Monday, January 9, 2012

Winter Reads - Steamy, Funny, and Hated It
TBR Challenge

This is only a semi-NY resolution, not the full "thang," but I am whittling down my To Be Read List.

I also impulse-bought a couple other books, won some others (free always fits my budget), so I have a mixed bag to report upon.

The holiday goodies:

It Happened One Christmas - Kaitlin O'Riley - full length novel one hero and heroine.  My review:

Sweet and tasty holiday treat. I loved the heroine, Lisette, and thought the author did a very skillful job of showcasing five sisters, alike yet different, not an easy job. It also really reminded me how delicious and hot it can be JUST to be kissed, thoroughly and well. (Though there is full consummation at the end.)

The subplot with Tom the street urchin felt a little distracting and repetitive in spots. Although I didn't know how, I knew he would be rescued in the end, so it was hard to feel fully vested in his peril. I very much liked how the romantic rivals for Lisette and Quinton were in and of themselves likeable characters, making that conflict much more intense.

Read it, you'll enjoy it!


Once Upon a Winter's Eve - Tessa Dare.  I won this novella through posting a comment on The Dashing Duchesses.  As noted, free always accommodates my budget nicely, I haven't read a Regency setting novel in ages, and I've wanted to sample Tessa's work for a long time.  My review:

I didn't know what to expect.  A little too busy re: number of characters, and I thought Violet was a bit too forgiving.  Also - Violet Winterbottom? Really?  It just sounds like a joke.  The hero (whose name escapes me, but he's got 2-3, so it's not really my fault) recovers from his injuries and is ready to party, so to speak, a little earlier than is realistic, IMO.

However, the chemistry between the too characters is fun, the lovemaking is nice and juicy, and it ends with a Happily for Now. For a novella, that's pretty good, and I would certainly read other works by this author.


I'll Be Home for Christmas - Linda Lael Miller, Catherine Mulvany, Julie Leto, Roxanne St. Claire

This one was fun.  Four stories of about 100 pages each.  There was a bittersweet poignancy to Linda Lael Miller's Christmas of the Red Chiefs.  The one jarring note in that story was the idea that a woman who hasn't sung at all in years could deliver a flawless soprano solo for a local TV crew on the spur of the moment.  Uh, no, I'm not a singer and even I know that's not possible.  But I liked the character and her love interest was perfect.

Catherine Mulvany's tale, Once Upon a Christmas, was beautifully layered, with that magical/mystical quality that makes a holiday tale that much more special.  Loved loved loved the hero and heroine.

Meltdown by Julie Leto, brought some Latina flava to the collection, as well as a magical/paranormal element, though one rarely (ever?) sees Santa Claus and Mayans on the same page.  Loved the story, and the tension between the hero and heroine made their consummation even hotter.

The heroine of Roxanne St. Claire's You Can Count on Me kicks ass, and not just in the figurative sense. It's tricky weaving a child into the plot without reducing heat, but she does a fine job. I want to go for a limo drive with a hot Russian former double-agent and some really fine vodka!

Great little book, I highly recommend  I'll Be Home for Christmas to anyone looking for some spicy holiday romance.


The Perfect Christmas - Debbie Macomber

Cover of "The Perfect Christmas"Macomber's been on my TBR list for a long time, and when I saw this, I picked it up, figuring, holidays, famous and prolific author, what could go wrong?

The heroine is too needy, and too conveniently dumb in some places and smart in others.  The hero is the classic Mr. Unavailable.  Apparently Ms. Macomber is not a fan of Baggage Reclaim, which is all about how women (and men) shouldn't chase after somebody who keeps pushing them away.  The B storyline, a romance between the heroine's brother and her best friend - too obvious to everyone except the heroine.

There's a funny scene where the heroine is wearing an elf-costume and being dropped to her "gig" as Santa's helper, when her too-tight tights roll down, and the kids comment on seeing the elf's underpants.  But, come on, all the other costume parts fit, but not the tights, and our fairly confident heroine doesn't ask the woman who's outfitting her for another pair, that actually do fit?

Channeling Men on Film, hated it.  (and I know, one is never, ever supposed to diss another author - but I don't think I am going to destroy Debbie's career with one honest review.  Besides...)

1105 Yakima Street - Debbie Macomber (A Cedar Cove Novel)
When I picked this up, from whence it had been languishing in my TBR file, I was scared I'd hate this one, too, but I thought it was a great book.  A little hard in the beginning, to sort out who all the people were, but the love stories were believable, the characters and their problems were realistic and not too easily solved.  (Except for the one, Leonard, who's never admitted he was wrong in 30 years of marriage, one family intervention and he's ready to be more open?  Not gonna happen - or if it does magically happen, not gonna last.  Macomber needs to do her research on OCPD and find out what true misery it causes those who live with Mr. or Ms. "Always Right.")

I really enjoyed the fact that Rachel and Bruce, with whom the story opens, don't magically solve their problems. They have problems at the beginning of the book, and are still struggling, if making progress, at the end. I felt the love in each storyline, and liked how sometimes love was enough to bring people together, but that it wasn't a magic wand.

I also read (hey, I was in bed with a bad head cold for all of NY weekend):

Jean Auel's The Land of Painted Caves because once I start something, I like to finish it, and I'd read all the others, really enjoyed most of them.  Sadly, there really isn't a good story here.  Not much conflict, until the very end of the book (825+ pages, mind you) and a lot a lot a lot of repetition.  (Did I mention there was a lot of repetition?) Detailed description of the various interiors of painted caves, which is about as fascinating as watching the slides of your neighbor's European vacation - except, oops, the slide projector is broken, so he's going to tell you about each slide.  And in this cave, the mammoths are facing each other - but in that one, they're facing the same direction.... For 15-20 locations.  Nobody actually seems to want anything, but simply behave as Barbie dolls, being dressed and moved around.  It was very disappointing.

Dee J. Adams' Dangerous Race.  I tiptoed up on this book with mixed feelings.  I've met Dee J. Adams through my local RWA chapter, and a sweeter, bubblier, more supportive writer doesn't exist.  So I wanted to like her debut novel.  Personal baggage - my crazypants ex loved his NASCAR, and if I never hear or see another checkered flag...  It was challenging for me to even read a book with an auto-racing theme.

At the photo-finish, I would give this 4.5 out of five stars.  Despite my loathing slight distaste for the world of auto-racing, Dangerous Race wrapped me up in it.  She made me smell the ethanol and like it. I believed in the lead character, Trace, and her bumpy romance with her new crew chief.  The only quibble I had was I thought the villain was too obvious, and there should have been more politicking behind the scenes re: said villain's personal goals.  A pit crew is big - we should have seen more of the others being manipulated and taking sides, perhaps being used as unwitting stooges.  However, the romance(s) and sex scenes were deliciously steamy, and the "feel" was right.  Buy it, read it, you'll love it!

So, where am I on my personal TBR Challenge?:

It Happened One Christmas - Kaitlin O'Riley
The Birthday of the World - Ursula LeGuin
Messalina: Devourer of Men - Zetta Brown
Uncut Diamonds - Karen Jones Gowan
On Writing - Stephen King
Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
Daisy Miller - Henry James
Bet Me - Jennifer Crusie
Hot, Flat and Crowded - Thomas Friedman
Pleasure's Edge - Eve Berlin
Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffeneger
Falling Leaves - Adeline Yen Mah
Picture Perfect - Jodi Picoult
Giving Up the Dream - J.L. Campbell
Watching Willow Watts - Talli Roland
Shifters' Storm - Vonna Harper
Automagically - Sommer Marsden
You Can Heal Your Life
- Louise Hay
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Little Black Dress - Susan McBride
Tourist Trap - Sue Ann Bowling
1105 Yakima Street - Debbie Macomber 
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
Confessions of an Improper Bride
- Jennifer Haymore

The details and sign-up are at Vicky's blog, Books Biscuits and Tea.

Are there any books you're moved off your TBR pile so far this year?

Coming this Wednesday - 
Guest Blogger TotsyMae has a bone or two to pick with Political Correctness. 

Coming here this Monday - BlogFest on Martin Luther King Jr. Day about racism, sexism, and discrimination.  Please join in!
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