The Party Girl

Party Girl

I picked up Tamara Morgan’s The Party Girl after reading a little about it on Rosario’s blog.

Kendra Khuso isn’t looking for long-term. Her traditional Indian family believes it’s time she settled down with a parent-approved husband. Instead, she’s focused on building her business by day and then enjoying all the nightlife has to offer . . . until she meets Noah.

Noah Walker is happy with a solitary, sustainable life on a plot of land outside of town. He left a high-maintenance relationship behind him and he just wants to keep his head down and his hands busy, living off the grid and making no plans . . . until he falls for Kendra.

The attraction is mutual and their chemistry is electric. There’s just one problem: Noah’s best friend, Lincoln, is head-over-heels in love with Kendra even though she’s keeping him firmly in the friend zone. Noah refuses to break the bro code by pursuing a woman his best friend professes to love—but Kendra is determined to get her man, even if it means giving up the social scene for the simple life.

The main strength of the book is this: Morgan writes good chemistry. Kendra and Noah have a tangible attraction that practically leaps off the page. I loved reading them discuss their attraction and what to do about it in light of Lincoln’s feelings. The way this played out was ultimately very satisfying.

I was super intrigued by the idea of a hero that lived off grid. I was a little disappointed because of his reason why. I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers, but it’s basically in response to a previous relationship. *Sigh.* I realized I was judging the book based on the expectations I had going into it. Once I let those go and enjoyed the book for what it was, I liked it very much. The ending in particular was moving. The Party Girl: 4 out of 5.

Still, if anyone knows about any books where a character goes off grid (and not for some romantic suspensey reason), let me know.

Take What You Want

Take What You Want

I picked up Jeanette Grey’s Take What You Want after reading Rosario’s review of it, and I’m glad I did. I’ve been reading several angsty new adult books lately. Don’t get me wrong–I like angst–but this turned out to be a sweet story about two nice people who turn a one-night stand into something more.

College senior Ellen Price spends every spare minute studying to get into medical school. Until spring break yawns before her, as empty as her wallet.With no money to hit the beach, she fills her empty to-do list with a plan: for just one week, she will become the kind of take-no-prisoners woman she secretly wishes to be, starting with the hot guy at the bar. It’s a no-risk situation: at the end of break, he’ll head back to his campus, and she’ll go back to hers. No muss, no fuss.At first, Josh Markley isn’t sure what to think when the quiet, intense beauty from his pre-med classes approaches him for a night of casual sex. Even more mystifying, she doesn’t seem to return his recognition. But if she wants to play “strangers in a bar,” he’s game.Their passionate night is a welcome respite from life’s stress, but afterward, Josh realizes he wants more—from himself, from life, from Ellen. Except she still thinks he’s a one-off she’ll never see again. Confessing the truth now—before she figures it out on her own—could shatter the fragile beginnings of just what the doctor ordered. A forever love.

The chemistry between Josh and Ellen is palpable, so their initial encounter is very believable, and this read is plenty steamy. But I also liked their interaction outside the bedroom and the way these two changed for the better because of their relationship. Josh’s interaction with his parents is another aspect I enjoyed. So many new adults have problematic issues with parents, so this positive relationship was quite refreshing.

A couple of things struck me as weird–Ellen asking to meet Josh’s family after just a few days, for instance. But for the most part, I enjoyed Take What You Want: 4 out of 5.

 

Our Little Secret

Our Little Secret

Time for a true crime review of Our Little Secret by Kevin Flynn and Rebecca Lavoie.

For twenty years Daniel Paquette’s murder in New Hampshire went unsolved. It remained a secret between two high school friends until Eric Windhurst’s arrest in 2005. What was revealed was a crime born of adolescent passion between Eric and Daniel’s stepdaughter, Melanie–redefining the meaning of loyalty, justice, and revenge.

I was drawn to this book because I remember the Unsolved Mysteries segment about it. The case seemed so strange and mysterious. The book makes it a lot less mysterious, in part because the back cover reveals who committed the crime. Still, Our Little Secret is an interesting glimpse into how so many people could know what had happened but yet nothing was done about it for so long. Several people had small pieces of the puzzle, and those who actually knew the truth were family members who weren’t about to turn anyone in.

This book is also an interesting glimpse of what happens to a person who does something like this. Neither Eric nor Melanie is able to put it behind them. Eric in particular is weighed down by what he did. And truly, he should be. Whatever Paquette may have done to his stepdaughter–and nothing has been proven there–killing him was not the way to go about resolving it.

Our Little Secret was an engaging read that offered intriguing glimpses into the people involved: 4 out of 5.

Lisa Kleypas Marathon

Since I’ve been reading historical romances lately, I decided to catch up a bit with Lisa Kleypas. In the past few months, I’ve read It Happened One Autumn, Mine until Midnight, Seduce Me at Sunrise, Tempt Me at Twilight, and A Wallflower Christmas. Below are ratings and quick thoughts about each one.

It Happened One Autumn: I absolutely loved Kleypas’s depiction of Marcus, who is completely infatuated with Lillian and is at the same time baffled by that infatuation. Their chemistry is hot, hot, hot. 4.5 out of 5.

Mine until Midnight: I’ve had this ARC for a while—I believe I got it in San Francisco—and I’m just now reading it. It’s a fantastic read, with a hero who understands how much Amelia needs to have someone to lean on every now and then. I loved the scene where that is clear (I won’t say more to avoid giving spoilers). 4.5 out of 5.

Seduce Me at Sunrise: My least favorite of the books I read in this marathon, but still a nice installment. I find myself rereading bits of this, but they aren’t the romance. Instead, they are specific scenes between Cam and Kev. If you’ve read the book, you know which ones I mean. The connection between these characters is exceptionally well done. 4 out of 5.

Tempt Me at Twilight: My favorite of the Hathaway series so far. When Harry interfered in Poppy’s romance, I initially wondered if this would be a bit too much like Prince of Dreams, but the story plays out differently. And it fantastic to see Harry working to win her back. I actually listened to this one on audio, which was different. I often listen to audiobooks but not generally as a first read. 5 out of 5.

A Wallflower Christmas: A very nice revisit of the Wallflowers with a heartwarming romance in the bargain. 4.5 out of 5.

I still need to read Scandal in Spring (I don’t have that one), and then I’ll be caught up.

The Erotic Secrets of a French Maid

The Erotic Secrets of a French Maid

I’ve been in a reading slump lately. The result is that I read far fewer books than I used to, and I typically want to leave the ones I read behind. In other words, I don’t want think about them long enough to review them). So it’s been pretty silent at this blog of late.

However, I read a book yesterday that I felt like reviewing, so I figured I’d go with the feeling. The book is The Erotic Secrets of a French Maid by Lisa Cach.

After an unsuccessful search for her dream job in architecture, Emma Mayson becomes a maid for an incredibly handsome, wealthy entrepeneur. But Russell Carrick is also a total workaholic who has lost his zest for life–or has he just misplaced it? Setting aside her feather duster and her inhibitions, Emma rekindles her employer’s passion with a fantasy world of boundless pleasure. But then the unthinkable happens: She falls for him. Can she make Russell see her as more than a plaything?

I believe I got this book because of a review Wendy did. I couldn’t find it at her blog, though, so I could be wrong. Whoever recommended it, I’m grateful. It’s an enjoyable read.

The book title is a bit of a misnomer. Emma is not a French maid, although she affects an accent at one point in the story. Instead, we get a nice romance about a couple whose relationship starts with sex and develops into something more.

The way the sex starts is a bit contrived, but I found it a bit amusing as well with its wordplay that makes sense to each participant but leads to a complete misunderstanding.

What I enjoyed most about the story, though, is the combination of spicy sex with a story and characters I can care about. (Can you tell I’ve become a bit burned out on the genre lately?) I also appreciated the fact that neither Russ nor Mandy finds their sex entirely fulfilling until they drop the trappings and let their emotions become involved.

Some writers tend to write the same kinds of stories; others write a broad variety. Cach is the latter. The Erotic Secrets of a French Maid offers a good story, one I wanted to think (and write) about once I finished reading it. 4 out of 5.

Identity: Unknown

Identity Unknown

Amongst the hundreds of my TBR books are books I’ve been saving because I don’t want to have read all the books by (fill in the blank) author. Since I’ve been in a reading slump, I decided to pick up one of these books—Identity: Unknown by Suzanne Brockmann.

What He Remembered
His clothing size

What He Didn’t Remember
Everything else.

Navy SEAL Mitchell Shaw woke up one morning with no clue as to who he was. And the items hidden in his possession were no help—an address, along with a .22 caliber side arm. The address led him to the Lazy 8 Ranch—and its beautiful manager, Becca Keyes, who made him believe he might have a future. Even if he wasn’t sure about his past.

The gun was another story altogether . . .

I’ve saved a few of Brockmann’s Team Ten series so I could enjoy them later. It was the perfect choice to help me out of my slump. I love a good amnesia story, and this was one was very good. The reason for Mitch’s amnesia was believable, and his feeling of disorientation was well depicted.

Mitch is one of the more aloof men in this series. Losing his memory makes him reach out to someone in a way he wouldn’t have done otherwise.

Identity: Unknown offers a nice romance, a compact story, and the right balance of suspense: 4 out of 5. Just the kind of book I needed.

30 Days of Night

30 Days of Night

Since I started going to Free Comic Book Day with my sister every year, I’ve become interested in graphic novels. This year, however, my interest has spiked, so I thought I’d add reviews here. First up: 30 Days of Night by Steve Niles.

In a sleepy, secluded Alaska town called Barrow, the sun sets and doesn’t rise for over thirty consecutive days and nights. From the darkness, across the frozen wasteland, an evil will come that will bring the residents of Barrow to their knees. The only hope for the town is the Sheriff and Deputy, a husband and wife who are torn between their own survival and saving the town they love.

I don’t read much horror, but when I learned that Steve Niles was signing books at a local comic book store, I decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did. 30 Days of Night has a wonderful premise: if vampires come out at night, what happens in places where nights are long? Not surprisingly, the world depicted in such a story is a dark one.

The setting is Alaska. The main characters: Eben and Stella—a husband and wife team who discover something horrible is happening in their town. I won’t say what, or what ultimately happens, because it’s too good to spoil. As someone with roots in romance reading, I enjoyed seeing the relationship between the two. Graphic novels are a different medium, but Eben and Stella’s love for each other is clear in just a few panels.

Ben Templesmith’s art is unlike anything I’ve seen before—both stark and atmospheric. It’s absolutely perfect for the story.

What you get with this book is a powerful story that lingers in the mind long after the reading experience ends. 30 Days of Night: 4 out of 5.

Grimspace

Grimspace

I’ve heard good things about Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace, so I was thrilled to pick it up at RWA. Ms. Aguirre may remember me as the woman who nearly ran over someone with a cart to get the last copy. Or what appeared to be the last copy. However, she (and you) can be assured that no one was harmed (by me or the cart) in the securing of this book.

As the carrier of a rare gene, Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace—a talent that cuts into her life expectancy but makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. But then the ship she’s navigating crash-lands, and she’s accused of killing everyone on board. It’s hard for Jax to defend herself: She has no memory of the crash.

Imprisoned and subjected to a ruthless interrogation, Jax is on the verge of madness. Then a mysterious man breaks into her cell, offering her freedom—for a price. March needs Jax to help his small band of rogue fighters break the Corp monopoly on interstellar travel—and establish a new breed of jumper.

Jax is only good at one thing—grimspace—and it will eventually kill her. So she may as well have some fun in the meantime . . .

Grimspace features a fantastic heroine and solid world-building. It’s told in first-person, present tense, which adds immediacy to the action and ensures that the reader is right with Jax all along the way.

Aguirre’s writing has a nice, fast-paced writing style. I loved many of the opening lines of the chapters; they are so wry and understated. A few examples: “The inevitable argument’s postponed when Keri passes out again.” And, “So I’m up on Doc’s exam table once again.”

I loved March as well, and it’s a true delight to see his relationship change so completely. At the beginning, he is angry with and wary about Jax; by the end, she’s as important to him as air. It’s incredibly sweet. I just wanted to see more, especially at the end.

One development at the end seemed a little too simple. My question (spoiler ahead; scroll over to read) Surely the recording would have been challenged as media tampering? It was nice that the recording turned things on the Corp, but again, I found this resolution a little too easy. /End spoiler.

Grimspace is a strong book, with a character I enjoyed spending time with: 4 out of 5.

Storm Front

Storm Front

Since I’m a convert to the Dresden Files, I thought I would post reviews of the books. Watch for me to post one every couple of weeks or so. First up, the first book in the series: Storm Front.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a—well, whatever.

There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get . . . interesting.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

Storm Front is the first book in the series, but it’s actually the second one I read. Why? Because the bookstore didn’t have any copies, so I picked up book two. Once I read that, I went to the library to check out Storm Front.

This book introduces the world of Harry Dresden, a place where wizards mess up electronics and consult with talking skulls. Actually, Bob isn’t a skull, he’s a spirit of air who resides in a skull. And he’s hilarious: “Harry, what you know about women, I could juggle.”

Which reminds me. One thing that makes these books stand out for me is the humor. Storm Front includes gems like:

I liked my odds on the stairwell a lot better than I did in the cramped confines of the elevator.

Paranoid? Probably. But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.

and

I blew it [the door] out, rather than in. Pieces blew toward me and bounced off the shield of air I held in front of me, while others rained back behind me, into the parking lot. It wouldn’t do to injure a bunch of innocent diners on the other side. You only get one chance to make a first impression.

Storm Front introduces some key secondary characters—Murphy and Marcone—tells an engaging story, and includes a solid mystery: 4 out of 5.

Hidden

Hidden

After reading and loving Eve Kenin‘s Driven, I was excited to read Hidden, her recent release set in the same world. After a slow start, Hidden tells a vivid and mesmerizing story: 4 out of 5.

Tatiana has honed her genetic gifts to perfection. She can withstand the subzero temperatures of the Northern Waste, read somebody’s mind with the briefest touch, and slice through bone with her bare hands. Which makes her one badass chick, all right.

Nothing gets to her. Until she meets Tristan. Villain or ally, she can’t be sure. But one thing she does know: he has gifts too—including the ability to ramp up her heart rate to dangerous levels. But before they can start some chemistry of their own, they have to survive being trapped in an underground lab, hunted by a madman, and exposed to a plague that could destroy mankind.

It’s been a while since I read Driven, and reading the first few chapters of Hidden made me feel a bit like I was wading through world building. I’m not sure why it felt different, but I felt less connected to the characters initially.

Thankfully, the story picks up quickly beginning with the hero and heroine’s second meeting. The lead characters, Tatiana and Tristan, are intriguing and a bit opaque. There is perhaps a little too much reliance on the previous book to reveal Tatiana’s backstory; though it’s examined, it wasn’t addressed in as much depth as I’d like.

However, I have to say that this is one of the sweetest love stories I’ve read in months. It’s absolutely beautiful, and I recommend it to someone who wants to see a romance that works despite the short amount of time the couple has known each other. In fact, I might have to add this to my favorite declarations of love.

Driven is the stronger of the two stories, but Hidden is still a compelling, worthwhile read.

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