29 May 2013

Babycakes (Tales of the City, Book 4)

Synopsis: When an ordinary househusband and his ambitious wife decide to start a family, they discover there's more to making a baby than meets the eye. Help arrives in the form of a grieving gay neighbor, a visiting monarch, and the dashing young lieutenant who defects from her yacht. Bittersweet and profoundly affecting, BABYCAKES was the first piece of fiction to acknowledge the arrival of AIDS.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, published by Harper Perennial, 2007; 326 pages; purchased.

My thoughts: In 2010 I read the first three books in this series almost back to back, and enjoyed each entry more than the previous one, and I'm pleased to say I liked BABYCAKES just as much. The cast of characters is not quite as large now (if my memory is serving me correctly), with Mary Ann and Michael both featured prominently. Mary Ann is focused on her career, while her husband Brian desperately wants a baby. He thinks Mary Ann doesn't want one, but her reasons for resisting go much deeper than he realizes. Meanwhile, Michael is mourning the death of his lover, Jon. When the Queen visits San Francisco, Simon, an officer on her ship, defects, and meets Mary Ann. Wanting to stay in San Francisco, he and Michael come to an agreement to trade apartments for a month, and Michael heads off for England, where he makes new friends and runs into an old friend from Barbary Lane.

There's laughter, intrigue, a little mystery, and the shadow of the beginning of the AIDS epidemic throughout. And I've just checked my bookshelf and am a little distraught to realize I do not yet have the next two books. So off I go to track them down!

19 May 2013

Twice Tempted (Night Prince, Book 2)

Synopsis: Leila's psychic abilities have been failing her,and now she isn't sure what the future holds. If that weren't enough, her lover Vlad has been acting distant. Though Leila is a mere mortal, she's also a modern woman who refuses to accept the cold shoulder treatment forever - especially from the darkly handsome vampire who still won't admit that he loves her...

Soon circumstances send Leila back to the carnival circuit, where tragedy strikes. And when she finds herself in the crosshairs of a killer who may be closer than she realizes, Leila must decide who to trust - the fiery vampire who arouses her passions like no other or the tortured knight who longs to be more than a friend? With danger stalking her every step of the way, all it takes is one wrong move to damn her for eternity ...

First line: This wasn't the first time I'd woken up as a captive.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Avon Books, An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2013; 360 pages (plus excerpt in back); purchased new.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one more than the first book in this trilogy. Leila is a strong but sensitive heroine. She knows Vlad loves her, but since he still refuses to admit it, she says sayonara and books it for home. Of course things happen, buildings explode, people die, and Leila finds herself allied with Maximus, trying to figure out who wants her dead. Would Vlad try to kill her for leaving him and embarrassing him to his huge line? Or is someone else out to get her?

A nice interlude while I impatiently wait for the next Cat and Bones book.

On a side note – all through the first book I pronounced Leila's name in my head as “Lee-luh”. But I recently watched an interview with Jeaniene Frost on Goodreads, and she pronounced it “Lay-luh”. In case you wondered.

06 May 2013

Code Name: Blondie (Code Name, Book 4)


Synopsis from back of book: Miki is living every woman’s fantasy – stranded on a desert island with a rugged Navy SEAL. But little does Miki know she’s a suspect in an international high-tech robbery, and her steely-eyed companion is ready, willing and able to do anything to make her talk…

Navy SEAL Max Preston doesn't buy one word of his gorgeous captive’s rambling story as he carries her up the beach. Yeah, she’s got curves in all the right places, but Max has a nose for a con – and there’s no way he’ll let his iron control waver.

Now a hurricane’s headed their way, and for Max and Miki time is running out fast. Can they team up as friendly forces – and use Max’s amazing canine companion to escape before a deadly villain takes his twisted revenge?

First line: Why did sex sound so noisy when it wasn’t happening to you?

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 2006; 379 pages; received through BookCrossing.

My thoughts: Right off the bat, I was caught up in Miki’s adventure. We met Miki in the previous book as she is Kit’s best friend and spent some time with Kit and her dogs during their story. The way Miki and Kit’s brother, Trace, were arguing at the end of that book, I anticipated him being her hero. But now we’re introduced to Max, a newer member of the elite team that Wolfe and Trace belong to.

Miki is on a remote island taking photographs for a calendar. On the last day of the shoot, the crew and the models take off in one of the two helicopters. Miki’s boss, a complete ass, insists on her taking a few more scenery shots before they board the second helicopter. Which ends up crash landing in the ocean, killing the boss, and wounding the only other person on board, the pilot.

Max is on another remote island, with his service dog, Truman, tracking Cruz, the villain who has managed to escape capture in the previous books. He sees the crash, and rescues Miki and the pilot, bringing them both ashore. But he’s suspicious of them, thinking Miki may be working for Cruz, so he promptly ties her up and hustles her and the unconscious pilot to his hidden bunker.

While the pilot drifts in and out of consciousness, Miki spends most of her time trying to figure out how to get away from Max and find help, only to be recaptured. Having nothing to do with Cruz of course, she doesn't understand his questions or accusations, or much of anything since Max doesn't tell her why he’s on the island or what he’s doing, giving her a simple cover story of “microscope and chemical assay for hire, world wide”.

Like the men and dogs in the previous books, Max and Truman are both genetically enhanced. Max’s special skill is touch and odor recognition – when he touches someone with his bare hands, he can detect, for instance, lotion or perfumes used recently, stress, etc. He can also touch the ground or a door and pick up chemicals and clues as to who’s been there before him.

To be honest, the whole storyline with Cruz kinda went right through me, without my retaining most of it. My attention was more riveted on Miki and her interactions with Max and Truman.

Overall, this entry in the series is more entertaining than the previous one, and I’ll definitely continue with the last book, which is in my TBR pile.

02 May 2013

Code Name: Baby (Code Name, Book 3)


Synopsis: Navy SEAL Wolfe Houston is on a mission of national security: protect one stubborn – but gorgeous – civilian in charge of training valuable government assets.

But tracking down four genetically enhanced service dogs and guarding their furry backs 24/7 is going to take all of Wolfe’s tactical skills. The dogs’ unsuspecting trainer, Kit O’Halloran, doesn't know that deadly mercenaries are determined to kidnap her charges. With hostiles to evade and bullets to dodge, there’s no time to waste – so why is Kit pressed against an adobe wall by moonlight, reveling in the hot magic of Wolfe’s slow, skillful hands?

Wolfe is fascinated by Kit’s devotion to her puppies, especially Baby, the incorrigible runt of the litter. But two other trainers have died under strange circumstances – and a foreign government has just posted a staggering bounty for Kit’s capture. Before Wolfe can explore their white-hot attraction, the two are on the run, forced to decide which of their secret contacts is friend…and which is deadliest foe. Only Baby can lead them through the storm to safe haven in each other’s arms. Good dog!

First line: The dogs were howling.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 2005; 378 pages; purchased at Half Price Books.

My thoughts: Having enjoyed the first and second Code Name books, I went into this one eagerly, but was quickly thrown for a loop. The hero, Wolfe Houston, a military man as are the heroes in the previous books, is part of a very elite group who all have some sort of psychic ability. I was not expecting that touch of the paranormal and it took my mind a bit to adjust to it. However, I then got involved in the story pretty quickly, for awhile anyway.

Kit is a dog trainer who contracts with the military, and is currently working with four Labrador pups. The dogs are very quick and incredibly intelligent, and while sometimes Kit wonders to herself stuff like how in the heck did he move so quick, it of course would never occur to her that the dogs have been genetically enhanced.

Wolfe has also been genetically enhanced, as has Cruz, the villain of the story. Cruz had gone crazy and Wolfe and the rest of his team were told he died, but now Wolfe has learned that Cruz is still alive and has gone rogue. He is sent to protect Kit and the dogs, but his real mission is to capture Cruz.

Conveniently for our story, Wolfe lived on the ranch with Kit and her family as a teenager, when Kit’s mother took him in to help him escape his own abusive home. He looked upon Kit as a younger sister, but she’s had a crush on him ever since. Now of course Wolfe is very attracted to Kit, but in his chosen career a relationship is out of the question, and he has to force himself to remain detached and impassive.

There are lots of descriptions of Wolfe using his enhanced psychic skills, Cruz using his own powerful enhanced psychic skills, Kit angsting over Wolfe being back in her life, Wolfe angsting over his attraction to Kit, the dogs being cute and amazing, etc.

When Cruz and Wolfe finally have contact with each other, Cruz keeps saying that the experiments and testing performed on him had caused his breakdown, and that the same thing would happen to Wolfe and the rest of his team. I thought that this would become an important plot point, and that perhaps in the end Wolfe would even discover this to be true or would at least try to investigate it further. Since the team members are forbidden to be involved in an actual relationship with a woman and cannot have families, it would have provided the perfect resolution for Wolfe and Kit to be together in the end. But it was glossed over, and while of course they got their HEA, or at least an HFN, no explanation was really given for how Wolfe is suddenly allowed to deviate from the rules against relationships.

The story just didn’t appeal to me the way the previous books did. I liked Kit and her fierce devotion to the dogs, but I never really connected with Wolfe. By the final quarter of the book, I just wanted it to be over and get to the HEA/HFN already. I think the psychic components, the genetic enhancements, just weren’t my cup of tea. At one point Kit falls asleep watching “Casablanca” on TV, and Wolfe picks up the remote control and begins playing with it, marveling at it and the high tech television set. I realize he’s been living in isolation with the military for awhile, but a remote control and a TV should not be that fascinating to an elite military man. And he’d never seen, or in fact seemed to have heard of, “Casablanca” – that’s just too unreal.