Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reading Romances Challenge 2012

Well Here it is almost December and I am getting my ducks in a row....or rather my 2012 Reading Challenges in order. I love challenges. I never really need an excuse to read but challenging me to read a certain number of books or specific type of books gives me just a little more of a thrill. I especially love to make lists of the possible books I could read to satisfy one challenge or another. Yep, I'm a list maker.
Anyway, over at one of my favorite blogs Reading Romances there is an awesome challenge that focuses on my favorite genre (romance of course). I have to join in. Looks like every month there will be a different theme to follow which is pretty cool and I should be able to find all the books I need to participate in my well stocked TBR located in my spare room, under my bed, in the hall closet, behind my bedroom door, etc. Why don't you come join me on this challenge. It starts 01/01/12 and runs through 12/31/12. You can join anytime from now until mid December 2012 (yes that means you can actually join in on the last two weeks of next year because this is all about fun...the more the merrier...join in whenever!) 


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wife For Hire by Janet Evanovich

Synopsis: The Prospective Husband with a Racy Past... — Hank Mallone spotted trouble when she sat down and said she'd marry him! Maggie Toone was a tempting firecracker who'd make his life delightful hell if he let her pretend to be his wife in order to improve his rogue's reputation. Would his harebrained scheme to get a bank loan for his business backfire once Maggie arrived in his small Vermont town and let the gossips take a look? 

Maggie never expected her employer to be drop-dead handsome, or to affect her like a belt of bourbon on her empty stomach, but she was too intrigued by his offer to say no... and too eager to escape a life that made her feel trapped. The deal was strictly business, both agreed... until Hank turned out to be every fantasy she'd ever had, and Maggie was so bright, funny, and downright irresistible that Hank fell head over heels in love! While the town watched, Hank wooed his wife with a charm that had never failed him yet. Could he make her dreams real by proving she belonged in his arms?

My Thoughts: An average read by one of my favorite authors. These Pre-Plum books are just short fun little reads that are more of a filler between better reads. That may sound harsh but I'm not trying to sound that way. Evanovich is my go to girl for fun. I will pick up a Plum book knowing it will make me smile and not tax my brain. These early books are even less taxing. They are the Extra Brand Chewing Gum you chew between meals hoping that they will satisfy you until you can gorge yourself on real food.

This book is short and sweet. Typical of her early books the man falls for the lady early on (read this as meaning love at first site) and then spends much of the book convincing her she loves him back. The man is a total hottie and the girl is a cute spunky gal that ends up being trouble with a capital T. 

Many of these characters appear to be early prototypes for her Plum characters. One of my favorites being Elsie Hawkins. Many of these early books have her as a secondary character. I love her. She would be Grandma Mazur later on in the Plum books. Her character is enough for me to keep reading these early books. You usually find a dog in these books too. In one case the dog's name is Bob which you will recognize from the Plum books if you have read them.

There was a slight mystery as to why people were breaking into the house and if Aunt Kitty's diaries are what they are after. The mystery aspect is weak and the only reason I bring it up is to mention that because of the break-ins  a bit of mayhem ensues. Mostly in the form of Elsie packing a gun and firing it through walls and stuff.

I would recommend this book to fans of Evanovich who need a quick filler read. If you like Harlequin type books this should be right up your alley. 


Quicksilver by Amanda Quick

Synopsis: Virginia Dean wakes at midnight beside a dead body, with a bloody knife in her hand and no memory of the evening's events. Dark energy emanating from the mirrors lining the room, overpowers her senses. With no apparent way in or out, she's rescued by a man she's only met once before, but won't soon forget...

... Owen Sweetwater inherited his family's talent for hunting the psychical monsters who prey on London's women and children, and his investigation into the deaths of two glass-readers has led him here. The high-society types of the exclusive Arcane Society would consider Virginia an illusionist, a charlatan, even a criminal. But Owen knows better, Virginia's powers are real -- and so is the power she exerts over him simply with her presence. And if her abilities can be relied upon in the midst of great danger, they just might be the key to his investigation.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed this book for the most part but it wasn't a favorite though. It really started out great. Very thrillerish. I really liked the mystery of who was killing the glass light readers and the chemistry between Virginia and Owen was excellent but very little is really said about Owen's psychical gift other than he can kill with it if he chooses and that he isn't really a Hunter but does have some characteristics.

I thought so much time was focused on the investigation and the connection between the two characters that the characters themselves somehow suffered for it. I liked that Owen was a Sweetwater because the mysterious Sweetwater family is mentioned later in the Jayne Ann Krentz installments of the series but the air of mystery surrounding the Sweetwater family is somewhat explained but not to the degree I was satisfied with.

The ending was wrapped up a bit too quickly and the last few paragraphs felt almost pointless to me. I think I would have preferred an ending that had both Virginia and Owen going into business together like Jones and Jones. I think it would have made for a better ending than something along the lines of and they gazed lovingly into each other eyes and knew their love would last a lifetime. Now that isn't how it really ended but you get the idea.

Oh and the title refers to something called the Quicksilver Mirror which is an alchemical weapon of sorts that anyone with a degree of psychical talent could use against another talent to blind that other person's talent to the point of permanent if they wanted. So the device was used. Virginia investigated the mirror. It was discussed briefly and then nothing else was said about it. This happened about 3/4 of the way into the book. It lasted a chapter or maybe two then....nothing. So weird.

All The Pretty Girls by J.T. Ellison

Synopsis:  When a local girl falls prey to a sadistic serial killer, Nashville Homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson and her lover, FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin, find themselves in a joint investigation pursuing a vicious murderer. The Southern Strangler is slaughtering his way through the Southeast, leaving a gruesome memento at each crime scene -- the prior victim's severed hand.

Ambitious TV reporter Whitney Connolly is certain the Southern Strangler is her ticket out of Nashville; she's got a scoop that could break the case. She has no idea how close to this story she really is -- or what it will cost her.

As the killer spirals out of control, everyone involved must face a horrible truth -- the purest evil is born of private lies

My thoughts: I thought it was an ok thriller but not the best I've read. It felt as if I was missing an entire book that came before ATPG but this is actually the first one. The relationship between Baldwin and Taylor is already in full swing and there is little to no romance in this book making it feel more of a thriller than romantic suspense. Their relationship did progress but I would have liked to see more of it. Also the first half of the book talked quite a bit about her trying to cope with almost dying in an incident that happened before this book started. That incident was the turning point in her and Baldwin's relationship marking them as a couple. We came into the story after that was all done. I would have liked to have read about it first hand instead of reading about it rehashed as if I should have already known about it. The last half of the book didn't mention her struggle to get back to normal at all.

The plot was muddied quite a bit with another case that was thrown on Taylor that had absolutely nothing to do with the serial killer one Baldwin was working on. I originally thought this book was Taylor's story but it turned into Baldwin's while we see him trying to figure out the serial killers next move.

There seemed to be quite a few plot threads that were thrown in but didn't seem to have much to do with the main story. The addition of the Special Agent Grimes saga felt gratuitous as an OMG factor and the story could have continued nicely without it. In addition the motive behind the serial killer's spree seems a stretch if best. I find it hard to believe that what appears to be a good person would suddenly decide to start murdering and dismembering a specific type of woman. In most cases when authorities dive into the back ground of most serial killers there were red flags that popped up as early as childhood. I can't buy that a person would start with killing one woman and find they really enjoyed doing and progress rapidly into a frenzied psycho killer. We have to accept the "crazy" card in this case as the killer's motive and means. I just can't.

I also thought that the additional Whitney thread was interesting but I honestly didn't understand how she came up with the knowledge of who the killer was based on some emails with parts of well known poems on them. As there was one 'suspect' and then the real killer I'm still not sure if Whitney actually knew the killer's identity or if she fell for the 'red herring'.

One last thought. I am extremely character driven when it comes to the books I read. I felt that the characters in this book were not as fleshed out as I would have liked. I think the author tried to make them seem more human but didn't quite accomplish it. Neither Baldwin nor Taylor seem very real to me after finishing this book. Great characters should stay with you when the book is done. These do not.

I will read more by this author but will not rush to do so.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Italian's Future Bride by Michelle Reid

Back Blurb: If there's a baby, then she'll be his bride

Eligible bachelor Rafaelle Villani is used to loving his women...and leaving them. Until his freedom is compromised by a candid newspaper photo, which suggests he has finally fallen...for Rachel Carmichael. Soon the world's press is reporting their engagement!

Rafaelle claims his fake fiancee; twenty-four hours later Rachel has been passionately seduced--and fears she has conceived his baby. So, Rafaelle demands that Rachel pretend to be his future bride!

My Thoughts: I think I always start out my reviews for Harlequin type books saying I rarely read them. Maybe I don't, but I should. When I tally my books read over the course of the year Harlequins take up less than 2% of them. I don't read them all the time because I think they just don't give me enough of a decent story and a good enough romance. Not all of them of course but in general. This book is not an exception to that rule. It is an average offering from the Category Market.

The back blurb does not really do the plot justice because the potential baby scare is in the book but it isn't front runner in the plot. Most of the conflict comes from Rachel and her family's plot to get her picture taken with Rafaelle by the paparazzi in a somewhat compromising pose to save her sister's marriage. What ensues is him pretty much kidnapping her to find out why, her telling the whole story, her family abandoning her while she was in his clutches to continue their much more important lives, him twisting the scene to include their pretend engagement and a whole lot of hot monkey sex.

I was pretty amazed by the amount of sex in this book. I admit to still be under the (apparently) misguided impression that Harlequin Presents is the 'virginal' more prudish member of the Harlequin line. With that said the other stereotypes that category a Presents is still alive and kicking. Tall handsome foreign extremely rich older man--check. Inexperienced young shy not breathtakingly but still beautiful woman--check.

Anyway, lots of sex. I do have to say that there was a lot of passion in this book. The characters fought (verbally) with passion and had a lot of sex (passionately). With all the arguing and sex I was hard pressed to see much of a relationship blossoming but never fear the last 3 pages did have the I Love You's we all come to expect. I knew it was coming but just didn't see how they got there. I saw a lot of mistrust, accusations, arguing, and sex but little else.

As far as the writing, Reid, kept my interest with the conflict between the characters and her dialogue flowed well. There were a couple glaringly obvious typos that pulled me out of the story but overall this book kept my interest. I never once thought about throwing it against the wall and was glad that the couple managed to put their fighting aside to fall in love (despite that I didn't see how they happened along that particular emotion.) On the other hand I would have liked more romance and less sex. I would have liked a bit more character building from Rafaelle because he is still somewhat of a mystery to me and it would have been nice if Rachel's family learned a lesson about their selfish behavior for feeding her to the wolves (um wolf).

So that pretty much balances out to an average book. I'd read more from this author if I need a short book to add between my longer ones.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Rogue in Texas by Lorraine Heath

Synopsis: A duke's son, Grayson Rhodes was a maverick who had left London's suffocating upper class world to earn his own fortune. So he seized the chance to work Abbie Westland's land...and from the moment he first saw Abbie, he was determined to use his arms to work the farm by day and to soothe her through the nights in his strong embrace.

Abbie, with her fiery determination, was different from the fragile beauties he'd known at home. In her Grayson found an honest passion he'd never experienced before. But could their growing love survive the surprising reminder of her past that comes to haunt them?

My Thoughts: I loved the set up of this book. Rich fathers in England, tired of their off-springs haphazard ways, send them off to America to make their fortunes as a last resort. The men, thinking they are arriving to make their fortunes are surprised what they find upon arrival. They end up in a town called Fortune, Texas and each man receives room and board for their labor working on a cotton farm. None realized the grueling work they had in store for them.

The characters themselves, although decent ones, I never really warmed up to as much as I would have liked. Abbie tends to come across as an uneducated hick and Grayson acts completely different once meeting Abbie than what he was described as being. I never really saw why Gray was so smitten with Abbie. Also it appears that Abbie my have intimacy issues and Abbie's late husband is all but accused of forcing himself upon her yet she defends him to the bitter end. There are several references to Grayson not ever being loved while growing up and I ended up feeling as if I were being forced to feel sorry for him. Call me callous but I didn't. Sometimes a connection can be made between the character and the reader and sometimes there isn't.

The major twist in the book was an obvious one to me and the drama that ensues seemed to drag on while trying to wrap up the happily ever after. The final event (a Hurricane) that brought on the happily ever after felt almost out of place and I'd say unnecessary if it weren't for the major twist that needed dealt with for our hero and heroine to be together.

What I did like about this book was the romance itself was just sweet. Almost to the point of overkill but not quite. I felt the romance of this book really balances the negative aspects out and makes this an enjoyable read. Certainly not my favorite Heath and not a keeper but it has some intriguing secondary characters who have their stories told in the second and third books of this trilogy and I will definitely be reading them.