Monday, April 29, 2013

Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts

For more than three hundred years, Bluff House has sat above Whiskey Beach, guarding its shore—and its secrets. But to Eli Landon, it’s home…

A Boston lawyer, Eli has weathered an intense year of public scrutiny and police investigations after being accused of—but never arrested for—the murder of his soon-to-be-ex wife.

He finds sanctuary at Bluff House, even though his beloved grandmother is in Boston recuperating from a nasty fall. Abra Walsh is always there, though. Whiskey Beach’s resident housekeeper, yoga instructor, jewelry maker, and massage therapist, Abra is a woman of many talents—including helping Eli take control of his life and clear his name. But as they become entangled in each other, they find themselves caught in a net that stretches back for centuries—one that has ensnared a man intent on reaping the rewards of destroying Eli Landon once and for all…

As much as I love Nora Roberts I'm going to have to call Whiskey Beach a 'close but no cigar' kind of book. The characters were ok, the setup was ok, even the suspense was ok, but that's all the feelings this story got from me: just ok. Maybe I'd be able to take this book better on its own merit if her previous titles, The Witness and The Search, hadn't been so freaking good.

Abra is the typical Roberts heroine, seemingly perfect as a person who's overcome personal adversity to in order to craft a life that works for them. Eli is gruff as the hero, burned by his life and career and trying to find some semblance of a future in the house that has mean so much to him and his family. But in the end they both felt like caricatures of what Roberts has done in the past and while the book was nice as a quickie thrill from the library, I don't think this is one I'd care enough about to go back and reread.

Overall Feeling - B-/C+

Series - None

Friday, April 26, 2013

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.

Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TEDTalk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. Her talk, which became a phenomenon and has been viewed more than two million times, encouraged women to “sit at the table,” seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.

In Lean In, Sandberg digs deeper into these issues, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women. She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of “having it all.”  She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women in the workplace and at home.

Written with both humor and wisdom, Sandberg’s book is an inspiring call to action and a blueprint for individual growth. Lean In is destined to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can.

Let me start by saying that I'm aware that this is a white/upper class look at Feminism in the workplace. I don't say that as a criticism and Sandberg makes it clear herself that she can only speak from her own experiences, but I recognize that minorities of all kinds might not have the opportunity to apply some of the recommendations she makes here due to circumstances.

Personally I found the book incredibly interesting, even as someone who's not sure just how high up the corporate ladder she wants to climb (or if I want to climb at all). At the heart of Sandberg's book is the fact that if we as women are not aware of the subtleties of sexism, of the ways in which other people and ourselves can act as deterrents to our own success, then we can never overcome them. Ultimately the freedom of choice is only present if we're knowledgeable and willing to negotiate with what is initially presented to us. I'm not the best negotiator and have the tendency to downplay skills that other people value, personally and professionally, so this book served as the kick in the butt I needed to remind me that even if no one else sees it I need to be proud of what I can do and what I bring to the table at work and at home.

I highly recommend this book to women of any age and even though the copy I read is from the library I'm definitely going to be purchasing this for my personal bookshelf.

"When Gloria Steinem marched in the streets to fight for the opportunities so many of us now take for granted, she quoted Susan B. Anthony, who marched in the streets before her and concluded, "Our job is not to make young women  grateful. It is to make them ungrateful so they keep going." The sentiment remains true today. We need to be grateful for what we have but dissatisfied with the status quo. This dissatisfaction spurs the charge for change. We must keep going." --pg 172

Overall Feeling - B+/A

Series - None

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Kitty Rocks the House by Carrie Vaughn

On the heels of Kitty’s return from London, a new werewolf shows up in Denver, one who threatens to split the pack by challenging Kitty’s authority at every turn. The timing could not be worse; Kitty needs all the allies she can muster to go against the ancient vampire, Roman, if she’s to have any hope of defeating his Long Game. But there’s more to this intruder than there seems, and Kitty must uncover the truth, fast. Meanwhile, Cormac pursues an unknown entity wreaking havoc across Denver; and a vampire from the Order of St. Lazaurus tempts Rick with the means to transform his life forever.

I read this book and enjoyed it, but it took me a little while to figure out why I didn't enjoy it more: series fatigue. There have been 11 books so far in Carrie Vaughn's Kitty series (and another out due in July I think?) but it just doesn't feel like all that much is happening during each individual story. Kitty and Ben are happily mated, Cormac is still kind of there as the cousin who's kinda-but-maybe-not possessed, and the Long Game is really the long game so there aren't any super big battles to be fought.

The series hasn't lot me yet but I'm going to be looking at this next book as a deciding factor in whether I keep reading. I need something to happen or these characters to make me feel like there's still growth personally or I'm not sure I can remain as committed as I have been (which is sad to say about I series I used to love!).

Overall Feeling - B-

Series - ... 9) Kitty's Big Trouble 10) Kitty Steals the Show 11) Kitty Rocks the House

Monday, April 15, 2013

Lush by Lauren Dane

Mary Whaley has her hands full running a successful catering company and overseeing her supper club. She’s got everything she ever wanted—or so she thought. When she meets ridiculously hot and very dirty rock star Damien Hurley at her friend’s engagement party, the attraction she feels is overpowering—and she isn’t about to deny herself.

Damien is used to a hard and fast life. He and two of his brothers started a band when they were all in high school—then they hit the big time and stayed there. He’s also a legendary madman on the stage and in the bedroom. But when he meets Mary, something clicks, and the bad boy starts thinking he may have finally found something good.

What begins as a series of fleeting trysts soon get much more complicated. Damien can’t figure out why Mary doesn’t want more from him. And before long it’s Damien who wants more of Mary. But it turns out Mary is no stranger to the celebrity news and he’s got a very big job ahead of him—proving that he’s worth more than a one-night stand…

I try to prevent too much fangirling here but woohoo so good! Please, if you haven't, stop and buy this book because the joy of reading a romance where the leads navigate the social minefield of trust & their different lives as actual ADULTS is just off the charts.Yes, you know going in that as a romance there's going to be a HEA but instead of a fade to black, you assume the rest, Dane creates two people who feel like people. Real men and women with friends and family and within all of these bonds is a very complicated picture of life.

If I was going to nitpick I didn't think Mary and Damien's 'big fight' was all that necessary to the story but I'm sure someone else could just as easily say that some sort of conflict was required or it'd all be considered too easy. Eh I don't mind easy when I feel like throughout the book the two of them have had to negotiate due to their lives, family, and what they see for themselves in the future. 

Ultimately Dane has done it again with a great book, a great series, and (from what I'm hearing) a freaking fantastic introduction to a new family we'll get books for in the future!

Overall Feeling - A+

Series - 1) "Sway" 2) Tart 3) Lush 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rising Darkness by Thea Harrison

USA Today bestselling author Thea Harrison begins an all-new, darkly romantic paranormal saga, in which the fate of existence itself lay in the balance—and the key to victory may rest in the hands of two eternal lovers…

In the hospital ER where she works, Mary is used to chaos. But lately, every aspect of her life seems adrift. She’s feeling disconnected from herself. Voices appear in her head. And the vivid, disturbing dreams she’s had all her life are becoming more intense. Then she meets Michael. He’s handsome, enigmatic, and knows more than he can say. In his company, she slowly remembers the truth about herself…

Thousands of years ago, there were eight of them. The one called the Deceiver came to destroy the world, and the seven came to stop him. Reincarnated over and over, they carry on—and Mary finds herself drawn into the battle once again. And the more she learns, the more she realizes that Michael will go to any lengths to destroy the Deceiver.

Then she remembers who killed her during her last life, 900 years ago…Michael.

It's been very rare lately for an urban fantasy to have me both crying, laughing, and scared as hell for the main characters, but somehow Thea Harrison has done it. Rising Darkness is the kind of story that tugs on the heartstrings at every end of the spectrum, and as a romance lover a big part of that for me is the almost eternal connection between Michael and Mary. In every lifetime these two have been drawn to each other, trying (sometimes) in vane to remember the past and recognize why their being together is so important. It creates a seriously high level of intimacy and chemistry between the two and what could have been info dump is in Harrison's capable hands turned into an epic love story.

I don't think I quite knew what to believe about the ominous final words of the back cover copy but when Mary finally remembers the past life where she was injured (I won't say anymore) and when has to explain that to Micheal? Heart. Breaking. Which you don't even get to experience all that long because the big bad momma jamba evil is right there on the horizon killing everything in its path on his way to Mary. 

I thought this book was an amazing series started and while I'm seriously bummed that the next book isn't going to be released until February 14 I know it'll be worth the wait.

Overall Feeling - A+

Series - 1) Rising Darkness

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays (4/9)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read

* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
"Don't do something stupid. Don't be a TV heroine and go in the basement where you know the vampires are."

--pg 245, Rising Darkness by Thea Harrison

Monday, April 8, 2013

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother and the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own.

As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.

I know we're only two books in but I think I'm about ready for this quartet to be over. The books are not bad by any means, but I kind of have that feeling where ok - enough stalling - time for big bad confrontation and fairtytale ending. Scarlet picks up right where Cinder left off, with Cinder in the dungeon trying to escape surrounded by people who hate and fear her. In addition to that though we've got Scarlet (a take on "Little Red Riding Hood") who's trying to find her grandmother and the allies she picks up along the way are suspect to say the least.

I don't love how the book reads, flip flopping between story lines as the characters converge on each other just makes me impatient for both individuals to find their conclusions, but I think this will be corrected in the next book as the whole troop moves to save the Empire. We'll see since Meyer has an affinity for the kinda sorta cliffhanger ending and there are two more books in this series - I've been spoiled by the way I read young adult series as an actual young adult, where all the books were out and I just had to convince my mom to buy them all for me :).

Overall Feeling - B

Series - 1) Cinder 2) Scarlet 3) Cress (2014)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dark Storm by Christine Feehan

Awakening after all this time in a world of absolute darkness and oppressive heat, Dax wonders in how many ways the world above must have changed. But it is how he has changed that fills him with dread and loathing. Buried alive for hundreds of years in a volcano in South America, Dax fears that he has become the full-fledged abomination that every Carpathian male fears, a victim of the insidious evil that has crept relentlessly into his mind and body over the centuries.

But there are some things that never change.

His name is Mitro, the vampire Dax had hunted all these long centuries. Once at the side of the prince of the Carpathian people he is the epitome of everything malevolent, and perpetrator of one of the most shocking killing sprees known to man -- and beast. Even his friends and family weren't safe from Mitro's bloodlust. Neither was Mitro's lifemate, Arabejila, an extraordinary woman with extraordinary gifts.

But now that Dax has re-emerged, so too has Mitro. The ultimate battle between good and evil has been re-engaged. Between Dax and Mitro, a violent game has begun -- one that has marked Riley Parker, the last descendent of Arabejila, as the reward.

Christine Feehan totally had me for the first 50% off this book. Nice set up, interesting characters, an enjoyable reintroduction of people from previous books - all good. I can't even say that Dax annoyed me! Especially in comparison to Dark Predator he was almost a modern alpha hero! Seemingly willing to listen to Riley's opinions, respect her abilities, etc. I'm telling you, it made me think we were getting back on track with this whole series. But then it happened.

Then we hit the sex organ flower. 

Where is Feehan's editor? Why does anyone let her keep writing these rituals?! I just can't you guys, I can't read about this pseudo-sex act licking of the flower parts while the hero and heroine say stupid poetry to each other. Maybe Feehan didn't know exactly where she wanted to go next in regards to the Carpathians problems with reproduction but this was not a good direction in my opinion. Sigh. 

After that low point the book was ok, lots of Mary Sue-ing on the part of Riley but nothing too annoying though I would say the final battle with Mitro was underwhelming. Ultimately I'm glad I got this from the library and before I start committing my money to new books in the future I'll have to read some reviews - possibly a lot of reviews.

Overall Feeling - C-

Series - ....21) Dark Peril 22) Dark Predator 23) Dark Storm

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

March in Review

You know you've got a lot on your mind when it takes another blogger's summary post to remember you've still go to write your own! LOL!  

 "Hi my name is Dana and sometimes I pose for moody pictures in Old Town Alexandria."
(via Instragram (goodredherring))

With my new Mon/Thur rotation the number of books I read every month have gone down but I feel more at peace with the whole process. I read books I enjoyed and reviewed them as such, and you know what, if I can't make that schedule the world will not end (amazing right?). March had a good mix with plenty of well loved favorites and a new to me author I was lucky enough to find thanks to NetGalley. The breakdown:

Blue Flame by Jill Shalvis (B-)
Shadow Woman by Linda Howard (A)
Wild Invitation by Nalini Singh (A)
Written in Red by Anne Bishop (A+)
The Wolf Prince by Karen Whiddon (A)
Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire (A)
Slashback by Rob Thurman (A)
Rising Darkness by Thea Harrison (review coming soon!)
Dark Storm by Christine Feehan (review coming soon!)

Question to self: am I a really generous reviewer or do I only read books I have a high chance of enjoying? Hmm.... probably a bit of both but the second is more true then I think about. But who wants to read books they know they're not gonna like? Piffle on that I say - life's too short! My favorite of the bunch? Hard to choose but I keep going back to re-read parts of Written in Red even now so let's say that one!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays (4/2)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read

* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

"Cruel? Babe, the Marquis de Sade was cruel. This chick is a class-A cunt. I think she'd cut her own mother if the woman got in her way."

--pg 300, Wolf with Benefits by Shelly Laurenston

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Wolf Prince by Karen Whiddon

Willow was unlike any princess he'd ever met...

As heir to the throne, Ruben must choose an appropriate mate to preserve his royal bloodline-despite his fear that his true nature will destroy them both. Yet the female he craves above all others is a dangerous combination of fairy and shifter, a mesmerizing creature who inspires both passion and suspicion. Then violence strikes the castle, and the two are forced to track a killer into perilous magical territory. But with treachery everywhere, will Willow and Ruben's growing bond be enough to shift the fate of their two kingdoms?

I love being surprised and this one had a few twists and turns that while playing into the expected romance formula still made it quite enjoyable. With its Cinderella like beginnings I worried that a lot of the story would be taken up by Ruben being a jerk about Willow 'deceiving' him regarding her origins but instead we got action, murder, and a hunt for a killer through various Sidhe lands - nice one!

Even though the readers knew who the killer was all along I still think the way Whiddon wrote things I never got really bored - impatient to have the person revealed - but that's it. Plus to introduce serial killer tendencies and use those to demonstrate just how far gone the killer was? Excellent.

But to reassure my romance readers out there, this is still at its heart a romance. Ruben is drawn to Willow and can't quite figure out why (I know - duh). Forced to work together their sparks have time to grow into real feelings, especially since Willow is able to connect to his wolf, at times almost better than Ruben can. By the time I reached their HEA I was happy to see them start their life together - and intrigued enough to want to pick up some of the previous books in this series! I need to read about Ruben's sister!

Overall Feeling - A

Series - ... 11) The Wolf Whisperer 12) The Wolf Princess 13) The Wolf Prince

*Title requested from NetGalley*