The Mane Attraction by Shelly Laurenston

The Mane Attraction by Shelly LaurenstonThe Mane Attraction by Shelly Laurenston
on March 6, 2012
Pages: 385 pages
Source: Purchased
four-half-stars

Even the king of the beasts can find himself unexpectedly tamed by the right woman. . .

Weddings have the strangest effect on people. Exhibit 1: Sissy Mae waking up in Mitch Shaw's bed the morning after her brother Bobby Ray's nuptials. Exhibit 2: the gunmen trying to kill Mitch. Exhibit 3: Sissy Mae escorting a bleeding yet sexy lion shifter to her Tennessee Pack's turf for safe keeping. It doesn't help that Mitch's appraising gaze makes her feel like the most desirable creature on earth. . .

Mitch is an undercover cop about to testify against some dangerous ex-associates. Even more worrisome, he's harboring hot, X-rated fantasies about one fast-talking little canine--and he has to deal with every male in Sissy Mae's Pack sniffing around her in a way that makes his hackles rise. Mitch has his pride, and he intends to show Sissy Mae that when a lion sets out to make you his mate, the only thing to do is purr, roll over, and enjoy one hell of a ride. . .

The Mane Attraction was another story that I disliked somewhat when I first read it, but this time around ended up really loving it.

Sissy was a character that took some time to grow on me. I borderline disliked her because of how she bullied Jessie Ann when they were younger, but in reading The Mane Attraction, Shelly Laurenston really did an amazing job of showing us that there’s more to Sissy’s character than being that former bully and now Alpha female of the New York Smith Pack.

Mitch’s character started off in this Pride series as a mystery, so it was the only logical explanation for him to get his own story so that we could find out why he was always in a situation that his brother, Brendon, felt he needed to get him out of. Mitch might’ve not had the military training or had as tough of an upbringing as Sissy and Bobby Ray had being Smith wolves, but he did have to grow up with more street smarts than most gave him credit for.

The fact that The Mane Attraction turned out better than when I first read it way back when (before I was a book blogger) makes me look at myself somewhat differently. Was I so shallow that I couldn’t appreciate the growth that both characters underwent during this story, or maybe I was so narrow-minded that I couldn’t appreciate the beautiful differences within each story in the Pride series? Whatever it was I’m glad that I’ve grown and can appreciate all of those things that I might’ve found lacking the first time I read The Mane Attraction.

I will have to admit, even while I enjoyed the romance between Mace and Dez, Brendon and Ronnie, and Smitty and Jessie Ann, the romance between Mitch and Sissy has to be the most enjoyable (this might change as I go through the rest of the series). The way they gravitated towards one another was so smooth, it didn’t hurt that they were best friends before they took that next step. Further, the fact that they were such good friends it was like they were on the same brain wave when they decided to take the plunge and make their relationship physical. Because their friendship was so solid there was no threat of their relationship crumbling; they knew each other inside and out.

There were so many great nuggets in The Mane Attraction that it just might be my second favorite out of the earlier stories in the Pride series. Mitch and Sissy just stayed true to themselves and flipped the middle finger off to whoever didn’t like their brand of crazy.

About Shelly Laurenston

Originally from Long Island, New York, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shelly Laurenston has resigned herself to West Coast living which involves healthy food, mostly sunny days, and lots of guys not wearing shirts when they really should be. Shelly Laurenston is also The New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author G.A. Aiken, creator of the Dragon Kin series. For more info on G.A.’s dangerously and arrogantly sexy dragons, check out her website at www.gaaiken.com.

The Beast in Him by Shelly Laurenston

The Beast in Him by Shelly LaurenstonThe Beast in Him by Shelly Laurenston
on April 1, 2008
Pages: 325 pages
Source: Purchased
four-stars

Some things are so worth waiting for. Like the moment when Jessica Ward "accidentally" bumps into Bobby Ray Smith and shows him just how far she's come since high school. Back then, Jess's gangly limbs and bruised heart turn to jelly any time Smitty's "all the better to ravish you with" body came near her. So, some things haven't changed. Except now Jess is a success on her own terms. And she can enjoy a romp-or twenty-with a big, bad wolf and walk away. Easy.

The sexy, polished CEO who hires Smitty's security firm might be a million miles from the loveable geek he knew, but her kiss, her touch, is every bit as hot as he imagined. Jess was never the kind to ask for help, and she doesn't want it now, not even with someone targeting her Pack. But Smitty's not going to turn tail and run. Not before proving that their sheet-scorching animal lust is only the start of something even wilder…

I don’t know why when the first time I read The Beast in Him I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to. Maybe it was, again, because I read this series out of order that The Beast in Him was a downer the first time around. This time, though, I was so anxious for every scene that involved Smitty and Jessie Ann that I was somewhat angry that I couldn’t breeze through this story as much as I wanted to.

Smitty (wolf shifter and Mace’s best friend), who at his introduction in The Mane Event was someone I knew that I wanted to know more about. While Mace was in-your-face and hard to stomach charming, Smitty somewhat snuck up on you with his charm, leaving you wondering if this feature was attractive or not. Of course, you loose the battle and admit that he’s an alpha male you can’t help but swoon for. Furthermore, it might be a plus that Smitty is an open book both with his feelings and what he thinks of you, but I was equally glad that he also had some layers to him, some mystery that kept me interested in how he’ll respond to the situations thrown at him.

Jessie Ann, on the other hand, was unexpectedly such an amazing character that I spent the entire time reading The Beast in Him wanting to jump into the story just to be her best friend. I don’t know much, as little as possible, about the African wild dog species, but if they’re anything like how Shelly Laurenston portrayed them they’re the coolest animal on the planet. Since Jessie Ann was bullied by Smitty’s sister and her pack you easily jump onto her side of things when she sees Smitty again after 15 or so years, the only difference is that she’s now an alpha female and a millionaire on top of that. I really, really loved her character.

I don’t know if I have made it known, but I love me some interracial stories. I don’t know if it’s because of the diversity factor or what, but the fact that Jessie Ann is African American and Smitty is a Southern Caucasian makes The Beast in Him so much more appealing to me. I absolutely loved how Laurenston accurately described the frizziness and curliness of Jessie Ann’s hair, because there have been authors who simply can’t understand that a lot of black girls just can’t wash their hair and go, it’s like a nightmare waiting to happen. I also loved that Laurenston didn’t focus on their races, I know that sounds redundant but stick with me. Laurenston focused on the character of these characters so when the differences in their race and culture was revealed it just enhanced the story even more for me.

Reading The Beast in Him this time around, really unveiled a lot of things I either missed or didn’t credit as worth my attention from that first reading. I got a better sense of the how the shifters of this world navigate somewhat undetected by other humans, sometimes act as an asset to the government, and yet are in a place of power to where the governments will gladly use them but have no way of controlling them. I also was able to understand more about how the mating works amongst the shifters and why there’s a nonexistent mythical or magical meaning behind their occurrence.

I could for real go on and on about The Beast in Him, but I’ll leave some things to the imagination. Read this series, hopefully it’ll be something you’ll want to revisit as much as I enjoy doing.

About Shelly Laurenston

Originally from Long Island, New York, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shelly Laurenston has resigned herself to West Coast living which involves healthy food, mostly sunny days, and lots of guys not wearing shirts when they really should be. Shelly Laurenston is also The New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author G.A. Aiken, creator of the Dragon Kin series. For more info on G.A.’s dangerously and arrogantly sexy dragons, check out her website at www.gaaiken.com.

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy WeirThe Martian by Andy Weir
on March 22, 2013
Source: Purchased
five-stars

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

When The Martian was recommended to me some weeks ago I didn’t know if I would be able to keep my promise to read it, science fiction isn’t really my thing, though there have been some stories that have been the exception. I never have all in out read a science fiction story that was purely about space and the astronauts who travel through it. I have to say, The Martian just opened up an uncharted world for me and the discovery has been something that I am sure I will not forget.

In listening to the sample for The Martian on Audible I knew that if I didn’t love the story that I would love the its narration. R.C. Bray did a phenomenal job with the narration of The Martian, he exceeded all expectations and he really brought this story to life in a way that I don’t think any other narrator or actor (I haven’t seen the movies but I know that I probably never will) would be able to do this story justice. Because of his performance alone I will be adding Bray to my list of narrators to be on the lookout for.

The story of The Martian was unique and done in a way that I have yet to encounter. While there was definitely a story being told, I also felt that I was a fly on the wall in every scene, emotion, and thought had by all the characters within this story. Speaking of characters, while Mark Watney was the man on Mars and our focus centered around him, the story gave ample amount of page time to the scientists on Earth as it did Watney’s time trying to survive on Mars. There was such balance within The Martian that if the author decided to come out with a sequel about another one of the characters I would be right there placing my order. Andy Weir wrote this story so that by having each and every character involvied with Watney in some form or fashion, and having the spotlight placed on them for an indeterminate time throughout The Martian, we would then be more emotionally invested in how this story played out.

The comedy and outlandish things that Watney would say, to the science behind everything taking place, to the realism that premeated from each and every character made The Martian a story I wouldn’t mind re-listening or maybe re-reading every year. There’s not one thing I would want changed about this story. In fact I will be definitely be looking into any other works by this author because his writing style is not to be missed.

Hero in the Highlands by Suzanne Enoch

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Hero in the Highlands by Suzanne EnochHero in the Highlands by Suzanne Enoch
on October 4, 2016
Pages: 384 pages
Source: Publisher
three-half-stars

WILD AT HEART

Scotland, 1812: He’s ferocious and rugged to the bone, an English soldier more at home on the battlefield than in any Society drawing room. And when Major Gabriel Forrester learns that he’s inherited the massive Scottish Highlands title and estate of a distant relation, the last thing he wants to do is give up the intensity of the battlefield for the too-soft indulgences of noble life. But Gabriel Forrester does not shirk his responsibilities, and when he meets striking, raven-eyed lass Fiona Blackstock, his new circumstances abruptly become more intriguing.

Like any good Highlander, Fiona despises the English—and the new Duke of Lattimer is no exception. Firstly, he is far too attractive for Fiona’s peace of mind. Secondly, his right to “her” castle is a travesty, since it’s been clan Maxwell property for ages. As the two enter a heated battle of wills, an unexpected passion blazes into a love as fierce as the Highlands themselves. Is Fiona strong enough to resist her enemy’s advances—or is Gabriel actually her hero in disguise?

Hero in the Highlands was somewhat of a unique and well-rounded story, and in other parts it was not. Sadly, it took me closer to the end of Hero in the Highlands to start to even like one of the main characters (Fiona), but thankfully the conflict and supporting characters held my interest.

Immediatley, when we’re first introduced to Gabriel Forrestor I knew that I would like him. His thought process and the way he carried himself really made me sit up and pay attention. You just knew that there was be a purpose behind everything he did or said.

I wish I could say the same about Fiona’s character, but from the moment we first meet her the high hopes I had towards her were really premature. We weren’t a good ways into learning about her character that you learn that she’s not adverse to practicing underhanded ways to appease her pride. The gist of my feelings towards Fiona consists of the fact that I just couldn’t put up with her shenanigans, especially when it’s been made known that Gabriel couldn’t possibly be like the dukes the Highlanders of this reigion are used to dealing with since he was a soldier for most of his life.

Fiona and the rest of her kin were very unforgiving towards Gabriel, heaping sins on his head that he had no part in. It sort of got old with him having to repeatedly explain to them that he wasn’t responsible for Culloden, nor the deplorable condtiions of Lattimer (the keep Forrester inherited), they were so hard hearted towards him and his companion. There would be moments when I would just want him to leave them to the oppression of their laird Maxwell, but then knowing his character I knew he wouldn’t do that.

Fairly close to the end of Hero in the Highlands I did start to warm up to Fiona and her kin, heck it even became hard to put the story down. But, even with that reality I couldn’t get over the hell they put Gabriel through just because he inherited a title.

The one good thing I’m additionally glad for with Hero in the Highlands is how organic the romance between Fiona and Gabriel blossomed. There was no wooing on Gabriel’s part, nor was there any cat and mouse in the traditional sense from Fiona. There was an smoldering attraction between the two and it progressed naturally, so for that I am grateful.

While Hero in the Highlands wasn’t all that I’d hoped it would be, there was still enough storyline that left me glad that I read it. Along with the great writing and research you can tell the author did, Hero in the Highlands was a story that any historical romance reader would love to read.

White Tiger by Jennifer Ashley

White Tiger by Jennifer AshleyWhite Tiger by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Shifters Unbound #8
on April 5, 2016
Pages: 335 pages
Source: Library
three-stars

Wanted and on the run...

For twenty years, Kendrick, a white tiger Shifter, has been the Guardian of un-Collared Shifters who spend their lives living in secret—and in fear of being shunted into Shiftertowns. When Kendrick’s group is discovered and forced to flee, Kendrick is more desperate than ever to protect them

His only salvation was in a beautiful stranger.

In a diner in the middle of nowhere, lonely waitress Addison Price has seen a lot of unusual drifters come and go, but none has ever captivated—and intimidated—her like the imposing fugitive who wields a broadsword with incredible skill. But when he risks all to protect her, Addison’s fear turns to empathy—and empathy to desire as she learns more about her savior. Soon she’s more than willing to help the crushingly sensual white tiger and his cubs in a passionate bid for freedom. Whatever the cost.

It’s a bummer, but I was really expecting White Tiger to fulfill the expectations I had for it. I think it was the stoic attitude of Kendrick and the almost unorganized way that everything was taking place that contributed to White Tiger having crashed and burned for me.

When reading about White Tiger I really got excited because it alluded to holding the two key elements that without fail always suckers me into reading said story:

  1. Has children with/without a single father raising them, and/or
  2. A woman who comes along and either adopts the children in a sense and loves them unconditionally, or marries or mates with the father.

While White Tiger held all of these components, they just didn’t mesh well with the story. The story itself actually did the opposite of making me want to stay glued to my kindle and instead had me flirting with the intentions of getting the story of White Tiger out of my hands as quickly as possible.

The only redeeming quality that I found for White Tiger was the inclusion of Tiger’s character, as well as the opening for other stories that I am now interested in reading.

I really hope that Dylan gets a story on his own because there’s so much about him that I am curious about. Zander background and future is another story that I can’t wait to read, and I really hope that Ben finds his mate, no one should be alone as long as he has.

About Jennifer Ashley

NY Times Bestselling author Jennifer Ashley writes historical and paranormal romance and historical mysteries, as Jennifer Ashley, Allyson James, and Ashley Gardner.