Monday, June 30, 2008

August Romantic Times on the Shelf

This month’s cover story features MaryJanice Davidson discussing the evolution of her “Undead” series. Other features include a story on the marketing strategy behind back to back book releases of trilogies, a photo tour of Stephanie Laurens eco-friendly home, and a preview of fall releases. There are four author spotlights: Margaret Maron, Kathryn Smith, Julia London, and Emily Bryant. The standard 250 book reviews include series romance, mysteries, science fiction, and series romance. The Pros on Prose section features an agent’s perspective on historical fight scenes and an aspiring author’s adventures in getting published. The issue is rounded out with the Fan Forum and convention news from Pittsburgh and Orlando. If you haven’t stocked up on your summer reading yet, check out the July releases and place your requests.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend (Part I)

I’ve kicked off my summer reading with two books that are loosely (very loosely) connected by a theme – diamonds. In both books, everyone wants them – they seem to be the primary motivation for everything the main characters do. In reality, the jewels become secondary to more important issues: trusting yourself, trusting others, building relationships, and – believe it or not – maintaining world peace. Though they are different genres, both books are well written and a lot of fun, so if you have a yen for gems, take a look at:

Hot Ice
by Cherry Adair

The Premise: A terrorist organization headed by a religious zealot is planning to blow up the entire city of Las Vegas. In order to stop him, the counter-terrorist organization T-FLAC needs to get inside a weapons storage facility modeled after Dante’s seven levels of Hell, and so intricately and heavily secured that even the terrorist group’s leader needs to keep the access information stored on disks. Unfortunately, the disks were stolen, along with some very famous diamonds, by one Taylor Kincaid, jewel thief extraordinaire, who simply emptied the entire safe and mailed the contents to herself in Switzerland. T-FLAC operative Huntington St. John has spent a lot of time and agency resources to find Taylor and try to get to her before she pops the safe, but instead he ends up chasing her halfway around the world before he is forced to acknowledge he needs her skills to break into the storage facility. The race is on to outsmart the terrorists and disarm a nuclear warhead before Sin City gets blasted off the map.

What I liked: I’m a fan of the T-FLAC series in general, and I really like the stories with a heroine who has in interesting profession. Taylor is the kind of clever, twisty character I love – a lot of her sex appeal comes from her mental match-up with the hero. She and Hunt St. John spend a lot of time matching wits, which adds to the chemistry. I also like anything with a good heist or two in it, and this book delivers.

What I didn’t like: Honestly, I can’t find much to complain about. There were a couple of lucky breaks that raised my eyebrows, but since this kind of story is all about suspension of disbelief, I’m really just nitpicking.

Overall: One of my favorites in good romantic suspense series.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Darkness is coming!.....FINALLY!!

The second two books in the Darkness Chosen series by Christina Dodd are due out this summer. Have you read the first two? If not, now is the time to grab them and devour them.

The series is based on the Wilder men and their determination to end a 1000 year old family curse. A millennium ago the Wilder’s Ukrainian ancestor, Konstantine Varinsky, made a pact with the devil himself by selling his soul and those of his descendents in exchange for power. Since that time, all Varinsky males were given the power to change into predatory animals and unusually long lives with which to do as much evil as possible.

Only one son, another Konstantine, has broken with that evil tradition by falling in love and running away with his gypsy lover. They moved from the Ukraine to the USA to build a new life together, changing their name to Wilder and raising their children to resist the curse and overcome the evil nature of the beasts they become. Since Konstantine’s defection, however, the nature of the pact between Satan and the Varinskys has been corrupted. A new prophecy is made – his sons must find their true loves and the four broken pieces of the sacred Varinsky family icon in order to break the curse or Konstantine will die and lose his immortal soul.

Touch of Darkness (Book 1)
In an attempt to finally declare her secret love for her boss, secretary Ann Smith travels to Jasha Wilder’s secluded home to hand deliver some papers that could have waited for his return to the office. Unfortunately for Ann, she discovers the family secret as she accidentally witnesses Jasha change from wolf to man. Ann proceeds to plunge into a world of shapeshifters and evil as the two begin to try to break the family curse and save Jasha’s father from eternal damnation.

Scent of Darkness (Book 2)
Archaeologist Rurik Wilder and photographer Tasya Hunnicutt have a turbulent past and never miss an opportunity to snipe at each other. When the ancient tomb that Rurik has been excavating is bombed by the Varinsky clan, Rurik and Tasya go on the run. Both are keeping secrets from the other – his shapeshifting nature and her mysterious reason for her vendetta against the Varinsky family – which must be revealed if they are to fulfill their part of the prophecy.

I’m a sucker for good characters and especially enjoyed the second book in this set. I found the curse and prophecy interesting as a premise and the characters were likeable and mostly believable given the paranormal nature of the plot. While the relationship of the main characters is satisfactorily resolved, the author creates quite a cliffhanger of an ending in regard to the future possibility of breaking the curse, so I’m really looking forward to the next two.

Into the Shadow will be out on July 1st and Into the Flame will be released August 5th. We have them on order, so put your request in now!

Reviewed by Michele

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Summer Paperback Collection is Here!

Just in time for summer vacation, our portable, packable paperbacks have arrived in vast quantities. Romances, thrillers, mysteries of all types -- you name it, we've got it in our Vacation from Reality display. Try something new or revisit favorite authors and characters. Stop by and grab something to read on your own summer escape -- just check out the table near the magazines. Enjoy!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Quick Looks: Fifteen Minutes of Shame

Fifteen Minutes of Shame
By Lisa Daily

The Premise: Darby Vaughn, dating guru, columnist, author and TV personality, finds out that her husband is cheating on her – on the Today show, when Matt Lauer asks her about her impending divorce. She promptly vomits into a nearby basket of chrysanthemums, a clip of which ends up becoming a popular YouTube video (“the hurl heard ‘round the world.”) Before you can say “commercial break” Darby’s book tour is cancelled and she’s fired from her various advice gigs. She returns home to find an empty house – her husband having packed up and moved their stuff and her beloved stepchildren to California – and into his ex-wife’s house. After a brief period of mourning and one or two more embarrassing incidents caught on camera, Darby begins to fight back. With the help of her best girlfriends, her new publicist, and a very handsome divorce lawyer, she begins a round of “spin dating and faux-mances” designed to get her career, at least, back on track so that she can afford to fight for partial custody of her stepkids. Along the way, she gets her own reality show, has a few hot dates, and does a lot of soul searching with the help of Holt Gregory, the aforementioned handsome lawyer. By the time her cheating louse of a husband comes crawling back, she has to decide whether to take her own advice and move on or try to get her old life back.

What I liked: In spite of having a life that would be pretty exotic for most of us, Darby is likeable and easy to relate to. She may have a glamour job, but she also has some truly embarrassing moments in the course of the book; I cringed on her behalf, but could really relate. The inside look at book tours, TV show appearances, and red carpet events was also a lot of fun.

What I didn’t like: I thought Darby was a bit too quick to forgive; but then, I might just be a champion grudge holder. I also didn’t find her incredibly strong attachment to her stepchildren too believable until I learned more about Darby’s childhood later in the book.

Overall: This story is both funny and touching, and I read the book in one sitting. It was quick and entertaining, with a nice combination of chick lit and romance elements. I would definitely read more by this author.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

July Romantic Times on the Shelf

Roxanne St. Claire’s Bullet Catcher’s series is the feature story of this month’s RT. Also featured are an interview with romantic suspense author Lisa Gardner and a story on several established authors who mentor new writers. For those of you who are aspiring writers, the Pros on Prose section contains advice from several best selling authors on avoiding the dreaded middle-of-the-book-plot-sag, as well as an agents perspective on revealing too much plot too soon. Author spotlights include Elin Hildebrand, Joanna Bourne, Kathleen Tessaro, and several others. As usual there are 250 book reviews and a list of top picks for July releases. If you find something you’d like to read, please let us know!

Monday, June 2, 2008

When Romance Goes Wrong

As fond as we may be of all these stories with a happily-ever-after at the end, we all know that sometimes things just don’t work out. Sometimes Prince Charming turns out to be a lying, cheating scumbag with a mother who makes the Wicked Witch of the West look like someone you’d like to lunch with regularly. Once you’ve kicked him to the curb, you are left with nothing but memories – and the occasional bauble that you might prefer to turn into cold hard cash rather than wear again. What’s a newly single girl to do? Sell the sparklies and go buy some sexy shoes, of course! How? you may ask, or Where? At Ex-boyfriend, a website devoted to unloading unwanted gifts from your former Significant Other. Better still, you don’t just post your stuff for sale, you get to blog about it. Tell the story of those Tiffany earrings or the engagement ring for the wedding that wasn’t, in as little or as much detail as you want. This is by far the most entertaining feature of the site, especially in the “Gifts that should have been jewelry” category. So if life is such that you just can’t stand another happy ending, cue up a really good “this man done me wrong” song, and check out the website. You might find it useful someday. As the site’s motto says “You don’t want it. He can’t have it back.” So there.