Monday, July 26, 2010

Still the One - Robin Wells (Contemporary Romance)

Released May 2010

I had to undergo a minor surgical procedure a couple weeks ago and between medications and being told not to move too much, particularly bending, so that I don't tear open the incision, well I'm going nuts. No moving around much is an absurd thing for someone who needs to walk her daily mile and enjoys getting out and tending to her gardens. As a result, I've been trying to find books that really take me away from my annoyances and keep me wanting to remain laid down and reading!

Still the One managed to do exactly that. Once started, I just didn't want to walk away. I needed to know how things worked out for Katie, Zach, their daughter and Katie's in-law's.

In Still the One, Katie Charmaine is still grieving the loss of her young husband when a high school romance returns to her life. Seems the daughter Katie gave up as a teen is back in her life and definitely not enjoying the family reunion.

Gracie's adoptive parents were killed in a tragic accident. Her aunt can't handle her and agrees to let Gracie's birth parents raise her until she turns 18. The problem is Gracie's mad with the world, most of all the woman who didn't love her enough to keep her. Adding to the situation is the fact that Gracie is pregnant. Katie and Zach are brand new at parenting and definitely not sure how to handle a mixed-up teen who wants nothing to do with them and needs them more than she's willing to admit.

Years ago, I mentored a pregnant teen. Her situation was unique because on top of being pregnant, she was expecting twins and having complications. I remember many of her fears about labor, delivery and the babies themselves. Robin Wells nailed it with Gracie. She does an outstanding job capturing Gracie's youth, uncertainty and also Gracie's knowledge that she must learn to change her ways for the sake of the baby.

I loved the romance between Zach and Katie. There are struggles, real struggles, because of their past and Katie's strong ties to her deceased husband. I think this aspect of the novel was poignant and definitely layered on emotion.

Robin Wells made me laugh, cry and smile with immense satisfaction throughout Still the One. It's a great romance by an author I've really enjoyed over the years. If you want a romance that grabs you from the start, this is a great book to curl up with!

Now if only we'll get to return to Chartreuse, Louisiana, once more to find out how Gracie is doing! I'm crossing my fingers that the author skips ahead a few years and returns us to Gracie's life.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Never Tell a Lie - Hallie Ephron (Suspense)

Released January 2010

With the birth of her first living child just weeks away, Ivy Rose is excited and nervous. During a yard sale, a former classmate, also in the last weeks of pregnancy, shows up. Ivy is rattled by the woman's odd behavior. When Ivy's husband David offers to give Melinda a tour of the house, Melinda gladly accepts. The problem is no one ever sees Melinda again and evidence of her murder is found on David and Ivy's property.

Now Ivy is dealing with the stress of pregnancy, as well as the suspicion being cast upon her and David. When it's made clear that David is the prime suspect in Melinda's disappearance and probable murder, Ivy is no longer certain who or what to believe.

Never Tells a Lie has its moments. It's definitely fast-paced and easy to read in one sitting. I'll give the author kudos for that. However, if you want a story that is going to throw twists at you, you won't find them here. I had most of the plot figured out in the first half of the book. There are very obvious snippets of foreshadowing scattered throughout.

Another issue I had, and it's probably the one that weighed heaviest on me, involves the police work. When I was a junior in high school, a freshman disappeared on her way to school. Police came to school, went to different businesses, people's homes, etc., asking questions about her behavior the days and weeks before school. They didn't just ask during a phone call, they went with face-to-face meetings. I'm really kind of shocked no one went to Melinda's family in another state to ask questions or spent more time asking her co-workers about her activities. Once they found out that Melinda was seen at David and Ivy's their investigation seemingly ended and to me that seems sloppy.

While reading, I also found at least one inconsistency. On page 6, Ivy tells Melinda that her due date is "December." The later on page 77, Ivy sends an email to her friend stating her OB/GYN appointment "Went fine. Confirmed, giving birth to a water buffalo. ETA April 1." There's a big gap between a December and an April birth, so someone missed a big typo there.

Maybe investigation work has changed drastically in 20 years, but I really kind of doubt it. I was entertained by Never Tell a Lie, but mostly it was to pick out things that niggled at me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Unbridled - Beth Williamson (Erotic Romance)

Released July 2010

Hot, hot, hot! Unbridled shares the story of Alex Finley. Alex has spent the past ten years in Los Angeles, far from her father's Wyoming ranch. At 16, Alex's mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer and Alex's dad split leaving Alex alone to watch her mom die. Her father only reappeared, with a new woman in tow, for her mother's funeral. Alex split after that and hasn't seen or spoken to her father in 10 years.

When her long-time companion dies and his family throws Alex out, she has no option but to return home. There she learns her father died in a tragic accident and Alex is now half owner of the ranch/resort and that she has a half-brother. Worse, the resort manager is a gorgeous cowboy that Alex has a very hard time resisting. All Alex wanted was to confront her father. Instead, she finds herself falling in love, and she's not sure she's ready.

Unbridled has a strong storyline that blends seamlessly with the sizzling romance between Alex and Connor. As they work to unravel each other's secrets and decide if a romance is worth the trouble, readers are definitely engrossed in every word.

It's fun to watch Alex mature and realize that there is more to life than running from her feelings. All in all, this is definitely an erotic romance, but there is so much to the plot that it's an absolutely marvelous contemporary romance too.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Nauti and Wild - Lora Leigh & Jaci Burton (Erotic Romance)

Released August 2010

Nauti and Wild is definitely steamy! In Lora Leigh's novella, Sierra Lucas harbors an incredible crush on her John Walker. The problem is John's father is Sierra's very protective godfather. For all intents and purposes,  Sierra and John have grown up more like siblings than anything. Sierra's knowledge that John's fiancee is cheating on him weighs heavy and she can't ignore it anymore. John's hurt and turns to Sierra for comfort. After a one night tryst, Sierra shuts John out and he leaves the city.

When Sierra is brutally assaulted, John's father asks John to watch over Sierra until the criminal is caught. Having Sierra on his houseboat is certain to lead to other things, but is John ready to admit his feelings for her? If he does, will his emotions get in the way of her safety?

Nauti Kisses continues the Nauti Series. Fans of that series will be delighted with the quick glimpse into former characters' lives, but newcomers will certainly not feel left out. The action is hot, but the romance is scorching! If you like steamy, character driven romances, this will not disappoint!

Jaci Burton's offering, Riding the Edge, another tale from the Wild Riders Series. In this novella, Rick Benetti receives his latest assignment. He's going undercover into his cousin's ruthless biker gang to protect a senator's daughter. For whatever reason, Ava Vargas has decided to throw away her master's degree and join the biker gang.

Little does Rick know, he's about to fall fast and hard for the exotic beauty. The harder he falls, the more he realizes he must keep her safe from his cousin's criminal activities.

Rick and Ava both are instantly likable. Once the story sets up Rick's background and the reasons for Ava's joining the biker gang, the reader is in for a wild ride!

Riding the Edge is also very steamy and well paired with Nauti Kisses. Both stories offer a strong does of romantic suspense without overpowering the very sensual romances.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Walk Awhile in My Shoes - Eric Harvey & Steve Ventura (Non-Fiction)

Released December 1996

Since the economy tumbled, my husband's plant has been a less than enjoyable environment. I hear many complaints from not only him but also his co-workers. With that in hand, I found it amusing that management recently handed the union workers a copy of Walk Awhile in My Shoes. I only hope management were all handed copies too.

In a nutshell, this is a collect of things managers want employees to know and vice versa. It's the things I hear co-workers complain about, but then say they know if they tell the management or union steward that they will be labeled as a complainer or whiner. Not a great atmosphere...

Have you ever become frustrated when you tried to meet management's changing demands and are still told you're wrong? Are you sick of hearing how poor a performance you're giving and never hearing that you've done anything right? Are you super tired of doing not only your job but also that of a slacking co-worker and not having management take any action? If you've answered yes to any of these, you'll find yourself cheering with each statement in Walk Awhile in My Shoes.

On the management side, there are also the common issues covered such as dreading having to give employee performance ratings, trying not to befriend your employees and getting employees to realize you're not the enemy. I've been among management and know that can be a struggle as well, though in that plant the owner was everyone's friend and did an amazing job balancing work with pleasure so that everyone loved working there. I know it can be done with the right person at the helm.

Having read this book now for my own, I have to wonder, however, how many managers will take the message seriously. I know there are some plants where it will work, but I've also seen many situations where being the boss simply is a power trip and for that type of person, this book won't change a thing. In a plant like my husband's where the managers love to point fingers to keep themselves from getting in trouble with the owner when they make a bad decision or misconstrue engineering results leading to incorrect production instructions, I can't see anything in this book persuading them to change.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Intent to Kill - James Grippando (Suspense)

Released July 2010

Three years after the tragic hit and run death of his wife, Ryan James has settled into a job as a radio host rather than the baseball star he seemed destined to become. His world is thrown for a loop when he receives a note on the anniversary of her death stating "I know who did it."

With this revelation, the case takes place in the forefront once again. When evidence comes to light that Ryan's brother-in-law, an autistic teen, may be to blame, Ryan becomes determined to unravel the truth and move on.

James Grippando is a masterful author when it comes to creating an edge-of-the-seat suspense novel with endearing characters. I like to try to resolve the mystery to a book before I reach the end, and this time I was stumped. Now, this is partially due to a piece of evidence revealed towards the end. You end up with a story there's no way you'll solve before the truth is revealed by the author.

Intent to Kill is a great summer read. It's a book that you can take your time and savor.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Heart and Soul - Maeve Binchy (General Fiction)

Released February 2010

All Frank Ennis wants it to sell off a storage building owned by St. Brigid's Hospital. Selling the building could bring much needed cash to the hospital. However, the other hospital board members disagree and feel it would be best used if turned into a cardiac treatment center. He's not happy with the outcome.

Clara Casey is chosen to head up the new cardiac center. She's not getting a lot of leeway from Frank who is determined to give her as little money as possible to get the center outfitted, remodeled and fully staffed. Clara, however, is determined that this cardiac center is going to be a success.

Along with a staff ranging from a young Polish girl who is turned from panhandler to a Gal Friday to a handsome young doctor with the best possible bedside manner, Clara's dreams take flight, but on the home front, Clara's personal life isn't as easy.

All of the characters in Maeve Binchy's Heart and Soul are very likable. While many aspects of the novel take place within the walls of the cardiac center, many more occur in the personal lives of the cardiac center's staff. It's part drama, part romance and definitely warm and inviting.

I've always loved Maeve Binchy's books, they capture families and the dilemmas they face. Things are handled realistically and you may not always find things working out as you would imagine, but that's what makes the stories so real. Life doesn't always provide fairy tale endings. The journey to finding out how things end up for each character is what matters most!

Monday, July 5, 2010

This is Where I Leave You - Jonathan Tropper (General Fiction)

Released July 2010

Despite their father's atheistic ways, Judd Foxman and his siblings are drawn back to their family home to sit Shiva for a full seven days following their dad's death. Not only is this the first time the entire clan's been together under one roof, it's also the first time Judd's seen any family following his separation. You see Judd caught his wife in bed with his boss and suffice it to say nothing between them is currently pleasant, despite her pleas to make things as amicable as possible.

Grieving the loss of his father and the end of his marriage, Judd's reeling in more ways than one. Toss in a surprise announcement that his soon to be ex is also pregnant and Judd's life takes a whole new leap into confusion.

This is Where I Leave You made me laugh one minute, tear up the next and walk away feeling incredibly satisfied. Situations the characters find themselves in are painted in a forthright manner with the occasional surprise thrown in to catch you off guard.

This is a perfect beach read. It has a dose of romance, plenty of witty moments and characters with his and her own quirks that make them all memorable.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

His Hired Baby - Jacqueline Diamond (Category Romance)

Released August 2010

Kate Evans survived the tragic death of her husband and is the best single mom she can be to her five-year-old son. However, being a widow doesn't come easy and she needs money to return to school to get her degree. Wanting to move on with her life, she agrees to be a surrogate for a couple facing serious infertility issues.

When Kate learns that the woman she's promised her unborn child to has walked away from her husband, Kate begins to have second thoughts. She's promised to give the child to Tony Franco, a busy lawyer, but will he have time for his new daughter after her arrival? She sees the pain her son faces not having a father around, so how could she put another child through that?

I'm a sucker for Jacqueline Diamond's Harlequin romances. They always contain strong families and the complication of having an innocent child in the mix. Because they're shorter in length, it's easy to read them in one sitting and you always get emotionally wrapped up in the characters' lives.

His Hired Baby is the second entry in the Safe Harbor Medical series. If you haven't read the first story, it's not essential, though I enjoyed catching up with Jennifer and Ian. This is another strong entry, especially if you enjoy single parent/baby themed romances. Jackie's one of my favorite Harlequin writers and it's because her books are emotionally charged, leaving you feeling warm and cozy.

I find myself craving the shorter romances on hot summer days. They're perfect for the poolside or a quick read before curling up to go to sleep. His Hired Baby is definitely one worth reading.

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

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