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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Four from Nora, Nora Roberts, that is.

Does it count as catching up on reviews if each review is a paragraph that more or less says, "Yep, read that!" ? It does? Great! So at the end of my dry spell this fall, I came up to the top of the wait list for several Nora Roberts/JD Robb books right in a row. Now, these are never ever on my top ten lists, but they are solidly predictable. They are comfortable like a pair of slippers and I can always count on them to hold my interest and break me out of a dry spell. Since all three came up within a few days, and I just was. not. feeling. anything in my review list, I gave myself permission to just read them all back to back.

Blood Magick is the conclusion to Robert's newest romantic trilogy, The Cousins O'Dwyer.  Having read all three, I can tell you that this is not Robert's strongest trilogy. The plot lines feel very recycled from Roberts's own books and I can't really recommend them on the strength of that. The romance in the first two were pretty typical Roberts. However, in Blood Magick, for the first time in a dozen, I really felt the connection between the hero and heroine. Branna and Fin are in love, and have been the entire series. Unfortunately, they were cursed by a vague curse (you just have to go with it) and can't ever have a future together. Their desire for each other is evident and while the reader is thinking about how vague the curse is, THEY clearly believe it. They've both dealt with it differently, Fin is determined to break the curse, and Branna just planned to repress her feeling forever. While I wouldn't suggest this one for the plot, I would recommend it completely for the romance.

The next two that I read were the last three full length novels in the In Death series written as JD Robb, Thankless in Death, Concealed in Death, and Festive in Death. I am particularly excited about these because it means that at least for a couple months I'm all caught up, for the first time in years. That said, I do not recommend reading more than two of these in a row. The little details that make the characters are completely, glaringly, repeats from the previous 39 books. (Little gray button, amber eyes that match her hair, misunderstanding cliches, Irish voice, pink cowboy boots, Summerset and her car. Shall I go on?)  I'm not quite ready to quit the series, 39 books is a hell of an investment, but there's really nothing new here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Too Friendly to Date by Nicole Helm

You ever go into a book thinking you know what to expect and ending up with something totally different? I was sure this was a light and fluffy friends to lovers story. I was so wrong. I cried through a good part of Too Friendly to Date (quietly, in the dark, lest some kid ask why!)

Here's the summary:
One little white lie…one big explanation! 
Okay, pretending her sexy boss is her boyfriend is more like a huge white lie. But electrician Leah Santino will take the risk. If her parents think she has someone, they won't go back to smothering her, and they can all be a family again. 
Problem is, Jacob McKnight isn't just her boss—he's her friend. And faking a relationship when the Santinos come to visit means those sparks she's always tried to ignore are hotter than ever. This thing between them is starting to feel real, but Leah has a very good reason to stay independent. Unless that's one lie that's outlived its purpose…

Sounds light and fun, no?  Turns out Leah has been estranged from her family for nearly ten years after running away from some pretty serious health and family stuff. Her family, particularly her mom, over worry about her real health problems and Leah needed to leave to prove she wasn't weak. Now she's trying to mend fences with them, and one of the things she needs is to show that she has someone watching out for her- enter the fake boyfriend.

Jacob agrees to help Leah out, because that's what friends DO and she wouldn't ask if she didn't need the help. It doesn't hurt that he's been thinking a lot about Leah lately in a not so "friendly" way. Once he discovers that she maybe has a thing for him as well, all bets are off. Jacob is determined to try and make this fake boyfriend stuff into a real relationship, but Leah will need a lot of convincing. She's always known that her health problems, which have always been her secret, make her a bad candidate for marriage. She's been through the process of having people stand over her and worry and she is not putting herself or anyone else through that again.

Guys, this book pretty much ripped my heart out. They both want each other so badly. Leah refuses to consider she can ever have a long relationship, and Jacob has a bad record of relationships for other reasons. He's convinced he has to be perfect for everyone because of some too-long-to-explain things in his past, and his anger at always putting on a front comes to a boil. Leah doesn't expect him to be perfect, but he does. I loved them both. The emotion is incredible. For the story and the romance, I highly recommend this.

However. This book could seriously have used an editor. The grammar errors nearly killed me. I honestly can't believe this was not a self published book. ("Her and Kyle exited.") Despite this, I did end up loving it, and wouldn't mind reading the others in the series.

Too Friendly To Date was published in October.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Recent reading and personal news...

It's been a bit of chaos around our house lately, and my routines are all thrown off. A month ago I left my job with the State to take a new position at a private company. While I enjoyed my coworkers at the State job, the position itself had little room for advancement and lots of room for irritation. I was tired to dealing with the subset of people that I talked to all day long (literally all day, my job was as a telephone representative.) An opportunity came up to interview for a job that a good friend of mine was leaving (she relocated) and it was too good not to take. My new position is as an administrative assistant. I've been there a month now and it is so much up my alley. I'm using my brain! I often have to switch tracks mid-stream for something completely different and the variety of tasks keeps it interesting. Add to this better benefits, more flexibility, and potential for future opportunities, and I had to jump.

All that said, even though it's the same 8-5 as my old job, it's new routines to learn and my brain is tired at night. We've been watching Arrow as a family and doing not a lot else in the evenings. Every book I started was a no-go for a while, but lucky you, I have a backlog of books to review. Some of these I read so long ago that I can't write a full review, so you're getting some short mentions instead. Forewarning, these books have very little to do with each other!

First up, Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek. This was a fascinating non-fiction book about Melinek's first year as a medical examiner. If you like fiction like Patrica Cornwell, you'd like this one. Some parts are a bit gross, but not in a sensational way. This lead me to try Does This Mean You'll See Me Naked?: A Funeral Director Reflects on 30 Years of Serving The Living and the Deceased by Robert D. Webster. but I only read half of that one before I quit. Webster was all but a walking advertisement and his writing felt very amateurish. I'm hoping that Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty shows up at the library or as a daily deal for Kindle soon.

I finally got around to reading the most recent Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series book, Night Broken. This remains one of my favorite series, and is the first paper book I've read in over a year. The new ones usually come out in late winter, so I'm ready to go on that now.

I read Attachments by Rainbow Rowell a couple months ago. I remember enjoying it a lot, but the only real detail I remember is that I couldn't possibly figure out how Lincoln could make this turn out in his favor. I could only see it ending badly, but the ending is actually quite satisfactory and now I want to read all the other Rowell books.

More recently, I read What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe. Munroe is the man behind xkcd. That alone should tell you all you need to know about the book, but if you need my opinion too, it was hilarious and fun and I highly recommend it. Mike also read it, and we had lots of chats about the fun things we learned.  There was only really one question that was way too scientific for me, and they illustrations and commentary are terrific. If you're looking for good non-fiction this year, this is a good choice.

Next up: Nora Roberts and her alias, J.D. Robb!

Friday, December 05, 2014

Monstrously Funny Cartoons by Christopher Hart

The Pirate, who is 9 now if you're keeping track, is absolutely obsessed with comics and drawing. Every single worksheet or test from school comes home covered in doodles. He's drawn entire reams of papers of comic books with chapters and plots and plenty of poop humor. This is often at the detriment of his schoolwork, so Mike and I are looking for ways to encourage his artistic habits at times it won't harm his grades. So when Blogging for Books offered me the chance to review Monstrously Funny Cartoons, I had to say yes. Guys, *I* want to sit and read this cover to cover.

Each chapter is broken down into monster type. You have zombies, vampires, mummies, aliens, etc.  The chapters start with the basics of the monster and progresses into details of how to make the monster your own. For example, the zombie page starts with an entire page of eyes, including comparing them to human eyes. By the end of the chapter you've learned how zombie heads lean far back, and easy ways to draw that, to zombie families, to caffeine zombies ("Caffeine zombies are part of a quiet epidemic affecting major metropolitan areas across the nation. You can see them every weekday morning at 6 a.m.- a mindless mob piling into subway stations."), to cheerleader zombies, to zombie sisters ("The only way to tell she's a zombie is when her fingers are too stiff to text.")

Now, I admit, I did not attempt to draw anything from the book, and I'm waiting until Christmas to actually give it to him, but it certainly looks like this would teach him well. I'd go so far as to look for other art books by Hart as he's both thorough and funny and I'm looking forward to hearing Tristan crack up as he reads the accompanying text. Highly Recommended.

Source: Review copy provided by Blogging for Books.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Merry Christmas, Baby by Jill Shalvis

Guys, remember how sad I was that Lucky Harbor was over?? Well guess what, we get one more Christmas novella featuring one of the previous couples! YAY! Shalvis is pretty much the only author I open up and read immediately and Merry Christmas, Baby was no exception.  It's not my very favorite, but it was nice to see Sawyer and Chloe again a few years later. I love that Sawyer has not changed at all and is still so completely head over heels for Chloe.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, BABY by Jill Shalvis (December 2, 2014; Grand Central Publishing E-Novella; $1.99)
Wild child Chloe Thompson can't believe how much things have changed. She still can't get enough of her sexy husband Sawyer, but he seems to prefer working to impending fatherhood. So tonight, a very pregnant Chloe is escaping her troubles at the town Christmas party.

Sheriff Sawyer Thompson hopes surprising Chloe at the  party will give him a chance to set things right. But as the snow begins to fall and the wind rages, he wonders whether he can make it back in time. While mother nature conspires to keep Sawyer and Chloe apart,  an unexpected arrival will require them to kiss and make up . . . and ring in the happiest holiday Lucky Harbor has ever seen.

Here's all the information you need to get your very own copy...

Buy Links:

About the author:
New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill's bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.
Social Media Links:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Stirring Up Trouble by Kimberly Kincaid

There's something about a book about books or authors that always gets my attention.  I think this is probably true for most readers, and definitely true for book bloggers. Stirring Up Trouble is about a romance novelist, which is exactly fitting for a romance novel.
Here's the summary:
Looking for inspiration
Sloane Russo's turned a decade of crazy jobs and whimsical travel into a career writing steamy novels set in exotic places. Trouble is, Sloane's flat broke now--and she can't channel sun-drenched beaches in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The only fast cash in town comes with some seriously distracting temptation: Gavin Carmichael, hot, handsome and oh-so-hard-headed.
Gavin isn't the impulsive Don Juan of Sloane's novels. He's raising his thirteen-year-old half-sister, and he's pretty sure he's supposed to act like he's never heard of fun. Sloane is way too sexy and irresponsible to be his idea of a good tutor for Bree, but the unpredictable anti-nanny may be irresistible as well. . .
I won't lie, Sloane and Gavin both start off as incredible prickly, unlikable heroes. I was really questioning my desire to try new authors and was wondering where to go to next now that my old favorites were starting to phone it in. Fortunately I persevered and ended up really loving Gavin. I never really came around on Sloane. I could see how she was a really fun person, and how someone would be really attracted to her, but I couldn't quite buy her as a trust worthy romantic partner. She made a few decisions that were glaringly bad and I spent much of the book, all the way to the conclusion, mentally screaming at her to stop.
Gavin has issues to work out with the death of his mother and his guardianship of his teenage sister and I felt like these were really well handed. He's clearly unsure and doing the best he can and making a ton of mistakes. I was really rooting for him and Bree and loved seeing their relationship develop and open up. I didn't feel like Bree was just an extra kid in the story, she really worked well to advance the plot and had a purpose in being there.
Did I ultimately believe in this romance? Yes, I did think that possibly it would all work out in the end. I didn't see the big swoony conclusion that I loved, but I liked it enough to know that I'd like to read another book by Kimberly Kincaid.
Stirring Up Trouble was released in October.
Source: NetGalley.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Flirting with French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me, and Nearly Broke My Heart by William Alexander

I can't remember if I've ever mentioned my slight obsession with learning a foreign language.  I've bought Italian dictionaries, the Dummies guide to _________, teach yourself This Language in so many days. I took three years of Spanish in high school (I can count to 20!) and a year of German in college (WAY easier than Spanish, I wish I had continued.)

William Alexander details all the things he tries to learn to speak French like a Frenchman. He  takes classes, he finds multiple French pen pals, he adopts a French persona, he goes to a full immersion course in France. He takes his wife on vacation in France, where he insists on speaking French even to English speakers. He is single-minded and determined.  In the end tho, he still doesn't have the grasp on French that he'd like to have. Brain scans show that he recognizes it at a much deeper level, but he still feels he can't hold a decent conversation. Like all memoirs of this type, learning French isn't the entire point of the book though, and Alexander learns a lot more about himself than he ever expects.

This was a quite enjoyable little memoir, and one I'd recommend.

Here's the summary:
“A delightful and courageous tale and a romping good read. Voila!” —Mark Greenside, author of I’ll Never Be French (No Matter What I Do)
William Alexander is more than a Francophile. He wants to be French. To sip absinthe at the window of a dark cafĂ©, a long scarf wrapped around his neck, a copy of Le Monde at hand. Among the things that have stood in his way of becoming French, though, is the fact that he can’t actually speak the language. So Alexander sets out to conquer the language he loves. Readers will find out if it loves him back.
Alexander eats, sleeps, and dreams French. (He even conjugates in his dreams.) And while he’s playing hooky from grammar lessons and memory techniques, he travels to France, delves into the colorful history of the French language and the science of linguistics, and even goes to Google to find out what’s taking them so long to perfect translation software. Finally, he contemplates how it can be that in French, breasts are masculine and beards are feminine, and tries to make sense of idioms like c’est la fin des haricots (it’s the end of the beans)—which means, appropriately enough, “it’s hopeless.” But ca ne fait rien! (No matter!) What Bill Alexander learns while not learning French is its own reward.

Source: NetGalley
Flirting with French was published in October.

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