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JenniferLane

Jennifer Lane Books

Hi, I'm Jen, a psychologist/author (psycho author) in Columbus, Ohio. I write romantic suspense for adults and new adults. And I'm a voracious reader of romance and fiction. I love laughing, swimming, volleyball, and Grumpy Cat.

Currently reading

Standing at the Crossroads: Next Steps for High-Achieving Women
Patricia J. Ohlott, Marian N. Ruderman
The Space Between
Victoria H. Smith
Chasing Hope
Kathryn Cushman
Point of Retreat (Slammed, #2) - Colleen Hoover Slammed by Compelling Characters and a Bit Too Much Drama

What an awesome New Adult Series! Poetry and I typically don't get along, but Colleen Hoover's slam poetry and I are best buds. This review is rather spoilerish so please go no further it if you haven't read this series.

Will and Lake have to juggle college and parenting their younger brothers -- no small feat. Yet they perform their parenting duties with aplomb. I wish their relationship skills were as adept. Lake's mother's dying wish was for them to wait to have sex, and the wait is killing them.

Will sums up the sizzling sexual tension between Lake and him with this slam:

Twenty-two hours and our war begins.
Our war of limbs
and lips
and hands...
The point of retreat
Is no longer a factor
When both sides of the line
Agree to surrender


Finally! you think. Then the sh*t hits the fan. It's clear Lake is younger than Will by the way she handles things. Girlfriend's also got low self-worth, as evidenced by her question to Will:

"Do you think she's right about the possibility of you being with me because of our situation? Because you feel sorry for me?"

Of course Will denies that possibility, but Lake doesn't listen. How butterflying frustrating!

I like a fair amount of drama (and I realize these two have been through hell so the relationship won't necessarily be smooth), but the accident toward the end is over the top for me. I do admit that the scene in the hospital where Lake's younger brother Kel speaks to Will tore me apart:

"Will?" Kel says.
"Yeah?" I reply. I'm too tired to look at him. I can't even keep my eyes open.
"what'll happen to me? If . . . she can't take care of me? Where will I go?"


Just like in Slammed, amazing characterization abounds in this story. Their neighbor Kiersten is a hoot. She's 12 going on 45, and I love her mother's medicinal concoctions. Eddie and Gavin are great too.

My favorite part of the story is the jar of stars Lake's mother left for them, to help them weather the difficult times. How beautiful.
Gabriel's Rapture - Sylvain Reynard Enraptured by Gabriel and Julia

The writing and the plot are wonderful in this series, but I wish to focus on the characterization in my review. It's uncommon when both the hero and the heroine are strong characters, but this is the case in the [b:Gabriel's Inferno|10140661|Gabriel's Inferno (Gabriel's Inferno #1)|Sylvain Reynard|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1343961643s/10140661.jpg|15038778] series. I love Gabriel and Julia equally, which is quite a feat for the author.

(For my review of Gabriel's Inferno and interview with author Sylvain Reynard, go here).

University professor and Dante specialist Gabriel Emerson can be an insensitive jerk until he meets the sweet, self-effacing grad student Julia Mitchell. Their romance and effect on each other have progressed since book one. Gabriel has become softer, and Julia more confident. I loved when Gabriel is patient with Julia's past romantic trauma, and when Julia stands up to Dean Aras.

Gabriel is brilliant, classy, and layered. There's a lot of vulnerability hiding beneath his pompous exterior, and nobody brings out that depth like Julia. He's eloquent; he's caring. Gabriel's fashion choices are...interesting. Like a bow tie and a beret. Only a man with such a great body and beautiful blue eyes can pull it off.

The story begins in Italy, where Gabriel delivers an invited lecture.

He removed his glasses for dramatic effect and fixed Julia with an unblinking eye. "Many people fail to see how modesty and sweetness of temper compound erotic appeal."

Gabriel nails Julia's appeal with this statement. She is so kind and thoughtful, like when she tells Gabriel how his baby Maia is safe and loved in Paradise, which brings rare tears to his eyes.

Julia's wisdom continues to impress me, especially the time she tells Gabriel she doesn't want to become his new drug of choice. She has some clever thoughts of her own, like this pillow talk with Professor Emerson:

"For me, your name is synonymous with orgasm. I'm going to start calling them Emgasms."

I loved their conversation about "sticky little leaves" that form on spring trees--the true blessings of life; signs of hope. Julia explains:

"Everyone wants to know where evil comes from and why the world is riddled with it. Why doesn't anyone ask where goodness comes from? Human beings have a tremendous capacity for cruelty. Why is there any goodness at all? Because there's a God, and he hasn't allowed the earth to be entirely corrupted. There are sticky little leaves, if you look for them. And when you recognized them, you can feel his presence.

That is very much how I feel God as well. My sticky little leaves include my sisters, the sport of swimming, and the pleasure of helping others as a psychologist.

I also enjoyed the exploration of a balanced love. Gabriel says "...no human being can every make another human being completely happy. Human beings are far too imperfect for that." Amen! Too bad he quickly denies that statement has anything to do with him and Julia, ha ha.

I'm a big fan of any book with therapy scenes, and I found Julia's work to be interesting with her therapist Nicole. (It's unfortunate Gabriel doesn't buy in). Nicole's explanation of "wounded duck attachment" interested me:

"Of course, some women have the feminine equivalent of chivalry syndrome--wounded duck attachment. They seek out men who are bad boys or broken and afflicted and attempt to fix them."

Hmm, Julia--should you be looking in the mirror? I know quite a few women like this.

Credible threats to their relationship occur, and I wanted to bop the professor over the head for causing a misunderstanding between them. But I couldn't stay angry with him for long. The writing is stunning, and I can't wait until book three!
Defiant - Pamela Clare My Favorite Pamela Clare Novel Yet

I fell in love with Pamela Clare's writing with her modern-day romantic suspense I-Team series, but I had no idea how much I would enjoy her historical romance series MacKinnon's Rangers. The MacKinnon brothers -- Iain, Morgan, and Connor -- are Scots living in the wilds of 1750's New York. I loved Iain's and Morgan's stories ([b:Surrender|656836|Surrender (MacKinnon’s Rangers, #1)|Pamela Clare|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1298611983s/656836.jpg|642925] and [b:Untamed|3711150|Untamed (MacKinnon's Rangers, #2)|Pamela Clare|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1325216112s/3711150.jpg|3754715]). This is Connor's story.

British Lord William Wentworth has pressed The MacKinnon brothers into service to fight the French by holding a death sentence over their heads for a crime they didn't commit. Not surprisingly, the brothers hate their commander -- especially Connor. Now it's Connor's turn to lead the highly dangerous and effective MacKinnon's Rangers. Don't underestimate him just because he's the youngest brother. His stature and skills demand respect.

When the Shawnee capture Wentworth's niece, Lady Sarah Woodville, Wentworth orders Connor to save her. Connor takes his trusted friend Joseph on the rescue mission. When Connor tracks down Sarah, his low expectations of Wentworth's kin get blown to pieces. Sarah is exquisitely beautiful, innocent yet brave.

Unfortunately the Shawnee's best warrior has decided to take Sarah as his bride in order to avenge the English killing his wife. The only way for Connor to get her back is to fight to the death for her hand in marriage. But oops! How will Uncle Wentworth feel about his royal niece marrying a lowly Scot? NOT HAPPY.

Like his brothers, Connor is swoon-worthy -- tall, tanned, with long brown hair and deep blue eyes. He's funny, honorable, and competent. Connor's unique burden is the rage and guilt he carries for hurting innocents in this unending war. He believes he's damned and undeserving of good things in life.

I knew I would love Connor but I had no idea how fond I'd grow of Sarah. Her strict parents had tried to squelch her passion for music, which is her most endearing quality. When Sarah gets embroiled in a scandal in England, her parents send her away to America without bothering to allow her to defend her innocence. A fine-bred lass such as she is clearly not ready for the uncivilized land of colonial America, but she doesn't complain once. She has strength beyond measure.

Connor treats her virgin status with the utmost respect, showing his unwavering integrity. Their first encounters are thrilling and sexy:

"If my touch doesna sicken you, then why do you draw away from me?"
Trapped by her own undeniable response, she looked into his eyes, saw his anger and, beneath it, anguish..."I do not feel repulsed by your touch. I feel..."
Oh, how could she speak of this with him?
"I feel...confused." Heat rose to her cheeks. "They way you look at me...I feel...naked. I struggle to breathe. And when you touch me...I feel warm, even when it is cold, and still I shiver." Ashamed, she started to look away, but he caught her chin between his fingers, forcing her to meet his gaze.
He seemed to study her for a moment, the anguish slowly leaving his eyes, his voice deep and warm. "There's a name for what you're feelin', Sarah. Do you ken what it is?"
Sarah shook her head. She was not sure she wanted to know. "Connor, I--"
"'Tis desire."
She shook her head, took a step backward. "Nay, I--"
"Shall we put my supposition to test?" He pursued her in slow, easy steps, drew her into his arms.
And then he kissed her.


My favorite parts of the story--the parts that made me cry--were when Sarah played music for Connor. She has no idea how gifted she is as a musician since her parents stomped on her ability instead of fostering it. Here she hungrily takes Dougie's fiddle and plays for the Rangers:

Only when she had finished the entire sonata, the last notes lingering in the cool evening air, did she realize what she'd done. She opened her eyes.
Every Ranger in camp was staring at her, even Connor, a look of stunned surprise on his handsome face. Was he angry?
Reluctantly, she lowered the fiddle, feeling uncertain. She hadn't meant to play so long. The music had simply rushed out of her, almost beyond her control. She was about to hand the violin back to Dougie, when the Rangers burst into wild shouts. It took her a moment to realize their shouts were cheers and meant as praise.
When the cheers had begun to quieten, Connor spoke, his voice strangely soft. "I've ne'er heard such beautiful music afore, my lady."


What a fabulous couple!

I'm so grateful to the author for sending me a signed copy of Defiant, which I won in a giveaway. And I hear this series may have another novel featuring Joseph. Until then, I have more Pamela Clare novels awaiting me. Yahoo!
Slammed (Slammed, #1) - Colleen Hoover Slammed by Surprise

When I first heard this book featured slam poetry (performance poetry, kind of like music lyrics without the melody), I hesitated to read it. While I love to read and write novels, poetry has never been my thing. Sometimes I just don't get it, and that frustrates me.

But am I glad I gave this book a shot! The poetry is a small percentage of the novel, but it's an emotionally packed percentage. The slam poetry is a way to understand the characters like dialogue and exposition could never accomplish.

Layken (affectionally called Lake by her mom) is 18. When her father died from a heart attack five months ago, her mother uprooted Lake and her younger brother Kel to Ypsilanti, Michigan, where her mother could find a better-paying job. Understandably, Lake is angry about changing schools for her last year of high school. That would be rough!

Her brother Kel seems to take the change in stride, especially when he meets a neighbor boy Caulder who is close to his age and temperament. They become fast friends. Luckily for Lake, Caulder has an older brother who is spicy hot: Will. Will is 21 and he takes an instant liking to Lake. Maybe Michigan won't be so bad?

Lake and Will are such endearing characters. But there are so many wonderful secondary characters as well. At first I wondered if Kel had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the way Lake describes her brother:

He's a strange kid, but I couldn't love him more. He has a game he likes to play which he calls 'backwards day' where he spends most of the time walking everywhere backwards, talking backwards and even requests dessert first.
"Hurry to says Mom Layken!" he says, backwards.


But then I figured out he just has an expansive imagination. Both Kel and Caulder are good kids, and it's hilarious when they stage a snowman death scene behind the car. Kel helps Lake deal with a shocker later in the story.

Lake has her ups and downs with her mother, but I thought this maternal advice before Lake's first date with Will is excellent:

"There are three questions every woman should be able to answer yes to before they commit to a man. If you answer no to any of the three questions, run like hell...Does he treat you with respect at all times? That's the first question. The second question is, if he is the exact same person twenty years from now that he is today, would you still want to marry him? And finally, does he inspire you to want to be a better person? You find someone you can answer yes to all three, then you've found a good man."

Nick is a classmate she meets who's OBSESSED with the vaunted Chuck Norris. He has a different Chuck Norris joke for Lake each day, like "Chuck Norris got a g-mail account today. It's gmail@chucknorris.com." (It took me a while to figure that one out!)

Here's a little Chuck Norris humor I found myself:

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And Eddie becomes Lake's best friend. I love how she uses her difficult past as a source of wisdom in getting what she wants from life. She's a big reason Lake and her mother strengthen their relationship.

Eddie turns her gaze away from Will and looks at me.
"It wasn't death that punched you, Layken. It was LIFE. Life happens. Shit happens. And it happens a LOT. To a LOT of people."


So true. Somehow this story makes the awful things that happen in life seem not so awful, and that's some powerful writing. This story has some twists--one I saw coming and the other I didn't. The romance is sweet and ethical. I can't get to [b:Point of Retreat|13496084|Point of Retreat (Slammed, #2)|Colleen Hoover|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1330543249s/13496084.jpg|19038910] fast enough!
Poughkeepsie - Debra Anastasia Deeply Touching

I've been wanting to read this story for some time due to the many elements that appeal to me: healing, redemption, crime, a psychology graduate student character (Livia), a homeless character (Blake), and a story full of emotion. Wow! I got all that and more.

Livia is one of the kindest people around. She smiles at everyone, including the quiet homeless man who frequents the shadows of the Poughkeepsie train station. One morning when some thugs threaten the man Livia's come to known as "Green Eyes", Livia stands up for him. Their first words are adorable:

"You might want to find another place to sit," Livia said. "Those idiots could cook up a plan for revenge."
Instead of being the friendly advice Livia intended, her words seem to slice into him.
Why is he in such pain?
"I can't leave." Green Eyes took a huge breath. "This is the only place where I get to see you."


I fell for the sensitive soul Blake from the start, especially after learning that he counts each of Livia's smiles. His foster brother Cole explains:

"He counts. You've smiled at him four hundred and forty-six times as of a few minutes ago."

How cute is that?

Blake might have a chance with Livia because her boyfriend Chris is a total CAD. I mean, he calls psychology "the study of psychos"! Grr.

There are fantastic secondary characters in this novel:

* Livia's younger sister Kyle. What a potty mouth! Blake says "Pretty sure Kyle lacks any kind of editing mechanism". Their mother took off shortly after Kyle was born, and Kyle blames herself for not being worthy enough to make their mother stay. Kyle's low self-worth leads her to promiscuity. But perhaps she can find a love match in one of Blake's foster bros?

* Cole is Blake's foster brother who's studying to be a priest. He has a violent past he's running from.

* Beckett is a wildly colorful foster brother who aged out of the system before Cole and Blake, determined to pave the road for his brothers by committing all sorts of sins so they wouldn't have to. He's pretty much become a crime boss, with a muscled assistant named Mouse. Kyle refers to Beckett as "the human steroid." He doesn't believe in following rules, like parking in between the lines:

"I'm telling you, Cole, that's how it all gets started. The government's beating us down, and it all begins with those goddamn lines in the parking lot. Set yourself free, my brother. If you see a line, ignore it.

Eve and Mouse were also wonderful characters, along with Livia and Kyle's police officer father.

The flashbacks to the boys getting beaten by their foster dad, and the intensity between Beckett and Eve made me cry so hard.

There are also so many freaking funny lines in the story, but I won't share all the off-color words here ha ha. But one chapter title "My Penis Rules the World" gives you a good flavor! And this excerpt when Kyle berates Livia and Blake at a religious ceremony is priceless (naughty language alert!)

"Will you get your asses up here? People are waiting. I mean Beckett here has maybe a few hours before he's bent over a metal toilet getting it up the ass from a guy named Bubba. Do you want him to have fun now or not?"
The streetlight illuminated Beckett as he appeared next to Kyle. "Why would I be the bitch? I don't think that's a fair f*cking assumption."
Kyle refused to look at him and crossed her arms. "Of course you'd be the bitch. You have dimples. Bitches have dimples. And I bet your ass is soft like two pillows."


Debra, I love your screwballs sense of humor ;-) And I love even more that your story made me laugh and cry. An EXCELLENT read!
The Edge of Never - J.A. Redmerski The Edge of a Good Read

Friends who enjoy the New Adult genre recommended this book to me, and when I saw The Edge of Never top the Kindle bestseller charts, I decided to give it a try. I'd heard there was a surprising twist, which made me think of the great suspense novel [b:Gone Girl|8442457|Gone Girl|Gillian Flynn|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1339602131s/8442457.jpg|13306276]. But my expectation of an amazing page-turner didn't quite pan out.

This is a pure romance story, not suspense. And it took reading about 85% of the novel before the "twist" occurred, which made me impatient.

Camryn hasn't had much luck in love or life. Her high school boyfriend Ian died in a drunk-driving accident, her brother is in prison for drunk driving, and her best-friend Natalie's boyfriend just made the moves on Camryn. When Camryn tells Natalie about her cheating boyfriend, Natalie stops talking to her.

I know Camryn was hurting and not feeling much direction in her life, but I didn't get a clear sense of why she decides to head out on the open road, boarding a bus cross country. A young man hops on her bus and a friendship begins between Camryn and the enigmatic Andrew. Can she trust Andrew? Is it possible to fall in love again after her first love died?

There are some sweet moments in the story but I didn't really feel drawn into their romance. I did enjoy Camryn and Andrew's banter at times, like when they're in the drug store within earshot of an elderly couple:

Andrew says causally, without lowering his voice, "Babe, did you find that yeast infection stuff?"
My eyes spring open and I freeze in front of the Tylenol.
He removes a small box of Advil from the shelf.
The couple pretends not to have heard what he said, but I know they heard him.
"I mean are you even sure that's what's causing the itch?" he goes on and I'm literally melting from the heat in my face.
The couple does glance over this time, covertly.
Andrew is grinning his ass off at me from the side, pretending to be reading labels.
"Yeah, baby I found it," I say as casually as he had. "What about you? Did you see if they have extra-small sized condoms?"


Ha ha! I also liked when Andrew refused to minimize her heartache compared to his by saying "Pain is pain." I've used that line many times as a psychologist and I found that sentiment to be very wise.

I love supporting indie authors and the fact that J.A. Redmerski self-published this novel made it more appealing to me. Unfortunately, I found the published version too long and meandering (in need of some serious editorial tightening), and an abundance of typos. For the #1 Kindle download, I expected more.

I know this novel has received glowing reviews so if you're a contemporary romance fan then check it out for yourself.
Easy - Tammara Webber Easily a Five Star Read!

I’m loving this New Adult genre. College was one of the best times of my life and I enjoy reliving the experience through books like Easy.

Jacqueline is a college sophomore whose caddish boyfriend Kennedy recently dumped her. Mourning the end of their relationship, Jacqueline leaves a fraternity party early only to be assaulted by her ex’s frat brother Buck. Luckily, cutie boy Lucas rescues her and beats the snot out of the guy.

Lucas is tall, dark, and handsome with strong muscles and beautiful tattoos. He sits in the back of Jacqueline’s Econ class sketching in his notebook instead of paying attention. He’s a barista at Starbucks who owns a cat named Francis. And he’s a campus parking officer who helps the police teach a self-defense class. Yes, he has many talents.

When Jacqueline’s friend Erin suggests that she turn to Lucas as the perfect rebound, Jacqueline definitely considers “Operation Bad Boy Phase”. But Lucas seems to have secrets that make connecting difficult. Then there’s her Econ tutor Landon who is flirty and fun, combined with creepy Buck threatening to rape her when he gets the chance.

There’s wonderful world building of a college campus. Jacqueline has a sweet and funny guy who sits next to her in class, saying things like “I’ll take Hot Tutors for $200, Alex” when Jacqueline gets distracted in class. She blushes when she takes Lucas to her dorm room the first time:

I shook my head over the charming portrayal of a penis someone had doodled onto the whiteboard Erin and I used for notes to each other. Coed dorms were less mature than depicted on college websites. Sometimes it was like living with a bunch of twelve year olds.

I love Jacqueline’s best friend Erin. She always has Jacqueline’s back:

Erin: Do you still have your coffee cup?
Me: Yes?
Erin: Take the sleeve off
Me: OMG
Erin: His phone number?
Me: How did you know???
Erin: I’m Erin. I know all. ;-)
Erin: Actually, I just wondered why he wrote on your cup if he was going to make your drink.


Erin’s eagerness at the self-defense class is hilarious:

”So when do we get to the junk-kicking?” Erin asked.
Don shook his head and sighed. “I swear, there’s one in every class.”


When Lucas kisses her for the first time, I have to laugh at Jacqueline’s reaction:

If someone had asked, How does this compare to kissing Kennedy? I would have answered, “Who?”

I think the messages of this novel are empowering to women. Instead of being victims, many of these female characters learn to be survivors:

I gave myself credit for becoming a survivor. I had survived Kennedy’s decision to end our relationship. I had survived what Buck tried to do to me. Twice. And I would survive if Lucas wouldn’t – or couldn’t – trust me with his personal demons.

YEAH! And those personal demons are heartbreaking. Just what I like—a hero who’s emotionally wounded.

Nothing about the characters’ development or their relationships is easy, but this story is so easily likable. (Okay, sorry, enough with the easy references). I highly recommend this novel!
Smart Girls Get What They Want - Sarah Strohmeyer So Sweet and Cute!

I don't know about your high school, but in my school it wasn't cool to be smart. The popular kids were solid "B" or "C" students who didn't take advanced classes. I remember lying about my test grades a time or two due to embarrassment that they set the curve.

So when I came across a Goodreads friend's review of Smart Girls Get What They Want, I was definitely intrigued. Can smart girls have boyfriends and fun social lives too?

Gigi is a 10th grader who spends all her time with her bffs Bea (who's red-headed and feisty) and Neerja (who's Indian and calm). They enjoy their somewhat nerdy obsession with getting into an Ivy League university until they run across Neerja's older sister Parad's 12th grade yearbook, which nobody has signed. Parad is brilliant but doesn't appear to have any high school friends, which appalls the three girls. Is that how they'll end up?

So they set out to create more balanced lives and run into many hijinks along the way. It all starts when Gigi and Mike Ipolito (a lacrosse player who somehow attends the same AP classes as Gigi) get accused of cheating on their AP Chemistry test. Mike claims he has secured a scholarship to Amherst (one detail that's incorrect in this book--there are no athletic scholarships to Ivy League schools) so he seems unfazed by the accusation, but Gigi freaks out that her future is ruined.

The kooky principal makes Gigi and Mike collaborate on a presentation of the Periodic Table as a means of proving their knowledge (the poor things--that sounds like an AWFUL assignment to me). At first Gigi thinks Mike is a dumb jock mooch but perhaps there's more than meets the eye for this cocky boy with brown eyes and shaggy brown hair.

Meanwhile, hottie Justin moves to Boston from California, and he seems to have a thing for Gigi of all people. School plays, ski team, and dances all line up in this fun coming-of-age story.

I really enjoyed Gigi's voice. She's funny and endearing.

Parad was the type who carefully saved her tests in color-coded files. (Love her!)

It was like their parents couldn't do enough for Parad now that she'd made the Ivy League. They let her drive their new Mercedes...and never asked her to babysit the eight-year-old twins, Shiva and Shari, who we secretly nicknamed Thing One and Thing Two.

"What I'm saying," I went on, "is nothing worthwhile comes easy." I'd read that somewhere. Maybe on the back of the Pop-Tarts box "This is probably the advantage of being stupid. Stupid people just do. We tend to overthink."

Today Neerja's mom was wearing a bright pink shalwar under a kameez of purple etched in gold and matching pink. I think it is totally unfair that the rest of us don't get to wear these. I would kill to walk around all day in flowing purple and pink lounge wear.

She usually fell for the brooding artists, like Rolf the German exchange student, skinny pale guys in black leather jeans whose pain the rest of us mortals couldn't begin to fathom.

And when Gigi has an angst-ridden moment like this, I swear she lives inside my head:

I focused on the passing houses filled with couples who'd somehow survived this teenage craziness of he-like-her-but-she-likes-another-guy-who-likes-somebody-else. How did they do it? How did they end up in their golden, warm, and cozy living rooms with their 2.3 children and dogs and cats? Because getting from where I was to where they were seemed millions of light-years away.

Yep.

I smiled so much at the ending that I didn't even mind the lack of realism involved in the resolution to the school budget cut crisis. This is my first read by [a:Sarah Strohmeyer|26791|Sarah Strohmeyer|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1333203308p2/26791.jpg] and it won't be my last.
Political Suicide - Michael Palmer Wonderful Suspense!

What would you do if a friend gets accused of murder, but you don't think he did it?

When the hero of the military/political thriller Political Suicide faces that exact dilemma, he proves that he is not one to back down from a challenge. Dr. Lou Welcome has battled through many challenges in his life -- the biggest being the daily struggle to stay clean and sober. He helps other physicians through drug rehab and re-entry into medical practice.

Gary McHugh is one such physician who calls Lou after falling off the wagon. Unfortunately, Gary's alcohol blackout may or may not have included killing a U.S. senator.

When Lou seeks justice for his friend, it's tough to see clearly through the miasma covering an elite Special Forces unit called Mantis Company. There just might be a deadly conspiracy with this military unit, waiting to be uncovered. And when Lou tries to find the truth, he becomes the target.

The suspense in this novel is top-notch. One scene involving a frothing-at-the-mouth guard dog had me quite on edge, nervous for Lou. I like the realism of Lou's character. He's tough, caring, and clever, yet he's definitely not perfect. Lou makes a major mistake at one point, enraging Gary's attorney Sarah. Will he redeem himself?

There's also a cast of well-drawn supporting characters, including Lou's daughter Emily, his AA sponsor and trainer Cap, and his cat Diversity. Lou and attorney Sarah team up and track down Edith, who's already suffered the consequences of the deadly conspiracy. Edith is feisty and competent.

Unfortunately I didn't feel very emotionally connected to Lou. He's a good guy, but there just seemed to be something missing. The romance that sparks up between Lou and Sarah didn't feel compelling to me, but this is more of a thriller than a romance (and I typically read romance novels).

I enjoyed the twist at the end that I didn't see coming.

Stay tuned for a GIVEAWAY of this novel on my blog http://jenniferlanebooks.blogspot.com corresponding with the release date on 12/11/12.

St. Martin's Press provided an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Fifty Shades Freed - E.L. James Christian is Free!

What a wonderful surprise this series turned out to be. There are so many haters of this series but don't count me as one of them. I thought the characterization was superb for both the heroine and the hero. I liked Ana much more than Bella in the Twilight series, and Christian's psychological journey enthralled me.

I love their banter, even when discussing difficult topics like when Ana buys him a camera on their honeymoon.

"For me, photos like those have usually been an insurance policy, Ana. I know I've objectified women for so long," he says and pauses awkwardly.
"And you think taking pictures of me is...um, objectifying me?"
...
"Well, it was supposed to be fun, but apparently it's a symbol of women's oppression." I snap away, taking more pictures of him, and watch the amusement grow on his face in super close-up. Then his eyes darken, and his expression changes to predatory.
"You want to be oppressed?" he murmurs silkily.
"Not oppressed. No," I murmur back, snapping again.
"I could oppress you big-time, Mrs. Grey," he threatens, his voice husky.
"I know you can, Mr. Grey. And you do, frequently."


Later they celebrate a happy event for Ana's friend Kate and Christian's brother Elliott.

Christian summons the waiter. "Two bottles of the Cristal please. The 2002 if you have it."
I smirk at him.
"What?" he asks.
"Because the 2002 is so much better than the 2003," I tease.
He laughs. "To the discerning palate, Anastasia."
"You have a very discerning palate, Mr. Grey, and singular tastes." I smile.
"That I do, Mrs. Grey." He leans in close. "You taste best," he whispers, and he kisses a certain spot behind my ear, sending little shivers down my spine.


My work book club read this and one therapist made an astute observation. He said that kink isn't pathological, and one downside of this story is Christian's journey from BDSM to vanilla is viewed as a journey to improved psychological health. While I partly agree with my coworker, I also believe Ana and Christian find and keep their own brand of kink. They show that BDSM can be light, playful, and sexy. And I have to believe that this wildly popular series has introduced countless readers to BDSM in a positive way.

The ending gave me an ebullient feeling and I loved reading Christian's perspective of the series's beginning chapter. I'd read all three books from his perspective should Ms. James choose to write them. I love Christian!!!
With No Remorse - Cindy Gerard Book Six in Cindy Gerard's Black Ops Series is another sizzling, dangerous addition. I'm seriously impressed how this author creates such a unique story for each book in the series.

With No Remorse takes place in Peru and features "Doc" Luke Colter, the BOI who sews up his brothers in arms when they get wounded. In the previous book Luke almost died when gunmen pumped him full of bullet holes. He hated being the fixed up instead of the fixer. Understandably, now he has a confidence problem--a healthy dose of fear and a doubt that he should continue this perilous lifestyle.

After spending his vacation administering health care to the indigent natives in the Peruvian mountains, Luke boards a train to rejoin the gang. On the train he notices a tall, thin boy dressed in expensive clothes, hat, and sunglasses who doesn't look quite right. Then he gets the "itch" that something bad is about to go down. But when nothing materializes, he settles in for a snooze.

On a huge yawn, he settled his stained, brown leather fedora lower over his forehead, determined to catch a few z's before the train hit Cuzco. That's where he'd catch his flight back to Buenos Aires and return to life in the kill zone. Crossing his arms over his chest and his battered boots at his ankles, he slumped further down on the hard bench seat and closed his eyes.
He was almost asleep when he felt the itch again.
His eyes snapped open.


"Rifle-wielding banditos" burst onto the stopped train. When Luke realizes they're hunting the teenage boy, his protective instincts kick in and he saves the boy.

As they jump off the train and tumble down the hill, Luke has another surprise awaiting.

The "boy" is none other than Valentina, supermodel.

Valentina has been on vacation herself, nursing her wounds following a very public divorce from a handsome California senator. She has no idea why men want to execute her, and she and Luke don't have time to sit and ponder because the killers are right behind them. Luke uses his abundant skills to try and keep one step ahead of the gun-toting assassins.

Luke has been fantasizing about Valentina since his horndog teenage days when she was featured on a billboard. To see her in the flesh, to save her life, to keep her safe...*gulp*. He's got it bad!

But like the other BOI's, he's full of honor, and won't make the moves on a terrified, defenseless woman without her invitation.

Lucky for Luke, his feelings aren't one-sided. I adore Luke's Fedora, and Val does too, nicknaming him "Indy".

At one point Luke and Val meet up with the team, and I love the description of Crystal, a character from an earlier book:

Val turned toward the sound of the feminine voice as a petite redhead rushed into the room. She wore camouflage pants tucked into combat boots, a snug tan T-shirt that showcased voluptuous breasts, and gold hoop earrings that a pair of canaries could have used as perches. Her hair was styled in short, spiky wisps around a stunning pixie face; her eyes were snapping green and her arms were open wide.

One thing that's slightly annoying is how every BOI is a gorgeous, muscled man and each of their women is a stunner too. But I do like the varied characterization of each man. And the writing is wonderfully blunt and descriptive--perfect for a romantic suspense story.

I had the opportunity to meet Cindy Gerard at the Romantic Times convention earlier this year, and I can't wait to read the last book in this series, which she also signed for me.
Ember - Carol Oates I love Carol Oates' lush writing. She delivers another powerful YA story with Ember, exploring teenager Candra Ember's awakening to the world of angels (and perhaps demons).

When an evil red-haired beauty throws Candra off a roof, it's the mysterious Sebastian who comes to her rescue. Candra thinks she's concussed when she first sees Sebastian's wings, but their second appearance convinces her that what she saw was real.

Sebastian had wings.
When they stretched out behind him to their full majestic size, the fine plumage looked luxurious and soft as satin. They trembled gently in the light breeze, thinning out to golden tips at the very edges. Something about it reminded her of swans rising proudly from water.


Unfortunately it's unclear if Sebastian wants to kiss her or kill her, and another group of angels tries to persuade Candra away from Sebastian. From the moment Candra meets Draven, it's obvious he's someone special.

When he stepped back, his lips pulled in a delicious lopsided grin. His eyes were the most unusual color: a deep, penetrating midnight blue, framed in the longest jet black lashes she'd ever seen.
It was absurdly endearing the way his mouth was slightly uneven when he smiled, revealing a perfect set of Hollywood-white teeth. Candra found herself toying with the idea of asking him if he wanted to have a drink, a dance...or to be the father of her children.


Ha ha! Draven has a sense of danger about him that's both alluring and off-putting. Who to trust?

I really like the complexity of Cambra's character. She's wise beyond her years yet she has a playful side too, like the time she gets Sebastian to roll down a hill for the sheer joy of tumbling out of control. He enjoys the experience almost as much as she she thrills from flying with him:

Up and up they went, with Sebastian's face lifted to the sky above them, but she could see he was smiling widely, each whoosh of his huge wings pushing them higher and higher. This was his rolling down a hill, she realized. This was where he felt free, and he was sharing it with her.

The ending surprised me in a very good way. Can't wait to read [b:Iridescent|13614229|Iridescent (Ember, #2)|Carol Oates|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1344849772s/13614229.jpg|19214493] which also has a gorgeous cover.
Still Alice - Lisa Genova Still Thinking About This Book

What a beautiful, tragic story about early-onset Alzheimer's Disease.

Alice Howland, Ph.D., is a respected cognitive psychology professor at Harvard who begins experiencing memory problems. At first she chalks up slow word retrieval or other lapses to menopause, but when she forgets the way home on a running path she's taken countless times before, she knows something is terribly wrong.

When Alice's neuropsychologist confirms the diagnosis of Alzheimer's, Alice awaits the devastating mental and emotional decline affecting not only her, but also her husband and three grown children.

Alice is only 50 years old.

Many joke that they're getting Alzheimers when they misplace their keys or glasses. But what they really need to worry about is forgetting the face of a loved one. And it's no joking matter when Alice battles the amyloid plaque gumming up her brain.

My favorite part of the story is the realistic portrayal of her family and their response to Alice's illness. She's married to another Harvard professor, John. Predictably, John develops a wealth of knowledge about symptoms and treatment, but struggles to support his wife emotionally. Alice's older daughter is a married attorney trying to get pregnant. Her son is a bright medical student at Harvard. And her younger daughter is a budding actress living in L.A., much to Alice's chagrin.

Discovering that each child had a 50% chance of inheriting the gene causing early-onset Alzheimer's is horrifying. I don't know how Anna can cope. I don't know how Lydia makes the choice she does either.

For Alice's 51st birthday, her family gets her such a thoughtful gift:

Lydia presented Alice with a small, rectangular package wrapped in gold paper. It must have been big in significance. Alice untaped the paper. Inside were three DVDs.
"It's a video memoir for you. The Howland Kids is a collection of interviews of Anna, Tom, and me. It's our memories of you and our childhoods and growing up. The one with Dad is of his memories of meeting you and dating and your wedding and vacations and lots of other stuff."


What a lovely gift for an individual with severe memory problems.

I also liked how the author never fully explained the outcome of Alice's plan to take care of business, instead letting the reader figure out what happened.

This was an emotional read I highly recommend.

Stealing Parker - Miranda Kenneally Miranda Kenneally Knows Sports Romance!

Any book that has a character named Corndog is my kind of read. :-D

I adored Catching Jordan so I was eager to read the story of one of Jordan's classmates, Parker Shelton. She's a high-school senior softball ace who quit the team after a scandal rocked her family life. Now bound for Vanderbilt next year, Parker is searching for an activity to fill her free time.

Parker decides to join her best friend Drew on the baseball team by becoming team manager, helping with stats and equipment. How bad can it be to hang around hot guys in uniform, right? What Parker doesn't realize is that the 23 year-old assistant coach Brian Hoffman is the hottest guy on the team. Coach Hoffman's six years older and highly inappropriate as a love match. Too bad they have an instant connection.

If that's not enough drama, there's a sweet guy Will a.k.a. "Corndog" on the team that might be into Parker. Unfortunately, Parker's bff Drew might have feelings for Will too, if Drew's gay (like Parker suspects).

Though something about the love triangle (quadrangle?) didn't quite grab me emotionally, I really enjoyed the exploration of homosexuality and the church in small-town Tennessee. Not only is Drew's sexual orientation in question, but Parker's family scandal is that her mother left her father for another woman. Parker became so traumatized that she dropped 30 pounds, leaving her at an anorexic weight. Parker's older brother--once an academic superstar--has now turned to alcohol and other drugs to deal with his emotional pain.

Members of their evangelical church have shunned the family for Parker's mother being gay, which was really sad to read. I understand some people view homosexuality as a sin, but I don't view it that way, and I became angry when Parker's classmates called her a slut simply because she kissed several guys in an effort to prove her heterosexuality. Homophobia can be rampant in settings like athletics and particular churches, leaving Parker to feel deeply alone.

Mounting evidence shows that eating disorders are a biological illness and that multiple risk factors have to be present for an eating disorder to begin. Still, it bothered me that 5'7" Parker got down to 110 pounds and didn't seem to face the horrible consequences associated with malnutrition, like low energy or food obsession.

Like in Catching Jordan, there are painfully honest journal entries by the main character and abundant teenage humor. Here Parker writes a memory about her mother:

When I was five, Mom discovered a recipe for homemade edible Play-Doh...I had dinosaur cookie cutters, so I made Play-Doh T-Rex. I bit its head off, and Mom joked, "My little praying mantis." We giggled and giggled and gorged ourselves on that Play-Doh. The next day we went to church and Mom and I kneeled at the altar. As I prayed, I didn't ask you for anything. I only thanked you for giving me Mom.

Gah! That is so sad.

I cracked up when Parker played MASH with Coach Hoffman--a game where she predicts his future in different categories of life.

"Okay, so you're going to marry Kim Kardashian and you'll go to Tokyo for your honeymoon. Then you'll live in a house at the beach and drive a submarine around."

It was also good humor when Parker's dad messes up Will's nickname:

Dad sets a hand on Will's shoulder and studies his face. "What church do you go to, Corn Fritter?"

Ba ha ha!

Overall this is a wonderful Young Adult read and I look forward to the next in the series!
Pushing the Limits - Katie McGarry Heartbreaking Tale of Healing and Young Love

I love YA issue contemporaries, and this story is the best I've read. Thank you to all my GR friends who recommended this story. Yes, Rena...Mrs. Collins rocks!

Echo Emerson used to be the popular girl at her Midwestern high school. Sure, her controlling father and mentally ill mother had divorced, and her older brother had died fighting in Afghanistan, but she was managing okay. Until the night her mother stopped taking her medication for Bipolar Disorder. Echo emerged from that night covered in scars, with absolutely no memory for what happened. She went from popular to freak -- withdrawn and scared.

Luckily for Echo, the school hires a new clinical social worker -- Mrs. Collins -- who meets with selected troubled students for therapy. (Echo doesn't feel so lucky to meet with Mrs. Collins, but she doesn't have much choice).

Another student Mrs. Collins targets is Noah Hutchins, the hot, dark boy in cheap clothes and a leather jacket. His backstory slays me. Noah's parents died in a house fire, forcing him and his much younger brothers into foster care. And foster care hasn't been pretty for Noah. The system labeled him as dangerous after he hit one abusive foster father, and now he has limited visits with his brothers. Every time Noah interacts with his adorable bros, I bawled. Jacob is eight and little Tyler's only four.

The door opened and I automatically stood with the gifts still in my hands. Jacob flew through the door and rammed his body into mine. His head reached my stomach now. I tossed the presents on the table, lowered myself to Jacob's level and wrapped my arms around him. My heart dropped. Man, he'd grown.

The scheming Mrs. Collins knows Echo wants a job and Noah isn't working up to his potential in school, so she hires Echo to tutor Noah in Calculus and other subjects. They gradually disclose their pain to each other, starting with Noah:

"It doesn't get better," I said. "The pain. The wounds scab over and you don't always feel like a knife is slashing through you. But when you least expect it, the pain flashes to remind you you'll never be the same."

Later Noah asks Echo:

"Think Mrs. Collins put the two most depressed people together on purpose?" I flashed a smile to keep the honesty of the statement from corroding the remainder of my heart.
Echo's hand retreated. "Wow, I thought I was the only person at this school faking every moment."


When they compare their scars, they reveal their immense insecurity, starting with Echo:

"It's not the same. You're strong. You helped people. I...I trusted the wrong person and I go all pathetic and don't remember a thing. Anyhow, you're a guy. Scars on guys are, like, sexy. Scars on girls...that's just...ugly." And there, I said it -- out loud.
His hold on my hand tightened and his eyes darkened into thunderclouds. "F that. There is no shame in trusting your mother. She f'ed up. Not you. As as for that pathetic bullshit -- f that too. You are not pathetic. You had the guts to return to school and continue to live your life like nothing happened. Me? I lost it all and flushed anything left of me down the damn toilet. Now that's pathetic."


Beautiful! If only Noah could give himself the same compassion. But these two do grow emotionally in the story, and I thought the ending was both happy AND realistic -- my favorite.

This story truly moved me and I want to recommend it to everyone I know. I can't believe this is a debut novel! I can't freaking wait to read the continuation of Echo and Noah's journeys.
No Justice: A Michael Sykora Novel - Darcia Helle Leaving Las Vegas Meets Dexter

In No Justice, Darcia Helle creates a gritty world reminiscent of the movie Leaving Las Vegas. Instead of alcoholic Nicholas Cage turning to prostitute Elizabeth Shue for solace, this time it’s hit man Michael Sykora falling for prostitute Nicki. Similar to the TV show Dexter, Michael kills bad men — like the one who murdered his wife.

From the first line…

Let him laugh. One more hour and he’d be dead.

…it’s clear a dark ride awaits. Somehow Darcia manages to show Michael’s integrity despite his sinister side vocation as hit man.

Although Michael first met Nicki when she serviced him as a prostitute, both developed genuine feelings for each other. He felt guilty for his attraction to her due to his allegiance to his dead wife, so he cut off all ties with her. But when Nicki later calls him, scared and on the run from her friend’s thuggish boyfriend, Michael can’t help but jump into the fray to help her. And when Michael goes in, he goes all in, encountering true danger from creepy Anthony Lott and his gang.

Michael’s day job is computer programming, and his office assistant Ruby is one of my favorite characters.

Ruby tapped on the side door, then, without waiting for Michael’s response, pushed it open and stepped inside. She said, “You’ve been locked up in here brooding all morning.”
Michael clicked out of the window he’d had open on his computer screen. He said, “I’m not brooding.”
“You prefer I call it pouting?”
Frowning, Michael looked up. Ruby had taken her non-nonsense stance, with both feet planted firmly about a foot apart and her hands spread out over her fleshy hips. “I do not pout,” he said.
“Really now? You look in the mirror yet today?”
“You come in here solely for the pleasure of giving me a hard time?”
“Course not,” Ruby replied. “It just comes so easy, sometimes I can’t help myself.”
“Lucky me.”


Other well-drawn supporting characters include Michael’s two friends: Ruby’s son Isaac, a police officer, and Sean, a fellow hit man who Michael originally hired to take out his wife’s killer. I love the complexity of both of these characters. Lawman Isaac just might know about Michael’s secret penchant for murder but keeps it quiet. Sean is a ruthless killer who demonstrates admirable loyalty toward Michael.

I look forward to reading Michael’s future exploits in
Beyond Salvation -- it appears Nicki will still be hanging around, worming her way into his cold, shattered heart. It’s wonderful to hear Darcia is writing book three in the series!