Saturday, June 25, 2011

Review: Yours to Keep

Title: Yours to Keep
Genre: Contemporary
Author: Shannon Stacey
Pub: June 6, 2011 by Carina Press

Sean Kowalski no sooner leaves the army than he’s recruited by Emma Shaw to be her fake fiancé. Emma needs to produce a husband-to-be for her grandmother’s upcoming visit, and, though Sean doesn’t like the deception, he could use the landscaping job Emma’s offering while he decides what to do with his civilian life. And, despite his attraction to Emma, there’s no chance he’ll fall for a woman with deep roots in a town he’s not planning to call home.

Emma’s not interested in a real relationship either; not with a man whose idea of home is wherever he drops his duffel bag. No matter how amazing his “pretend” kisses are…

Making the Grade: A

For My Thoughts

I marked this one as one of my favorites for the year before I was even half-way finished.

Let me get this out of the way first - I loved this book so much that I started writing my review on sticky notes. Naaa I’m just kidding, but the sticky notes played such a cute, make me smile part in Yours to Keep, I had to mention them right off the top.

The pretend, fake fiancé storyline is certainly not a new concept and in Yours to Keep it could have been cheesy and cliché but Shannon Stacey tells a fun, sexy, heartfelt story with real and likeable characters in Sean and Emma and let's us revisit with all the old Kowalski favorites.

Emma is strong, independent and she’s not afraid of hard work or getting her hands a little dirty...which is a good thing since she owns her own landscaping business. She loves her grandmother to bits and wants her to be happy in her retirement to Florida but Grandma Cat worries about Emma managing her business and living in the big family home with all the responsibility all alone. So who’s gonna be hurt by a little white lie of a fiancé if it helps Grandma sleep easier at night and not worry about Emma? It was a good plan...until Grandma Cat decided she was coming home for a month to visit and meet “the man” her grandbaby was going to marry. Oooops!

Sean Kowalski’s at loose ends for the next month after just serving in the Army for the past 12 years. He’s gonna rest, relax and chill, maybe pound a few nails and eats lots of Aunt Mary’s lasagna. Ahhhh the best laid plans...until...who’s that knocking at his door? That’s exactly what Sean’s asking himself when he discovers it’s his fake fiancée come a-calling to break the news of their engagement. She’s hot, tall and just a little batshit crazy. 2 outta 3 ain’t bad - right? Emma seemed perfectly sane, were his Kowalski cousins setting him up? Where were the hidden cameras?

I believed the set-up. I believed in Emma’s motivation for engaging in such an elaborate scam to convince her Grandma she was engaged and why Sean finally agreed to play his part. Now to convince the rest of the Kowalski’s to play along because family loyalty will only get you so far.

The Kowalski siblings, their respective wives and children were up to their old tricks again...making bets, holding their tournaments of Doom and razzing the crap out of their cousin Sean. They are one of the most enjoyable families to read about. Shannon Stacey brings them to life on the page and makes them seem like one big happy family anyone would be lucky to be a part of. I wouldn’t mind a piece of Aunt Mary’s lasagna, but keep the wooden spoon outta her reach!

*posts pink sticky note* I heart Kowalski’s.

Sean was a real trooper. Funny, charming, loyal and sexy. Emma and Sean had supposedly been living together for a year when in fact they barely knew each other which only added to the drama and laughs as they tried to pull the wool over Grandma Cat’s eyes. Sean choking down the broccoli during dinner when he detested the green vegetable was LOL funny and showed just how far he was prepared to go to play his part.

And now for the sticky notes. I loved how Sean used them to communicate his likes and dislikes on the bathroom mirror. And the final pink sticky note - broke my heart, got that lump in the back of my throat growing and made my eyes well up.

Yours to Keep…it’s wicked good!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: Lying Eyes

Title: Lying Eyes
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Author: Amy Atwell
Pub: Oct 15, 2010 by Carina Press

No-nonsense jewelry designer Iris Fortune yearns for a normal life. But life as Vegas magician Cosmo Fortune’s daughter is anything but normal, especially since dear old Dad is also a scam artist. When Cosmo’s latest scheme goes awry and he pulls a real-life disappearing act, Iris is left holding the bag.
Now Iris must be a master of illusion—play the poised partner to her politician fiancé while trying to save her father and stay out of reach of Mickey Kincaid, the sexy thief who claims he's only after her jewels.
Detective Kincaid is deep undercover and seeks Iris out because of her connection to Cosmo—he never expected to be so drawn to her. While working with Iris to find the elusive con man, Mickey learns a killer has Iris in his sights, and he must do everything he can to save her, without blowing his cover.

Mickey's put his life on the line before, but never his heart—and now he’s not sure which is more dangerous....

Making the Grade: A-

For My Thoughts

Lying Eyes...They’re watching You.

Lying Eyes was like reading a madcap, action-adventure story featuring the Fortunes of Las Vegas led by the slippery and elusive magician, master of disguise and patriarch Cosmo Fortune. He was at the epicentre of all things good and bad happening in this book.

Iris Fortune, jewellery designer by trade, is the calm, cool and collected eldest daughter of Cosmo Fortune. But she's kinda written off dear ole dad, who’s never really been a part of her life...until he turns up missing. Next thing you know she‘s got a hot, petty jewel thief sticking to her like glue, two previously unknown young women who turn out to be her new half sisters and 10 million dollars in missing gems. Now bad people are after Cosmo and the gems he‘s supposed to have in his possession and if they have to go through Iris and her new found sisters to get to him - well then that’s what they’ll do. Ohh Daddy Dearest this latest escapade you’re embroiled in could get somebody a hurry!

Lying Eyes had a humorous, light, fun feel to it. Even though it’s a romantic suspense and lives were threatened numerous times, I never felt anyone was ever really in danger. I know you’re not supposed to like the bad guys, but the bumbling, buffoon henchman Jock and Pebbles provided a lot of comic relief (they reminded me of the bad guys in Home Alone getting bested by Macaulay Culkin). And who names a goon Pebbles? He was nothing but a big ole simpleton oaf with a soft spot for animals - especially the magician’s 20 lb white rabbit Edgar who always seemed to have his little twitching nose right in the thick of things. Try pulling that rabbit out of your hat O-O!

What I liked best about Lying Eyes was the love story between Iris and her scruffy, petty thief with the swashbuckling grin she can’t stop thinking about...ohhhh Mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind. Hey Mickey! Hey Mickey! We all know he’s not really a thief out to kill her dad or steal the jewels, but it takes Iris a lot longer to figure him out and unmask the undercover agent.

Mickey’s great at playing the part of a thief, but his feelings for Iris are real and true. Their relationship is cute, fun, flirty and sexy and for most of the book - she has no idea who he really is. At one point when things were looking pretty grim for Mickey and Iris he comes out with this line:

“Who’s joking?” He lifted his face, his gaze roaming over her. “If this is my last night on this Earth, I sure as hell want to spend it with you.” Ohhhh Mickey *heart melts*.

If you want a fast-paced, madcap, sexy romp then you can’t go wrong with Lying Eyes. I really enjoyed it - Fortune family drama, Russian royalty, missing gems, rabbit and all!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review: Money Shot

Title: Money Shot
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Author: Susan Sey
Pub: June 7, 2011 by Berkley Sensation

Secret Service Agent Maria "Goose" di Guzman knows something about penance. A tragic mistake forced her to replace the dangerous, impulsive girl she'd been with someone better, smarter. Someone sexy, cool and utterly controlled. But one crack in her perfect facade lands Goose on tiny Mishkwa Island, investigating naked hippies, frisky moose,and a red hot park ranger who sees straight through her.

When Rush Guthrie traded in an elite military career to police his tiny island home town, he got a pretty good deal: a park ranger's badge, a resurrected conscience, and signed of life from his MIA sense of humor. A guy couldn't want anything more. But when Goose turns up--all sexy curves, sad eyes, and thorny questions--Rush realizes he can want more. A lot more

While Goose pursues the island's deepest secrets, Rush pursues the brave, funny woman inside all that careful perfection. But the truths they uncover put everything on the line--life, death and true love. And they'll only get one shot at all of it.

Making the Grade: B

For My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this one!

I was on page 36 and totally in love with the sexual chemistry and sarcastic banter between Goose and Rush. Sure they’d just met, he was a suspect she was investigating, and she sure didn’t like the way he was making her feel...all hot and bothered under the collar. And she may not have been 100% professional or acting appropriately when she coped a feel but I loved it. And I loved even more that Rush shut her down and his reasons why. Most men think and act with the little head but there would be no rushing into any situations for this man named Rush. He’s got the patience of Job. He’s an ex-Navy SEAL sniper - he’s used to waiting for what he wants. And above all else he wants honesty from Goose and won’t accept anything less. Rush goes to great lengths to expose the “real” Maria di Guzman with the curly, unruly hair and imperfections because Goose with the poker straight perfect hair and the plastic, fake personality she displays to the world - is not the woman he wants.

Actually the more involved I got in Money Shot it became evident that Rush and Goose were complicated, baggage-carrying, scarred characters. They were actually much more similar than they realized. Both were working out issues from their past including why Rush left his job as a high-ranking sniper for the SEALS and the immense guilt Goose feels over the death of her twin sister when they were teen-agers. Emotional, soul searching stuff.

Add in some woo hoo witchy-poo black magic led by tea-shop owner Aunt Lila, paganpaloosa, a surly, smart-aleck, rebellious 16 year old teenager Yarrow and the charming, looking-out-for-#1 cousin Einar and there’s lots going on in Money Shot.

Ohh and I mustn’t forget to mention Sir Humpsalot - he's a randy moose on the loose dontcha know.

I don’t think it will surprise anyone who’s passing the Korean super notes in Money’s a small, marginally inhabited island - the prospects are few. For me Money Shot was all about Goose and Rush and their developing relationship and personal growth.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Review: Negligee Behavior

Title: Negligee Behavior
Genre: Contemporary
Author: Shelli Stevens
Pub: May 23, 2011 by Carina Press

When lingerie heiress Brandy Summer gets cold feet and runs out on her Vegas wedding, she has nowhere to turn—so she hijacks a hunky biker waiting for a red light and begs him for help. What she doesn’t know is that her instincts are right: the groom has a hidden agenda. He needs her money to pay off his gambling debts and she’s his ticket to the good life.

Marco Vargas isn’t sure what he’s getting himself into when he rescues Brandy, but figures he’ll do the chivalrous thing. He offers her a job in his bar and the chance to sort out her feelings. But it seems that keeping Brandy hidden is easier than keeping his hands off her—and what will happen when Brandy discovers that Marco has secrets of his own?

Making the Grade: B-

For My Thoughts

Brandy Summers heir to the Sugar and Spice Lingerie company owned by her parents doesn’t want to be labelled like “those other famous heiresses” so she kinda takes it to the extreme and goes in the complete Brandy Summers heir to the Sugar and Spice Lingerie company owned by her parents doesn’t want to be labelled like “those other famous heiresses” so she kinda takes it to the extreme and goes in the complete opposite direction. The private school choir teacher doesn’t like to bring any attention to herself including staying out of the limelight and downplaying her physical attributes.

I know Brandy’s got a bit of a self-esteem problem, but I sure didn’t get how she dated her reality show, dentist boyfriend Gordon for a year and yet let herself get bamboozled into agreeing to marry a man she obviously didn’t love after spending three hours in Vegas with him. Yet here she is in a cheesy Las Vegas Wedding chapel, having a quickie ceremony, in a second-hand dress with “more ruffles than a bag of chips” performed by a greasy Elvis impersonator.

Before the “I Do’s” are dun dun dun, she exits stage left and hops on the back of a hot, tattooed motorcycle Mr. Took some balls for Brandy to hang on for dear life and vanish with this stranger into the night on his crotch rocket but the ride of her life is just getting started.

Maaarco Poooolo...oops I mean Vargas is not quite sure what to make of the brazen hussy who hi-jacked him and his bike and before he even knows what’s hit him, she’s living in his house, sleeping in his bed and working as a waitress at the bar he co-owns with Sebastian the Brit (loved him!).

I enjoyed the time Brandy with Marco, Sebastian and Val in the bar setting. Loved Val and how she worked her magic to transform Brandy from an innocent little choir teacher to a va-va-va-voom barmaid. She made Brandy ditch...errr burn her puffy cat shirt and trade in her floor length skirt for a tank top and short leather mini. You could just see Brandy’s confidence grow and blossom both mentally and physically the more time she spent with her new friends...and the best part was they had no idea who she really was.

I can understand why Brandy wanted to keep her true identity a secret. It was important for people to like and respect her for who she was and not who her parents were or how much they were worth. Marco the macho man wasn’t too happy about Brandy keeping secrets about her true identity but Pot? Meet Kettle because Marco was keeping a few secrets of his own about his past. Turns out the bad-ass bar owner was a relatively new persona for Marco. I’m glad we got to see Marco interact and mend fences with his younger sister and dad.

I really did not enjoy the whole evil fiancé, skeezie Gordon *twirls his Snidely Whiplash moustache* and his dastardly plan to marry the lingerie heiress, gain control of her money (or her parents money) to get himself out of hot water with his bookies. This dude was so out of touch with reality because no way, no how was Brandy ever gonna make another trip down the isle with him.

Did I mention the smooth talkin’ Brit Sebastian? Well I really liked him and I am so glad Ms. Stevens is giving him his own story and his own HEA. Can’t wait mate!

Light and fun. Great summer time read.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

JuneTBR Challenge Review: Explosive

Title: Explosive
Genre: Erotic/Suspense
Author: Beth Kery
Pub: Dec 7, 2010 Berkley HEAT

Dr. Sophie Gable didn't expect her peaceful getaway to be shattered by the arrival of the half-dazed, dead-sexy Thomas Nicasio, an ex-Navy explosives specialist. Even though he's traumatized, Thomas can't resist the urge to overtake Sophie-and her willing submission makes him want her all the more. But danger is lurking close by, and if he can't face the demons of his past, he and Sophie could be the next victims in a pattern of meaningless violence.

Making the Grade: B

For My Thoughts

One thing that really struck me about Explosive was how aptly named this book was because everything about it was...Explosive.

Thomas Nicasio was an explosives expert in the Navy, there’s a big explosion in the storyline and Thomas and Sophie’s relationship exploded off the pages...again and again, lots of times...they both experienced multiple...errr explosions. Getting the picture? This book was explosively good.

Dr. Sophie Gable is so looking forward to a month of rest and relaxation at her secluded lake house. Nothing to do but decompress, swim, read and relax. AHHHHH sounds like heaven! So nothing could prepare her for the shock of finding an acquaintance from work Thomas Nicasio on her dock the first night of her vacation. What?

Sophie and Thomas know each other in a “Hi. How you doing” polite greeting kind of way since they both worked in the same office building and the are “aware” of each other. Sophie knows immediately that Thomas is out of sorts and is acting very strange indeed but she doesn‘t want to make a wrong move or push too hard. So she's pretty surprised by what happens next since it’s so totally out of character for her when they fall into bed together and have mind-blowing sex. And I guess it really did blow Thomas’ mind since he can’t remember it the next day. That’s got to be a little hard on a girl’s ego?

Sophie’s right. Thomas isn’t acting normal. In fact he’s suffering from traumatic amnesia after several events in a row have sent him over the deep end - the death of his adopted brother and nephew, his adopted father is being accused of being a mob boss - something Thomas absolutely refuses to believe and it’s all just too much. He’s a mess the night he shows up at Sophie’s lake house but one thing’s for sure - he’s got a powerful, inexplicable sexual hunger for Dr Sophie Gable - Explosive!

It almost seemed like Sophie was Thomas’ lifeline, his only salvation to keep whatever memories he was repressing so he didn't completely splinter apart. He was like a live wire, on edge, ready to crack at any moment. Sex with Sophie seemed to be the only way to keep him marginally sane. So they have lots and lots of sex. Ms. Kery knows how to write steamy, erotic romance, explosive sexual encounters, but even I may have thought there was too much focus on the sex. The story was good enough and Sophie was a professional woman, I felt she was above just being used by Thomas for sex for whatever was wrong with him especially when their actions took a turn that I felt was totally out of character for Sophie.

I don’t think there was any mystery where this story was headed, but I was hooked wondering what would happen when Thomas regained his memory and how he would deal with the fallout and what it would mean for his and Sophie’s relationship.

The suspense story in Explosive was actually pretty interesting and when Thomas finally does regain his memories - well it was explosive!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: Beg For Mercy

Title: Beg For Mercy
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Author: Jami Alden
Pub: June 1, 2011 by Forever

Megan Flynn thought she was falling in love. Cole Williams wasn't just handsome and passionate, he was one of the good guys. Or so she thought, until he arrested her brother - the only family she has left - for a murder she knows he couldn't have possibly committed. Now, with her heart broken and her brother's life hanging in the balance, Megan will risk everything to prove his innocence. Even if that means throwing herself into the path of a sadistic killer with a hauntingly familiar MO.

Seattle Detective Cole Williams had given up on making Megan see reason where her brother is concerned. But when she insinuates herself into the most shockingly brutal case Cole has ever worked, he can't stand idly by. Plunged into a secret world where the city's elite indulge their darkest desires, Cole will do whatever it takes to bring down a madman who has made Megan his most coveted prey.

Making the Grade: B+

For My Thoughts

Beg for Mercy is the book anyone who enjoys the suspense and spine-tingling story-telling a la Karen Rose or Laura Griffin. When I choose to read a RS - I want a couple of things. A suspenseful, plausible story to keep me guessing and a good conflict between the hero and heroine. I love to feel the romantic tension when the characters just love to hate one another. I like to see the journey the author takes them on from being on the outs to somehow overcoming their differences and getting it on.

One day everything seems perfect in Megan Flynn’s life. She’s getting all cozy with the new man in her life Seattle Detective Cole Williams and they‘re just about to do the horizontal mambo when Cole gets a phone call that turns Megan’s life on it’s ear and their fledgling relationship on its head.

Megan Flynn loves her older brother Sean without a doubt. When a young woman is found murdered in Sean’s home and he is sentenced to death row - from that point forward Megan spends every waking minute of every day trying to find proof that somehow, someway her brother did not commit the heinous crime he of which he’s been accused.

As the arresting officer, Cole Williams is a by the book, just the facts ma’am dedicated to his job detective. And all the facts point with a big, fat arrow straight at Sean Flynn as the murderer of a young woman he was supposedly stalking from a popular club.

Warning: Conflict ahead. Megan and Cole’s relationship flushes right down the toilet. From simmering hot to ice age cold in the blink of an eye. So much for happily ever after. As long as Sean’s in prison, Megan will never rest until she proves her brother’s innocence. And as long as Cole believes her brother is guilty they will never see eye to eye. Phewww how are they ever going to get past those roadblocks to happiness?

Fast forward three years and a new case of a woman brutally murdered brings Cole and Megan face to face just as the date of Sean’s execution is fast approaching.

Megan and Cole even three years later still had unresolved feeling for one another. Cole’s always felt guilty about how his relationship with Megan ended badly, but he was just doing his job. Now with this new rash of murdered women, Megan‘s persistence that the cases are somehow related to her brother‘s case and Cole‘s latent guilt, he reluctantly agrees to help her.

The villain in Beg for Mercy was particularly dark and the killing and torture scenes graphic and grizzly. This is not the type of book to read before bed unless you want a few nightmares. I didn’t know for sure who the killer was. Ms. Alden set the stage and offered up a few possible suspects and I liked that she keep me guessing.

The ending of Beg For Mercy was intense, suspenseful and edge of your seat reading.

Next up is Sean’s story in Hide From Evil. If I thought Cole and Megan had a conflict, well then I don’t think I’ve seen anything yet. Sean and his prosecuting attorney? He spent three years in jail because of her? Man how’s that gonna play out? Me? I can’t wait to find out!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Review: Fallen From Grace

Title: Fallen From Grace
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Laura Leone
Pub: June 2004 by Five Star Trade

When Ryan meets Sara, his new next-door neighbor in a rickety old San Francisco apartment building, both are in a state of emotional turmoil. Ryan, a high-priced prostitute, is trying to break free of his old life, but his handler, Catherine, won't let him. Sara's medieval mystery series has just been terminated by her publisher, and she is now trying to write a historical thriller. Sara doesn't dare make the first move toward deepening their relationship because she is older than Ryan, not as physically attractive, and halfway convinced he is gay and that if she pushes him she will lose his friendship, which she values. In this realistically gritty, sometimes violent, and gripping tale, Leone reveals the seamier side of society's maneuvering while she spins an unconventional romance between two unhappy people who find that love, like respect, can grow out of friendship and shared experiences and that new beginnings are indeed possible for those with the determination and courage to pursue them.

Making the Grade: A-

For My Thoughts

Fallen From Grace is the perfect example of how looks can be deceiving.

Ryan seems to have it all. He’s gorgeous, a "model", sweet, generous, caring, lovable, a perfect gentleman and Sarah’s new perfect neighbor...he’s also the perfect tortured hero. The reality is Ryan is living a lie and hiding a deep dark secret that will just make your heart break for him as mine did several times while I was reading it.

In a seemingly unbearable and what Ryan sees as an inescapable situation, he is forced to prostitute himself daily, in a high-class manor if that makes any difference to a clientele of wealthy woman. Ryan sees himself as beholden to a woman Catherine who saves his life when he was a troubled, desperate teen and now basically Katharine controls Ryan’s life.

But one thing Catherine can’t control is Ryan’s growing attraction for his new neighbor Sarah.

Saran’s a women whose life is in flux. I loved that she was a writer whose career had taken a bit of a downturn when she’s dropped by her current publisher. So she decides to sell her condo, move to a much smaller apartment and continue to write. Maybe not the best decision and not one her family supported, especially her sister, but I liked that she took the risk and believed in herself. Not sure I could have been so brave given the same circumstances. On the plus side she did meet Ryan.

As Ryan and Sarah spend more time together and their friendship grows, Ryan won’t let himself pursue Sarah because of the secrets he is keeping from her - he just doesn‘t feel worthy of her *sniffle*. And although Sarah is captivated by her new younger neighbor, she’s convinced he would never give her the time of day or a second glance. Not that Sarah is anywhere near old - mid thirties, but Ryan’s younger, a major sticking point for Sarah and he’s a model for goodness sake with women throwing themselves at him daily or so Sarah thinks. Ha! If only she knew the truth.

Ryan’s a saviour and a survivor. I think because he figured there was no hope for him to save his own soul, he turned his attention to saving a variety of two and four-legged animals. Like the crazy parrot he adopted when the previous owner left it behind, the big oaf of a dog Macy who can’t even make up two flights of stairs without being carried and then there’s shy Cat. Ryan’s love of his animals is just one more reason he’s perfect!

Fallen From Grace was a beautiful love story that developed from a solid friendship between two people fighting their own issues. It was filled with many poignant moments and I wasn’t only routing for Ryan to conquer his demons and escape from beneath Catherine’s financial thumb, but I cheered all the way to the end for Ryan and Sarah’s HEA.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cut Me Some Slack

If you’re a reader, then like me you have a list of auto-buy Authors. Authors whose books you would buy no matter what. Whether you enjoy historical, contemporary, romantic suspense or paranormal if you’re like me when you find out about the newest release from one of your favorite authors, see the new cover, read the cover blur you get all giddy and happy inside and maybe even let out a little squeeeeee. As a fan girl I would probably read a book written by one of my auto-buy authors - even if it was the phonebook or the periodic table.

Anticipation can be euphoric but sometimes reality misses the mark. Let’s face it not every book written by an author can hit it out of the park. Maybe something in the story tested believability, didn’t make 100% sense and all the facts didn‘t add up, the heroine had a TSTL moment or two and the hero was a complete a$$hole a time or two. Let's face it...they're men, but they usually come around.

What happens when you finally crack the spine on your eagerly anticipated book (or in this digital age - open the latest release on your e-reader) only to discover that it’s not all that and a bag of chips?

Personally I think I am more lenient and more forgiving in my review for one of my favourite author’s books as long as the book isn’t a total miscue. Since they are my favorite authors for a reason, chances are they aren’t going to write a complete dud but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be the best thing since sliced bread either.

So here’s my question: Do you cut your favorite author any slack when reviewing their book if it didn’t quite live up to your expectations?