Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: The Look Of Love by Bella Andre (The Sullivans, #1)

Title: The Look of Love
Author: Bella Andre
Publisher: self-published
Publication Date: Sept. 1, 2011

4 out of 5 Stars

Bella Andre's Sullivan series was on sale recently and these were books I had wanted to read for awhile now. I grabbed the first five books in the series and dove into first, The Look of Love, with a vengeance.

From Goodreads:

Chloe Peterson is having a bad night. A really bad night. The large bruise on her cheek can attest to that. And when her car skids off the side of a wet country road straight into a ditch, she’s convinced even the gorgeous guy who rescues her in the middle of the rain storm must be too good to be true. Or is he?

As a successful photographer who frequently travels around the world, Chase Sullivan has his pick of beautiful women, and whenever he’s home in San Francisco, one of his seven siblings is usually up for causing a little fun trouble. Chase thinks his life is great just as it is—until the night he finds Chloe and her totaled car on the side of the road in Napa Valley. Not only has he never met anyone so lovely, both inside and out, but he quickly realizes she has much bigger problems than her damaged car. Soon, he is willing to move mountains to love—and protect—her, but will she let him?

Chloe vows never to make the mistake of trusting a man again. Only, with every loving look Chase gives her—and every sinfully sweet caress—as the attraction between them sparks and sizzles, she can’t help but wonder if she’s met the only exception. And although Chase didn’t realize his life was going to change forever in an instant, amazingly, he isn’t the least bit interested in fighting that change. Instead, he’s gearing up for a different fight altogether…for Chloe’s heart.

My Thoughts:

Let's get the fun stuff out of the way. Or perhaps better described, the sexy times. YOWZA!  First of all, I loved the characters and the heat between Chloe and Chase was off the charts. And then, to top that, the author throws in that scene in the beginning when she is in the tub? I was like, oh no she didn't! But she did. She seriously did! And then I was all fanning myself because that even made me blush a little bit and that is saying something. (Not to mention when the two re-create the scene later. Ohmigod!)

I know some may grumble about what they call "insta-lust" or "insta-love". I can see how a reader could be frustrated by this. But as a writer, I understand that it's near impossible to write a story where things happen as slowly as they do in the real world. Not to mention that, when I read fiction, I can suspend my beliefs in this regard. I want to see that instant connection, that spark between the two. If I didn't want that, I wouldn't like this genre. But I do, so I don't complain about that. Or I try not to. As long as I can feel the connection, it usually isn't an issue. And I definitely felt a connection in this book.

The writing was tight as was the plot. I didn't run into any glaring editing errors that took me out of the story. But what I really loved about this story was the pace. It was like drinking a glass of wine. You don't chug it back like a shot of my favorite vodka. You sip it. You relish in the words and the images the writer is creating. I know that this might sound odd, especially considering many of my book reviews revolve around the steam factor (ahem, see above). But what can I say? It's the truth about the way this book spoke to me. So yeah, it was hot, steamy and I loved the tension, and the release of that tension, between Chloe and Chase. But it was also more than that. To me, this was what a romance level should be: a great story and character combined with the steam and love we have all come to expect. And if the rest of the series is like this first one, I seriously cannot wait to read about the rest of the Sullivan siblings.

I haven't mainlined this series because when I do that I tend to get burned out really fast on the author. Before I started doing a lot of book reviews, I would often read the first in a series and then plow through the rest until I was done. I did this sort of thing and totally binged on Kristen Ashley's books. I found that eventually the books run out and I am left with a serious craving for more. So, unlike the old me, I will take a break before I start the second book. I'm in no rush after all and I can already tell that this is a series I want to savor.

You can find The Look of Love at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and likely other fine retailers out there. If you pick it up, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and if you've read, let me know what you think!

*This book was a self-purchase and I was not in any way compensated for, or even asked, to review this book. All opinions are my own*

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book Review: Never Seduce A Scot by Maya Banks

Title: Never Seduce A Scot
Author: Maya Banks
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: Sept. 25, 2012

Ah. A highlander romance. Nothing better when it's freezing cold outside and I need something to warm me up. But even better than that? A highlander romance where the author takes the story in a different direction and has me wishing the book never ends.

From Goodreads:

Eveline Armstrong is fiercely loved and protected by her powerful clan, but outsiders consider her “touched.” Beautiful, fey, with a level, intent gaze, she doesn’t speak. No one, not even her family, knows that she cannot hear. Content with her life of seclusion, Eveline has taught herself to read lips and allows the outside world to view her as daft. But when an arranged marriage into a rival clan makes Graeme Montgomery her husband, Eveline accepts her duty—unprepared for the delights to come. Graeme is a rugged warrior with a voice so deep and powerful that his new bride can hear it, and hands and kisses so tender and skilled that he stirs her deepest passions.

Graeme is intrigued by the mysterious Eveline, whose silent lips are ripe with temptation and whose bright, intelligent eyes can see into his soul. As intimacy deepens, he learns her secret. But when clan rivalries and dark deeds threaten the wife he has only begun to cherish, the Scottish warrior will move heaven and earth to save the woman who has awakened his heart to the beautiful song of a rare and magical love.

My thoughts:

I read this book over a week ago but I already think I need to do a re-read. It is so, so good. It is a story of love but even more than that is a story of forgiveness. Of two enemy families putting aside their differences (which were huge) and coming together for the sake of the woman they both love. I know that the second book focusing on Bowen is coming out March 19th and I cannot wait.

Let's start with the heroine. Eveline is deaf. No one knows she can't hear. She has learned to read lips and the fact that people think she is "touched" has saved her from a horrible arranged marriage to a very, very bad man. When the King orders her to marry the Laird of an enemy clan she is terrified, but knows she must in order to help her own clan. She resolves to be strong. And a part of her seems happy because she might get to experience the things a normal woman does-marriage and having children. 

And then there is Graeme. Oh he was such a hard man. In so many ways. *snickers* Okay, I will try to be serious here. Graeme was so freaking great. The first time he meets Eveline...I nearly melted. The man was so sweet and so gentle with Eveline. He never blamed her for the feud between their families, or treated her badly. And the part where, when they get to his keep and he brings her (and her things) to her room and then leaves?!  Eveline's reaction is freaking priceless. 

My heart broke several times at the way Eveline struggled for acceptance with Graeme's clan. To those arrogant jerks, not only was she "touched" but she also was the daughter from an enemy clan. She did not have an easy road. And I think I would have given up. But she did what she had to, working her butt off, working towards acceptance from them and wanting them to like her the way Graeme did. (Well, not like her that way exactly, but like her for who she was, not what clan she came from).   

Without giving too much away I just need to say that, the part where tragedy strikes, I was flailing all over the place. I don't think I took a breath when Eveline went all Mama-Bear, protecting Graeme with every ounce of energy she had.  In regards to that evil woman in the book (I won't reveal who she is for those haven't read it), Graeme went easy on her for what she did. And when he dealt with the bad guy (again, won't say who!), just know that I was cheering like the Graeme fan-girl that I am. 

Bottom line, Maya Banks writes a stand out Highlander romance and I will definitely be checking out the rest in this series as well as her other highlander romances. If I could beg her to do one thing it would be to never stop writing these.  

The book is available via Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and probably at other retailers as well. (I only gave the link to the first two. If people want links to other stores in my reviews, let me know in the comments!)

*This book was a self-purchase and I was not in any way compensated for, or even asked, to review this book. All opinions are my own*

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book Review: Love and the Blue Eyed Cowboy by Sandra Chastain

Title: Love and  a Blue Eyed Cowboy
Author: Sandra Chastain
Publisher: Loveswept
Publication Date: February 11, 2012 (originally published March 1, 1992)

My rating: 2.75 out of 5 Stars 
(Rounded up on GR since they don't have half stars)

From Goodreads:

Hunky cowboy Hunter Kincaid is bruised, broke, and brash enough to think that he can win the top prize in a motorcycle scavenger hunt through the backwoods of Georgia. What he doesn’t count on is being saddled with Fortune Dagosta as a partner. After locking horns with the back-seat driver, Hunter soon hopes to lock lips. Can a loner of the open road be a lover with an open heart?

Fortune has no idea how she’ll survive a week on the road with a smartass like Hunter. But she needs the money from the race to put a new roof on her halfway house for troubled kids—and Hunter’s her best shot at first place. Despite a few bumps on the way, Fortune finds herself lost in Hunter’s deep blue eyes. Neither expects the attraction to last, but Hunter and Fortune have embarked on the ride of their lives.

Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: The Reluctant Countess, Wild Rain, and Silk on the Skin.

My Thoughts:

This was a cute, sweet romance novel that included a mild amount of steam. I really liked the hero, and his name was one of the most awesome hero names that I have ever heard. I mean, Hunter there a better name than that?! I don't think so!  I will say as a warning, a reader has to suspend their disbelief in several spots, but this isn't anything new to me when reading romance. That being said, I did like the premise of the book. A scavenger hunt via motorcycle? Awesome idea. Hunter seemed to be definitely more cowboy than motorcycle man though, which was a bit of a shame (cause I love a motorcycle man) but the combination here actually worked in his favor.

And what about Fortune? Also a good name. She was supposed to be this free spirit sort of woman, which was fine except a times I felt it didn't ring true. Don't get me wrong, I liked her. But at times I felt it was just a window dressing of sorts to try and make her unique. It just lacked depth, for me.  Also, there were times that the character's actions didn't match their age.  One minute Hunter was acting like an elder statesman (the cigar? Just didn't fit who I saw in my head), and the next like a spoiled brat pissed off at his parents. Fortune on the other hand at times acted too naive and young for her age. There was also heroine wavering, like a lot. Sometimes within thirty seconds it seemed. One minute she was thinking she was in love with the man and the next she was all, this could never work out. And the worst part of it was it all happened in an internal dialogue that, after awhile, got on my nerves.

Speaking of the narrative, in the beginning, we hear a lot of the characters thoughts. This was a distraction at times but as the book progressed this seemed to happen less. I was glad for this since I liked to see the two communicating more. After all, it was just the two of them on the open road around the southeastern United States trying to win the scavenger hunt. So it made sense that so much focus was on them.  And when the dialogue moved from internal to external this was much appreciated.

I did not run into major editing errors (grammar, typos, and the like) however, I did get confused at one point. In the beginning there is a mention of riding around the outback in Australia on the Phantom (the type of bike in the book).  However, the book takes place in the United States. And I know this because this is where they go for the clues-North and South Carolina, Georgian, Tennessee, Florida, etc.  So, where does Australia come into play exactly? This had me scratching my head and I had actually had to go back three times to try and figure this out. Maybe I was just reading it wrong? Or is it just that the bike itself is meant to be able to do such a thing, i.e. ride around the Outback? I still am not quite sure about this or where Australia fit in.

Steam wise this is mild. At least compared to books now a days. The first time together was a shocker for me. I didn't see that coming at all. I am still unsure if this is a good thing or not. (I won't give it away here for those who've not read it.)  All in all this was a cute romance and was a nice way to spend a couple hours on a Saturday. Had this been published recently I would have given it less stars, but taking into account the year it was written and it being pretty standard language for 1992, I cut it some slack.

Here are the purchase links for the book: Amazon / Barnes and Noble

*I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Writing, Reading and Great Music: A Week In Review

Starting today I will be only doing ROW80 updates on Sundays.  There are several reasons for this but they all generally center around one thing. Time. With work kicking up in intensity and a whole lot of other things on my plate, I feel that by posting an update once a week will end up being more effective for me.  Also, and in theory, not posting every Wednesday should leave me time to focus on getting my weekly goals done, instead of worrying about posting a mid-week update. (I know this isn't something I should worry about, but I do...cause well, I'm me!)  Not to mention that I have a ton of book reviews done and almost ready to go up so this will keep me busy for awhile on the blog.  

This isn't to say there will never be a Wednesday update. I just can't plan on doing one every week. There just aren't enough hours in the day after all. (As much as I wish there were...I need just a few more!). Also my Sunday blog posts will be a sort of mash-up of my week, including my ROW80 update, what has been happening on the blog, and any other bright and shineys I find during the week and want to share. 

So to start off, here's what's been happening on the blog: 

Book Review: Black Ice by Anne Stuart (Ice #1): This was a 5 star book and if you like suspense, this books has it spades! And do not even get me started on Bastien. The way the author wrote him was stunning  and it kept me guessing until the end.

Must See Television, New-ish Music and a ROW80 Update: Check out Wednesday's post if you want to hear an awesome song by Lana del Ray. I seriously cannot stop listening to her music! HELP!

Book Review: Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens:  a historical romance I wasn't sold on until I finally started reading it. Devil rocks! \o/

And what is coming up this week? Some more books reviews and of course working on my ROW80 goals, along with work and getting a whole bunch of grading in.

But there is something else I am looking forward to this week. Raid by Kristen Ashley.  It's being released on February 28th. I will be hiding out in my house as soon as I get home that day and won't emerge until it is done. I cannot wait for this book! Not to mention, then we have Own The Wind coming in April, Fire Inside on July 2nd, (these are books 1 and 2 of her new Chaos Series) and Jagged (book 5 of the Colorado Mountain series) in November. That's four novels. And her novels are not short like at all! And, this doesn't even include the any other novels she may self-pub this year. This woman is the hardest working writer I know! (And seriously, if you like romance, check out some of her books. If you need suggestions of where to start, hit me up in the comments or PM me on Goodreads!)

Okay enough gushing over books and all things Kristen Ashley! Here's my ROW80 update:
  • Continue working on query and synopsis: The query letter is done. Still working and musing over the synopsis. I am excited about being at this point, however, as I write it up, it makes me think and re-think about the novel which has nudged me a bit lower on the confidence scale. I am going to do a complete re-read this week to make sure I've hit all the important parts in the synopsis though. I am hoping this will get rid of the doubt creeping in.  
  • Spend 2 hours on collaborative project: Uh, well I have a plan to do this now. And I have carved out specific time in my schedule this this is a start, right?!
  • Post at least 1 book review here or on GR- This is more than done. As I mentioned I am moving towards doing book reviews and since I have a ton of books to read this should keep me busy for the foreseeable future. I am loving it. :)  
  • Read/comment on at least 5 blogs- Done
  • Check in for ROW80 on Sunday- Done
  • Workout 3 times- Okay, well see this is only one time. I am going to workout after I post this too so that will be two. I'm almost there! 
Next week my goals are going to be the same except I want to up the amount of book reviews I do. I would like to average three a week, but we shall see how that goes. 

Lastly, I will end with this link to a very apt picture from one of my pinterest boards. Anyone who knows me knows I love Pride and Prejudice and go total fan-girl over the movie version by BBC. Combine that with a love of reading and well, there you go! :)

Hope everyone had a great week and good luck with your goals!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Book Review: Black Ice by Anne Stuart (Ice #1)

Title: Black Ice
Author: Anne Stuart
Publisher: Mira
Publication Date: Jan. 1, 2007

My Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars

I have read a lot of books in my 30-plus years of, well, reading. And a lot of these are good. Some are even great. But, it is rare for me to come across a book that has to be considered one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life. Black Ice ranks up there as one of these books.

From Goodreads:

Living paycheck to paycheck in Paris, American book translator Chloe Underwood would give anything for some excitement and passion--even a little danger. So when she's offered a lucrative weekend gig translating at a business conference in a remote chateau, she jumps at the chance to shake things up.

Then by chance Chloe discovers her employers are anything but the entrepreneurs they appear, and suddenly she knows far too much. Her clients are illegal arms dealers, and one of them is ordered to kill her. But instead, Bastien Toussaint drags Chloe away, and the next thing she knows she's on the run with the most terrifying and seductive man she's ever met. What were his motives--and would she live long enough to find out?

My thoughts:

This book kept coming up in recommendations on Goodreads and people were raving about it. I finally bought is and holy heck this book! This book had me at the edge of my seat. Seriously at the freaking edge of my seat! 

In some reviews, I tend to focus on the relationship between the characters. And there is a relationship here that needs to be talked about.  But it is the story itself and the character of Bastien that had me completely enthralled. His character boggled my mind.  I went through the book vacillating between wanting Chloe to beat him over the head with a solid object and running for her life, and running into his arms, proclaiming her undying love. I could not figure him out and then BAM! Suddenly, I got it. We started to get into his head and saw the internal battle he was fighting between the man he was trained to be and the man he wanted to be with Chloe.  As for Chloe, I found myself liking her. She was not a kick ass heroine. She was strong in some ways, but she was stupid in others. But above all of this, I felt that she was written realistically for the situation she found herself in.  Chloe was real for me because there were times she was freaking out and rightly so! Though I do admit, her looking on the computer, when she had an idea things were not on the right side of the law...Well that was just freakin stupid. But, we all have lapses in judgment I guess. And seriously, if Bastien was around me and I was being tortured by someone even scarier than him, well I might be that stupid too.

Now, I have to talk about the part where Bastien takes Chloe. Or the circumstances leading up to it.  This is mentioned in the blurb. When he drags her away, he doesn't kidnap her. What he offers though is something way better than what Chloe had been experiencing before he came into the room. Even though she is terrified of him too, she knows he offers her something she won't get while in that room. Life. And in that scene, when Chloe was on the floor, fighting her urge to give in and scream, maybe that is why Bastien saved her. I don't know. He was pretty into her before, but I couldn't tell if, in the beginning, this was part of his act or not. But in any case, when he saw her there, and saw her strength as she tried to resist what was coming, his humanity showed through. The ice began to thaw and he saved her from a horrible, torturous experience. And for that, I will love Bastien forever.

There is romance in the book. But it is not romance in the traditional sense. They are running for their lives, literally, and there isn't a lot of time to stop and have a chat. They connect physically but both seem to understand that a lot of this has to do with what they are running from.  They give in, but they also believe it won't last, no matter how much they want it to.  Bastien knows he has to give her up. He doesn't feel like he is good enough for her and that she deserves more. Not a broken man like him. And everything he does for her to get her out of the line of fire, and then later, to protect her when she gets home even at risk to his own safety, shows that he loves Chloe. That he wants her so badly but is willing to sacrifice his happiness for her to find it with someone else. This broke my heart.

Some may ask, was it Stockholm Syndrome? Heck, Chloe herself asked this several times. She tried to convince herself that it was. I don't know enough about that to say one way or another. I will say though that Chloe was never really his hostage. He made clear that if she left she would be killed (and she almost was), but not necessarily by him. (It was a bit ambiguous in the beginning, when he was being all 'bad guy', but it changed once he saved her.)    She let him keep her safe. And who wouldn't? I mean, I'd prefer living over dying so yeah, I would definitely have made the same choice Chloe did.  She wasn't doing it because she was lusting after Bastien. She did to survive. And because of this, her uncertainty about things with Bastien on the personal level was realistic. She was wondering herself, just like I was, whether she only wanted him because of the situation they were in or if she really did want to be with him.

The very end, I swear my heart was in pieces. From the point where he came back to the last page, I was just out of breath. The bedroom scene? *sighs*  The crawl space scene *gasps* The mine? Well frak me I think I stopped breathing.  At that point, I was pretty certain that the author had done the unthinkable but I had to keep reading, even if that was the case, because I had to know. I won't say what happened but the roller coaster of emotions was so worth it.

I've seen reviewers complain about the ending, because it just...well...ends. But there is resolution. And to me, it was perfect. And the last thing he says...I totally squealed with happiness!  Don't get me wrong, I love a good epilogue. But I can live without them too. Because in my head, where all my favorite fictional characters live in happily ever land, I am confident things are all rainbows and unicorns.

So if you are looking for a phenomenal romantic suspense novel that will keep you off balance while you're trying to figure things out, this is it. Here are the book links for Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Happy reading!

Note: This is the first in a series but the books have different main characters in them. I am not sure if there is any connection as I have not read the next one. Yet. But I will.

*This book was a self-purchase and I was not in any way compensated for, or even asked, to review this book. All opinions are my own*

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Must See Television, New-ish Music and a ROW80 Update

I love Matthew MacFadyen. I am addicted to Ripper Street because of him. Not to mention the guy who plays the American doctor (or whatever he is...) is just gorgeous. It's gritty and very British and I can't stop watching. 

I know that has nothing to do with my goals, but I had to say it. In addition, my other new addiction is the music of Lana Del Ray. Holy hell this woman can sing. Here is the official video for Blue Jeans (I freaking LOVE this song...):

Her music might not be to everyone's taste but don't judge her on just this song. Check out some of her other music (Video Games, Gods and Monsters, Born To Die, Off To The Races...just to name a few!) Video Games is by far one of my favorites. Or at least the one I have on repeat the most lately!

But enough about my new TV and music addictions. Here is my ROW80 update:
  • Work on revising and cutting down my query letter- I've cut the query letter down to a page. YAY! Though I still am not thrilled with it. For now I am going to shift focus to the synopsis now. This should be the easy part. Or at least easier than that damn query letter.  
  • Spend 2 hours on collaborative project- I suck. 
  • Post at least 1 book review here or on GR- Done! I've posted several reviews of late-one here and a few others on Goodreads. The link for the latest review on the blog is at the bottom of this post if you'd like to check it out. (You can also find more reviews at Goodreads!)
  • Read/comment on at least 5 blogs- I've completed this goal but will go back around today and tomorrow to see how fellow ROW80ers are doing.
  • Check in for ROW80 on Sunday- It's not Sunday yet...
  • Workout 3 times- *crickets*
In terms of my goals, I am glad I slowed things down when I did. My sleeping schedule has been really messed up and I am trying to get that back under control. I am hopeful that when I do I can add a few more goals here and there. Maybe. On a side note, I am really starting to miss writing on some of my other WiPs. Yesterday I went back to dabbling on another story during the #row80 twitter sprint, just to take the edge off not working on anything new of late. I felt so much better after I did. So, even though I am not making this a goal per say for this week, I am going to try and join in a few more sprints this week to keep that up. (I have found when I can't/don't write, I get a *tad* cranky...)  Anyways, I hope everyone's week is going well and good luck with your goals!

What you may have missed on the blog:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Book Review: Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens

Title: Devil's Bride (Cynster #1)
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: March 17, 2009

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

From Goodreads:

When Devil, the most infamous member of the Cynster family, is caught in a compromising position with plucky governess Honoria Wetherby, he astonishes the entire town by offering his hand in marriage. No one dreamed this scandalous rake would ever take a bride. And as society mamas swooned at the loss of England′s most eligible bachelor, Devil′s infamous Cynster cousins began to place wagers on the wedding date.

But Honoria wasn′t about to bend society′s demands and marry a man "just" because they′d been found together virtually unchaperoned. No, she craved adventure, and while solving the murder of a young Cynster cousin fit the bill for a while, she decided that once the crime was solved she′d go off to see the world. But the scalding heat of her unsated desire for Devil soon had Honoria craving a very different sort of excitement. Could her passion for Devil cause her to embrace the enchanting peril of a lifelong adventure of the heart?

Let me state first that I am not *usually* a fan of historical romance. I like my contemporaries mainly because the characters can be a bit freer in their language which translates to seriously hot scenes. In my opinion anyways.

However, on Sunday I was perusing a few review blogs and I came across someone who suggested this books. I headed over to Goodreads to see what had been said about them. Even after seeing all the positive reviews I was leery about trying a historical romance. I should have known better.

I mean, I did this same thing with Highlander romances. I hesitated and was all "those aren't my thing" then I read one and was like "hot damn send me back in time so long as they have indoor plumbing!".  I don't read a lot of them, but every once in awhile a hot highlander is what a girl needs, ya know?

Anyways, back to Devil's Bride. Oh Devil. DEVIL! That man is freaking hot. He is scary hot. And even though it's a historical, this man loves his woman, and he is fiercely protective of her. Who knew there could be hot alphas back in the day. And in this case, there are A LOT of them! I mean, Vane, Scandal, Demon, Gabriel, Lucifer...Dear god, I could swoon just thinking about them all!

But let me get back to Devil. When he sees Honoria, and they banter, well he knows. I mean he totally knows that she is the woman who will be his wife. I loved that about him. Usually I see insta-love and cringe. But here? Oh no. In the short time we come to know Devil, it's made clear he is a man who knows what he wants. He says it in fact. He is a fighter, a warrior, a conqueror. And he's a landed Duke. So yeah, he wants her and he claims her. In words of course, not in action. Devil is a gentleman. Sometimes. ;)

Honoria. Let's talk about this woman for a second. First, the fact that she didn't have to rely on Devil for money was awesome. It isn't something that one sees a lot in historical  Of course she isn't as wealthy as Devil. But she does have enough that getting married isn't a financial necessity  This was a nice change. Her past was heart-breaking and I really understood (once we find out the why) why she was leery of falling in love and getting hitched. I was glad that the author did this. She wasn't just contrary to the idea to be contrary. (I admit that I was frustrated with her at first. But then it was like "AHA!" and then I was all "Awwww Honoria! Let me give you a hug honey!).  She had her reasons and when Devil figured out what it was, he showed her the patient, sweet, adorable man that he could be. While still being unbelievably sexy.

Speaking of sex. Let's get to that part. I was initially thinking purple-prose, fade to black scenes and/or lack of steam. Well let me just say that Stephanie Laurens you can write a freakin' sex scene! But first she builds up to it. And darn you Ms. Laurens every time we got close something  interrupted them! Or Honoria got confused. Or Devil decided that he wanted Honoria to make her decision before he made her his wife. And I was like "omg you're freaking killing  me woman!". Especially the scene at the Ball. Well, maybe she wasn't killing me, but ladies, I'm sure you get my meaning. Also, she doesn't keep the sex scenes all buttoned up. Devil likes sex (and all that leads up to sex) and he teaches Honoria all about what he knows. And he also switches things up, being adventurous about just where they can engage in all things sex. Yes. Devil is  not shy. And Honoria catches on quickly. One more thing about the sexy scenes  As I mentioned, the build up happens slow, with soul shattering kisses and touching and ya know, all that good stuff. Before they are married. And don't worry.You don't have to wait for the wedding night for all the clothes to come totally off. (Another reason I loved this book. I know, I'm a romance novel whore. Don't judge me!)

Another thing I really liked about this book: Although it was approx. 300+ pages on my Nook Color, it didn't go fast for me. With these books (and Highlanders) I find that I really have to take my time to get the lay of the land and figure out who is related to who and who is a Duke, or a Duchess or a Lord, etc. This for some reason made the reading experience way better for me. Oh, and I know some people weren't impressed with the suspense aspect. It is relatively obvious who the 'bad guy' is. But I didn't mind this. I think it was because watching the characters try to figure it out and put the pieces together was enjoyable. Sure I knew, but it didn't drag nor was it tedious. There were times I was like "No, don't go there! Don't do that!" to the characters (in my head of course. I'm not that cray-cray). But this was fun for me. It was like watching a movie where you know who the killer is, but the main characters don't. It was nice to be along for the ride as they put the clues together.

The author's descriptions of the land, the people and society in general was well written. I am one of those readers who wants an author to be super detailed. (Hello Kristen Ashley! This is why I love your books! Er, well one of them!) And the book didn't suffer from first-book-in-a- series syndrome. There are a lot of characters sure, but it's not overwhelming. She gives just enough to really want to dive into book 2. (Vane and Patience! Yay!!!!)  There is also humor and sweetness in the books. Devil's horse was awesome. (I hope he enjoyed those tea cakes!) And Honoria trying to protect Devil, when he was trying to protect her? Freaking adorable. Oh and when Devil and Honoria cut the cake? Humorous and hot.  Lastly, the rest of the Cynsters cracked me up. I loved the epilogue when Honoria found out about the book. The joke was totally on them.

Bottom line, this book does not disappoint. I am going to be nabbing the second in the series today however, I am going to read some contemporaries first. I've heard that, like with the highlander romances, one shouldn't mainline the entire series at once. (Although, honestly, I think this might be true with most series. I ODed on the Stephanie Plum series big time after a marathon read of it to the point where I just cannot do it anymore.)

*This book was a self-purchase and I was not in any way compensated for, or even asked, to review this book. All opinions are my own*

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Staying Steady: A ROW80 Update

Today is going to be a short and sweet ROW80 check-in. I have a ton of things to do and much of it is writing and reading related. Oh, and grading. I need to do a bunch of that too. Blah. 

Speaking of reading, last night I started Black Ice by Anne Stuart. I just have to say that this book is so freakin good. I haven't been this caught up in a suspense novel in a looooooooong time. I was literally on the edge of my seat. Bastien is such a freaking jerk yet I don't know whether to love him or hate him! I love authors that can do this to me. *happy sighs*  As soon as I finish this post, I am going to finish it. Then do some writing. Then some grading. Maybe. 

And with that, here's the update:
  • Work on revising and cutting down my query letter- I have gone over the letter again and cut it down some more. It's still not ready, but it is getting there. At teh same time I am working on a 2 page synopsis. Some of the publishers want a synopsis, some want the first chapter, others the first 10 pages. 
  • Spend 2 hours on collaborative project-Fail. Just a total, epic fail.
  • Post at least 1 book review here or on GR- this week I posted on my Goodreads page. I've read several good books this week and si this means I have a bunch more reviews to get up on both the blog and Goodreads. I just love reviewing books. It's so fun!
  • Read/comment on at least 5 blogs-done
  • Check in for ROW80 on Sunday-done.
  • Workout 3 times- 2 out of 3. Why can't I get around to that third workout?! Ugh!
Next week my goals remain the same, except that along with revising my query letter I will be working on the synopsis I mentioned. Last week I needed to cut things down goal wise and doing so really lessened a bunch of the stress I was starting to feel. Alright, off to read, write and grade. Hope everyone has had a successful week and happy writing! 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Slowing Down

I can feel it. I can just feel  my head and body telling me to slow down or I am going to careen off the nearest cliff and fall into the ravine that is Burn Out City. How do I know this? Well, first, because it isn't just that I'm tired today. I've been feeling off since Thursday. I just been feeling kind of disconnected from things, especially writing related. Part of this could be why it feels like my brain is not working on all cylinders today, or doesn't seem to want to. This sucks not only because I have a ton of things to do, but also because The Walking Dead is on tonight. I should be excited about this. Sadly, I am not. Going back to bed like right now sounds like a way better idea to me at the moment. LOL  Add to this the cold I feel coming on and the fact I have not been sleeping well for the week and well, yeah, I can feel myself losing control. This next week upcoming will be all about me trying to wrest some of that control back.

Anyways, tomorrow starts another week and I've been finishing the prep for the lecture on Bartleby, the Scrivener. I need to start a discussion thread on blackboard for the students to respond to. I decided last week to start using that more, instead of having them type it out, print it, and then hand it in. Not only does it save me from lugging the papers around, but I think it gets the students to interact on the boards and *hopefully* see the different ways their fellow students are looking at, and understanding, the fiction we're studying. It should also prepare them for the mid-term and final as well since they will get used to the types of questions I ask. (Not to mention, my 9am class is very, well, quiet. And I keep telling them that participation counts like a lot, but they don't seem to get it. So this is my way of giving them a chance to step it up. We'll see if they take it.)

Speaking of teaching, and adding to my general sense of malaise today, is the weather report for tomorrow. It's calling for ICE tomorrow morning. I have to be on the roads before the plows come out. This annoys me not because of the weather itself or the fact the plows won't be out. No, it annoys me because every day that I've had to teach a class (MWF for the last two weeks) -except for one- has been crappy weather to drive in. And usually it clears up around the time I get there. I swear, the weather gods are screwing with my head and I do not appreciate it. I never thought I could possibly want spring to get here as much as I do right now. 

Oh, and in case anyone was curious, the major snow storm missed us though we did get about 7 inches of snow in a 5 hour period. This is a lot, but nothing unusual for where I live. Watching it through the window it truly was a beautiful thing to see. The snow fell and it was like a curtain. It was so thick and the flakes were just seriously huge. It was awesome but again, this was awesome to me because I was safe and warm inside my house. As for those places that got hit way harder and with a ton more snow, I do hope everyone made it through safe and sound.

And now on to my goals and how I did this past week. I got several of them done, while others (specifically the final two) kind of fell by the wayside. Anyways, here's my update:
  • Finish edits of Finding Home by Wednesday night: This got finished on Tuesday so...YAY! 
  • Prepare query letter for Finding Home:  I did some research and started this on Wednesday. I have a decent draft but it's a half of a page too long. This week I will work on cutting it down and being more concise  I have also chosen several publishers to send to. EEK! This is scary. 
  • Spend a minimum of 2 hours/week on collaborative project: This is my Sunday project! 
  • Minimum of 1 Book Review posted here or on Goodreads:  Posted my review on my blog for Graceful Submission by Melinda Barron. I also did a review for a book on GR so, I'm actually plus one here!
  • Read/comment on min. of 5 blogs/updates: Done!
  • Reply to comments on this blog: Done.
  • Check in for ROW80 on Sunday: Well this post takes care of that!
  • Send out 2 resumes this week: I failed at this. *sighs* 
  • Workout a min. of 3 times this week: One out of three. Gah. I need to get back on top of this like, asap.
Next week my goals are:
  • Work on revising and cutting down my query letter
  • Spend 2 hours on collaborative project
  • Post at least 1 book review here or on GR
  • Read/comment on at least 5 blogs
  • Check in for ROW80 on Sunday
  • Workout 3 times
I scaled things down a bit for the week upcoming. As I said in the beginning of this post, I think I need a bit of a break from the frantic pace I'd been setting for myself.  In past rounds I've hit a peak and then plumetted in terms of productivity so I really want to avoid that. Slow and steady wins the race, right?  I hope everyone has had a great week and good luck with your goals!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Book Review: Graceful Submission by Melinda Barron

Title: Graceful Submission
Author: Melinda Barron
Publisher: Loose ID, LLC.
Publication Date: January 1, 2009

First, let me warn you. This book is fast. If you get frustrated by characters who instantly connect and fall head over heels for each other, be aware that this happens. I don't mind this concept. I never have really because if it's done right it doesn't feel like the characters have only known each other for a short time. Also, it's fiction. And like with all things fiction, I suspend reality for a little while. That's the point isn't it? I mean we read to get away from the 'real world' for a bit and live where happily ever afters happen and hot, sexy alpha males actually don't mind a woman who is not a size 0. So, because of this, I don't mind journeying into a world where the heroes are alpha, women are strong, can kick ass when they need to, and at some point, the hero and heroine fall madly and deeply in love with each other and realize they're soul mates. Yeah, totally not the real world. So, this is the kind of thing I want to read, as long as it has a plot, character development and is well written.

For me, Graceful Submission had these things. Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

Plus-sized Grace Kinison lives a dull life. She's a teacher and aspiring author who does nothing but work and then write on her novel. That is, until she becomes a cyber submissive.
Grace has agreed to help her childhood friend's husband plan her surprise birthday party. Grace thinks her fellow party planner, Toffer Shelley, is a writer on a TV show. What she doesn't know is that he's the show's sexy star, Drake Dawson. He's a Dom, and he wants to work his magic on her.
When Grace runs into trouble at work, her cyber relationship turns into the real thing after she travels to Hollywood to meet Toffer. She's thrilled to be meeting her Master, until she realizes that he's the most gorgeous man in Hollywood.
But Toffer won't let Grace judge him by his looks. He takes her on a sexual journey full of bondage and submission, which give her strength to overcome challenges in her own work.

As the synopsis for the book indicates the two "meet" online. So if you have an issue believing this sort of thing can happen and be successful, just keep that in mind before reading!  So basically Grace and Toffer get to know each other first online, with the two being flirty while planning their mutual friend's party and then deciding to explore things from there with talking not only via IMs and email, but also on the phone, and eventually in person.  It was a cute story, sweet, and definitely heavy on the steam factor. (The scene where he is at some award show and calls her!?! Wow. Just...Holy hell. I mean, ohmyfreakinglord! *fans self*)

Now, I need to talk about Grace. For the most part she was cool and I liked her a lot. But the whole issue with her boss really pissed me off. I wanted her to stand up to him before she did. I get that this was in the story to add an interesting plot line and give some background, but it just felt forced at times. The only other issue I had was that the misunderstanding(s) between Grace and Toffer made me want to smack Grace. Hard. Instead of communicating with him, she took off. This was not cool. Especially not after everything she and Toffer talked about and did. She should have trusted him more. But it wouldn't be a romance without the misunderstandings, right? I guess if the misunderstandings had been developed a bit more and shown to have more of an effect on the character.  The way it is, it's almost as if it's a 'throw away' sort of misunderstanding just because romantic fiction almost requires such conflict.

There were areas that the plot could have been developed more to make it a bit longer (the party planning aspect could have gone on a bit longer. Her friends in LA weren't in it all that much; and maybe some more background on Grace and Toffer would have been nice. But then, this might not be a "complaint" since when I'm reading a book I get into a mode where I really don't want it to end even though I know it has to.

Despite the issues I had, I did enjoy the book. It was a quick, hot read and so it gets a 3.5 out of 5 stars. The author has an engaging voice and I will likely check out the next in the series (as well as her back list) when I get the chance.   I am interested in finding out about Grace's friend and the lawyer and keeping my fingers crossed that they get a book.

*This book was a self-purchase and I was not in any way compensated for, or even asked, to review this book. All opinions are my own*

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Finishing Something Never Felt So Good...And Scary

Ever since I said I might not be able to get in Wednesday's update, I've made it. Maybe I jinxed myself (in a good way)? *shrugs* Anyways, because it's Wednesday I have to be to class super early. We are talking about The Story of An Hour by Kate Chopin today. I love that short story. Hopefully the students enjoyed reading it.

So, here are my goals for the week and the progress I've made thus far:
  • Finish edits of Finding Home by Wednesday night: Heyyyyyy Youuuuu Guyyyyssssss! (For those that may be confused...that's a total reference to one of the best movies ever: The Goonies.) I'm done! I finished! It is as done as I think it can be and's on to the next step! *flails and falls over*
  • Prepare query letter for Finding Home: Since the edits are done, this is next in the process. I've never done this before. *slowly begins to freak the heck out*
  • Spend a minimum of 2 hours/week on collaborative project: Now that the novel is done, this WiP is my focus. I cannot wait to dive into this story again especially since I have a ton of notes written  and scenes to add from my notebook. *rubs hands all evil like and laughs maniacally* 
  • Read/comment on min. of 5 blogs/updates: Done!
  • Reply to comments on this blog: In progress
  • Check in for ROW80 on Sunday: Not here yet.
  • Send out 2 resumes this week: Um, got nothing here. This took a backseat so far this week. Hopefully I can get to it by Sunday.  
  • Workout a min. of 3 times this week: 1 out of 3 as of today. 
Slow and steady progress seems to be the name of the game so far and I am happy with this. I forgot to add to my weekly goals on Sunday to do a book review either here or on Goodreads so I am adding that now.  I have a review half done that I want to get posted tomorrow. It seems that Thursday is becoming my book review day, though I never really planned this. It just sort of, happened! Oh and last week, when I reviewed Reaper's Property, the author actually stopped by and replied! She was super nice and answered a question I had. How freakin cool is that?! :D  

Alright, enough of my babbling. I need to run. I hope everyone is having a productive week and see you around the ROW!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Super Bowl Sunday ROW80 Update

In the last 2 years I've become more of a football fan, however, I gotta admit, the main reason for me watching is the commercials.  I love to see what the ad people come up with. And this one for 2013 might be my favorite one ever.  I seriously don't know how it can possibly be topped. Check it out: 

Budweiser has a way with these freakin commercials. Ever year they have one (or more) that turns me into a puddle of tears. And this one was no exception. I was a mess; a complete and utter mess. I mean, not only is it a great frickin song (that alone could probably make me cry depending on the circumstances I was listening to it in), but add in the horse and the guy...*wipes at her eyes* Okay, I can't talk about this anymore. Just watch it and spread it around to friends and family cause the message is so damn sweet, how could you not?!

Alright, I think I've finally pulled my self together. For now. And since I'm at least not crying into my cheerios at the moment, here's my ROW80 update:

  • Finish edits on Finding Home: I'm not done yet. *sighs* I only have about 30 pages though. Yay! I will be getting back to this afternoon so my fingers are crossed I can finish in the next day or so. 
  • Set aside several hours of one day to work on collaborative project: This is going to happen as soon as I publish this post. :D 
  • Read/comment on a min. of 5 blogs: Done!
  • Reply to comments on this blog: Done, I think. I have to go back and double check but I think I finished these up. 
  • Blog min. of one book review: I'm having fun with these reviews. For so long I struggled with what to blog about and all along I could have been doing this. The link to the review is HERE.
  • Check in on Sunday for ROW80: Done!
  • Send out three resumes/applications this week: 2 out of 3 sent. I have another one to send out but I'm not sure if I will get to it today. I'm okay with this though, cause again, it's just about putting my self out there which I'm doing. So...onward!
  • Workout 3 times for the week: Done! Cardio is kicking my ass but I'm having fun at least. This week I'll be focusing on yoga I think. It's going to be an intense work week and I have a feeling I will need the relaxation of yoga at the end of the day!
My goals for this week are:
  • Finish edits of Finding Home by Wednesday night
  • Prepare query letter for Finding Home
  • Spend a minimum of three hours on collaborative project
  • Read/comment on min. of 5 blogs/updates
  • Reply to comments on this blog
  • Check in for ROW80 on Sunday
  • Send out 2 resumes this week
  • Workout a min. of 3 times this week
Lastly, here's a bit of Miranda Lambert for your Sunday. It's one of her older, but still great, songs and it is always on full volume when it comes up on my mp3 player! \o/ 

Hope everyone had a great week and good luck with your goals!