennett evil brings to mind Angelus from Buffy. Absolutely hateful.  I didn't enjoy seeing him that way.  I think the world is a much better place without an evil Andrew Bennett!

This is definitely dark Vampire-themed horror.  The storyline is twisty and it's not in any way predictable.  Villains become heroic and vice versa.  We get a little backstory on how human Andrew Bennett became a vampire long ago, and why Mary, his eternal bride, hates humans so much. 

Throw in some Biblical lore, such as Cain and Lilith, and some shocking losses, plus a few cameos, and I had to give this four stars. It was very good for what it is.  Don't go into this expecting sweetness and light.  This is for vampire fiction readers who like their vampires dark and depraved.

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Saturday, May 02, 2015

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Iron Trial (Magisterium, #1)The Iron Trial by Holly Black

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Overall, this was a good book, but I had a few quibbles, but they did majorly affect my rating in a not-so good way.  Let's talk about the bad first.

Callum's behavior was pretty reprehensible.  He stole and damaged property and never had to face the wrongness of most of his actions.  I'm not trying to be moralistic here, but those actions made me think less of him. I almost didn't want to finish the book. In light of later revelations, it felt even more manipulative to have him committing not so minor infringements.  I feel that books for young readers don't have to be ethics primers, but honestly there are consequences when we do wrong.   When books for younger readers overlook that, it makes me feel uneasy inside. And with all honestly, this reader was already rooting for Callum to grow in character over the course of the book.  I'm not sure he did in crucial ways. There are some major plot spoilers that I can't go into, but even in light of the story direction, I wasn't okay with that.

The ending was too abrupt and clearly was a sequel bait.  I don't like the tendency to create series that aren't terribly self-contained.  I feel that it's better to write a story that feels complete even if I don't continue the series.  I know that this is probably a minor thing for other readers, but it's increasingly becoming an issue for me.

While I wasn't enamored of the narrator, it didn't affect my rating that much.  He wasn't terrible, just a little more flat than I liked.

What I loved;

*I felt that the story did keep me guessing. There were some reversals that I seriously didn't expect and kudos to the authors for that.
*The Magisterium is beautifully described and some aspects felt very unique. I loved how the food source is based on things that might grow underground, but they have tastes that you wouldn't attribute to something like dried lichen or mushrooms. The skills tests were fun.
*The developing friendship between Callum and his fellow students in his cohort. It reminded me of my time in professional school and how you tend to look to people in your class as a support system.
*I loved the ethnic/racial diversity. It's so easy to do it and have it be a normal part of the story. There was no reason for everyone of the students to be white/European, and I was glad that the authors didn't go that way with the story.
*The dark aspects of the story appealed.  I like that middle grade/juvenile fiction can be done well with serious tension and thrills without assuming younger readers can't handle it.
*The pet wolf Havoc. I was so, so in love. I want!

I'm going to give this 3.5 stars.  I imagine some would rate it higher, but with the issues versus the kudos, I think it's a very fair rating.

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The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The MoonstoneThe Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me about seven months to finish this book. I listened to it at night on Kindle via text-to-speech.  "The Moonstone" is a mystery involving the theft of an enormous Indian diamond called The Moonstone which is fated to be cursed.  The mystery is who stole it the night of Miss Rachel Verinder's birthday. She had shortly received the diamond as a bequest from a deceased uncle, carried by the dashing young Mr. Franklin Blake on his travel to England.

According to Wikipedia, this is the first English detective novel. It's also an interesting use of the Epistolary format, including varied narratives, most interestingly that of the Gabriel Betteridge, the trusted house steward of Lady Verinder, Rachel's mother.  I don't know if Collins intended for Betteridge's point of view to be so hilarious but it was.  Most hilarious is his obsession with the novel Robinson Crusoe. He takes the same amount of inspiration and guidance from this book that people might take from The Bible.  He's also really opinionated and not afraid to express his opinion.  Miss Clack's narrative is more ironicly humorous. She is a very puritanical woman who is constantly trying to foist off her Christian pamphlets on others, but demonstrates few Christian virtues in other ways. 

Interestingly enough, the true detective, Sergeant Cuff, seems to have the smallest narrative. I can't help but think this was done on purpose.  If he was around to solve the mystery for most of the book, I think it would have ended a lot sooner.  I liked his appreciation for roses, not quite what you would expect from a gruff police investigator. 

What is sad is the narrative of Rosanna Spearman, a misunderstood and unfortunate young woman who was unlucky enough to fall in love with a man who was completely unattainable in every way, despite her efforts to protect him from what she viewed as his own crime.  This part made me feel deeply for Rosanna, merely a victim of chance and circumstance.

Franklin Blake is a character that one is automatically predisposed to believe the worst about. He's the definition of 'amiable rogue' and 'dilettante.'.  However, he is revealed to have a depth of character that one wouldn't expect at first glance.

Miss Rachel Verinder herself has no narrative, but she is seen through the eyes of other characters.  I felt that she was probably the least interesting of the major characters.  She reads as quite typical of a young woman of her class, but she is clearly a decent and kind woman.

There is a bit of a romance in the story that I found sweet and appealing, not distracting.  It ties into the story and it reveals much about two of the characters.

To be honest, I probably could have gleaned a lot more from this book if my reading had not been so episodic. However, I do appreciate Collins' skill with writing a clever detective story, and his use of so many narratives, having done so cohesively.  While each narrator has a different voice, it all comes together very pleasingly.  He seemed to take a lot of time develop the characters, even the less important ones. 

Social issues I felt that this novel touches on (My opinion, mind you, since I made an effort not to read up on The Moonstone before writing my review.):

*Social Strata--Boundaries between the social classes and where they intersect intimately in some ways, but most doors are largely closed between the classes.  You do see that the middle class seems to be absorbing the upper class as society changes.
*The roles of women in society
*The change in society in which the landed gentry's way of life is dying in favor or the middle class development.
*Imperialism and appropriation of treasured objects from colonized lands

Readers who want a more thorough and expert analysis of this book can look to these resources:

The Moonstone Wikipedia page

SparkNotes The Moonstone page

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