Wednesday, January 27, 2010

February RT Book Reviews on the Shelf

The February issue of RT Book Reviews is in and features a cover story on Lori Foster's return to contemporary romance with the release of Back in Black, book five of her popular Fighter series. Since I've long been a fan of musical mash-ups, I was interested to see a feature story on the literary equivalent. Who knew what Pride and Prejudice and Zombies would lead to? Another interesting feature is a "Where are they now?" story that gives updates on 18 authors, all fan favorites, who have not published recently. There are longer features on the latest offerings from Laura Kinsale, Janet Evanovich, and Jennifer Estep. Author spotlights include P.J. Parrish, Connie Willis, Noah Byrd, L.J. Smith, and Catherine Fisher. Also included are the regular features such as Pros on Prose and the Fan Forum, along with 250+ book reviews. Enjoy!

Friday, January 22, 2010

His Lady Mistress, via Kindle

His Lady Mistress
By Elizabeth Rolls

This is a Harlequin Historical first published in 2005; I found it in the Kindle store for free two weeks ago. The price tag, or lack thereof, combined with the premise, made me download it even though the author was unfamiliar. The story has a few intriguing elements: the heroine, Verity Scott, is the daughter of an army officer who returned from the Battle of Waterloo with one arm amputated. He arrives home to find that his wife has died in childbirth along with an infant son, and both were buried the day before. He has nothing to help with his physical pain and grief but laudanum, and after two years commits suicide, leaving Verity to face the consequences. She is aided in her desire to give her father a decent burial by a man named Max, clearly a gentleman, who appears shortly after her father's death. He once served under Verity's father, who was injured saving him in battle. Once he hears that Verity's uncle will be arriving to take her in, he watches over her for the night, gets her some food, and then he is on his way. Verity ends up with her relatives, the Faringdons, who treat her like a servant but for some unknown reason refuse to let her leave them and force her to change her name. Five years later, Max's conscience gets the better of him, and he arrives at the Faringdons' to check on Verity, only to be led to beleive that she has taken her own life. Though he feels guilty, he manages to console himself with a housemaid who has caught his eye, one Selina, who is none other than --- Verity!! One thing leads to another and she agrees to become his mistress; as soon as he finds out who she is he feels obligated to marry her. The two must then work out their mutual distrust in order to find a happily ever after.
I have to admit that both Verity and Max had me rolling my eyes more than once. Their complete lack of communication, the leaping to conclusions (Max), the noble suffering (Verity), the unnecessary guilt which leads to misunderstanding followed by more noble suffering (both of them) -- all these things really bogged down a story and characters with lots of potential. I loved the historical details, the Cinderella story elements of the plot, the secondary characters, and the setting. Unfortunately, Max and Verity jsut didn't live up to their potential.
Overall, I still liked the book enough to try other titles by this author, and for a free book it was a great distraction and certainly qualifies as "good enough." I also have to admit that some of my frustration may have been due to the format. When I am getting impatient with a plot or character, I tend to flip ahead and see how many pages until the next chapter, or I'll skim for a bit to see if things pick up. With the Kindle I couldn't just flip around in the book, which was a little irritating. I still love using it, but this is really the one big drawback that I have found.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Of Kindles and Free Love

So I got this Kindle for Christmas, and I was really excited, but kind of torn. On the one hand it's a cool gadget, and owning it means I won't have to haul a totebag of books through the airport every time I go on vacation. On the other hand, I've gotten pretty used to not having to pay for books, since I work at a library and can usually put my hands on five or six things I'd like to read that I can take home for free, and then return, thus avoiding both cost and clutter. I was therefore having a hard time talking myself into buying ebooks; clutter free yes, cost free no. And then, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a whole slew of FREE ebooks! Not just the public domain stuff either, but some relatively new releases by both mid-list and bestselling authors, including many romance titles. EUREKA!! Not only can I get my favorite classics (Pride and Prejudice, anyone?) but I can also try some new authors that are not currently in the library collection, and see if I feel they are worth buying with our limited budget. So, while I still have some very mixed feelings about the whole proprietary nature of the Amazon Kindle e-reader experience, I am definitely becoming a fan of the format and the freebies. In fact, my next review will cover His Lady Mistress by Elizabeth Rolls, currently underway via Kindle. Watch this space for a review of both book and e-reading experience!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sun, Sand and Serial Killers

By Karen Robards

Christy Petrino grew up on the periphery of organized crime. Her father was gunned down in a mob hit that she witnessed as a child. Her mother’s advice to her was to always have a gun handy. Christy decided that this was not the life she wanted, so she tried to avoid the criminal element in her family and her Philadelphia neighborhood and eventually graduated from law school. Then she took a job for Michael DePalma’s law firm. Christy presumed that Michael, like her, was someone who wanted to live life on the straight and narrow in spite of his family connections to the local mob. Oops – slight miscalculation on Christy’s part, but she doesn’t figure that out until she’s engaged to the man. When she confronts him, he admits the truth and ensures her silence by making her an offer she can’t refuse: she can deliver a briefcase (contents unknown) for him, or put her own life and that of her family at risk. Once she’s made the delivery, she’s implicated in a crime, and can’t say anything or her career and reputation are done for, so Michael is counting on the fact that she’ll keep her mouth shut. Thus when we meet Christy she is on Okracoke Island off the coast of Carolina, having delivered the briefcase and awaiting further instructions. She’s taking a late night walk on the beach when an unshakeable sense of menace sends her running for home, fearing she’s being stalked by a hit man. She stumbles over an injured young woman on the sand, but her fear propels her home to her cottage to call for help. There she stumbles into the arms of Luke Rand, her new neighbor. Luke professes to be just another vacationer looking for his cat, but he starts asking a lot of pointed questions. He may be a hottie, but Christy can’t trust him, or anybody, as she tries to figure out if her experience on the beach is the result of a botched hit or an accidental encounter with a serial killer. Luke is keeping a few secrets of his own, but as his interest in Christy grows more personal, he decides protecting her is just as important as figuring out what’s going on.

This is the first Karen Robards book I’ve read, and I really enjoyed it. The story is well plotted, with lots of twists and red herrings, and is paced at a breakneck speed. The action is fast and furious, and if it is sometimes as over-the-top as one of the Bourne Identity films, it’s so much fun you don’t really care! Though I really felt that Christy was more than a little na├»ve given her family background, I could let it go because her actions were pretty believable during the course of the story. Luke is a likeable hero, and the secondary cast of characters is great. This is good, solid romantic suspense, and I would definitely read more by this author.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

On the Book Cart

January releases are in, with a little something in every category:

Susan Crandall Sleep No More
Stephanie Tyler Too Hot to Hold
Heather Graham Unhallowed Ground
Elisabeth Naughton Stolen Seduction

Kat Martin Reese's Bride
Elizabeth Boyle How I Met My Countess
Kate Moore To Tempt a Saint
Sarah Elliott The Earl and the Governess
Courtney Milan Proof by Seduction
Kate Emerson Between Two Queens
Kaki Warner Pieces of Sky

Lara Adrian Shades of Midnight

Robyn Carr Forbidden Falls
Catherine Anderson Early Dawn
Sherrill Bodine A Black Tie Affair
Victoria Dahl Lead Me On

Monday, January 11, 2010

Best Books of 2009 - Romance Category

My personal reading list has been feeling a bit stale of late. I've been rather...bored? disenchanted? with some of the regular authors I follow and on the lookout for new names. The library has our annual display of the "best books" from various publisher lists, so I thought I'd cull out the romance titles to see what made the cut. Definitely lots of potential here and I was pleased to see that we'd already reviewed a couple here on Passion Postings. Now I just need the time to read!!

Check these out - and don't forget to submit your review for the Winter Reading Club.

Captive of Sin by Anna Campbell (historical)
Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz (contemporary Arcane Society series)
So Enchanting by Connie Brockway (historical)
Soulless by Gail Carriger (paranormal - first in a series)
Star Bright by Catherine Anderson (romantic suspense)
To Catch a Bride by Anne Gracie (historical)
What I Did for Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (contemporary)

~Submitted by Michele

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tracing the Untraceable

By Laura Griffin
Contemporary Romantic Suspense

Alexandra Lovell is a private investigator with top notch computer skills, which she periodically employs to help clients who are victims of domestic violence drop out of sight and start new lives elsewhere. She also does regular PI work, like investigating insurance fraud and the like, but she has a real soft spot for the abuse victims who come through her office door. Thus she ends up helping Melanie Bess, who shows up with a sad story about being abused by her police officer husband. Melanie has been roughed up and is certainly terrified, so Alex helps her “disappear.” A few months later, an attorney comes looking for Melanie, explaining that she has inherited some money. Alex denies all knowledge, but tries to reach Melanie only to find that she has disappeared for real. No answer on her secret emergency cell phone, and she has left her apartment and her job in the city she moved to. Alex fears that Melanie’s ex caught up with her, and so she turns to a police officer friend of her own – Nathan Devereaux – to help her out. Nathan and Alex have always had a little thing for each other but it has never gone anywhere, so both like the idea of joining forces. As the two of them start digging, they find that there is a lot more going on than either suspected, and the stakes – and danger quotient – just keep getting higher.

As a suspense novel, this is really enjoyable. The pace is fast, the threats are believable, and there’s enough intrigue to keep you guessing until pretty close to the end. I only had a few issues with the book, but one of them was pretty big: I really don’t like Alex. I have no problem with the fact that she bends the rules, ignores a few laws, sneaks and schemes and is generally devious as she outsmarts the bad guys. Those are the traits I like about her. What I don’t like is her attitude. She likes to play it tough and independent, but comes off as bratty and occasionally stupid. She’s a smart person who does stupid things, like not thoroughly checking the stories of the people who walk into her office. She doesn’t want to trust or let others get too close, because – get this – she had a really boring, stable childhood, and doesn’t want to have a boring life like her parents. No, really. In spite of all this stability, she makes it her personal mission to help victims of domestic violence, to the point of letting them get away with not paying her. Why? I couldn’t find a reasonable explanation, unless it’s a Cause of the Month type of thing. And then there’s Melanie – the current victim. Here’s a woman who does so much to sabotage herself that she falls squarely into the Too Stupid To Live category. Frankly, I had decided early on that she deserved whatever miserable fate was in store for her, if only to remove such brainless DNA from the gene pool. But wait!!! *spoiler follows* It’s too late for that because there’s a SECRET BABY!!!!
Spare me.

So, there’s a lot to like about this book, but a few things really didn’t work for me. Given how strong the suspense plot elements are though, and how intelligently it’s put together, I am still glad I read it and would not only recommend it, but would read more by this author. This is the beginning of a new series from Griffin, so I will look for the next Tracer book and give it a try.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Winter Reading Club – Read Books, Write Reviews, Win Prizes!!!

So, it’s like 15 degrees out with no warm weather in sight, the holidays are over, and the winter blahs have set in with a vengeance. You can either give in to Seasonal Affective Disorder, or you can find something to do that will perk you up – for example, the VPL Winter Reading Club. All you do is read books, any books (and you were going to do that anyway, right?) and then go to our website and submit a short review for publication on one of the library blogs. You are then automatically entered into a weekly prize drawing for gift certificates, books, and tote bags. Simple, no? Check out all the details here, and then break out your snuggie and warm beverage and start reading!