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Monday, January 31, 2011

'Secrets to the Grave' Deeper Than Dead #2 by Tami HOAG

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

A mother is brutally murdered. A child's heart is broken. Only one woman can unravel the secret of a killing whose secrets are as silent as the grave.
The police find Marissa Fordham on her kitchen floor, her body slashed and mutilated. Lying with her head on her mother's bloody breast is Fordham's four-year-old daughter, Haley, barely clinging to life herself.

To protect their fragile witness, the police call in Anne Leone, child advocate. Anne not only works in the justice system, she's about to become star witness in the trial of the man who tried to make her his fourth victim in the See-No-Evil murders. As soon as Anne sees little Haley, alone and terrified, her heart is hers.

But it will be no easy task to unravel the secrets of Haley's young life or those of her mother. Haley hasn't spoken a word since being rescued. Meanwhile, the cops begin to peel back the layers of Marissa Fordham's life only to discover that she seems never to have officially existed.

‘Secrets to the Grave’ is the second book in Tami Hoag’s mystery series, ‘Deeper Than Dead’.

The book opens on a spectacularly horrific murder scene. A four-year-old child is found, near death, beside her mutilated mother.

The murder of artist, Marissa Fordham, takes a toll on the small college community of Oak Knoll . . . even more so when Fordham’s daughter, Haley, recuperates from the murder that local authorities are convinced was executed by someone close to the victim. The local Sheriff has many suspects to choose from – including Marissa’s wealthy patron, Milo Bordain. An unusual savant friend and mathematician, Professor Zahn . . . and the many men from Marissa’s romantic life; from adulterous affairs to complicated pasts.

This murder is turning into a murky case with many players. Local authorities have no option but to call in former FBI profiler, Vince Leone, to wade through the many suspects in Marissa’s tragic life.

Leone’s wife, Anne, accompanies him on the case. Because the only witness to the bloody murder is the victim’s daughter, the four-year-old Haley.
And what this child saw, cannot be unseen.
“When is my mommy coming?”
Anne’s heart was as heavy as a stone in her chest. She looked at Vince. Was this the time? Was there ever a right time? Did she do it now when Haley was already feeling vulnerable and frightened? Or did she tell the white lie and wait another day?
“Mommy isn’t coming, sweetheart,” she said, a mix of dread and relief churning inside her. She wasn’t keeping a terrible secret anymore. She was telling a terrible truth.
Haley’s eyes grew rounder. “Why?”
“Your mommy was hurt very badly, Haley. Do you remember when that happened? You were hurt and so was your mommy.”
“The bad daddy came,” she said, soberly. “Bad Daddy hurt my mommy.”
I haven’t read the first book in this series, but after consuming ‘Secrets to the Grave’ I fully intend to back-track and start from the beginning. Because ‘Secrets’ is so very good . . . while reading the book I was constantly horrified, sickened, engrossed and terrified. This was such a visceral reading experience, an unsettling page-turner.

The book is set in 1986, which provides an entirely new perspective on the old police procedural. For one thing, it’s fascinating to see the changes between modern police tactics, and the out-dated 80s. One of the surprisingly big differences is in the ‘911 call’ - back in the 80s an anonymous call could not be traced. As a result, Haley is left beside her mother’s rotting corpse for two days before Marissa’s death is noticed and investigated. Such a little thing, to set a mystery novel an era or two out of date, yet Hoag writes the repercussions with chilling finesse.

And because the novel is set in the 80s, there is of course a lack of reliance on technology. No mobile phone conferences or internet investigations. These cops do grunt work – nose to the grind and feet to the pavement – they interview, use common sense and theorize throughout the case. It seems like an obvious thing – but when compared to modern police procedurals, you do notice that a mystery that’s set a little out-of-date shows a lot more actual ‘policing’. It’s also fascinating to read about ‘profiling’ in its infancy with the FBI. Vince Leone and Detective Tony Mendez are among the first police pioneers of the profiling technique that puts them into the mind of their killer . . . once again, in modern mystery novels profiling is a given. So when Mendez and Leone go through the nuts and bolts of getting into a killer’s mind-set, it makes for fascinating and precise reading.

Like the picture-perfect town of Oak Knoll, Hoag’s novel is blissfully deceptive. At first glance, ‘Secrets’ could be a cozy mystery; a small-town setting, a somewhat cooky artisan victim with skeletons in her closet and a town chockfull of peculiar suspects. Instead, Hoag pulls the ‘small town mystery’ into a horrifyingly gruesome whodunit. The descriptions of Marissa’s mutilating murder, the subsequent ‘presents’ her murderer sends out . . . Hoag writes these with gag-inducing detail. And I love how the horror of the novel snuck up on me. I was especially unprepared for Hoag’s sharpened pen because a quick look at her back-list reveals a plethora of romantic best-sellers.

I loved this novel. As I said, it’s a visceral experience – Hoag induces such horror in her readers, with her gruesome detailing and innocent victims. The 80s setting is inspired, as is the misleadingly picturesque small-town location. This one is a page-turner to go on the keeper-shelf.

5/5

Saturday, January 29, 2011

'The Mane Attraction' Pride series #3 by Shelly LAURENSTON


From the BLURB:

Weddings have the strangest effect on people. How else to explain the fact that Sissy Mae Smith woke up in Mitch Shaw's bed the morning after her brother Bobby Ray tied the knot? Or that gunmen are trying to kill Mitch, and Sissy Mae now has to escort a bleeding, stubborn, yet still incredibly sexy lion shifter to her Tennessee Pack's turf to keep him safe? It doesn't help that Mitch's appraising gaze makes her feel like the most desirable creature on earth, or that the ultimate stray cat is suddenly acting all kinds of possessive...Mitch is an undercover cop who's about to testify against some dangerous ex-associates. Even more worrisome, he's harbouring hot, X-rated fantasies about the fast - talking little canine - and he has to deal with every male in Sissy Mae's Pack sniffing around her in a way that makes his hackles rise. Mitch has his pride, and he intends to show Sissy Mae that when a lion sets out to make you his mate, the only thing to do is purr, roll over, and enjoy one hell of a ride...

‘The Mane Attraction’ is the third book in Shelly Laurenston’s fabulous ‘Pride’ series.

I have to admit, I had a little trepidation going into this third book. My hesitation centred on the heroine, Sissy Mae Smith.

We met Sissy back in first book ‘The Mane Event’ when she was introduced as Bobby Ray’s little sister, and Mace’s friend. But in the second book ‘The Beast in Him’ it was also revealed that Sissy was Jessica Ann’s childhood tormentor. Sissy was a high school bully, and Jessica Ann (now Bobby Ray’s wife) bore the brunt of Sissy’s Alpha attitude. This had me a little unsettled. Nobody likes a bully, and I wasn’t sure how I would like reading about a main character who is still quite proud of her bullying ways. . .

Sissy Mae Smith is one of the famed Smith’s. Their females, from Smithtown to Smithville, are notorious for being hot and mean. And Sissy is no exception. She has left hearts broken across the continent and been kicked out of more countries than you can shake a stick at. And she’s proud of her hedonistic ways. Sissy sees no merit in getting mated and whelped.

We met Mitch Shaw’s brother, Brendan, back in ‘The Mane Event’. Brendan married Sissy’s best friend, Ronnie Lee, and Mitch was introduced to the Smith clan, and Sissy. Ever since Mitch and Sissy have been thick as thieves. They have a purely platonic friendship based on mutual silliness and matching egos. But what Sissy doesn’t know is that Mitch is lying low. . . he’s a Philly cop who saw the wrong guy get whacked and now a mobster family is out to get him. After testifying in court Mitch will go into witness protection, never to be seen again . . . until Sissy and the Smith pack step in to help.

I really loved the fact that Mitch and Sissy started out as friends. It meant we got lots of glorious scenes of them just playing. They get along like a house on fire, and while there was always a crackling lust beneath their play, it was just plain fun to read them bounce off each other;
Sitting on his lap, Sissy gazed down at him. She pushed his hair out of his face and said, “Lord, all this hair.”
“Hey,” he corrected, “this is not merely hair. This is my mighty tawny mane. It’s a sign of my overwhelming manliness.”
“More like your overwhelming bullshit.”
He grinned. “That, too.
And then, of course, when they do wake up to their attraction Shelly Laurenston pulls out her signature smut. And it is H-O-T. Both Mitch and Sissy unabashedly enjoy sex, and when they discover an admirable partner in each other, they embark on a hot and fun sex-romp;
Mitch pushed the door open and stood there looking too good to be remotely fair. He had on a fresh pair of sweatpants and . . . nothing else. They rode low on his hips, teasing cruelly. She wasn’t a saint, dammit!
“Sexy, sexy,” she growled at him before she could stop herself.
“You treat me like a whore.”
“You are a whore.”
He grinned. “This is true.”
I am a big Shelly Laurenston fan. I love her. I loved ‘Magnus Pack’ and I am loving ‘Pride’. But this is the first book of hers that left me slightly unsatisfied. And it’s purely to do with Sissy’s dubious history. In ‘Attraction’ Sissy’s brother, Bobby ‘Smitty’ Ray, has married Jessica Ann. The same Jessica Ann who Sissy tormented throughout high school. There is one scene in ‘Attraction’ where you think that maybe Jessica and Sissy have buried the hatchet and there is hope that they will become almost ‘friends’. . . but at the same time there was still an uneasiness about them, a still gaping wound that hasn’t quite healed. And Sissy remains unremorseful about her past bullying. That left me slightly uneasy. But it was the only thing in an otherwise unblemished book.

4.5/5

Friday, January 28, 2011

'Graffiti Moon' by Cath CROWLEY

From the BLURB:

"Let me make it in time. Let me meet Shadow. The guy who paints in the dark. Paints birds trapped on brick walls and people lost in ghost forests. Paints guys with grass growing from their hearts and girls with buzzing lawn mowers."

It’s the end of Year 12. Lucy’s looking for Shadow, the graffiti artist everyone talks about.

His work is all over the city, but he is nowhere.

Ed, the last guy she wants to see at the moment, says he knows where to find him. He takes Lucy on an all-night search to places where Shadow’s thoughts about heartbreak and escape echo around the city walls.

But the one thing Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her eyes.

Lucy is finishing Year 12, and if there’s one thing she wants more than anything in the world, it’s to meet Shadow. Shadow who spray-paints images of sleeping birds, perfect blue skies and boys with grass-hearts. Lucy knows that if she meets Shadow, she will fall in love with him.

Ed has just been fired and needs to make rent money, pronto. Kicking around the city and spraying your heart on your sleeve is all well and good fun, but it won’t pay the bills.

Lucy has given herself one night dedicated to finding Shadow.
Ed has decided to risk life, limb and jail-time to earn an easy buck.

A collision is bound to happen.

Cath Crowley’s novel is like a Bill Henson photo. Soft around the edges, full of dark and luminescence and reminiscence that’s both heartbreaking and painful. In other words, this novel is incandescently wonderful.

Ed’s character is a vigilante spray artist. He’s not dissimilar to the UK’s infamously anonymous ‘Banksy’. Ed sprays images of honesty and discomfort on the sides of trains, storefronts and skate parks. When he breaks up with his girlfriend he sprays an image of himself with a grass heart, and her with a lawnmower. With any lesser novelist, ‘Graffiti Moon’ could have choked and perished with all the references to visual street art – but not with Crowley. Her words have a gorgeous lyricism to them. Her sentences run together like song lyrics and when her characters have so much passion for the art they are seeing, the lack of visualization and precision of description mean that Ed’s graffiti art is clear as day in the reader’s mind;
There’s one of Shadow’s pieces, a painting on a crumbling wall of a heart cracked by earthquake with the words: Beyond the Richter scale written underneath. It’s not a heart like you see on a Valentine’s Day card. It’s the heart how it really is: fine veins and atriums and arteries. A fist-sized forest in our chest.
Honestly, there were many times while reading ‘Graffiti Moon’ when I felt like putting the book down and simply applauding Cath Crowley. She is a wordsmith goddess, and (if you can believe it) ‘A fist-sized forest in our chest’ is just the tip of her talented iceberg.


Ed and Lucy are two marvellous characters. Lucy is a relatable artistic teenager – she’s a little bit too innocent, preferring her fictional Mr. Darcy to any of the real school boys (and ass-grabbbers) she knows. Lucy has her head happily in the clouds and an idealized love in her heart. For any bookish teen reading ‘Graffiti Moon’, Lucy is a mirror being held up. . . and she’s wonderful for her day-dreamy honesty.
“You’re not like other girls, you know that, right?” Ed asks.
“I've been aware of the problem,” I tell him.
Ed is a little rougher around the edges, but no less sweet for his bitterness. He dropped out of high school in year 10 and his beloved artist mentor has recently passed away. Ed is feeling left behind, stranded and in a chokehold of his own making. Ed is so many teenagers – those who feel helpless and clueless in their future. But Ed is also a sensitive artist, one who expresses himself on the wall with a can of spray paint in his hand. Ed may think he’s a no-diploma no-hoper, but readers (and Lucy) know better. And as if Ed’s sensitive scruff wasn’t endearing enough, he pulled this line out;
I shrug. I don’t want to get into this tonight. “What I'm really disappointed about is that Veronica Mars didn’t go past a third season,” I say. “And that Turkish Delights don’t come in king-size.”
A man after my own heart.

Ed and Lucy are adorable. Too adorable for words. A lot of their relationship is about build-up and deception. All of which is unknowingly building for one final crescendo-ending;
A guy who paints things like that is a guy I could fall for. Really fall for.
I'm so close to meeting him and I want it so bad. Mum says when wanting collides with getting, that’s the moment of truth. I want to collide. I want to run into Shadow and let the force spill our thoughts so we can pick each other up and pass each other back like piles of shiny stones.
The second I finished ‘Graffiti Moon’ I knew this book would be a ‘keeper’ – an instant favourite and one I will happily and frequently re-read. It is glorious and sweet, a tender tale of finding and expressing love.

5/5

Thursday, January 27, 2011

★ Q and A with Beth Revis ★


I absolutely fell in love with Beth Revis's debut YA novel, 'Across the Universe'. It was space-operatic brilliance and addictive reading.

So I couldn't pass up an opportunity to fire some questions at Ms Revis...



Q: How did you get published, agent or slush pile?

I got an agent first—but I got my agent straight from the slush pile. I had no writing credentials or any connections or references—it was a cold query to my agent.

Q: Favorite book of all time?

Probably THE SILVER CHAIR by CS Lewis. I just love the story, and Jill Pole is amazing.

Q: Favorite author?

CS Lewis! But I also deeply love JK Rowling, Patricia Wrede, and Robin McKinley.


Q: How long did it take you to write "Across the Universe", from idea to completed manuscript?

About a year—I had the idea over Christmas holidays 2008, and signed with my agent about the same time in 2009.

Q: Were you already a fan of all things Scifi, or did you start reading and writing in the genre after you had the idea for ‘Across the Universe’?

I was a fan of sci fi for a long time—but mostly the movies, like Star Wars, Star Trek, Serenity, Firefly, Battlestar Gallactica, etc. A lot of the books bored me, to be frank—I think adult sci fi spends much more time on setting and scientific detail, and YA sci fi tends to focus on plot and characters instead.


Q: Your book has a very cinematic quality to it. It is really 'blockbuster' reading - so has the book been optioned for film rights?

Not yet! But all my fingers and all my toes are crossed!

Q: Who would your fantasy draft movie cast be for an adaptation?

I don’t really have a clear idea for many characters—their images don’t always match up with current actors, and obviously most of the people in the cast would need to be multi-ethnic. But Molly Quinn is the actress I visualized when writing Amy.


Q: If you could be cryogenically frozen, what year would you like to wake up in?

Eep! I don’t want to be frozen at all! But if I had to be, then I would hope that my family would be, too, and that we could wake up together….preferably in a time period where space travel is cheap and available to everyone.

Q: There are a lot of red herrings, cliff hangers and curve balls in 'Across the Universe' - are they as hard to write as they are to read? How meticulously do you plan these pitfalls in your writing?

I plan very little! I don’t outline or anything else while I work, and a lot of the twists surprised ME while I was writing!

Q: 'Across the Universe' is the first book in a trilogy. Can you tell us anything about book #2? Anything at all?

I can say this: two things you think are true from Book 1 are actually lies!

Q: What advice do you have for budding young writers?

Keep writing! Don’t give up, and write as much as you can. It might take more than one novel before you’re published—in fact, it probably WILL take more than one novel.

That said, if you’re given the choice to do something new or spend time writing, do the new thing. The first step to writing well is experiencing life.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

'Swerve' by Phillip GWYNNE

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

One of the country's finest young cellists, 16 year-old Hugh Twycross has a very bright future. A future that has been mapped out by his parents, his teachers, by everybody, it seems, except Hugh Twycross.

Hugh has a secret, though: he loves cars and he loves car racing. When his newly discovered grandfather, Poppy, asks him to go on a road trip to Uluru in his 1970 Holden HT Monaro, Hugh decides, for once in his life, to do the unexpected.

As they embark on a journey into the vast and fierce landscape of the Australian interior, Hugh discovers that Poppy has a secret that will unravel both their lives and take them in a direction they never expected.

Hugh Twycross has it all figured out. He’s a Sydney private school boy on a mission . . . a mission to get good grades, become a concert cellist and keep impressing his mother and father with his budding brilliance. And if that means keeping his lust for Holden muscle cars a secret, then so be it.

And then Poppy turns up. Outside Hugh’s private school gates, Poppy looks like a hippy cultist and he has some wild claims about being Hugh’s grandfather . . . a grandfather Hugh was always told had died years ago.

More than that, Poppy has some wild plans about going to The Rock. Ayers Rock. Uluru. No time to pack or delay, because Poppy has a Holden Monaro GTS 350 ready and rearing to go. . . and Hugh can never say no to Holden.

Phillip Gwynne’s novel is a glorious ode to the Australian outback, and an opus dedicated to the Aussie muscle car. I got so caught up in this novel that it felt as though I'd jumped in to ride shotgun with Hugh and Poppy – feeling the thrill of the ride and the purr of the engine for 228 pages of thrilling car chases and majestic scenery. . . and when I got to that last page, I just wanted to go back and ride all over again.

Hugh is a fantastic leading man. He is, by his own admission, a ner (not quite a nerD, but just inexperienced enough with girls to be cutting it damn close). When Hugh meets Poppy his world is turned upside down. In this old man, Hugh discovers his roots and an explanation for his inherited love of cars and Holden patriotism. Though Poppy is not the sort of person Hugh’s well-to-do Sydney-sider parents want him associating with, he is inexplicably drawn to the old man.

Hugh and Poppy’s dynamic is, without a doubt, the stand-out heart-warmer of this book. Poppy as an old-timer with stories to tell and a past he’s still trying to race away from. . . and his geeky grandson who needs to loosen up. As Poppy puts it;
“My aim is to see if I can make my grandson look less like a member of the Young Liberals and more like a teenager,”
Gwynne’s book is a pretty harmless Young Adult read. Sure, Hugh develops a crush on a hitch-hiking skank called Bella. And, yes, Hugh and Poppy are chased down by a gun-wielding body-builder and his porn-star girlfriend . . . but all in all, ‘Swerve’ is a bit of good, clean fun. A story about a grandfather making up for lost time and a boy who needed to leave his comfort zone.

‘Swerve’ is also a brilliant bit of Aussie storytelling. Uluru is a majesty of Australian landscape. . . but the real scenery comes from towns like Bathurst and Coober Pedy, as Gwynne tells tale of typical Aussie life and times. There are heart-warming tales of camaraderie and mateship on the road, as well as stories that cut it a little too close to Wolf Creek for comfort. And always with the red dust in the backdrop, the endless kilometres of bitumen and freedom;
And, finally, the saltbush-tufted plains stretching out to the left and to the right and the horizon ahead broken by a purple range ridged like a lizard’s tail, Poppy and I sitting in chairs watching whirly-whirlies shot through with afternoon light as they dance a pas de deux, spiralling towards and away from each other.
‘Swerve’ was one hell of a joyride. A tale of familial relationships rekindled with a typical and truthful Outback backdrop. Glorious.

5/5

Bidding Wars for a Good Cause!



Last night was the last opportunity for eager bookish bidders to participate in the 'Authors for Queensland' online auction.

Much keyboard smashing ensued and I came away with three (lovely) items... And I was reminded why I banned myself from Ebay (I like to win. I'm sorry if I out-bid you and did a happy dance to celebrate).

It was all much fun and the organizers did an *AMAZING* job for a worthy cause. They definitely deserve a hat-tip and slap on the back.

And even if you were out-bid, you can still give to the flood appeal. Every little bit is needed and appreciated!



Monday, January 24, 2011

'Audrey, Wait!' by Robin BENWAY

From the BLURB:

When her ex writes a break-up song about her that rockets up the charts, Audrey is suddenly famous--she can't go out without being mobbed by fans and paparazzi. Readers can take a wild ride with Audrey as she makes headlines, confronts her ex on MTV, and shows the world who she really is. This irresistible, fast-paced novel has a totally hot new paperback cover! It’s the song everyone’s singing. And it’s about her! But for Audrey, becoming famous overnight equals total, life-changing disaster. . .

Breaking up is hard to do, Audrey Cuttler knows this. But you’ve also gotta do what you gotta do . . . so she drew up a list of ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ and decided that her self-absorbed, stoner/musician boyfriend, Evan, had to be dumped. Little did Audrey know that she would become Evan’s unwilling muse. The Yoko to his Lennon. The Sedgwick to his Warhol. The Delilah to his Plain White T’s. Because when Audrey breaks Evan’s heart, he writes a song about it. A song for his band, The Do-Gooders, called ‘Audrey, Wait!’.

Pretty soon ‘Audrey, Wait!’ is being played on college radio stations. And then Audrey’s yearbook picture runs in the local tabloids. And then The Do-Gooders tour Japan. And then Evan goes on MTV bad-mouthing the musician of another band that Audrey supposedly hooked up with (if grainy YouTube footage is anything to go by). And when Audrey starts to fall for her geeky co-worker the paparazzi and money-hungry classmates come out of the woodwork. . . Breaking up really shouldn’t be this hard.

Robin Benway’s debut Young Adult novel came out in 2008. And I really want to yell at someone (mainly, myself) for keeping this book a secret from me. Seriously! It’s amazing and wickedly cool and I'm only just reading it now, in 2011? What gives?!

This book has an outlandish storyline that most readers will find themselves dissociated with. Seriously, unless you’re Danielle Deleasa (hairdresser married to a Jonas brother . . . don’t ask me how I know that) the general plot of ‘Audrey, Wait!’ will just be a highly entertaining and fantastical fantasy ride. What saved this book from being a total disconnect for young readers is Robin Benway’s stellar voice and a charismatically sarcastic leading lady.

Audrey Cuttler narrates and is a storyteller with a mission. She speaks in first person and is up-front about wanting to set the record straight. No doubt we (the reader) have already bopped along to that Billboard hit, ‘Audrey, Wait!’. No doubt we saw the music video and read the rumours about Audrey’s fling with The Lolita’s front-man. Now it’s Audrey’s turn to have a say. . . She’s just a girl who wanted to break up with her boyfriend. She isn’t an actress, singer or songwriter. She’s no Lindsay or Kardashian sister. There is no reason she should be ‘famous’. . . but she is, because of one smash-hit song.

Benway is writing Audrey’s life as a real ‘what if?’. What if you were suddenly famous? What if your ex-boyfriend became a celebrity overnight? How would you handle it? The plot is still a total fantasy-read, but I loved the fact that Benway wrote Audrey as an average high-schooler thrust (unwillingly and unhappily) into the spotlight.

Audrey is one of those very special fictional characters . . . one of those characters (imaginary or not) that you wish was real so you could be besties. You wish you could go to a concert with them, borrow their cd’s and just generally bask in their awesomeness. She’s witty and snarky and unknowingly cool. So cool that you wish you could be half as quick with the comebacks and hyperbole and say half the things she does with an iota of her cool-delivery. That kind of character, ya know what I mean?

Audrey’s exchanges with her best friend, Victoria, ooze awesome and are of that ‘Gilmore Girls’ irreverence:
Victoria paused and I could tell she was trying not to smile. “Did you just say ‘frolic’?”
“Is it not a word?”
“Who the hell says ‘frolic’?”
I spun the lock on my locker and waited for it to stick like it always did on thirty-three. “I say frolic,” I told her. “And more people should.”
“They should say frolic or actually frolic?”
“Both.”
I also loved the fact that Audrey’s parents play a role in this book. I hate it when YA novels sweep the parent’s under the rug and author’s forget that the typical teenager interacts with their parent/s quite a bit. In ‘Audrey, Wait!’ Audrey’s parents are forced to protect their daughter by any means necessary . . . from the paparazzi, money-grubbing classmates and word-twisting reporters;
My mom sat down at the table and I followed her lead. “We’re not trying to ruin your life, you know.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“Because if we ruin your life, then you’re going to be one of those kids that lives in the den and never moves out, and your father and I have plans to retire someday. It’s not in our best interest to ruin your life. We’d like to see Tahiti.”
Audrey’s parents are actually pretty cool. They’re like Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci in the movie ‘Easy A’ – parental units who actually get along with their kid without being overly schmaltzy beacons of reason and maturity.

The best thing about ‘Audrey, Wait!’ is Robin Benway’s voice. Benway is like Nick Hornby for the young, female set. She effortlessly meshes teen melodrama with a killer soundtrack and keeps the quips coming fast and furious. She has exactly my sense of humour and taste in music. From Jay Z’s ’99 Problems’ to Taking Back Sunday’s ‘Cute without the E’. Reading ‘Audrey, Wait!’ is like browsing through someone else’s iPod and constantly going “I love this song! Yessssss! I freakin love this track!”. An instant connection and a new ‘must-buy’ author for me.

This book is just painfully cool. Everything about it – from Benway’s stellar taste in music to Audrey’s wicked sense of humour and the tenderly slow romance between her and a geeky red-headed boy. Everything just works and rocks. . .

5/5

Sunday, January 23, 2011

'The Beast in Him' Pride series #2 by Shelly LAURENSTON

From the BLURB:

Some things are so worth waiting for. Like the moment when Jessica Ward "accidentally" bumps into Bobby Ray Smith and shows him just how far she's come since high school. Back then, Jess' gangly limbs and bruised heart turned to jelly any time Smitty's "all the better to ravish you with" body came near her. So, some things haven't changed. Except now Jess is a success on her own terms. And she can enjoy a romp - or twenty - with a big, bad wolf and walk away. Easy.

The sexy, polished CEO who hires Smitty's security firm might be a million miles from the lovable geek he knew, but her kiss, her touch, is every bit as hot as he imagined. Jess was never the kind to ask for help, and she doesn't want it now, not even with someone targeting her Pack. But Smitty's not going to turn tail and run. Not before proving that their sheet-scorching animal lust is only the start of something even wilder...

‘The Beast in Him’ is the second book in Shelly Laurenston’s redonkulously cool ‘Pride’ series.

Bobby Ray ‘Smitty’ Smith met his mate when they were teenagers. The only problem was that little Jessica Ann Ward was an African wild dog in a town of wolf shifters. Cute-as-a-button and shy-as-a-mouse Jessie Ann didn’t stand a chance against the Smith clan wolves. . . especially his sister Sissy Mae. Smitty knew that if Jessie Ann could be bullied and beaten by his Alpha sister that she wouldn’t fit into the Smith family as his mate. So when Smitty left for the Navy at the age of eighteen he left Jessie Ann behind and never looked back. Until now.

Smitty has moved the Smith clan to New York, where Jessie Ann has transformed herself into mega-rich computer geek Jessica Ann Ward. She is Alpha of her own wild dog pack and surrounded by loyal friends and their pups. Now all Jessica needs is a mate to share her pack and life with. And even though she’s on the hunt for a life-mate, at the same time that Bobby Ray Smith re-enters her life, that’s no reason for Jessie Ann to forget his rejection of the past and succumb to his wily Smith charms . . . no reason whatsoever.

Oh my golly gosh, I love this series. Each time I crack open a new Shelly Laurenston book I think it can’t get better than the last. . . and so far, I have been proven wrong.

We met Smitty in ‘The Mane Event’ and I loved him. He’s a laid-back wolf charmer who is quick with the quips and a cock-sure grin. I loved him. He’s a southern gentleman and lustful bed-hopping wolf with a wickedly cheeky sense of humour. But Smitty was also deceptively complex, with hidden depths that are revealed when Jessie Ann re-enters his life.

Smitty grew up as ‘one of those Smith’s’. The Smith pack being a notoriously mean and loyal bunch – feared and revered amongst shifters. But Smitty didn’t always appreciate being judged for his family’s ruthlessness, a ruthlessness that saw his sister bully and beat on the one girl he cared about when they were younger. Smitty also grew up watching his parent’s tumultuous relationship, full of highs and low-blows;
He dropped his hands to the desk. “That’s not the point. I don’t want her thinking...”
“Thinking what?”
Smitty let out one of those soul-deep sighs that used to drive Mace crazy when they were on duty together. “When I was eleven, I walked in the kitchen just as my momma slammed one of those Thanksgiving Day turkeys into the back of the old man’s head. She dropped his ass too. Like two tons of garbage. The sad thing was I knew whatever he’d done – he’d deserved it.”
“And?”
“I just don’t want the next forty years to be filled with flying turkeys.”
When Smitty meets Jessie Ann after years apart, he is instantly drawn to her. But he’s wary of the territorial feelings she ignites in him – feelings that push Smitty closer and closer to that renowned feral Smith behaviour he so wants to curb around the smart, sexy and sophisticated Jessica Ward.

Jessica is a lovely counter-balance to Smitty and his crazy-ass pack. I loved Jessica because she is a through, unabashed geek. She loves Tolkien, candy-bar sword fights and video games. She is so gloriously uninhibited in her geekishness that she’s impossible not to like. And her pack of wild dogs are fantastic friends – they bust out the pom-poms when Jessica does something they like and they offer her much-needed shoe advice. I loved them. Their camaraderie is infectious and hilarious.

‘The Beast in Him’ also includes a cameo appearance from my favourite psycho Alpha – Sara Morrighan of the Magnus Pack. . . and she is as hilarious as ever. As Jessica Ann succinctly describes this insane she-wolf;
... she might be a couple of dog biscuits short of a full box of Milkbones.
‘The Beast in Him’ is another fabulous paranormal romance from Shelly Laurenston. Hers is a hilarious and erotic paranormal romance, with a fabulous New York City setting and outlandishly charming characters.

5/5

Saturday, January 22, 2011

'Archangels' Consort' Guild Hunter #3 by Nalini SINGH

Received from the publisher

From the BLURB:

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux and her lover, the lethally beautiful archangel Raphael, have returned home to New York only to face an uncompromising new evil…

A vampire has attacked a girls’ school—the assault one of sheer, vicious madness—and it is only the first act. Rampant bloodlust takes vampire after vampire, threatening to make the streets run with blood. Then Raphael himself begins to show signs of an uncontrolled rage, as inexplicable storms darken the city skyline and the earth itself shudders. The omens are suddenly terrifyingly clear.

An ancient and malevolent immortal is rising. The violent winds whisper her name: Caliane. She has returned to reclaim her son, Raphael. Only one thing stands in her way: Elena, the consort who must be destroyed…

The world is on edge. Vampires are turning feral and wild storms are brewing. Earthquakes, rising tides and blood-lust vampires are wreaking havoc on cities with no logical explanation . . . except one: an Ancient is awakening.

When an Archangel wearies of humanity and immortality, they go into a deep sleep for years on end. Occasionally they awaken to gauge their surroundings and the changing times, but their slumbers are often millennia long. Until now. One Ancient is awakening, and it just so happens to be Raphael’s mother.

Caliane went to slumber after she lost her mind, and her mate, to madness. So diseased and weary was Caliane’s immortal mind that she almost killed her son, Raphael, before going to ground and into deep sleep.

Now Caliane is awakening, and she is not happy with Raphael’s choice of consort, Elena Deveraux. Elena may be an anomaly as the first made angel in recent memory, but Caliane expected better for her impossibly powerful Archangel son. And when mother isn’t happy, the world knows about it.

This third book reaches a spectacular zenith in Nalini Singh’s ‘Guild Hunter’ series. Raphael and Elena’s past haunts and childhood nightmares are given form and flesh to have a huge impact on their new-found relationship. Raphael was almost killed by his disturbed Archangel mother, only to have her reawaken just when Raphael has discovered new peace with Elena.
Likewise, Elena has been estranged from her family since she was a teenager, but in ‘Consort’ she is unwittingly thrown back into the family circle when some disturbing news surfaces.
Raphael and Elena have already overcome so much – including death and grandiose Archangel’s. In ‘Consort’ they face their biggest threat – their family.

Caliane is the ‘bad guy’ in this book, and the fact that she is also Raphael’s mother is pure genius on Nalini Singh’s part. Caliane is especially frightening because, for a lot of the book, she is in hiding. While she sleeps she wreaks havoc on the world’s equilibrium and incites vampires to blood-lust . . . yet she is a formless villain, tucked away somewhere and slowly coming to wakefulness. She is a true enigma, made all the more terrifying for her unpredictability.
“There is a legend,” Raphael murmured, his wings flaring out as he tugged her into the curve of his body – as if he would protect her. “That mountains will shake and rivers overflow, while ice creeps across the world and fields drown in rain.” He looked down at her, his eyes that impossible, inhuman chrome blue. “All this will come to pass. . . when an Ancient awakens.”
The chill in his tone raised every hair on her body.
A big focus of this book is on Raphael and Elena’s ghosts. Those memories and pent-up emotions that have been haunting them since childhood are suddenly unleashed – with the appearance of Caliane for Raphael, and a family secret for Elena. ‘Consort’ definitely feels like a book of change for these two – as they shake off the shackles of their nightmares and confront their fears. This is also a book in which their relationship reaches new heights. Elena and Raphael trust each other implicitly, and love unconditionally . . . and because of that, they are not alone in battling their demons.
A shudder passed through him, his hands flexing on her hips as he tugged her to his body. “You hold me to the earth, Elena.”
Able to feel the heated strength of him against her abdomen, she nipped at his lower lip with her teeth, relief a whisper of rain against her senses. “Don’t you forget it.” Moving her hand down to play over the amber he wore on the ring finger of his left hand, she used those same teeth on his jaw. “You belong to me, Archangel. And I look after what’s mine.”
Yes, there’s still a lot of sex and sensuality between Raphael and his true love, Elena. But the real intimacy is in how far these two have come since ‘Angels Blood’ – now they are at a place in their relationship where they can reveal their innermost fears.

As Raphael and Elena reach a new pinnacle in their relationship, Nalini Singh seems to be refocusing on new stories in the ‘Guild Hunter’ series. A big focus in ‘Consort’ is on Raphael’s ‘Seven’. These are seven angels and vampires who form Raphael’s most intimate and trusted circle. These cast of secondary characters have appeared in previous books, but in ‘Consort’ it feels as though Singh is getting ready to tell their stories.

There’s the blue angel, Illium, who loved and lost a human woman many hundreds of years ago. Raphael’s spymaster, Jason, who lives only to serve and has a past of unparalleled horror. Venom, the vampire with snake eyes and a penchant for violence. The brutish Galen, who loves an angel who cannot fly. Aodhan who has a history of brutal violence that still haunts him. And Dmitri – Raphael’s right-hand-man, an old vampire who was turned against his will and betrayed by a female angel.

And it comes as no surprise when a quick blog search reveals the fourth book in Singh’s series will be a departure from Elena and Raphael. ‘Archangels’ Blade’ will have a September 2011 release, and will be Dmitri’s book. As much as I love them, I'm not overly concerned that ‘Blade’ may only feature Elena and Raphael as secondary characters. Dmitri (and all of Raphael’s Seven) is interesting enough, and Singh has peppered ‘Consort’ with enough back-story intrigue, that I am quite excited to read their stories.

Nalini Singh’s ‘Guild Hunter’ series is a sensual delight. The romance between a centuries-old Archangel and his once human (now angel) consort is one of lush romance and exhilarating action. Singh’s series has gone from strength to strength, and in ‘Consort’ it feels like her main couple have reached enough of a satisfying romantic pinnacle that the series can now turn a focus towards the equally fascinating characters who have lurked on the sidelines. . . I say, bring it on!

5/5

Thursday, January 20, 2011

'Archangels' Kiss' Guild Hunter #2 by Nalini SINGH

From the BLURB:

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux wakes from a year-long coma to find that she has become an angel-and that her lover, the stunningly dangerous archangel Raphael, likes having her under his control. But almost immediately, Raphael must ready Elena for a flight to Beijing, to attend a ball thrown by the archangel Lijuan. Ancient and without conscience, Lijuan's power lies with the dead. And she has organized the most perfect and most vicious of welcomes for Elena...

This is the second book in Nalini Singh’s ‘Guild Hunter’ paranormal series.

Be warned – there was a HUGE twist at the end of ‘Angels’ Blood’ and no way to write a spoiler around it in this review. . .

'Angels' Blood' SPOILERS AHEAD

Elena Deveraux was a successful Guild Hunter. One year ago she was on the hunt for a maddened Archangel, and almost lost her life in a fight against him. Now, waking from a year-long coma Elena finds herself a made angel. Thanks to her lover and Archangel, Raphael, Elena’s life was spared and made immortal. Now she has wicked black wings, longevity and the interest of every Archangel in the world.

Elena is the first angel to be made (not born) in recent memory. She is an anomaly and has drawn the interest of the oldest and most dangerous Archangel, Lijuan. Elena and her lover, Raphael, have only just found each other, and sacrificed a lot to stay together. Now, they must fight to keep their love safe.

I am in love with Nalini Singh’s ‘Guild Hunter’ series. One of my favourite things about the series is the romance between Raphael and Elena. If you like Jeaniene Frost’s ‘Night Huntress’ books, then ‘Guild Hunter’ is for you. Elena and Raphael found each other in first book ‘Angels’ Blood’, and now the ‘will they or won’t they’ is over. As Raphael repeatedly states, he and Elena are going to be together forever. They are each other’s soul mates, now found, never to be parted. I love a good romantic tension as much as the next person (hello Kate and Curran!) but there’s something equally satisfying about a series HEA couple getting their ‘ever after’ from the get-go.
“Yes,” he whispered against her mouth. “I think you’ll intrigue me through eternity.”
Now, a big focus of the series is how Raphael and Elena adapt to each other. Elena is still suffering the scars of a haunted childhood, and has never given love or intimacy easily. Raphael is a hundreds-year old Archangel who thought his heart hardened. . . Now, these two misfits have to figure out how they fit together. There’s no doubt that they love each other, but it’s a matter of figuring out the nuts and bolts of their relationship.

I love how Singh combines the sex and sensuality of Elena and Raphael’s relationship with the harder side of being together. Yes, theirs is a ‘happily ever after’, but Singh is illustrating how they have to work for the ‘happily’. It’s especially heart-warming to read Raphael learning about trust and honesty with his once-human Elena.
“Blades,” he whispered, “and sheaths go together. And your sheath will only ever hold my blade.”
It took her a second – desire had fogged up her mind. Her face flamed. “Raphael, that’s –” She shook her head, unable to find the words.
“Fighting is not sexual.”
“Oh?” Eyes full of sea storms, violent and wild and exhilarating.
The action and drama of this book is fantastic. Lijuan is a wicked villain. Not only is she a mightily powerful Archangel evolved beyond caring about petty things like humanity, Lijuan is also fascinated by death. Lijuan raises the dead, and it has been rumoured that she takes them to her bed too. Her scenes are chilling for their subtlety – Lijuan’s double talk and the spymaster rumours that leak to Raphael about her goings on.

Singh’s angel mythology keeps getting better and better, mostly because it’s entirely Singh’s own. Forget cherubs and the Bible – Singh is recreating angels. These winged characters are evil and sensual - conniving and political, and completely fascinating. I love that Singh is using the bare bones of the angel mythology to create a whole new breed of supernatural.

Nalini Singh’s ‘Guild Hunter’ series is phenomenal. Everything about it is utterly unique – from the firmly established coupling to the entirely new angel mythology. I am completely in love with this series.

5/5

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

'Angels' Blood' Guild Hunter #1 by Nalini SINGH

From the BLURB:

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux knows she's the best - but she doesn't know if she's good enough for this job. Hired by the dangerously beautiful Archangel Raphael, a being so lethal that no mortal wants his attention, only one thing is clear - failure is not an option...even if the task she's been set is impossible.

Because this time, it's not a wayward vamp she has to track. It's an archangel gone bad.
The job will put Elena in the midst of a killing spree like no other...and pull her to the razor's edge of passion. Even if the hunt doesn't destroy her, succumbing to Raphael's seductive touch just may. Because when archangels play, mortals break...

‘Angels’ Blood’ is the first book in Nalini Singh’s paranormal ‘Guild Hunter’ series.

‘Angels’ Blood’ came out in 2009 and has been sitting on my shelf all this time. I don’t know why. I read plenty of enticing reviews of the first two books in the series, and I enjoy Singh’s ‘Psy-Changeling’ series (if only Hawke’s book would hurry the heck up!). But for some reason I stalled in reading her Guild Hunter series.

But then the kind people over at Hachette Australia gave me an advanced copy of ‘Archangels’ Consort’ and it was the final kick in the pants I needed to get stuck into this series. And it’s about bloody time!

Elena Deveraux is good at her job. She may be single, estranged from her family and overly invested in turning her apartment into a hermit’s haven . . . but she at least excels in her line of work. Vampire hunting. Elena tracks the fanged felons and returns them to their rightful owners, the Archangels. For in this world, Angels rule. Countries are divided by the Cadre of Ten – ten Archangels to rule over each country and maintain peace and order, via their iron fist. But when one of the European Archangel’s goes on a killing rampage, Elena is inexplicably called in to help.

Archangel Raphael insists that Elena help in tracking the crazed Archangel, Uram. But Elena is a vampire hunter – and only an Archangel can kill an Archangel. Elena doesn’t know what help she will be in stopping Uram’s maddening rampage, especially when she seems helpless against Raphael’s intoxicating danger. . .

I have to admit, I initially rolled my eyes at this being ‘another angel novel’. . . But Singh is writing Angels like you’ve never read them before. Her angels are base and lustful creatures – inhumanly beautiful and proud of it, these angels wear cat-suit outfits and take human lovers when it pleases them. These are angels who make and mingle with vampires – a sensual race who treat humans like amusing playthings. These are a completely new breed of angels – ones who have human faults and lusts, but are above reproach for their wing-span and impressive powers (invisibility and mind control among them). Singh’s angels have houses in New York and keep human servants. . . Really, these angels have little to no connection to their biblical roots whatsoever. And that is one of the many clever tricks that Nalini Singh writes in ‘Angels’ Blood’.

Conspicuously missing from Singh’s world-building of the Guild Hunter universe is talk about God and religion in relation to the angels. Sure, characters throw the words around – heaven and hell – but Singh never goes into any explicit detail about the inner religious workings of the Cadre of Ten. It even seems as though the Archangels are the highest order – with no God above, commanding them. Raphael himself has a place in the Bible as we know it – Saint Raphael the Archangel – but he bears little resemblance to his healing role in ‘Angels’ Blood’. I kept waiting for the obligatory filler-information about the angel’s background and connection to God. But it never came. Perhaps because Singh’s angels bear so little resemblance to their benevolent good book characters. And there’s no mention of the most famous (fallen) angel of all, Lucifer.

I was quite impressed by how Singh completely departed from the religious connotations of angels. She has really made them her own; a new breed of supernatural beings to be dissected and imagined. Impressive, to say the least. Admittedly when you mention ‘angels’ a whole plethora of images and references bombard the mind – and it is hard, at first, to distance yourself from those holy relics when reading Singh’s book. But at some point you just have to accept that Singh is using the bare bones of the angel characters to build a whole new mythology.

And even if you are clinging to the common conception of angels, the character of Raphael and his relationship with Elena will soon banish such connotations. Raphael is lust personified, and erotic danger. He is a frightening being, powerful and old beyond comprehension. Elena is equal parts terrified and drawn to him – and it makes for a spicy and complicated romance.
Her face shifted, becoming less and less of this world, a caricature of angelic features, paper-thin skin over bone glowing from within. “There are some humans – one among half a billion perhaps – who make us something other than what we are. The barriers fall, the fires ignite, and the minds merge.”
He stayed absolutely silent.
“You must kill her.” Her pupils had expanded to devour the irises, her eyes black flame, her face a burning skeletal mask. “Unless and until you do, you can never be certain when the barriers will fall again.”
“What happens if I don’t kill her?”
“Then she will kill you. She will make you mortal.”
Elena is a wonderful match for Raphael’s cocksure self. She is a fiery heroine who doesn’t back down and never gives in. . . and Raphael is utterly perplexed by her. I loved these two together; Nalini Singh writes a heated duck and parry between them, a complicated tango that reaches a romantic crescendo by book’s end. . . while also creating a whole new cliff-hanger for them. Brilliant.

I found it interesting that, throughout the book, Nalini Singh offers little information on some major aspects of the story. As I said before, there is no information given on the Archangel’s religious connections. Furthermore, Elena is haunted by a nightmare from her childhood that Singh literally delivers in drips and drabs – a menacing ‘drip, drip, drip’ permeates Elena’s memory in moments of distress. These loose-ends are never tied up (obviously, this is a series after all) but they’re not even acknowledged as being open-ended. They are simply dead-ends; if you don’t like the lack of religious world-building, tough. I was impressed by how unconcerned I was by these gaping holes in the story – yes, it would have been nice to know if the Archangels are acting on the word of God, but I wasn’t overly concerned by the lack of information by book’s end. The action and romance is enough to pull you along in the story – heightened enough to distract you from the more nitty-gritty absent details.

I was really impressed by this first book in Nalini Singh’s ‘Guild Hunter’ series. And yes, I am kicking myself for not reading it back in 2009. The action and romance of the book carries the story, especially when Singh’s world-building seems to be a lesson in ambiguousness. Elena and Raphael have a heated and complicated romance, and set amidst angel politics it makes for addictive reading.

5/5

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

'The Mane Event' Pride series #1 by Shelly LAURENSTON

From the BLURB:

CHRISTMAS PRIDE

How come all the good-looking ones are insane? That's what runs through NYPD cop Desiree "Dez" MacDermot's mind the minute she hooks up again with her childhood buddy, Mace Llewellyn. It isn't just the way he stares at her with those too-sexy gold eyes-as if he could devour her on the spot. Or the six-four, built-like-a-Navy Seal bod-o-death. It isn't even that he sniffs her neck and purrs, making her entire body tingle. It's more about that disconcerting, shifting-from-man-to-lion thing that unhinges her…and makes her want more. Mace likes making Dez crazy. In fact, he likes her any way he can get her-in bed, on the desk, here, now, again. Together, they'd always been trouble, but Dez has no idea just how good trouble can feel…

SHAW'S TAIL

Brendon Shaw, hotel owner and lion shifter, has seen better days. He's been beaten, had a gun to the back of his head, and had to be rescued by a Pack of shape-shifting wolves. He didn't think he'd survive the night, much less find the woman of his dreams. And he never thought the woman of his dreams would have a Tennessee accent and wear cowboy boots. Once he sets his sights on her, the predator in him is ready to pounce and never let go. Ronnie Lee Reed is ready to change her life, and New York City is the place where any girl-even one who runs with a Pack-can redefine herself. First order of business: find a mate, settle down, and stop using men for sex. Even big, gorgeous, lion-shifting, oh-my-what-big-um-paws-you-have men. Then again…

Okay. It’s official. I have a new obsession and her name is Shelly Laurenston.
I sort of stumbled across her ‘Magnus Pack’ trilogy, but since then I have turned into a rabid fan-girl. So of course I am trolling through her back and current book list, consuming anything written by her brilliant pen.

‘The Mane Event’ is the first book in her ongoing ‘Pride’ series. ‘The Mane Event’ is really two stories in one, connected via New York’s lion pride.

Mason ‘Mace’ Llywelyn has left the Navy and returned home to his lion pride, headed by his eldest sister. But Mace really has no intention of becoming one of the breeding males, to be tossed aside when a beefier stud strolls by. No, Mace has his sights set on his (human) childhood sweetheart, turned tough NYPD cop. Desiree McDermot left one dull marriage and has no intention of entering into another one. . .

Brendan Shaw knows something is up with his brother. Getting kidnapped by the hyena pack and jumped by two humans had him pondering. . . but Brendan winding up in a hospital bed with a she-wolf sentry all but confirmed it. Though hospitalization does have its plus sides. . . like werewolf sweetie Ronnie Lee Reed and her enticing scent. As a lion male, Brendan Shaw really shouldn’t dream of settling down with one mate for the rest of his life. But Ronnie just incites that sort of compulsion in him.

On the surface, Shelly Laurenston’s paranormal books are just a bit of erotic fun. But by golly, she does it very well. It’s a very rare author who has me scrabbling around for their backlist and reading her books back-to-back, but Laurenston has me thusly enthralled. I can’t even pinpoint any one thing that has me addicted to Laurenston’s book. . . it’s the whole kit and caboodle, really.

She writes in the paranormal with effortless pizzazz – spouting off information about pride and pack hierarchy and ‘rules’ without going into too much detail (because she knows that aficionados will know it all already). She combines the fantastical and the practical with common-sense aplomb. She has her characters relying heavily on David Attenborough reruns to understand pack mentality and the inner workings of the male lion’s mind.
That woman. . . that woman was everything he’d ever wanted. He’d known it all those years ago. Tonight only confirmed it for him. The kiss and that simple touch practically blew his boots off. And she felt it too. He could see it on her face. He could smell it. Her desire rolled off her in waves and practically knocked him from the room.
No, he wasn’t letting Dez MacDermot get away. He’d take her down like his ancestors took down full-grown zebras.
I love that Laurenston keeps things light and fun in her erotica novel. At one point in ‘Shaw’s Tail’, Rhonda Lee comments that she’s glad Brendan can have a laugh while they’re in bed. . . because, really, naked grappling is kinda hilarious. It’s the same for ‘erotica’ reading – there’s often a lot to laugh about, as Laurenston illustrates, again and again. Her characters have fun in bed, but keep things naughty and sweet. And that light hilarity is required when Laurenston writes so many sex scenes. If each smutty scene was weighted down by inner monologues and protestations of love, they would get very heavy and boring. But with Laurenston writing so many sexual encounters between characters, she keeps things playful and teasing in the bedroom, reserving more serious talks of emotion for the clothing optional moments.
The sex is superb. There are a lot of sex scenes, but written with Laurenston’s trademark wit and brevity each one feels fresh and enjoyable.

I am absolutely in love with Laurenston’s humour. Some of her scenes catch me unawares and have me chortling (yes, chortling!) out loud for the joy.
“I don’t need y’all watching out for me.”
“Is that right?” The big grin on Rory’s face had Brendon’s eyes narrowing. Crouching by the fireplace, Ronnie’s brother looked back at Brendon. “Rhonda Lee ever tell you how she and Sissy Mae made money while travelling the world?”
“No. How did she – ”
“Hookin’,” Ronnie Lee tossed desperately. “I was a prostitute. A damn good one too.”
“Stop lyin’, Rhonda Lee,” her mother called from the kitchen. “I doubt you were good at all.”
Shelly Laurenston is a new favourite author of mine, and ‘The Mane Event’ just keeps pulling me into her orbit.

5/5

Sunday, January 16, 2011

'The Perfect Rake' Merridew Sisters #1 by Anne GRACIE

From the BLURB:

To escape her brutal grandfather, Prudence stages a plan involving a phony engagement—and the man she approaches is so taken with Pru that he willingly joins her game.
‘The Perfect Rake’ is the first book in Anne Gracie’s ‘Merridew Sisters’ historical romance series.

The Merridew sisters have had a hard life. Charity, Hope, Faith, Grace and Prudence lost their parents at a young age. As if losing their very familial foundations wasn’t bad enough, the girls were then whisked away to live with their Grandpapa. A tyrannical, bible-thumping bully who wreaked havoc on their lives. But not any more. Prudence, the eldest of her sisters, is about to turn twenty-one. And once she does, she will no longer be under her Grandpapa’s thumb. . . but with her freedom will come destitution if she hopes to run away with her sisters. Prudence would like to rely on her fiancé, Phillip, but he left for India four years ago and has not been heard from since.

But that doesn’t mean Prudence’s sisters can’t marry. And so she concocts a lie to get herself and her siblings to London, to stay with their extravagant uncle Oswald and have a London season.

It starts out as a little lie. Which then snowballs and grows and expands to encompass the Duke of Distanble. . . and then Gideon, Lord Carradice, a renowned rake and womanizer.

'The Perfect Rake's is the first book in Anne Gracie's 'Merridew Sisters' series.

I love me a good historical romance. . . but the more I read, the more I realize my love is turning me into a historical romance snob. I know what I like, and what I don’t like. And unfortunately, I didn’t really care for Anne Gracie’s ‘The Perfect Rake’.

Honestly, it’s nothing against the book itself. The characters are lovely and the storyline is a twisted, comical fare with a little Brothers Grimm thrown in for good measure. My only problem with ‘The Perfect Rake’ is that it’s not my cup of historical romance tea. Anne Gracie’s historical romance is more ‘cutesy’ than ‘sultry’ and for the most part the book has a PG-rating as opposed to the ‘M’ or ‘XXX’ that I prefer to read.

The book starts out bleak enough, with the Merridew sisters living under their Grandpapa’s bullying thumb. It’s not until Prudence concocts an outlandish plan to get her and her sisters away to London that things take a turn. . . But Grandpapa’s shadow is constantly hanging over their heads and scaring the young women. The character of Grandpapa is rather two-dimensional, a clear-cut villain. But his presence elevates the story to an almost fairytale-like level, with each Merridew girl cast in the role of Cinderella. None more so than Prudence. . . her sisters are all golden and beautiful. The young Merridew women are exceptionally ethereal and attractive, and Prudence pales by comparison. By her own admission, Prudence has a too-big nose, is a little too plump and has wild, frizzy red curls. Beside her sisters, she is the ‘ugly duckling’.

But when she meets Gideon Carradice, he sees only Prudence’s beauty. He calls her his ImPrudence (Imp for short) and cannot fathom how anyone could see her sisters through Prudence’s beauty.

The romance is heartfelt if for no other reason than Carradice proves true that old adage, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. Prudence is plain-looking, but he can’t see it. . . all he can see is her beauty. It’s a lovely sentiment, if a little too mushy for me. And there is that element of ‘love at first sight’ that I so despise. But like I said before, the romance is more ‘cutesy’ than ‘sultry’ and not really up my alley.
Apparently he didn’t please. “If he doesn’t make your head whirl – and I’m not referring to compliments – he’s not the man for you, Imp. Duty and honour is a dashed dry foundation for a marriage. Oh, I know many make it, but you deserve more, my Prudence. You need – and deserve – to be most thoroughly and completely loved. And by a man who makes your head whirl.”
There were some things I really liked about the book. Uncle Oswald was hilarious – especially when Prudence and Gideon unwittingly weave a tangled web that leaves him baffled and bumbling. He’s a stunning secondary character.

I also really liked the fact that Carradice was self-aware of his rakishness, to the point that Anne Gracie pokes fun at the old historical romance cliché:
He gazed into her eyes for a long, long moment. “Yes. And when a rake finally falls, he falls forever.” He let her digest that for a moment and then added solemnly, “Besides, you should not scorn my rakishness. Having a rake about the place will come in extremely useful.”
She frowned in puzzlement. “Useful?” It was an odd word to use. “What do you mean? What possible use would I have for a rake?”
“I could tidy up all your fallen leaves each autumn.”
I could find nothing wrong with ‘The Perfect Rake’. . . except it’s not my preferred batch of historical romance.

2/5