Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Harley Quinn, Vol. 1: Hot in the City by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Chad Hardin, Stephane Roux, Alex Sinclair, Paul Mounts

Harley Quinn, Vol. 1: Hot in the CityHarley Quinn, Vol. 1: Hot in the City by Amanda Conner
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

It's no surprise this was far from sane or sedate. Harley Quinn can lay claim to neither. I really liked the artwork, the look of the character and the bright color throughout. Both were gorgeous. I really liked how they had every artist who ever drew Harley draw some panels near the beginning. I think the story stays true to Harley's antiheroic, if not villainous nature, without her coming out as overtly psychopathic. I freely admit I am squeamish about overtly psychopathic/sociopathic lead characters.

I'd have to give this 3.5/5.0 stars because there were some parts I didn't much care for, and some segments that were downright bizarre. This book is not for people who flinch at violence or have an issue with the liberal disposition of doggie doo (that part was gross). I think that Harley is humanized by her affection for animals and her tolerance/adoption of the misfits that rent the building she inherits. But readers who like women who are doing their thing and if you're curious about Harley Quinn as her own person outside of being Joker's main squeeze/acolyte (another thing I liked that the Joker was not around in this) might enjoy this.

Would I read the next volume? Sure, if my library gets it. I'd love to get my hand on some Gotham City Sirens.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

All Star Western, Volume 5: Man out of Time by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray , Moritat (Illustrations)

All Star Western, Vol. 5: Man out of TimeAll Star Western, Vol. 5: Man out of Time by Jimmy Palmiotti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoy the heck out of the All Star Western/Jonah Hex graphic novels. Hex is such a character. Not at all a Boy Scout, but he dives into to the fray to defend those who need defending. It sure was interesting to see Hex as a fish out of water in the present. He's not a man to fall in with authority just because, which becomes, well, problematic. However, Hex gets on his feet fast, with the help with a young woman with a taste for older rough and tumble bad boys.

The sex and violence are pretty prominent, but it's not as skeevy as one might think. I also liked how not one story is alike in this volume, but the story arcs have plenty of surprises and twists and turns. I was not expecting what happens in the last story at all. There are lots of cool cameos in this. I never thought I'd see Hex and The Man of Steel in the same comic, but I did!

I am hoping this isn't the last volume.

What will I do if it is? Noooooooooo!!!!

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Black Canary/Zatanna: Bloodspell by Paul Dini, Joe Quinones (Illustrations)

Black Canary/Zatanna: BloodspellBlack Canary/Zatanna: Bloodspell by Paul Dini
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I'd have to give this a 3.5/5.0 because I wasn't enamored of the facial rending of the characters, moreso Zatanna. For lack of a better word, she looked a bit goofy at times, with the exaggerated eyes and arched brows. I'm a bit of a Zatanna fangirl, especially from the previous Paul Dini run, and I liked her look so much better in those. It's a shallow thing, but I can't help how I feel. Overall, the story was good. Pretty straightforward, not a lot of surprises. A cute way to team up to admirable, strong female lead crimefighters, with slightly different approaches. I liked the strong foundation for their friendship and that they made such an excellent team together. I liked the Green Arrow cameo, but I was glad he was strictly a guess star and didn't participate in the major story arc unnecessarily. This is Black Canary's show.

I think readers who enjoy Black Canary and Zatanna will like this book. You may or may not enjoy the art more than me. I was jazzed like crazy that my library had this. Keep them coming!

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sold to the Enemy by Sarah Morgan

Sold to the EnemySold to the Enemy by Sarah Morgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another really good Sarah Morgan book. This really reminded me of the story of Red Ridinghood and the big Bad Wolf. Selene is sweet as pie and very innocent, with incredible belief in Stefan, based on their chance meeting five years prior. He is the glimmer of hope that she can escape from the figurative and literal prison where her father has kept her and her mother. She sneaks out and meets him and asks for a business loan for her company. To which Stefan agrees, but he also wants to exploit the association to revenge a past insult against his family by her father. Selene believes only the best about Stefan, and when they go to bed together, she is completely willing, excited to experience passion for the first time with a man she views as the only friend she's ever had. But everything backfires when a picture of them ends up in the press and her father finds out about it. Selene realizes that her knight in shining armor is actually the Big Bad Wolf, and her poor innocent heart is broken. Stefan realizes he wronged Selene in his quest for revenge and he wants to make it right.

Selene is such a sweetie! She cracked me up how excited she was with Stefan that first night. I could see how she was putting tiny cracks in Stefan's armor and making the Bad Wolf into her very own adoring Wolf Protector. Stefan was the first to admit he had no conscience, but the truth is that he had turned his conscience off to achieve his goals of success. Selene made him come back to life, but he did it kicking and screaming. He really doesn't want the vulnerability of love, but Selene reached his heart. And when she loses faith in him, it really bothers him. I liked that Stefan has to win back Selene's trust and show him that he was worthy of her faith in him. At the same time, Selene gains a balanced view of him, that he is neither an angel or a demon, but a human being.

As usual, the dialogue is a huge draw to this story. The sometimes inane things that the characters chat about feels realistic. Sometimes you do have strange conversations with people and they know what you're saying, even if it comes out of your mouth in a very bizarre way, because they know you. I think that Selene's parents were less developed, moreso her mother. Her father seems so sinister, and he's clearly an abusive lowlife. But Selene is able to put him into perspective as well . It helps that she has a faithful Wolf to guard her, and she's one Red Ridinghood who can take care of herself, gaining needed independence, that is not compromised but facilitated through her relationship with Stefan.

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At No Man's Command by Melanie Milburne

At No Man's CommandAt No Man's Command by Melanie Milburne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was definitely a unique Harlequin Presents. Aiesha really is a bad girl. She's not a very nice person, and while I felt sympathy for her, at first, she was not easy to like. As time went along, it was clear that her outrageous behavior and caustic personality was a defense mechanism against the deprived nature of her childhood and all its attendant disappointments. She used sex as a weapon, and I'm not ever a fan of that kind of behavior. At the same time, it was refreshing to have a bad heroine and a nice hero. Milburne flipped the usual HP script around, giving Aiesha many of the HP hero traits. I think it would have been cooler if she was independently wealthy so that 'gold digger' aspect was not part of the equation.

The sexuality was a lot more blatant in this book, probably because Aiesha is quite sexually experienced and rather callused about sex. James tends to be more circumspect about sex, although he definitely knows what he's doing in the bed. I would have loved to see him as an inexperienced hero, which would have made the role reversal more thorough. Although James does have a condemning attitude towards Aiesha initially, I really did respect and like him. He was seriously harmed emotionally by Aiesha's antics ten years ago, and had a reason to be angry. I liked that he was able to put that behind him and evaluate Aiesha more thoroughly and he had learned to see past her offensive behavior and sex kitten armor to the wounded woman underneath.

The ending was pretty cool. Aiesha gets her dream come true and her man, and realizes that she doesn't have to be ashamed of her childhood, because none of that is her fault. At the same time, I think she did learn that treating people badly because of what she'd been deprived of wasn't good behavior either.

By the end of this book, I did believe that Aiesha and James truly loved each other, and were more than willing to take a risk and go after a life together, regardless of what had taken place in the past. James showed that he was for her and she showed that she loved him in a very demonstrative way.

I would give this four stars. It was well written and thoughtful. Despite the way it seemed, this is a very angsty and rather pathos-inducing. It made me feel a bit melancholy after I finished it, so that's why I didn't rate it higher.

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The Shekih's Impatient Virgin by Kim Lawrence

The Sheikh's Impatient VirginThe Sheikh's Impatient Virgin by Kim Lawrence
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Conflicted feelings about this one. I thought Karim was a major jerk to Eva. He was so judgmental towards her (pretty much because he had unresolved feelings towards his deceased wife). Eva, I liked, but I wish that her profound attraction to Karim didn't make her such a tongue-tied punching bag.I don't mind sweet and meek heroines, but I think I prefer heroines who will stand up for themselves more than Eva did. I would have liked her to be a little more spunky and come back at Karim when he was being a tool towards her. I think I would have enjoyed this book more if there wasn't this emotional inequality in their relationship.

I could feel some significant sympathy for Karim in his situation, but I don't like when innocent people are used as a punching bag. Such was the case for Karim's treatment of Eva. She made it clear that she didn't want to be married any more than he did. He was the one who ended up at her place. I can't recall that he ever apologized for the misunderstanding even when he found out how he had ended up there.

The ending and their first time together were sweet, and I did like Karim's devotion to his daughter.

I'd have to give this one 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Thursday, January 08, 2015

In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz

In a Glass Grimmly (A Tale Dark & Grimm, #2)In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once again, Adam Gidwitz has knocked my socks off. I was skeptical to see what he could do with Jack and Jill, but he more than pleasantly surprised me. I will be very honest. There are a couple of parts of this book that are in no way kid friendly. I mean, I admit I probably read stuff like that when I was twelve, but I would caution a parent to be careful with this book. You might want to read it first and then let your child read it. Or read it together. I'd say that any reader under twelve should be under parental supervision, most definitely.

I loved the narration. I strongly recommend getting the audiobook narrated by Johnnie Heller. His narration is perfect and really adds to this book. I challenge you to read this without talking out loud or even shouting or moaning on some parts.

This kids wormed their way into my heart and I felt deeply for them. And also Frog, the Frog. My heart was broken for what happened to these three friends. I cheered for them when they accomplished incredible obstacles. I held my breath when they found themselves in some very tight and scary parts. And I was very happy when things worked out for a happy ending.

Gidwitz is a person who loves folklore and fairy tales, and it's more than evident. He also has a sometimes twisted, but always funny sense of humor. He seems to stay in touch with the child inside himself. And deep down, there is a very important lesson that spoke to me and no doubt will give young readers something to think about, something very prevalent in this day, with bullying at an all time high. That combination makes him an irresistible writer.

This book has just about everything, even a large, fire-breathing salamander named Eddie. If you are curious, you'll just have to read the book. That's no hardship, although I will warn you, don't start eating when you read the part where Jack and Jill enter the Giant's Cave. You will regret it!

A love letter to young and grown up fans of fairytales, "In a Glass Grimmly" is a worthy follow up to the fantastic book A Tale Dark & Grimm, and I danced a jig when I saw my library had finally gotten this audiobook. It was definitely worth waiting for.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Why Give?: Excelling in the Grace of Giving by John F DeVries

Why Give?: Excelling in the Grace of GivingWhy Give?: Excelling in the Grace of Giving by John F DeVries
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading Why Pray? by this author, I felt like I had an epiphany. If I am a believer in God and profess faith in Jesus, why wouldn't I pray intentionally for all that I need in this life? It was a no-brainer, it seems, but it really did hit me like a thundercloud. It was a life changing moment for me. Instead of worrying about everything, I made a point to pray about things. This has been a great blessing. So many weights have been lifted from my tired shoulders.

So when my church started reading Why Give?, I was excited to see what Mr. DeVries has to say about the concept of giving. Fundamentally, we tend to get things all wrong when it comes to giving in the Christian church. We think it's just preachers begging for money. That God wants to take what little we have. When in fact, giving is the essential nature of God. God gave us this earth to live on, he gave us natural resources and air to breathe, and he even gave up his Son for us. Giving tips everything on its axis. We tend to think that by hoarding resources, we can be secure, but God wants us to understand that we cannot outgive God. The more we give, whether it's material or emotional/time resources, the more we will be repaid. Because by giving, we bless ourselves and others.

Actually, the struggle inside with this was not the money aspect. I know God has been good to me, even though I am not a rich woman. He has provided for all my needs in amazing ways when I came to surrender my control issues about money and to trust Him to take care of me and to take Him at His word. He always provides my daily bread and rewards my tiny steps of faith in trusting Him to supply all my needs. What's harder is to give of myself. I am an introverted person and opening up is very hard for me. I can definitely be a time hoarder. I am selfish about myself. This book challenges me to be open and available to be give of myself for the good of God and others. And that can be as simple as praying for someone or taking the time to stop and listen and be available when someone needs my support. But most of all, the energy to do this doesn't come from me, but from the Holy Spirit of God, who lives in me as a believer in Jesus.

The stories in this book made me cry big time. I'm sappy like that. Reading about how Jesus changes lives in some of the most desperate of circumstances and how sharing the Gospel can have an eternal perspective was very profound. That sharing the love of God in Jesus is not about forcing my beliefs on someone, but giving them an opportunity to know the God of the universe in a personal way and how much that God loves and values them. I would read it a little on the way to work and school and tears would come to my eyes. It honestly fed my faith in a way that having an overflowing bank account never could.

As I was thankful for what Mr. DeVries teaches me based on Biblical principles in Why Pray, so I am thankful for what I've learned in Why Give? And when he issued a challenge for me to pray for God to provide funds for me to donate money, and God answered that prayer in an incredible way, I was given tangible evidence that God is the one who provides all I need to be a generous giver and to be created in His image in that regard.

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A Countess by Christmas by Annie Burrows

A Countess by ChristmasA Countess by Christmas by Annie Burrows
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I decided to give this four stars because it was an entertaining romance, with characters that I enjoyed reading about. While the conflict is mainly based on misunderstandings of characters and what is said and done, it wasn't too irritating to render the story frustrating or the characters unlikable.

Readers who enjoy a Darcy-like hero, composed, cold, uninvolved and very proper, they will probably like Bridgemere. I enjoy when the hero is forbidding and withdrawn from life, and stiff and we see him thaw out as he is around the heroine and falls in love with her. Bridgmere really liked Helen's authenticity and her caring for others, but at the same time, his experiences with his deceased wife has made him highly wary of love and withdrawn from life, determined not to make bad choices out of emotionalism. As such, there is a see-saw between his being drawn to Helen and his wanting to maintain distance.

As far as drama/conflict, there isn't a lot of external conflict. This story is more about the developing of the relationship between a lonely man and a young woman who was rejected by most of her family except for one lady who adopted her, and as such, she is devoted to the woman and calls her aunt. There is social conflict as Bridgemere is a powerful man surrounded by family who want access to his means and influence, and are playing a game of one upmanship. Helen is continually told she's not good enough for the Earl and couldn't possibly hope for marriage with him, because she's viewed as a threat to the others who see that the Earl likes, respect, and is drawn to her. This is reinforcing Helen's own feelings of unworthiness. Yet at the same time, she does seem to have a healthy sense of self esteem.

I liked that Helen is a spunky and independent person. She reminds me of one of my favorite literary heroines, Jane Eyre, in that regard. Even with the punches she's received in her life, her sense of loneliness and rejection, she won't lay down and die. She'll keep fighting and standing up for herself, and particularly others who need champions.

The holiday atmosphere was lovely, showcasing that the cold Earl really did have a soft, warm heart, especially for children. He makes a point of creating fun and welcoming activities to the overlooked and emotionally neglected children of his relatives. Bridgemere and Helen bond as they engage in these pursuits and they are allowed to see each other as they are, with the rigid social barriers lowered.

This isn't a particularly exciting book, but the writing is good, and the characters and their developing romance engaged me and kept my interest. I kept picking this up when I had a chance and getting drawn into the story, so that I'd read it longer than I should have been due to the need to complete other tasks.

I think readers who enjoy Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte would appreciate this book.

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Friday, January 02, 2015

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

The Real BoyThe Real Boy by Anne Ursu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had to put a lot of thought into this review. Anne Ursu has done that to me with her last two books. I enjoyed her Cronus Chronicles series and it was novel in that it presents a family with people of mixed racial heritage in a very normal, everyday fashion, and I loved that about the books. Plus, it was just plain fun Greek Mythology fantasy with a spunky heroine and her good natured cousin along for the ride.

With Breadcrumbs, she gave us a young girl who touched me deeply. Her internal life and her attachment to a friend as an effort to deal with loneliness and rejection was a visceral ache. I think with The Real Boy, she has strummed that emotional chord again.

Oscar is an orphan who was 'bought' by a charmer to watch over his shop, do the cleaning, and to prepare his herbs for the potions he sells. It is never explicitly stated, but I believe that Oscar has autism. He has sense-related issues (will only eat bread because he doesn't like the feel of other foods), he has trouble looking people in the eye, and blurts out things and doesn't understand social cues, he's got a genius level intellect but others may perceive him as not all there. Oscar starts to believe he's not a real boy because he is viewed as so different.

This touched me deeply, that this boy would feel so isolated and feel so unworthy. This is real, how cruel people are to those who are different. It breaks my heart in fact to see him suffer this way. I think this aspect of the book resonated deeply with me. I also appreciated Oscar's developing friendship with Callie, an apprentice to a healer who has no magic.

The world-building was less impactful. I felt like there was more to be discovered and understood. Although I appreciated how the story builds slowly and the reader's understanding expands with continued reading, too much was assumed in this book, and too little spelled out. The concept of how magic was so crucial to the small island that Oscar lives on, with the folktale of the wizards who became large trees so they could watch over the island, that was pretty cool. Although I feel it sort of becomes less clear and tangible as the story goes along. I would say the reveal towards the end was quite interesting, but to talk about that too much would be a spoiler.

Fundamentally, I feel that Ursu excelled with the emotional landscape of this story, but the fantastical foundation suffers in contrast. Oscar is an unforgettable little boy. His emotional journey speaks to my heart. For that alone, I gave this four stars. I was conflicted because I don't think this book measures up as well as far as a fantasy novel. As with Breadcrumbs, I wonder how much of the emotional depths will register with the young audience it's aimed at. It would be a great thing if kids who feel isolated because of their oddness would feel touched by Oscar's story and would understand that they aren't alone after all.

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The Yuletide Engagement by Carole Mortimer

The Yuletide EngagementThe Yuletide Engagement by Carole Mortimer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is definitely a pleasant and serviceable Christmas romance. I didn't find it that impactful otherwise. I did think it was adorable how close Ellie was to her brother. I liked that it was fairly evident that Patrick was into her. I wasn't that impressed by the plot about Ellie's ex-boyfriend, although he was definitely a sleazeball. I think this book lacked intensity that I crave in my HP books, so that was probably my major issue with this book.

I can't think of much more to say than that.

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Reputation for Revenge by Jennie Lucas

A Reputation For Revenge (Princes Untamed, #2)A Reputation For Revenge by Jennie Lucas
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I think Jennie Lucas might give Lynne Graham a run for her money with the sweet, naive heroine theme. Josie is as sweet as they come. She really seems out of her league with Kasimir. It seems like shooting fish in the barrel. But Kasimir never knew what hit him. Before he knew it, his plans for revenge that involved Josie were flying away like birdies, and he was stone cold in love.

Jennie Lucas understands the appeal of escapist fantasy romance and she delivers it. While most of the readers of this genre won't know what it's like to swept off our feet by a ruthless billionaire, and probably don't want it in real life, Lucas gives us a 2 hour read that allows us to explore the possibilities. That's why I like this series of books so much. It's a different world and I like that I can spend two hours in that world.

Kasimir is a very bad man. Well, at least he was. I mean, he wants to be. But I think deep down, he's a decent fellow who forgot what was important in life. He lost everything, and when you lose everything, you have nothing to lose. Josie teaches him what it means to love and to sacrifice for love. She teaches him what it means to be a genuine person. And she teaches him to follow his heart and love passionately.

I really liked the first book, Dealing Her Final Card, but I think I liked this one even more. It felt more like Princess fantasy. I liked that they are actually married, and she's not just a mistress. And I think the change in Kasimir is more dramatic than in Vladimir. I also think it's because this was not a reunion romance. The feelings between Josie develop on the page before my mesmerized eyes, and I enjoyed every page of it.

Plus the ending was so sweetly romantic, it made me sigh.

I have to give this one 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Her Christmas Earl by Anna Campbell

Her Christmas Earl: A Regency NovellaHer Christmas Earl: A Regency Novella by Anna Campbell
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Ugh. I hate to give an Anna Campbell book less than four stars. I think I was just underwhelmed. I mean, this is like one of my fave themes, spinster and rogue. But I didn't get as involved emotionally with this story. It's a pretty good short Christmas romance, that I expected to like this more than I did. Don't get me wrong. Erskine has had a thing for Phillipa since they first met, intrigued by this quiet wallflower. Phillipa looks down her nose at Erskine because he's a notorious rake. Apparently her sister wrote a steamy letter to him, and Phillipa enters the tiger's lair to get it back, but ends up locked in a cupboard with him, leading to a compromising position. Marriage is required, and Erskine is actually looking forward to it. That sounds pretty scrumptious. But it didn't come off as well as I expected.

I think I wasn't in the mood for such a self-deprecating heroine. She wouldn't believe that Erskine was into her! While I can understand the reasons for her low self-esteem, I wish she had made the most of having such a sexy hubby who couldn't get enough of her instead of being so 'woe is me'. That brings me to another area that I was disappointed. Usually Campbell rocks the love scenes. These weren't quite as sizzling as she typically manages. Maybe I just wasn't feeling it when I read this.

I admit it might be my mood right now. I'm still grieving and adjusting to things right now, so that does impact you when you are trying to focus on a book. I will try to read this again when I'm in more of receptive mood. I definitely don't want to miss out on Erskine's reformed rake sexiness.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick

The Paid CompanionThe Paid Companion by Amanda Quick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to this on audiobook while I made my Christmas cards, and it was an enjoyable read and kept me entertained while I attended to my crafting. The narrator used a voice for Arthur that was a bit stuffy, and not at all brooding and sexy, but otherwise, I can't complain. There was a good balance between mystery and romance in this book. The mystery was quite authentic, and the villain was a fiend. The reveal was suspenseful, and I hadn't figured out who the villain was until the correct time. The storyline was cute, the way that Elenora and Arthur enter each other's lives was a good setup for the building of their relationship. I like that they feel like unique people, even with some of the typical historical romance character traits they have.

Elenora was a very likable heroine. She was intelligent, independent, brave and self-sufficient. But she was also warm and open to love. I liked how she bounced back from some very difficult circumstances in her life, and wasn't going to allow anyone to bully her. She took an active part in solving the mystery, and she was a very good detective.

Arthur was sexy and manly but also gentlemanly and cerebral. That was a very nice combination. While he definitely had a dangerous aura, he was a principled person. I like that he treated Elenora as an equal and it was evident that he really respected her.

The romance was believable and I rooted for their happy ending. Their love scenes were nicely sensual (although it was a bit odd hearing the older, stuffy-sound narrator read the naughty bits).

I think Amanda Quick's book are really good audiobook listens. I feel I enjoy them in this format more than I might in reading them. I think it's because the mystery is so prominent and Quick gets the historical details just right, and her style of romance works really well in this format.

I'd recommend getting this on audio if you can. I realized today that I had a paper copy but I'm glad I did the audio. It's worth the listen.

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Strangers at the Altar by Marguerite Kay

Strangers at the AltarStrangers at the Altar by Marguerite Kaye
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had trouble getting into this book. I should have loved it. I'm a sucker for marriage of convenience theme, I love tortured/angsty characters, and it's set in Scotland. But I had trouble connecting to the characters. Even in spite of the major angst the hero and heroine were feeling, I felt like I was viewing them through a thick glass instead of being plopped right there in the action.

I'm not saying that Kaye isn't a good writer. That's evidently true. I like how honest and authentic she is about women's issues and what it was like being a wife in the 19th century. In that sense, I did feel for Ainsley. I can imagine how difficult it must have been in her marriage, seeing her husband drive them into economic ruin and having her needs unmet and feeling like she was disgusting to her husband.

I guess my disconnect was that I didn't quite believe in the romance between Ainsley and Innes. Innes never won me over and I never formed an emotional connection to him. I think he was really cruel in some ways to Ainsley, even knowing how bad her first marriage had been. I felt the grovel at the end could have been more authentic. I don't know that I would have taken him back so easily after the way he ended things.

So sadly, I have to give this one three stars. I hope I that I enjoy her other books more, because I do see some promise in her descriptive writing, authentic heroines, and sensual romance.

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Queen and Country, Volume 4; Operation Blackwall by Greg Rucka, Jason Alexander (Artist)

Queen and Country, Vol. 4: Operation BlackwallQueen and Country, Vol. 4: Operation Blackwall by Greg Rucka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This case hits to close to home for Tara Chase, Minder 2 for the British Special Service. Her school friend has been involved in a sex scandal, a sex video being used to blackmail her father into caving and backing out of a multimillion dollar communcations business deal by a player in the French government. One of her bosses sends her to France to investigate and to intervene in any way possible. In the meantime, her affair with a coworker is starting to get too serious, and Tara knows she's going to have to pull the plug.

This was good stuff. While the art is all black and white, it's beautifully done. The use of lines and shadows show talent that doesn't require coloring to dress it up (although I'm all for full-color artwork when it's there).

The narrative is tense and suspenseful, even though the dialogue is very economical. Tara is a complex woman. Not exactly personable, but she shows a lot of integrity and grit. I like that about her.

This is the first graphic novel I have read on my Kindle Fire, and I was pretty impressed at how easy it was to read and how good it looks. I'm kind of a cheapo, so I'm not saying I'm going to buy a lot of graphic novels in ebook format, but I will consider it more seriously now that I know I like the way they look on my ereader.

Queen and Country is spy fiction, and it works very well in the graphic novel format with the excellent artwork and good writing by Rucka. I paid $3.99 for the Kindle version, and I was pretty satisfied with the purchase.

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To Claim His Heir by Christmas by Victoria Parker

To Claim His Heir by ChristmasTo Claim His Heir by Christmas by Victoria Parker
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I'm so glad that some of my discerning buddies on the Harlequin Presents Reader group raved about this book. It was an excellent short and sexy romance to read before the end of the year. At first, I was thrown by the writing style, very descriptive and emotive to the degree that it was hard to get a feel for the tone initially. But it didn't take long before I was soaking this book up like a sponge. Parker taps into my need for an intense, escapist, passionate romance book. It definitely gave me my angsty/dramatic romance fix.

Thane is all that and a bag of chips! Intense, honorable, grumpy, dedicated to his one and only woman (that alone made me swoon over him), and sexy as all get out. I could totally see why Luciana found him irresistible. He touches on all my hero qualities that I love. Luciana is a great heroine. Her motives are sound and her heart was good. She's strong in the best ways. Even though I did want her to cave and fall in with Thane's plans head first ('cause he was just so very...), I could understand her misgivings and her pain and anguish because of what she'd seen in her parents' marriage and scars from her own childhood. She made the best decision she could have at the time, even though she did deny Thane four years of his child's life. She regretted that she had cost him that and understood how wrong she was about him. While I don't care much for secret baby romance, this was well done. Scenes of Thane bonding with his son made me all cartoon starry eyed.

This is the kind of Romeo and Juliet tale I love. Honestly, I didn't care much for the original play, but Parker has given die hard romantics the version of that tale of young lovers and feuding families that they will love.

The sexual chemistry and tension was off the charts, but what made it so powerful was the delirious and intense love that Thane and Luciana found together and never got over. You could tell it was a once and a lifetime connection and you wanted them to get their happy ending.

Parker has convinced me that she's an author to watch for in the Harlequin Presents line. If she has more heroes in the vein of Thane (no rhyming intended), I'm sold!

Definitely recommend this book. Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Thursday, January 01, 2015

Saga, Volume 3 (Saga #13-18) by Brian K. Vaughan (Writer), Fiona Staples (Artist)

Saga, Volume 3 (Saga #13-18)Saga, Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Saga continues to be a very good graphic novel. The artwork and colors are gorgeous and the story is compelling. I think I would rate this highly if some of the content wasn't deliberately so risque/borderline sleazy. I would love to understand why the author chooses to go in that direction with the story, when the foundational themes of this novel are family, loyalty and solidarity. I'm not a prude, but I do feel like the creator puts some sleaze in here just to see if we're paying attention when we read and view the comic as we turn the pages. Believe me, we are. This story is so good, you can't help but be transfixed. It's what a kid who loves science fiction and fantasy movies and novels is dreaming of seeing as a graphic novel, and hopefully as a movie or tv series one day. It's evident that the creator of this novel has the same foundational series as favorites as many who would read this comic.

I love the fundamental love story here, about how these two people who come from such warring planets and who should be so incompatible, could come together and found a family that is so rich in love. I am interested in the secondary characters and their stories just as much.

I hope my library gets volume 4 and soon!

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