Category Archives: Romance

Some stuff I’ve recently read

Although I haven’t been posting much lately, I have been reading. I’m seven books behind on my GoodReads challenge though. Good thing I have a week off at the end of June. Maybe I can catch up.

Here’s a roundup of some of the books I’ve finished recently along with the GoodReads rating I gave them.

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla (Pink Carnation, #11)The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I reread the entire series before reading this. I enjoy the series and really liked the two main characters, but I’m glad that the next book will be the last. I’m still interested in Eloise and Colin, but it’s time for them resolve their relationship. I did enjoy the vampire novel angle and the book, like the others in the series, is a quick, light read.

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It’s In His Kiss by Jill Shalvis

It's in His Kiss (Lucky Harbor, #10)It’s in His Kiss by Jill Shalvis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This series is like potato chips. I can’t read just one, but the books don’t have a lot of substance. Oddly enough, what keeps me coming back is the male friendships. That’s true of this book too. I found myself wanting more Cole, Sam, and Tanner together. The three of them with Becca (the main female character) also worked. The romance between Sam and Becca was believable, but that wasn’t the relationship I was interested in.

I thought both Becca and Sam’s back stories were pretty interesting, but thought that Becca’s loose ends with her family were all tied up a bit too neatly.

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October/November books

It’s mid-December, so I’ll hit the highlights for October and November. I’m also happy to report that I hit my GoodReads Challenge goal to read 100 books in 2012 on December 6. Not that my To Read shelf has any fewer books on it. No matter how fast I read, I can’t seem to make a dent in that list. There are just too many good books and not enough hours in the day.

Freeman by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Takes place in the first few months following the Confederate surrender and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Upon learning of Lee’s surrender, Sam–a runaway slave who once worked for the Union Army–decides to leave his safe haven in Philadelphia and set out on foot to return to the war-torn South. What compels him on this almost-suicidal course is the desire to find his wife, the mother of his only child, whom he and their son left behind 15 years earlier on the Mississippi farm to which they all “belonged.” At the same time, Sam’s wife, Tilda, is being forced to walk at gunpoint with her owner and two of his other slaves from the charred remains of his Mississippi farm into Arkansas, in search of an undefined place that would still respect his entitlements as slaveowner and Confederate officer. The book’s third main character, Prudence, is a fearless, headstrong white woman of means who leaves her Boston home for Buford, Mississippi, to start a school for the former bondsmen, and thus honor her father’s dying wish. This book was heartwrenching in the best way possible. Pitts is a wonderful writer who draws you into the world of suddenly emancipated slaves in the South immediately after the Civil War and hooks you completely.

Redshirts by John Scalzi
If you’re a Star Trek fan you know about the Redshirts. They’re the unnamed crew members who go on away missions and never come back. So, what happens when the Redshirts realize that there’s a pattern? That’s the premise of the book. I’m about 175 pages into the 638 on my Nook copy and I’m loving this. Scalzi does a great job of moving things along and clearly had a lot of fun with the concept. The characters are pretty well-drawn, although they’re clearly based on the stock sci-fi Crew on a Ship stereotypes. I clearly visualize Shatner as the ship’s captain and Dwight Schultz as the hapless (and incredibly lucky) Lieutenant Kerensky. Highly recommended for Star Trek fans or anyone with a basic understanding of the Redshirt archetype. Bonus for fans of listening to books: Wil Wheaton reads the audiobook. I don’t normally do audio, but I’m seriously considering an exception here.

Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow
It took me two months to finish this. It’s really interesting and well-written, but it made me so furious that I had to take breaks from it to read something less serious. Don’t let the subject matter deter you though. Rachel can write and makes a convincing argument for rethinking American foreign policy.

Live by Night by Dennis Lehane
Boston, 1926. The ’20s are roaring. Liquor is flowing, bullets are flying, and one man sets out to make his mark on the world. Joe Coughlin, last seen in Lehane’s The Given Day, the youngest son of a prominent Boston police captain, has long since turned his back on his strict and proper upbringing. Now having graduated from a childhood of petty theft to a career in the pay of the city’s most fearsome mobsters, Joe enjoys the spoils, thrills, and notoriety of being an outlaw. Lehane is a wonderful writer and this is a great story. Joe is a flawed, incredibly likeable anti-hero and a fascinating foil to his older brother Danny, who was one of the main characters in The Given Day. I highly recommend reading The Given Day, then Live by Night. They complement each other really well.

The Ten, Make That Nine, Habits of Very Organized People. Make That Ten.: The Tweets of Steve Martin by Steve Martin
Combine Steve Martin and Twitter and you get a very quick, very funny read. He’s warped, but brilliant.

M Is for Magic by Neil Gaiman
I love Neil Gaiman. These stories are weird, creepy, and well written. It was a perfect book to read in October.

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
I came late to the Discworld bandwagon, but now I’m firmly aboard. This was really fun to read. I enjoyed the feminist twist.

American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee by Karen Abbott
Non-fiction that reads like a novel. Gypsy Rose Lee was interesting. Rose Louise Hovick (her real name) was even more so. And Mama Rose was a psychopath.

Take Big Bites: Adventures Around the World and Across the Table by Linda Ellerbee
I’ve been a Linda Ellerbee fan ever since I read And So It Goes while I was in college (at my dad’s recommendation). Nobody tells a story better and funnier. Each chapter centers on a specific place, time, and cuisine and includes a recipe at the end. I’ll read anything she writes, just because she’s so damned good at it.

The Perfect Hope (Inn Boonsboro, #3) by Nora Roberts
This is the third book in the Inn Boonsboro trilogy. I always enjoy Roberts’ books. Although I didn’t like this series as much as the Bride Quartet, it was still entertaining. I liked the ghost aspect, as well as the relationships between the women and the brothers. These books just seemed a little flatter than the ones in the Bride Quartet.

Judgment Call: A Brady Novel of Suspense by J.A. Jance
I have an approach/avoidance problem with this series. The plots are great, but I find myself editing instead of getting lost in the writing. I love J.P Beaumont, but am not as big a fan of Sheriff Brady.

The Lincoln Letter by William Martin
Wow. I loved everything about this book, especially the way the author moved back and forth between Civil War and present-day Washington, DC. That our family took a trip to DC last summer added a little extra something because I could visualize Ford’s Theater, the lockkeeper’s house, and other DC landmarks. He’s very skillful at weaving the present and the past together. It also complemented Lincoln (the film) very well. I liked it so much that I bought all of the author’s backlist (see the next title).

Harvard Yard by William Martin
Skillfully brings past and present story lines together into a fascinating history of Harvard. Historical thread was so vivid that I had dreams about Cotton Mather, which was a little disturbing. I’ll now read anything that William Martin writes.

A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell
Berlin in 1931 is a bleak place. Hannah Vogel is devastated when she sees a photograph of her brother’s body posted in the Hall of the Unnamed Dead. Ernst, a cross-dressing lounge singer at a seedy nightclub, had many secrets, a never-ending list of lovers, and plenty of opportunities to get into trouble. During her investigation into his death, she uncovers intrigue and political scandal at the top of the rising Nazi Party. She begins to fear for her own life, as well as that of Anton, a street urchin who has begun to call her “mother”.  Highly recommended for fans of the Maisie Dobbs series, which takes place in England in the same general time period.

Cold Days by Jim Butcher
Harry Dresden is back from being mostly dead and is introduced to life as the Winter Knight. His first assignment is suitably impossible: kill an immortal. Lots of twists and turns, snark, reunions, and Star Wars/Princess Bride and other popular sci-fi references. I read this in two days and can’t wait for book 15.

I’m currently reading book 5 in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. I’ll do a separate post about that series, because I think I’ve found something that I like just as much as Harry Dresden. I’m eternally grateful to my friend Charlotte Roh for recommending these. They’re stellar.

September’s books

Because I’m having trouble blogging very often here, I decided to steal an idea from a librarian friend of mine and do a monthly round-up of the books I’ve read. The theme this month (and for the summer, really) was new books and old favorites.  I reread most of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ backlist in July and August.

Currently Reading

Redshirts by John Scalzi
If you’re a Star Trek fan you know about the Redshirts. They’re the unnamed crew members who go on away missions and never come back. So, what happens when the Redshirts realize that there’s a pattern? That’s the premise of the book. I’m about 175 pages into the 638 on my Nook copy and I’m loving this. Scalzi does a great job of moving things along and clearly had a lot of fun with the concept. The characters are pretty well-drawn, although they’re clearly based on the stock sci-fi Crew on a Ship stereotypes. I clearly visualize Shatner as the ship’s captain and Dwight Schultz as the hapless (and incredibly lucky) Lieutenant Kerensky. Highly recommended for Star Trek fans or anyone with a basic understanding of the Redshirt archetype. Bonus for fans of listening to books: Wil Wheaton reads the audiobook. I don’t normally do audio, but I’m seriously considering an exception here.

Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow
I’ve been reading this since August. It’s really interesting and well-written, but it makes me so furious that I have to take breaks from it to read something less serious. Don’t let the subject matter deter you though. Rachel can write and makes a convincing argument for rethinking American foreign policy.

Finished in September

Crazy People: The Crazy for You Stories by Jennifer Crusie
This collection of short stories, which Crusie produced as part of her MFA in Creative Writing, became the genesis for her novel Crazy for You. I enjoyed seeing how the characters evolved. I also found her commentary about each story to be a fascinating look into the novel writing process. It almost made me want to try writing fiction (or at least character studies). Almost. It also made me go back and reread…

Crazy for You by Jennifer Crusie
This has never been my favorite Crusie, mostly because Stalker Bill is downright creepy. Reading Crazy People gave me better insight into the story, so I appreciate it more now. But Stalker Bill is still really creepy and seeing things from his point of view is very disturbing. Still, I’m glad I gave it another look. It also led me to reread…

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie (this is the last of the Crusie rereads. I promise)
I’ve always liked this novel. It’s a great twist on fairy tales. I want friends like these. I also want Harry’s story because that kid is incredible.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
It’s been awhile since I’d read this and I’d forgotten just how wonderful it is. Rosie is one of my favorite characters ever and I love how Gruen switches between Jacob in the present and Jacob in the past. It’s a masterful piece of storytelling that makes me want to read more about circus history.

Shelter and Seconds Away by Harlan Coben
These are the first two novels in Coben’s new young adult series starring Mickey Bolitar, who was introduced in Coben’s latest Myron Bolitar novel,  Live Wire. Mickey is Myron’s fifteen year old nephew. After witnessing his father’s death and sending his mom to rehab, Mickey forced to live with Myron, who was estranged from Mickey’s family, and switch high schools. Book one sets the stage for the series and the action starts immediately when Mickey’s new girlfriend Ashley goes missing. Seconds Away picks up immediately after the end of Shelter and offers more twists and turns than a mountain road. I started Shelter on a Saturday afternoon, finished it, and immediately started reading Seconds Away. I can’t wait for book three. I love the complexity of the conspiracy plot, the pace, the snarky dialog, and Mickey’s two friends, Ema and Spoon. I particularly love Spoon. He’s so cluelessly geeky that he’s adorable (which makes him adorkable I guess).

Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews
This is the first book in the Meg Langslow series. The characters are quirky and it was a pretty easy read. I got a little frustrated with the love story part because it was so clear to me from the beginning how it was going to resolve. The mystery wasn’t super complex either. I’ll probably work my way slowly through these, but I won’t re-read them.

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen
Interesting premise and pretty well done. This was a nice light and fluffy read, although I prefer the Maisie Dobbs series. It has more heft.

And One Last Thing … by Molly Harper
This book took me completely by surprise. I enjoyed it much more than I expected to. The characters were wonderfully three dimensional. I really wished that the book was longer so that I could find out what happened next. Harper now writes paranormal romance series and I’ve bought a couple of those titles, although I haven’t read them yet. If they’re half as good as this one, it will have been money well-spent.

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen
Another YA winner by Carl Hiaasen. There were parts of this that made me laugh out loud. His characters are completely ridiculous, but that doesn’t stop them from seeming true to life. The Everglades become a character all by themselves in this book. I’d read this one again.

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
My friend Charlotte recommended this series to me when she discovered that I was a Harry Dresden fan. Boy, am I glad I took her advice! Kate is a great character, the universe is well-developed, and the action was paced really well. I stayed up way to late to finish this, then immediately downloaded the rest of the books in the series.

Blood Lite III: Aftertaste edited by Kevin J. Anderson
I needed a Harry Dresden fix and that one story was worth the price of the book. It’s going to be a long wait for Cold Day (release date November 27 — I pre-ordered the electronic and dead tree editions today). The other stories were gravy. There wasn’t a stinker in the book, although it was a little heavy on the zombies for my taste.

That’s it for September. Wonder what I’ll be reading next month.

 

Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie

Due to a combination of my new Nook and work-related stress, I’ve started re-reading the e-book versions of some of my hard copy keepers (and yes, I own them in both formats). Returning to my old favorites also gives me a wonderful opportunity to write about the books I go back to over and over again. The first of these is Anyone But You. This is one of my favorite Jennifer Crusie titles. It was originally published as part of Harlequin’s Love and Laughter series.

Nina is 40 years old and recently divorced. Looking for something to cheer her up, she goes to the local humane society to adopt a puppy. Instead, she brings home Fred, a morose, beagle/basset hound mix who is scheduled to be euthanized the next day. Through Fred, she meets Alex, the thirty-year old emergency room doctor living in the apartment below hers. Although she swears he’s too young for her, this is a romance, so they eventually end up together.

Crusie’s writing is snappy and laugh-out-loud funny (Fred’s obsession with Nina’s Incredibra is particularly hilarious). Even better, the characters are great and really well-developed, which isn’t always the case with short series romances. My favorite secondary character is Fred, but Nina’s best friend and Alex’s brother are also very well-drawn. Finally, there’s believable conflict between Nina and Alex, which they resolve realistically. Again, that’s a quality that is often lacking in series romances. Overall, very well-written and satisfying.

Truly, Madly by Heather Webber

Lucy Valentine has avoided joining her family’s matchmaking business…until now. When her father has a heart attack while in a hotel room with someone other than Lucy’s mother, he takes a vacation and puts Lucy in charge. The only problem is that Lucy doesn’t have the family’s matchmaking secret, the ability to read auras. However, she can find lost items just by touching their owners, which turns out to be more helpful to the matchmaking business than she thought. When she “sees” a lost engagement ring on the finger of a corpse, she enlists the help of the sexy private eye upstairs to help her solve the perfect crime.

This was a light, fluffy, and thoroughly enjoyable book. My only quibbles are that the “sexy detective’s” dialog seemed a little stilted and the solution to the mystery was obvious to me about halfway through the book. On the plus side, Lucy is a great character and I love her best friends, her needy cat, and her larger than life relatives. I bought the next two books in the series for my Nook and expect them to be just as fun.

Recommended for fans of Eileen Rendahl’s Messenger series (I’m currently reading book 2, Dead on Delivery) and Sarah Addison Allen.

Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

Jacket copy again. I’m going to stop apologizing. Now.

Andie Miller is ready to move on in life. She wants to marry her fiance and leave behind everything in her past, especially her ex-husband, North Archer. But when Andie tries to gain closure with him, he asks one final favor of her before they go their separate ways forever. A very distant cousin of his has died and left North as the guardian of two orphans who have driven out three nannies already, and things are getting worse. He needs a very special person to take care of the situation and he knows Andie can handle anything…

When Andie meets the two children she quickly realizes things are much worse than she feared. The place is a mess, the children, Carter and Alice, aren’t your average delinquents, and the creepy old house where they live is being run by the worst housekeeper since Mrs. Danvers. What’s worse, Andie’s fiance thinks this is all a plan by North to get Andie back, and he may be right. Andie’s dreams have been haunted by North since she arrived at the old house. And that’s not the only haunting…

Then her ex-brother-in-law arrives with a duplicitous journalist and a self-doubting parapsychologist, closely followed by an annoyed medium, Andie’s tarot card–reading mother, her avenging ex-mother-in-law, and her jealous fiancé. Just when Andie’s sure things couldn’t get more complicated, North arrives to make her wonder if maybe this time things could just turn out differently.

I’ve been describing this to people as a snarky, modernized version of Rebecca. I know it’s also the author’s take on The Turn of the Screw. It isn’t laugh out loud funny, but is excellently plotted and made me smile in quite a few places. I love the kids and Southy. I also liked the supernatural angle. It’s a great ghost story. I’m keeping this one and expect to read it again. Very nicely done.