Monday, May 31, 2010

First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh


First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh is the first book in a new series which focuses on the four Huxtable siblings... Margaret, Vanessa, Katherine and Stephen. Orphaned after the death of their vicar father, they have been living a quiet life in a small village. Their lives change significantly when Elliott Wallace, Viscount Lyngate, arrives to give the Huxtable Family shocking news. Due to the recent death of a distant family member, the teenage Stephen has become the next Earl of Merton. Loath to allow their brother to be taken off to a new home and educated in society without them, all three sisters agree to go with him.

Elliott is not happy about this development since he is already the guardian of the underage Stephen and responsible for teaching him how to manage his properties and educating him as a gentleman. Now he will have to introduce Stephen's sisters into society as well. None of Elliott's female relatives are available to help the sisters so the ideal solution is for Elliott to marry and have his wife perform that duty. And if his wife happens to be one of the sisters, all the better. That only leaves two left to marry off. It's not like he has any romantic notions about marriage, he knows he needs to marry and produce an heir. Elliott decides to offer for the eldest sister, Margaret, since she is beautiful and has been taking care of her younger siblings since the death of her father. The second eldest sister, Vanessa, has a different plan, however. Vanessa knows that Margaret is in love with someone else, but duty to her family would compel her to accept Elliott's proposal anyway. Although considered plain, Vanessa has a vivacious personality and is a widow. She also doesn't have any romantic notions about her future prospects so she persuades Elliott to marry her instead. Somewhere along the way, their marriage of convenience becomes an enduring romance, something neither one of the them could have anticipated.

The great thing about Ms. Balogh's books is that they all tend to be related. There are clear series dealing with specific families, but the series are frequently tied together by guest appearances from characters in other books. In essence, all of her books are part of one large series... and there are alot of books in that series. The other thing I like about this author is her ability to take a simple relationship story and make it interesting. There isn't alot of action or intrigue in her books, and yet every one of hers that I have read is a total page turner. I have no idea how she does it, I just enjoy the ride.

BEST FEATURE: The plain girl gets the gorgeous guy. The idea that a girl can use her personality to overcome an imperfect appearance has always been a popular concept with me. Fans of this type of story should also check out the Lifetime TV series, Drop Dead Diva.

WORST FEATURE: The behind the scenes development of the male lead. This book tells the story from both Vanessa's and Elliott's perspectives, but I felt that only Vanessa's emotional development was shown in its entirety. Elliott got to the same place in the end, but I don't feel that how he got there was fully explored.

PARENTAL WARNING: no violence and sexual content that isn't overly explicit.

MY RATING: 4 - Mary Balogh is one of the best Regency Romance authors out there and this book is just more proof of that... not that she needed it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Upcoming book releases - Julia Quinn

Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn
Release date: May 25, 2010
Sebastian Grey's story, a character last seen in What Happens in London

Upcoming book releases - Sherrilyn Kenyon

No Mercy by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Release date: August 3, 2010
Continuation of the Dark Hunter series

Upcoming book releases - Sherrilyn Kenyon

Infinity: Chronicles of Nick by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Release date: May 25, 2010
Prequel to the Dark Hunter series

Amazon description:
At fourteen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him. Streetwise, tough and savvy, his quick sarcasm is the stuff of legends. . .until the night when his best friends try to kill him. Saved by a mysterious warrior who has more fighting skills than Chuck Norris, Nick is sucked into the realm of the Dark-Hunters: immortal vampire slayers who risk everything to save humanity.

Nick quickly learns that the human world is only a veil for a much larger and more dangerous one: a world where the captain of the football team is a werewolf and the girl he has a crush on goes out at night to stake the undead.
But before he can even learn the rules of this new world, his fellow students are turning into flesh eating zombies. And he’s next on the menu.
As if starting high school isn't hard enough. . .now Nick has to hide his new friends from his mom, his chainsaw from the principal, and keep the zombies and the demon Simi from eating his brains, all without getting grounded or suspended. How in the world is he supposed to do that?

Upcoming book releases - Richelle Mead

Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead
Release date: May 18, 2010
Book 5 of the Vampire Academy series

Amazon description:
After a long and heartbreaking journey to Dimitri's birthplace in Siberia, Rose Hathaway has finally returned to St. Vladimir's-and to her best friend, Lissa. It is nearly graduation, and the girls can't wait for their real lives beyond the Academy's iron gates to begin. But Rose's heart still aches for Dimitri, and she knows he's out there, somewhere.
She failed to kill him when she had the chance. And now her worst fears are about to come true. Dimitri has tasted her blood, and now he is hunting her. And this time he won't rest until Rose joins him... forever.

Upcoming book releases - Johanna Lindsey

That Perfect Someone by Johanna Lindsey
Release date: June 15, 2010
Continuation of the Malory family series

Amazon description:
Nine years ago, Richard Allen fled England and his controlling father. Determined to live his own life, he took to the sea and settled in the Caribbean, joining a band of treasure-hunting pirates and adopting the persona of a carefree, seductive Frenchman named Jean Paul to guard the secrets of his past. When he slips back into England to carry out an urgent task, Richard becomes infatuated with a married woman, Georgina Malory. But his reckless attempt to woo Georgina at a masked ball turns out to be the worst mistake of his life because it brings him face to face with another beautiful woman.
Thrilled that her solicitors have finally come up with a way to free her from her betrothal contract to the Earl of Manford’s son who abandoned her years ago, heiress Julia Miller is ready for the marriage mart and hopes to find that perfect someone at her friend Georgina’s ball. Charmed by a masked Frenchman who gives her her first kiss, she can’t help but pursue this mysterious man—until she makes a shocking discovery. Now, to avoid falling into a ruthless nobleman’s trap, Julia must enter a risky, intimate charade with a man she never believed she could love.

Upcoming book releases - Lisa Kleypas

Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas
Release date: June 29, 2010
Continuation of the Hathaway family series

Amazon description:
As a lover of animals and nature, Beatrix Hathaway has always been more comfortable outdoors than in the ballroom. Even though she participated in the London season in the past, the classic beauty and free-spirited Beatrix has never been swept away or seriously courted…and she has resigned herself to the fate of never finding love. Has the time come for the most unconventional of the Hathaway sisters to settle for an ordinary man—just to avoid spinsterhood?

Captain Christopher Phelan is a handsome, daring soldier who plans to marry Beatrix’s friend, the vivacious flirt Prudence Mercer, when he returns from fighting abroad. But, as he explains in his letters to Pru, life on the battlefield has darkened his soul—and it’s becoming clear that Christopher won’t come back as the same man. When Beatrix learns of Pru’s disappointment, she decides to help by concocting Pru’s letters to Christopher for her. Soon the correspondence between Beatrix and Christopher develops into something fulfilling and deep…and when Christopher comes home, he’s determined to claim the woman he loves. What began as Beatrix’s innocent deception has resulted in the agony of unfulfilled love—and a passion that can’t be denied…

Upcoming book releases - Lisa Kleypas

Married by Morning by Lisa Kleypas
Release date: May 25, 2010
A continuation of the Hathaway family series.

Amazon description:
For two years, Catherine Marks has been a paid companion to the Hathaway sisters—a pleasant position, with one caveat. Her charges’ older brother, Leo Hathaway, is thoroughly exasperating. Cat can hardly believe that their constant arguing could mask a mutual attraction. But when one quarrel ends in a sudden kiss, Cat is shocked at her powerful response—and even more so when Leo proposes a dangerous liaison.
Leo must marry and produce an heir within a year to save his family home. Catherine’s respectable demeanor hides a secret that would utterly destroy her. But to Leo, Cat is intriguing and infernally tempting, even to a man resolved never to love again. The danger Cat tried to outrun is about to separate them forever—unless two wary lovers can find a way to banish the shadows and give in to their desires…

Upcoming book releases - Stephenie Meyer

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
Release date: June 5, 2010

Amazon description:
Fans of theTwilight saga will be enthralled by this riveting story of Bree Tanner, a character first introduced in Eclipse, and the darker side of the newborn vampire world she inhabits. In another irresistible combination of danger, mystery, and romance, Stephenie Meyer tells the devastating story of Bree and the newborn army as they prepare to close in on Bella Swan and the Cullens, following their encounter to its unforgettable conclusion.

Upcoming book releases - Mary Balogh

A Secret Affair by Mary Balogh
Release date: May 18, 2010
Final book in the Huxtable family series

Amazon description:
“The Devil was about to be tamed.” Her name is Hannah Reid. Born a commoner, she has been Duchess of Dunbarton ever since she was nineteen years old, the wife of an elderly duke to whom she has been rumored to be consistently and flagrantly unfaithful. Now the old duke is dead and, more womanly and beautiful than ever at thirty, Hannah has her freedom at last.

And she knows just what she wants to do with it. To the shock of a conventional friend, she announces her intention to take a lover—and not just any lover, but the most dangerous and delicious man in all of upper-class England: Constantine Huxtable.

Constantine’s illegitimacy has denied him the title of Earl, so now he denies himself nothing . . . or so the ton would have it. Rumored to be living the free and easy life of a sensualist in his country estate, he always chooses recent widows for his short-lived affairs. Hannah will fit the bill nicely.

But once these two passionate and scandalous figures find each other, they discover that it isn’t so easy to extricate oneself from the fires of desire—without getting singed. For the duchess and the dark lord each have startling secrets to reveal, and when all is said and done, neither will be able to say which one fell in love first, who tamed whom, and who has emerged from this game of hearts with the stronger hand.

Old Magic by Marianne Curley


Kate is a teenager living in a small mountain town in Australia. She doesn't consider herself to be pretty, and she certainly isn't popular. Her mother ran off when Kate was just a baby, leaving her to be raised by her grandmother, Jillian. Jillian and Kate are witches and the whole town suspects the truth even though they have been careful not to publicly demonstrate their abilities. Things start to look up when a new boy arrives in town. Jarrod Thornton is cute, if somewhat clumsy, and has powerful abilities he doesn't even seem to be aware of.

Any romantic hopes Kate has for Jarrod are quickly dashed when she discovers that he is in complete denial of his abilities. He thinks she's crazy for believing in such things. He has a desperate need to fit in so he hangs out with the in-crowd and is embarrased to even be seen with Kate. Jarrod might be oblivious to his gift, but he can't ignore the curse that is hanging over his family. As the bad luck, injuries, and accidents begin to intensify, Jarrod comes to share Kate's belief that someone with knowledge of the black arts cursed one of his ancestors with misfortune, a curse that has been inherited by each subsequent generation. The only way for Jarrod to stop the curse is to travel back in time and prevent it from being cast in the first place.

This book starts out slow. So slow, in fact, that I would put it down and then not be too excited about getting back into it again. Things improve tremendously when Jarrod and Kate travel back in time to stop the curse. There is alot more action and the characters are finally given a chance to develop a relationship. Up until that point, their tentative friendship wasn't really believable, what with Kate thinking he was a spineless coward and Jarrod thinking she was crazy. I was starting to wonder why they even wanted to be in the same room with each other. If you can get past the early stage of the book, you will be rewarded with a more interesting story and characters. The ending may be predictable, but it's still satisfying.

BEST FEATURE: The time travel. I'm always a sucker for this plot device. It's even more intriguing when the characters run across ancestors or descendants, depending on what direction in time they're traveling. Who hasn't mused about what life would be like if you go back and correct your mistakes?

WORST FEATURE: Part one of the book. I haven't read too many books that have started out this badly. Normally, the first few chapters of the book are written to grab your attention and draw you into the story. The author needs to make you care about these characters so that you keep reading. In this case, the first part of this book introduces the main characters, but you don't really care about them until part two.

PARENTAL WARNING: minor violence; sexual content is minimal and mostly consists of kissing

MY RATING: 2.5 - The beginning of the book drags it down, but it's still an interesting read nonetheless.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Parenthood Poem by Lynn Moyle

During the sleepless nights,

And the endless teen year fights,

The joys of parenthood seem so elusive.

Are we being too hard? Are we being fair?

Who knew it could hurt so much to care?

Other parents make it look so easy.

You don’t notice it until you look to the past,

That it’s the small moments that are made to last.

Nothing in this lifetime will ever be this special.

It’s that small hand in yours, the “look-at-me’s’,

Bedtime stories, and scuffed up knees.

Are we there yet?

It’s about letters to Santa Claus and toothless grins,

And knowing when to teach them that not everybody wins.

What’s for dinner?

The first day of school, making friends,

Co-ed parties, and following the trends.

Can I borrow the car?

Graduations, college expenses,

Engagement rings, and wedding dresses.

The road may be long, but time passes quickly.

In the trying times that are bound to lie ahead,

Remember this poem and keep a cool head.

Because no matter what your kids say or do, eventually they will admit that they love you too.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead


One of the advantages of discovering a book series that is already four books long is that you can read them all back to back. That's what I ended up doing with the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. I had originally planned to read the first book and then move on to some other books in my stack before reading the rest of the books in the series. I quickly changed my mind.

Vampire mythology in literature can differ from author to author. In Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy, there are two different types of vampires: the Moroi and the Strigoi. The Moroi are a mortal race of vampires that only needs blood as a supplement to a normal human diet. They do not kill to get that blood and usually get it from willing volunteers. Moroi can also walk in the sunlight, even though it weakens them, and they can do magic. The Strigoi are immortal vampires who usually kill their victims for blood. They are super fast and strong, the ultimate predator. Anyone who drinks a Strigoi's blood prior to death will become a Strigoi. A Strigoi that was formally a Moroi can no longer perform magic. Moroi are born, Strigoi are made.

The series is told in first person by Rose Hathaway. Rose is a Dhampir, half human, half vampire. Dhampirs are faster and stronger than Moroi and move about undetected in the human world, unaffected by the sun. Their abilities make them ideal for protecting their weaker Moroi cousins. Dhampirs who decide to go through the training can become guardians and are assigned to individual Moroi for their personal protection. Rose is a student at St. Vladimir's Academy where she is training to be a guardian. The academy also educates Moroi in the use of magic as well as the traditional school courses. Rose's best friend is Lissa Dragomir, the last of one of the Royal lines of Moroi. Because of their close friendship and an unusual supernatural bond, it's a virtual certainty that Rose will be Lissa's guardian when they graduate from the academy. It is concern for Lissa's safety that causes Rose to run away from the academy with Lissa in tow.

Their freedom can't last forever and after two years of living among humans, Rose and Lissa are captured and returned to the academy in disgrace. The danger that caused them to run away still exists, but there is some consolation in returning to their friends. Each girl will discover new revelations about themselves and their relationship. They will also manage to fall for guys who are deemed inappropriate by their respective cultures. All this while trying to evade the hidden danger that stalks them.

Book Two: Frostbite

A nearby Strigoi attack has put St. Vladimir's Academy and parents on edge during the holiday season so the Moroi royal families have invited all the students and their families to stay at a luxurious ski resort with sufficent security to keep everyone safe. Rose would normally be excited about this, but she feels like a bit of a third wheel around her best friend Lissa, and Lissa's new boyfriend, Christian. Rose is also jealous that her friend can have an open relationship since the guy Rose is in love with, Dimitri, is also her trainer and considered too old for her. She suspects he feels the same way about her, but he won't give in to his feelings because his sense of honor and responsibility are too strong. He is trying to move on with another woman, but even though there is a perfectly nice guy interested in Rose, she can't seem to shake her feelings for Dimitri long enough to reciprocate.

After three fellow students leave the resort to hunt down some Strigoi after another brutal attack, Rose and Christian go after them in an attempt to prevent them from getting hurt. Unfortunately Rose's worst nightmare plays out with tragic results.

Book Three: Shadow Kiss

Rose and Lissa return to St. Vladimir's Academy to deal with the fallout from what happened at the ski resort with some excess baggage in the form of Adrian Ivashkov. He has abilities similar to Lissa's and has come back to the academy as a guest so they can work together to learn more. Lissa's boyfriend, Christian, isn't too happy about that even though Adrian is clearly more interested in Rose romantically.

There is only one guy that Rose is interested in, however, and that's Dimitri. He may be older than her and her teacher, but the heart wants what the heart wants. She is determined to make this work no matter what.

Never a dull moment at St. Vladimir's. Due to weakened wards, a large group of Strigoi are able to get on campus resulting in a legendary battle that even Rose and her fellow novice guardians are forced to play a role in. In war, even when you win a battle you can still lose. Rose suffers a horrible loss and must decide between her best friend and the man she loves.

 Book Four: Blood Promise


Rose and Dimitri made a promise to each other that if one of them was ever turned into a Strigoi, the other one would kill them to save their eternal soul. When Dimitri was captured by Strigoi during the battle at St. Vladimir's Academy and turned, Rose knew she needed to keep her promise. She decided to leave the academy on the day of her 18th birthday, leaving her best friend behind.

Rose starts her search in Dimitri's homeland, Russia. While still mourning his loss and struggling with how she could possibly kill the man she loves, Rose travels the country, making allies and killing random Strigoi along the way. Through her bond with Lissa, she is able to check in at home and discovers that all is not well with her best friend. Lissa is lost without Rose and falls into a party life-style with new friends which will ultimately lead to several poor decisions. Torn between her promise to Dimitri and needing to go home to her best friend, Rose decides to continue her search.

Her plan was simple, find Dimitri and kill him. Rose should have known better. Not only was she not prepared to see him again, she was not prepared for how much he still resembled the man she loved, in so many ways. Now she has another decision to make... kill him or let him kill her so they can be together forever.


Bella and Edward who? For me, this series blew Twilight away, which had been the recent gold standard for supernatural love stories. There's alot going on here than just a love story. Rose has to make some agonizing choices and most of them have realistic and devastating consequences. All four books were impossible to put down. I think I set a new personal best time for how fast I could read a book without totally abandoning my family. The world that Richelle Mead has created is imaginative and compelling. I'm anxiously awaiting book 5 which should be out in a couple of weeks.

BEST FEATURE: It's hard to pick any one thing, but the story and the characters who are living it are the main event here.

WORST FEATURE: Poor editing... especially in the first two books. It was frequently annoying and something that a good proofreading software could prevent.

PARENTAL WARNING: violence and minor sexual content; appropriate for teens

MY RATING: 4.5 for the series overall. A totally addictive read.