Sunday, July 10, 2011

We're Under Construction!

Lots of changes coming here at Blue Rat Book Reviews--which I'm using as an excuse for my long absense! I have a new reviewer coming aboard and we may get a site makeover. I'll keep you informed . . .

Monday, June 6, 2011

Article Rec: "Seeing teenagers as we wish they were: the debate over YA Fiction"

This article is a thoughtful response from Linda Holmes at  NPR to the Wall Street Journal piece that bemoaned the dark side of Young Adult fiction.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Book Boyfriend: Victor Bayne from the PsyCop Series

weekly meme from The Unread Reader:
Talk about your fictional crush!


I stared down at the sink as the water dripped from my hairline. Cripes. Jacob Marks kissed me, sorta, and I was too busy choking on a pill to get into it.

White Collar's Matt Bomer would be perfect for Victor Bayne.
Ok. When Matt Bomer is all suited up as Neal Caffrey for a White Collar episode, it's hard to imagine the man who plays the stylish ex-con also playing the fashion-challenged psychic Victor Bayne. And yet I think Matt would be perfect--especially when we catch glimpses of him relaxing in plaid shirts and those adorkable glasses. (No, I don't think Vic wears glasses. But he does share Matt's black hair and pale blue eyes.)

And Vic Bayne is a meaty role--this guy has issues. When he's not solving homicides as a 'psycop,' he's popping pills to dull his sixth sense and stop the dead from haunting him. His love interest, the very non-psychic Jacob Marks, has a hard time understanding why. In fact, Jacob shakes his head at Vic when they first meet:

"One in every five hundred people is certifiably psychic, and they're all clamoring for something to shut their talent off. What kind of sense does that make?" he asked. There was a friendly lilt to the tone of his voice, but the look in his eye made his words feel like more of a challenge.

Well, didn't he know his facts and figures? I ran my hand up through my half-wet hair. The mirror reflected it back at me. It stood up in a crazy, black thatch. I needed a haircut.

Matt Bomer
Between his pill-popping, his crazy-high abilities as a medium, and his bundle of insecurities, Victor is a handful. Fortunately, Jacob seems up for the job of boyfriend/caretaker. But one book isn't enough to guarantee them a happily-ever-after, which is fine with me. I'm in the middle of the series, and loving every moment of watching the two men solve crimes as  they continue to adjust to each other. This series can go on forever, as far as I'm concerned--especially while I'm busy imagining Matt Bomer in the leading role.

Matt Bomer

PsyCop 1: Among the Living by Jordan Castillo Price

Genre: Fantasy; M/M Romance; Mystery; Paranormal; Romance; Urban Fantasy

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

How I acquired this book: I purchased it.

Goodreads Blurb: Victor Bayne, the psychic half a PsyCop team, is a gay medium who’s more concerned with flying under the radar than in making waves.

He hooks up with handsome Jacob Marks, a non-psychic (or “Stiff”) from an adjacent precinct at his ex-partner’s retirement party and it seems like his dubious luck has taken a turn for the better. But then a serial killer surfaces who can change his appearance to match any witness’ idea of the world’s hottest guy.

Solving murders is a snap when you can ask the victims whodunit, but this killer’s not leaving any spirits behind.

My Review: When psycop Vic Bayne isn't popping pills to keep the dead from haunting him, he's using his abilities as a medium to solve homicides, or trying to figure out what the hell he did to attract a guy like Jacob Marks. It's not Vic's sense of style--plaid shirts--or his sterling conversation. After all, he spends the first chapter of this book trying not to sound like a creep. But it may be his unusual talents: Jacob has a thing for psychics, no question. But Jacob also appreciates Vic's wry sense of humor and, better yet, seems uniquely equipped to handle Vic's insecurities.

The romance between Vic and Jacob is only half the story. The rest is about Vic, Jake and their respective  partners in the psycop division tracking down a killer who leaves no ghosts for Vic to talk to. I almost wish the murder mystery of this first book had been a bit more mundane--but it's tough to complain when we're given an excellent cast of supporting characters and solid world building. If you haven't read this book, grab your Kindle and download it now! Just be prepared to buy each additional installment as soon as you finish the last one. This whole series is as addictive as those pills Vic keeps popping . . .

Available on Kindle: Yes. You can find it on Amazon here.

Fun Extra: Check out the Psycop website.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Thin Executioner by Darren Shan

Genre: Fantasy; Horror; Young Adult

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

How I acquired this book: I purchased it.

Goodreads Blurb: In a kingdom of merciless tyrants, Jebel Rum's family is honored as royalty because his father is the executioner. But Rashed Rum is near retirement. And when he goes, there will be a contest to determine his successor. It is a contest that thin, puny Jebel has no chance of winning.

Humiliated and ashamed, Jebel sets out on a quest to the faraway home of a legendary fire god to beg for inhuman powers so that he can become the most lethal of men. He must take with him a slave, named Tel Hesani, to be sacrificed to the god. It will be a dark and brutal journey filled with lynch mobs, suicide cults, terrible monsters, and worse, monstrous men. But to Jebel, the risk is worth it. To retrieve his honor . . . To wield unimaginable power . . . To become . . . The Thin Executioner.

Inspired by The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, international bestselling master of horror Darren Shan takes readers on a thrilling, fast-paced journey into a nightmarish world where compassion and kindness are the greatest crimes of all.

My Review: I'm not a horror fan, but the premise of this book drew me in: Jebel setting out on a brutal quest with the slave he must sacrifice at the end of it. Why would the slave go along? We find out early on that Tel Hesani goes willingly; he accompanies Jebel because his death will mean his family's freedom. It's an intriguing set up.

Given that premise, I don't think it's too spoilery to say that I figured the two men would somehow reach the end of the quest, and that Jebel would have to decide whether to go through with the sacrifice or not. I was right--but there's a twist I didn't see coming!

I have a few quibbles with this book: Shan can get preachy, and the names of two of the supporting characters, Bush and Blair, suggest that he felt compelled to throw his political opinions in. But the setting here suggests a Middle-Eastern, dark fantasy world--those Anglo names are ridiculously out of place! Another problem was the gruesome violence of the story. It was so over-the-top that I just found myself growing numb. (But, again, I'm no horror fan.) Lastly, while I loved the scenes that Jebel and Tel Hesani shared, whenever the two men were apart I found the story dragging.

Overall, though, this is an excellent read. For me the heart of the book is the growing and sometimes frustrating relationship between Jebel and Tel Hesani. There's a glimmer of friendship between them as Tel Hesani becomes something of a father figure for the bratty would-be executioner, but that doesn't mean Jebel is ready to reconsider his entrenched prejudices. This uneven relationship more than makes up for the times when Shan veers between being too gruesome and too preachy.

Available on Kindle: Yes. You can find it on Amazon here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I should have posted this earlier--my apologies. I'm on vacation, with only limited internet access. So, after the blogging disaster, it's going to take a bit longer for things to get back to normal!

Good news: I'm catching up on all my reading, so I'll be back on Sunday with lots of reviews, starting with The Thin Executioner and Fireflies.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger Blues . . .

So--lots of blogger issues of late!

I shall recommence posting soon. On the plus side, I didn't lose any posts in the craziness. It looks like I did lose some comments, though. If they don't magically reappear, I'll add them back in myself. They'll come out with my name on them, but I'll indicate the original authors.

Thanks for your patience, everyone!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Book Boyfriend: Prince Hal from Henry IV, Parts One and Two

weekly meme from The Unread Reader:
Talk about your fictional crush!

Shakespeare's Prince Hal may be an odd choice for a book boyfriend, because he's a ruthless bastard! And yet I have a soft spot for him. Maybe it's because these two plays are my favorite of Shakespeare's canon.

Hal hangs out in a tavern with a group of rogues--especially the fat, merry Falstaff--pretending to be their best buddy. But all the while he's planning to publicly dump and disown them once he becomes king. He wants to play the bad boy now so that he can awe the crowds later by miraculously transforming into a responsible monarch.

Rob James-Collier would be perfect for the bad-boy Prince Hal.
It's a cruel but clever plan--except for one problem. Whenever Hal's hanging out with his buddies, he seems to forget that he's only faking the friendship. His affection for Falstaff is painfully obvious, even when he's teasing the older man for wasting his time drinking sack (a fortified wine) and whoring. That makes for (in my humble opinion) the most intriguing bromance in Shakespeare:

Falstaff: Now Hal, what time is it lad?

 . . . What a devil hast thou to do with the time of the day? Unless hours were cups of sack and minutes capons and clocks the tongues of bawds and dials the signs of leaping-houses and the blessed sun himself a fair hot wench in flame-colored taffeta, I see no reason why thou shouldst be so superfluous to demand the time of the day.

Falstaff seems to be more than just a buddy. Since Hal doesn't get on with his royal father, he may have latched onto the gregarious older man as a substitute Dad. Or some see their relationship as almost romantic. Either way, I think Hal really does love the rogue--and, in fact, he does one incredibly generous thing for him. Hal lets Falstaff take credit for an act of bravery that he himself had performed.

A more formally attired Rob James-Collier (albeit as a footman) in Downton Abbey
But the fact that Hal genuinely loves Falstaff makes his plan to publicly dump and humiliate the guy (and the rest of their friends) seem that much crueler. The first time I read these plays, I didn't think Hal could bring himself to go through with it. And just in case you haven't read or seen them, I won't tell you if he does or he doesn't . . .

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In a Dark Wood by Josh Lanyon

Genre: Contemporary Romance; M/M Romance; Romance; Suspense

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

How I acquired this book: I purchased it.

Goodreads Blurb: In a dark, dark wood there was a dark, dark house...

Camping in the Jersey Pine Barrens may literally turn out to be a first date from hell for travel writer Tim and the cute cop who persuades him to revisit a past that Tim has done his best to forget.

My Review: Yeah, this camping trip with Luke is the first date from hell. Poor Tim. (Note to self: learn from Tim's experience. Never go camping on a first date.)

But worse than getting lost in the woods is Luke's annoying conviction that he knows what's wrong with Tim and how Tim should fix it. (Ok, Tim. I agree with Luke that you have a problem--but damned if you should put up with him telling you how to run your life! You can hit him now if you'd like. I've got your back.)

And yet, this single-minded, tactless cop may be just the guy to help Tim confront his demons . . .

On Kindle: Yes. Find it on Amazon here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

On My Wish List: Double Blind

weekly meme hosted by Book Chick City.
What's on your wish list?

This is the sequel to a book I loved, Special Delivery; it's all about Mitch's intriguing, poker-playing ex:

Double Blind by Heidi Cullinan

Goodreads Blurb: Poker player and professional smartass Randy Jansen believes in fate but doesn't let it rule his life. Whether he’s at the table or between the sheets, Randy always knows the odds, and he only plays the games he can win—until he meets Ethan Ellison. Ethan came to Las Vegas with a broken heart and shattered spirit, and when he sits down at the roulette table with his last five dollars, he means this to be one of his last acts on earth. But Randy ropes him into first one bet, and then another, and then another.... Pretty soon they’re playing poker on the Strip and having the time of their lives—and all this even before Randy gets Ethan into his bed.

But before Ethan can plot out a new course for his life, they’re drafted into the schemes of Randy’s former lover, a tricky gangster who needs a fall guy. To survive, Ethan will have to stop waiting on fate and start making his own luck, and Randy will have to face the demons of his past and accept that to win this round, he’s going to have to put up a big ante. It isn’t money going into the pot this time, either: it’s his heart, and Ethan’s too—because for better or for worse, the game of love has a double blind.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

TBR Thursday: Fireflies

weekly meme hosted by Book Love Blog:
Post about the books you've purchased, received, borrowed or otherwise acquired this past week!
Fireflies by Lacey Reah

Genre: Fantasy; F/F Romance; Romance; Vampire; Urban Fantasy

Goodreads BlurbLinda is a calculating, career-driven woman whose perfect world is shattered when she is seduced and transformed by a vampire-like creature called a nymphomite. Linda becomes a beast, feeding off the energy of orgasmically-charged blood. 

Convinced that her humanity has faded away, Linda adapts to her new instincts of hunger and sex. She hunts women primarily, for their longer and more frequent orgasms, and becomes a master of prolonging and intensifying their pleasure. But she never expected to find a woman like Jesse, and Linda's decision to spare her life instead of feed off her leads to a shocking turn of events that will make Linda question her beast-like identity and the humanity she thought she had lost.

Why I can't wait to read this: Vampire novels aren't an automatic read for me, but a vampire novel with a romantic lesbian twist is--especially one that promises two strong women and (I'm guessing) some serious moral dilemmas.  I intend to, ah, sink my teeth into this by the weekend . . .

Special Delivery by Heidi Cullinan

Genre: Contemporary Romance; M/M Romance; Romance

My Review: 5 out of 5 stars

How I acquired this book: I purchased it.

Goodreads Blurb: Sam Keller knows he’ll never find the excitement he craves in Middleton, Iowa—not while he’s busting his ass in nursing school and paying rent by slaving away in a pharmacy stockroom. But before his mother died, he promised her he’d grow up to be a good man, so he needs a stable career and a good husband, not a dead-end job and empty sex.

Then Sam meets Mitch Tedsoe, an independent trucker who makes a delivery to a shop across the alley. Innocent flirting quickly leads to an affair, and when Mitch offers to take Sam on a road trip west, Sam jumps at the chance for adventure with his fantasy man... but Mitch also comes with a past. A threesome with the other man in Mitch’s life would have been just another kinky ride, but somewhere between the Mississippi River and the Colorado Rockies, Sam falls in love.

But can a relationship born out of escape and indulgence become something that lasts? Will a fantasy man be willing to settle down into reality, or is the adventure and excitement Sam finds with Mitch just another stop on a delivery man’s journey? For better or for worse, eventually Sam is going to discover the answer, because no matter how far away he travels, eventually all roads lead home.

My Review: Sam Keller danced straight into Mitch Tedsoe's heart--and straight into mine, too. I cheered for him as he ditched his stock-boy job and his room in his aunt's basement for a road trip in Mitch's truck, and I kept cheering as he grew up along the way.

It was a wild road to self-discovery as Sam explored both his slutty side and his submissive side, but I never doubted that he was safe with Mitch. And I didn't mind when Mitch's past caught up with him in the form of an intriguing, poker-playing ex. I just kept reading to find out if Sam and Mitch had only a kinky-but-sweet present together . . . or a kinky-but-solid future as well.

On Kindle: Yes. Find it on Amazon here.

Other Reviews:
Dear Author

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Book Boyfriend: Ashley Wilkes from Gone With the Wind

A weekly meme from The Unread Reader:
Talk about your fictional crush!

He was courteous always, but aloof, remote. No one could ever tell what he was thinking about, Scarlett least of all. In a neighborhood where everyone said exactly  what he thought as soon as he thought it, Ashley's quality of reserve was exasperating . . . Oh, why was he so handsomely blond, so courteously aloof, so maddeningly boring with his talk about Europe and books and music and poetry and things that interested her not at all--and yet so desirable?

~Scarlett musing on Ashley in Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Christian Bale always seemed like an ideal Ashley Wilkes to me, even though his hair is darker than Ashley's blond and his eyes are hazel rather than Ashley's gray.
Why Ashley Wilkes? Yes, he inhabits the racist world of Gone With the Wind, which goes to great lengths to glorify the slavery-based society of the Old South. However, to his credit, Ashley is the only character in the whole damn book who seems to recognize that slavery is wrong. (You think?!) He was also one of only two characters--the other was Rhett Butler--who understood that the South was fighting a war it couldn't possibly win. 

Ashley has his detractors; for many readers he pales in comparison to bad-boy Rhett Butler. But Rhett's bad boy qualities always seemed too over the top to me. Rhett kills a young man in a duel (a young man who was only defending his sister's honor), profiteers during the war (making millions from the bloodshed), and, finally, encourages Scarlett to flaunt conventions but despises her for it afterward. So, no, I'm not a fan of Rhett.

Ashley eventually abandons the clean-shaven look, just as Christian Bale's character does in Little Women.
Ashley is very much like Rhett, as Ashley himself once points out to Scarlett. They think alike; they just react differently. Ashley strives to take the honorable road; no duels or profiteering, and--though he arguably  misleads Scarlett about his feelings for her--he always accepts her as she is, without trying to change her. So I'll take Ashley, thank you. I'll own that he wasn't the right man for Scarlett, but I'll always have a soft spot for him. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Corsets and Crimson Cheeks by Tori McCalin

Genre: BDSM; Contemporary Romance; Romance; Spanking Story

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

How I acquired this book: I purchased it.

Goodreads Blurb: Who knew pink was her color?

This is Jeanette’s big break—posing as a submissive for Maude La Roma fetish wear for the cover of a top fashion magazine. When she learns she’s partnered with her long time crush, male model Dallas Martinez, she nearly loses her cool. But much to her surprise, it isn't Dallas that makes her heart race—it’s big-time photographer Julian Hawthorne. Everyone has a horror story about the man: he’s a tyrant and an ogre and a perfectionist. But a photo shoot with Julian Hawthorne could make a model’s career—unless the model completely screwed it up . . .

Julian was tired of models who wanted to impress him. They only needed him for one thing—their career. But Julian had needs of his own, and right now, he needed a miracle if he was going to save this photo shoot. The female model was clearly not fetish material, the male was shaking like a schoolboy at the thought of touching her, and the makeup artists had rouged the model’s bottom like a baboon. No one would believe the fantasy of this spanking scene, least of all Maude La Roma… until the model sat up and asked to be spanked…for real . . .

My Review: I'd label this 'yummy porn with a smidgen of plot.' I enjoyed it, but I was hoping for a little more on the plot side; for example, I wanted to see photographer Julian really live up to his reputation as an ogre, and I was hoping it would take longer for Julian and Jeanette to act on their attraction.

Still, there was a cute subplot between Jeannette and her long-time crush Dallas Martinez; it had me cringing with sympathy and smiling at the same time. And the misunderstanding that threatened Julian and Jeannette's tentative new relationship kept me reading--although I would have preferred to see a real obstacle to their relationship instead. There wasn't enough conflict in this story for my taste!

Final verdict? This book won't linger in my memory, but it was a fun, sexy ride.

On Kindle: Yes. You can find it on Amazon here.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

On My Wish List

A weekly meme hosted by Book Chick City.
What's on your wish list?

I'm so tempted to watch the HBO series--but I want to read the books beforehand, starting with the first:

Genre: Fantasy

Goodreads Blurb: Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counter-plots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

The Darkling Thrush by Josh Lanyon

Genre: Fantasy; LGBT; M/M Romance; Romance; Urban Fantasy

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

How I acquired this book: I purchased it.

Goodreads Blurb: Fed up with his desk duty in the Imperial Arcane Library, book hunter Colin Bliss accepts a private commission to find The Sword’s Shadow, a legendary and dangerous witches’ grimoire. But to find the book, Colin must travel to the remote Western Isles and solve a centuries’ old murder.It should be nothing more than an academic exercise, so why is dour -- and unreasonably sexy -- Magister Septimus Marx doing his best to keep Colin from accepting this mission -- even going so far as to seduce Colin on the train journey north?

Septimus is not the only problem. Who is the strange faery woman that keeps appearing at inconvenient times? And who is working behind the scenes with the sinister adventuress Irania Briggs? And why do Colin’s employers at the Museum of the Literary Occult keep accusing Colin of betraying them?As Colin digs deeper and deeper into the book’s mysterious past, he begins to understand why Septimus is willing to stop him at any price -- but by then, it’s too late to turn back.

Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Male/male sexual practices.

My Review: Josh Lanyon has infused our world--or our world as it was some decades ago--with alternate history, fey creatures, old magick, paranormal abilities and dangerous legends. It's an enticing world that's easy to fall into, especially as revealed to us by Colin Bliss, the irrepressible narrator. I love Colin: he's engaging, proactive, intelligent and childish all at once. I was rooting for him and cringing for him at the same time.

Septimus Marx is a more problematic character. His attraction to Colin is obvious to the reader long before Colin is aware of it; his condescension and high-handedness mask genuine concern. Those are points in his favor, and part of what makes him impossible to dislike. But his ultimate mission raises some moral issues (to put it mildly.) Colin's reaction to that mission, I think, proves that these two are well suited--if it's not a deal-breaker for them, nothing else will be!

Available on Kindle: Yes. You can find it on Amazon here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

TBR Thursday: The Unquiet Bones

weekly meme hosted by Book Love Blog:
Post about the books you've purchased, received, borrowed or otherwise acquired this past week!
The Unquiet Bones: The First Chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon by Melvin R. Starr

Genre: Historical Fiction; Historical Mystery; Mystery

Goodreads Blurb: Hugh of Singleton, fourth son of a minor knight, has been educated as a clerk, usually a prelude to taking holy orders. However, feeling no certain calling despite a lively faith, he turns to the profession of surgeon, training in Paris and then hanging out his sign in Oxford. 

A local lord asks him to track the killer of a young woman whose bones have been found in the castle cess pit. She is identified as the impetuous missing daughter of a local blacksmith, and her young man, whom she had provoked very publicly, is in due course arrested and sentenced at the Oxford assizes. From there the tale unfolds, with graphic medical procedures, droll medieval wit, misdirection, ambition, romantic distractions and a consistent underlying Christian compassion.

Why I can't wait to read this: A friend from my synagogue gave this book to me as a Kindle-gift. He insists that since I love the Matthew Shardlake Mysteries, I'll love this as well, even though it's set earlier and there's not even a hint of a Jewish character. (I laughed at that--we both love Shardlake's assistant, Jack Barak, who's descended from converso Jews.) At any event, my friend's enthusiasm for this book is contagious; I moved it straight up to the top of my to-read pile!

The Rising Tide: A Novel of the Second World War by Jeff Shaara

Genre: Historical Fiction;

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

How I acquired this book: I purchased it.

Goodreads Blurb: . . . As Hitler conquers Poland, Norway, France, and most of Western Europe, England struggles to hold the line. When Germany’s ally Japan launches a stunning attack on Pearl Harbor, America is drawn into the war, fighting to hold back the Japanese conquest of the Pacific, while standing side-by-side with their British ally, the last hope for turning the tide of the war.

Through unforgettable battle scenes in the unforgiving deserts of North Africa and the rugged countryside of Sicily, Shaara tells this story through the voices of this conflict’s most heroic figures, some familiar, some unknown. As British and American forces strike into the “soft underbelly” of Hitler’s Fortress Europa, the new weapons of war come clearly into focus. In North Africa, tank battles unfold in a tapestry of dust and fire unlike any the world has ever seen. In Sicily, the Allies attack their enemy with a barely tested weapon: the paratrooper. As battles rage along the coasts of the Mediterranean, the momentum of the war begins to shift, setting the stage for the massive invasion of France, at a seaside resort called Normandy.

More than an unprecedented and intimate portrait of those who waged this astonishing global war, The Rising Tide is a vivid gallery of characters both immortal and unknown: the as-yet obscure administrator Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose tireless efficiency helped win the war; his subordinates, clashing in both style and personality, from George Patton and Mark Clark to Omar Bradley and Bernard Montgomery. In the desolate hills and deserts, the Allies confront Erwin Rommel, the battlefield genius known as “the Desert Fox,” a wounded beast who hands the Americans their first humiliating defeat in the European theater of the war. From tank driver to paratrooper to the men who gave the commands, Shaara’s stirring portrayals bring the heroic and the tragic to life in brilliant detail . . .

My Review: This book gave me a new appreciation for Eisenhower and his headaches as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces; I never realized how difficult it must have been to forge the armed forces of different nations together. Jeff Shaara does an excellent job of getting inside Eisenhower's head and the heads of other historic figures.

But Shaara also tells the story of 'common' soldiers like Jack Logan. His story is the one that won me over--and his experiences inside a tank, forging bonds with the rest of his team and facing battle for the first time, are the reasons I'll eventually come back to read this book a second time.

On Kindle: Yes. Find it on Amazon here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Book Boyfriend: Adrien English from the Adrien English Mysteries

A weekly meme from The Unread Reader
Talk about your fictional crush!

I turned on the hot water. In the steamy surface of the mirror I grimaced at my reflection, hearing again that condescending, “But you are a homosexual?” As in, “But you are a lower life form?” So what had Detective Riordan seen? What was the first clue? Blue eyes, longish dark hair, a pale bony face. What was it in my Anglo-Norman ancestry that shrieked “faggot?”

~Adrien English in Josh Lanyon’s Fatal Shadows

Pale skin, dark hair, blue eyes? Check, check, check.
Cillian Murphy would be brilliant as Adrien English, even if his blue eyes aren't obvious in this pic.
Adrien English is a wry, funny, endearing narrator with a weak heart, a stubborn streak and an unhealthy dose of curiosity. He was a natural choice for my book boyfriend, since I followed him through five books! I had to know if he and Jake Riordan--the smart, tough, ambitious cop who won't acknowledge himself as gay--would ever find a happy ever after.

Adrien has an unfortunate habit of stumbling into murder mysteries--and, for a closeted detective, Jake Riordan has an unfortunate habit of never quite allowing himself to quit the snarky amateur sleuth. Jake can't forget 'Adrien-with-an-e' even when he (Jake) is determined to marry a nice girl and  have a 'normal' life. Having spent five books laughing, cringing and, yeah, even shedding a tear or two with Adrien, I know just why Jake is so addicted!
Now we can see those baby blues!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Venetia by Georgette Heyer

Genre: Historical Romance; Regency Romance; Romance

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

How I acquired this book: It was a gift from my grandmother years ago.

Goodreads Blurb: Her beauty rivaled only by her sense, Venetia Lanyon is nearly resigned to spinsterhood, thanks to the enormous amount of responsibility she inherited with a Yorkshire estate, an invalid brother and the lackluster efforts of two wearisomely persistent suitors. Then she meets her neighbor, the infamous Lord Damerel, a charming rake shunned by polite society--exactly the type of man that a woman of quality should stay away from.

Though his scandalous past and deepest secrets give Venetia every reason to mistrust him, a rogue always gets what he wants. Without warning, his demanding kiss threatens to become a bachelor's undoing…and a spinster's most passionate awakening.

My Review: Venetia Lanyon may be resigned to the life of a spinster, but striking up a friendship with Jasper Damarel, the local bad boy, changes her mind. This friendship is warm and genuine, as is the romance that grows from it--and that accounts for the exceptional charm of this book. The brotherly friendship between Venetia's younger brother and Jasper only adds to that charm.

Venetia herself, meanwhile, is my favorite Heyer heroine. She also seems the most real to me; however much I adore Sophy from The Grand Sophy, she always seemed larger than life--not to mention exhausting! Venetia, by contrast, inhabits a smaller, more down to earth world. More importantly, I love her sense of the ridiculous and her quiet determination to make the best of her lot.

The problems confronting Venetia and Jasper are realistic, even if they are somewhat of their own making. (Or at least of Jasper's making.) Nonetheless, I was confident they would find a way through them. And neither the characters nor their conflicts grow old--I've read this book ten times at least, and it's one I'll keep coming back to.

Available on Kindle: No.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

On My Wish List

A weekly meme hosted by Book Chick City:
What's on your wish list?

These two books--one young adult and one biography--are next up on my wish list:

Vintage: A Ghost Story 
by Steve Berman

Genre: Ghost Story; LGBT; Paranormal; Young Adult;

Goodreads Blurb: In a small New Jersey town, a lonely teen walking along a highway one autumn evening meets the boy of his dreams, a boy who happens to have died decades ago and haunts the road. Awkward crushes, both bitter and sweet, lead him to face youthful dreams and childish fears. With a cast of offbeat friends, antiques, and Ouija boards, Vintage offers readers a memorable blend of dark humor, chills and love. 

The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood 
by Jane Leavy

Genre: Baseball; Biography; Non-fiction 

Goodreads Blurb: Mickey Mantle (1931-1995) was a baseball legend determined to remain a legend. He wrote or pretended to write six baseball autobiographies, each of which presented a stylized portrait of the switch-hitting Yankee center fielder. What remained obscured behind the imposing statistics and the diamond myth was the real Mantle himself. That absence was filled partially by a family confessional . . . but in many ways, the mist still remained. Finally, after decades, Washington Post sportswriter and author Jane Leavy has given us a vibrant biography of the man behind the pinstripes.

Angel and the Assassin by Fyn Alexander

Genre: bdsm; contemporary romance; m/m romance; romance

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

How I acquired this book: I purchased it.

Goodreads Blurb: Kael Saunders loves to dominate handsome, masculine men like himself. Being in charge is his way of life whether it be in his work with the Secret Intelligence service, his personal life, or in the dungeon. The last thing he expects when he is out on a hit is to fall in love with Angel, an eighteen-year-old boy desperate for the love and guidance of a Daddy. Yet Angel also has a passion for being spanked and restrained. Two very different men find love in a world of skilled assassins, Bosnian terrorists, and dungeon play.

Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: BDSM theme and content, male/male sexual practices.

My Review: Oy. I have conflicting opinions about this book. I began it wondering if the author could make the main character, assassin Kael Saunders, sympathetic. Overall, I'd say the answer is no. Kael's an intriguing character to be sure--and he does have his redeeming moments. But I still find a ruthless assassin a tough sell; especially as Kael's willing to murder innocent witnesses.

(I find it even more problematic that Kael is a government-sanctioned assassin, and that the 'collateral damage' from his hits are likewise sanctioned; that doesn't say much for the author's opinion on the UK government.)

I had problems with Angel too. He never quite rang true to me. I have no issue with his daddy kink-he's not actually related to Kael, after all, and both men are of age. However I did find Angel's sex and bdsm scenes with Kael excessive and drawn out. (Ditto for the other sex and bdsm scenes in the book.) But more importantly, I found it hard to get a handle on a young man who's sometimes less mature than a five year old, and other times as wise as a Jedi Master.

And yet, I kept reading. That's partly due to another character who has a complicated--not to mention disturbing--relationship with Kael: Kael's boss, Conran. I found the, ah, strained interactions between Conran and Kael a better reason to keep reading than the romance between Kael and Angel, and ultimately worth staying the course for.

One last note: despite my ambivalence toward this book, there are plenty of people who love it. I've included a link to a rave review below.

On Kindle: Yes. Find it on Amazon here.

Other Reviews:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

TBR Thursday: The Thin Executioner

A weekly meme hosted by Book Love Blog:
Post about the books you've purchased, received, borrowed or otherwise acquired this past week!


The Thin Executioner by Darren Shan

Genre: Fantasy; Horror; Young Adult

Book Blurb: In a kingdom of merciless tyrants, Jebel Rum's family is honored as royalty because his father is the executioner. But Rashed Rum is near retirement. And when he goes, there will be a contest to determine his successor. It is a contest that thin, puny Jebel has no chance of winning.

Humiliated and ashamed, Jebel sets out on a quest to the faraway home of a legendary fire god to beg for inhuman powers so that he can become the most lethal of men. He must take with him a slave, named Tel Hesani, to be sacrificed to the god. It will be a dark and brutal journey filled with lynch mobs, suicide cults, terrible monsters, and worse, monstrous men. But to Jebel, the risk is worth it. To retrieve his honor . . . To wield unimaginable power . . . To become . . . The thin executioner.

Inspired by the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, international bestselling master of horror Darren Shan takes readers on a thrilling, fast-paced journey into a nightmarish world where compassion and kindness are the greatest crimes of all.

Why I purchased this book: Horror's not my usual read, but I wanted to see how the author would pull off this this world in which executioners are held in such high esteem. Besides, as soon as I read the blurb, I wanted to know if Jebel would go through with his quest, or if he would let go of his brutal goal and release Tel. Or perhaps Tel will escape? I can't wait to find out . . .

Available on Kindle: Yes. You can find it on Amazon here.

Duck! by Kim Dare

Genre: BDSM; Fairy Tale Retelling; Fantasy; M/M Romance; Romance

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

How I acquired this book: I purchased it.

Goodreads Blurb: Raised among humans, Ori Jones only discovered he was an avian shifter six months ago. Unable to complete a full shift until he reaches his avian maturity, he still can’t be sure of his exact species.

But with species comes rank, and rank is everything to the avians. When a partial shift allows the elders to announce that they believe Ori to be a rather ugly little duckling, he drops straight to the bottom rung of their hierarchy.

Life isn’t easy for Ori until he comes to the attention of a high ranking hawk shifter. Then the only question is, is Ori really a duck—and what will his new master think when the truth eventually comes out?

My Review: I love the premise of this book: retelling The Ugly Duckling as an avian shape-shifting, bdsm tale. Plus I have a thing for wings--and though this isn't quite wingfic, it's close enough to suit me. So I was all set to adore this book.

But while I enjoyed this story, I didn't fall in love with it. The characters are likable, but rather one dimensional; Raynard and Ori don't have much personality beyond the fact that one's all dom and one's all sub. Worse, there are some disturbing, institution-sanctioned abuse scenes early on. Not between Raynard and Ori, thankfully, but--well, suffice to say that Ori had a rough time of it before Raynard decided to rescue him.

One last complaint: I would have loved more details about this avian world! It's intriguing, but it could stand some fleshing out.

Still, my kvetching aside, this is an imaginative take on the original fairy tale. Apart from those early abuse scenes, it makes for a pleasant read.

Available on Kindle: Yes. Find it on Amazon here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Book Boyfriend: Jack Barak from The Matthew Shardlake Mysteries

A weekly meme from The Unread Reader
Talk about your fictional crush!

"A hard eye and a fighter's build, as I had observed before. A heavy sword at his hip and a dagger too at his belt. But there was intelligence in his eyes and in the wide, sensual mouth, whose upturned corners seemed made for mockery."

~Matthew Shardlake describing Jack Barak in C.J. Sansom's Dark Fire

How to choose my very first book boyfriend? Ok, ok--it wasn't a hard choice. Jack Barak popped straight into my head. Who doesn't like a bad boy?

Jack is from C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake Mysteries, which are set in Tudor London. He begins as one of Cromwell's thugs--but he soon proves to Matthew, the 'crookback' lawyer, that's there more to him.
How do I picture Jack Barak? As Karl Urban--except in Tudor clothing.
Jack's a descendant of converso Jews. Unlike Matthew, he doesn't worry his head with questions about the nature of the Divine or the problems of the Reformation. And he's not a man of strong faith. He's just fiercely attached to his Jewish heritage--a fact he wisely keeps quiet.

Under Cromwell's orders, Jack helps Matthew solve the mystery in Dark Fire. Jack grows to like and respect the hunch-backed lawyer, so when Henry VIII beheads Cromwell, he takes Matthew as his new master. But that's a formality. By then the two men are on their way to a real friendship and treat each other more-or-less as equals.

There's a romance for Jack in Sovereign, with a woman who's not likely to put up with his carousing and infidelities. But can Jack settle down? Fortunately that's not my problem. I don't want to marry Jack, after all. Keeping him as a book boyfriend suits me just fine, thanks!