TBR Day: Price of Passion by Susan Napier

Yesterday, when I realized TBR day was today, I also realized just how little I’ve read for pleasure in the last month. I think part of this is because I’ve gone through a huge number of submissions and read more fulls in the past few weeks than I did in the previous six months. Mostly due to the fact that I had a really large number of submissions to my shifter anthology.

So I was pretty well resigned to the fact that I hadn’t read anything that would qualify for the TBR challenge because every night I pick up my Sony Reader and page through the 200 books on there, start a few and stop reading. Depressing. In looking at my Library Thing while reading this post, I realized that yes, I hadn’t read a huge number of books, especially in the past two weeks, but in the past month since the last TBR day, I’d read at least two books that qualified and that I very much enjoyed: Pride (Werecats, Book 3) by Rachel Vincent and Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (I’m still working on Ink Exchange (Wicked Lovely) by Melissa Marr, it’s going a little more slowly for me).

But last night I decided on a whim to turn to my old standby: category. And more specifically, Harlequin Presents. Cheers to HP for always giving me mind candy that I can enjoy without investing too much time or thought (and I mean that in a purely complimentary way, honest!)

In browsing my Sony (hurray for being able to browse by collections I set up, like categories, rather than just the author/title)I found Price of Passion (Harlequin Presents: Pregnant Mistresses) by Susan Napier and decided to give it a go, though most anyone who knows me well will tell you I’m so not a fan of the secret baby trope (which doesn’t explain why I bought this. Maybe because it’s Susan Napier?)

The Amazon blurb:

Kate had learned certain lessons as Drake Daniels’s lover:
Lesson number one: the price of loving Drake was not to love him.
Lesson number two: never give him what he expected.
Discovering she was pregnant certainly fulfilled lesson number two. Drake had made it clear commitment and children were not on his menu. Now Kate must break her news. But when she sees Drake, passion kicks in, begging to be indulged again…

Category is often hard for me to write a review of, because I don’t always have a lot to say. But I did enjoy this book, particularly the heroine. I didn’t find her dense, silly, to suddenly lose brain cells or some of the other things that sometimes prevent my enjoyment of category books. She was smart, she stuck up for herself, she didn’t let the hero walk all over her and she was likable. The book is entirely in her POV, so it was harder to feel close to the hero, but he wasn’t a total asshole and I never wanted to wrap my hands around his neck and squeeze it like a tube of toothpaste. So clearly the book was a win for me!

I should say that I particularly liked the opening, and I did enjoy the setup/plot of the book and the progression of the story. It just felt very well-structured and oddly believable (oddly because that doesn’t always happen in HP). If you’re a fan of category, I do recommend this one!

And since I had brain freeze and forgot I’d read the other two books that would qualify for this month’s TBR challenge (even if I’ve yet to actually meet the genre/category goal) I will say that I also recommend Pride (Werecats, Book 3) by Rachel Vincent and Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

TBR Day: I don’t know what to choose!

It seems like over half of what I read these days would qualify for this challenge, so now that I find myself in the airport with a delayed flight and a Bloody Mary in front of me, I’m not sure which book to write about. Included in the books I could have written about that I read from my TBR pile include Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich (which I followed with Plum Spooky) and Blood Brothers by Nora Roberts. I’m a fan of both Janet Evanovich and Nora Roberts, so these are pretty easy recommends for me. Even though I constantly tell myself I’m going to quit Evanovich because her books never seem to move forward with anything, I still find myself going back to them because they’re light and fluffy and never fail to make me giggle. And let’s face it, Ranger and Joe are hot.

But I think my favorite TBR book this month was Flat-Out Sexy by Erin McCarthy. This is one I picked up on the recommendation of Jane from Dear Author. I’ve been trying to branch out my reading to more genres other than just fantasy and paranormal, and contemporary is one I don’t read as much of. Plus, this book seems right up my alley because, hello! Nascar!

So the blurb:

“One of the romance writing industry’s brightest stars”(Romance Reviews Today) returns with a flat-out delightful, new, and sexy contemporary romance about a woman who’s happy being single—and the man determined to change her mind.

Independent single mother Tamara Briggs wanted to find a new, sexy, no-strings-attached man—just not one as young as NASCAR driver Elec Monroe. But he sure does get her heart racing. And after she’s tricked into a blind date with him, Tamara gives in to her passion. Things screech to a halt, though, when he asks to meet her children. Whatever happened to wham-bam-thank-youma’am? Suddenly Tamara has to decide how much risk she’s willing to take to experience the power of true love.

I’ll be honest, for whatever reason I didn’t expect to like this book, I think partly because of the widowed mom aspect of the heroine and the younger hero. Also, I have liked but not loved some of Erin’s previous books. But to my surprise, I liked both the hero and the heroine quite a bit. I enjoyed the relationship between them and found the conflict, while not overly complicated, to be both believable and relevant. I’m not an overly huge fan of children in romance but I didn’t find them to be either intrusive or just wallpaper either. I think that with this contemporary series, the author has found both her niche and a powerful storytelling voice.

To make this brief (because my battery is dying), the characters have wonderful chemistry, but also a really believable growth in both their relationships and their own personal demons. The secondary characters add a depth to both the characters’ relationship and the book itself. There wasn’t anything concrete I would point to and say that I overly disliked about the book and I’m very much looking forward to the next release, Hard and Fast, which releases in May.

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TBR: Black Magic Woman by Justin Guistainis

The first TBR challenge of 2009! This year Keishon is doing monthly categories for the challenges, but I chose to do an open format because it’s so hard for me to read for pleasure sometimes, I don’t feel I can also force myself to be in the mood. Which is a shame since this month was category romance and I have plenty of those TBR!

Black Magic Woman (Quincy Morris Supernatural Investigation) is a book I’ve had on my TBR pile for awhile. I picked it up because I’m always interested in trying something different, new authors in the UF category. I finally decided to read it for this challenge because I’d been seeing a lot of positive reviews around the web for the second book, Evil Ways (Quincey Morris, Book 2) and, duh, I can’t read out of order.

The blurb: Occult investigator Quincey Morris and his “consultant”, white witch Libby Chastain, are hired to free a family from a deadly curse that appears to date back to the Salem witch trials. Fraught with danger, the trail finds them stalking the mysterious occult underworlds of Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans and New York, searching out the root of the curse. After surviving a series of terrifying attempts on their lives, the two find themselves drawn inexorably towards Salem itself – the very heart of darkness.

My thoughts: The book has a great opening, it’s extremely catchy. I love a book that plops me down in the middle of action and then lets me catch up without trying to dump a bunch of backstory or character internal narrative on me. I think getting to know the character through internal narrative can get…old. And kind of trite. But I digress. So we’ve established how the book starts out. This is different from a more typical urban fantasy in that it’s 1) not in first and 2) told in multiple POV from a variety of characters. That doesn’t work for all books but it works in this one. I love seeing scenes from a variety of characters.

I did feel like this somewhat prevented me from really feeling attached to Quincey, the protaganist, because I spent a lot of time with other characters. But at the same time I was attached enough to root for him. Just not attached enough to cry for him (not that there was one of those moments in this book, it’s just an example of the distance created by multiple POV, which is fine for this book).

The story itself is interesting and moves forward at a good clip, keeping the reader interested, though I did find the climax of the story a bit abrupt. However, I liked this book and will definitely read the next one. Now, if only they’d put them in ebook!

TBR Day: Anne Bishop’s Dark Jewels books

Last month during Thanksgiving weekend, I took about 4 days off from work–shocking, I know–and during that time I decided to re-read Anne Bishop’s Dark Jewels trilogy, but also read some of the additional books that I hadn’t read, because I’d gotten an ARC of The Shadow Queen , it had been years since I’d read the trilogy and I wanted it to be fresh in my mind.

Anne Bishop, and specifically this trilogy, has long been one that I’ve recommended to fans of fantasy and dark fantasy in particular. I find the books, even on the second reading, to be brilliant and captivating, with amazing primary and secondary characters, a rich plot and story and even romance! Score!

First is my actual “TBR” book, it’s the prequel to the trilogy, but released after the trilogy. The Invisible Ring The Invisible Ring takes place centuries before the actual Black Jewels trilogy, and the primary characters don’t show up in the Black Jewels Trilogy (though the antagonist–Dorothea SaDiablo–and the secondary characters are major players in the trilogy). Instead, this prequel gives a fantastic setup for the world itself, helps you get to know both as well as some background that’s especially pertinent for the trilogies conclusion.

The blurb: A prequel set in the “dark and sensual world”( 11th Hour) of the national bestselling Black Jewels Trilogy.

Jared is a Red-Jeweled Warlord bound as a pleasure slave by the Ring of Obedience. After suffering nine years of torment as a slave, he murdered his owner and escaped—only to be caught and sold into slavery once again. The notorious queen who has purchased him, known as the Gray Lady, may not be what she seems. Soon, Jared faces a difficult choice: his freedom, or his honor.

If you haven’t read the Black Jewels trilogy, you could easily start with this book. The story and characters immediately suck you in, and are fully developed and well-written. In fact, as I was reading the trilogy after this book, I found myself wondering about these characters, what had happened to them and their descendants, if they managed to stay “free”. It’s a testament to the author’s skill that I thought of them long after the story was over.

The trilogy:
Daughter of the Blood (Black Jewels, Book 1)

Seven hundred years ago, a Black Widow witch saw an ancient prophecy come to life in her web of dreams and visions. Now the Dark Kingdom readies itself for the arrival of its Queen, a Witch who will wield more power than even the High Lord of Hell himself. But she is still young, still open to influence-and corruption.

Whoever controls the Queen controls the darkness. Three men-sworn enemies-know this. And they know the power that hides behind the blue eyes of an innocent young girl. And so begins a ruthless game of politics and intrigue, magic and betrayal, where the weapons are hate and love-and the prize could be terrible beyond imagining…

Heir to the Shadows (Black Jewels, Book 2)

In this violently passionate, “darkly fascinating world,”** the Blood rule: a race of witches and warlocks whose power is channeled through magical jewels. Ambitions unfurl in this second novel of The Black Jewels Trilogy, as the realm’s dreams of a liberator have finally been made flesh…

Jaenelle, singled out by prophecy as the living embodiment of magic, is haunted by the cruel battles the Blood have fought over her-for not all of them await her as their Savior. Nothing, however, can deflect her from her destiny-and the day of reckoning looms near. When her memories return. When her magic matures. When she is forced to accept her fate. On that day, the dark Realms will know what it means to be ruled by Witch.

Queen of the Darkness (Black Jewels, Book 3)

Jaenelle Angelline now reigns as Queen-protector of the Shadow Realm. No longer will the corrupt Blood slaughter her people and defile her lands. But where one chapter ends, a final, unseen battle remains to be written, and Jaenelle must unleash the terrible power that is Witch to destroy her enemies once and for all.

Even so, she cannot stand alone. Somewhere, long lost in madness, is Daemon, her promised Consort. Only his unyielding love can complete her Court and secure her reign. Yet, even together, their strength may not be enough to hold back the most malevolent of forces.

I already said it, but I love these three books. I think they’re absolutely fantastic examples of dark fantasy, they have romantic elements, a whole cast of fascinating, well-developed characters, and they’re set in a fully realized world. One thing that should be noted is that the books do have violence. As I discussed in the comments of this blog post, I feel the violence is not gratuitous in any way and is integral towards both the world building and showing the lengths the antagonists will go to, the degradation the men/characters experience, and the disintegration of the world itself.

After I read the books, as I was thinking about them and what I could say in my review, something struck me. It’s something that’s incredibly unique to the books. The books, as you can tell from the above blurbs, feature Jaenelle as central to the story, and she is. But her story is told entirely from other characters’s point of views. Not once do we have her point of view, that I can recall. And yet, the skill of the author is such that her POV isn’t particularly missed. It does create a bit of a distance between her and the reader, but I think that only adds to the skill of the author, because it gives the reader much of the same feelings towards Jaenelle that the characters in the story seem to have. It’s very well done, and as such, helps the reader feel close to and empathy for other characters.

Last, I also read Dreams Made Flesh (which, interestingly enough, was named as a favorite re-read by someone in the Holiday Hell contest). I’m not actually going to review it here, except to say it’s a book of novellas that fill in some gaps in the trilogy, because I think to say more about it would constitute spoilers for those who haven’t read the trilogy. I didn’t love all of the novellas in the book, but I’m glad I read it and I did enjoy at least two of them very much, so I would recommend it to those who’ve read the trilogy (this is definitely not a book you’d want to read out of order).

I took a break after reading these five books back to back, but in the next few weeks I’m planning on reading Tangled Webs (Book 6) and then The Shadow Queen.

In recap, I (still) highly recommend these books by Anne Bishop to all fans of fantasy/dark fantasy. In fact, I don’t think you can go wrong with an Anne Bishop book

TBR Day: The Final Empire, Mistborn Book 1

51F5GMVQP7L._SS500_ First, let me start by saying that this cover drives me nuts. I can’t seem to remember that Mistborn is the series name, not the book name, because the series name is so huge and the title is so teeny weeny. I’m sure this must have been a marketing decision to get the series name locked in readers’ heads, so they could go into a store or online and type in Mistborn, and get all the books in the series, but still. Did the title have to be THAT tiny?

I’ve had The Final Empire on my TBR shelves for probably 9 months, at least. I’ve been wanting to read something by Brandon Sanderson for quite some time, especially after it was announced that he would be writing the final book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, which I’ve been a fan of for years.

But still, the book languished on my shelves until Nicole did a great review of it and spoke of it kind of glowingly, pushing me to read it for this month’s TBR challenge. Sadly, my feelings for it weren’t quite as glowing as Nicole’s.

I did enjoy the book, but I found it really easy to put down and go do something else. The world building and set up of the world and story are quite dense, which I sometimes appreciate and don’t appreciate. In this case, I thought the book had some slowww pacing issues in spots but if you were to ask me what I would have cut, I’d have to go back and take a second look because I don’t have clue one. My other small quibble would be that the “romance” aspect was a bit…lame to me, and I could have lived without it because it was poorly developed and so, not too believable. Unfortunately, to buy into certain actions and developments in the book, I needed to buy into the romance and I didn’t. It seemed superficial and I think part of that was because I only knew (and liked) one half of the people in the relationship.

So you’re probably wondering what I did like about the book? In truth, the world building was quite thorough and complex, and several of the characters had wonderful character development, which I really appreciate in a book. Though I found the pacing slow, the story itself was still interesting and well-written, and the secondary characters along with the settings gave the story even more depth that I enjoyed. I also appreciated the twists that were thrown in the book as well as the ultimate resolution for this particular story (which is the first in a trilogy, from my understanding).

As you can see, I had mixed feelings about the book, but I think an author who can make me think this closely about what I did and didn’t like, and who drew me forward despite my perceived problems with it, did his job. I will be reading the second book, Well of Ascension, and actually have it on my Kindle now, though I don’t feel ready to start it right away. Actually, I’m probably going to try Elantris first because I’ve also heard great things about it (proving twice in one review that word of mouth recommendations work on me!).

Do I recommend The Final Empire? Hm. I think I do, if you’re a fan of fantasy with a minor romance subplot (minor though it does have bearing on some events in the book) and deep world building, along with a cast of secondary characters.

ETA: I just read in an email newsletter that Brandon Sanderson will be at RT in Orlando in 2009. (as will Piers Anthony). Interesting!

TBR Day: Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

I have never read a Loretta Chase book before. This came up in conversation at RWA, when a group of us were at the bookstore where Sarah, Jane, Kassia and co. were doing the interview for the Today Show. We were instructed to do some random browsing for the cameras, and somehow a group of us ended up in front of Loretta Chase. Someone picked up a couple of her books and I mentioned that I’d not read her before.

*gasps of shock and horror*

No really, there were! They were happy to give me a few recommendations, which I promptly proceeded to forget, but when I went to look at my TBR shelves later and saw Lord of Scoundrels and Your Scandalous Ways there, I thought those sounded familiar. I realized on Monday that I didn’t think I’d read a TBR book yet this month, so I grabbed Lord of Scoundrels.

I have to be honest. I liked this book, but I wasn’t wowed by it and I definitely didn’t love it. The characters of Jess and Dain were interesting but actually seemed to me to be just characters, both a little one-dimensional. Reading the book, I couldn’t get the feeling out of my head that I was reading a story. I know that sounds weird, since I was reading a story, but you know how it feels different, reading a fairy tale to your child–reading them a story–versus falling into a book? I didn’t have that here. I felt like someone was narrating this book to me. And it was amusing and I finished it, but when I closed it, I felt no real sense of satisfaction or attachment to either the stories or the characters.

Actually, if we’re being really honest, I was a little annoyed by the characters at times. I thought Dain was unlikeable, spoiled and selfish. I know I was supposed to have empathy for him, because he had a terrible childhood and no one loved him, but I didn’t. I just felt impatient and like telling him to get over it (I know, I’m so kind). As for Jess, she fell flat, almost like she didn’t respect herself, to fall “in love” with a man who’d treat her so shabbily. She liked the sex, but what else was there about him to love? I didn’t get it.

But clearly the book didn’t totally fail for me because I did finish it. But it’s not a book I’d pick up again. I did open Your Scandalous Ways and give that a try, but I had similar feelings, so I think it’s probably the author’s style that doesn’t appeal to me, and that happens. Clearly it worked for and appealed to a whole lot of other people, so I don’t mind being in the minority on this one!

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