Lost in sweet reading

I’ve been reading Romance novels for 2-3 years. They are fun, usually quick, reads and they have happy endings. Some are the traditional historical romance but I’ve also branched into the paranormal sub-genre (werewolves and vampires and demigods, ooooh, sigh). This all started when I found the DVD Lost in Austen at the library. Loved it and watched it 4-5 times before I returned it. The progression then went from re-reading some of Jane Austen’s novels to Austen-related books: sequels, variations, modern day adaptations, and so on. That (and my Nook) led me to Romance in general.

Book cover
Recently I won a giveaway on Goodreads for Sweet Madness, a Regency era romance, by Heather Snow. I rate almost all my reading on Goodreads but I haven’t written a lot of reviews. I did for this, seems only fair after winning the book.

The story is not a typical Regency romance. The hero, Gabriel Devereaux, served in the Napoleanic wars and suffers from battle fatigue (now known as PTSD). The heroine, Penelope Bridgeman, married his cousin, who had his own mental issues and then died after only a few months of marriage. Penelope turned from her loss to studying mental disorders and helping soldiers with battle fatigue. As their story begins, Gabriel has entered an asylum after his issues have escalated and he’s started having episodes of mania with hallucinations and violence. Penelope commits to saving Gabriel, convinced that he is not becoming truly insane, and their feelings and connection grow.

This is a lovely book. It’s not all sweet: it deals with things that are harsh and heartbreaking. But that is all balanced, actually overtaken, by warmth, decency, generosity, and, of course, love.

The story has depth. This is about two people who, while still young, each had hard, tragic experiences, and then worked to move on with their lives. They followed their instincts and found ways to cope. They’ve done much good helping others but in doing so have neglected their own healing. It’s together, as a couple, helping and caring for each other, that they will now begin to fully heal.

And the romance is well done. Penelope and Gabriel are both strong, intelligent, and admirable people. Their romance never feels forced or false; the author shows us its natural progression from the very start of her story.

This is the third book of a series but the first book I’ve read by the Heather Snow (definitely not the last). It never seemed like I was missing anything at all in the story jumping into the series at this point. The story grabbed me from the start and held me til the end.

Heather Snow’s website, so you can check out her series is here

another suspense thriller from Russell Brooks and a contest (woo!)

Book cover

Russell Brooks recently sent me an advance copy of his new book, Chill Run. I read and reviewed his previous two books, Pandora’s Succession and Unsavory Delicacies in the past and was happy to do the same for his newest one.

Chill Run centers around an aspiring author, Eddie Barrow, Jr. He’s been sending out manuscripts but getting only rejections back so far. He hasn’t given up on his dream, though, and when his friends suggest trying a risque publicity stunt with the idea of getting publishers to take notice of his manuscript, he decides to give it a go. Then the stunt backfires and Eddie and his friends end up on the run, trying to solve a murder that’s been falsely pinned on them. We learn about Eddie’s family and friendships, and follow his group along as they investigate the murders in order to exonerate themselves.

Overall, this is good read. As with Brooks’ first novel there are twists in the plot, a lot of details to give the book some depth, and good dialogue. The book moves right along, and you want to know what happens next. I liked Eddie and his friends and family, but I also was very annoyed at Eddie and his family at times. And then I felt Eddie had matured by the end of the book. This all means he’s realistic, someone you might meet sometime; his world is the everyday one we live in, despite his getting caught up in a fantastic episode. And that is a testament to the writing.

A brief aside: the novel features a fictional governor of New Hampshire and his wife. Just to be clear, our governor is not that sensational here in the Granite State. And I’m not sure we want one that is :-).

Russell Brooks has a contest running through 8pm EST, December 1, wherein you can win a free copy of the eBook version of Chill Run! You can read more about it in Russell’s blog post. Enter there or here, by leaving a comment below that includes your email address. His cat Clinton will pick 10 winners from those who enter.
You can get copies of the book at Russell’s website . You can also go directly to Barnes&Noble or Amazon .

Note: as I said, I was sent an advance copy to review but I wasn’t compensated or pressured about what to write.

tasty reviewing

Book cover

Russell Brooks sent me an advance copy of his latest book, Unsavory Delicacies, a set of three short stories, to read and review. I read his action/suspense spy novel, Pandora’s Succession, a while back and posted a review here.

Unsavory Delicacies contains three short stories with the common thread of fine food and fine dining. The stories are very well crafted; I enjoy Russell’s writing and I think it’s even better here than in his first book.

The first and third stories involve the hero of Pandora’s Succession, Ridley Fox, and it was fun to see him again. He is such a great character in Pandora’s Succession and these stories just add to my good opinion of him. I think these stories will also serve as an introduction to the man for new readers. They include a bit of Fox’s background, just enough to catch up a new reader and still not drag down the stories.

My favorite of the three is the first story: Crème Brûlée.  It has twists and turns and comes to a very satisfying finish (much like Crème Brûlée would be for a good meal).  But I want to go on record: the stereotypical portrayal of a computer nerd is not a universal truth.  There are certainly people who fit that description, but not all of us computer geeks are like that. :-)

The middle story, To the Last Bite, is standalone. It’s a tale with a twist. I was primed for that by a quip Russell made in sending me the review copy, but that didn’t hurt the story for me. I’ll just say it isn’t all sugar and spice, so be warned.

The third story is called Shashlyk and Morozhenoe.  I liked it but I also have a bit of a  quibble.  It has an ending and we aren’t left hanging about the story but it also seems to be a teaser for the next Ridley Fox novel, hinting at a future story.  Very glad there will be another book but that teaser element felt a bit  off for me.

On the whole, I liked this trilogy. Good writing, good stories. If you are squeamish about violence, it’s probably not for you but otherwise, I recommend it!

Note: as I said, I was sent an advance copy to review but I wasn’t compensated or pressured about what to write.

You can go here to order the book (ebook only, I believe).

a book reviewed: Pandora’s Succession

Book cover

And now for something different, at least here: a book review. I recently read Pandora’s Succession. It’s the first novel from Russell Brooks.

This is an spy/action/suspenseful thriller with some science (or maybe SF) thrown in. It’s not a genre I generally read; not sure it’s one I’ve ever read before, in fact. Don’t think it’s going to get me to start reading a ton of action thrillers now, but I enjoyed this ride. There’s a sequel in the works and I plan to be along for the fun then, too.

The story moves along quickly and is an easy read. Our hero is a super(b) spy type and very likable. He goes from one tense situation to another, sometimes getting out of a jam on his own, sometimes with help. There are dastardly villain types, and they come from multiple opposing camps, which helps keep the action going and makes for a more complex and interesting storyline. A lot of research went into the development here: there are a technical details included, often helping keep the fantastic story plausible, though I found they made things drag a bit a few times, too. Mostly the story just moves right along.

I did notice a few glitches in the text; seemed like a word was missing a few times and in one spot seemed like a few words might be missing. I understand this is due to conversion errors when the Nook version was created, and it didn’t bother me, but just letting you know.

In case you are inclined to want a rating, I give this a 3.5 out of 5. The book is available on Amazon and Barnes&Noble as an eBook, and while poking around on the author’s website, I found that there are buttons to buy four formats on the author’s website under the Store link.

Minor disclaimer: the author is one of my Twitter connections, and I suppose I might be predisposed to like the book, but I did enjoy the read. Besides, most of our conversations have been about cats, not his writing.

reverb10: party down

Okay, I signed up for #reverb10. It’s the now annual event, the continuation of #best09 from last year. A prompt a day, all month long, to contemplate 2010 and reveal 2011. In the way of my world, the evening after I signed up, I discovered a new Twitter book club and I joined in for that, too. So this will be a busy month.

December 9 – Party Prompt: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans. (Author: Shauna Reid)

My favorite gatherings this year have been game nights. A set of my friends gather, usually at my place, for a long evening playing board games and sometimes card games. One of the number is a game collector and enthusiast and he brings generally not-well-known, often foreign games to play. We generally go into the wee hours of the night. Lots of rum and cokes, pots of tea, pizza, chips, and pretzels are consumed each time.

The games are good ones. The rules may or may not be complicated, but the gameplay is almost always satisfying—even games with simple rules can make for challenging play. I can’t say I have a favorite kind. There have been betting games, map games of exploration and conquest, travel games, trump/card games, and so on. The game collector is a shrewd opponent and wins the most often but not always. One member of the group has strange strategies (or no strategies sometimes, just playing chaotically) and including him makes for most interesting play and outcomes.

I always have a lot of fun on game night. I don’t care if I win or not. I get upset if I think I played poorly, but winning isn’t the goal for me: fun is. The challenge of the game and playing well is it. My friends care more about winning, or at least not coming in last. I get that, but seems to me, that if you have a good time with friends and have fun playing, no matter how well you do, then you’ve won.