Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Marching On (ha!)... TBR Challenge: March

Last month I mentioned brightening up this blog with something....more.  More posts, new pictures, something.  Alas, that hasn't happened since I've been spending more time on getting my guestroom/office ready for Mom's arrival next month.  Yes, folks, this time next month -- Mom will be my roommate.  Pray for me. 

However, I have stuck with the promise to myself that I'd stay with the TBR Challenge.  This month I think the theme was to catch up on a series.  Since it's been documented that finding particular books in my own TBR is like finding a pin in the Everglades, I chose to vary on the theme and just catch up on books by a favorite author of mine, Allison Brennan.  The Kill is the third in her Predator Thriller series, and before I read it, I honestly didn't know if I'd read any of the others (The Prey and The Hunt).  Funny thing, though: yesterday, while I was relocating the 2/3 of my TBR that's here in what used to be my office (soon to be Mom's bedroom) to a storage unit, I unearthed the first book, The Prey.  Ah well.

(image from

As the director of the FBI's Trace Evidence and Materials Analysis department, Olivia St. Martin has settled into a life where there are no surprises, no thrills and definitely no room for romance.  She's quite satisfied in her role, if not a bit lonely, which is better than opening up to people who may want to get to know her more.  That can only lead to disaster, especially when they find out that she still subconsciously blames herself for her elder sister's murder when they were kids.  They may have caught Brian Harrison Hall, and Olivia has attended each one of his parole hearings to ensure that he stays locked up, but Olivia still lives with the nightmare of the day Missy was taken in front of her own eyes and subsequently killed.

Olivia's comfort in her work comes to a screeching halt when the evidence against Hall is overturned and he becomes a free man.  As the only witness on the day Missy went missing, could it be possible that Olivia helped to put an innocent man away?

Seattle police detective Zack Travis lives for his job, and he's good at it.  Maybe that's why he's already survived one divorce and there aren't exactly any future Mrs. Travis contestants on the immediate horizon.  He cannot ignore the immense satisfaction of a case closed, but as he stares at the body of a nine-year-old girl who should be home in the care of her family, not being loaded up for transport to the morgue, his hackles raise at the thought that this was only going to get worse.  The obvious pleasure the killer had taken in doing ungodly things to this poor kid all but screamed that it wasn't his first, and there would definitely be more.  As the days go on and another body turns up, Zack knows that sleep is going to become a foreign word.      

Olivia's guilt complex forces her to start looking into other murders, solved and unsolved, who fit the same MO as Missy's, and what she finds is startling.  They span 13 years, across the country, with the most recent happening in Seattle.  Even if she has to give up a job that she loves, she knows what she's gotta do now -- find the real killer.  And so she boards a plane for Seattle, intent on finagling a way into the current investigation any way she can.  Posing as an FBI agent, not just the scientist she really is, Olivia makes Zack's acquaintance as they search for what is apparently the same killer in all of these murders.    

What follows is an oh-my-God-I've-got-to-get-Mom's-room-ready-but-this-just-another-page kinda read.  Yeah, I went there.  The Kill is why I love not only suspense, but romantic suspense, when it's done right.  Ramping the action and thriller aspect up with each page, while remaining true to the characters and letting us bleed just a little with every heartbreak or disappointment.  Olivia may want to come across as subtle, not drawing any attention, but her sense of doing the right thing is nearly her motto.  Ok, so she stretched it a bit about her role in the investigation that's brought her to Zack's doorstep -- but she did have field agent experience, so it wasn't a total lie. Zack may not be a totally by-the-books kinda guy, but he'll do what it takes to close a case.  And that's where Zack and Olivia make a strong couple.  But this killer is going to put them through their paces just a bit, stretch out their limitations, and damnit, they'll work for it.  He's just not ready to be caught yet.

I can't go on anymore.  I'll either wax poetic, or hyperventilate.  Best read of the month for me.  Well, except maybe for the book I finished this morning, but that's another post.         

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

TBR Challenge: February

This place needs sprucing up.  Or something.  I definitely need to do some updating on the sidebar, not to mention throwing a post or two up for something other than the TBR Challenge reviews I plan on sticking with.  I will do better, I will do better... 

But for now, I'll stick with smaller things -- keeping up-to-date with La Wendy's challenge.  February, our task or suggested reading was a book recommended by someone.  I chose The Taming of the Duke by Eloisa James, because I'm sure someone recommended it back in its heyday ('06) somewhere.  For those keeping score and absolutely MUST read in order, TTOTD is # 3 in the Essex Sisters series and the story of Imogen, a widow who has recently returned to her guardian's house in England.  The fact that aforementioned guardian, Rafe, the Duke of Holbrook, is nothing more than a drunkard does not derail him from his duty of keeping the Essex sisters in line.  His drunkenness has always bothered Imogen though, who can barely stand spirits, let alone dukes who live to drink. 

When she arrives at Holbrook Court however, she finds that Rafe has discovered that he has a half brother, Gabriel, and that they are in the beginning stages of planning a theatrical.  O_o  Of course there's some backstory for their reasons, but honestly they're lost in the deriding Imogen thrives in towards Rafe for wasting his life and physique to the bottle.  It's not long before Rafe gives up the booze for better living, and that's when the obscure theatrical becomes the vehicle for more than just luring Gabe's ex-lover (the mother of his child, and an up-and-coming actress in London) to Holbrook Court.  Honestly, I never did truly understand the reasons for Rafe and his guests desiring to put on a play, other than to lend credo to the weirdness of the aristocracy?

To wrap it all up in a nutshell, Imogen has decided to take a lover and fixates on Gabriel as the perfect candidate.  What Rafe lacks in manners, sex appeal and scintillating conversation, Gabe has in spades.  But that's before Rafe gives up liquor and poses as his brother for various liaisons with Imogen.  Even as Imogen continues seeing Gabe in secret - or so she thinks - it's not long before she starts seeing Rafe as something more than her tiresome guardian and looks at him through a woman's eyes.  Confused much?

And this is when I gave up on the rest of the story and started reading faster just to get it over with.  Don't get me wrong, I loved Rafe, especially the fact that Ms. James cast him as an alcoholic who gives booze up just for the sake of giving it up.  It wasn't so easy to like Imogen though.  She's almost cruel in some aspects, especially in her dealings with Rafe.  Or maybe it's because I look at alcoholism through different eyes.  My husband was an alcoholic, and he died from it.  It's easy to blame the alcoholic who cares nothing for his family and even mistreats them, but Rafe seemed to be a good guy.  He turned to the bottle after his beloved older brother died and didn't look back.  Of course, there is no good reason to drown yourself this way, and there's no excuse to became a boozehound.  Or maybe I have an injured view of the disease, and maybe that's what made me dislike Imogen so much.  Hell if I know.  And I didn't mean to drag all of this out in what's supposed to be a fun review, but it's still there in my opinion of the book.

All of that to say, The Taming of the Duke wasn't my most favorite book by Eloisa James, and that's hard to admit since I'm a fan.  Maybe in 10 years I can read it again and come up with a different opinion, but since I'm seriously needing to offload some books to make way for my mom moving in -- I don't see me doing that.                 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fighting Back to My Groove, and that TBR Challenge

Yeah, I signed up for it again.  It seems I just totally disappeared off the face of Bloglandia last year.  Kinda just lost my touch for writing about anything and everything, and didn't have much to contribute.  But I did sign up for Wendy's TBR Challenge '13 again, and I'm going to do my best.

This month was an easy one -- short story, quickie, series, what-have-you.  It was so convenient that I was weeding my TBR last week and came across Bridget by Linda Lael Miller.  AND it just so happened to be the first in the Primrose Creek series, or at least that's what the front cover says.

Westerns aren't always the first era I gravitate to, but I'd almost forgotten what a word magician Miller is and why she was one of the authors that hooked me in the romance genre way back when.  Her husband, Mitch's, death in the Civil War had not only left Bridget McQuarry a widow, but now taxes have caused her to lose their home as well.  Having no choice but to move her son and sister to Primrose Creek and claim the land that was left to them by their grandfather.  It would be a hard battle: alone, in the middle of Indian territory, and with no solid roof over their head, but Bridget was determined to rebuild their future and make the land in Primrose Creek thrive.

Enter Trace Qualtrough, Bridget's childhood friend and the man she blames for her husband's death in the War.  He'd grown up with Mitch and Bridget and he'd promised Mitch he'd watch over Bridget and her son.  But she's not willing to capitulate and in less than agreeable to Trace's presence, although it's quite obvious that a man's strength and hard work is needed. But she can't ignore the softening of her heart as she watches Trace day in and day out, putting a roof on their small cabin, mentoring and teaching her son, and just stepping in where a man needed to.  Oh, it would be so easy to fall in love with him, but that'll never happen.

There's no tearing apart and critiquing a short story, or at least it's damned hard for me to do.  And, c'mon, it's Linda Lael Miller, an author I've respected for years.  What else is there to say that I loved this little quickie and am glad I came across it.  It kinda whet my appetite for some more westerns, and since I'm already in the midst of a reading binge -- we'll see what happens.  I still have Wendy's beloved Rock Creek Six to read.  Apparently I knew what I was doing when I bought it way back in 2000, but now I need to go TBR diving and see if I have the rest of the Primrose Creek series.  I think there's four.   

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

TBR Challenge Review, or One Day Amy Will Get It Right

Whoa.  Two months since I last participated in Le TBR Challenge?  Geez, time does fly when one is having fun, or sweltering in this godforsaken South Carolina heat.  Mother Nature missed the cue cards that it's not even summer yet and decided to dial it up -- spontaneous combustion weather.  Great for the tan, which I actually have this year from all the hours I sit out on the patio to read.  Huh, you think I'd actually go inside and frollic in the air conditioning, eh?  But where's the fun in that?

If I remember right, June was supposed to be the month of the western.  And did I actually read one of those?  Noooo.  Rules, I have to break them.  Of course, Wendy is very lenient in the guidelines and we can read whatever our lil' pea-pickin' hearts want to.  This month, The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen was my vino of choice.  It's been a while since I read a book by this author, one of my faves, but I thought it fitting with the return of the television series, Rizzoli & Isles on TNT, starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander.

Detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles latest case is a nightmare come true.  The dismembered body of a young woman is found in her apartment, and if that weren't hair-raising enough, the message on the wall, in blood, is enough to cause many sleepless nights: I Have Sinned.  The artwork along with it does not bode well either, three upside down crosses.  The case gets worse when the only lead is a hang-up call made to Joyce O'Donnell, a psychiatrist whose work makes Jane spit and her ire climb.  Joyce's life calling is working with serial killers and other losers to find out what makes them tick.  Yeah, let's just say that Jane does not care of Joyce at all.  It's surely not dumb luck that on the night of that murder, a quack who loves to talk to killers would get a hang up on her answering machine.  She goes right to Rizzoli's top ten list of persons of interest. 

It doesn't take long to find out that Joyce is a member of The Mephisto Club, a group of people who want to find out more about evil -- in an intellectual way.  They've know a lot about the symbology of various signs in religion and cultures across the world and see this murder for what it is -- evil, in all its glory.  But their beliefs go one step further than calling the Club a hobby, they truly believe there is evil in the world, not just people doing vicious things.  Jane rolls her eyes a lot during the various interviews with the club members, but she can't ignore the fact that they're an excellent resource in possibly finding out what goes on in this killer's head.
But as more bodies pile up, including one right in the backyard of the Club's leader, Jane must keep her opinions to herself and incorporate the Mephisto Club's research into her own investigation.  It's apparent that this killer is just getting started, and only he knows when and where he'll stop.  If ever...

Jane may love her work, but she'd give her left arm for a garden variety armed robbery or an open-and-shut gangbanger case.  It's a little daunting seeing what people can do to others and know that this is the world she's bringing her daughter up in.  What I loved about The Mephisto Club was that it wasn't all Jane, all the time.  We get to see more behind the scenes, if you will, with Maura, and realize that she isn't made of steel, despite what the cops she works with may think.  She is human, after all.

Now there's a lot of books in the Rizzoli and Isles series, and there was a day when I was anal retentive enough to have to read them in order.  If you've seen my TBR, you'd know that is impossible and quite harmful to my health to go spelunking for these books to be read as they should.  That said, The Mephisto Club stands well on its own, and I was able to get caught up in time.  It also helps that I read its predecessor, Vanish, sometime in the past 11 months.

I seriously could gush about this book, but why?  It's a given that I'll probably love everything Gerritsen writes, and the heat has zapped my brain enough that I'm useless in offering a more detailed and witty critique.  Let's just say -- another winner.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Teacher, I Have An Excuse

So, here I am, actually posting ON the date due for this month's TBR Challenge and I DON'T HAVE ANY REVIEW TO POST!  Argh!

Reading this month has been spotty at best, in fact I think I'm clocking in at about 3 books so far for May.  But this week I have a great excuse -- blame it on my sister!  She and her fiancé were here for an extended weekend, so I think I maybe read 3 pages of a review book.  But!  I did shop!  Can you say flatscreen tv, baby??

Anyway, couldn't resist embarrassing the hell out of her and posting a pic of my pregnant sister and her man while we were at the beach.  Great shot of them, if I do say so myself -- with my new Android phone!!  Amy got all techno up in here this spring...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tsk, Tsk! And a TBR Challenge Review

So, looking back over my posts of the past few months, they've been spotty in regularity -- at best.  I have reasons for that, obviously the biggest one being the biggest soul-sucking, devastating change in my life last summer.  The other being that while I've gotten back up on my reading high horse in a way that I haven't in many years, I've been remiss in tearing myself away from my books (and life and my job, unfortunately, that nasty beast) to get my arse to the computer and actually write about what I've been reading.  It looks like people still check in on me, which I thank them for, but I haven't been using this blog like I initially intended to -- accountability for my reading which will hopefully prompt me to astonish and amaze people with the volume of books I've been tearing through.  Ha!  I am happy to report though, that by the end of March 2012 I totaled 22 reads for the year.  Probably the most I've completed in at least 5 years in such a short time.  Hell, in March alone, I read 10 books, which is an amazing record for me.

That being said -- I mentioned in last month's challenge post that my problem has not been in completing the "assignments" for Wendy's TBR Challenge '12, it's been in posting reviews.  Yeah, I suck.  But at least credit me for getting the posts up at some point, albeit not on the right day.  Rules rules rules, yeah I feel the need to bend them to my whim sometimes.

April's challenge read, for me, was Pamela Callow's Indefensible, a January '11 Mira release, and apparently the second book in the author's ongoing Kate Lange Thriller series.  Lately it seems that reading books in a series in order hasn't been a problem, unless it's the JD Robb series which I swear with my hand on the Bible is best read that way.  Don't ask me where I stopped in that series, though, because it's embarrassing -- and I call myself a nearly devout fan of La Nora.

Indefensible begins with Kate Lange contemplating the long holiday weekend that's about to begin in which she'll get little to no relaxation time with all the work she's bringing home from her job as a laboring teeny tiny lawyer in a big firm of sharks.  She's still recovering, physically and emotionally, from a harrowing run-in with a serial killer on her last case (Damaged, Mira June '10).  Her weekend is wrecked even further by two unforeseeable events -- the tragic death of a vacationer in her neighborhood, and when Kate's boss, Randall Barrett, seeks her help in his own defense.  Seems that that poor woman who died by falling off the balcony of her rental home was his ex-wife, and no one makes a better suspect than the spouse himself, even if he is an ex.

That, in a nutshell, is Indefensible, and rather succinctly put, if I do say so myself.  It seems Kate and Randall have a bit of history, and it's drawn rather well with their hemming and hawing around each other before the weekend is about to start.  Kate had rather thought that their relationship might be a tenuous beginning to something more than boss and employee, but that is shut right down with Barrett's abrupt attitude and dismissive tone as he's about to leave for his extended vacation.  Of course, the vacation is cut short with his ex's death, Elise Vanderzill, and now Randall has to reverse roles and forces him in the role of murder suspect and client to Kate after he requests she take his case.  Kate is nowhere near the realm of criminal defense in her line of work, instead preferring tax law, but she can't see denying Randall's plea for help.

Maybe I missed out by not reading the first book, Damaged, but I never did quite connect with Randall and Kate.  Indefensible is a decent read all in all, but one that allowed me to pass the time instead of tearing through all the way to the end because I just had to find out how it all works out.  Or maybe I'm spoiled by the James Patterson bender I seem to be on and want to compare everything to that mastermind....*shrug*.  That said, the book was enough for me to go out and find Damaged and start over in time for Tattooed, the 3rd book in the series which comes out in June.

The big conflict in Indefensible is not the relationship between Randall and Kate, or even between her and the investigating detective, her ex-fiancé, Ethan Drake.  Instead it's the convoluted one between Randall and his own teenaged son, Nick.  Nick is hellbent on pushing his father away and punishing him.  Their relationship is rocky, to say the least, after Nick had stolen money from his dad and this vacation was to be spent crewing a yacht, where Nick could earn it -- and his dad's trust -- back to repay him.  But Nick doesn't want any part of it, and the death knell to Randall's freedom may be Nick's belief that he'd seen his father throw his mother over the railing that night.  Is the teenager keen on making his dad pay in the worst way, or is there something more at work here?  For me, that was the more suspenseful angle in Indefensible and what kept me coming back.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

TBR Review: Sudden Death

FINALLY, my TBR Challenge Review!  See, this is my rationale -- I've been TBR'ing all year, so my challenge is in getting the reviews out when they're actually due on the third Wednesday of the month.  Blame it, this time, on the fact that I finally got a Smartphone almost two weeks ago, and I've been fascinated with it.  Love love love my AT&T 4G Vivid! 


I've been a fan of Allison Brennan for a while now.  Have I read all of her books?  Uh, nope -- but I'm getting there.  In March I closed my eyes, pointed at and picked up Sudden Death, listed as the first book in her FBI Trilogy on Brennan's website.  Whew, maybe it's not 'catching up on a series', but it's catching up on some Allison Brennan reading.  I kinda stayed within the loose guidelines that Wendy set this year!  Sometimes I'm a rules girl, sometimes I make them up as I go.

FBI agent Megan Elliott's latest case takes a turn for the worse when the most recent murder victim she's investigating seems to be part of a killer's serial spree.  Doing some quick fact-checking and after a few calls to her connections in the military and government, Megan realizes that her victim, a former Delta Force soldier, may have known other victims that have wound up dead by similar means -- torture and, ultimately, a bullet to the head as the pièce de résistance.

Jack Kincaid, a soldier-for-hire who conducts rescue missions across the world, returns to Texas for a bit of rest and camaraderie with his team of friends before the next job.  That R&R turns into a nightmare when Scout, a team member and one of Jack's closest friends, is found murdered in his own home.  When the Chief of Police, Art Perez, starts making accusation noises towards Jack, he takes matters into his own hands and begins investigating his friend's murder on his own.  There was never any love lost between Art and Jack, but it seems that Art's got a hard-on for Jack and plans on making his life hell.

Jack and Megan meet when she's called in to investigate the Hamstring Killer's latest victim, Scout.  Megan is proud of her accomplishments and is good at her job.  The fact is she's always been a rules kinda girl, so it goes against her grain when Jack proves that he lives life by the seat of his pants and anyone who protests can go to hell.  Despite Jack's sorrow for his friend and anger at the incompetent police chief, sparks ignite when he first meets Megan.  Even if she, a girl, just rescued his ass from a pummeling after he's thrown in jail by his best enemy, Perez, Megan looks good as a knight in shining armor.  Now they must back burner their growing attraction long enough to hunt down a madman who's not done with his laundry list of murder.

I was on a historical fiction and romance kick for a while before I picked up Sudden Death, so when I started reading, it was like ice water in the face with the violence and immediate level of suspense.  Allison Brennan's good that way -- right out of the gate, the pace is fast and furious and doesn't let up until you've had the hell scared out of you so much that you sleep with the lights on.  Or wet your pants.  She also creates tension in two ways -- sexual and action -- with her characters and plotline and balances them so well.  So even as Megan and Jack are racing against the clock to stop a psycho, it seems almost natural that they trip into bed and scratch an itch they can't ignore.  But that's only after Jack sees the woman Megan is through her big bad FBI persona.  Even though Megan is comfortable as a special agent, she is vulnerable after her judgment is questioned by her mentor, Hans Vigo.  Jack is made of iron at first, but his soft spot shows when his friend is found murdered.  Of course there's a lot of back story to Kincaid and his family, as well as Megan's, so many make appearances and are key to Sudden Death.  Many readers will recognize the name Kincaid with the author's latest series, the Lucy Kincaid series.  Yep, she's Jack's baby sister. 

In my opinion, any book by Allison Brennan is highly recommended if you're not a squeamish sort of reader.  She's one of the few authors who can do romantic suspense and keep the romance aspect realistic while not making the characters seem idiotic for falling in love while they run for their lives, or making it feel like the sex is thrown in there just to keep the 'romantic' part of romantic suspense.

I'd give Sudden Death a solid A rating, hands down.