Saturday, November 20, 2010

Otherwise Engaged by Suzanne Brockmann ***

Otherwise Engaged (unabridged audiobook)Otherwise Engaged by Suzanne Brockmann

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The third of the Sunrise Key trilogy, it was pretty much just "ok" although it was interesting to have a book address issues of dealing with a hearing-impaired child, and the relationship of the child to the story. I thought our heroine was a bit more stubborn than necessary about almost everything, so that was annoying for me. And, ok, I read time travel so why finding the whole paparazzi element unrealistic I'm not sure! Unfortunately it was necessary to drive the plot, and I had a hard time buying it and their ways of dealing with it.

The narration by Susan Boyce was slightly over a 3 star - she didn't differentiate much between the hero/heroine voices, although it was easy enough to tell who was whom. I wouldn't avoid her but wouldn't seek her out either - not inspiring, but not annoying either.

This story deals with Sunrise Key's Billionaire Preston Seaholm, Fantasy Man Magazine's Most Eligible Bachelor. Yes, that one attribute makes reporters from all over the globe stream to the tiny town of Sunrise Key to follow his every move and catches him in clinch with new resident Molly Cassidy.

Molly is the widow of some famous writer who didn't really love her enough, we learn as the story goes along. They had a child, now 10 years old, with an unnamed degenerative hearing loss syndrome - a loss that will produce profound deafness by the time the kid is 20. Preston wants to buy the dilapidated mansion Molly has inherited, and therefore makes several increasingly large offers, and stubborn Molly turns them all down: she wants to remodel it and turn it into a B&B, even though she has no resources of her own (aka $) to do this.

To get the paparazzi to leave them alone, they somehow decide to pretend to be engaged. Unfortunately, not only does it just get the paparazzi more involved, they both feel the SoulMateElectricity in each other's company, so... blah blah blah, "let me give you all the money in the world and also let's boink" he says, "money can't buy me love even though my body wants to boink you" she says. They dance, literally, emotionally and physically, around the issues and then HEA. 3 stars, max.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kiss and Tell by Suzanne Brockmann ***

Kiss and Tell (Sunrise Key Trilogy, #1) (Loveswept #787)Kiss and Tell (Sunrise Key Trilogy, #1) by Suzanne Brockmann

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a fairly quick listen, and the narrator, Susan Boyce, is good, if you don't mind her not-exactly-English-accent she gives the British hero. I'd already read the second in the series, because it was released earlier. It's sort of early-Brockmann, and is a little different from her later series like Troubleshooters both in tone and plot. The whole fiance thing got on my nerves, and there's a scene where I thought the heroine was going to be the death of the dang horse while she threw a hissy fit. I was actually yelling THE HORSE! THE HORSE! while I drove! Still, I liked it.

Plot setup: girl returns to childhood home for the holidays where her brother and his best friend are; she's always fought with his best friend; she has a meaningless life with a fiance she doesn't love in NYC; you fill in the plot here.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 15, 2010

Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie *****

Strange BedpersonsStrange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another book I'd already read and enjoyed that I had to hear on audio! It's like comfort food, macaroni & cheese - you know you'll enjoy it and feel good at the end. Narrator Madison Vaughn brings a nice, cynical tone to the characters that fits them to a t. It's an "opposites attract" sort of theme, along the lines of Dharma and Greg - she was raised in a commune and works at nonprofits, he's a Yale-educated lawyer trying to make partner. It's filled with Crusie's trademark witty banter, and Vaughn made me laugh out loud with Nick's secretary Christine's dialogue. There's some slight intrigue, a tiny mystery, but nobody dies - just some fun characterizations and a zany story. Yes! a reason to keep reading.

Below is my original review of the print book, a couple of years back.


I finished this late last night - and felt a pretty good 5-star glow after it was over. Of course, now in the light of day, it seems a little different, so I'm thinking it was more like a 4.5...

The basic plot is a sort of Dharma and Greg relationship except that in this case Tess isn't nearly as open-minded and happy as Dharma. I find Nick to be a lot like Greg though - besotted (a besotted hero?) with Tess, and sticking to his own principals while being really more open-minded than Tess about their differences.

She was raised on a commune by hippie parents. She continues their traditions by working as a teacher at a nonprofit foundation that runs a tutoring program for disadvantaged children, and also by protesting the ills of the world, and in general trying to fix everyone and everything. Living according to her principals, she shops at thrift stores, lives in a low-income area and in general you get the idea she's trying to minimize her footprint on the world.

Nick was raised in a middle-class, blue-collar family, but attended an Ivy League law school and is now a Republican lawyer hoping to make partner in a small family law firm, of which he is not family. He's ambitious but actually not in a cut-throat way. I think is says volumes about his scruples that he refused to make love with her in a public parking lot because it's against the law! OK, so it also shows him to be a little straight-laced and maybe even stuffy - but he is a lawyer, after all, so not breaking the law seems like a good idea - especially when he points out his bedroom was less than 10 minutes away. And it speaks volumes for her that, after he refused the car and suggested the bedroom, she refused him altogether. She's not really as open-minded and liberal as she thinks she is.

The verbal sparring in the book was pretty funny - I laughed out loud several times during the short read (about 250 pp) at the antics. Nick has a dilemma - a famous author the firm is wooing has specifically asked the lawyers to attend a weekend house party with spouses, and neither Nick nor his buddy Park are married. He goes to Tess - even though now they are no longer dating - and asks her to do this for him as a favor, and to get Park a date too. Tess is truly conflicted - her body is trying to override her mind about Nick, and she is really attracted to him. She keeps trying to tell herself their relationship cannot work because they are so diametrically opposed on so many issues, but she likes him as a friend so she obliges and goes, along with her best friend Gina.

Tess finds herself giving in to Nick on several issues - one of them is her trying to run everyone's lives. After the weekend, Park and Gina start a relationship, but Park is too lily-livered to stand up to his father and continues to show up at family affairs with a different woman, one his parents hope he'll marry. After he leaves Corinne, he heads to Gina - but he doesn't let either woman know. Tess would normally have told Gina, but for Nick she butts out - an action that later comes back to bite her.

Tess has a hard time realizing what is truly in her core values that she must do for herself, and what are the issues she can bend or compromise on where Nick and others are concerned. Nick is more sure of himself, although he does lean on his Superwoman secretary Christine for help - and she is the true hero in the book, in my eyes!! She is the one who finally makes the difference for the two of them.

It was a fun story and a great ending. If you are looking for short, hot, funny - this is it. 5 stars.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kiss of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning ****

Kiss of the Highlander (Highlander, #4)Kiss of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had read book one in this series by audio back in March of this year, and decided it was ok, but not worth pursuing. I have read many reviews praising Phil Gigante as narrator, especially on this book, so I indulged when it came up for sale at

I like Gigante's voice well enough, although I agree with those who wish he would stop using his odd falsetto for women's voices. His Scots accent for the hero is good, his voice basso and yummy, but why did it sound as if some of the characters were Irish? And why did Gwen sometimes have almost a Scots accent? I think he's a little bit inconsistent with his voices. I think if I was enjoying the story more I wouldn't have nitpicked.

Moning's style of writing this series is somewhat reminiscent of Sandra Hill's humor - sort of over-the-top, almost a parody of romance that I think takes a certain mood to appreciate. Sometimes I do, sometimes I think "enough already". I made it to the end, I had a laugh or two, and I think I'm done with Moning's Highlanders now.

View all my reviews

Friday, November 12, 2010

Veil of Night by Linda Howard - the audio version ***

Veil of Night: A NovelVeil of Night: A Novel by Linda Howard

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The 3-star review is for the AUDIO of the book, since I might have liked it even more in print but the narration was so inconsistent and sometimes awful. Clarinda Ross (the narrator) might be a good actor - her character voices are good - but either she just cannot read books out loud or she had very, very bad direction. Her narration (the stuff between the good character voices) was sing-songy with odd, disconcerting short pauses. I forged ahead with the audiobook anyway, but I think I need to read it in print now to really appreciate it. Her narration earned maybe 1 1/2 or 2 stars, but since the story seemed good, I'll go with 3.

The story was a familiar theme with me, since I'm just now reading the end of Nora Roberts' Bride series - Jaclyn is a wedding planner! She's in business with her mother, and she's dealing with the Bridezilla to end all Bridezillas - a young woman who has managed to pretty much piss off everyone in her path. She's not just wishy-washy - she's mean! Everyone was probably imagining inventive ways to off her when she actually gets offed - with kabob skewers. With kabobs still on them. Ewwww.

The detective on the case is our hero, Eric, who coincidentally had a memorable one-night-stand with Jaclyn the night before the murder. Small town. This sorta puts some distance between Jaclyn and Eric - she's thinking, how could he accuse me of murder? and he's thinking, how can I get her back into bed?

There was a nice cast of characters - the other women working the business, a couple of funny wedding scenarios that I think will be funnier when I read them to myself.

People, this is LINDA HOWARD - her books deserve the best! I have to repeat what I read on Was Joyce Bean busy??

View all my reviews

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Faking It by Jennifer Crusie *****

The audio book of this is narrated by Aasne Vigesaa, who also narrated Welcome To Temptation - and she is good! It was just as much fun in audio 2 years later, and I probably laughed even more to hear the lines spoken out loud. Highly recommended! The review from November 2008 of the book:

What a romp! First of all, I had no idea that this was a sequel of sorts to Welcome To Temptation - the hero is Sophie's brother Davy Dempsey, con man extraordinaire. So that was a welcome surprise. And it also featured Clea from the same book - you know, the porn star who dragged Sophie and Amy to Temptation to make her video there.

The book features 2 families involved in deception - in addition to the Dempseys, there's the Goodnights. The Goodnight family has been involved in art galleries, art, painting - and forgeries - for centuries. Now they run an art gallery in Columbus, Ohio, but it's not doing so well, so Tilda (the actual heroine of the book although there are a ton of characters/family members) helps make ends meet by painting murals - more forgeries, usually, of famous paintings.

Tilda and Davy meet in Clea's closet one night: Davy's there to hack into Clea's computer to get back the $3 million his money manager embezzled from him and gave to Clea, Tilda's there to steal a painting inadvertently sold to Clea that is a forgery Tilda painted. Davy doesn't get his money and they almost get caught, so he sends her home with a promise to get the painting for her. Of course, he hasn't yet revealed his name or even his face to her at this point, although they've shared some hot kissing in the closet...

I don't think I can even begin to describe the lunacy that makes up this plot! It was a laugh-a-minute as we meet all the characters: Tilda's sister Eve, who is also alter-ego Louise - who works at a gay nightclub with her ex-husband Andrew and father of their teenage daughter Nadine; Andrew's current love, Jeff who is a lawyer; Gwen Goodnight, the matriarch who works Double Crostic puzzles and runs the gallery; Clea and her latest mark, Mason, who is actually more interested in Gwen; Ford, the hit man hired to kill Davy; Simon, Davy's partner-in-crime; and of course, Steve the dachsund aka Notable Pet. Oh, and Thomas-the-caterer and Davy's father, Michael Dempsey... well the list goes on and on, as we follow the trials and tribulations of keeping the forgeries and cons secret.

It was fast paced and filled with hysterical lines and innuendos and music titles and people who weren't what you thought and weren't where you thought - I found myself going back a page or 2 more than once to follow a reference I missed as I read. In the midst of all this, Davy and Tilda grew a real relationship - good thing, since they were sleeping together every night - that was touching and fun and all things good. They even get a nice HEA, no faking.

5 stars - it's a longer book (400+ pp) but a fast read nonetheless, as long as you are paying attention!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts ****

Savor the Moment (Bride Quartet, #3)Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the 3rd in a series about 4 women who grew up together and are now in a wedding business together. Laurel McBane, the chef of the group, has always had a thing for Del Brown "of the Connecticut Browns", which implies, as she says, that he's not just rich - but wealthy. Del is the brother of one of the 4women, so he was always around. Unfortunately for her, he always considered her another sister. So she had to take control and show him she wasn't!

La Nora writes such wonderful stories, and she excels in celebrating the friendships of women. I have not glommed her work (who could keep up with her?) but have read quite a lot - often I find her books wonderful, and occasionally I find them not so great. This one falls somewhere in between. The story is good, the characters fleshed out, if a little too good to be true. But where was the conflict? Well, it was all in Laurel's head and once Del figured it out, he fixed it. The End. OK, it was a sweet, romantic end, but... I guess I was in the mood for more than 2 minutes of angst. It smacked of Emma and Jack's story - a sort of made-up conflict that didn't really make you wonder if they could resolve it. While I was thinking, "is that it??", it was already resolved.

Angela Dawe has officially made my Rising Star Narrator list - she seems to be a very busy voice actor, with 39 listings on, all released in the last year. I sense her readings will become better and better as she gets more experience and her voice matures, too. Yay! Truly, a narrator can make or break the audio book, almost without regard for the quality of the story itself! More Angela Dawe!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie ****

Re-read as audio book in 2010 - originally read as paperback in Nov 2008- review follows:

I'm on a pretty serious Jennifer Crusie glom, mostly because I picked up a Lot of her books on eBay this month. She's got a definite style - witty, rapid-fire banter, women who fix things, Notable Pets - and this book has it all. It's a murder mystery too (and now that it's over, I'm still not clear on who killed which of the many bodies that showed up!)

The main heroine is Nell - a recent divorcée whose husband left her for a younger woman after 22 years of marriage. She's still in the walking-dead stage, something anyone who's been there might recognize - lost a lot of weight and still in denial about what happened. The opening scene (which is hysterical) has her sitting in the office of the main hero, Gabe, a PI looking to hire an office manager. While he talks on the phone, she manages to single-handedly and inadvertently wreck his office, complete with breaking a window and putting a hole in the carpet - I was laughing out loud the whole time.

Gabe's baggage is pretty heavy too - he's still sleeping with his ex-wife, they have a college-aged daughter, and their businesses are right next door to one another. His PI business has been around since before he was born, when his dad ran it. His father died some years back, but nothing has changed - the decor, the clientele - all leftover from the 1950s.

Nell starts to change all that the instant she gets the job, and meets resistance at every turn from Gabe and even from his cousin/partner Riley somewhat. But when Nell realizes the former secretary (that she replaced) swindled them out of $5k+, and then is found dead in a freezer, things start to, well, heat up - which is kinda funny since many of the deaths involve a freezer...

As usual for Ms Crusie's stories, there's a whole slew of characters including Nell's best friends Suze and Margie, who are also related to her by marriage, and whose families are also major clients of Gabe and Riley's agency. There's Gabe's side of the aisle as well - ex-wife Chloe, daughter Lu, clients Trevor (Margie's father), Jack (Suze's husband) and Budge (Margie's SO). Once again, a scorecard would come in handy to keep track of who's who. At one point, Nell points out she's slept with everyone at the table except her ex-husband's new wife in a crowd that includes the ex-husband, Gabe, Riley and Suze. Sorta boggles the mind and was another very funny scene to boot.

Oh, Notable Pet mention: Marlene (think Dietrich), formerly known as SugarPie, is the long-haired dachsund Nell stole from the ex-husband of a would-be client because the client thought the dog was being mistreated. It was Nell's first bad decision...

While the hunt is on to figure out what the former-now-deceased secretary was looking for and who killed her, there's an ongoing power struggle between Nell and Gabe that develops, albeit realistically slowly, into a relationship. Of sorts. It takes a while to form and grow and develop a life of its own.

So, it was a murder mystery that was also a romp (seems a little odd, no?) and I'm going with 4 stars.

audio book notes: the narrator is Sandra Burr and she's good in other books I've listened to - however, I finished this a couple of days ago and did not make any notes. Ooops, who can remember after a couple of days??

Trust Me On This by Jennifer Crusie *****

Trust Me on ThisTrust Me on This by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another winner for Crusie - fast paced story and dialogue, read by Angela Dawe who is quickly becoming a favorite narrator for me. Crusie herself calls it a "screwball comedy" - there are mistaken identities and con men and undercover cops and a bunch of staid and not-so staid college professors all holed up in a hotel for a four-day convention that ends up being not very conventional at all. Crusie even manages to introduce a dog into the story - after she finished writing it, because the publisher decided to put one on the cover! I found myself laughing out loud several times during this relatively short read - it definitely goes into my list of re-listens.

View all my reviews

Interestingly, it seems I can post my Goodreads reviews here! (see above!) However, I try to write short reviews there, and here is where I can rant and rave and go on and on cuz it's just me.

The plot: journalist heroine Dennie (I had a hard time with this being a woman's name) is looking for a break, something to break her out of her rut in the bridal/women's section of the paper. When she learns a famous marriage-guru's own marriage is on the rocks, she heads to a convention where the woman is speaking, hoping to get an interview. Coincidentally, undercover cop hero Alec heads to the same convention, expecting a serial con artist to appear.

The con artist appears, and - based on a tip - Alec assumes Dennie is working with the con man. The two are stuck in this hotel, him trying to trip her up so she'll turn state's evidence on the con, her trying to get to his aunt because she's a friend of the woman she hopes to interview; however, neither will own up to the other what they are actually doing. Both have honed their charming ways, so there's a fair amount of time each is trying to charm information out of the other - and the other recognizes the methods! Dennie picks up pretty quickly that Alec is not the dumb farm-boy he pretends to be so she'll sell him swamp land; Alec starts to think maybe she's not the con's bimbo associate after all.

The secondary romance (over at Goodreads they are calling it the May/December romance - I think it's more like early/mid December, considering she's 62 and he's 58...) is fun and much faster paced than the slow build of Alec and Dennie. There's even a tertiary romance that's pretty funny, all things considered. OK, it was only 4 days but still... I really enjoyed it! 5 stars!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Angel Creek by Linda Howard ***

AUDIO: I got this from the library, with narrator Natalie Ross. I like, or have liked, Ross as a narrator, but she either cannot do justice to this property, or she cannot rise above it, cuz I thought her narration was pretty dang mediocre on this book, which is also pretty dang mediocre (or worse). The audio of this book didn't make the story any better.

My Review from August 2008
First off - I got this in a Large Print 2-for-1 book from PBS. Yay! But I have to warn anyone who gets this book: Angel Creek is the second in the series, but for some reason it's the first in the book. Silly me, I didn't figure that out before reading them. It doesn't entirely ruin it, but there is a character in A Lady of the West who appears in Angel Creek, so if you read it first like I did, you'll know a spoiler going into A Lady...

Second off - holy moly. OK, it is Linda Howard, but it's early Linda Howard and although her writing chops were still great, man - it's - well - the men are not just alpha, they're complete assholes and I would have to say what they do pushes forced seduction so close to rape there'd be a hung jury or a conviction if the women pressed charges, ok? Hence my 3 stars because if the writing wasn't good, this would have been a 2 star or maybe even a DNF. She has these men just forget that No Means No - in their world, No means OK, I want it even though I think I don't. Bad. Oh yeah baby like that.

I tried to tell myself it was a Western thing, hard life, yada yada. But I mean. These men just said: "gimme" and took.

In this story, we have Luke - he's the owner of the Double C ranch, with no family left, and rich. We have Dee - no family left for her either, but all she has is her family ranch, not money - and Angel Creek, the best and sometimes only source of water in the region. We have a sorta bad guy - he's not really evil, but he's not all good either, named Kyle, and he's also a rancher with a big investment in land and cattle. We have a gently bred banker's daughter, whassername. And we have Luis Fronteras - he's a drifter from the first story, A Lady of the West. And we have a whore with a heart of gold, Tillie. Are you keeping track, here?? Get out a scorecard.

It seems everything traces back to something that happened 10 years ago, for every character. After the 4th or 5th time I saw the phrase "10 years ago" I kept thinking, what exactly was it about 10 years ago? It would have taken a calculator and some notepaper to figure out what year it was set in - some time after the Civil War (10 years?), but isn't exactly named - just references to what happened some time before.

Luke and whassername have a completely unspoken non-agreement. He figures she is what he needs as a wife if he ever decides he needs one. She is 25 - practically a crone - and figures she'll end up saying yes if he ever asks because where in the hell is she going to find a man to father children before her eggs dry up? Kyle and Tillie go way back - and also sometimes go upstairs for a poke - but Kyle wants to give Luke a run for his money, so he sorta almost pursues whassername. Maybe I should look up her name in the book. Kyle also pursues Dee because if she'd marry him, he'd have more/better water for his cattle. He also offers to buy Angel Creek.

Dee's a stubborn independent woman who shoots anyone who comes on her property, except, uh, Luke. Luke decides to sorta woo her a teensy bit, just for the land, mind you - except hot damn she's an exciting piece of flesh!! So - well - the bastard takes advantage of her when she's down and sort gets her all wanting him and stuff. Damn. He does start to realize that bonking Dee and marrying whassername might not be the best idea he ever had...

Luis wants whassername. Bad. He, of all the men in both books, is a gentleman for all he's a half breed or maybe full breed Mexican drifter gunslinger. He, of all the men in both books, treats his women right (and bonks them silly before offering for their hands... hmmmm....)

The big Turning Point is when Kyle goes crazy and lies to his men, telling them Dee will allow his thirst-crazed cattle onto her land. When they herd them over there, wouldn't you know that she's standing there with a gun, shooting at them? They all go nuts, wanting blood and rape and pillaging. Luis take Dee's side, runs to Tlllie, tells Tillie to get Luke to come save Dee, and then goes back to help Dee protect her property. Whassername doesn't even find out til the next day.

OK - did you need that scorecard to keep that straight??

The writing is good, the story is ok, the men are abominable and practically unforgivable. 3 stars, and only recommended to those (1) who happen to already own the book and (2) have nothing better to do or (3) are determined to read everything LH ever wrote.
audio notes: Natalie Ross did such a fine job on After The Night, which I have listened to 2 or 3 times, that I really expected her to make this one work for me, even though I hadn't thought much of this book 2 years ago. She does voices very, very well - but her narrator voice was just sort of sing-songy and not interesting. I just didn't like it that much, but then I hadn't like the story that much when I read it either.

It Must Be Love by Rachel Gibson ***

This is one of the last books by Rachel Gibson I hadn't yet read - surely by now I'm almost completely caught up in glomming her backlist!

This one didn't have much new or fun to offer - the copyright date was 2000, and in internet years that's about 1 billion, but in romance novel years, it's maybe only 20 or so. Really, the internet and everything related to it - ipods/mp3 players, smart phones, etc - date contemporary books so quickly!

I'm not sure why I wandered off course - nothing about the plot was really too dated. It's the Dharma and Greg scenario - she's (slightly) into the New Age stuff, making her own relaxation and massage oils with essential oils, and slightly believing in karma and not really believing in Fate, and trying vegetarianism but lapsing. Gabrielle Breedlove runs her own small business with a partner, Kevin, and is suspected of participating in a burglary ring that is ripping off art and antiques and fencing them.

Joe's the detective assigned to follow her every cute little move to see if he can catch her fencing the goods. Unfortunately she's on to him - except she assumes he's a stalker, and drops him with a can of hairspray. Then she becomes his confidential informant, so he poses as her - oh, gee, how about BOYFRIEND? and hangs around her shop trying to catch Kevin.

Yeah, they're opposites-attract, and there's an okay plot, and of course I like Gibson's writing pretty good, so it's a 3-star, okay read. Not going in my favorites list or anything, but it's... okay.