Tag Archives: favorite books

Contemporaries to covet in February – & giveaway!

Every month, I’m giving you the chance to win a $10 book gift certificate for yourself AND one of your favorite contemporary romance authors.

How? Easy. Just let me know which contemporary romance novel being published this month you’re looking forward to reading. You can even mention one of the ones I recommend below. I’ll choose one winner and send that person a gift certificate. I’ll also send a gift certificate to the author they mention in their comment, on their behalf.

Giveaway details are at the bottom of this post. But first, there are a couple of contemporary romance novels I’ve read advanced copies of and can totally recommend. They’re both really fun, funny and entertaining books, so I hope you get a chance to read them!

Time Out by Jill Shalvis

(Read an excerpt on Jill’s blog)

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Class: How to Drive Him Crazy

Instructional program for women unexpectedly facing the totally dishy guy from their past. Everyone Welcome!

Time OutNHL coach Mark Diego’s plan to spend his off-season volunteering in his hometown goes awry when he learns that not only is he coaching teenage girls, but that the program is coordinated by energetic (and five feet two inches of trouble) coordinator Rainey Saunders, his childhood friend–and the woman he could never stand to see dating any other guy…

When their tempers flare, Mark and Rainey discover their fireworks don’t just burn angry–they burn very, very, hot! But that’ll just sweeten the victory. Because Mark always plays to win. And with Rainey, he’s planning on playing very dirty too…

224 pages
Publisher: Harlequin Blaze
Publication date: 21 Feb 2012

My opinion:

4 out of 5 stars!

Not only is this novel super hot, but it has all of Jill Shalvis’s trademark snort-out-loud humor and gut-twisting emotion. I absolutely LOVE Jill Shalvis and am convinced she couldn’t write a bad book.

This is her first Blaze for a while, and it’s wonderful to see how much conflict and energy she can pack into even this shorter format.

Her Lucky Catch by Amie Denman

Her Lucky CatchRecently divorced kindergarten teacher Jazz Shepherd is starting a new life in the quaint lakeside town of Bluegill. After taking a summer job at the local marina to help make ends meet, she’s stunned when the chief of police enlists her help in solving a crime.

Money has been disappearing from the city coffers, and a trail leads from Bluegill’s mayor to Damien Cerberus, a rich boat owner—and possible killer. The police chief is short-staffed and in need of someone to keep tabs on the suspect. Jazz’s job at the marina puts her in the perfect position to help—and puts her in the path of Kurt Reynolds, the hottie who mans the fireboat.

When things with Kurt start heating up, how can Jazz keep her investigation undercover while enjoying time under the covers with her summer flame?

67,000 words
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication date: 27 Feb 2012

My opinion:

4 out of 5 stars!

Told in the first person by a heroine with a wonderfully quirky voice, this novel is a highly entertaining read. Amie Denman manages to keep it hot and exciting without being overly descriptive in sex scenes, making this a wonderful book for those of you who get uncomfortable reading about detailed sexual encounters.

Fans of Kristan Higgins will really enjoy Her Lucky Catch. I read it while traveling from Denmark to the Netherlands, and it had me laughing out loud instead of pissing myself with fear on the flight or throttling a conductor when my train home was delayed by an hour. Seriously, it takes a lot to keep me in a good mood through a journey like that, and Amie Denman accomplished it.

Giveaway!

Answer one of the questions in bold below. By “contemporary romance” I mean romance between human beings set in the present day. It can be romantic suspense, inspirational, erotic, category-length or whatever.

I’ll choose one winner on Tuesday February 7th. That person will get a $10 gift certificate to the online book retailer of their choice, AND I’ll send the same to the author they mention.

If the winner mentions more than one author, I’ll ask her to choose which one gets the gift certificate.

This is open internationally.

Questions:

What contemporary romance novel(s) are you looking forward to in February? Have you read anything by the authors I mentioned? Which of their books do you like best?

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Discovering the book you wish you’d written

A few weeks ago, I sat down to read a book by a new-to-me author that’s coming out soon. The premise had sounded intriguing, but to be honest, I’d requested it along with about a dozen others so by the time I started reading it I couldn’t even remember what it was supposed to be about.

So I read. And I read. And soon I started thinking, “Holy crap, why didn’t I write this book!”

Just to be clear, I don’t think I could’ve actually written this book, for many reasons. It doesn’t have a similar plot to any of my stories. The characters are very different from mine. It’s not even the same subgenre I write.

But it’s set in the same sort of world I’ve worked in for years, a world I’ve researched backwards and forwards and spent countless hours writing about for my day job: the world of major disasters.

The book I wish I’d written is Hot Zone by Catherine Mann. And this is how I tried to console myself for not having written it.

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Review: Tides of Passion by Tracy Sumner

Sizzling chemistry, a forward-thinking heroine, and a hero who would part the seas for the people he loves come together in this beautifully written story

Tides of PassionFeisty, forward-thinking activist Savannah Conner travels to an island off the North Carolina coastline in 1898 to help out at her friend’s school. Having grown up wealthy but without her father’s acceptance in New York, Savannah finds it impossible to overlook injustice—especially when women are so often the victims. Naturally, very soon after arriving in town, she starts organizing the local women to fight for their rights…and that stirs up the men who run the town.

Constable Zach Garrett is duty-bound to detain law-breakers. The last thing he needs is a suffragist who knows nothing about diplomacy or negotiation. He tries to keep the peace by mediating between her and the men she’s lambasting, but Savannah drives him crazy with her uncontrolled passions. And, since his beloved wife died in childbirth, exploring his own passions is something he’s avoided.

But the chemistry between Savannah and Zach is explosive, so much so that neither can deny themselves the opportunity to explore it.

Tides of Passion swept me away. I admit I’m a sucker for novels that are set outside of Regency and mid-Victorian England, but this novel particularly grabbed me because of its clever ways of examining gender roles and commitment in relationships.

I know. That’s not what people typically read romance for. Believe me, all the things you’d want in a romance (a clever heroine, a hot hero, witty dialogue, instant sparks and sizzling conflict between the hero and heroine) are here in spades. That’s why the novel’s exploration of themes normally taken for granted in romance came as such a delight.

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Contemporaries to covet in December – and a giveaway with a twist!

This week I’m doing something a little different. Instead of hosting an interview and giveaway with an author, I want to tell you the contemporary romance novels I’m looking forward to in December and do a giveaway with a twist.

I’ll choose one person who leaves a comment to win a $10 gift certificate to the online book retailer of their choice AND I’ll send a $10 gift certificate to the contemporary romance author they mention in their comment, on their behalf.

I want to reward not just my blog readers but the authors they love. Plus, I think a lot of published authors shy away from entering giveaway contests, but c’mon! this is one where the novelists you adore can also win.

I’ll put the nitty-gritty at the bottom of the post. Just make sure you gush about a contemporary romance that’s coming out in December that you really want to read.

So, here’s what I’ve read advanced copies of and can highly recommend.

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Review: Head Over Heels by Jill Shalvis

In nearly two years of reviewing, I’ve never given a single perfect score. Head Over Heels deserves to be the first.

Head Over HeelsChloe Traeger has a reputation for being Lucky Harbor’s wild child—a reputation she’s earned by saying “Screw you” to her severe asthma and living dangerously. She does extreme sports, frees dogs from notorious animal abusers…and taunts the town’s sheriff by nudging the line between legal and stupid.

Bad-boy-turned-sheriff Sawyer Thompson gets annoyed when people cross the line into stupid. But for some reason, it particularly bothers him when cute, curvy, mouthy Chloe Traeger does it. That couldn’t have anything to do with the fact he feels he has to live an exemplary life, which doesn’t come naturally to him. Nor could it be because Chloe’s condition makes it nearly impossible for her to have sex without dying.

But Sawyer’s sure tempted to explore ways of helping Chloe work up a sweat without getting herself killed.

I know there’s still over a month left in 2011, but so far Head Over Heels is my hands-down pick for best contemporary romance of the year.

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Sisters are doing it for themselves

I don’t have any sisters. I have a “little” (i.e. younger, but now well over six feet of muscles that belong on a romance cover) brother. You might remember him from my post The problem with having an alpha male brother.

Sister gets little brother in a headlock

© Christopher Low/istockphoto

My brother and I never got along when we were kids, though I can’t imagine why. I mean, I put so much effort into parenting him because my parents clearly weren’t doing a good enough job of it. As his big sister, I made sure he knew exactly what he was doing wrong at all times. He didn’t know as much as I did, and I pointed out all the things he was ignorant about so he’d learn.

Yes, I was the kid who spent weekends playing “school” and planned lessons for the neighbor kids to sit through. I also borrowed my brother’s motorized mini police car and drove up and down my street handing out tickets to kids who rode their bikes too fast.

In other words, I was a friendless loser for much of my childhood. And my little brother has always been the exact opposite.

Having another girl in the house would’ve been torture. I had to be the best at something, and if I couldn’t be the best at making friends then at least I could be the best girl in the house. No one else could be a girl the way I could—that meant shopping with Mom and my grandma, going on dates with Dad, and just generally smelling good and avoiding roughhousing.

If I’d had a sister? I’d have had to discover something else to be best at.

Girl pretends to push brother off a cliff

© M. Eric Honeycutt/istockphoto

By having a second child, my parents forced me to suffer decades of sibling rivalry—but I never regretted that it was a boy child (I just, y’know, regretted his entire existence sometimes. Hey, I’m not proud of myself for it).

Growing up with my biggest rival living in my own home and sharing my parents’ love has given me a deep affection for fictional heroines who have to endure bratty siblings—even if those siblings are grown up.
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My favorite war poem

When I was in college, I took an absolutely brilliant class on 20th century American war literature. Although my beliefs have always tended strongly toward pacifism, I grew up in a city with large military bases and a strong military history.

My grandfather told me stories of his experiences in the Philippines and Japan. Grandma said he never once spoke of the war after he came home until I was 12 and told him what I’d learned about it in school. He started telling me stories, and it was the first time she’d heard them, too.

I can’t think of any literature more heartbreaking than stories of armed conflict. For me, the most powerful stories aren’t those that focus on the political or ideological nature of war, but on the personal. The best war fiction shows the often absurd nature of conflict, and the contrast between those who are far removed from battlefields – families, politicians, media – and those who are far too close.

That’s why this poem – my sweet old etcetera by e.e. cummings – is my favorite war poem. In fact, it’s one of my favorite poems on any subject. I can’t read it without picturing my 22-year-old grandfather lying in mud and dreaming about the 19-year-old wife he left in California.

my sweet old etcetera

by e.e. cummings

my sweet old etcetera
aunt lucy during the recent

war could and what
is more did tell you just
what everybody was fighting

for,
my sister

isabel created hundreds
(and
hundreds) of socks not to
mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers

etcetera wristers etcetera, my

mother hoped that

i would die etcetera
bravely of course my father used
to become hoarse talking about how it was
a privilege and if only he
could meanwhile my

self etcetera lay quietly
in the deep mud et

cetera
(dreaming,
et
cetera, of
Your smile
eyes knees and of your Etcetera)

Do you have a favorite war poem or story? How are you marking Remembrance Day/Veterans Day?

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Review: In Close by Brenda Novak

Hot, intense passion and suspense combine to create one of the best romantic suspense novels of the year

In Close coverFifteen years ago, Claire O’Toole’s mother disappeared. Last year, Claire’s husband David was shot dead in a freak hunting accident. And today, as Claire begins to investigate the disappearance that’s haunted her since she was a teenager, she starts to suspect there may be a connection between the two.

Isaac Morgan has loved Claire forever. They had a brief affair in their early 20s, but Isaac let his own insecurities sabotage their relationship. He spurned Claire’s love, then had to watch her marry someone else. Now that she’s on her own, and in danger, he won’t let her face the danger alone.

Brenda Novak’s Bulletproof trilogy has rocked my world. The first, Inside, features one of the most unusual heroes I’ve ever read about: a former prison gang member. The second, In Seconds, continues with the gang trying to get to their former member by attempting to murder his sister.

In Close, the last in the trilogy, shifts gears and kept me guessing to the very end. Instead of focusing on gang members seeking revenge on one of their own, In Close features a small-town murderer, a trail gone cold, and a daughter who’s never forgotten. It barely mentions the storyline that runs through the first two novels, so can easily be read on its own (when, as I said in my review of In Seconds, the second book can’t be).

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Review: Real Men Will by Victoria Dahl

One of the best contemporary romances I’ve read this year.

Real Men WillSix months ago, uptight Eric Donovan went to a business expo and had a steamy night of passion with the manager of a local erotic boutique. Problem? He used his bad-boy younger brother’s name. For one night, he wanted to be someone else, without all the responsibilities and worries weighing him down.

When Beth Cantrell walks into the Donovan Brothers Brewery months later, she pretty swiftly realizes that the cute young bartender everyone’s calling Jamie isn’t the guy she slept with. Beth is furious and tries not to feel the shame and humiliation that she experienced the last time a man used her. But she struggles to hold onto her anger toward Eric as the attraction between them explodes again—only this time, they both want more than one night.

I love Victoria Dahl’s contemporary romances, but she’s really at her best when she’s writing characters who have spent their adulthoods trying to overcome the trauma of their childhoods. Beth Cantrell is one of those characters. She’s hiding who she really is in an attempt to become the person she thinks she should be—a sexually adventurous woman comfortable with all kinds of experimentation. In reality, she just wants a man she can let her guard down with, a man she can trust.
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What’s your definition of a keeper?

Stacks of books

flickr.com/people/georgmayer/

We bookworms often talk about which novels deserve space on our keeper shelf. For some, it’s a symbolic expression referring to books we adore, whether we own them or not.

For others, the keeper shelf is an actual shelf or bookcase with a finite amount of space. In my case, it’s two plastic containers under my bed since the three bookcases in our spare room are mostly filled with my husband’s books (friends, never marry a fellow bookworm, unless you want to spend time fighting over whose books are more worthy of shelf space).

Our flat is tiny. When my American family comes to visit, they all exclaim over how “cute” it is. I know they mean tiny. So I’ve had to be rather ruthless about which books I keep and which I give away after reading.

In less than a month, though, I’m moving to the Netherlands. I’m spending the next few weeks clearing out all the stuff I’ve accumulated in my six years in London, and it’s a chore I never want to have to do again.

You see, I attach sentiment to objects. I remember where I bought them and how I felt at the time. Even if I haven’t ever used them, I convince myself I will one day end up wandering around my flat muttering, “Now, where did I put that left-handed paper stretcher? Surely I wouldn’t have given away such a useful item!”

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