Thursday, November 6, 2014

Be Good To Me: Another Round of Birthdays!

R: October being over is crazy because the year is ALMOST over but HELLO NOVEMBER! It's mine & Sharon's birthday month! The holiday season will start soon, school will be winding down... this is definitely the best time of year.
S:  What she said! I'm so excited November is here! Even though that means I've already had another birthday, and that's CRAZY. I'm so excited for the crisp fall weather (it's been pretty warm here thus far) and Thanksgiving and Christmas and just YAY!

Racquel read: 
So it was month of the romantic suspense! This started ever since I read In Death book by J.D. Robb. Since I'm an extreme moody reader, I have to continue reading romantic suspense until this obsession is over. Any recs?
  1. Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard (B)
  2. Without Words by Ellen O'Connell (A)
  3. Fallen by Leslie Tentler (B)
  4. Finding Mary Blaine by Jodi Thomas (C)
  5. Don't Tell by Karen Rose (B)
  6. Have You Seen Her? by Karen Rose (B-)
  7. Raid by Kristen Ashley  (B)
  8. Lay It Down by Cara McKenna (B-)

Racquel's October favorites: 

—Without Words by Ellen O'Connell: I mean it's Ellen O'Connell. Of course this book was going to be a subtle, slow burning amazing romance. By far my favorite of the whole month.
—Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard: I skipped around this one because I just wanted to read about the couple, who are a new favorite.
—Lay It Down by Cara McKenna: I also skipped around this one but focusing solely on the couple, I love them! Plus, Cara McKenna writes my favorite sexy scenes and dirty heroes. FAVORITE.

Other things Racquel did:

I went to see Arctic Monkeys! I did a lot of fun things in October but that definitely wins. I LOVE Arctic Monkeys and they were just as good in concert as they are on record. Plus I wasn't sure if they were going to sing one of my favorite older song by them, Cornerstore, but they did. It was a magical night.

Sharon read:
01. He's So Fine by Jill Shalvis
02. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (Re-read)
03. Wallflower Gone Wild by Maya Rodale
04. One in a Million by Jill Shalvis

I also made progress on A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin and read a good chunk of Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas. I'm rereading both of them before Heir of Fire, which is hanging out and looking pretty on my shelf. As you can see, though, I was clearly not on the top of my reading game in October. I was busy with work and other things, but mostly? I was distracted. See further down for the oh-so-important reason.

Sharon's MONTH favorites:
Um, all of them? No, really. What it lacked in quantity, October made up for in substance. I thoroughly enjoyed every book I read. I mean, it's the third time I read Throne of Glass. I've never read anything by Maya Rodale before, but I really liked her style a lot. I'll definitely be looking her up in the future. And I finished the last full Lucky Harbor book. *sniff* I haven't been able to make myself write the review of it yet, but it will come! No worries.

Other Things Sharon Did
Now, the answer you've all been waiting for. Although if you follow me on Twitter, it's probably not exactly a mystery to you. But trust me, I held back like 98.8% of it. Well, except for Judith. She happened to respond to me once, and I exploded all my feels toward her. Sorry about that, lovely! Without further ado, the object of my obsession:

Once and I started innocently enough. I had held off watching a long time, though it seemed like a very "me" show. I finally gave in, but after 4 episodes, I was ready to throw in the towel. Though I was intrigued by the characters, I was frustrated because nothing was happening. But my cousin encouraged me to give it another shot, and I had a good chunk of time one day after a trip to the dentist where I didn't want to do anything but lie on the couch. It took another two episodes, and BOOM. I was hooked. Things started happening, more characters were introduced, etc. And the rest is history. I kept it healthy for a week or so, with only one or two episodes a day. But then I fell down the hole completely, full-out marathoning and fic-reading and mix-making and apple turnover-baking. Hence, very few books. But oh well. It's freaking AWESOME. I heartily endorse it. Just make sure you give it six episodes before you decide if it's for you or not. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some fic to read books to catch up on.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

(Review) He's So Fine by Jill Shalvis

Title: He's So Fine
Author: Jill Shalvis
Series: Lucky Harbor, #11
Published: September 30, 2014 (Grand Central Publishing)
Rating: Staying in Tonight
Format: Egalley provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review (Thanks!); paperback borrowed from my sister, borrowed from the library.
Summary: For Olivia Bentley, Lucky Harbor is more than the town where she runs her new vintage shop. It's the place where folks are friendly to strangers-and nobody knows her real name. Olivia does a good job of keeping her past buried, not getting too cozy with anyone . . . until she sees a man drowning. Suddenly she's rushing into the surf, getting up close and personal with the hottest guy she's ever laid hands on.

Charter boat captain Cole Donovan has no problem with a gorgeous woman throwing her arms around his neck in an effort to "save" him. In fact, he'd like to spend a lot more time skin-to-skin with Olivia. He's just not expecting that real trouble is about to come her way. Will it bring her deeper into Cole's heart, or will it be the end of Olivia's days in little Lucky Harbor?
I had He's So Fine for several weeks before I finally read it. I would look at it, get excited, then stop before I actually read the first line. Why? Because reading it would mean there would only be one more Lucky Harbor book for me to read ever, and that's just a terrible thought. Thankfully, the release date came around, and my cousin devoured this book faster than you can say "sa-woon." This, of course, prompted me to finally crack it open (figuratively speaking, obviously, as it was on my Nook), so we could discuss it!

As always, it was wonderful to be back in Lucky Harbor. I always like seeing it through the eyes of characters who are both new to town (Olivia) and those who grew up there (Cole). And, of course, those who make the town as quirky as it is (Lucille, who had recently navigated the transition from Facebook to Tumblr, due to their less restrictive photo policies, all the better for posting shirtless photographs of our favorite resident ship captain).

Oh, Cole. He is what made this book for me. Truthfully, I was surprised to learn this book was about him, because in the Lucky Harbor mini-trilogies, the most intriguing hero of the three is usually saved for the last book, and I was drawn to Cole immediately. (I am certainly eager for Tanner's now! Who knows what amazingness Shalvis has been holding out on us?) Far be it from me to complain, though! I'll take a nice, sexy, honest, comfortable-in-his-own-skin handyman any day of the week. Cole had some things he had to work through, but he was definitely the star of the show.

Olivia was a little difficult to get to know as a character, because she was hiding a lot of her past. She had been a child star named Sharlyn, but her super popular show was canceled when at age 16, she finally looked too old to convincingly play a young girl anymore. After this, she had a typical Hollywood meltdown, went into hiding, and rebuilt her life as Olivia. She was scrappy, smart, and dedicated, but she was also used to being secretive and hiding her past. This created a problem when she started to get involved with Cole, who was all about the honesty.

Their interactions were spectacular! I mean, really. Their first official meeting happened because she jumped into the water to rescue Cole after watching him fall from a boat, only to make matters worse because he was actually fine, and she had no idea what she was doing. It was hilarious! She had the best of intentions, though, you had to hand it to her. Though they got started on kind of a crazy foot, Cole and Olivia fell into something like friendship pretty quickly and naturally, but although they had some pretty sizzling attraction, things had to be worked out before either was ready for a real commitment.

I only had a few small problems with this book. One is that the book felt kind of thrown together at times, the writing a little rushed. I would have liked to see some of the details a little more fleshed out, and I definitely wanted more interaction between the three main guys.

However, I was super excited to see Callie, Becca and Olivia's new neighbor, show up! She's clearly going to be the third heroine, and I'm already anticipating her story. Especially since she used to have a crush on Tanner AND is related to Lucille. I know the next book is going to rock. If I can ever convince myself to read it, that is. But if He's So Fine - and all the previous Shalvis books I've read - taught me one thing, it's this: Saying "yes" to a Jill Shalvis book is always the right answer.
For a guy balancing his weight between the stern of his boat and the dock, thinking about sex instead of what he was doing was a real bonehead move.

“You’re engaged to be married,” Callie reminded her.
“Yes, but it’s Captain Jack Sparrow,” Becca said. “He’s a fictional character. You’re allowed to lust after fictional characters when you’re engaged. It’s in the Engaged Handbook somewhere.”

“Just because we’ve,” she said, “doesn’t mean–”
“We discussed your sexual vocabulary. ‘It’ is not on the list of acceptable descriptions for what we did.”
“Fine,” she said. “We had wild monkey sex that ruined me for all other men. Happy?”
“Getting there.”

Thursday, October 2, 2014

(Review) Once More, My Darling Rogue by Lorraine Heath

Title: Once More, My Darling Rogue
Author: Lorraine Heath
Series: Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #2
Published: August 2014 (Avon)
Rating: Stay Up 'til 2 AM
Format: Paperback borrowed from the library
Summary: Born to the street but raised within the aristocracy, Drake Darling can’t escape his sordid beginnings. Not when Lady Ophelia Lyttleton snubs him at every turn, a constant reminder he’s not truly one of them. But after rescuing her from a mysterious drowning he realizes she doesn’t remember who she is. With plans to bring her to heel, he insists she’s his housekeeper—never expecting to fall for the charming beauty.

While Ophelia might not recall her life before Drake, she has little doubt she belongs with him. The desire she feels for her dark, brooding employer can’t be denied, regardless of consequences. So when her memory returns, she is devastated by the depth of his betrayal. Now Drake must risk everything to prove she can trust this rogue with her heart once more.
I went into Once More, My Darling Rogue very excited but also a little hesitant. I'm not always a fan of amnesia stories. Although they can be enjoyable, a lot of them wind up blending together in my mind because they're so similar. In order for me to desire to read one, I need something more. The heroine being completely hateful to the hero, followed by the hero taking advantage of the heroine's amnesia and making her act as his housekeeper? That'll do it. I knew Heath would have to tread carefully, because while the story would definitely be unique, it could also be the perfect setting for a good, old-fashioned alphahole, the fastest way to ruin a book. Thankfully, my trepidation was for naught. I fell head over heels for this book and devoured it in a day.

Let's start with the characters. In the beginning, Ophelia Lyttleton was kind of horrid. And I LOVED it. She was spoiled by servants, totally taking them for granted, and you know what? That's real. Highborn ladies of the time were pampered, waited on hand and foot by servants. They weren't expected to do anything for themselves. She was of the upper class, and she was well aware of it, having been raised by a father who drilled into her their superiority to those of lower birth. It was incredibly refreshing to see this, even though it did not make her the most likable of heroines at first. In addition, she was a total witch to the Drake, snubbing him repeatedly in front of others. To be fair, we mostly saw this from his perspective and memories, and the small glimpse we got into Ophelia's head showed that she was using this behavior as a defense mechanism against her attraction toward to Drake, someone with whom she could never be associated without losing her dowry and what was left of her family. There was also a lot more going on beneath the surface with her, secrets she did not reveal even in her thoughts until much later in the story.

Then there was Drake. I think the first line says it all:
I was born Peter Sykes, the son of a murderer, the son of a woman murdered, a heritage that has always haunted me.
Um, HELLO. Way to make an impression with the first line. It wasn't at all what I expected when I cracked open the book. That first line captivated me, and I continued to be intrigued by Drake through the whole book. He was smart, a great businessman, intimidating, but fair, but he had innate inferiority issues due to his birth, despite being raised in a duke's family. (I was completely intrigued by his pseudo-adoptive parents, as well, and I really hope Heath has written their story at some point in the past. I got that impression, and I would love to read it!) He also had a dragon tattoo. I'll let you read the book to discover where, but I'll just say that there was a scene about it that caused some definite swoonage.

Drake and Ophelia each brought out the worst in each other. She was mean to him to keep him at a distance, and the easiest method was to remind him of his inferiority. This was his one big weakness, the one issue that would really get to him. While usually in amnesia stories, I prefer to know how the hero and heroine would have gotten together without that particular plot device, I don't think this one would've worked without it. They were caught in a circle of animosity. They needed some reason to see beyond the barriers they had erected. And in their particular case, I don't believe that really would've happened in normal circumstances.

BUT ANYWAY. Now that I've written an essay on the first 50 pages or so, I can move on to the rest of the book.

When Drake found Ophelia washed up on the side of the river, he rescued her. After he got her safely to his house and discovered who she was, he had the brilliant housekeeper idea. And this is where it all could've gone horribly wrong. Thankfully, it didn't. At this point in the story, Drake hated Ophelia, and I could absolutely see why. He had every reason to. He had an irrational whim and went with it. He just wanted a laugh, a little revenge, something to keep her in her place when she tried to humiliate him again in the future. He wasn't going to make her do anything potentially dangerous or harmful, only tedious things like preparing dinner and dusting the library shelves.

But - insert shocked face here - things didn't go as planned! Due to circumstances, Ophelia had to stay with him longer. And while Drake had a few idiotic moments and should've told her the truth way earlier, I always understood his reasoning. With the way things played out, Drake and Ophelia got to know each other for real, in a way they never would have before the accident. And oh, oh but it was wonderful to watch. I enjoyed both of their perspectives. Ophelia knew instinctively that something was wrong with her new life, knew that something was off, but she was a good sport and went along with it. Her attempts were sometimes rather hilarious, like when she went to prepare a pheasant for dinner:
She couldn’t cook something that had the ability to glare at her, to make her feel guilty about preparing it.
By the end of the story, Ophelia had a new-found respect for servants and their jobs, having been in their shoes for a while. But that was pretty much all that changed. It wasn't a magical transformation from evil termagant to glowing saint, something that is common and drives me absolutely bonkers. Ophelia always had a good heart: loyalty, devotion, compassion towards animals, and many other qualities. We just didn't see them until she (albeit, unwillingly) let her guard down and allowed Drake to see them.

And did I mention the chemistry? Because yowza! The chemistry between these two was phenomenal. You could tell from the beginning that there was something explosive there that was being strongly repressed on both sides. Obviously Drake held back for a long time once she was in his care, but there was still attraction simmering between them. While I wouldn't exactly call it a slow burn, it unfolded slowly and deliciously, and I enjoyed every moment.

Once More, My Darling Rogue fulfilled every one of my wishes and expectations. Heath took a prevalent plot device and put a unique spin on it with refreshingly real, flawed characters. I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys actual hate-to-love stories, because this one was well executed and absolutely lovely. It made me want to go look up more books by her, which I will very likely wind up doing.
I was born Peter Sykes, the son of a murderer, the son of a woman murdered, a heritage that has always haunted me.

Friendship isn’t measured by time. It can happen in the blink of an eye when you meet someone you like.

If looks could kill...well, hers might wound him, but it wasn’t going to be the death of him.