TBR Challenge 2013 – Getting Into the Holiday Spirit?

comfortandjoy As we coast into the last month of the 2013 TBR Challenge, we get to one of my favorite categories – holiday romances. Since I was unpacking from a move, I just ended up reading the first holiday tale I encountered – Sandra Madden’s 2001 Christmas romance, Comfort and Joy. I probably should have kept right on digging because this frustrating little book definitely lands squarely in C grade territory for me.

The book has its good points. For starters, I loved the 1870s Boston settings. It’s refreshing at times to have a break from the Regency/Victorian England That Never Was. And since I tend to like romances with characters from different classes, the old money Boston hero and Irish immigrant heroine in this story caught my eye as well. Though acceptance of their romance comes perhaps a bit more easily than it would have in real life, the author does still give some consideration to the prejudices and class tension of the time. Continue reading

TBR Challenge – Can’t Escape the Hype

exclusivelyyours This month’s TBR Challenge was to find a book that got inescapable buzz. As it turns out, I have had one sitting in my Kindle for ages, waiting for that perfect time to be read. When Carina Press launched back in 2010, one of their debut titles, Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey generated lots of chatter almost from the beginning and it filled my Twitter stream for months. In fact, this title generated so much buzz and so many sales that it ended up being picked up for reissue in print by HQN. As it turns out, it ended up being the perfect companion for me as I sat through my 3 hour glucose test(ah, the joys of pregnancy.) If you like single-title contemporaries, this one is a cute, light-hearted read. I’d give it a B+ for the huge smile it left on my face.

The basic set-up is this: Hero and heroine fall in love in high school. Heroine wants a life outside of small-town New England and she takes off for the West Coast, where she starts to build a career for herself writing for celebrity tabloids. Hero, meanwhile, goes on to become a famous author and also notoriously reclusive in his private life. Continue reading

TBR Challenge – Things That Go Bump in the Night

everywheresheturns This month we’re reading romantic suspense and paranormals for the TBR Challenge. I’ve been gradually packing up for a move over the past month, so finding a book that (1)fit the category and (2)wasn’t boxed up posed something of a challenge in itself. As a result, I ended up reading the first romantic suspense I came across, Debra Webb’s 2009 release Everywhere She Turns. I don’t recall buying this one and all I can say after reading it is that it wasn’t just an average, run-of-the-mill thriller. This one was bad, even offensively bad at times. If I read this for review, I’d give it a solid D-.

So, what do we get in this story?
– misogynist villain killing women? Check.
– heroine with a chip on her shoulder who has returned home from the big city? Check and check.
– skanky villain sex? Check
– hero from the heroine’s past who might still have the hots for her ? Check Continue reading

TBR Challenge 2013: The Wild West

daughteroftx For this month’s TBR Challenge, we’re reading Westerns – contemporary or historical. Most of the Westerns in my TBR are historical, but I was in the mood for a little mystery, so I decided the Texas Ranger tie-in of Terri Reed’s 2011 Daughter of Texas would work. This novel is 1st in the multi-author Texas Ranger Justice series from Love Inspired Suspense. LIS seems to do one of these series each year, and I’ll admit that they often suck me in. Each book has its own self-contained romance and mystery, but there is also an overarching suspense plot that winds through all 6 books of the series and doesn’t get solved until the end. When it’s done well, it can be addictive. In this case, I’d say Daughter of Texas starts things off fairly well. I have a few quibbles with the romance and the heroine sometimes drove me a little nuts, but this was still a pleasant enough read, and I’d give it a C+. Continue reading

TBR Challenge 2013: Into the RITA Wayback Machine

rendezvousatgramercy This month’s theme for the multi-site TBR Challenge had me scratching my head a little. We’re supposed to read a RITA winner or runner-up. Now I have to admit that, at least in recent years, my reading tastes and the RITAs have diverged somewhat. I also noticed as I scrolled down the list of RITA winners that the books I did have from that list were almost all books I’d already read.

Then I got to the real oldies – books I would have been too young to read the first time around. My mother and grandmother both enjoyed Candlelight romances and I’ve ended up with a big box of their former keepers (some people get silver and china, some get antiques, I get old category romances and gothics – no wonder I write on a romance site). Sure enough, I managed to dig out a 1981 novel, winner of the 1982 Golden Medallion for Best Category Historical Romance, entitled Rendezvous at Gramercy by Constance Ravenlock. That’s right. This book goes back so far that they hadn’t even started calling the award the RITA yet. I wasn’t sure what I’d encounter when I read this one but it turned out to be a bit of a gem. I’d probably give it a B. Continue reading

TBR Challenge 2013: New-to-Me Author

sleepwalker There are so many authors out there that one simply cannot keep up with them all, so finding a book in my TBR pile from an author I’d never read before seemed like an easy way to start this month’s TBR CHallenge.

And it was. Karen Robards has been writing romance for almost as long as I’ve been alive, but somehow I’ve never actually read one of her books. I must have gotten curious at some point because I had her 2012 thriller, Sleepwalker sitting in my stacks of TBR books. Robards’ chase across wintry Michigan has its moments, but it also frustrated me more than a little bit at times. Taken as a whole, I’d call it a pretty uneven and ultimately frustrating read, and I’d give it a C- if it were a review book.

The sleepwalker of the title is the heroine, Micayla Lange, and in the prologue, it’s pretty easy to see why she might have issues. At the age of 11, she sees her mother murdered in the streets of Detroit. Now grown, Micayla(“Mick”) is a police officer and over the holidays she is housesitting at the mansion of a family friend. Continue reading

TBR Challenge 2013: Catching Up

onceuponascandal So my assignment for TBR challenge is to catch up on a series I’ve been neglecting. Since I read tons of books and have a tendency to fall off the series wagon midstream, I had so many possible books to read, it was downright mind-boggling! I’ve been craving a historical lately and I generally like Delilah Marvelle, so I decided to dive back into the neglected Scandal series with her 2011 release, Once Upon a Scandal. The promise of lovers reunited (love that plotline!) and a tale set at least partially in Venice appealed to me.

And then I started reading it. Continue reading

TBR Challenge 2013: Categorically Speaking

Ah, new year…new resolve to dive deep into the TBR for the multi-blog TBR Challenge. This month we’re easing in with short reads (novellas, category books, etc..) and so I went pulled out 2004 release In Like Flynn from Harlequin’s now-defunct Flipside line. I didn’t remember having this book, but as soon as I saw the author’s name I knew immediately why I would have picked it up. Dorien Kelly is the author of Do-Over, which is to this day one of my very favorite lawyer romances. Most romances involving the law center on criminal practice, but I’ve always worked in the civil realm and Do-Over a pitch perfect portrayal of what life in a sizable corporate firm is like. Short on glamor, long on drudgery and intense politics.

With this book, Kelly turns her focus to life in a family-run restaurant chain. Annie Rutherford comes from an overachieving family and while she has an MBA, she’s still the black sheep as she works for a pizza chain in Ann Arbor rather than a silk-stocking investment firm or something of that nature. Annie dreams of showing the owner of the chain how to make it into a franchise, but Mr. Donovan has other ideas – he wants to create an Irish pub like one he enjoyed on vacation. Continue reading

TBR Challenge 2012 – Where the Wild Things Are

This month’s TBR Challenge read gave me a choice between romantic suspense and paranormal romance. I read a fair amount of suspense (romantic and otherwise) anyway, so I decided to dig into my little stack of romances with random creatures. I came up with Edge of Hunger by Rhyannon Byrd, a 2009 HQN release. This book is first in the ongoing Primal Instinct series. I found it an engaging but rather strange read. I enjoyed the steamy romance and the paranormal worldbuilding is a bit of a twist on the shapeshifter idea. I could spot elements that reminded me of other paranormal series I’ve read, but the author definitely puts an original spin on her world. However, there’s more than a little bit of the crazy and cliched worked in there, too. While I did enjoy parts of this book, I also spent way too much time rolling my eyes and/or cracking up over some of the overwrought wackiness, so in the end I think I’d give this a C+.
Continue reading

TBR Challenge 2012 – And Now for Something Completely Different…

indian_bride I read across a wide variety of genres, so choosing a non-romance book for this month’s TBR Challenge proved rather tricky. In the end, I went with a mystery, because I really wanted to get back into Karin Fossum’s Inspector Sejer series. Set in rural Norway, this series follows Inspector Sejer on his investigations and stands apart from many other mystery series in that it focuses much more on the psychology and the human side of the various crimes presented. The Indian Bride comes 4th in the portion of the series that is available in English, but it works well as a standalone. Though it starts off slowly, this book still holds the attention and as it progresses, it becomes almost compulsively readable. It’s not the most exquisitely perfect mystery I’ve ever read, but I’d give it a very solid B+.

The book centers around Gunder Jomann, a shy, simple salesman from a small Norwegian village. The middle-aged bachelor Gunder is spellbound by the beauty of the Indian women he sees in books and finally one day he decides to travel to India and hopefully meet a woman to marry. He lives simply, so he has enough money saved up for the trip and he even purchases a beautiful silver filigree brooch to give his future bride. Continue reading