Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More Books and More Witty Comments

Where has my summer gone!?  There I was sitting on the beach enjoying the blue waters and sunshine with book/nook in hand then suddenly people are talking about sweaters and Thanksgiving?!  Aarrgghhh....I want my summer vacation back!
Here are the last of my official summer reads but not to worry my fellow readers Autumn is chocked full of treats both savory and sweet.  I am busily snacking on all kinds of literary delights.  So enjoy the last of summer and then come back soon to see what the Fall brings!

The 39 Clues Book 1: The Maze Of Bones - Library Edition (39 Clues. Special Library Edition)39 Clues: The Maze of Bones by Philip Riordan:  I LOVE smart kids books!!!  I mean those books that keep him or her on the edge of their seats and teaches them all at the same time, (okay, keep me on the edge of my seat).  They don't even know they are being educated because the story is so dang good!  39 Clues is one of these books.  A world traversing scavenger hunt begins at the reading of Aunt Grace's will.  Crazy relatives try to beat each other to the next clue and if that means hitting someone over the head with a gallon of ice cream or zapping them with an invention of Ben Franklin's so be it.
Orphans Dan,11 and Amy, 14  are devastated when their Aunt Grace dies.  She was the one person in the whole world they knew loved them.  Following her memorial service all the members of the Cahill clan, including Dan and Amy are called to the reading of her will.  It is here they discover the amazing family tree and history of their family.  They also find out Aunt Grace had left a very unusual will.  She has set up a sort of scavenger hunt.  There are 39 clues that must be collected at the end of which a prize of untold wealth and power will be given to the winner.  If you go for the prize and lose you get nothing.  If you choose not to try you get $1,000,000 and sent on your way.  So begins a roller coaster ride of mystery, treachery, alliances and discovery.  No on can be trusted not even Aunt Grace.  There are 10 books in this series and I intend to read each and every one.  Maybe I will figure out the prize before Dan and Amy do!  The publisher, Scholastic, has created a great website where you can join in the hunt via cyberspace.  Check it out and good luck!

The ConfessorThe Confessor by Daniel Silva:  I wish I could be witty about this book.  I wish I could make light of the sly and sneaky Gabriel Allon, spy extraordinaire but I can't.  There isn't a light bone in this story's body or in the case of this book, bodies.  This book is intense and not because of the suspense of not knowing who is going to get a bullet in the brain.  This book uses the theory of Pope Pius' complicity in the mass murder of the Jews during WWII as the catalyst for a new Pope to make it right and the people who are willing to stop him at any cost.  As a girl raised in the Catholic School system I am shocked and ashamed of our church leaders who not only turned a blind eye to the greatest crime in the world ever committed but there were actual edicts telling European priests and nuns they could be excommunicated if they gave shelter to the fleeing victims.  Mr. Silva deftly intertwines history with literary license to create a story as disturbing as it is suspenseful. It doesn't hurt to have a great twist at the end.  This is my second Allon story and I hope and pray that this author keeps up the phenomenal  work.  I also hope and pray someday we the people of the world will treat each other with compassion and respect.

Undead and Unfinished (Queen Betsy, Book 9)Undead and Unfinished by Mary Janice Davidson:  Unworthy of you Ms. Davidson.  I know in the last couple of books you indicated that you were going to take Betsy in a different direction but not into another universe.  I appreciated wanting to expand and grow a character but Holy Split Personalities!  Batman!  This was not good. I can understand Betsy needing to work out some of the horrible things that happened in the last few books.  Antonia's death, babyjon becoming her ward, Jessica getting cancer and Betsy, herself, going a little crazy after reading the Book of the Dead.  Anyone would have issues.  This book didn't work anything out...AT ALL.
I could see you trying to be funny but you weren't. I could see you were trying to be suspenseful but you weren't.  I could see you trying to be darker and again, for the last time you weren't!
The story is really hard to follow.  I hate the whole time travel concept and the end is horrific.  There is nothing even closely humorous in this story and I hate to tell you but you are the one who started it.  You want to write a dark series about bad vampires and zombies fine go ahead but to take a series 8 books in and now tell us to ignore all before and that characters who I have come to know and love are FAKERS!  How about NO!  How about that is so not fair!  I read another review of this book where the reader felt cheated because this book is a composite of all the other books prior with no reason for the plot change.  I have to agree with her. If you have nothing funny, fangy or fashiony to say don't say anything at all!

Roast MortemRoast Mortem by  Cleo Coyle: I won't say Roast Mortem was a bad book or a disappointment but I certainly wasn't very entertained by it either.  This was my first book by Ms. Coyle.  A friend in my food and wine pairing group recommended it to me.  She and I have enjoyed Diane Mott Davidson's series in the past and have actually used the recipes in the books to great success so I was expecting the same fun and good eats from Roast Mortem.  In this, recipes included, series the main character runs a specialty coffee shop.  Clare Cosi is an attractive barrista, mom, girlfriend, and part time slueth.  When she isn't waxing euphoric over a perfect espresso pull she is helping out her boyfriend Mike Quinn of the NYPD solve crimes.
In Roast Mortem she finds herself involved with the FDNY when a string of arsons are burning down coffee shops and she is in one of the shops when a fire bomb explodes.  This is personal.  Her former mother-in-law/boss was inside too and could have been killed.  Things get complicated when the chief of the local fire house also happens to be named Mike Quinn and is a cousin to Mike the cop AND the two have been feuding for the last 10 years.  In the midst of all this she is whipping up Korean BBQ flank steak, crab cakes and donut muffins.
The story was good but I felt like what Ms. Coyle should really write was a coffee table book of espressos and recipes.  There just wasn't enough mystery to offset the food and beverage writing.  I found myself paying much more attention to how she put the crab cakes together than how she put the suspects together.  I was happy to see she posts her recipes on her website.  The book just wasn't my cup of tea.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The reading continues as the Summer heads into the dog days!

 Where has this summer gone!?  It has been so hot maybe the sun has melted the days away.  I don't know about you but one of my favorite ways to stay cool is floating in a pool. I don't have a big pool.  I have  a baby pool that I fill up with cold water.  I set up a little table next to me with the radio, cold cocktail, sunscreen and maybe a snack then I grab a book and just soak away the heat and read away my troubles.  I like to call it my backyard Riviera.  Things always look brighter after and nice dip in the pool.  Here are some of the books that   have joined me at the pool:

Caught by Harlan Coben:    "Holy Who Dunnit Batman!"   He is the master of plot twisting.  This story had more false endings than Lady GaGa has costumes.  A man is entrapped by a reality news show crew and is arrested for solicitation of a minor and branded as a sexual predator.  He claims his innocence but the circumstantial evidence is really stacked against him.  A girl goes missing.  There seems to be a connection.  Someone is shot, someone else dies.  Innocents are accused while the guilty seem to escape. Nothing is as it seems and the story goes on and on and on and on.  Just as one plot seems to get wrapped up and done the page turns and so does the story.  Suddenly what just seemed cut and dry looks like a murky mess.  I don't think Harlan's hairdresser would even know for sure.  When I got to the last page I wasn't sure I believed it was really over.  I was exhausted and I was grinning.  I love a good roller coaster!  Interesting side note:  Since many of the Myron Bolitar characters show up in the stand alone novels will they eventually all end up as one Huge series about New Jersey crazies?  Now wouldn't that be an interesting twist.

The Kill Artist (Gabriel Allon Novels)The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva:   It has been a long time since I read an espionage novel.  To be honest I have veered away from anything that has to do with terrorism or disasters since 9/11 then Katrina.  I don't want to fill my head with ugly possibilities.  With that said I noticed several people at work were all reading a series by Danial Silva.  It is about a reluctant Israeli assassin named Gabriel Allon.  The Kill Artist is the first book in the series and it was good if not terribly original.  Two great assassins on opposite sides of a cause clash for one more life or death intrigue.  What separates Gabriel Allon from James Bond or even Jason Bourne is his soul.  He really is a reluctant assassin.  He learned to become an art restorer as a cover in his work for the Israeli Secret Service and it turned out he was really good at it.  In fact it is the restoration work that keeps him going in the aftermath of the tragic and violent deaths of his wife and son.  Now his old boss is back and wants Gabriel to come back for one last mission which will pit him against the man who killed his family.  In the classic styles of Ludlum and LeCarre Mr. Silva has created a believable and flawed hero who battles the foes within as much as the enemy without.  I know why everybody is reading this series and I intend to do the same.

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning ThiefThe Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan:   Awesome, fun and an exciting adventure.  Percy Jackson has always been different.  His teachers said he was ADD and dyslexic.  Who knew he was the son of a God?  The Gods did and so did the monsters.  From the first page to the last this story is jam packed with action and adventure.  What starts out as a mom and son trip turns into a Grand Quest with Furies, Minotaurs, Nymphs, Nyads, Gods and Demi-Gods. At the last winter solstice someone stole Zeus' property and Poseidon gets accused.  Unbeknown to Percy Poseidon is his dad.  The disastrous and fatal trip to the beach with his mom lands Percy at Half Blood Camp where he not only discovers who is dad is but he is sent on a Quest on dad's behalf.   Percy has to recover Zeus' Lightening Bolt in order to save his mom and prevent the Gods from going to war.  Percy is going to discover through this journey not is all as it seems.  He is going to have to look above and below to discover who is real friends are but more importantly who he really is.  This is an excellent story along the lines of Charlie Bone and Harry Potter.  The kids should love Percy, I know I do!

From Hell With Love: A Secret Histories NovelFrom Hell With Love by Simon R. Green:  Oh Mr. Green!  Where would the world be without the Droods?!  Probably in another dimension and be slaves of an evil crazy mad scientist emperor.  Yuck!  Eddie Drood is back with Molly Metcalf and all the Drood Family to once again protect us unwitting humans from disaster and utter annihilation.   I am amazed this series hasn't been made into a comic or a 1 hour tv show on SyFy.  Mr. Green knows how to verbally draw clean clear characters and then he takes them and twists them all up in the craziest stories!  This time Drood Hall has been invaded by another Secret Super Family called The Immortals.  Don't let the label fool you, they can die it just takes a lot to do.  The thing is the Immortals have mastered shape-shifting and have infiltrated the Droods from within.  Someone has killed the Matriarch and it is a total surprise at the end to find out who did it.  Meanwhile,  Doctor Delirium is back and has teamed up with a rogue Drood by the name of Tiger Tim.   They have come up with a wacky and villainous plan to hold the world hostage. The Apocolypse Door will open the gates to Hell and we will be overrun with the depths of Hades to be eternally tortured.  If the governments don't do as they say they will open the door.  Eddie has to stop them before its too late.  Some people die.  Some people just pretend to be dead while a whole other group have always been dead.  The Armorer has some great new gadgets and weapons for Eddie to use against the bad guys.  Eddie and Molly stick together through thick and thin to bring Dr. Delirium to heel and really kill the Immortals.  All ends well for awhile.  I can't wait to see what the next super villain does and what the Droods do to him!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

An Interview with Seth Grahame-Smith

A friend sent me this link to an audio interview with Seth Grahame-Smith, the author of Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter.  It is a great interview.  Mr. Smith is an interesting person and this genre of book mash ups is really cool!  Gotta love NPR!

What I Read on my Summer Vacation Part II

Yep, I am reading away my summer and I can't think of a better way to spend these hot humid days.  I don't get to the beach as often as I would like but I have spent some wonderful afternoons under an umbrella in my backyard with a cocktail by my side and a book in my hand.  Here is another batch of books I have covered:

Third Degree: A Novel
1. Third Degree by Greg Iles:  This was an audiobook and boy was it good and boy was it bad.  David Colacci was the narrator and he was awesome.  I felt like I was listening to an old time radio show and anytime I had to put it down I was at a cliff hanger.  The right narator makes all the difference in audiobooks.  Too many voices can be as distracting as a monotone.  Sometimes the voice doesn't match what I imagined the character should sound like and that ruins it.  David had a great balance of drama and tone that kept me listening and made this good thriller an edge of your seat suspenseful roller coaster ride.   Greg Iles ruins the book half way in with some of the most cliched plot choices and implausible twists.  The first half of the book I was in for the whole ride and couldn't wait to find out what happens next.  Then she opens the door to her home to be greeted by her husband with a gun. From that point on I kept wanting Mr. Iles to return to the tight believable story he started with.  It felt like he didn;t know how to save any of the characters so he decided to see how whacked he could make them all.  This is a book about reaching your limit and losing it one fateful day.  What would push you over the edge from sanity to murderous rage?  What would pull you back?  How would you survive terrible rage directed at you?  Does anyone really know the person they are married to?  Is an affair really worth the pain? I don't know if any of those issues were well represented in this crazy ride of a book.

Blood Game: An Eve Duncan Forensics Thriller (Eve Duncan Forensics Thrillers)2.  Blood Game by Iris Johansen:  This is another installment in the Eve Duncan series and I gotta tell you it is getting old.  There is nothing new in the story.  Eve is once again tracking a serial killer who seems to know something about the disappearance and death of her little girl Bonnie.  Joe is once again frustrated and conflicted by all the violence and danger surrounding his lover Eve.  Jane is once again an amazing heroine worried about her foster parents.  Oh wait there is a new twist.  Joe can talk to ghosts.  WHATEVER!  Can we please stop taking a straightforward mystery series that has established fictional boundaries and throwing in paranormal elements in because paranormal is trendy right now.  It is cheating. I know Eve has always talked to her dead daughter but I know a lot of people who talk to loved ones who have passed.  I don't think that is paranormal.  I think that is a way of keeping that feeling of connectedness.  Joe talking to ghosts is a whole other story!  If you don't have anything fresh to add to the series then wait to write something when you do. I have started to not care if Eve ever finds Bonnie or come to terms with her death.  I want the story to come to a conclusion.   I know you are on deadline.  I know we all want another Eve Duncan story but DANG don't put stuff out there that isn't up to the standard that made this character so readable to begin with!

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter3.  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith:  What an odd historical horror novel.  I can't say I have ever read anything like it before.  It was as dry as a history book and yet I couldn't find myself leaving it alone.  What an interesting literary plot tool.  Take a historical figure during a famous historical era and twist.  Everything that happened to President Lincoln from the  age of nine until after his official death was all because of Vampires.  His grandparents weren't really killed in an indian attack.  His mom didn't really die of milk disease.  John Wilkes Booth was more and less than he really was in the history books.  Mr. Grahame-Smith wrote a very realistic, tight novel that were it not for the history books already written might make one wonder if his history wasn't the truth....honestly.  This was such a fun read I am heading out to pick up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!

The Neighbor: A Detective D. D. Warren Novel4.  The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner: This is an episode in the D.D. Warren series.  It didn't work for me.  The premise is good and well known.  Wife disappears and the husband becomes the prime suspect.  The husband acts suspiciously and the couple has secrets.  Good plot plan.  Then Ms. Gardner brings in a sex offender and he should be made a suspect.  Statutory rape when he was 18 and the girl was 15 does not a murderer make. Stupid? Yes.  Irresponsible? Yes.  Killer?  Not so much. Back to the husband.  He is wiping hard drives and hiding computers.  He is a good suspect.  He is a lot older than his wife who he married when she got pregnant and the baby may not be his.  We get some back story on both of them including the wife's abusive mother who killed herself and a complacent and co-dependent seeming father.  There is suggestion of him being abusive as well.  She severed all connections with him when she married her husband.  There is an affair and extra-marital problems.  There are tons of motives and possibilities with very little connection between any of them with very little reason why abduction or murder would be necessary.  I said at the beginning of this it is a series for D.D. Warren and I didn't feel she was a main character at all.  There is a lot of action and questions in this book just not much thrill or suspense for me.

Holly Blues (China Bayles Mystery)5.  Holly Blues by Susan Wittig Albert::  Ahhh....Susan you are a satisfying read.  I feel like you are one of my girlfriends and you are telling me about the crazy week you just had.  I know China and Ruby.  I want to live in Pecan Springs and if Sheila doesn't want him then I will take Blackie off her hands.  Your stepson Brian and my boys would be great friends.  Just one thing.  You have to stop getting mixed up in all these murders.  Love this book and love this series!

Born of Night (The League, Book 1)6.  Born of the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon:  Ms. Kenyon sure has a thing for the greek names.  Nykirian, Kiara, Quiakides are to name just a few.  She carries the greek name theme into her Dark Hunter series.  I don't mind them, however the more complicated ones can take me out of the story while I try to figure out how to pronounce the names, annoying.  Born of the Night seems to actually be a re-release of  an old manuscript from the late 80's that was published with tons of edits and rewrites without her input.  Now that she is a powerhouse writer in the paranormal romance genre she has come back to these old friends and is telling their stories as she originally intended.  I really appreciate that.  I don' t remember ever reading the first incarnation but I enjoyed this book a lot.  It is stuffed with action, not just too much sex.  Plenty of over the top sexy men, reasonable heroines and evil bad guys.  It reads like a freight train hurling toward the end.  There are two more installments to this series and I already have the second one, Born of Night.  I am looking forward to it.

Stay tuned.  I am on a roll.  Reading and blogging!  Woo Hoo!

Monday, July 26, 2010

What I Read on My Summer Vacation Part 1

You know blogging is a habit that must be nurtured.  I thought blogging would be an easy habit to acquire since I have a well established habit of writing my journal.  Every morning I get up, make the coffee, take the dogs out and then feed them and then I settle into my chair with my morning music and write.  I also thought this would be an easy thing to do about books since I read so much.  I read so much I don't remember all I do read.  I have audiobooks on my ipod, ebooks on my nook and a stack of books in print.  I don't leave my house or go to the bathroom for that matter without something to read.
SO blogging should be a snap, right?  Nope, it doesn't work that all.  When I journal it is completely stream of conscious stuff.  Blurting on the page all my feelings and experiences.  I don't think about it, I just write it. Reading is a completely compulsive activity.  I am therefore I read.  Blogging is premeditated.  I have to decide which book I want to share my opinion about.  Most of the time a book has to hit me hard either positive or negative for me to want to say anything about it.  So I can go weeks without posting. That makes me feel guilty like I am letting the blogosphere down because I am not posting on a daily or at least weekly basis.  How truly egocentric and silly am I!?  I appreciate anyone who visits my blog and reads what I am writing and if anything I post here helps you to buy a book or go to the library then Woo Hoo!!!!  That is awesome.  But really my little blog is for me so I can track and share with my friends what I am reading these days.  Now the question remains what do I really want to do with this blog? 
While I ponder the big question here is a list of books I have read this far.

Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 10) 1.  Dead in The Family by Charlaine Harris - It was a decent read but I miss the humor that was in the earlier books.  It seems like most people get darker and deeper as the series progresses.  Maybe it was lighter in the beginning because Sookie was innocent then and isn't any longer.

Fantasy in Death2.  Fantasy in Death by J D Robb - The mystery in this installment was lame.  It was more than I could suspend my disbelief over.  Ms. Robb has tried before to incorporate a touch of the paranormal or unexplainable in Eve's world.  I don't think it works. The Eve Dallas series is science fiction not paranormal.  In the end it all gets explained but I just didn't like it.  I did like A LOT She-body and McNAb at the cyber-con event.  That was really cute and funny.  This series, for me, is made by the secondary characters.  Ms. Robb has really got a great cast and even after 20 some odd episodes they are still fun to read.

The Lion3.  The Lion by Nelson Demille - I have to tell you I couldn't get past the first 3 chapters of this book.  Not because it was poorly written or boring but because the initial tragic incident is a plane coming into New York with all passengers dead.  It was an act of terrorism by a Middle Eastern bad guy and I just couldn't read any more.  I have actually become very sensitive to espionage and graphically violent novels in recent years.  I don't want to fill my head with stuff that reminds me of real tragedies.  I find Mr. Demille as a hit or miss author for me so I didn't feel any great loss by not finishing.

Bullet (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter)4.  Bullet by Laurell K. Hamilton - Ms. Hamilton Penthouse Forum is looking for its letters!  I would love to see what you could do with a story that doesn't include an orgy.

Dark Road Rising (Vampire Files)5.  Dark Road Rising by P N Elrod - Mix one part vampire story with one part hard boiled detective novel and one part 30's gangsters stories and you have one heck of a fun read.  Dark Road Rising is the 11th installment in the Vampire Files series and Ms. Elrod is keeping it interesting and page turning.  In this story Jack Flemming, newspaper reporter turned vampire detective is trying to fix a big mess he made out of his best friend Charles Escott.   One of his enemies is now a reluctant ally when he finds out the other guys is a vampire too.  Evidently it isn't as easy as you would think to spot each other.  This series is a really fun read that harkens back to Phillip Marlowe, Sam Spade and Elliot Ness.  Definitely on my always pick up list.

Silver Borne (Mercy Thompson, Book 5)6.  Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs - I have to say this installment of the Mercy Thompson series was tough to get through even though it was packed with stuff.  Maybe that was the problem.  I would just get going with one person and then another situation would come up.  I felt scattered.  Sam is in trouble.  He is giving up and damn near kills himself.  The pack isn't happy with Adam making Mercy his mate and there are saboteurs in the pack.  Then to top it all off Mercy has a nasty Fey on her trail for a book she borrowed from a friend.  While I appreciated how Ms. Briggs pulled the three stories together each plot line could be on its own and be a great book. 

Well there you have it.  The books of my summer vacation.  I have a whole other stack waiting for me to tear into it so I will be back to tell you what I thought about them. In the meantime get yourself to a bookstore, library or an internet bookseller and get reading!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My heart was stolen by The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Through the sometimes scary nights of my childhood a book kept me company and helped me fend off bad dreams.  I was grateful to my friends Caddie Woodlawn and Jupiter Jones and the words that brought me comfort and sleep. My troubles were nothing compared to those of Liesel Meminger and her books take on a whole new importance in "The Book Thief by Markus Zusak."

The Book Thief
Markus Zusak uses unorthodox writing, characters and perspective to bring to life (or should I say death) the story of a young girl growing up in Germany during WWII.  There is much, much to this tale:

While Death may be the narrator and he collects souls along the way this is a story about living.
This is a story about getting through anyway you can.  Momma Rosa curses at a hard world while Pappa bows and lets life flow over him and he plays the accordion.  Liesel uses her books and words to help keep the nightmares at bay and Max wipes away the ugly to create something new and loving.
This is a story about acceptance but also about fighting when you can't do anything else.
This story is about love and hate.
This is the story of the power of words to heal, to love, to hate and to destroy.

This is not an easy book to read on several levels. In fact the first 20 pages are so strange in style I almost put the book down.  The writing style is very challenging.  Death goes on tangents and in the middle of a thought or description a big bold block of words tells you what he is thinking or wondering about something else.  It was really distracting.  I never did get completely used to it and sometimes I tried skipping the interjections to only go back and read them because I felt I should.  The subject matter is hard and depressing.  I am not really a fan of tragedy.  My life tends to be dramatic enough without the addition of fictional crises that end badly.
This book is sold as a young adult novel for 9th grade and above but don't let that fool you.  This is an adult novel.  Once into the story I was held by the tension and pace of this girl's will to make sense of the senseless.  I turned the pages quickly to find out what they were going to do with Max. I frowned with anger as they marched the Jews through the street to their deaths and no one spoke up.  I smiled and cried when Liesel gets her book back in the end.
There is much to this story and it feels relevant to our times with fears of terrorists and economic collapse always close.  People really just want to get by and usually do even in the worst of times and sometimes a good book can make all the difference in the world.
Read this book.

Other books by Markus Zusak:

Getting The Girl

Fighting Ruben Wolfe

Wilde Hunde


 Der Joker

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

C.J.'s Fate by Kay Hooper and Spellbound by Nora Roberts... The past is sometimes best left there

I am annoyed.  I really hate when publishers, authors, whoever re-release novels or short stories without informing the customers.  Why?  Have you run out of authors or product ideas that you must cheat by treating an old book like a new one?
Kay Hooper and Nora Roberts have a wonderful body of work.  I know they have new works on the horizon. They don't need to rehash or republish old books.  Not to mention these books aren't good stories.

C.J.'s Fate is over worked to the point of nausea.  If she used the word "wryly" once she used it 100 times.  Even for 1984 the use of "Indian" to refer to the hero is weird and inappropriate.  The heroine CJ is a research librarian for God Sake!  She would be educated enough to not use this terminology. Then there is the whole premise of her grabbing a strange man and yanking him into her hotel room in front of her life long friends and they let her!  How about no.  He was conveniently a good guy.  They conveniently were instantly attracted to each other.  There was a cabin conveniently available during a blizzard.  She is conveniently wealthy at the end and he is conveniently in touch enough with his feminine side to be ok with it.  I thought I might need an insulin shot to offset the sickening sweetness of this story.  I didn't look at the copyright of the book when I bought it and I wish I had.  I read so much I don't remember most of the fluff books that go through my life.  I wasn't 10 pages into the story when I knew this was an early work.  It just didn't have the polish and power of the Bishop series.  It was satisfying to know I was right.

Nora Roberts, shame on you!  You put out several new titles every year and I read every darn one of them.  There was no reason for Spellbound to be released at all let alone as a stand alone novel.  Why not let us know that it had already been in print once already?  Evidently this was originally part of an anthology in 2005.  I purchased this for my Nook.  Thank God I only spent $2.00 at Barnes and Noble because once you get past the the teaser, forward and publishing pages it is only 70 pages long.  A boring dumb 70 pages at that.  It wasn't as much a short story as it was an incomplete story.  I felt like this was a test story to see if you  would like writing paranormal. I am glad you did because I loved the Sign of Seven and Circle Trilogies.

Is it the economy?  Is it just cheaper to release old books with new covers to get another dollar from your readers?  It isn't the re-releasing of the book I have trouble with.  You can re-publish as many books as you want but in the name of truth and fairness print it on the cover that it isn't original.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Julie Garwood's "Sizzle" was a Fizzle for me

Sizzle: A NovelJulie Garwood's "Sizzle" was a Fizzle for me

I love a Garwood starting with "Gentle Warrior" and my Favorites being all the Clairborne novels.  When she moved to modern romantic suspense I followed right along.  She writes with gentle passion and love for her romances. Then her modern suspense novels are tightly woven with tension and plenty of action.   Whenever I read a book by her it is always in the back of my mind that she really loves doing this.  Janet Evonovich and Jennifer Cruise are like this.  These ladies really love what they do. 
So I am sure it would be no surprise when I tell you picking up Sizzle was a no brainer for me.  What was surprising, for me, was how big a  disappointment "Sizzle" ended up being.  I am sorry Ms. Garwood.  I really do enjoy your work.  I have read everything you have written but this one just didn't come together.
The idea for this book was really cool.  Young woman finds herself unwittingly in the wrong place at the wrong time, twice!  Handsome FBI agent comes into help.  There are great sidekicks and a strange buffoon for one of the villains.
Wrong place #1:  Lyra Prescott is a film student finishing up her last project before moving onto a great career, she hopes.  Her final project is filming an old park that has turned into an illegal dumping spot.  Someone has found out she has been filming and wants to stop her...permanently.  
Wrong place #2:  While out on a Saturday morning heading to her grandma's house she stops at a strange yard sale where the lady is giving everything away.  Lyra finds a stack of old books that turn out to be collectors' items along with a bunch of cd's she has always wanted.  One of those cds is singing a different kind of tune.
Sounds pretty interesting, right?  I think it would have been a great story if Ms. Garwood had stuck with it but she didn't.  The book starts with the intruduction of a bumbling would be assasin who thinks he is the real James Bond who is working for a bumbling bad guy.  The killer has yet to actually kill anyone because the targets end up offing themselves by falling into a pool and drowning, being shot by a violent spouse and having a heart attack.  When he is sent out to silence Lyra he falls in love instantly with his "Bond Girl" and can't do it.  So the boss sends in 2 other hulking idiots to do the job.  They bungle the job by breaking into Lyra's apartment and attacking her roommate.  Lyra enters during the attack and manages to call 911 while holding off the attackers.  Guess what?  Her roommate just happens to be the sister of FBI Alec Buchanan who calls in a favor from his buddy Sam Kinkaid, another FBI agent who happens to be on vacatiopn,  to play bodyguard to the girls and hopefully catch the assailants. 
To protect the girls they make them leave their apartment so Lyra goes to her brother while Sam and Lyra head to Lyra's Grandmother's home. Enter strange unloving parents and loving but distant brothers all tied together by a wily, little nutty grandmother.  Another plot line begins.
Oh my god I am exhausted writing this synopsis.  It is so convoluted and overdone it stopped being a fun read early on.
Bottom line, while the plot ideas have some merit the story is a yawn.  Of course Sam and Lyra get together and believe me, the usual Garwood chemistry is missing.  Everything is too pat, too contrived.  There was nothing unexpected or exciting. 
Everyone is entitled to an off day whether it is playing golf, baking a cake or writing a book.  This was Ms. Garwood's off day.
Skip "Sizzle" and wait for the next one.  I am sure it will be better...please!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly is My DIK Reading Challenge book

The Tea Rose: A NovelInnocent heroine: I can't pay the rent!
Villainous Landlord:  You must pay the rent!
Innocent heroine:  I can't pay the rent!  sigh, Woe is me!
Villainous Landlord:  Then I will do dastardly things to you..muuaahhhh!
Innocent heroine:  Oh no you won't.  I am going to run away and be miraculously assisted by strange and handsome men who think my eyes are the most innocent and amazing blue they have ever seen!  Then I will return an heiress and ruin you!
Villainous Landlord:  I will hunt you down and kill you but only after I ravish you in a most heinous and vile manner!

I loved watching Dudley DoRight and Penelope Purebread battle wits against Dick Dastardly as a kid.  One of my most favorite guilty pleasures as an adult is the soap opera  "Days of Our Lives."  This month's DIK Reading Challenge offering is right up there with these tried and true melodramas.  "Tea Rose" was on Sarai's choices in the book list over at DIK.  It was right there on the shelf in the library just waiting for me to pick it up and so I did.

The story is set in the late 1800's in the Whitechapel section of London.  The Ripper is busy doing his thing.  Enter the Finnegans and the Bristows.  Irish families doing the best they can raising their respective families on pittance a day.  The Finnegans are led by the Da who works on the docks.  Charlie the son kicks in with money from his work while young Fiona helps out with her wages as a tea packer.  Mam, who is raising two more small ones, helps by doing laundry.  Their neighbors and lifelong friends have a son who is the love of Fiona's life. Joe is a handsome young devil who could sell ice to Eskimos.  Joe and Fiona plan to open their own shop and marry as soon as they have raised enough cash to open their place.  William Burton is the man who owns the tea factory where Da and Fiona work.  He is a greedy, shifty and dangerous man.

  Now you have the back story and the rest is high melodrama.  Da becomes an outspoken advocate for the unions and is killed in a supposed accident.  Joe is lured away from his vegetable cart by a wealthy merchant who sees his potential as a salesman and who has a daughter who sees his potential as a sexy mate.  Joe explains that he is only going to work for the man to earn their shop faster but Fiona knows better and he ends up getting the daughter pregnant.  Mam is killed by the Ripper while trying to get the baby to the doctor's and Charlie runs off in grief only to be found drifting face down in the Thames.  He is beaten so badly the only way to identify him is by the pocket watch his Da gave him on his death bed. Fiona runs to America with Seamie after overhearing Burton bragging about killing her Da.  She manages to get a hold of some of Burton’s money and helped aboard an Amerca bound ship.

Are you tired yet? I was and this was only the first 100 pages.

“Tea Rose is a classic high melodrama romance in the style of Barbara Taylor Bradford and Barbara Cartland.  The heroine is constantly escaping one tragedy to only find herself in another pickle.  She is ALWAYS rescued by a handsome stranger and even though she becomes involved with other men she will never be out of love with her first, Joe.  She ALWAYS overcomes with a positive attitude and a quick wit, ala, The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
The Winter Rose
I did enjoy this story.  It was a real change of pace from the paranormal and heavy suspense genres I have been reading lately.  It took me back to my early romance reading days when I yearned for a perfect love like the girls I was reading about.  Now that I am older, wiser and a little more jaded “Tea Rose” was an overly sweet treat that is delicious in very small amounts.
There is a sequel to “Tea Rose” called “The Winter Rose” and I do plan on reading it some day, just not very soon.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Kim Harrison's - Black Magic Sanctioned - is a Busy Story

Life has been stressful lately.  Work is busy.  Family members are in crisis.  Money is tight.  Instead of food, alcohol or drugs to cope I turn to books.  I have been reading like mad.  The strange thing is I haven't really been interested in blogging about 90% of them.  They have been fluff.  Light airy, sometimes silly books that don't have enough substance to keep them in my memory long enough to care about reviewing them.  Nora Roberts Bride Series is on that list as well as Kresley Cole and Gena Showalter's offering, "Deep Kiss of Winter." I did however find a book that required a little more effort on my part to pay attention  and that was Kim Harrison's new Rachel Morgan installment, "Black Magic Sanctioned."
Wow!  This book moved like the Wild Hunt was after them.   Rachel is on the outs with the witches, (not unexpected).  She is on the outs with Trent Kalamack, (not unexpected).  She is on the outs with law enforcement, (not unexpected).  No one seems to like her anymore, except for Al the demon, (ok, this one is a bit unexpected).  She has been his student learning ley line magic, curses and trying to get those pesky demon marks off her.  She is broke and broke down.  Her only friends, Jenks and Ivy are supporting her, financially and emotionally.  She is just about at her wits end.  So what happens?  Yep, you know.  She gets into more trouble that she can't control.  Rachel is more powerful than she realizes but others are very aware of her potential.  The white witches coven of moral and ethical standards have a warrant out for her. They consider Rachel a threat to their very existence now and in the future. They want her imprisoned, incapable of reproduction and insentient.  Rachel carries demon DNA.  She isn't a witch but she isn't a demon either.  She is the missing link.  The witches want her to stay missing.
You might remember in her last book "White Witch, Black Curse", Rachel saves Trent's butt by making him her familiar and she switches summoning names with Al.  Both of these will be used to try to control her and kill her in "BMS."  She is surrounded by people and creatures who will either own her or kill her.  She is on the run and kicking butt from page one until the very end.
The story races through ley lines of Cincinnati to a special witches prison in Alcatraz.  Yep, they found a new use for the big house on the rock.  She is forced to accept assistance from her old lover and now nemesis Nick. The problem is for every helping hand moment forward with good Ol' Nick there are 10 steps backward of betrayal.  When is she going to learn!? She gets friendly with her demon mentor Al which is creepy and definitely making me worry for the future.  Thanks to a charm of Trent's that almost kills her she is starting to remember more of her youth.  Pierce, the ghost who took over a dead witch's body is back and playing protector extraordinaire to Rachel's damsel in distress.  There is a scene in a hole in the ground that, for me, epitomizes the creepy wonders of the paranormal genre. Can you say sex in a grave?
All the while her best friends, Jenks and Ivy watch her back and save her on a regular bases. As I type this I can feel my pulse race a little faster just thinking about everything that happens in this book.  Not one of our favorite friends or enemies are left out in this installment.  Tragedy strikes a loved one and they have to come together to get through the grief.  Love strikes in the most unlikely places and this time they are taking a little more time to decide if it is right.
One of my favorite quotes comes from a spaghetti commercial referring to how chocked full something is:  "Like Prego! It's  in there!"  And just like a great plate of pasta "Black Magic Sanctioned" is really satisfying.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Neil Gaiman Interview

Thanks to a chat yesterday with my friend Debbie V.  I have a wonderful little video interview with Neil Gaiman from the CBS Sunday Morning Show. What a lovely and interesting character he is.  Enjoy!

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Commentary on Audiobooks in General, Dark Highlander Specifically

I am a book addict.  I have at least 2 books going at any given time.  If I include the books I use for my spiritual practice the number approaches double digits.  I also hate to wait. 
I don't like lines, driving to get somewhere, sitting in a doctor's office waiting for my appt. I want to be doing something, anything instead of waiting.  To help with my angst, of course, I read.  It turns that annoyance into an opportunity to get a few more pages in. (Note: I included driving in the above list and we all know one can't read and drive at the same time.  I will be honest and at one time thought stop lights were really just another chance to get a paragraph read.  I have stopped that practice and not because I was in an accident either.  I just realized what an idiot I was being.)
So I turned to audiobooks.  I wasn't sure I would like listening to a book.  When I read it is my imagination that puts the gravel in a voice, the feel of silky hair against skin, or the gasp of shock in a taut moment.  The writer has a voice and I put my own spin to that voice when I read.  You can't do that with audiobooks.  The narrator is giving the book life.  All those things I create in my head when reading a book are turned over to the production of the audiobook.  I know you know what I mean.  We watch tv and we have agreed to see the show as the producer/director/actor intended.  It is the same with an audiobook.  Cool, I can do that.  I love a good audiobook.  It makes me think of my grandparents and how they must have sat around the radio to listen to "The Shadow" or "Mutt  and Jeff".  It is great on a long drive to have a companion like a good book to keep you entertained and awake.
Just like tv and the movies there are shows or performers I like and those I don't.  I really enjoy Jonathan Marosz who does the narration for most of the Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben.  I also enjoy Lorelie King who reads the Stephanie Plum series.  These readers have, for me, really captured the story.  They don't use falsetto voices, bad accents or strange enunciation s.  They aren't trying to show off.  They are just reading the story.  In fact I forget I am listening and can start seeing in my mind how a character looks or sounds in the same way I do when I am reading.
Then there are those readers who I don't like. They are acting out the book and while I love good acting I don't really think acting has a place in reading. When a reader over acts the story then I can't engage.   Recently I was listening to "Dark Highlander" by Karen Marie Moning.  I am a big fan of Ms. Moning.  She writes strong characters and even stronger erotic scenes.  The reader for "Dark Highlander" was Phil Gigante. He used a Scottish accent for the men and a falsetto for the women.  He enunciated each  "t" and "d".  The accent was really quite good but it was really strange to go from the rolling burr to middle american over pronunciation.  I could deal with that but then these women who are supposed to be strong and intelligent sounded breathy and silly thanks to his falsetto voice.  It was horribly distracting.  Ms. Moning writes great graphic erotic scenes and when Mr. Gigante was reading as the Scotsman I was in the moment and then he would ruin it with that female falsetto or his too perfect speech.  I mean he really killed the mood!
In closing I would like to offer a caution to authors who are getting their books recorded.  Be careful of who you get to read your book out loud.  A book is not a movie.  It isn't a radio show.  It is a book and it is audio only.  Find someone who will read clearly, who will bring the tension, the sensuality, anger, sadness or joy through the words and leave the acting to the tv and the movies.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Repairman Jack doesn't do Windows... F. Paul Wilson series

I don't like to get in ruts and I find myself in them all the time.  I love the Tom Kha Gai soup at a local Thai restaurant and I have been known to eat it every day for a week.   Then I have to go have a salad or sandwich just to break the routine.  I love the TV show Criminal Minds and I will tivo 5 or 6 episodes and then over a weekend it will be all I watch.  Then I have pick up a book to get all those serial killers out of my head.
I get into ruts with my reading too.  I will get hooked on a genre or author and for weeks will only read Susan Elizabeth Philips or paranormal romance.  Recently I have found myself in a Young Adult fiction rut so I decided to go a full 180 and not only select a different genre but I selected an author I have never read before, enter, CrissCross by F. Paul Wilson.  I see another rut coming on.

CrissCross is the 8th book in Mr. Wilson's Repairman Jack series.  I picked it up for two reasons.  The first reason was the cover art.  The photographs of  New York landmarks taken in gray tones told me this was going to be a gritty novel.  I knew that this series wasn't going to be anything like the Plum series or Goldy the Caterer series.  This wasn't going to be light or cute.  This was going to be dark.  The second reason reinforced the first.  It was the quote by Dean Koontz on the cover.  "Repairman Jack is one of the most original and intriguing characters to arise out of contemporary fiction in ages."  If this was good enough for Dean then it would be good enough for me.

I was expecting Jack to be an assassin or maybe a P.I. or maybe Robin Hood.  He was all of these and none of these.  He is truly a unique hero.  He fixes things. If you need to be extricated from a horrible situation or you need your life patched up he is the guy to call.  He doesn't advertise in the Yellow Pages nor does he have a Facebook page.  His business is word of mouth referrals only.
Jack is everyman while being no man. His identity is a secret and yet at the same time he has a real relationship with his family. He doesn't lead a dual life....exactly.  His dad knows he doesn't have a 'regular' job and doesn't ask a lot of questions.  His girlfriend, Gia, who knows he "fixes" things understands it's safer to not know the details. He prefers to make all his repair jobs seem natural or accidental.  Killing is always an act of absolute last resort. It takes a lot of work to make a bad situation go away permanently without killing and he has an entire network of helpers who get him what he needs when he needs it.
I entered this series 8 books in and there are huge pieces of this character I am missing.  (Tricky authors make you have to get another book to know what is going on.) When I picked the story up Jack is expecting his first child with his girlfriend.  He's  trying to figure out how he could move back into the mainstream with his true identity so he can be a real dad to his baby.
He has 2 "fixes" in CrissCross.  The first one is a simple missing person case.  Elderly, wealthy mom wants her wayward son found to make sure he is ok.  She believes he has joined a cult.  All Jack has to do is find him and tell him to call home.  The second case is more unsavory.  Sister Mary Margaret is being blackmailed and she wants it to stop.  This case appears to be a pretty simple case since Jack has had dealings with this blackmailer before. For the first 40 pages this book appeared to be exactly what it was, a good suspense novel following an interesting character through his journey of beating the bad guys at their own game.  As always nothing is as it seems.  Page 41 showed up along with a strange piece of skin he keeps hidden in a closet in his apartment.  Down the rabbit hole we go.  Somewhere in an earlier book Jack came into possession of this interesting item and he has even tried to get rid of it but it keeps showing up.  Nothing goes as planned for Jack in this story.  People don't behave as expected.  Jack has to do a lot of improvising and he mentions several times he hates to improvise. 
The missing person case takes him deep into the Dormentalist Church. This is a church/cult organization that Mr. Wilson likens to Scientology.  Jack locates the missing son rather quickly but his curiosity is piqued about the organization with all its security cameras, acronyms and the mysterious globe in the office of the leader.  He just can't seem to leave well enough alone.  That is why he was selected for this job.
The blackmail case is more straightforward but then becomes enmeshed in the other case. Even though there a successful resolution to the blackmail case Sister Maggie comes to a very bad end.  Jack's anger and need for justice creates an even more ugly solution to the evil plans of Dormentalism.  Adversary and Ally take on a whole new context in a book that takes a strange turn in to the Other Worldly.  I understand why Dean likes this series.  Good and Evil meet and make for very strange situations.
I cannot say I loved this book but I couldn't leave it alone either.  I would put it down and then be glad to pick it up again.  I had to know where this crazy rabbit hole was going to end up.  I am still wondering.  I have already picked up book one "The Tomb" and I will keep you posted if the rest of this series holds up to this really weird 8th book. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Faking It by Jennifer Cruise is the real deal

Forgeries, fakes, cons and snakes, Jennifer Cruise has got what is takes to make me laugh out loud.
The best way to sum up this sweet treat of a story is a quote straight from Gwen Goodnight herself:
When Eve ate the apple
Her knowledge increased
But God like dumb women
So Paradise ceased

Go on out and pick this book up and save it for that week when the plumbing breaks, the car needs an oil change, the house is a mess and the kids are running amokThen find your favorite hiding spot and fill yourself up with a delightful and funny story filled with perfectly imperfect characters.
                            Jennifer Cruise you rock!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - Great Young Adult Fiction is really just great fiction!

As a kid I used to play pretend a lot.  I mean a lot.  It was one of my favorite games. What if I were a movie star, a nurse, a spy?  What if I lived in Africa or Ireland?  These what if questions were the fuel for my play time.  I made my little sister join in all the time and be my side kick for these imaginary adventures.  To be honest in these stressful times of troubled economy, war and family ups and downs I find myself playing the game again.  What if I won a million dollars? What if the world really got along?  What if I were single?  What if I lived in Africa or Ireland?  I am pretty good at coming up with some fun and unusual imaginings and I have even written some of them down.  I have nothing on Neil G aiman.
You may have heard of Mr. Gaiman or at least heard of his work.  He wrote "Coraline."  I told you this guy had crazy imagination skills. I haven't read Coraline but I saw the movie and was swept away by this little girl's adventure. Isn't that a popular pretend game?  What if I had different parents?  Coraline's certainly turned out differently than she expected, eh?

Besides great juvenile fiction Mr. Gaiman is also well respected for his DC comic book series "Sandman."

So now I come to the first book I have ever read by this author, "The Graveyard Book."  I can tell you now I will be picking up anything I find by him from now on.
The "Graveyard Book"  takes place in the obvious place... a graveyard.  It is a story about a baby who toddles away in the night while something horrible happens to his family.  He toddles up the hill and into a very old graveyard where he encounters the ghosts that live there.  He doesn't know he has lost his family just as he doesn't know his rescuers are specters from times gone by nor does he realize he is still in danger from the evil assassin who ended the lives of his parents and sibling.

Mrs. Owens, a matronly ghost from. I'm guessing here, the 1700's, steps up to raise this poor orphaned baby.  Mr. Owens, her more pragmatic ghostly husband reminds her she is a ghost and therefore cannot provide food or clothing for the mite. The boy should go to an orphanage like a proper orphan should.  Enters Silas.  He is a mysterious man who lives in the night and has been granted the freedom of the graveyard.  He  is able to interact with his spirit hosts.  He tells them the assassin is still hunting the child and will stop at nothing to accomplish his ghoulish goal.  The boy needs protection and suggests they give the boy the same gift of the graveyard and allow Mrs. Owen, who had no children in life, the opportunity to raise the child.  He offers his corporeal abilities to provide food and other necessities to be his official guardian.  The ghosts take a vote and it is agreed the baby will live with them and be given the freedom of the graveyard and the Owens' will be his new parents.  They name him Nobody Owens.  You will need to read the story to find out why. 
So begins the life and times of Nobody Owens in the graveyard.  He learns his alphabet and how to read by tombstone.  He can make himself nearly invisible.  His friends and mentors are made up of teachers, millers, and even a roman soldier.  He is happy in the graveyard.
As the years go by he is told the story of how he came to them and he is aware danger is still stalking him.  Silas brings him books from the outside world and even brings him a very special nanny, Miss Lupescu , who gives him lessons on shouting help in every possible language in the universe.  It comes in very handy when a bunch of Ghouls take him off to Gulheim to become one of them.
The graveyard has been closed for nearly a century as a place for burials and instead has been declared a nature preserve and a park is built next to it.  A little girl wanders into the graveyard and becomes friends with Bod.  They become fast friends and everytime her mom brings her to the park she wanders off to the graveyard to find Bod.  Their last adventure ends up with Scarlett in a tomb and her parents frantic when they find her.
Time goes on and Bod attends school and you can imagine what trials would await a graveyard boy named Bod in a schoolyard full of regular kids. 
The Graveyard Book is chocked full of wonderful characters. 
Mr. and Mrs. Owens, course, who love Bod like he was there own.
Silas is a mysterious creature who isn't really human.
Ms. Lupescu, her name gives her away.
Liza, the witch.  She is buried in unhallowed ground but is a good girl nonetheless.
Nehemiah Trot who was a poet who got revenge only on himself.
Caius Pompeius is a roman soldier who has been in the graveyard longer than almost anything.
Scarlett Amber Perkins who discovers Bod wasn't just her imaginary friend.
And Finally, Jack, the reason Bod ends up in the graveyard in the first place.
Bod, with the help of the graveyard finally succeeds in saving his own life and begins a new life in the world "Out There". 
The last lines of the lullaby Mrs. Owens used to sing to him carry him into his new world:
...Face your life
Its pain, its pleasure,
Leave no path untaken.
As I closed the cover I sighed in satisfaction and smiled with gratitude for a story well imagined.
This is YA fiction at its best.  Adults will appreciate it too, maybe more than the kids. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

DIK 2010 Reading Challenge Review: Lisa Kleypas- Smooth Talking Stranger

PhotobucketIt was very fortunate and convenient that one of the first books I got for the new year was one of the 188 books on
DIK's 2010 Reading Challenge list since I realized I was now in the middle of January with no idea what I was going to read.  Thanks DIK for having a wonderful and varied list to work with.
Onto the review:
Smooth Talking Stranger was good.  It wasn't great.  It wasn't particularly original but it was good.  To be honest it felt a lot like a Nora Roberts or SEP novel.  I love those two authors but somehow Lisa Kleypas misses the mark for me.  I think it was too much modern man for me.  Let me explain.

Smooth Talking Stranger revolves around Ella Varner.  She is a steady, moderately successful writer and an attractive woman.  She grew up in a dysfunctional family with a narcissistic mom and needy sister. She has overcome her past but is estranged from her family. She is in a solid, easy relationship with Dane.  He is a metrosexual man intent on saving the world one solar panel at a time. 
One day she gets a call from her mom to come to Houston.  Something urgent has occurred.  When Ella gets there she discovers the emergency in the form of the baby her sister had the week before and abandoned to her messed up mom so she could go to a rehab/spa to get her head on straight.  Of course mom, who still thinks she is 30, refuses to care for the infant claiming "it" will cramp her style.  She demands that Ella assume responsibility for the child and find out what happened with her sister.  Ella, who is a classic co-dependent, resents her mother dumping another responsibility on her, agrees to take care of the baby until she talks to her sister Tara.  Of course Tara is as self absorbed as her mother and manipulates Ella to take responsibility for Luke, the baby, while she gets therapy in Mexico. Yes, Ella agrees.  No, Dane the boyfriend, isn't ok with bringing a baby back to their place but he is ok with supporting her decision to stay and help her family.  He reasonably explains babies aren't part of their relationship.  Ella reasonably let's him off the hook and decides to stay in Houston with the baby. She is going to ensure this baby gets the care she didn't get from her mother.  Ella decides on behalf of her sister to find the father and get him involved even if it is only in the form of financial support.

Enter Jack Travis.  He is an ultra weathly, successful, handsome, single and never settled down suspect.  Ella confronts him in his office building.  Yes, I said his office building which he conveniently has apartments.  She demands he has a paternity test based on nothing more than gossip from a cousin saying Tara and he were together around the time she would have gotten pregnant.  He informs Ella they didn't sleep together but after some interesting dialogue agrees to have a paternity test to save him the hassle of lawyers or press.  He offers her the use of one of the apartments in the building while she waits for her sister's return. He gets in exchange a dinner with Ella.  He helps her put up the new crib.  Hello?  Why is he being so nice? Yes, there are sparks but really?  He isn't one bit pissed for being wrongfully accused?  He is not a normal man.

I am sure you already have a good idea what happens in the rest of the story.  Jack really isn't the father but helps out Ella anyway.  The real father is not a good guy but sister Tara isn't willing to accept that or accept responsibility for her son.  Ella and Dane don't survive the tumult of the situation but remain good and supportive friends.  Jack becomes possessive of Ella and is jealous of Dane.  Happy ending when Ella gets it all including the baby.  (Personally, getting a 6 month old baby as a wedding gift isn't my idea of fun.)

Like I said at the beginning the book was good.  There was some really cute scenes like when Jack gets Ella to eat steak after she has been living as a vegan for a year.  There are several sections of witty dialogue but where Nora Roberts gets so passionate about her characters and SEP has me giggling and laughing out loud at her characters Ms. Kleypas just doesn't quite take it all the way.  Smooth Talking Stranger stopped just shy of being a great book.  Ultimately, everyone was just too nice.  Jack tried to be a chauvinist but he was too kind.  Dane tried to be a self absorbed do gooder but he cared too much about Ella.  Ella tried to be a tough, do the right thing kind of woman but she was too much a people pleaser.  It was all very predictable.

In the end nothing was resolved. Oh, Ella got Jack and the baby but there was no real resolution between the sisters, the mom or for that matter with Ella herself. 

I will read another Kleypas since I have only read one other and it was a historical but she isn't an author I will be scrounging the shelves for to see what she has done next.