Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Janine
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 13:06:35

    Cleo recommended a couple of books in Jennie’s review thread and one of these was Unhinge the Universe by Aleksandr Voinov and L.A. Witt. I looked it up and I have a question for Cleo, so I hope she pops her head in here, or if not, that someone else who has read the book does.

    My question is this: Is the central role the SS played in the Holocaust dealt with in Unhinge the Universe? Truthfully, I have grave doubts about whether this topic could be interrogated with sufficient seriousness within the boundaries of a romance, and if it the book lets the SS off the hook for its actions, I for one would find it hugely offensive. I’m still very curious about it, though.

  2. library addict
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 14:21:55

    I had a mixed bag of reads this month with several duds.

    I did enjoy Alison Packard’s Love in the Afternoon and The Winning Season. Both were already in my TBR pile but I moved them up due to Jane’s review of TWS. TWS is better than LitA, but both were good.

    I also liked Rebecca Zanetti’s Forgotten Sins despite the numerous (and big) plot holes.

    In non-romance, Tami Hoag’s The 9th Girl was a welcome return to her Kovac & Liska series. But [spoiler]despite the previous book (2006’s Prior Bad Acts) ending on a positive note, this one is back to gloom-and-doom. It’s a solid story with some glimpses of humor, but overall grim and no one seems to be at all happy[/spoiler]

    For those looking for nice guy heroes, Elyse Mady’s Something So Right was another enjoyable read. I did have some issues with the plot and rushed ending though.

  3. Danielle D
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 14:56:43

    I was lucky enough to win a copy of A Lady’s Secret Weapon by Tracey Devlyn — this is the 3rd book in her Nexus series and I really enjoyed it.

    Library Addict my friend recommended Rebecca Zanetti’s books also. I’ll have to check them out.

  4. cleo
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 15:41:27

    @Janine: I’m honestly not sure if it would work for you. The Holocaust is not mentioned at all, except for one reference, when Hagen (the German MC) remembers cadets he knew who were caught having sex with men and sent to concentration camps or to the eastern front.

    It’s a very tightly focused book – most of it takes place over a few days during the Battle of the Bulge and there’s hardly any mention of outside stuff, it’s all ground level, what’s happening here, now – in that way it reminded me of the HBO series Band of Brothers.

    The SS does not come off well – the book is set around the time of the Malmedy massacre and that is not white-washed. At the same time, Hagan, the SS officer, is portrayed as a basically decent man, who’s loyal to his family and his country and wants to do his duty, but is not caught up in Nazi ideology. He was recruited into the SS specifically because he spoke English with an American accent for an operation during the Battle of the Bulge. He does kill several Americans during the course of the book. His shift in loyalty from the SS to John, and from Germany to America, happens in a way that I believed.

    I have no idea if this helps. Unhinge the Universe really worked for me, but I’m not Jewish and while I’ve read a lot about the Holocaust, I don’t know much about the SS’s role in it. I can see that it might not work at all for you.

  5. Elyssa Patrick
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 15:56:54

    I’m completely in love with Laura Florand’s series, and I was super lucky and got to read THE CHOCOLATE TOUCH early–it is decadent in its awesomeness. It’s just so rich and dark and has all the feels; I just loved it. A definite fave read.

    And I’m looking forward to that and a slew of others: the new Ilona Andrews, Sarah Morgan, and Jennifer Estep’s latest Mythos Academy book.

  6. RebeccaJ
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 18:25:39

    I’m reading my first Lani Diane Rich book, Crazy In Love, and I’m really enjoying it. When Flynn’s great aunt dies, her father sends her to the country to deal with the family’s latest inheritance, her great aunt Esther’s inn. Country life is bit difficult for city gal Flynn and deceased Esther showing up nightly in her dreams isn’t making the transition any easier. Good read.

  7. Kate L
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 19:03:21

    I am reading Georgette Heyer for the first time, and enjoying the combination of her and the last week’s summer sunshine. So far, I’ve read Frederica and Venetia. People say Heyer is heavy on description but I didn’t find either of these books to drag. I also bought the professional narration for Venetia (an abridged version), because it’s RICHARD ARMITAGE. Holy smokes that man’s voice in my ear buds is tooooo mmmm-mmm goood.

    So now I wonder if you’all have any recommendations. I’m completely new to buying audiobooks (or to adding professional narration using whispersync on my Kindle). Which professional narrators are you favorites? Who do you recommend?

  8. Krista
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 19:10:47

    Scholarly analysis ahead. So far I’ve read all of Red Garnier’s “The Billionaires Club” books AND all of Jessica Clare’s “Billionaire Boy’s Club” books (that are available). Am I the only one to notice that both series are EXTREMELY similar in terms of the setup (a group of single male billionaires becomes friends, despite diverse backgrounds). Red Garnier’s series had some successful stories that I enjoyed, even if they were improbable, short in length and over the top. However, both the heroes of Jessica Clare’s Billionaire series were SO CLUELESS and frankly, stupid, about women that it marred my enjoyment of the story. For example, in one story the heroine is a waitress. After the heroine clearly rejects him, the hero keeps buying the various restaurants that she works in, just to have an excuse to talk to her. He really doesn’t see how this is a problem for their relationship? Looking to see if other readers felt the same about those heroes (even if you haven’t read Red Garnier’s series as well…).

  9. Sahara H
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 19:26:33

    I really enjoyed Pam Godwin’s Beneath the Burn, LeighAnn Kopan’s One and I am looking forward to Kendall Ryan’s Working It and Karina Halle’s Shooting Scars

  10. Renda
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 19:32:48

    @Kate L:

    Okay. I am a total pushover for Lorelie King, anything and everything.
    She does Janet Evanovich’s stuff, Stephanie Plum and other books.
    She does Darynda Jones’ Charley Davidson series. Warning here, Ms. Jones and Ms. Evanovich are very similar in styles. With Ms. King narrating, sometimes I would forget which I was listening to. That sounds like a negative, but it is really not. I have listened to all of her stuff from both writers. She also does Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, another favorite of mine.

    Then Tanya Eby is good. I have listened and enjoyed her Julie Garwood books as well as a number of other things.
    Therese Plummer does Robyn Carr’s stuff, again, love her stuff that I have listened to.

    And Anna Fields, may she rest in peace, is unparalleled. She has another name — Kate Fields — that she narrates under, too.

    Tavia Gilbert, another favorite. She does Jeaniene Frost’s Cat and Bones series. She is so consistent from book to book, and there are lots of characters in these books.

    Deborah Hazlett did Mr. Perfect and Open Season by Linda Howard. Loved both of those.
    Martha Harmon Pardee did some of the Modern Witch series by Debora Geary. My only complaint is all of these books aren’t in audio form. Love her as the narrator for these.

    I recently downloaded a book by Pamela Clare narrated by Kaleo Griffin. He has lots of fans. But I didn’t get the appeal of either the writer or the narrator. But that is probably a me thing. I know both have a huge following.

    Then for historical, Rosalyn Landor is another favorite of many. I used to be a huge fan, now for some reason I have turned off of her. But that may just be a me thing, too. She is certainly wonderful at it.

    Deanna Hurst does Bet Me by Crusie, one of my top three books. I originally did not like her narration, but now, man, I love it.

    I have a ton more, but I will let someone else chime in.

  11. sula
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 20:19:19

    @Renda: Put me down as another vote for Tavia Gilbert. I actually glommed the entire Cat and Bones series solely on the strength of her narration. In fact, I’m downloading two of the audiobooks from the series from my library right this second to re-listen to AGAIN because they’re that good, imo.

    Barbara Rosenblat does the Amelia Peabody series with verve and aplomb. Her reading of Judith Ivory’s “Beast” is a big favorite of mine. She gets the “speaking English with a French accent but imitating an Oxford-educated Middle Easterner” vibe quite well.

    A narrator that people seem to either love or hate would be Phil Gigante. He does the Shadowfever series as well as many of the Christina Feehan books. What I like about him is that he totally throws himself into it and seems to enjoy the romance bits rather than get squicky with them. But your mileage may vary. :)

    Jane, I have to thank you for highlighting Tessa Bailey. I really enjoyed her first book, the novella less so (although it was still entertaining) and just read the most recent (Officer Off Limits) last night. I really enjoy her voice. Despite some of the silly plot twists, the heroines aren’t TSTL and the heros are just rough-around-the-edges enough to titillate but not alpha-holey enough to grate. This author is now firmly an autobuy or at least an auto-consider-buy for me.

  12. Kate L
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 20:25:31

    Wow @Renda! Thank you for this list! The only name I your list that I’ve already run into is Rosalyn Landor. I like her voice for Lisa Kleypas’s historicals. But though I got into listening with historicals, I am particularly interested in good narrators for contemporary, UF, and PNR. So, thanks again!

  13. Renda
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 21:12:45

    @Kate L:

    Oh, good, I hit the genres you were looking for.
    Tavia Gilbert’s rendition of the Cat and Bones books were a major glom for me. Usually gloms don’t end well because you can “see” the flaws so much easier with the repetition. Totally didn’t happen with this glom for either the written word or the spoken word.

    And totally agree with Sula’s opinion of Beast with Barbara Rosenblatt. Read with just the right amount of tongue in cheek and impassioned/improbable love.

  14. Liz H.
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 21:22:10

    @Janine: I was browsing through past DA recommended reads, and found your reviews for the Ben Aaronovitch ‘Rivers of London’ series. They were fantastic. Any similar recommendations?

  15. Janine
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 23:45:19

    @cleo: Thanks for the thorough reply! I’m still somewhat intrigued by it, but I’m also somewhat afraid of reading it. Homosexuals were sent to the concentration camps, so I’m trying to understand how Hagen’s character would work in this context. Was he not aware of the mass murders or did he know and not care? Did he care but feel he had no choice but to join the SS if he didn’t want to call dangerous attention to himself?

    (For background about the SS and the Holocaust, I found this article on the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website which covers the basics.)

  16. Janine
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 23:54:01

    @Liz H.: Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed those! I’ve heard the Aaronovitch books compared to the Harry Dresden series, but I’ve never read the HD books so I can’t say whether or not they are that similar. I don’t read that much Urban Fantasy and Aaronovitch’s sense of humor is very distinctive. I haven’t come across anything else like these books, but if you do, please let me know!

  17. Amanda
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 01:45:06

    Exquisite beyond belief!

    The standard romance hero is dark and brooding while the heroine can have a range of different attributes, but in a stunning manner of course. While authors like Sherry Thomas used the beauty to showcase how the heroine was judged and objectified, sometimes the descriptions are so ridiculous that I simply stop reading. My most recent rant involves Virginia Henley’s Smuggler’s Lair novella. The heroine had…mauve eyes?! I thought this was a historical, not science fiction! I have also never seen green eyes the color of emeralds but that somehow has become a popular eye color.

  18. Elli
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 06:27:22

    @Kate L:

    If you like Kresley Cole, you HAVE to listen to the IAD series narrated by Robert Petkoff. He is divine :-)

    Moira Quirk narrated Elizabeth Hoyt’s Princes Trilogy and the books are even better in audio. She also did Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London and I especially liked Moonglow.

    If you like funny UF you cannot go wrong with Molly Harper, narrated by Amanda Ronconi.

    I really liked Nora Roberts’ The Witness, narrated by Julia Whelan. She also narrates Thea Harrison’s Elder Races under the name Sophie Eastlake.

    There’s also an oldie but goodie Roberts: Carnal Innocence, narrated by Tom Stechschulte.

    And of course, Renee Raudman, narrating Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas.

    HTH :-)

  19. DB Cooper
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 07:37:05

    GAH! I meant to say this last month, but I forgot what I wanted to say! This time, I remembered:

    There’s been a new release of The Story of O, with a foreword by Sylvia Day!

    Not trying to crack down too hard on it, because a) I know some people like Ms. Day with good reason, and b) everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, let alone interpretations of the book. Personally, I was disappointed by the sentiments expressed in the foreword. While I can certainly see the argument against loving too much, it really seemed contrary to the spirit of the book, and certainly to the spirit of the original foreword by Jean-Jaques Pauvert (Happiness in Slavery).

    Whatever warning we might derrive from it, I think that The Story of O, as Pauvert put it, is more of a love letter to those ideas than a cautionary tale. O’s (non)ending is somewhat fitting for the trajectory the protagonist willing sets out on. It is a celebration of a desire to find one’s happiness against the normal societal grain, of fantasy taken to fantastic levels, and perhaps the ultimate proof that a known prude–with two pen names–would happily bear her dark desires out on paper in a desperate effort to impress the man who fascinates her.*

    (* I still maintain that the stories surrounding the writing of O are more interesting than O itself)

    Ahem. Anyone else notice the new version? anyone have any thoughts on it?

  20. Jane
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 07:43:54

    @Kate L: The Heyer books by Armitage are abridged so that may account for some of the less wordy descriptions. I’ve not heard another historical that I’ve really loved other than the Gabaldon series (and that was years ago and I stopped after book 2).

    Are you interested in audio books in general or historical romance?

  21. Kate L
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 08:37:42

    Thanks @sula, @Renda, @Elli, and @Jane for adding to my audio wish list! Even though I’m very new to them, I agree with your comments about how a great narrator adds to the experience of a book. The vocal performance draws out depths of emotion from the printed page. It’s taken me awhile to see why it’s worth it to purchase audio versions, but I’m here now. And, I appreciate the range of books on everybody’s rec lists, so thanks again!

    @Jane: Agree w/you on the audio version of Venetia (abridged). Am reading (not listening to) Frederica and enjoying. But though I fell into audiobooks through historicals (well really because, come on Richard Armitage!), I’ve lately been reading contemporary, UF, and PNR, and fiction of all stripes.

  22. cleo
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 08:45:30

    @Janine – I can’t answer all your questions about Hagen’s character because it’s not in the text. We do know he’s deeply closeted and worries about being caught. We know from the one passage I mentioned that he’s aware of the camps and that homosexuals and Jews are sent there. And that’s it. We don’t know how he feels about Jews, or the camps or if he’s afraid to help or it doesn’t occur to him. It’s not part of the story.

    His military history is not given in much detail either (neither is John’s, the American hero). My assumption while reading it was that he was not involved in the mass murder of Jews or other groups (that would have been a deal breaker for me) – it seems completely out of character. I was able to believe that he was in the SS but not involved in any crimes against humanity. Even after reading the article about the SS, I’m still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, because I really believed in the character.

    I did notice while reading the book that the Holocaust isn’t mentioned. It niggled at me but I accepted it as a choice to focus tightly on their relationship (lots of other things are also ignored) and it worked for me. I can see that another reader might take it as denial or erasure and be really offended.

    If you do decide to read Unhinge the Universe, I hope you let us know what you think about it.

  23. leslie
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 08:57:31

    @Kate L:
    Renee Raudman narrates Ilona Andrews……..she is a terrific reader.
    Jennifer Ikeda did a beautiful job with A Discovery of Witches.
    There are some really good Georgette Heyer audios on Overdrive. The Seattle and Los Angeles libraries have most of the unabridged versions.

  24. Lada
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 11:41:27

    @Kate L: I have gotten into listening to books this past year. Mostly romances don’t work for me but UF and Romantic Suspense do.

    One of my favorites to listen to is Wild Ride by Jennifer Cruise and Bob Mayer. It’s a total tongue-in-cheek UF which I found really humorous and fun. But it is Angela Dawe’s performance that I really fell in love with. There are a lot of characters and two romances and you never have trouble keeping track of characters.

    I discovered Dick Hill (who does a great job as Lee Child’s Jack Reacher) by listening to Nora Robert’s fantasy Circle Trilogy. And the first time I enjoyed Phil Gigante was Robert’s Sign of Seven fantasy trilogy.

    Lisa Gardner’s DD Warren series has quite a few different narrators (including Lorelei King who was mentioned above) all of which are good. There is a romance that slowly develops over the series but be aware that isn’t the main focus.

    Deborah Hazlett (also mentioned above) is great on the early books of Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series. I’m still making my way through those so don’t know yet about Linda Emond who picks it up later. Again, this is more murder mystery with some romance.

    I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s performance of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series but @Janine: is right, the humor is very distinctive and very British which I enjoy. I happen to currently be listening to Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series. I’m on book 4 and think James Marsters’ performance is okay but he has certain vocal ticks that bother me (like loud and frequent swallowing which I think he does on purpose as part of the character but I find it distracting). I see why some may think these two series are similar but the humor is different as is the language used to give sense of time and place. Both are worth giving a try and both have romantic threads within the series. (Also, the first Dresden book isn’t great but it does improve by book 2.)

  25. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 11:51:21

    @cleo: @Janine This discussion reminds me of Justine Saracen’s Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright, a GLBT novel set in Nazi Germany. I had a problem with the lack of Jewish characters (one of them men is half-Jewish) but I think the historical details and relationships are well done.

  26. leslie
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 11:59:40

    @Lada: The Aaronovitch audio books are sensational. KHS is sooo good.

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    Jul 29, 2013 @ 12:15:27

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  28. MaryK
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 12:52:56

    The IOS apps are about to increase in price from $10 to $15. FYI, if you use their book organization program and haven’t bought the app yet.

  29. MaryK
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 13:11:05

    @Kate L: I’ve enjoyed Amanda Ronconi’s narration of Molly Harper’s books and have heard good things about the narrator for Laura Kinsale’s books.

    Once a month or so, All About Romance has a column about audiobooks. It’s very useful because they review both the book content and the narration quality. I’m not sure what the best way to pull up all the columns is though. They have a Goodreads group as well and, I think, have copied over all the reviews from the columns. It’s called Romance Audiobooks.

  30. Kate L
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 13:18:09

    @leslie: Picture my head spinning in sudden reaction to your recommendation. Curran and Kate! And, I was already planning to dent my book budget by picking up some Cat and Bones, Charley Davidson, and the IAD series that others previously praised, among others. Now all I can say is it’s a good thing I have a birthday coming up.

    @Lada and @leslie: I loved Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London, and am definitely taking you up on this audio rec. I’ve been meaning to check out Butcher’s Harry Dresden series. Do I need to start with Book 1, or can someone new to the series begin with later books?

  31. Kate L
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 13:21:50

    @MaryK: Once a month or so, All About Romance has a column about audiobooks. It’s very useful because they review both the book content and the narration quality.

    Thanks Mary K!! I’ll keep this in mind.

  32. Lada
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 13:51:53

    @Kate L: I think book 1 functions as a basic intro of Harry’s world and how he interacts with it but I think you could probably start with 2 and be okay. Harry’s past becomes more clear as the series goes on.

    Although the series has nothing to do with romance or UF, it’s totally worth listening to Jayne Entwhistle’s performance of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mystery series. The first book, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is phenomenal.

  33. Cleo C.
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 14:25:56

    @Janine: I discovered the Ben Aaronovitch books after reading Kate Griffin’s Matthew Swift series starting with A Madness of Angels. I really like both series; the descriptions of London almost as a separate character are just lovely.

  34. Janine
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 17:29:34

    @cleo: Thanks again for all the details. Deeply closeted and worried about being caught might provide at least a partial explanation. I downloaded a sample and if I decide to purchase, I’ll let you know what I thought.

  35. Janine
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 17:34:37

    @Jill Sorenson: That’s interesting. Depending on the exact year, the absence of Jews from those books may make sense (since most were captured and shipped out to camps during those years) but I can see how it could be problematic. I’m of two minds about it though, since I think a WWII Europe romance with a Jewish main character is really, really tough to pull off. It’s not that people didn’t fall in love during those years, but that they had life or death concerns that are very hard to give enough attention and focus to in the format of a romance.

    @Cleo C.: Thanks for this rec, I’ll take a look at this series and see if it appeals to me. I hope @Liz H. spotted this recommendation as well.

  36. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 18:09:56

    @Janine: The focus on the book is on how homosexuals were treated during the holocaust, to the exclusion of other groups (I felt). Looking back, I’m wondering if I was unfairly expecting more of a Jewish perspective. The GLBT experience in that setting and time period is rarely told. I would love to hear another opinion on it but alas. This is a book that no one else seems to have read.

  37. Janine
    Jul 30, 2013 @ 14:18:24

    @Jill Sorenson: I see what you mean. I could see both sides of that — on the one hand, plenty of books that deal with the persecution of Jews omit mention of the persecution of gays, but on the other hand, a lot more Jews fell victim to the concentration camps. Without reading it, I can’t say whether it would bother me.

  38. Sabrina P
    Jul 31, 2013 @ 00:18:44

    I have a question maybe you all can answer, did Gena Showalter change her writing style or something along those lines? Her newest book in the LOTU series comes out tomorrow so I was reading the ARC reviews on Amazon. It was mentioned a couple times that her books have a more religious feeling with less of the sex scenes than her previous books. I love her writing style but if it has truly changed I’d like to know beforehand and save my money.

  39. DB Cooper
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 07:19:24

    I finally got a 7″ tablet for use as a versatile e-reader, and I’ve got to say, Brian’s right, Google Play Books has come along way. To me, it’s clean, pretty, functional–and I know this is shallow, but I REALLY love the way I can throw a gallery of “my latest reads” on the tablet’s home screen.

    In fact, that little bit kind of trumps the kindle app for me. While with kindle, I have to go into the app to see a carousel (which is nice enough, but not great). With G’s book application, I can keep that gallery on the top device level, as part of a carousel with other widgets (such as music albums, twitter, flipboard, etc) I want to read or quick select from.

    Um, for that reason, I’m thinking of making my next major ebook purchases through the Google Play store instead of Kindle. Any of you have any reasons why I should go with Kindle instead?

    Personally, I know I made the argument that investing in a bookstore was like investing in a regency-era husband rich enough and powerful enough to stay the course over the long run (in reference to B&N’s crash into destitution), and that’s definitely Amazon in my book. But somehow, I get the feeling that Google is also more than rich and powerful enough to stick around, and that Amazon might not mind so much being my #2 favorite. (?)

  40. MaryK
    Aug 06, 2013 @ 11:18:53

    The Windflower ebook is up for pre-order on Amazon! Doesn’t come out ’til April 2014 though.

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