Thursday, June 28, 2012

I LOVE Nora Roberts. I want to be her (in a non-creepy way).

    Carolina MoonPaperback Published:  April 2001

      I put off finishing Caroline Moon for as long as possible while still wanting to devour it.  This is not my usual review where I share what I like and what I didn't like.  This is mainly going to be some gushing about the wonderful story telling that Nora Roberts produces on a consistent basis.  Roberts was my first real taste of romance writing.  I love a good story with developed characters; Ms. Roberts is one of the best story tellers and Carolina Moon is a perfect example of her skill.  Our heroine, Tory, is a strong, intelligent, scarred, honest woman.  She has survived a horrid childhood and has become a successful business woman, opening a store in her hometown.  Returning was something she felt she had to do in order to heal and grow. I haven't been to my hometown in a while and I'm not sure if I want to return anytime soon.  I enjoyed watching Tory work through her misgivings.  
Ok, I feel like I'm going to give a spoiler on the plot, so I'll give you the Goodreads synopsis.  Then I can gush some more.  

Tory Bodeen grew up in South Carolina, in a small run-down house, where her father ruled with an iron fist and a leather belt --- and where her dreams and talents had no room to flourish. But she had Hope, who lived in the big house just a short skip away and whose friendship allowed Tory to be something she wasn't allowed to be at home: a child.

After young Hope's brutal murder, unsolved to this day, Tory's life began to fall apart. And now, as she returns to her hometown, with plans to settle in an open a stylish home-design shop, she is determined to find a measure of peace and free herself from the haunting visions of the past. As she forges a new bond with Cade Lavelle --- Hope's older brother and the heir to the family fortune --- she isn't sure whether the tragic loss they share will unite them or drive them apart. But she is willing to open her heart, just a little, and try.

Living so close to those unhappy memories will become more difficult and frightening than Tory could ever have expected, however. Because Hope's murderer is nearby as well ..

Cade Lavelle and Hope's twin, Faith Lavelle, are layered, interesting characters.  Cade may be a bit too perfect, but he's still believable and lovable.  Tory deserves someone that may be a bit too perfect.  The secondary characters including Mrs. Lavelle (the mother), Cade's boyhood friends, and the townspeople are interesting and add to the depth of the plot rather than detract or irritate.  The two love stories are fun and sweet and the mystery is surprising.  I usually see the "bad guy" a mile away, but I was so involved in the lives of the characters that I completely missed it.  I like that, a lot.  
If you haven't read a Nora Roberts book, or you haven't read Carolina Moon, you are really missing out.  Go read it, now!  Go...go to the bookstore!  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I Don't Want it to End!

I've almost finished Nora Robert's Carolina Moon and I find myself trying to read more slowly so I don't finish it. I do love me some Nora Robert's mystery and romance. I will finish this evening (sad face) and post a full review tomorrow. It's safe to say that it will be a glowing review!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, June 25, 2012

Author Guest Post (yay!) - Lisa Becker

Online Dating Inspired Click: An Online Love Story
By Lisa Becker

I first met my husband while wearing my pajamas.  Really!  No, we weren't at some kinky singles party.  I was sitting comfortably in my apartment and he was hanging out in his.  But, I will never forget his email introduction via an online dating service, which invited me to check out his profile.  It was sweet, endearing and intriguing enough for me to log on to learn more about him.  After a week of emails, followed by a week of phone calls, we met for our first date - a traditional dinner and movie outing.  Even before I opened the door to greet him, I knew he was "the one."  Considering he lived 30 miles away, I'm not certain our paths would have typically crossed.  But after 11 years together - including 9 years of marriage (which in Los Angeles is apparently no small feat!) and two beautiful daughters, I have no doubt he is my soul mate. 

After my now-husband and I met online, I was recalling some of the hilarious experiences that I had during the whole online dating experience.  How could I forget the guy who started every story (no joke!) with “My buddies and I were out drinking one night.”   I decided to capture some of them in writing and, from there and based loosely on my own experiences, my novel Click: An Online Love Story emerged.  The entire story is told in emails between our heroine, Renee Greene, her three best friends and the gentlemen suitors she meets online.  The format felt like a modern way to tell the story that fit the topic, and allowed readers to develop an intimate relationship with the characters.

Clearly, I’m a big fan of online dating and find it to be a useful tool for young professionals who are busy working and finding it difficult to make the right connection at the gym, bar, coffee shop or grocery aisle.  I say, people today are “married” to their cell phones and laptops, so why not use that technology to really get married, right?
While Click doesn’t end with a wedding (sorry for the spoiler!), during Renee’s road to happiness, we find many advantages to online dating.  My five favorite are:

·        On Your Own Terms – Online dating provides a relaxed, anytime and on your own terms experience.  Share as little or as much information as you want.  Avoid people you are not interested in.  Communicate at your convenience.   But, don’t send a message at 2:30 am.  Nothing smacks more of desperation than an email from someone trolling the Internet for a date in the wee hours of the morning. 

·        Multi-Tasking Enabled – Flirt while filing your taxes.  Chat and trim your nails.  Meet a mate while making breakfast.  It’s a well-known fact that women are great multi-taskers.  Take full advantage of that skill.  As Shelley, the over-sexed character in Click says to the about-to-try-online-dating Renee, “A whole host of hot and horny single men that I can review, chat with, judge and mock – all while sitting in my office looking very busy.  Maybe I should give it a try myself.”

·        Trade the “Meat Market” for the “Meet Market” – Now you can avoid the “meat market” scene of bars and clubs and instead enjoy a “meet market” – an international bazaar (but let’s hope not too bizarre) of prospective mates.  The Internet allows you to make an online introduction to thousands if not millions of people around the world.  So, if you want to meet someone in Katmandu, well then, can do!

·        Save Time, Money and Energy – Let’s face it.  Dating isn’t cheap.   It takes time, money and, likely your most valuable and scarce resource, energy.   With the “try before you buy” environment of online dating, you don’t have to meet for a drink, grab a coffee or sit through a long dinner only to discover there’s no physical attraction, you have nothing in common, conversation is lacking, etc.    

·        Rejection Made Easy – In Click, Renee gets an email from someone halfway across the world looking to meet someone willing to move for him.  After sending a polite and diplomatic “thanks but no thanks” email message, she proclaims to her friend, “It’s so much easier to reject someone over that Internet than in real life.  Score one for online dating!”   While rejection is easier for both parties when done online, it’s important to remember that people still have feelings.

As I've said many times before, if it happened for me, there's hope for you.  So log on and take a chance.   To purchase Click, please click here.   To follow updates on Click and share your stories about online dating, visit the Click Facebook fan page.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Review of Cherie Priest's Hellbent

Hellbent (Cheshire Red Reports, Book 2)

Hellbent by Cherie Priest
Published:  2011
Publisher:  Ballantine Books

(From the back of the book)  Vampire and thief Raylene Pendle doesn't need more complications in her life. Her Seattle home is already overrun by a band of misfits, including Ian Stott, a blind vampire, and Adrian deJesus, an ex-Navy SEAL/drag queen.  But Raylene still can't resist an old pal's request:  seek out and steal a bizarre set of artifacts.  Also on the hunt is a brilliant but certifiably crazy sorceress determined to stomp anyone who gets in her way.  But Raylene's biggest problem is that Ian, after the death of his vaunted patriarch, has become the next target of some bloodsucking sociopaths.  Now Raylene must snatch up the potent relics, solve a murder, and keep Ian safe - all while fending off that psychotic sorceress.  But at least she won't be alone.  A girl could do a lot worse for a partner than an ass-kicking drag queen - right?  

I read Hellbent while I was at the AP English Literature Reading in Louisville, KY.  For 9 days, I spent 8am - 5pm reading essay question 3 of the AP Lit test.  One would think that I wouldn't want to read anything after reading essays all day, but I did.  This is my first book by Priest to read and I think I will read more.  I didn't love Hellbent, but it was entertaining enough for me to keep reading.

The protagonist, Raylene, is smart, witty, sassy, and scarred.  Since I didn't read the first book in this series, I missed some of her back story.  That didn't stop me from understanding and enjoying this book, though.  I enjoyed the action scenes and many of the scenes with Raylene and the cast of characters she meets in her adventures.  I didn't quite understand what motivated Raylene in a few of the scenes, and that did frustrate me a bit.  She seemed closed off and wary in the opening scenes of the novel, but then she invites a relative stranger to live with her in her secret home.  While she does have a history of taking in a few "strays," I didn't exactly see why she took in this latest guest.  I see why Priest included it as a plot device, but I didn't buy that Raylene would do that.  Maybe if I had read the first book in the series, I would be more understanding.

Priest includes several conflicts to keep the plot moving and most of them were fun adventures.  The one constant conflict involves penis bones.  Yep, penis bones.  When I first read that, I snorted out loud in the essay reading room.  People around me frowned at me.  But, how can you not snort at a book that includes penis bones?  Obviously, these are not human penis bones.  They are the bones of other mystical creatures - werewolves and the like.  These bones help magnify the magical power of the user.  Odd, but I went with it. At the very least, it was original.  I haven't read other books about magical penis bones.  (As a side note, when I was in graduate school, I often dreamed about the lofty literature I would read and discuss.  Never did I ever think I'd be writing about a book that has penis bones as a central plot element.  Kind of fun, isn't it?)

Most of the conflicts were resolved satisfactorily.  The ending of the novel clearly sets up the next installment in the series.  I may go back to read the first book in the series, Bloodshot, but I'm not in a hurry.

2 1/2 stars out of 5

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review of Baby It's Cold Outside by Addison Fox

Baby It's Cold Outside: An Alaskan Nights NovelPublished:  Nov. 2011

     I first picked up Baby It's Cold Outside because it is set in Alaska.  I'm obsessed with Alaska lately because I believe I need to be an Alaskan Mob Princess.  I don't actually want to do any mob-type stuff; I just like the name.  I digress.  BICO was more than the setting and more than the cheesy quick read that I guessed it would be.

(Blurb from   After a frantic call, Sloan McKinley travels to the heart of the Alaskan wilderness to be there for her best friend, who's just inherited property in the small town of Indigo. The last thing she expects is to be lured by the town's matriarchs into their annual contest to get their grandsons married off.

But Sloan can't deny the appeal of the rugged local men-Walker Montgomery in particular. Soon she finds herself falling in love with the wild outdoors...and with one of Indigo's most beloved residents. There's just one question that remains: is the town's most confirmed bachelor ready to get caught?

     I enjoyed the friendship that Sloan and Grier have and the new friendship they form with Avery, the hotel worker who seems to be so much more.  I really enjoyed the tension between Grier and Mick and I'm looking forward to the series installment about Avery.  She is smart, nice, and capable, but she lets her past keep her stagnate.  I want to know more about her.   I also want to know more about Grier and why/how she ended up in Alaska.  Why not contest the will from New York? 

     I didn't love Sloan as the protagonist.  I found her to be a bit...unbelievable.  I don't know why a girl that freely tells men off in the beginning of the novel would then put up with the antics of Walker.  I didn't understand that attraction or why she would continue to return to him for more drama.  Without giving away the ending, he does have some redeeming qualities, but it took much too long to see them.  I felt like Sloan knew something more about him that I didn't get to see.  There was a lot of sexual and emotional tension between Sloan and Walker that wasn't based on any interactions that I saw in the novel.  He has baggage, as we all do, but I didn't find myself caring about his baggage.  Sloan does have a lot of baggage, but I wanted to know more about hers and I wanted to see her work that out before turning to a man that may or may not be a nice person.  

     The people living in Indigo are quite fun.  I liked the grandmothers and the quirky men of Indigo that sweetly long for love.  I enjoyed the brief descriptions of the Alaskan setting and the contest, which I would normally find annoying, didn't take up too much of the plot.  It was a background for other more interesting situations.  That was a smart decision. Overall, I enjoyed Ms Fox's novel and I will be ready to read the next book in the Alaskan Nights series.
3 1/2 of 5 Stars

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review of Shaedes of Gray by Amanda Bonilla

Shaedes of Gray: A Shaede Assassin NovelShaedes of Gray by Amanda Bonilla

     This is my first Bonilla novel to read, and it will definitely not be my last! I am going to share the synopsis from the back cover of the book because I have a habit of including spoilers in my summaries.  I'm working on it!

      Darian has lived alone for almost a century it the shadows of the night.  Made and abandoned by her former love, Darian is the last of her kind - an immortal Shaede who can slip into darkness as easily as breathing.  With no one else to rely on, she has taught herself how to survive, using her unique skills to become a deadly assassin.  
     Darian finds herself struggling to keep her employer, Tyler, at arm's length, especially since his seductive smile makes her want to break her rules about love.  The work he offers in necessary to protect the innocent - and a welcome distraction.  But when Darian's next mark turns out to be Xander Peck, King of the Shaede Nation, her whole worldview is thrown into question.  Darian begins to wonder if she has taken on more than her conscience will allow, but a good assassin never leaves a job unfinished. 

     There is so much about the premise of this book that I enjoyed:
1.  Darian, the 1st person narrator and protagonist, is not perfect.  She is cranky, cynical, and skeptical of most everyone.  I relate to that because I'm that way before coffee. 
2.  Darian has fun powers that allow her to sense the powers of others and allow her to fade into the shadows.  That's cool.  She is not the most powerful character, but her powers have great potential.
3.  The world Darian lives in includes many other powerful creatures that I enjoyed.  I would like to know more about them and how they work.  For example, who are the seers?  What are their full powers?
4.  The novel clearly sets up the next installment in the series.  I enjoy series books because I get to spend more time with the characters. 

     There are also a few things about the book that I didn't enjoy:
1.  Darian is CRANKY.  She is rude to almost everyone with or without cause.  She has baggage, yes, but why is she so cranky all the time?
2.  Why did Tyler feel connected to Darian?  Without giving spoilers, I didn't understand his draw to her.  Yes, she tells us quite often how beautiful she is.  Yes, she is a powerful creature.  BUT, what did Darian do to make Tyler fall for her?  She's quite awful to him.
3.  Why in the world is Darian attracted to Xander?  I need to know more about him and their interactions to believe the attraction on either side.  Does he want her only as a pawn?  Does she want him only because he is powerful?

Darian is not my favorite protagonist, but she is interesting.  The world that Bonilla has created is even more interesting.  I have high hopes for the rest of the series and I look forward to Darian's growth and learning more about the other creatures. 

Three out of Five Stars

Friday, June 8, 2012

My First Giveaway!!!

Ok, here goes.  Be gentle with me!  My first ever giveaway is for one of my favorite books - Jennifer Crusie's Welcome To Temptation.  It's great fun; I love the characters, the setting, and the plot.  I grew up in a town similar to Temptation (without the crazy water tower - we had a water tower, but NOT like Temptation's!).  I didn't know about any of the small town politicians, but I did learn about small town politics later in life when I worked as the City Secretary for 1 year during college.  Holy shmoly.  There is nothing quite like small town politics.  People are crazy!  Anyway...
Back to the giveaway!  Sign up via Rafflecopter.  I will email you on June 16th or 17th if you won!  Be sure to include your email address in your answers.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To see all of the other great blogs participating in the Shameless Summer Hop, go check out the list on Red Hot Books!

UPDATE:  We have a winner!!! The winner of the Welcome to Temptation giveaway is...infalliblyyours.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Shameless Summer Hop! (Preview)

I'm a bit blog happy today, aren't I?  I'm catching up for lost time!  I will be participating in a blog hop giveaway starting on Friday, the 8th and running through Saturday, the 15th.  This is my first giveaway on my blog so I'm excited and a bit nervous!  Be gentle with me!  I will be giving away one of my favorite books - Jennifer Crusie's Welcome to Temptation.  It's a great, fun summer read.  I will, of course, be out of town during the blog hop and my internet use will be sporadic.  I promise to read, enjoy (as long as you're nice), and respond to all comments by the end of each day.

To see all of the other great blogs participating in the Shameless Summer Hop, go check out the list on Red Hot Books!  

Best of 2012 - Armchair BEA day 2

For the second day of Armchair BEA, my task is to share my favorite book of 2012.  Now, I could probably decide on my favorite book that I've read this year, but I'm not sure about my favorite book published this year.  That requires some research.
The easier question first - my favorite book I've read this year:  any of the Bride Quartet by Nora Roberts.  The four main characters are just fun and lovely and the story is engaging and inspiring.  I loved the four books.Vision in White (The Bride Quartet, Book 1)Bed of Roses (The Bride Quartet, Book 2)Savor the Moment (The Bride Quartet, Book 3)  Happy Ever After (Bride Quartet, Book 4)
I relate most to Parker due to my slightly (ok, completely) Type-A personality, but I'd love to be friends with Mac, Laurel, and Emma.  Great series.  I actually got up the nerve to start my cake business while I was reading this series.  I related to the characters and often thought to myself that if they could do it, I could do it.  And, I did!  It's a great book that entertains and inspires you.  I enjoy that about Nora Roberts.  She has a gift.  People may turn up their noses at the Romance genre, but that is because they've never really read it.  They are missing out by being judgmental and closed-minded.  OK, off my soap box.  Sorry.

Now, on to the harder question - my favorite book published this year.  Hmmmm...I'm going to cheat and share books I've enjoyed this year.
1.  The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts (Book 2 in The Inn at BoonsBoro trilogy)
2.  Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
3.  Abandon by Meg Cabot (I love her covers lately, so I have to share)
 Abandon (Abandon (Quality))The hardback of Abandon originally came out in 2011, but the paperback was published in 2012.
The 2nd book is also out now -- Underworld.  Abandon Book 2: Underworld

I will confess that part of the reason I wanted to read Underworld is because of my affinity for the movie "Underworld" starring Kate Beckinsale (and if you know me, you know that I pretend that I look like Kate Beckinsale - she's beautiful!), which, I know, is completely unrelated.  I'm a bit random.  I understand that.  It's a Meg Cabot book, though; I knew I would enjoy it.

I'm drawing a blank on other books published in 2012 that I really enjoyed.  I read all the time, but I can only think of these three.  What am I missing?  Surely I've read more from 2012 that I enjoyed.  Someone chime in and remind me of the greatness that I am missing on my list!

Armchair BEA!

I'm a day late with my intro - is anyone really shocked by that? I blame my job (teaching). Finals week last week was brain draining and insane. I think I'm back on track now, though. Soooo, here is my Armchair BEA 

Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? 
I'm Cari and I've been blogging for 15 months off and on. I started my blog to share all my creative outlets. It started with my craft projects and has morphed into reviewing the bazillions of books that I read.

What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2012? 
I'm currently reading Carly Phillips' Serendipity. I loved Nora Roberts' Brides Quartet. Soooooo good!

Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you. 
I have 3 rescue dogs. We thought all 3 were Labs but I'm beginning to suspect that the baby, Rooney, is part Great Pyrenees.

Jack, our Pirate dog

Princess Maggie
If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why? 
I would love to meet Rhett Butler, Col. Wentworth, and Jennifer Crusie. Rhett and Wentworth because we might be soul mates. Jennifer because I love her books, her blog, and most everything I've read/heard about her. I think she would be a ton of fun as a friend.

What literary location would you most like to visit? Why?
I could easily have grown up in Cruise's Temptation. Where would I like to visit, though? Joanne Fluke's Lake Eden, Minnesota sounds cozy. I could like that. Any of Roberts' Irish or Scottish settings could make me very happy.
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