Friday, April 30, 2010

Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews

Silent Blade Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
My friend was so right. This story definitely had shades of Harlequin Presents, with a little Romeo and Juliet thrown in--the feuding families, not the starcrossed lovers.

Celino is a butthead. A sexy one, but a butthead all the same. He could not be more of an arrogant, Harlequin Presents-type hero.

Meli, well she's definitely got more brass than the usual heroine in that line. And she's completely badass. I have to admit, I would have liked it better if she almost tried to kill him before they got together. Is that wrong of me?

This was short and sweet, and it made me feel things. I felt Meli's rejection and broken heart, her loneliness at being jilted and made unmarriageable as a result. I felt Celino's confusion at finding the perfect woman, and not knowing how to get and keep her. I felt the attraction and steam between this pair. I felt that their bond was stronger than anything that could keep them apart.

Ilona Andrews is a very talented writer. Her style is brisk, atmospheric and involving. She has a noir feel to her storytelling that I love. In this story, there is a vivid, naturalistic grace to the scenes and the setting. I could clearly see the bright colors and smell the dahlias that play such a large role, taste the pink wine, sweet coffee, and fruity dessert pastry that Celino would die for. In marked contrast, there are skillfully-executed science fiction elements, painting a vision of the future on another planet where fighting families have formed business empires that bring a new meaning to the word cutthroat, all delivered with a cinematic poise. The sci-fi setting was a deliberate mislead on the part of the author, in my opinion. Actually, this is a story of an arranged-marriage couple turned enemies turned lovers that feels so earthbound and familiar, although done in such a unique way.

Silent Blade is short and sweet. It's not action-packed, so don't look for that. Instead, it's a tender surprise of a love story that is delightfully old-fashioned, despite the futuristic setting. This was a real class act.

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Wild Rain by Christine Feehan

Wild Rain (Leopard People, #2) Wild Rain by Christine Feehan

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Although it had a little bit of a slow start, Wild Rain turned out to be another winner for me. I can see how Christine Feehan's writing style doesn't work for everyone. She is very wordy. But I like that she really puts a lot of detail into descriptions of the setting and the feelings of the characters. It adds to the atmosphere and the emotional intensity of her stories, which is why she's a favorite of mine.

Ah, the jungle descriptions. Simply gorgeous. I wanted to be there, so bad, except for the humidity and the nasty bugs (which she doesn't describe other than mosquitos). But all the plant life, the birds, the small mammals, the primates, and the big and small cats. It sounded like heaven to this animal and nature lover. And it was crucial to bring you into Rio's world: savage, yet beautiful.

At first, I wasn't sure what to make of Rachael. She was very guarded, very closed-off. Soon, I came to realize that this was a very important part of her self-defense. As the story unfolds, you realize just why Rachael has made a lifetime out of isolating and withdrawing herself, not allowing herself to feel deeply and to become involved with anyone or anything.

Rio, in contrast, is described as a man who feels his emotions deeply and honestly. He's not a crybaby or anything like that. No, he feels what he feels. He's not about denying things to himself to be tough. He deals with the lousy, and puts it into perspective. He was exiled from his people for an action he willingly committed. He is a loner, with few friends (only the men in his unit), and no one to love him. I loved that he was a tough, strong, deadly man, but he could be emotionally honest and available to his woman.

Surprise, surprise when he comes home to find a girl in his house. This part amused me, reminding me of Goldilocks. But there is a violent interaction that leads to Rachael's leg being badly injured by one of Rio's companion clouded leopards (who are as cute as the Dickens). He ends up nursing her, and falling in love with her in the process. I really liked the nursing scenes (probably the medically-trained streak in me).

There is a feeling of deja vu between the couple, as if they loved each other before. This left me a little confused. It wasn't attributed to reincarnation, but it was never explained why they felt that way. Were they merely soulmates who 'foreknew' each other, even to the point in which they knew what it felt like to make love to each other, and what pleased each other intimately? I never got clarification on that. But, it was a small thing, and I just went with it.

I was really pleasantly surprised with the reveal about who Rachael truly was, and her complicated relationship with her brother, Elijah. Pretty dark stuff. Fascinating, really. I don't see too many heroines coming from that background. That's a thing I love about Christine Feehan. She is not afraid of the dark subject matter. And, I think she handles it very well. Can I just say that Elijah was a hot one? He definitely has an antihero vibe along the lines of Rehv from the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Very sexy and dangerous. He was a good counterpoint to Rio, who was also a very dangerous man, but very nurturing and gentle with Rachael, despite or because of his alpha-male tendencies. I'd love to see more of Elijah. He's so tortured. He deserves a happy ending.

Oh, the shapeshifting and cat parts! One of my favored aspects of this book. I am a huge aficionado of big cats. They have the beauty, the elegance, and so much grace, coupled with a lethality that makes them utterly fascinating. I think that Ms. Feehan clearly did a lot of research into the rain forest ecology, and into the species of leopards that she used in this book. It felt very real, and it was interesting, but never came off as disruptive natural history lectures. Being the nerd that I am, I had to look up the various species on Wikipedia, to see pictures of them and learn even more facts. But, yes, I truly enjoyed the cat/shapeshifting parts of the story. It was very well done. This book is on my list of favorites in this genre.

Although I read Burning Wild first, and I still like that one better, because Jake was so darn intense, and it was such a dark journey coupled with a strong, fascinating, beautiful romance; I really did enjoy this book. I can be honest and say that those who don't like certain aspects of Ms. Feehan's writing, will find things to quibble about. She does tend to overuse some words, but not the ones you're probably thinking of right now. And, as I stated earlier on, she is very verbose. I shrug it off. I am used to her writing style, and I go with the flow. I was very entertained with her vivid descriptions of the rain forest, animals, plants, and the beautiful, emotional romance between Rio and Rachael. I think this is an excellent series, and I cannot wait to read more.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Dreadful Skin by Cherie Priest

Dreadful Skin Dreadful Skin by Cherie Priest

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I am so glad that I found out about this book. It was just what I was looking for. This book is an excellent journey into the heart of darkness in the American West, with a supernatural twist. And to top it off, the protagonist is a woman of unquenchable will and determination.

Irish nun, Sister Eileen, is small, but her spirit is tremendous. She has made it her mission to track and end a vicious werewolf disguised as a man, Jack. She's followed his trail of rampage and blood over several continents. Never giving up, never relenting. Until her mission has been accomplished.

This book is told in three parts, each with a different sort of narrative that effectively tells the story. I couldn't hardly stop reading this book. I was enthralled. The final showdown in the middle of the desert in a town on the Texas-Mexican border held me breathless. This is the kind of horror that sneaks up on you. You don't see scene after scene of rampage and gore. Instead, you come to feel for the narrators, with no guarantee of their survival. And when some don't make it, you feel the loss with the same enormity that Sister Eileen feels.

Ms. Priest could not have created a better protagonist. This tiny, fierce woman of God couldn't have endeared herself more to me. She's real. Her faith might be shaken, but never broken. This endless hunt has hardened her in the ways that makes her even more of a weapon against a creature of cruel, soulless evil.
This quote shows some of her mettle:

"I've heard it said that God made all men, but Samuel Colt made all men equal.

We'd see what Mr. Colt could do for a woman."
Enough said.

Werewolf fiction has become one of my favorite genres. I continue to search for good stories that provide a new vista to this arena of supernatural fiction. Coupled with a tale in the Old West, I was overjoyed with this novel. This setting fits so well with this tale of the hunter and the hunted. Even more powerful a touch is the fact that the hunter is a seemingly frail and mild-mannered woman, a nun of all things. But the prey will realize that he should not have underestimated this woman hunting him so relentlessly. This powerful story is told via a distinctive narrative that consists of various narrators speaking in some parts, and written letters and diary entries in others; and it has a realism and gritty vitality that spoke to me.

Short, yet powerful beyond words, I cannot recommend this story enough to readers who are looking for a horror story in an atypical, and underutilized setting. Actually, it's difficult to classify it as a horror story. Truly it's a story about humanity, and the force of will that drives people to fight unwinnable battles. Because our natures as humans don't allow us to easily give in. We fight because we must. When it ended, I took a deep breath and savored the experience. Highly recommended.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel (The Abhorsen Trilogy, #1) Sabriel by Garth Nix

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I wrote a wee bit about my thoughts on this book as I read, for I did not trust my foggy brain to keep up with them if I waited until the last minute.

*I like the juxtaposition of 20th Century (early) Ancelstierre with a medieval-esque world of the Old Kingdom. It threw me for a loop at first, how the prologue was very medieval (pre-Industrial), and the first chapter was modernesque. I was thinking, are they immortal or something? But further reading clears that up.

*I don't read as much pure fantasy (which I am working on changing), but this magic system stands out to me. The Charter concept. The magic system is based on sketching out these symbols that have a magical power behind them. They can also be whistled or sung, if bells are not available.

*There are some geniuinely creepy elements that make this story borderline horrific, if not dark fantasy in tone. There were moments that held me breathless, my stomach tight with dread. I like the manner in which Nix incorporates zombies. Zombies are not a favorite horror element of mine. But this type of zombie is scary, because the emphasis is on the dark spiritual (if you will) aspects. The ability of dark Charter mages to command spirits to come back from the realms of the Dead, binding them in service. Dark stuff. The loss of free will is a big sticking point with me. Nix succeeds in unnerving me in a deeper way, and doesn't focus on the gory, squeamish aspects of zombies that repel rather than cause the fear response.

*The author's ability to describe and propel the narrative without being too dense. I like a more natural, simplistic form of prose when I'm reading. That is what has kept me from starting some of the magic fantasy sagas, thus far.

*The welcome elements of subtle humor. Mogget is a spirit in the form of a cat. He could not be more feline in personality. I love this scene:

Mogget had no time for such introspection, mourning or pangs of responsibility. He left her watching, blank-eyed, for no more than minute, before padding forward and delicately inserting his claws in Sabriel's slippered foot..

That's exactly what one of my cats would do to get my attention. Haha.

So far, I'm enjoying this read. I didn't even turn on my computer and get on Goodreads last night. I just read my book. And I turned off the tv to better concentrate.

That's it for now...

Update: 4/25/10

Okay, I finished this book after 1am this morning. I loved it. It was intense, it was moving, it was written in a manner that allowed the story to flow, but with a richness of detail that made it visually stunning as I read. The magic was fascinating. Intricate, but written so that the reader doesn't feel clueless.

I absolutely loved Sabriel. She's a strong girl. She went through such a harrowing experience. I mean, there are some truly dark moments in this story. Her father must have been so proud of her. I know I was.

Although the book doesn't really show Sabriel with her father, (the present Abhorsen (a person who sends the restless dead back where they belong), all that much, I loved the relationship between the two. A rich father-daughter relationship always appeals in a story, and I think readers of a similar mind will enjoy this part of the book.

For many years, I didn't read fantasy. I am sad about that, and resolved to make up for lost time. Urban fantasy and paranormal romance rekindled my childhood love of this genre. This book has truly lit me on fire to read more fantasy. I was drawn to the heroism, but also the ambiguity of this world, where the power of magic has the power to corrupt those who are not strong of mind and spirit. I'm drawn to a story where the heroine is on a journey that tests her spirit, and she comes out of it a stronger, wiser person. Sabriel definitely fits the bill for that kind of story.

Although Sabriel is the major focus of this story, I felt that Mogget and Touchstone were strong characters that added to the texture of this story. The light romantic elements between Sabriel and Touchstone were more than welcome.

Sabriel was a vivid, captivating, often scary introduction to the Abhorsen series, and my first read by Garth Nix. It will not be my last.

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Untamed Italian, Blackmailed Innocent by Jacqueline Baird

Untamed Italian, Blackmailed Innocent (Harlequin Presents, #2911) Untamed Italian, Blackmailed Innocent by Jacqueline Baird

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
This book was a delightful breath of fresh air for the current mode of Harlequin Presents. I loved how resistant Sally was to Zac. She saw him and dismissed him on first glance because he wasn't her first priority!! How nice. She didn't become a drooling, melting pile of female flesh because of his unbelieveable appeal (rolling eyes). Yes, he was attractive, and she was attracted to him, but she kept a good head on her shoulders when it came to him, for the most part.

I like mutuality in a romance. I like seeing the hero and heroine are mutally engaged, and their affections are even on both sides. In real life, the sad thing is that one person seems to love more than the other. I realize this. So, I tend to not go for that scenario in romances.

Unfortunately, I've read way too many where the man holds all the sexual and emotional power in the relationship. It bugs me. Why should the heroine always be the one to concede, to give in, to change for love? Why shouldn't the hero have to work for her? This was a nice change for this reader.

Zac had to work hard to get Sally. He did some less than ethical things, and made some bad assumptions, and he had to eat some crow, more than once. And the great thing was that Sally wasn't out to treat him poorly or out to use and abuse him. She was just trying to deal with the bad situation she had with her ailing mother and loser, lowdown father. Yes, sometimes women do have more important things to deal with than their sex life or love life, or men.

I think Ms. Baird did a great job writing this story. She showed Sally to be a normal woman, with desires and needs. But Sally was a strong woman who had priorities, and those priorities didn't involve chasing men, casual sex, or being someone's sex toy. Zac gave her an ultimatum, and that gave her an excuse to give into him, because she was very attracted to him. But, before that, she did resist him pretty well, because she didn't want the kind of relationship he was offering. Bravo to her. She didn't give her up needs and goals for some less than satisfactory relationship with a guy who didn't love her. Some might not like that she waited so long to say, "I love you." But it completely made sense, based on the baggage she had with her parents, how her father was a serial adulterer who completely took advantage of her mother, his lovelorn wife. She'd be pretty silly to fall easily for a seemingly inconstant male with her background, in my opinion. And I liked how Zac might have been the typical Italian sex god hero, but in some ways he wasn't. He'd been celibate for almost a year, he worked hard to get what he had, he was able to realize when he was wrong, and make up and apologize for it. And he was willing to take Sally on her terms until she was emotionally able to give him more. I quite liked him for those reasons. I enjoyed their separation (I guess it's my sadistic streak), because Sally was trying to go and find out what life was like without carrying the baggage of her parents on her shoulders. I liked that Zac was the one who was pining. (Yes, I guess I am sadistic. It was so refreshing for me).

I honestly hope to see more books like this in the Harlequin Presents line. With rational, educated, independent women who are not ruled by their libido, and who won't settle for less than they deserve for some 'hot' guy who makes me as a reader question if he's worthwhile for her in the end.

This a was nice book, and such a palate cleaner after a prior Harlequin Presents, who got everything wrong with the sexual/emotional dynamic for this reader.

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5.0 stars. A for Effort, Ms. Baird.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Cowboy and the Lady by Diana Palmer

The Cowboy and the Lady (Famous Firsts) The Cowboy and the Lady by Diana Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Cowboy and the Lady was a pleasure to read for me. I didn't enjoy the last book I read, and it was completely soothing to immerse myself in one of the sweet, yet passionate love stories that Ms. Palmer excels in telling. This book was published in 1982, and that is apparent in some ways, with the clothing details, and descriptions of surroundings, and the more old fashioned morals. However, the pure, essential love story is timeless.

For Palmer fans, this is nothing new. The innocent, very young woman who falls for a man she grew up with, who's quite a bit older than her (ten years), and thinks little of her because of his internal issues with women. When I found out why he hated her mother (and her by default) so much, I was surprised. I have to say that I don't think her mother should have been let off the hook so lightly by Amanda. Amanda had an understanding heart and put herself in her mother's shoes for what her mother did. But, considering the widespread hurt it caused, I would have told my mother I didn't agree with what she did, even if I loved and forgave her. Amanda allowed her mother to continue to be treated as a child, which wasn't fair to herself or her mother, or the people her mother hurt. I had a big issue with blowing off what her mother did, as you can tell.

Jace was the typical, "don't get too close, don't run away" hero for a Diana Palmer book. But, the thing I like about her heroes is that they might be cruel with words, but it's very clear to the reader how crazy in love with the heroines they are. And they usually make up for it. They aren't usually jerky toads for no reason who get off for it with a kiss or a nice romp in bed (like the hero in the last book I read before this one). He was stone cold in love with Amanda, and it was apparent to every one but Amanda. She couldn't look past her own insecurities.

Let's face it, if you don't like young, innocent heroines, you won't like this book. They don't bother me. I like them in a well-told story, so I was fine. And Amanda did show spunk most of the time when it was necessary.

Diana Palmer shows her usual warm, engaging storytelling ease, making reading this book a pleasant, enjoyable experience. The usual mix of fiery passion although with little explicit details, and snappy dialogue and humor was present in this story. It was a good read, no doubt about it. My rating of four stars reflects a comparison to favorites of mine by Ms. Palmer. This was a very good book, but not near my favorite's list. But, all the same, a wonderful read that soothed my frayed nerves. I hope I get to thank her one day for the many hours of reading pleasure she's given me. This book is no exception to that.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Sheikh's Rebellious Mistress

The Sheikh's Rebellious Mistress (Harlequin Presents) The Sheikh's Rebellious Mistress by Sandra Marton

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Maybe I was in a bad mood when I read this book, because it just annoyed me. Sandra Marton is a good writer, but something about her couple dynamic can grate on me. The hard hero who is a bully towards the sexually and emotionally susceptible heroine. It's a particular issue in this book. First of all, I think I'm bored with the rich, sexy billionaire who has countless beautiful women at his disposal. If I hear the term mistress again, I might stroke out.

I didn't like Salim, even though he finally got a clue. It took a little too long for him to turn around. If you believe someone you cared about and loved, and respected (Even if your small brain is too sexist to admit you like and respect a woman. Even if you're too scared to admit it) could embezzle money from you, then I feel sorry for you. His arrogance, and sense of ownership and entitlement really bugged me. It didn't get him off the hook with me to know he had been in dire straits while his father was fighting to win back his throne. That should have made him more sensitive, but strangely it did not. This is one of those books where I wonder why the heroine was attracted to and fell in love with the hero. Sure he's a sexy billionaire who's good in bed. But he's a sexist jerk. Not really an attractive trait to me.

Although Grace was supposed to be strong and independent, she seemed like a complete pushover who was a slave to her hormones when it came to Salim. Boy, that makes me roll my eyes. She did not come off as strong or capable. She barely could deal with her sleazy boss who was trying to get her into bed. Yes, he would have several broken metacarpals, and I am not the fighting type, if I was her. Her emotional vulnerability made me want to slap her. Crying, crying, crying. Always crying.

I know, this may seem like somewhat standard Harlequin Presents fare, but there are some really good, emotional, well-written books in this line. Unfortunately, this one did not work for me.

Maybe I wasn't in the mood for this book, and I should have waited until I was in a more tolerant frame of mind. I hope this review doesn't sound mean. Nevertheless, I wouldn't recommend this as a sheikh romance. I still like Sandra Marton, but I might take a break from her for a while.

Overall rating: 2.5 out of 5.0 stars

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Midnight Rising by Lara Adrian

Midnight Rising (Midnight Breed, #4) Midnight Rising by Lara Adrian

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
I didn't like this book as much as Midnight Awakening. The main issue I had was Dylan flat out annoyed me in some scenes. Especially with her escape attempt. What was that about? She could have went along with Rio's plans to scrub her and then went about her life. I think it was just a plot point to drag out the story, frankly. My other issue was: Okay, this sounds really sexist, but her potty mouth was really bugging me. It seemed like the woman could not express herself without expletives and oaths. I'm not overly found of foul-mouthed heroes (probably Sam from the Suz Brockmann books is one of the few notable exceptions), but a bad-mouthed woman really is like nails on a chalkboard. It's a small thing, but that didn't help to endear her to me. Also, she just seemed too abrasive at times. She was used to being a survivor and being tough. The whys were revealed and it made sense, but I never felt for her the way I wanted to. I feel I'm being too hard on her. She was a good person, and I admired her dedication to her mom, and her sense of loyalty. She had a good head on her shoulders, and she did the right thing when it came to the pictures and story about the hibernation chamber. But, she just rubbed me the wrong way.

I really liked Rio. I felt bad for him for what he had lost. I think he had some self-pitying moments, but with his breedmate betraying him, I couldn't blame him too much. Overall, he was a good hero.

The romance itself seemed a bit rushed. I wasn't sure I completely bought into Rio falling so hard and fast for Dylan. Probably needed about fifty more pages for me to feel that. However, I liked the way Eva's ghost manifested to try to make things right after what she did. That was a nice paranormal touch.

My issue with this story is no fault of Lara Adrian's. It's me. I just like more going on in my paranormal romances. Compared to some of my other series (and it's wrong to compare, I know it), this series seems less vivid. I like the rich worldbuilding that I am treated to with some of the other paranormal faves. I'd be the first to admit that I'm not that keen on aliens as a plot device, and the whole alien vampires came to Earth and bred with special human women to form the Breed is just not floating my boat that much. I miss all the various paranormal species that interact with other. Heck, I'm a supernatural girl. I came out and said it, okay! Anyway, that's probably why I'm not in love with this series.

But, for what it is, I think the intrigue was good, and the conspiracy behind the spectres that Dylan was seeing was pretty interesting and rather disturbing. I feel bad for those poor girls.

As far as the story wrap-up, it was a little abrupt, but left some loose ends. I guess I'll have to see how this picks up in the next series. In the end, Midnight Rising was a good read, but it didn't set me on fire.

Overall rating: 3.5/4.0 stars.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

The Darkest Kiss by Gena Showalter

The Darkest Kiss (Lords of the Underworld,  #2) The Darkest Kiss by Gena Showalter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book. Lucien was absolutely sigh-worthy to me. So sad and lonely. And, he got his very own heroine who wouldn't give up on him. I think it took some major confidence to go after her man full throttle the way Anya did. From the beginning, I knew I would like Anya. She was the kind of heroine who knows what she wants, and is willing to work for it. Yes, she's a prankster, rather silly, in her own words, not much for telling the truth, and she can be a pain in the butt, at times. But I loved her, warts and all. I think she was just the kind of woman, the very woman, that sad, too-serious Lucien needed.

I loved how she would get him out of his funks with her flitatious dialogue, and naughty clothing. She drove him crazy with her strawberries and cream scent. It was only fair, since Lucien managed to snare a girl who was unsnareable.

I felt bad for Anya. Being the daughter of the most promiscuous goddess on Olympus, Dysnomia, couldn't have been easy. Everyone was just waiting for her to follow in her mother's footsteps. And, as the (Minor) Goddess of Anarchy, her nature did dictate that she cause chaos, although she learned to express that in lesser ways. To top off the unfortunates for Anya, she was cursed by the wife of her father, because of the fact that she is a very obvious sign of that affair with her mother, being the spitting image of him. She got a lot of bad breaks in life. But she didn't sit and mope, she kept on trucking. So, I have to say, that Anya turned out to be a favorite for me in this series (after reading the first three books). She was funny, and turned out to be quite a good asset and companion to them, despite her wise-cracks. And she's one heck of a warrior. Lucien could do worse than have a woman who completely adored him, even to the point of being willing to give up her freedom in more than one crucial way.

Now, Lucien. He's my favorite Lord so far. I doubt that will change. He's the strong, silent type, and wonderfully broody. He's actually pretty honorable, considering the murky past that the Lords have. To think he scarred himself horribly to keep women away from him after his love died when he couldn't save her. But his scars ending up being a draw to Anya, among other things. Many times, he was insecure, thinking she was just making fun of him, or using him, because of his lack of looks. His insecurity endeared him to me. I like that a hero can be the insecure one in a book. I get so tired of the men having all the power in romance novels. It was nice to see that he was the vulnerable one in some ways. Although I was glad that Anya didn't take advantage of it.

The Darkest Night was a little bit flawed as a start to the series, (definitely not as strong as this book), so I was very pleasantly surprised (although I think Gena Showalter is a very good author) how much I enjoyed this book. I had heard bad things about Anya, and I was wary, because I don't care for hardened, obnoxious heroines. However, she didn't come off to me that way. Despite her wise-cracks and her seeming self-absorption, I saw the little girl who was treated so poorly by the others on Olympus, and her yearning to feel special, and to never be under another person's thumb. I think that made her very identifiable to me. And the fact that she was so crazy about Lucien definitely endeared her to me.

This book was chock-full of sexy romance that tugged at my heart, crazy action, great world-building, and interesting characters. It totally invested me in this series. I can see myself rereading this book sooner rather than later, because I really loved Lucien and Anya as a couple. Also the secondary story with Paris really had me sympathizing with him, when I was rather turned off by him in the first book. I have to say that Ms. Showalter is really coming through with this interesting concept. This was definitely a five star read for me. And to those who have been put off by the bad impression that some readers have of Anya, I'd say give her a chance. She's actually a fun, likeable heroine, in my opinion.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Darkest Pleasure by Gena Showalter

The Darkest Pleasure (Lords of the Underworld,  #3) The Darkest Pleasure by Gena Showalter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Although this series had a shaky start, I am really loving it. Heck, I'm a sucker for Greek mythology, so that helps. Throw in a tortured hero, and the battle's practically won. But, really, these are good stories, and I could tell that Gena Showalter is finding her groove. This series is much darker than her Atlantis series, and quite violent. But then, it's about Immortal, demon-possessed warriors. Comes with the territory. These books are also very steamy. Not too steamy, though.

Reyes was very tortured. I mean, what a curse! To have to hurt oneself to feel pleasure, or to maintain one's sanity. In a way, it was almost sickening for me, to see him carving himself with knives and hurting himself, relishing being horribly wounded by others. There was a bit of an ick factor there for me. Having said that, I was okay reading this story. I think that this was an iffy story, but the execution was well-done. I'm so not into that painful/pleasurable sex storyline, but I kept reading. I was glad that Ms. Showalter managed to keep most of that out of the sex scenes. Otherwise, oh, I would have been way out of comfort zones.

I loved how tender Reyes was with Danika, even when I didn't think she deserved his devotion. I tried really hard not to judge Danika, knowing that she was just being a human who was in a rough situation. But, I thought I would hate her forever when she started working with the Hunters. I was crying, "No. That's so wrong." In my mind, it was. The Lords didn't hurt her at all. They let her family go and protected her. Yes, Aeron was off his rocker, but it was clear that they were going to do their best to protect her and her family. So, I was on the edge of hating poor Danika. It was a see-saw with me. I was glad that Reyes was aware that she was considering betraying him. With his eyes open, I felt better about his willingness to show her such loving, selfless devotion. A girl can only be so lucky. In the end, I was okay with Danika, although I much prefer Anya and Ashlyn. Reyes loves her so much, I can't hate the girl, after all. And, I ended up liking the reveal when it came to what Danika truly was.

This series is building nicely. I am eager to read about the other Lords' stories. My heart goes out to poor Paris. I hope he is able to get a happy ending. It was great seeing Lucien and Anya, and Maddox and Ashlyn in their gushy lovey-dovey-ness. I loved all the smart alecky comments and sarcastic quips from the gang, as well. Anya makes me laugh, her and William. Lucien is sigh-worthy. I just love him. Gideon cracks me up with his lies! Sabin made me want to slap him in some scenes, and feel very sad for him in others. I hope she writes a story for poor Cameo. Maybe there will be a man who can love her despite the misery she inspires in those who hear her voice and see her face. The Hunters got on my ever-living nerves. Initially, I didn't like them as the main villains at all. But it turned out to be a solid source of intrigue, especially with the developments with a former Lord. I liked that Ms. Showalter took the Greek mythology and took it in a novel direction by focusing on the Titans.

Honestly, this would have been five stars, were it not for my intermittent dislike of Danika. Otherwise, it was an enthralling read that I found hard to put down. After this one, I'll take a break and read something else, so I don't run out of these books. But, I'm excited to continue this series.

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She's Got It Bad by Sarah Mayberry

She's Got It Bad (Harlequin Blaze #464) She's Got It Bad by Sarah Mayberry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book made me angry and sad. To think that a woman valued herself so lowly, and did unconventional things to shock others and to make herself feel strong, instead of because that was her personality. I was angry that she let a man control her life so much. In a way she did. When Liam left her, she did something really reckless, that had a permanent effect on her life.

I was mad when Liam decided he needed to save her because she clearly (at least in his way of thinking) needed his help. It struck me as very arrogant on his part. Maybe some good came out of it, but it had me frustrated, like he could look down in judgment on her.

I wasn't too fond of Liam for most of this book. I didn't like his arrogance in thinking he could fix her because she had to be acting out (even if he was right) or his blindness to the fact that he loved Zoe, and that's why couldn't stop meddling in her life. I was annoyed at Zoe for continuing to give him power over her. I didn't like the vulnerability that she showed to him, when he didn't seem like he was willing to do the same for her.

I guess I have an issue with heroines who think they are in charge of their lives because they call the shots sexually. That's really not being in charge, in my opinion. On one hand, I could see why Zoe had developed this attitude after being rejected by men in relationships because of what had happened to her and the consequences for the future. But it didn't make a determination to indulge in casual flings the right decision.

I have mixed feelings about this story. It was good and well-written, but it annoyed me so much, so I can't say I really enjoyed it. I had this pit of pain and rage in my chest as I read it. I'd give it four stars for the fact that I think the writing is good, and I cared about the characters. I came to like Liam eventually, as I realized that he wore a facade just as much as Zoe did. He was really hurt from what his father did to him, and it crippled him emotionally. I felt sorry for him because of that. But he still annoyed me that he feels that he had the right to judge her for her lifestyle, when his was probably the male equivalent.

I'm not a big fan of Blaze novels, because I don't agree with the casual sexuality that is a big part of their typical storylines. According to the world and modern views represented in Blaze and television, movies, etc., it seems like a woman is stronger and more independent if she chooses to have casual sex. I'll never agree with that. So, by and large, I avoid this line of books. I decided to read this one because it received a lot of good reviews for the strong plotline and emotional elements. Also, I do like unconventional and tormented heroines. Zoe was definitely that. I liked that she was tough, and a tattoo artist and a rock music singer. I liked that she was a survivor. However, I hurt for her that she gave herself away so lightly. Although it was made clear that Zoe wasn't easy, and she didn't come off that way, casual flings to me are giving oneself away lightly. She was worth more than that. There were good guys who would treat her right and have a committed relationship with her, despite what she felt she couldn't offer them for the future as far as a family. I don't have an issue with women being sexually loose because I judge them. My issue is more that I feel that each woman is of value and too valuable to throw herself away on a guy who doesn't care enough about her, just for a good time in bed. Yeah, she might enjoy it, and think it's enough for her. But, most of the time, I don't think it is enough. That's my opinion, and what I feel deep inside. I can't put that aside when I read these books, so I usually end up wincing the majority of the time when I read these books. Thus, they tend to be avoided.

Well, I know I'm in the minority, and that's okay. Since my reviews reflect my feelings on what I read, I'm going to be honest. This is just how I feel. In the end, She's Got It Bad was a good book, but a painful read for me.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Cry Wolf (Alpha & Omega, #1) Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm not sure how to write this review without excessive gushing. Gushing hurts my credibility as a reader. Well, I think it's clear that I'm not above a little gushing if I love a book. But I do try to be objective. However, sometimes a good book deserves gushing, and lots of it. Such is the case with Cry Wolf. My tastes are somewhat simple when it comes to a book. I want to be involved and entertained. When I read a book that takes me to that next level of pure emotional enjoyment, catching me where I live and feel deeply as a human, I wish I could rate it higher than five stars.

Patricia Briggs is an author that I was not expecting to come into my life and rock my perception of what I consider good urban fantasy. Now, the standard is much higher. She has found a way to make the werewolf tale that much more enjoyable to this lover of the genre. She writes characters that convince me that there must be werewolves out there, and that they aren't all ravening beasts. That there is an entire spectrum. That they are lonely, in need of love, always fighting a battle of control against their animal natures, or that some have completely given into their animal side. That they form bonds of family and love that wrap around them, and when those bonds are taken away, it has the power to destroy them. Conversely, the bonds of love and pack, can heal a long-broken heart.

The characters in this story show that spectrum of wolves very well. By the end of the story, they felt like people I knew. Oh, and there were some characters that I crossed myself in hopes that I never encountered their likes. Mariposa, oh, how she gave me the shudders. Oh, and Bran.... Could I love him more now? Even though he has some really scary aspects to his personality? Although that just increased his appeal to me. What control this man has. How tortured he truly is. Ms. Briggs, do write a separate story for Bran, I humbly ask.

Charles and Anna: More continued goodies with their nuanced, layered relationship. It's a symbiotic relationship, almost. It would seem that Anna is the weak one, and Charles is the strong one. Not so. Anna's presence brings strength and calmness to Charles. She saves his life numerous times in this story, in fact. And Charles gives Anna that reason and that purpose she had not found before. She loves him so much it scares her. He heals the broken places deep inside of her with his love and devotion. And, he brings her to a home where she had been lost before. I love that not only does this couple come together, but Anna comes to form deep, important relationships with other wolves in this story, who are in need of the peace that she can give them as an Omega wolf.

There were scenes that clutched at my emotions and wouldn't let go. When Anna sings to Asil and Bran, and they fall with their heads in her lap. These troubled wolves finding the peace that an evil adversary had denied them. It was just wonderful to watch.

There are dark and scary moments in this story, as Charles, Anna, and Walter, a wolf they encounter, face a very malevolent entity from the old wolf, Asil's past. Oh, there was plenty of horror in this story. Of the more subtle, not in your face, but very unnerving variety. And the power of this person, powerful enough to take over a character who is known for his absolute strength and control. Shuddering thinking about it.

Yes, I'm gushing. I waited a few days to write this review, trying to get my thoughts in order. For me, this is urban fantasy at its best. Cry Wolf truly is an exemplary werewolf story to me (and that's saying a lot from me). It's the kind of book that you don't want to put down for anything. Ms. Briggs with her misleadingly simple way of telling a story, will have likely a profound effect on you, if you appreciate really good storytelling. Watch out if you haven't read her yet. In the end, I can't speak for other readers. I won't even try. I can only speak for myself. This was a fantastic story. I hope that others who read this enjoy it as much as I did.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

On The Prowl by Briggs, Wilks, and Chance

On the Prowl (Includes: Monère: Children of the Moon, #4; Briggs: Alpha & Omega Prequel; World of the Lupi, #3.5; Dorina Basarab Prequel) On the Prowl by Patricia Briggs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs
I've actually read Alpha and Omega twice now. It's such a wonderful story. Very short, but that's okay, because we have two full-length stories with one of my supercouples now. I can't describe how much I love this story. I did write a long review which I added under Alpha and Omega separately. I'll just say that Ms. Briggs did an exemplarly job of writing this story that is full of underlying intensity, but written so simply. Charles and Anna are two characters that I found very fascinating. I could feel their chemistry in every interaction. It's romance at its best, wrapped up in a delicious urban fantasy package. Five stars.

Inhuman by Eileen Wilks
This was one of those stories that I find hard to review and to rate. It's a very good story, but the writing was hard to get into. I found there was a distance between me and Kai and Nathan that I had to work very hard to bridge. The remote writing style was the culprit. Having said that, I liked the world that Ms. Wilks built, ripe with magical creatures, and unfortunately, full of prejudice against those gifted with magical abilities. Nathan is a character that I found myself liking very much. He had a lot of integrity. He was a man of self-control, but also a man of intense emotions. Kai was a strong woman with an interesting ability, that she was trying very had to understand. I liked their romance. But, I must admit. The world was the selling point in this story. Rich with Faerie elements, which never fails to appeal to me as a reader. Four stars.

Buying Trouble by Karen Chance
This is my third story by Ms. Chance, I am definitely seeing why she has such a devoted fan base. Her stories are action-packed. The world-building is intricate and rich. Her characters are appealing and likeable. And she is a very funny writer. I was reading this while sitting with my sister in her hospital room, and I kept laughing out loud and gasping as I read it. Ms. Chance managed to pack quite a lot into this story, but it wasn't overloaded. Although I feel that she could use more dialogue in this story, it's hard to find fault with it, because it was so well done. Sexy, appealing, funny characters that I cared about, humorous moments, and no-holds-barred action, what else could I ask for? Oh, and a heavy dose of Faerie! Five stars.

I didn't read the Sunny story because erotic urban fantasy isn't my thing. And skimming made it clear this was very erotic. So, no rating for it.

I'd give this collection five stars just because of Alpha and Omega. But, the Wilks story was enjoyable, and I loved the Chance story, so it makes it a lot easier to give this book a five star rating. If you are urban fantasy fans, and you aren't reading Briggs and Chance, get to it. You're missing out!

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Lair of the Lion by Christine Feehan

Lair of the Lion Lair of the Lion by Christine Feehan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lair of the Lion is the first historical I've read by Christine Feehan. It's hard to believe I read my first Feehan book last January. Since then, I've glommed her backlist. She's one of my favorite authors now. This isn't one of my favorites, but it was a good, enjoyable book. I think my problem is, I really don't care for gothic romance, in general. I think too much time is built on going into the mystery and the dark forces out to get the heroine. I like my romance to focus on the attraction and the unfolding relationship between the hero and the heroine. If the story can do that and have some tension and suspense at the same time, I'm all for it. I think Anne Stuart does this better than any other author, so I usually love her gothic romances. But I digress.

There were elements to this story I really enjoyed. I liked that Ms. Feehan wrote a historical that was set in Italy, not the usual UK setting. I liked that her characters were Italian and had the aspects of this culture. I think she did a great job of establishing the scene: the ever-present air of menace, a remote occasion, a heroine who doesn't know who she can truly trust because danger is all around her. I also liked the medieval setting.

As usual, I love her heroes and heroines. In this story, Isabella really shines. What a strong heroine she is. She was brave enough to go to the beast's lair to get help for her brother from their enemy. Several times, she put herself in danger to protect others, her selfless love for Nicolai. But she also showed a lot of pluck, telling this big, scary guy off with no qualms, when he deserved a good tongue-lashing. Nicolai was as scrumptious as most of Feehan's heroes. Tortured to boot. I almost felt like he could have been in this book more, because he was usually hiding in the shadows or dealing with threats. But when he was in the book, and interacting with Isabella, it was great. Oh, yes. And the passion. Check. That's always there in a Christine Feehan book. Well-done in that regard. And the secondary characters were well-drawn and added significantly to the story. Ms. Feehan kept me guessing who was behind the sabotage that was occuring. I didn't guess the right people, and that's always nice when it happens.

So, I won't go on and on about this book. I don't have that much to say. It was an interesting premise, with the curse that destroyed generation after generation of marriages and wives, because of a terrible event in the past. That dark legacy hanging over the people in Don De Marco's holding. Isabella being the key to their salvation. I didn't quite get all the nuances of Nicolai's condition, but it was interesting, nonetheless. And I love cats, so it was very nice to see all the lions and how dangerous they were. Very unique spin on the Beauty and the Beast story, without trashing the essential elements of this tale. Not my favorite by Ms. Feehan, but a very good book. I'll keep this one and add it to the collection.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Against the Rules by Linda Howard

Against the Rules Against the Rules by Linda Howard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I can't believe I never read this book before. I really enjoyed it. I love the feel of a modern western. I'm addicted to this theme. I thought Rule was such an intense, rugged, sexy, appealing hero. He was raw and dominant, like many of Linda Howard's heroes. But he never stepped over the edge to domineering bully, for me. He had a vulnerability and a need for Cat that made my heart flutter. Cat is a heroine that I could sympathize with. She spent so many years running scared from her overwhelming attraction for Rule, a man who swooped in and took control of her father's ranch after he died. And he took control of her, stepping in as a sort of surrogate guardian. Although he feelings for her were far from avuncular. Their interlude when she was seventeen and he was in his twenties didn't strike me as wrong (although legally it is), because there was a deep connection there that seemed to spark out of control. It didn't have a sleazy, Lolita vibe for me. I think it was handled very well by Ms. Howard.

The western ranch setting appealed to me. I loved the descriptions of working on a horse-breeding ranch. But it didn't overshadow the love story, merely forming a backdrop that helped to better characterize Rule and Cat. I so wanted to be there on that ranch, as I read this story.

Cat's marriage wasn't delved into overly much, but it sounds like it was a happy one. It is nice to have a character have been happily-married, and the deceased spouse not treated as the bad guy. And the fact that she was fated to love Rule so much more didn't mean that she couldn't have loved her husband.

Rule's intense love and feelings towards Cat really won me over. There are few types of heroes that I love more than heroes in pursuit. He was really intent on getting her to stay, and somewhat ruthless in his seduction, but that was just fine with me. It makes the romance all that more thrilling for me. I love a man who goes after the woman he wants.

The reviews for this one by others are kind of low. I guess I'm in the minority here. I would actually add this to my list of faves by Linda Howard. Sometimes her alphas can be domineering brutes to me, and that makes some of her books less enjoyable. In the case of Rule, he was done so well, that his alpha and dominant nature was a highly enjoyable part of this book. It might be that Cat didn't come off as being bullied by him. She was susceptible to him, no question about it. But he was probably just as much in her thrall. Their relationship had a mutuality in the level of love and attraction they held for each other that made the alpha/possessive tendencies of Rule feel right. And Cat definitely showed some jealous/possessive tendencies towards him, as well.

The sensual elements were well-done. Something about the way the category romances that were written in the 80s that I love. The books had the chemistry and the fiery love scenes that I like, but they aren't over the top, where you wonder, are these people really in love, or they just having some explosive sex? You can feel the love in the private moments. But that's just my opinion, and you know how much opinions are worth.

I'm really glad I had the chance to finally read Against the Rules. It's worth its weight in gold for this reader. It's going on my Linda Howard keeper shelf.

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A Tough Man To Tame by Iris Johansen

A Tough Man To Tame (Loveswept, No 481) A Tough Man To Tame by Iris Johansen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Off the beaten path and sensual. I did so love Iris Johansen's Loveswepts. They are toe-curlingly steamy, yet nothing over the top or TMI territory.

Mariana is a serious geek, as in robot-inventing scientist, geeky. Let's here it for the nerdy girls! Louis is melt-your-fingers hot. He's urbane but rawly masculine. What a nice combination. The chemistry between the two is volcanic. I loved how Mariana is the agressor, even though she's quite the novice at it. Really good love scenes! They both have pain and baggage in their past. But together, their love bond provides mutual healing.

The concepts are somewhat paranormal, but it's done in a subtle fashion that I think wouldn't turn off any but hardened non-paranormal readers. I was happy to find out that this was part of the series of books that Ms. Johansen wrote about Sedikhan, although part takes place in France and Canada. I can't believe I missed reading this one back in the day (making note to find the others in this series).

This was a five star book for me because of the great chemistry, emotional intensity of the romance, and the unique, different feel to the storyline. I'm so glad I found this book in the clearance rack. I would have happily paid a lot more for a good read like A Tough Man to Tame.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Jason Dark-Ghost Hunter: Demon's Night (Volume 1)

Jason Dark - Ghost Hunter: Demon's Night (Volume 1) Jason Dark - Ghost Hunter: Demon's Night by Guido Henkel

What a delightful story. As a fan of the Victorian setting in horror, I had a lot of fun reading this story. Jason Dark is a great new hero for me. This urbane, kind gentleman is brave enough to take on a demon with the power to tear him to shreds. He's a ghosthunter with an arsenal to make a lover of arcane artifacts and gadgets very happy. And he's got the coolest sword. I'm jealous of that sword. I really am. This short story is full of action, barely slowing down once it gets started. Although not really scary, it did have some tense moments, and wonderful, cinematic atmosphere. And Mr. Henkel gets points for having a heroine who is a formidable warrior in her own right, Sui Lin, who is of Chinese heritage.

I can say one thing. I'd love to read more by this author. Are you running short of classic horror short stories or novels to read? Check this one out. It has the elements that make such fare so appealing. Fans of Sherlock Holmes, occult detectives, and classic action-adventure/pulp fiction with supernatural elements, be sure to check out Jason Dark-Ghost Hunter: Demon's Night.

Overall rating 4.5 out of 5.0 stars .

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Unquiet Dreams by Mark Del Franco

Unquiet Dreams (Connor Grey, #2) Unquiet Dreams by Mark Del Franco

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you are a fan of faerie, you must read this book. Mark Del Franco 'gets' what makes us faerie lovers tick. And he really understands how to write a good urban fantasy book. The elves and the faeries are at each others throats. They are plotting and planning against each other, big time. Think of how it would be if the Democratic and Republican parties were militarized. Yup.

Although the first book took a little time for me to get into it, I fell right into the story in Unquiet Dreams. I am starting to have a serious crush on Connor. I liked the approach that Mr. Del Franco took with Connor. He's the golden boy that fell from grace. He was a very arrogant, somewhat self-absorbed guy who had a huge sense of entitlement because of his formidable Druid abilities. When he was attacked by an elf, who damaged his Druid powers, he had a very painful epiphany. There are moments where you wince along with Connor as he's confronted with his past hubris and overweening self-confidence. It's so real how the 'beautiful people' will turn their back on a fallen comrade. I believe that this fall from grace is the making of Connor. He will grow from the experiences, albeit painful, and become the man he's truly meant to be. But it's not an easy process.

Connor's sort of unique as an urban fantasy hero. He really doesn't have that powerful an ability that carries him through. He has the remnant of his Druid abilities, but they really don't protect him from harm. So you see him end up vulnerable a lot in this book. It sort of reminds me of Harry Dresden in that sense (Harry's always getting banged up), but it's even more realistic, in the sense, that Connor is always aware of his short-comings. I found the mix of his vulnerability, learned humility, intelligence, and his innately commanding personality very appealing. He's a real survivor, and I admired him for that.

The plotting and storytelling were excellent. To be honest, I would sometimes get lost with some of the investigative and procedural aspects. But I blame that on my often short attention span. I have to say it adds to the magical/occult detective story vibe considerably. And the fantastic/faery elements took what would have been dry for me (in a non-fantasy book), and made them more interesting then I would have found them otherwise. Nevertheless, I feel that a mystery fan coming over to urban fantasy would enjoy this book.

The worldbuilding is fantastic. The Weird part of Boston is inhabited by all sorts of Fae, from Danaan faeries to pixies (called flits--Connor's good friend Joe is one), to trolls, dwarves, and elves. I loved the socio-political structure Mr. Del Franco gave this world. The faeries have street gangs, run by Trolls, and there is a faery bar where a group of hard-drinking faeries called the Cluries, love to get nice and rowdy. They sort of reminded me of the gypsies led by Brad Pitt in the Guy Ritchie movie, Snatch. And we get to see how members of the Faerie community party in their very own version of a rave. Those scenes caught my attention, and did not let go.

I loved the secondary characters: Murdoch (a human homocide detective who uses Connor as a faerie consultant), Meryl (lab tech/Druidess extraordinaire with outre' fashion sense--think Abby from the tv show NCIS), Joe (Connor's small pixy friend who loves to get in trouble, and who may be cute, but is fairly deadly against aggressors), and the various faeries, elves, trolls, and Druids that Connor has to sort through to find his suspect and to solve the two murders in question. We also get to meet Connor's older brother, Cal. There is a strain in their relationship that pulled at my heart.

Unquiet Dreams starts with a rather grisly murder investigation, and culminates in a powerful climax in which the world could very well end, when the powerful essence (what we'd consider faerie magical power) is stolen from a large number of fae, to be used by the main, power-hungry culprit, and things get out of control. And the unlikely hero of Connor, disabled druid, is the only one who can save the day, although he gets a little help from his friends.

Believe me, I cannot recommend this book highly enough if you are into faerie fiction. You will be astounded and blown away with what Mr. Del Franco has done with this sub-genre of urban fantasy. He truly has my respect. I'm anxious to see what adventures he has in store for Connor in the next book.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Irish Rogue by Emma Jensen

The Irish Rogue (Signet Regency Romance) The Irish Rogue by Emma Jensen

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Emma Jensen is one of those authors who's not writing anymore, and I mourn her absence. She knows how to write a very involving, enjoyable love story. The dialogue is excellent, and the chemistry between Christor and Ailis was outstanding. There were moments that got downright steamy, although this is definitely a sweet romance. It's all about description of feelings and the way the couple interacts that gives a book a steam factor for this reader. And some pretty sizzling kissing scenes. Ms. Jensen brought some fire into this traditional regency romance.

Let me apologize in advance. There are words that have Gaelic accents, and I'm unable to do that in this review. I hate to murder this lovely language, but I sort of have to, in this case. This is a hard book to rate. It veered into five star territory several times, but then it jumped over to four and 1/2 star region. I think the reason that it wasn't a five star book for me, is when the tone shifted abruptly to social comedy. I do love that about regency-set romances, but the way the scenes would go from more intense couple scenes to social comedy was a bit too jarring to me. But I have to admit, she had me laughing at the slyly humorous descriptions of the members of Dublin high society.

Christor was an awesome hero. He's sexy, dangerous, intense, but also intelligent, and principled. He is the kind of hero I like to see in Regency romance. He is showed as a masculine, attractive figure without having to be a skirtchaser to get that image across. He's had women in the past. Of course. But his list of conquests does not need to be waved in the reader's face to show his appeal. He's a noble aristocrat, but he's down to earth, and genuinely cares about all people. His pursuit of Ailis really kept my interest. And boy, could the man kiss!

Ailis was the kind of heroine you like, but at times, can be annoying. She was a little bit judgmental towards Christor. She pegged him as another Anglo-Irish aristocrat who wouldn't know the real Ireland if it hit him with a frying pan. She's very proud of her Gaelic-Irish roots, and is fairly snooty about it (in a reverse sort of way). That was the only issue I had with her, really. Of course, she has to go barreling off to get into trouble at the climax, but it's sort of expected in a trad regency, isn't it? I liked that she started loving Christor for himself, and didn't compare him to An Cu for very long. She soon realized that the traits she found so appealing about her masked adventurer, were traits that Lord Clane (Christor) had. Kudos to her for that. My somewhat mixed feeling about Ailis is another reason this wasn't quite a five star book for me.

If you are an admirer of Irish/Gaelic culture, you will love this book. This turned out to be the perfect book to read in honor of St. Patrick's Day. Although I am Black American, I have a strong Irish heritage that I am very proud of. This book resonated with me in how it showed aspects of Ireland that I don't get to see very much in Regency romance. I believe that Ms. Jensen did a great job in infusing these elements into this romance, and they added another level of appeal and flavor to this story.

If you are a fan of books with a hero in disguise, and masked adventurers, you'll enjoy this one. Although I don't go out my way to read highwayman/bandit books, I enjoy a well-written one, and I'd suggest this book if someone asked for a recommendation. An Cu/Christor is the type of bandit that you would want to sweep onto his horse and carry you away into the night, kissing you senseless the whole while.

So, all in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, for numerous reasons. Another winner by Emma Jensen, who I wish would please come back to writing romances.

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5.0 stars.

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