Saturday, November 19

Doctor's Delight by Angela Verdenius

Book 1 in the Big Girl’s Lovin’ series

Cherry is getting older and she’s still a virgin. Getting desperate to have her ‘cherry popped’ she contacts Helen at the escort agency, and arranges for a man to meet her at a hotel room. She meets the man there, has wonderful, blow-your-mind sex with him, then pays and leaves while he sleeps. The next day she gets a call from the escort agency saying the man, Damien, got into an accident and couldn’t meet her last night, explaining how sorry the agency is. So who did Cherry have sex with? She finds out when she heads to work (she’s a nurse) and sees the new doctor, Rick Reed. Looks like things at work are about to heat up

I’d like to start off by saying I really liked the heroine of this story. Cherry is a plus-sized heroine with plus-sized fears and insecurities. I myself am thin, I’ve always been thin, and it’s very likely I will remain thin. I’ve never had to worry about my size, or see models way, way thinner than me prancing about in bras and panties as the only definition of sexy. I felt bad for Cherry because I could realistically see why she was so insecure, and consequently it made the story of her discovering her own self-worth very moving. It was a great idea to pick a plus-sized heroine, because it’s original. A great idea with good execution. Well done, Verdenius!

However, there were some things that dimmed my enjoyment of the story. First, our hero was a bit of a cad. Rick comes off as domineering, crude, and way too forward for my tastes. While I liked how good he was to Cherry at the beginning of the novel, he was kind of an inconsiderate brute. A jerk. A dick. I didn’t like him. And my like for him didn’t grow exponentially throughout the novel, so I ended up with an overall sense of ‘meh’-ness as far as his character was concerned.

The story was a little cliché and moved pretty slowly, but it wasn’t unbearable or completely uninteresting – but it wasn’t a book I was wholly unable to put down and therefore is best read in a few sittings. There was a lot of humor interjected, though the syntax was a little awkward in places. Other than Cherry who was multi-layered and well-developed, the rest of the characters were static, flat, and stereotypical – down to the bitchy, thin girl, the evil teenage boys and the crazy BFFs. I might be wrong in saying this, but I don’t hear that many people making fun of the fat girls at my school, or indeed the fat girls at the pool at my local YMCA. The sheer number of torments Cherry went through seemed a little unrealistic to me, as did Annabelle’s (the skinny bitch) character. Not all of us pretty, skinny gals are bitches; and some fat, pretty or fat ugly women can be. See the stereotype?

Overall, what I had hoped this book would do is not villianize the pretty, skinny, or the fat. While society tends to villianize the fat, this book took a stab at the skinny and I didn’t like that. What I’d hoped was that people of all body types could be embraced in Verdenius’s book, and instead it seemed only the fat were acceptable (especially because such a big deal was made over Annabelle’s size). The prose and dialogue were nothing exceptional and the plot was a little slow, and as already discussed there were problems with the syntax. I did appreciate the humor and Cherry’s character, as well as the uniqueness of the book, but overall it really hit a few nerves with me due to its hypocrisy.

There were a number of demeaning comments made in regards to a skinny woman’s figure that sounded more like spite than anything else. And much as I hate to say this – just like some people can’t help being absurdly fat, some people can’t help being absurdly skinny. There’s a medical condition called hyperthyroidism that can cause women (or men) to end up looking a little like sticks with a lollipop head. You really just can’t eat enough. And some women are simply skinny because they want to be - and that's not bad, just like being fat isn't bad. I wished the book had been universally accepting of figure instead of pinging on the skinny in an effort to make the fat seem better. That’s just as bad as what society does now.

Still, it’s an enjoyable story about a plus-size woman getting her hot, dreamy doctor and I would encourage anyone who enjoys plus-size heroines or who may have some of their own insecurities (like Cherry) to read this book.

You are beautiful.

Favorite Quotes:

There was humor in Helen’s voice. “It depends on what you’re look for in an escort.”
Cherry somehow didn’t think answering “a penis,” would be the correct thing to say.

“Oh dear.” Tim raised the beer can to his mouth. “Something I said?”
“Yes, thank God.” Rick raised his wine glass in salute.

“To the matter at hand,” Maxie said. “Who thinks Annabelle has had so many face lifts that her belly button is now on her face? I always though her lips were a little puckered.”

 “Sexy”ness rating: WHEW!  

Overall Rating: C+

Bottom Line: A good heroine, an ‘eh’ hero, some definite hypocrisy, good humor, awkward syntax, average plot and dialogue, a little slow on pace, unique ideas… did I cover it all?

Pages: 118
Published: May 11, 2011
Genre: Contemporary

Sunday, November 6

Too Hot to Touch by Lousia Edwards

Book 1 in the Rising Star Chef series

Max Lunden has been traveling the world for several years, learning to cook a wide variety of cultural foods from local masters, when he gets a call from home. His mother pleads with him to come home for a few short weeks to help them win a chef competition. His dad wants to win so that their small family restaurant is put back on the map - but he needs Max to win. While Max is reluctant, he’ll do anything for his mother, and so he makes arrangements to come home for a month before leaving for Italy. However when he gets home he finds that his younger brother’s best friend, Juliet Cavanaugh, is now all grown up and works in the restaurant kitchen – and the pretty girl is now a gorgeous, hot-headed woman that Max sets out to seduce. Jules, however, is not so easily turned by Max’s handsome face – she’s definitely gotten over her school-girl crush, and is solely focused on wining the competition. But what happens when the passion building between Max and Jules... boils over?

I debated for a few moments on whether to give this book an A-plus or an A. It wasn’t an overpowering romance – it wasn’t a bring-you-to-your-knees book. Instead, its emotional power was ingrained in its ability to subtly bring out a reader’s emotions. Several times throughout the book I could feel my heart panging in sympathy or tears pricking my eyes. I wasn’t sobbing. I wasn’t overwhelmed with emotion. Instead, the amount of emotion Edwards wrung out of me was just right. Her characters masterfully commanded my full attention, emotionally and mentally, in a story that is unique and unforgettable and as much about the romance as each protagonist's journey to self-discovery and improvement.

I loved Max, the hero. He was funny, witty – and confused. I liked watching him struggle with his feelings, watching as his desire to stay home gradually overcame him before he even recognized any willingness at all to stay home. He was a natural character, a well-developed character, and a very likeable character. He was protective without being a barbarian, charming without being an ass, thoughtful without being clingy, and emotional without being too sappy. A good balance was definitely achieved with Max. I also loved Juliet, with all her crankiness and passion for people, family, and cooking. She was smart, too, and willing to stand independently. I could definitely understand her motivations. What I loved most, however, was the two of them, together. They brought out the best in each other and helped one another realize their dreams and full potential, which is the mark of a successful relationship.

The book moved at a great pace, with expressive and well-written prose and dialogue. Edwards manages to say a lot, with a little. I haven’t read that many chef contemporaries, so I felt the story was focused on a unique occupation, which added to my interest in the story. The book was also very well-researched; Edwards clearly knew what she was writing about when discussing cooking terms, ingredients, etc. That increased my enjoyment of her novel exponentially – there’s nothing more interesting than a really well-researched novel, in part because it shows how much the author cares.

In short, this book was a subtle stunner. I could feel the emotion, the heat, the love. I could feel the Max’s desire to wander warring with his love for Juliet and his family. I could feel his younger brother’s bitterness at being left behind. This book certainly didn’t let Max off the hook lightly for his ‘abandonment’ of his family – and dealing with that dynamic and all those emotions left my heart aching with sympathy for all involved. What a sad, sweet reunion and what wonderful love. The book won’t overwhelm you – but you’ll treasure it just the same for its ability to be real, and I believe the author’s mastery of writing, plots, character development, and manipulation of the reader’s empathy all make this book worthy of an A+.

Favorite Quotes:

Jules. I seem to remember a Juliet hanging out with you, the two of you following me around, looking to get into trouble. Same girl? I bet it is. A chick on the team. Score. Come on, dish it up. Is she hot now? I bet she’s hot.” (Max)
Danny shook his head, amusement relaxing the tense line of his mouth. “Is that all you ever think about?”
“No! Sometimes I think about food. And beer. Scuba diving. Horse races. The color cyan. I’m a complex and multilayered flower, Danny.”

“Sadly, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t bat for my team. But hey, if you and Max really aren’t bucking for Cutest Couple on the Manhattan Restaurant Scene, maybe you can make a jump for Kane.” (Winslow)
A loud crack shocked Jules stiff, and she looked over to see Max sheepishly dropping the chopstick he’d been playing with, snapped into two pieces.
“Or not,” Winslow said, eyes wide.

 “Sexy”ness rating: Hot, hot, hot!

Overall Rating: A+

Bottom Line: The characters are sexy and passionate, the emotion is tender, sweet, and sexy, and the plot is ‘saucy’ and unique. Bon Appétit! 

Pages: 348
Published: August 2, 2011
Genre: Contemporary

Saturday, November 5

Courting Darkness by Yasmine Galenorn

Book 10 in the Sisters of the Moon series

Many thanks to The Season ForRomance for providing me with this arc copy to review! 

The D’Artigo sisters are operatives working for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. Each of the sisters has her own special talents and gifts. Camille (our protagonist) has three husbands – Trillian, Smoky, and Morio. One of them, dragon Smoky, has a father who’s none-too-pleased with Camille and kidnaps her to his Dragon Reaches. The question is – can Camille survive long enough to escape before the father breaks her, body and spirit? Well, I never got the chance to find out because this book was way too hard for me to struggle through, and I set it down less than half way through.

This book is the tenth in the Sisters of the Moon series, and it was very clear from the first page that if you hadn’t read the first nine books you wouldn’t have a clue what was going on. And so it went – terminology I didn’t know, people and places that were unfamiliar to me, customs, cultures, and events referenced that I knew nothing about. Every other word was something different and crazy and alien. This book is definitely not a stand-alone. It was very confusing and difficult to read – although with the sheer amount of characters, worlds, and species, I think it could have been difficult to read even if you did follow the series. The world was far too complex while being poorly crafted to make a good story.

Now, even if I had been following this series from the beginning there would are several things that would have lowered this book in my esteem. The story read like a series of disjointed vignettes, stapled together. There was no flow, no underlying connection between the scenes – instead each scene was like opening a new box of confusing ideas and relationships that had nothing to do with the last. Furthermore, the way the author writes was distracting. The syntax was strange and awkward, and I found the sentences jarring. The book was unnatural, and instead of flowing smoothly it limped along like a zombie from a low-budget horror flick.

Finally, the characters were unlikeable. I found it hard to understand their motives, thoughts, and ideals. I didn’t understand them, found them lacking in any real depth, and therefore was unable to connect with them – adding to my frustration. They were so cliché. And the sex scenes… lets just say they hit my ‘squick’ button, multiple times. One of the husbands has HAIR that lifts itself up and strokes her. What is that? Not my cup of tea, that's what.

“Sexy”ness rating: Explicit and squicky

Overall Rating: DNF

Bottom Line: All in all, I didn’t enjoy the characters, the plot, or the prose enough to keep reading. While long-time fans of the series may enjoy this book, I would recommend others to skip this one and read something else.

Pages: 336
Published: Nov 1, 2011
Genre: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy