Thursday, September 25, 2008

On the Book Cart

There are two brand new entries into the paranormal romance category on the car this week: The Accidental Demon Slayer by Angie Fox and Jinx by Jennifer Estep. Both look like great romantic comedy capers with a supernatural twist. There is a reissue of Linda Francis Lee’s Sinfully Sexy for contemporary romance fans. If you prefer romantic suspense, pick up Lora Leigh’s two latest Navy SEALs novels: Wild Card and Killer Secrets. Christina Skye’s latest Draycott Abbey story, To Catch A Thief. We’ve filled in a couple of trilogies by ordering the 2007 releases Ice Blue by Anne Stuart and Dead Giveaway by Brenda Novak. Ice Blue revolves around a global chase for a priceless relic, and Dead Giveaway revives a cold case in Mississippi; both promise plenty of romance and adventure.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Weekend Reading: When He Was Bad

When He Was Bad
Miss Congeniality by Shelly Laurenston
Wicked Ways by Cynthia Eden

I had a lot on my “to do” list this weekend, and didn’t get through nearly enough of it.

Frankly, I blame Michele.

Yes, Michele Reilly, everyone’s favorite substitute librarian and FOL President. It’s all her fault, really. It began several months ago when I mentioned that while I read and enjoyed both contemporary and historical romances, I just couldn’t get into paranormals because I was not a huge vampire fan. “Ah, well,” she said, “maybe you should try some of these authors.” Then she scribbled a list of names and sent me trotting off to the spin racks in search of wizards and werewolves and other long-leggedy (and totally buff) beasties. As a former reader of fantasy, science fiction, and anything to do with ghosts, witches and wizards, I found that I really enjoyed the paranormal twist after all.

The next thing you know, I’m planning a “Paranormal Romance” display. I have been dutifully researching new releases and popular series and ordering boxloads of new paperbacks. Some would say this is symptomatic of a problem, but I like to think of it as just being really thorough in my Collection Development duties. In fact, I am so dedicated that I take it one step further and try to read at least one book by every author I order. For instance, last week when I saw that two new anthologies featuring authors I had not yet read had arrived in the library, I briefly considered the mountains of laundry in my bathroom, the list of errands in my agenda, and all the things in the yard that really needed my attention. Then I plucked both titles off of the new book cart and headed out for the weekend, vowing to read very, very quickly.

Am I a good little librarian or what?!?

When I got home I cracked open When He Was Bad, which contains stories by Cynthia Eden and Shelly Laurenston. Both feature shape shifters, with a vampire guest starring as the villain in Eden’s Wicked Ways. Though the stories differ somewhat in tone, neither disappoints.

Wicked Ways is the story of Miranda Shaw, a high school teacher looking forward to a summer vacation of relaxation and recreational dating. In a stroke of really, really bad luck, the antique loving gentleman that Miranda meets through an online dating site turns out to be a vampire. Not just your run of the mill vampire, but one who happens to be a brutal serial killer. Even in the vampire world, such behavior is considered really bad form. Fortunately, Miranda is rescued by her sexy new neighbor, Cain Lawson, who turns out to be a shapeshifter on leave from the FBI. Cain has had a little thing for Miranda since he moved in next door, and can’t believe she has had the poor taste to date a vampire. After chasing off the bad guy, Cain realizes that Miranda had no idea what she was getting involved with; she has no knowledge of the population of Other that inhabits the world right alongside her. So Cain has the unenviable task of explaining to his new love interest that he is actually a jaguar in a man’s body, and that she has now become the target of a psycho killer of the Undead variety. Not the best starting point for any relationship, but the two still manage to join forces to track down the killer and a hot love affair ensues. This is a quick, suspenseful read; a little violent, but not over the top. In spite of the short length, you do get a good sense of the characters and the emotional arc of the story is satisfying.

In Miss Congeniality Shelly Laurenston combines romance, humor and suspense as she tells the story of Dr. Irene Conridge, a brilliant, detached and relentlessly logical scientist. Irene has for many years fascinated Niles Van Holtz, of the local wealthy, influential and shapeshifting Van Holtz clan. Van, as his friends call him, is rich, handsome, and in line to be the next Alpha male of his pack. He can’t figure out why Irene won’t give him the time of day. The happy-go-lucky wolf in formal attire makes a point of chatting her up at every University event. Since the Van Holtz family are generous donors, Irene must be relatively civil to the man she finds arrogant and empty-headed. The former child prodigy is interested only in her experiments. Unfortunately for Irene, the agents of several governments are also interested in her experiments, which leads to a near death experience in the woods just outside town. Van rescues Irene, takes her back to the Van Holtz estate to heal, and a hot, if somewhat antagonistic, love affair ensues. This one is a lot of fun, as the incorrigible Van does everything possible to insinuate himself into Irene’s life, while she fights the attraction because he is disrupting her well ordered existence. The initially chilly Irene is really quite likeable, and Van is a bad boy with a heart of gold. The supporting cast is equally entertaining, making for an all around enjoyable story.

There are more books by both Eden and Laurenston on the shelf and on order. Because I am so virtuous, I will not hoard them in my To Be Read pile. You will be able to find them in the paranormal romance display any day now.
Unless I get through more of my "to do" list at home.
If I do, all bets are off...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

On the Book Cart

Only a few new items this week. Debbie Macomber’s Promise, Texas is here, reissued in an easier to read trade paperback size. Author Francis Ray has a new entry in her Grayson Friends series; The Way You Love Me is former Army Ranger Shane Elliott’s story. With Halloween right around the corner, there’s no better time for a little paranormal romance. There are two new anthologies in: When He Was Bad features Miss Congeniality by Shelly Laurenston and Wicked Ways by Cynthia Eden; Everlasting Bad Boys contains stories by Laurenston (Can’t Get Enough) and Eden (Spellbound) as well as Turn Me On by Noelle Mack. I love picking up anthologies; it’s a way to try out a new author without having to commit to a full length novel. I’ve never read any of Laurenston so I am looking forward to sampling her work over the weekend. Will report back with my thoughts next week!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

October Romantic Times on the Shelf

The latest issue of RT landed on my desk and I was happy to see that the cover story is about one of my favorite romantic suspense authors – Cherry Adair. The creator of T-FLAC is back this fall with a new paranormal trilogy; titles will be released in October, November and December. Night Fall, Night Secrets, and Night Shadow feature a trio of wizards whom Adair describes as “foster brothers, of sorts” and are set in the exotic locales the author is known for. Check out her website for the “mission intel” and reserve your copies today.
Also featured is an interview with author Heather Graham, who discusses her new series and how she got started in writing. Other stories include a look at western historicals, which seem to be making a comeback; how the work of a forensic artist inspires a new novel by author Laura Griffin, and a calendar of winter book releases. In addition, you will find the usual fan forum, author clubhouse, and 250 book reviews. There’s a lot to look forward to this fall and winter; stop by the Reference Desk and make your requests!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Weekend Reading Part II: The Dream-Hunter

Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series has legions of fans, and I’ve been meaning to read one for awhile now. I was finally inspired by the arrival of Acheron in hardcover; since there was a lengthy waiting list for that I grabbed The Dream-Hunter, a fairly recent release and the only Kenyon on the shelf at the time. I wasn’t really sure what to expect; I had heard something about vampires. I had heard something about demons. I had heard something about Greek mythology. The only thing I heard from pretty much everyone who had read any of the Dark-Hunter books was that they are smart and edgy and often funny. That was good enough for me, so I dove into Dream-Hunter, and found that the book lived up to its billing.

The story revolves around Arikos, a dream god who has become obsessed with Megeara, an archaeologist who is searching for the remains of Atlantis. Arikos and the other dream gods have been cursed with the inability to feel emotions unless they are actively involved in the dreams of a human. Though they can experience pain, the rest of their existence is drab and void of sensation. Megeara, who is straitlaced and focused in her waking life, is a vivid and uninhibited dreamer, and once Arikos finds her, he becomes obsessed with her. He decides that living through her dreams is not enough; he wants to meet her in the flesh, so to speak, and therefore needs to become human for a time. So he decides to make a deal with Hades. The god of the underworld is not above bargaining with lesser immortals, but proves that when dealing with someone who can determine the course of your afterlife, it behooves you to read the fine print. Arikos agrees too readily to Hades’ request for a human soul in exchange for time as a human, and is appalled to find that he will have only two weeks in human form, and at the end of it must return to the underworld with Megeara’s soul, or take her place. Megeara, meanwhile, is close to discovering Atlantis, and will stop at nothing to do so. Unfortunately, there are any number of immortal beings who don’t want the ancient city unearthed, because of a vicious goddess they imprisoned there eons ago. While Arikos tries to ingratiate himself with Megeara and she tries to get to Atlantis in spite of all the odd things that keep getting in her way, the oddest of all being the sexy guy she has previously only seen in her dreams. Throw into the mix a handmaiden of Artemis, Dream-world enforcers, angry demi-gods, and the whole dysfunctional family housed on Olympus, and it’s a wonder Arikos and Megeara manage to not only survive, but fall in love.

There are numerous plot twists and layers in this book, and I’m sure I would have appreciated some of them more if I had read the earlier books. However, Kenyon is so skilled at working in enough detail and back story that I didn’t feel out of the loop in any way. Not all authors can do this well and I am grateful that Kenyon can. I really enjoyed the portrayal of Olympians in modern times – it had an element of Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Greek mythology without ever getting campy or ridiculous. In fact, the immortals’ behaviors and mannerisms all made a great deal in sense in light of their history. The entire cast of characters is great, the details of archaeology and history are interesting, and both the romance and the suspense are well done. I’ll definitely be adding the rest of the Dark-Hunter books to the collection, and working them into my “to be read” list.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Weekend Reading Part I

My reading this past week has varied wildly; I’ve hit quite a few subgenres in my quest to read a little something by most of the authors in the collection. This past weekend I not only finished up an older Jayne Castle, I also worked my way through Sherrilyn Kenyon’s The Dream-Hunter and finally got to the last half of Jasmine Haynes The Fortune Hunter. The latter is a contemporary erotic romance and the former is paranormal crossing between modern day Greece and the Kenyon’s well established world of the Dark Hunters.

In The Fortune Hunter Haynes takes a fairly standard storyline and turns it into a very sexy love story. Faith Castle is the only child and heir apparent to Castle Heavy Mining, but the curvaceous kindergarten teacher wants nothing more than to work with children and start a family of her own. Connor Kingston is an up-by-the-bootstraps executive in search of a company to run; having been orphaned as a teenager and emotionally scarred by the foster care system, Connor views marriage as a business arrangement. Now he just has to convince Faith that by getting married, they can each provide the other with exactly what they need to get the life that they want. The insecure Faith is hesitant. After years of fending off men who professed their love for her in order to get their hands on the family company, she appreciates Connor’s honesty. She also finds him very attractive and genuinely likeable, but doesn’t want to be humiliated by a philandering spouse. Connor finds Faith absolutely delicious, and is happy to assure her of complete fidelity as long as she is willing to engage in a no holds barred sex life. The two strike a bargain, and in spite of her father’s protests, they marry. As Faith’s confidence in her own appeal grows, and as Connor learns to trust in her support, what started as a mercenary arrangement becomes a real love story. Though Faith’s father and various other characters try to break up the newlyweds, Connor and Faith manage to stick together and eventually triumph.
This story is much more than a collection of hot sex scenes strung along a tired plotline. The main characters are well drawn and truly likeable; I really felt for Faith as she worked her way through her body image issues and gained confidence. Connor is smart and sexy, and the secondary characters are vivid. The love scenes – and by midway through the book they are truly love scenes – are steamy and explicit, so if you prefer euphemisms and a discreet fade to black this is not your book. Otherwise, it’s a very satisfying twist on a tried and true plot. The follow-up, Show and Tell, is the story of Faith’s friend Trinity; it looks equally good and is also available from the library.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

On the Book Cart

More reissues and replacements this week, with a few notable exceptions. Roxanne St. Claire’s latest Bullet Catchers title is in; Now You Die is the story of Lucy Sharpe, the firm’s owner, and Jack Culver, a former lover and Bullet Catcher that she fired. This is the third in a trilogy that follows the story of a woman wrongly convicted of murder and the hunt for the daughters she gave up. I am looking forward to reading Lucy’s story; I really enjoyed the first book in the trilogy, and while the heroine in the second was so annoying I started rooting for the bad guys, the overarching story line was still compelling.
Out in hardcover are two stories of reevaluating love. Rogue by Danielle Steel tells the story of Maxine, an amicably divorced woman who is all set to remarry when her ex-husband experiences a life altering event. He needs Maxine’s help with a humanitarian project, and proximity forces the two to confront some unsettled issues between them. Cartoonist Sarah Moon sees her “perfect life” go up in smoke in Just Breathe by Susan Wiggs. She returns to her hometown and runs into the high school heart throb that she had never expected to see again, and has to rethink her definition of “perfect.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Quick Looks: Wild & Hexy

Wild & Hexy
by Vicki Lewis Thompson


Annie left Big Knob, Indiana 10 years ago with a big bang - off to a big name college, marrying the high school heartthrob, landing a great TV anchor position at a well known network in Chicago. Now, divorced and 20 pounds overweight (which resulted in her having been let go from her TV job) she’s a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Coming home to act as matron of honor for her sister's wedding couldn't have come at a worse time for Annie’s floundering self-esteem. However, the surprise is that the best man is proving to be way more of a distraction than she could have ever imagined he would be.

Jeremy Dunstan is everyone's favorite geek in the small town of Big Knob, especially since he's just opened an internet coffee house called the Click-or-Treat Cafe. He's had a big time crush on former beauty queen Annie Winston since high school and is thrilled that she's back in town for a couple weeks. However, he's still so shy and clumsy around her that he despairs of ever catching her interest romantically.
Enter Dorcas and Ambrose Lowell, a couple of wacky newcomers who have opened a matchmaking business. What isn't so well known is that they just happen to be a witch and wizard who are in the business of bringing together soul-mates. A little boost in confidence for Jeremy is just what they think is needed to push this romance along - that and maybe a close encounter with a lonely loch monster!!

This one was really fun. Some silly, some serious. I really loved Jeremy but Annie could have used a bit of a goose toward the end. I also thought the dragon with ADD and the poker playing raccoons were just a bit over the top but....ooops, did I give too much away? Hmmmm. Well, this was the second book by Lewis set in Big Knob and I liked it enough to check out the first – Over Hexed. I started it the other night and it promises to be fun as well. If you like romantic comedy with a little paranormal twist, try either of these titles!

Reviewed by Michele