Archive | July, 2014

Books I Was Reading When I Should Have Been Writing July 2014

15 Jul

Waiting on You K Higgins A murder of crows It happened one wedding Magic Bites I Andrews Then Came You

I’ve been on a bit of a contemporary and paranormal kick lately and can’t seem to drum up any enthusiasm for historicals although I have a fair few in my kindle just waiting to be read. That said, I’ve read a few really, really, really (REALLY) good books lately:

It Happened One Wedding by Julie James– First of all it really must be said- SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE! This book was amazing! I cannot begin to recommend it highly enough. For those of you who may not have discovered her yet, Julie James is an author of contemporary romances usually centring around the lawyers of the US Attorney’s office and the FBI agents that they work with. Although most of her books are excellent this one had a little special something going for it that truly blew me away. The way JJ wrote the slow build romance between the hero and the heroine who by the way started out disliking each other and then liking each other very much was just clever and beautiful. Sidney, the heroine in this story completely rocked as a kick ass investment banker. She’s a strong powerful woman who knows her stuff (work wise at least) and she OWNS it. Vaughn is a tough, alpha FBI agent who is funny, smart and knows himself really well. Both of them, even when they were at their bitchiest to each other were supremely likeable and the dialogue between them was so sharp and funny. It has to be said again- I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop- I am a huge romance fan girl but I am also a big fantasy/ urban fantasy fan. The books that I love are the ones that meld the two together seamlessly. This is not the case for the OTHERS series of Anne Bishop as it’s still really light on the romance, although you can see the build up to it and just that build up is enough to give me the tingles. But you know what? This is another series that I cannot recommend highly enough. This is the second book in the series following the first book, Written in Red. The world building in this series is done very well. Interestingly enough from a purely objective standpoint, AB does not give us anything ground breakingly original. There are vampires and shifters and elementals and there are the prophets and humans and everyone is just trying to get along and live together. Enter a young woman who is trying to make her way in the world and you have a pretty familiar trope. Familiar though does not in any way mean ordinary. This series for me is proof that it’s not all about the story but how the story is told. In the hands of a skilful writer, the familiar becomes new and cracktastic. There is action and magic and hot shapeshifters all in a very interesting world. I can’t wait for the next instalment in the series.

Then Came You by Jill Shalvis– I went on a bit of a Jill Shalvis reading spree and read the last 2 books of both her Lucky Harbour and her Animal Magnetism series in a week. If you like your contemporary romances with a lot of humor in them you have to read her. Her Lucky Harbour series is set in a small town in the NorthWest while her Animal Magnetism books centre around the lives of a veterinary practice in a small town in Idaho. You can’t pass by JS when you want a feel good, small town romance. Of the books I read my favourite has to be Then Came You- the story of Emily and Wyatt. The laughs start with the premise of the story- what do you do when you show up to your first day at a new job and realise your new boss is that hot guy that you had a one night stand with? The one that you thought you would never see again? There were several laugh out loud moments and anything with a bunch of animals in them can never go wrong for me. The conflict was largely internal and had to do with both Emily and Wyatt having to learn to bend and let go of preconceived notions of what they want out of life. It’s a solid 4 out of 5 stars for me for this one. As an aside, I follow Jill Shalvis on Facebook and twitter and she is as funny and crazy in real life as her characters. Which leads me to another crazy writer that I like who is a very good friend of hers…

Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins– When I want funny contemporaries that will make me laugh and then make my chest hurt while giving me tingles throughout the rest of my body there are a few authors I turn to: Susan Mallery, Jill Shalvis, Susan Elizabeth Philipps and Kristan Higgins. KH writes hilarious contemporary romances with witty dialogue. Her latest in her Blue Heron series is a great addition to a really fun series. One of her great skills is in writing heroes who have issues but never cross over into Oh-God-Get-OVER-Yourself-Already territory. Colleen O’Rourke is the part owner of the local bar in her small town. As the resident bartender, she is also the resident matchmaker who sets other people up successfully but mysteriously doesn’t manage to do it for herself until her first and only love pops back in town and into her life. Shades of Emma this book is another example of a familiar trope made entertaining and different in the hands of a skilful writer.

Kate Daniels audiobooks by Ilona Andrews– This entry has already gone on for way too long and writing about all these books that I love has made my heart start pounding so hard in my chest I’m scared I’ll give myself an aneurysm if I continue but I simply cannot let this entry end without talking about the Kate Daniels audiobooks. I’ve written about Ilona Andrews and how much I love this series before. I thought I couldn’t love this series any more than I already do but hot damn was I WRONG. I thought I could listen to these books in traffic/while on the treadmill/while cleaning to keep my mind entertained. I purposely chose books that I already read since I would be doing other things and didn’t want to be too distracted. Instead, I became obsessed (obsessed I tell you!) with these books all over again. A wonderful side benefit is that my house has never been cleaner! It made the monotony of doing chores SO much easier and just for that I could build a shrine in gratitude to Ilona Andrews . I’d already read all the books in the series more than once because I love them. Listening to the books instead of reading them gave me a whole new perspective though and there were bits that I missed while reading that suddenly became more apparent while I was listening. While I’m talking about these books, I have to give props to Renee Raudman who is Uh-MAY-Zing!!! I now hear HER voice in my head when I read the books. Her “voices” are so distinct and never overdone or exaggerated. Even if you’ve already read this series do give these audiobooks a try you won’t regret it!

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RFG Recommends: The Promise by Kristen Ashley

2 Jul

Blog Tour Graphic (1)

I used to HATE first person point of view, if it was written in first person I’d put the book down no questions asked. Reading Kristen Ashley books has made me do a 360 so fast I accidentally whipped my arm around and slapped myself silly for having such an unfounded prejudice.

I now thoroughly enjoy first person point of view when it is done well as it gets me so deep into a character’s head and way of thinking that I always feel the need to take a few deep breaths to return to reality when the book is done. I especially love being in the heads of KA’s female characters. I thoroughly enjoyed being in Frankie’s head – every single dramatic, kind, smart, passionate, hot-blooded part of it.

Here’s the blurb at the back of the book:

Since his brother’s death, Benny Bianchi has been nursing his grudge against the woman he thinks led to his brother’s downfall. He does this to bury the feelings he has for Francesca Concetti, his brother’s girl. But when Frankie takes a bullet while on the run with Benny’s cousin’s woman, Benny has to face those feelings.

The problem is Frankie has decided she’s paid her penance. Penance she didn’t deserve to pay. She’s done with Benny and the Bianchi family. She’s starting a new life away from Chicago and her heartbreaking history.

Benny has decided differently.

But Frankie has more demons she’s battling. Demons Benny wants to help her face. But life has landed so many hard knocks on Frankie she’s terrified of believing in the promise of Benny Bianchi and the good life he’s offering.

Frankie’s new life leads her to The ‘Burg, where Benny has ties, and she finds she not only hasn’t succeeded in getting away, she’s doesn’t want to.

As you can see from the blurb above, this is the story of Frankie and Benny (and doesn’t that sound like a movie title?). We first met Frankie and Bennie in the book “At Peace” which is the story of Violet and Cal and is one of my favourite KA books of all time. Frankie and Benny have a long and complicated history- Frankie is the former live in girlfriend of Benny’s dead brother. Did you get that? Frankie was the girlfriend of Vinnie Junior, Benny’s older brother. Now, Frankie loved Vinnie very much but Vinnie was one of those guys who always wanted MORE. A result of this wanting more was that he got himself tied up with the mob and a result of THAT is that he got himself killed.

Vinnie’s family, a close-knit, slightly eccentric Italian family, loved their son ( he was a bit of a douchebag but a very loveable one from all accounts), were grieving and somehow ended up blaming Frankie for Vinnie’s unfortunate choices. Poor Frankie was cast in their minds as the money hungry girlfriend pushing their son/brother to have more, do more, be more because it was easier than dealing with the fact that Vinnie was lovable but weak. Frankie, being Frankie loved them and took the blame for 7 years. SEVEN YEARS y’all! That is a very long time to be putting up with that kind of treatment and as this book opens Frankie is well and truly over it.

Unfortunately, she had to go and do something heroic- she saved Violet from a mad man and got shot for her efforts. I won’t go into the whole family history here because that’s part of “At Peace” and if you haven’t read it yet, you really should. This book reads so much sweeter if you did read the previous book as it ties in nicely, but if this is the first Kristen Ashley that you are reading then:

• You’re fine as the back story and all the other characters are explained really well anyway so you can start here
• You are one lucky duck as KA has a MASSIVE backlist that you can now go through. Hurrah!

As I’m sure you can guess from reading the background of the story, a lot of the conflict here is internal. It’s Benny and Frankie getting over their shared and respective pasts to try and be together. The fact that Frankie was dating one brother and then another was one of those issues and I’m really glad KA did not gloss over how awkward it was or what other people thought about it. Frankie in particular had a lot of old issues that she needs to deal with as her family life was extremely dysfunctional. Frankie for me was a quintessential KA heroine in that she may have been a little messed up and imperfect but underneath was a heart of pure gold.

But let’s talk about Benny for a moment. Benny was described in the book as having chocolate brown eyes, dark hair and a ripped body. Throw in close family ties and the ability to cook and I think I may have just found me my newest book boyfriend. If I had a complaint it would be that when I read the book the first time I found him to be almost a little TOO perfect in the beginning. But when I read the book the second time (yes, I have read it twice I enjoyed it that much) I realized that I was seeing Benny through Frankie’s eyes, Frankie who had her supremely narcissistic douchebag father and ex- kinda douchebag boyfriend as male role models. There’s a scene in the book where Benny’s looking for something for her and she freezes in place expecting him to blow up and get frustrated and angry with her when he can’t find it. Instead he finds it, hands it to her and goes off to work. It’s a small thing and most women would probably take that for granted, but Frankie having the history that she does, doesn’t.

Benny is terribly affectionate and understanding especially in the first part of the book where Frankie is still recovering from her gunshot wound and the whole Bianchi family is still feeling very guilty about their past treatment of Frankie. Don’t get me wrong, KA doesn’t write beta heroes. Benny is still 100 percent pure alpha who knows what he wants and is not afraid to demand it, but he doesn’t have any asshole moments as big as Joe Callahan for example. If you’ve read the Rock Chick series I would say he would be closest to Ren – not because they’re both Italian but because they both understand their women very well and work very hard to keep them.

What I love about Kristen Ashley books is the way she balances out realism and pure fantasy. On one hand you have serious emotional and psychological issues that each character has to work through. On the other, you have these larger than life characters that manage to run you through a gamut of intense emotions through some oftentimes improbable scenarios.

Along with the drama and fire and flash, there are little pockets of realism like Benny keeping Frankie’s lip gloss in his pocket because she didn’t want to bring a bag to their date or Frankie making sure that she had a lot of chips in her house because Benny has a fondness for them. The importance of calendars in Benny’s life is also something that I found very beautiful in its simplicity.

My biggest complaint about the book would be that I wasn’t sure that the external conflict at the end of the book was really needed. I really enjoyed seeing Frankie and Benny with each other without the bad guys being thrown in. That said; I did appreciate how the external conflict meant that I got to see some characters that I love from previous books. I won’t spoil the surprise and tell you who shows up but I have to admit that I squealed like a star struck teenage fan girl in the presence of her favourite boy band when I read some of the familiar names on the pages of my e-reader. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This was another cracktastic KA book for me! The Promise will be published on July 8, 2014 and pre-order links are up at most e-book sellers.

Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC in exchange for a review