Posts tagged ‘Susan Elizabeth Phillips’

Favorite book moment: Natural Born Charmer

A few weeks ago I had written about one of my favorite book moments, the “letter scene” from Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Originally, I was just going to use it as a jumping off point to talk about other favorite scenes from contemporary novels. As posts sometimes do, though, it ran away from me, and I never did write about my other favorite book moments.

It was actually very easy to come up with a quick list of about 5 or 6 favorite scenes that I never tired of reading. This is the first one (after the letter scene) that was on that list, the opening scene from Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Natural Born Charmer.

The Book:

Natural Born Charmer It wasn’t every day a guy saw a headless beaver marching down the side of a road, not even in Chicago Stars quarterback Dean Robillard’s larger-than-life world. He slammed on the brakes of his brand-new Aston Martin Vanquish and pulled over in front of her.

The beaver marched right past, her big, flat tail bouncing in the gravel, and her small, sharp nose stuck up in the air. Way up. The beaver looked highly pissed . . .

She was definitely a girl beaver because her beaver head was missing, revealing sweaty, dark hair pulled into a scraggly ponytail. He’d been praying for a little distraction from his own depressing company, so he threw open the door and stepped out onto the shoulder of the Colorado road…

Funny, sexy, and touching—Natural Born Charmer is the unforgettable love story of a golden boy who might be losing his luster and a spirited woman who’s learned never to depend on anyone but herself.

The Set Up:

OK, so the opening scene of this book is so awesome that an edited version of it is actually used as the back cover description. So, really, the above description sets it up nicely.

The Scene:

The first scene begins with Dean seeing Blue (in her beaver costume) hitchhiking, and culminates with Blue decking her loser ex, and hitting the road with Dean. (Yes, a lot happens in the 9 1/2 page scene.)

“Meet cute” doesn’t even begin to describe when Dean and Blue first lay eyes on each other. “Meet hilarious” or “over the top intro” is more like it. Yet, for all of its outrageous-ness, the reader learns a lot about Dean’s and Blue’s characters.

Dean, at first glance, doesn’t really seem like hero material. He might be rich and beautiful, but he also appears to be shallow and vain. Yet, very quickly, SEP shows (this scene is the most amazing example of “showing not telling”) the reader that Dean wields that persona like a shield that is inserted between himself and the rest of the world. He also oozes a self-deprecating charm that makes him pretty darn irresistible.

This entire scene is seen through Dean’s perspective, and his pov allows some insight into his character, and how he sees Blue.

And Blue, herself, is a unique heroine. She is feisty and prickly, and in this scene she is a whisker away from snapping. Yet, there is a vulnerability about her, even when she is trying to tackle Monty, her ex, that keeps her from being strident and unlikeable.

Usually, the reader doesn’t meet the heroine when she’s at her lowest point. But, that is what happens here. Because, really, how much lower can you get than walking down a road in a beaver costume, trying to bum a ride?

Yet, it all works because this scene is so well balanced—feistyness/vulnerability, rage/silliness, superficiality/kindness.

I dare you to read (or listen to) this scene, and not get completely drawn into the story.

The first 4 chapters (and 1st page of chapter 5) are available through this “Browse Inside” widget.


Browse Inside this book
Get this for your site

And, a 5 minute audioclip of this scene is available through Audible:

Natural Born Charmer audio excerpt

Enjoy! :-)

July 1, 2010 at 5:00 am 16 comments

21 Author discoveries in 2009 (well, at least they’re new to me)

One of the ways I was able to limit myself to choosing only 5 for my Top Reads of 2009, was that I told myself I would acknowledge some really great new and new-to-me authors that I read last year. (This list is in no particular order.)

Here they are:

  1. JR Ward-Black Dagger Brotherhood

  2. Lover AvengedWell, duh. Honestly, I was sort of put off by the random h’s, “bro-talk” and ubiquitous brand-name-dropping that I had read was so prominent in this series. But, at the same time, so many people whose reading tastes I shared (and whose opinion I heeded) loved this series. They were so right. I call it my “Pringles” series. Totally fun to devour and completely irresistible. I’m waiting for Lover Avenged to come in from the library. I have found the controversial switch from a pnr style to more of a uf style hasn’t affected my enjoyment of this series.

  3. Suzanne Brockmann-Troubleshooters series

  4. Dark of NightDuh, again. Spec Ops/Military themed romances aren’t my first choice. But, this is another reason to read outside my comfort zone. Lori (among others) convinced me to give this series a try. And I have come to love not only the action-romance combo, but also the way the characters and their relationships grow over the course of the series. This is one of those series where, when I think I’ve chosen my favorite hero or couple, I keep remembering others, and have such a hard choosing just one. This is just such a consistently great series, and Suzanne Brockmann is a masterful writer.

  5. Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Her site.)

  6. Yeah, again, I’m sometimes late to the party. I won What I Did for Love over at Book Binge. It was celebrity romance, another theme I don’t really read. But, SEP writes both incredible characters and some of the best dialog around. Natural Born Charmer has become one of my Top 5 Contemporary Romances, as well as a “comfort listen”. I’m still working my way through her very lengthy backlist, and have only had 1 so-so read.. BTW, if you haven’t listened to SEP’s books in audio format, they are SO worth checking out.

  7. Jordan Castillo Price-PsyCop series, Hemovore

  8. Camp HellI’m SO digging Vic Bayne and the PsyCop universe. Tracy first turned me on to JCP’s Hemovore which was an awesome m/m parnormal romantic suspense. I’d heard great things about her PsyCop series, but just never got around to reading it (I think I melded it in my mind with RoboCop. :-P ) But, after enjoying Hemovore so much, I had to read it. Right now, Vic is one of my favorite misfit heroes: edgy, a loner, and still trying to figure out what Jacob is doing with a guy like him. The supernatural mysteries are tightly plotted and really absorbing. And, the chemistry between Vic and Jake is smoking. I’ve also got to say, the PsyCop book covers are among my favorite in the m/m genre.

  9. Loretta Chase (Her site.)

  10. Lord of ScoundrelsSO GLAD I listened to Carolyn, who told me I HAD to read Lord of Scoundrels. This is now one of my Top 5 Historical Romances. The dialogue is great, and I love how Loretta Chase can take a romantic convention and completely stand it on its head. In LoS, Jessica doesn’t treat Dain like the jaded rake that he projects, but nurtures  (sometimes with VERY tough love) the wounded child she sees inside of him. LC’s heroine’s are smart, and she always has a surprise for the  romance reader. So far, I haven’t been disappointed in a Loretta Chase book.

  11. Meredith Duran (Her site.)

  12. Bound by Your Touch was such a beautifully written book! I just wish the covers weren’t so cheesy. To me, they distract from the wonderful story inside. The story of Lydia’s and Sanburne’s romance was an exciting read. Also, there was a love scene in BbYT which was the best I’d read all year. It brought together the emotions and sex that really revealed so much about these two characters (and was incredibly hot.) I also enjoyed Written on Your Skin immensely, which involved characters introduced in BbYT. I’m not currently reading historicals, but when I’m back in the mood, I’ll definitely be picking up MD’s debut novel, Duke of Shadows. ETA: I forgot that I won this over at Ciara Stewart’s! And then, the lovely Rosie brought me a signed copy from RWA!! THANK YOU, ladies!

  13. Lauren Dane-Federation series

  14. Relentless by Lauren DaneRelentless (Book 2 in the Federation series) was such a surprise for me. I had seen it, and book 1, Undercover, around, but the plots hadn’t really caught my attention. Then, I went to a So Cal Bloggers get together, and it came home in my bag after one of our book swaps. Then, it blew me away. I was worried that starting with the 2nd book in the series would leave me confused, but Lauren Dane seamlessly weaves in the essential information from book 1 without ever seeming to info dump. I loved Relentless so much that I immediately went out and bought Undercover. I’ve also started LD’s shifter series, Cascadia Wolves, and have been told that her Chase Brothers series is also excellent.

  15. Ginn Hale-Wicked Gentlemen

  16. Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn HaleAuthor of one of my Top 5 books. I’d been hearing some buzz about this book, and then read a post by JenB  at the Den of Iniquity (her former blog) that made me HAVE to get this book. I’ve written ad nauseum about how much I love this spec fic m/m novel. But, really, it comes down to Ginn Hale’s wonderful story telling skills. Even in her short online story Shy Hunter, and her story in the Hell Cop anthology, it is clear that she has a way with characterization and plot. I’m eagerly looking forward to her Wicked Gentlemen sequel, as well as anything else written by her.

  17. Scott Westerfeld-Uglies series, Leviathan series

  18. Uglies by Scott WesterfeldScott Westerfeld has been around writing YA fantasy for ages, but I finally listened to his Uglies series this year, and was blown away. This series set in a futuristic society where everyone receives plastic surgery on their 16th birthday to make them “pretty” was not only an exciting read, but also much food for thought about accepted standards of beauty and the need/desire to conform to society’s norms. SW’s current release, Leviathan, is a steampunk adventure that takes place on the eve of WWI.

  19. Maggie Stiefvater-The Wolves of Mercy Falls (Shiver) series

  20. Shiver by Maggie StiefvaterI’ve had Maggie Stiefvater’s Lament on my tbb list for ages, but it was her new shifter book, Shiver that finally got me to read her books. Shiver really demonstrates what a multi-talented author she is. The prose is beautiful, the atmosphere is vivid and the characters were ones I really cared about. Maggie Stiefvater writes in a beautiful, lyrical style, and she is also very musically talented. (She wrote the music for as well as animated Shiver‘s book trailer-scroll down to bottom of linked page to view trailer.)

  21. LB Gregg-Men of Smithfield series

  22. Happy Ending by LB GreggI was nervous about reading a book by a person I knew (virtually) and then I was relieved to read the fun, sexy and fast-paced first installment in the MoS series, Gobsmacked. I love how LB has developed her stories around the rural NE town of Smithfield, and her men are guys I’d want to go out for drinks with. I’m also enjoying the  elements of suspense in this series, and I can’t wait for 2010 to bring MoS 4 and LB’s new series, Romano & Albright.

  23. Jill Sorenson (Her site.)

  24. I’m not a big romantic suspense reader, but Jill Sorenson’s debut novel, Crash Into Me was a great departure from my regular reading. I love the San Diego area setting of her 2 books, and the characters are original and compelling. One of my other favorite things about both Crash and Set the Dark on Fire are the strong secondary storylines featuring YA characters. The suspense plots kept me guessing, and even after I knew “who did it”, finding out the “why” kept me reading. I’m really looking forward to finding out what 2010 will have in store for Jill!

  25. Jill Shalvis-Wilder Adventures series

  26. Instant Attraction by Jill ShalvisJill Shalvis really knows the mountain setting (again, a part of California not often written about) she writes about, and her characters in the Wilder Brothers Adventures are interesting and sexy. I was worried that I’d be disappointed with Instant Attraction (book 1) after hearing so many raves for it. Luckily, it was as good as I heard, and Instant Gratification (book 2) was even better. Jill Shalvis takes characters that are sometimes a little hard to warm up to, like Emma in IG, and over the course of the book makes the reader understand why she is the way she is, and enjoy reading about her growth.

  27. Julie James (Her site.)

  28. Practice Makes PerfectHollywood and law firms are 2 settings I usually don’t enjoy in romance. Yet, Julie James proves that great writing will trump reading biases every time.  Great dialogue and character growth are my 2 favorite things about JJ’s books. Especially in Practice Makes Perfect, I LOVE how smug, arrogant lawyer JD Jameson is slowly revealed to be the great hero he is. There’s a scene toward the end of the book revealing a secret about JD that got to me so much I had to re-read the scene a couple of times to take it in. Can’t wait for Something About You, out in March.

  29. Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett (Their site.)

  30. Shadow MagicHavemercy reminded me a lot of Sarah Monette’s Doctrine of Labyrinths when I first picked it up (dark fantasy magical world told in alternating 1st person povs), but by the end of the novel, I felt like Jones and Bennett had set their own path. Then, with Shadow Magic, they took Havemercy’s world and made it even better. Their story-telling  is exciting and still is able to touch on themes like the act of storytelling, legend and myth, and the intersection of an individual’s story with the story of a culture. I love it when a writer’s books get progressively better, and I am really psyched to see what happens with this series in the upcoming Dragon Soul.

  31. Jane Seville-Zero at the Bone

  32. Zero at the BoneI meant to get around to reading Zero at the Bone for months, after seeing a review of it at Lesley’s. When I finally picked it up, I couldn’t believe I had waited so long. I loved the intense relationship between D and Dr Jack, and the action kept me riveted to my reader. As soon as I finished ZatB, I went to Jane Seville’s site, and read all the Jack and D short stories she has there. Now, I’m waiting like a kid with my nose pushed up against the pet store window looking at puppies, hoping for a new book by Jane Seville.

  33. Carolyn Jewel (Her site.)

  34. My Forbidden DesireI’ve come to love both her historicals and paranormal romances. Her beautiful prose style really smacked me upside the head when I read Scandal, and then when I read her pnr My series, Carolyn Jewel became one of my favorite all time authors. In fact, Scandal is on my Top 5 historical and 2009 Top 5 reads, and My Forbidden Desire is on my Top 5 pnr reads. (See sidebar on right for Top 5 links.) I think that what Carolyn Jewel does so well in these very different types of books is that she really gets inside the characters and lets the reader not just see, but also feel what they are feeling, be they a 19th century widow or a 21st century fiend.

  35. Gail Carriger-Alexia Tarabotti series (Soulless)

  36. Soulless By Gail Carriger

    I love checking out the Orbit release schedules to see what one of my favorite fantasy publishers has coming out. I’ve found more than one new author on their schedule that I’ve come to enjoy. This year, the cover for Soulless caught my attention, and the description of this steampunk paranormal made it at the top of my to be bought list when it was released. Gail Carriger’s smart and witty writing style made this book so much fun to read.

  37. Seanan McGuire-October Daye series (Rosemary and Rue)

  38. Rosemary and RueThis is on of my favorite new uf series that debuted this year. (Ilona Andrews’ The Edge series and Ann Aguirre’s Corine Solomon series would be my others.) Though, this is the only one by a debut novelist. I first saw this at Kmont’s, in a New Author Spotlight post. The story was dark and starts out quite melancholy (given what happens to Toby, it’s understandable) yet the action never bogs down in mopiness or self-conscious angsting. The world is very complex, but doesn’t info dump and Seanan McGuire allows it to be revealed naturally, through the action of the plot. I can’t wait for the rest of the series, starting with A Local Habitation, coming out in March.

  39. Jennifer Ashley-Highland Pleasures series (The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie)

  40. The Madness of Lord Ian by Jennifer AshleyThis was another book that had so much buzz, I was afraid to read it for fear of being disappointed. Luckily, for me, The Madness of Lord Ian was a wonderful historical romance. This wasn’t just because Lord Ian was such an unusual character (which he was) but also because I found Beth to be equally interesting. Now, in 2010 not only will Jennifer Ashley be releasing the next book in this series, Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage, but also the first book in her new pnr series, Pride Mates, which due to its shifter-y goodness, I’ll be really looking forward to as well.

  41. Samantha Kane (Her site.)

  42. Though Sam Kane’s m/m/f Brother’s in Arms series is better known, I first read her m/m romance, Islands. The romance and emotions blew me away. She is so great at showing how the characters feel about each other, whether it’s through a love scene, a conversation, or simple looks or touches between characters. Of course, after loving Islands so much, I did go back and read The Courage to Love (BIA 1). I’ve been meaning to get back to finish reading the  series, because I know that there are some great love stories to be told there.

PHEW! I feel so lucky that I found so many great new authors last year. They are now all on my upcoming books list as I look forward to their new releases, or on my to be bought booklist as I continue to read their backlist. A couple of things I noticed while compiling this LONG list:
Many of these were books I wouldn’t have picked up on my own. The were stories that were either outside of my comfort zone or had story lines that I don’t usually like.
The other thing was that I DID pick up these books because of other bloggers’ recommendations. So, a big THANK YOU to everyone who led me to these great authors.

Did you have any author discoveries in 2009 that you want to share?

January 5, 2010 at 4:00 am 14 comments

Comfort listens

This is my first post completely written post-arm-fracture. I’m trying out typing without my splint (I’ve been told I can start removing it occasionally), and if things go well (no swelling or pain) I’m hoping to resume regular blogging activity! ::fingers crossed::

There’s a lot written about “comfort reads”, and while I’m not a big re-reader, I do have one or two— Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion are the ones that immediately come to mind.
However, I actually turn more often to audiobooks for “comfort listens” and I actually have more of them than comfort reads.  I will turn to these audiobooks when I want something that I can really relax to while listening. And, often, it’s not just the story that makes me return to these audiobooks: it can also be the reader, or even the way the words flowing over me make me feel.
These books aren’t even necessarily my Top 5 audiobooks. This is mostly due to the fact that more than a few of my Top 5 audiobooks are epic stories, like the series: Outlander, Harry Potter, and Temeraire. For comfort, I tend turn more to the personal stories with which I can deeply identify (paranormal elements notwithstanding :-P ).

Here are a few of my comfort listens:

Sugar Daddy by Lisa KleypasSugar Daddy (Travis family series, book 1) by Lisa Kleypas

I’m an unabashed Kleypas fan-girl. And, while many of her books have made my Top 5 lists (and even more would make it into my Top 10s) Liberty Jones story just makes me feel good when I give it a listen. I’ve heard complaints about Jeannie Stith’s Texan accent, but honestly since I can’t tell if it’s authentic, it works for me. She also does a great job weaving this very intimate feeling between Liberty and the listener. It really feels as if Liberty is sitting down telling her story to a friend. Sometimes, when I need a little pick-me-up, I won’t even listen to the whole book. Just a few minutes of listening in to Liberty’s up-beat attitude lifts my spirits.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine HarrisThe Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris

This is actually one that’s on my Top 5 audiobook list as well as my Top 5 urban fantasy list. Johanna Parker’s narration takes it to the next level for me. Again, I’m no expert in regional accents, so I can’t really vouch for JP’s authenticity when it comes to Sookie’s northern Louisiana accent, but she really does capture Sookie’s self-deprecating charm and sense of humor way more than Anna Paquin ever has in the True Blood tv series. She also does a wonderful job with Eric’s deadpan (no pun intended) outrageous comments and Pam’s droll observations. After repeatedly listening to the first hour or so of Dead Until Dark whenever the mood hit, I finally decided to work my way through the entire series in audio format. Currently, I’m about to start my “audio re-read” of book 6, Definitely Dead.

BittenBitten by (Otherworld series, book 1) Kelley Armstrong

The Bitten audiobook is such a great blend of Kelley Armstrong’s incredible writing talent and Aasne Vigesaa’s moody, atmospheric reading. Unlike the Southern Vampire series, I first came across this book in audio format (in audiocassetes, no less!) So, in a lot of ways, AV’s voice really is Elena to me. Honestly, I’d read the phonebook is Kelley Armstrong wrote it, but not only is Bitten one of my favorite Kelley Armstrong novels, but one of my favortie novels, period. Fortunately, the audiobook version does it justice.

Natural Born CharmerNatural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

NBC is a new addition to my comfort listens. Again, I originally listened to this book rather than reading it, and I’m sure that has a lot to do with why this is going to be a regular visitor on my iPod. The late, incredibly talented Anna Fields has a lot to do with my enjoyment in listening to the story. I’ve been feeling the need to revisit Blue Bailey and Dean Robillard, especially after AnimeJune’s great review, and will probably load it up very soon.

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Something I notice is that while only 1 of these audiobooks made my Top 5, they all are at the top of my genre lists for contemporary romance or urban fantasy, as the case may be.

You know, it’s funny, but until I was writing this post I didn’t realize how greatly the readers of these audiobooks impact the fact that they are my comfort listens. I guess when it comes down to it, a book isn’t going to even be considered for an audio re-visit if the story isn’t compelling to me, but it’s my ability to truly connect with the characters that take these stories to that next level of comfort listens. To me, the narrator is the facilitator of that deeper connection.

November 5, 2009 at 5:00 am 14 comments

My Top 5 . . . Contemporary Romances

It’s been a crazy week, but I’ve really been looking forward to writing this post! Up until about a year ago, I hadn’t read contemporary romance in years. I mean, YEARS. However, 2 of the books listed below really turned me back on to it. I love the freshness and relate-ability of contemporary romance, and there are so many great authors out there!

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Sugar Daddy by Lisa KleypasSugar Daddy (Travis family series, bo0k 1) by Lisa Kleypas

This was one of those books that brought me back to reading contemporaries. I hadn’t really wanted to pick it up, based soley on the title. However, after falling in love with Kleypas’ historicals, I had to give this one a try.

Boy was I glad I did! This was one of the best books I read last year. I was completely sucked in to Liberty’s story of her adolescence and young adulthood, growing up poor, in a rural Texas town. Her childhood romance with Hardy is so poignant, and her positive attitude amid hardship make her one of my all time favorite heroines.

If I were to recommend 1 contemporary romance, this would be the one, hands down.

Read more about Sugar Daddy in my posts: Best Reads of 2008 (part 1-The Romance edition) and October 2008 Best Reads.

  • Lisa Kleypas’ site
  • Excerpt on author’s site. (Scroll down linked page.)

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Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa KleypasBlue-Eyed Devil (Travis family series, book 2) by Lisa Kleypas

Of course, after loving Sugar Daddy so much, I had to get my hands on this one! And, I loved it almost as much as Sugar Daddy (which will always be first with me!)

In a lot of ways, B-ED is a deeper, more serious novel, dealing with domestic violence. Haven is such a survivor, and boy does this book really tug at the heart strings. I loved seeing how her family really pulled together to support her, and the hero in this one was so well written!

I actually listened to both these books in audio format, BTW, and I thought they were both excellent.

  • Lisa Kleypas’ site.
  • Excerpt on author’s site. (Scroll down linked page.)

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Natural Born CharmerNatural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Just thinking about this book makes me smile.

NBC gives a whole new meaning to “meet cute” when football player Dean Robillard picks up sharp-tounged Blue Bailey, when she is stranded on the side of a rural road wearing a beaver costume.

I love Blue’s prickliness, and how she doesn’t let Dean charm the pants off of her. While SEP’s dialogue is snappy and there are lots of laugh out loud moments, NBC does have plenty of substance to sink my teeth into.

I LOVE the SEP audiobook productions, and the late Anna Fields captures Blue beautifully.

Read more about Natural Born Charmer in my posts: Just finished reading . . . and Current Reads.

  • Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ site.
  • Excerpt on author’s site. (Scroll down linked page.)
  • Browse InsideNatural Born Charmer.

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Flat Out Sexy by Erin McCarthyFlat-Out Sexy (Fast Track series, book 1) by Erin McCarthy

This was the second book that really made me take another harder look at contemps. I’d been hearing great things about it, but didn’t have too many expectations. However, it was such a satisfying, thoroughly enjoyable book!

I loved stock car racer Elec’s intense, single-minded pursuit of the slightly older Tamara, who is raising her 2 kids alone after losing her race car driver husband in a crash during a race.

Their chemistry together just burns up the pages. The conflicts they are dealing with — Tamara’s issues with being older than Elec, and not wanting to get involved with another driver, are pretty straight forward. In the end, though, it’s just such a well done book, that it was a natural for my Top 5.

Read more about Flat-Out Sexy in my post: November’s (2008) Best Reads.

  • Erin McCarthy’s site.
  • Excerpt on author’s site. (Scroll down linked page.)

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Just One of the Guys by Kristan HigginsJust One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins

This is another book that had me laughing out loud while I was reading. Chastity, like Sugar Daddy‘s Liberty, is one of those heroines I’d want to be friends with. She’s down to earth, a little klutzy, and has a little bit of growing up to do.

I found myself rooting for her as she negotiates her way through disastrous dates, parental squabbles, and overbearing older brothers.

The book isn’t flawless, but I was more than willing to overlook that since it was just so much damn fun to read.

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It was really hard for me to leave a few books off this list, so I’m going to fudge a little, but including a couple of honorable mentions:

What are your top 5 contemporary romances?

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Don’t forget to enter my giveaway!  Go to this post and enter to win TWO books from my Top 5 lists. You have until Monday, August 31, 2009 to enter.

Good luck!

August 27, 2009 at 5:00 am 11 comments

Just finished reading . . . Swallowing Darkness & Natural Born Charmer

Yesterday, I had so much fun over at DIK Island. There were some wonderful suggestions in the comments for some additions to my fantasy casting post!

I finished a couple of audiobooks over the last couple of days. I already posted about Natural Born Charmer about a week or 2 ago, while I was listening to it, so that review will be a quickie:

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Swallowing Darkness (Merry Gentry series, book 7) by Laurell K Hamilton

This complexly plotted series is definitely one to be read in order. If you are interested in starting this series, it’s worth starting with book 1, A Kiss of Shadows.

Here’s the book description:

I am Meredith, princess of faerie, wielder of the hands of Flesh and Blood, and at long last, I am with child – twins, fathered by my royal guard. Though my uncle, Taranis, King of Light and Illusion, claims that he is the true father since he abducted me from my home, betrayed, and defiled me. And now he has branded my guards as a threat to my unborn children.

Bearing an heir has placed me halfway to my aunt’s throne, that much closer to my reign over the Unseelie Court – and well ahead of her son, my cousin Cel, in this race. Now I must stay alive to see my children born and claim my place as queen.

But not all in faerie are pleased with the news, and conspirators from every court in the realm plot against me and mine. They seek to strip my guards, my lovers, from me by poisoned word or cold steel. But I still have supporters, and even friends, among the goblins and the sluagh, who will stand by me.

I am Meredith Nic Essus, and those who would defy and destroy me are destined to pay a terrible price – for I am truly my father’s daughter. To protect what is mine, I will sacrifice anything–even if it means waging a great battle against my darkest enemies and making the most momentous decision ever made as princess of faerie.

Swallowing Darkness by Laurell K. Hamilton

There is definitely a feeling that this series is coming to an ultimate conclusion. Merry and her men are pretty much a fixed group, now. The men are (mostly) accepting of each other, and tied together by their love and devotion to Merry and their unborn children. The struggle between the Seelie, Unseelie, and Merry’s group has never been more desperate.
There’s something that happens to me when I read this series, where while I’m listening to (or reading) it, I am utterly compelled and find it exciting and interesting.  Yet, later, when I intellectually think about the story, it doesn’t fare as well. It’s like LKH creates this world that is very emotionally satisfying for me on some level, and I’m happy as long as the bubble doesn’t burst. IDK, I’m still struggling to figure this out.

At least as far as the spiritual element of this book, Swallowing Darkness was the best in the series with how she explained the metaphysical connection Merry has with the Goddess, with the world around her, and with her men. It was, for me, the most interesting part of the book.

One thing that had me scratching my head about Swallowing Darkness, was that the 2nd love scene— there were only 2 in the book, which is unusal for this series — felt sort of random, and tacked on as an afterthought.

There was, however, plenty of battle action, which kept the book moving along. So much happens in each book, yet with LKH’s writing style, it always happens in an extremely short period of time. Most books, if they were to take place over the course of 1 night would be excruciating to read. But, time flows so differently in these books, and LKH really makes it work.

Swallowing Darkness was an excellent audiobook production, narrated by Claudia Black. (Stargate, Farscape) Book 8, Divine Misdemeanors, will be released October 2009.

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Natural Born Charmer (Chicago Stars series, book 7) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I had featured this book in a Current Reads post a week or two ago, and it was as much fun as I thought it was going to be!

Here’s the book description:

Chicago Stars quarterback Dean Robillard is the luckiest man in the world: a bona-fide sports superstar and the pride of the NFL with a profitable side career as a buff billboard model for End Zone underwear. But life in the glory lane has started to pale, and Dean has set off on a cross-country trip to figure out what’s gone wrong. When he hits a lonely stretch of Colorado highway, he spies something that will shake up his gilded life in ways he can’t imagine. A young woman . . . dressed in a beaver suit.

Blue Bailey is on a mission to murder her ex. Or at least inflict serious damage. As for the beaver suit she’s wearing . . . Is it her fault that life keeps throwing her curveballs? Witness the expensive black sports car pulling up next to her on the highway and the Greek god stepping out of it.

Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Not to be redundant, but this was such a charming book! Tuesday, I finally got to the point where I hated only being able to listen to it from the car, and brought it in the house so I could finish it. I lugged my laptop around with me, like the world’s biggest iPod, and finally stayed up far too late that night, so I could finish it.

As funny and light a book that this was, the characters also had enough depth and complexity to make it really satisfying. An unexpected bonus was, it turned out that few of the characters that I had just read about in What I Did for Love (my post here) were introduced in Natural Born Charmer.

I will definitely be tracking down more of SEP’s books!

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April 23, 2009 at 6:00 am 10 comments

Current reads . . . Natural Born Charmer

Natural Born Charmer (Chicago Stars series, book 7) Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I’m breaking a few (of my quirky mostly nonsensical) rules with this (audio)book.

Usually, I’m sort of compulsive about listening to a series in order. However, I ran out of cd audiobooks to listen to while driving around in the car. I have plenty in digital format, but since my iPod is long gone, my car’s cd player is the only way to go when I’m driving around town. This book was available at the library for immediate pick up, and I thought it gave new meaning to the phrase “meet cute.” And, from the description and excerpt it didn’t seem too dependent on the previous books in the series.

Also, I’m breaking my typical “no romances with celebrities” rule, since I enjoyed SEP’s What I Did for Love so much (which features movie stars.)

I guess rules were made to be broken! :-P

Here is a book description from the author’s site:

Chicago Stars quarterback Dean Robillard is the luckiest man in the world: a bona-fide sports superstar and the pride of the NFL with a profitable side career as a buff billboard model for End Zone underwear. But life in the glory lane has started to pale, and Dean has set off on a cross-country trip to figure out what’s gone wrong. When he hits a lonely stretch of Colorado highway, he spies something that will shake up his gilded life in ways he can’t imagine. A young woman . . . dressed in a beaver suit.

Blue Bailey is on a mission to murder her ex. Or at least inflict serious damage. As for the beaver suit she’s wearing . . . Is it her fault that life keeps throwing her curveballs? Witness the expensive black sports car pulling up next to her on the highway and the Greek god stepping out of it.

Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

So far this is a wonderful, fun book! I’m driving around, with a silly grin on my face and cackling to myself. I love Blues and Dean’s interior monologues. They are so different from each other in their views of the world.

I always know an audiobook is really good when I want to stay in the car listening, eventhough I’ve arrived at my destination, and I’m sad that it can’t come in the house with me. I feel this way about NBC.

This audiobook, is narrated by the always excellent Anna Fields (who tragically passed away 3 years ago.)

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April 14, 2009 at 1:31 pm 7 comments

Just finished reading . . . What I Did for Love

What I Did for Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips What I Did for Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

This is the first book I’ve read by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. (Yes, I must live under a rock.) I won it from the wonderful ladies over at Book Binge, after SEP was interviewed on the blog. Despite the fact that I’m not usually that into reading stories about famous people — movie stars, rock stars, sports figures (which sort of explains my SEP virgin status) — this story intrigued me when I read the BB interview and book description, because it’s about actors whose big moment is past — their legendary sitcom ended 8 years before the book opens — and are trying to figure out “where do they go from here.” (Which is something I do like to read about.)

Here’s the book description:

It’s not easy being famous when your life is falling apart . . . Georgie York has been dumped by her movie star husband, her own film career is tanking, and her public image as a spunky romantic heroine is taking a serious beating. What should a down-on-her-luck actress do? NOT go to Vegas . . . NOT run into her detestable former co-star — dreamboat-from-hell Bramwell Shepard . . . and NOT get caught up in a ridiculous incident that leads to a calamitous elopement. Before she knows it, Georgie has a fake marriage, fake husband, and maybe (or not) a fake sex life.

It’s a paparazzi free-for-all, and Georgie’s non-supporting cast doesn’t help. There’s Bram’s punk-nightmare housekeeper; Georgie’s pushy parent; a suck-up agent; an icy studio head; and her ex-husband’s new wife, an international do-gooder who just might win the stupid Nobel Peace Prize!

As for Georgie’s leading man . . . Bram, with his angel blue eyes and twisted black heart, has never cared about anyone but himself. Still, he’s giving the performance of his life as man in love — thanks to the half a million dollars she’s paying him. It was official. She’d married the devil. Or had she?

Two enemies find themselves working without a script in a town where the spotlight shines bright . . . and where the strongest emotions can wear startling disguises.

I really enjoyed WIDfL. It was funny, romantic, and while I don’t necessarily read books about stars, I’ll admit I’ve watched the E! Channel more than a little bit, so this “inside” look at celebs and paparazzi was an entertaining read.

I really had my doubts about Bram as a leading man. The first couple of scenes with him don’t show him in a very likeable or sympathetic light, and revelations about his past behavior added to the marks I had against him. I didn’t know how he was going to redeem himself, but slowly, over the course of the novel, he does. And, not in a convenient “he was a dick until he met HER” or “while he was behaving like an asshole, he was guarding a deep dark secret that excuses his behavior” or “his horrible childhood make his present jerky-ness OK,” that sometimes gets trotted out in books. Instead, Bram is a character who really was a bit of an asshole when he was young, and has/is slowly growing-up and out of it — though he’s not there, yet. I LOVE seeing character growth, and Bram does a prodigious amount of it over the course of the book.

Georgie is also a person in transition. At the opening of the book, she is mobbed by paparazzi who want reactions to news about her ex and his new wife. She’s devastated, heart-broken, and struggling to maintain the perky image that made her famous as a teenage sitcom star. She realizes over the course of the book that it’s time to grow up, and sets about to do so in the chaotic aftermath of her Vegas adventure with Bram.

WIDfL is as much about 2 people growing up as it is about their coming together.

Another thing I enjoy in books, that WIDfL has in spades is good strong secondary characters. They were written in a way that reminded me of great “ensemble cast” TV shows like Frasier, Seinfeld, or I Hate Earl. It never feels like time spent with Paul (Georgie’s dad,) Chazz (Bram’s punky housekeeper,) or Linda (Georgie’s agent,) is wasted time. Their characters are fully developed, and their scenes are entertaining.

I’ll definitely be reading more books by SEP. When she was interviewed at Book Binge, she spoke about a character who has been featured in a couple of past books whose story she will be soon telling. (Teddy?) Being the series-ho that I am, I must read in order, so my next SEP will be Fancy Pants, where he’s introduced.

March 24, 2009 at 11:59 am 13 comments


Vintage pin-up girl reading
Urban Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, Mystery, M/M, Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, audiobooks, it just goes on and on...
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