Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Hob's Bargain by Patricia Briggs

The Hob's BargainThe Hob's Bargain by Patricia Briggs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a lovely book. Although short, it was a full meal, rich with humor, magic, the struggle between good and evil, and a nice little romance.

Aren was a great heroine. You see her go from meek and frightened to powerful and independent in her own right. Ms. Briggs excels at writing loveable characters who I care about, cheering along as they grow, and as they fight the good fight. She did a great job of showing Aren come into knowledge of her gifts, and I admired her ability to survive so much turmoil.

How I did love the Hob. Wild and elemental, flamboyantly-dressed, a bit mischievous, but good-hearted, just what the doctor ordered for Aren. I certainly haven't seen a romantic hero like him before. He helps to heal the broken places inside of Aren, and she does the same for him. Not the usual kind of romance, but a very good one, all the same.

The magic was enthralling. This book has some pretty dark aspects with the bloodmages and the evil wildlings. Some of the darkness on the land is downright creepy, adding another layer to this story. Yet, the wild beauty of the elemental spirits of the land called to me. I almost wish some of them were real. Well, almost.

I'm on a roll here with the horse theme. Aren's horse Duck is yet another equine character I've fallen in love with.

I truly did enjoy reading this book. Yet another one of Patricia Briggs books I will add to my keeper shelf and treasure for future rereads.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Magic of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

The Magic of Recluce (The Saga of Recluce, #1)The Magic of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a book where patience proves to be a virtue. It started very slowly, with an almost tedious amount of detail. As I continued to read, it started to make sense.

This is a book about the battle between two opposing forces: chaos and order. The tedious amount of detail really ties into this story, for it defined the foundation of Recluce. Recluce is a city of almost pure order. Everything is so perfect and ordered that it is perceived as being boring to our hero, Lerris. Any persons who compromise that order are exiled. Our hero is such a person. But, like any good heroic fantasy, this reluctant, unlikely hero does save the day.

Lerris was a bit annoying at first, like one of those eternally bored youngsters that made my life miserable when I taught. I don't think I've ever seen the word 'boring' so much in my life. When I was a kid, I was not allowed to be 'bored', so I don't have much patience for people who go through life bored with everything. Fortunately, I came to see how this plays a role in the story. Lerris is looking for answers. He's like the kid who always asks 'why' about everything, wanted to be told instead of finding out the answers for himself. His exile from Recluce turns out to be the making of him. He finds a strength and a purpose over the course of this novel that can only be gained the hard way, through action and practice.

At first, I didn't think Mr. Modesitt's style of writing was going to work for me, but then I began to appreciate it. His attention to detail is very important to the narrative. I especially liked his descriptions of woodworking. I am not very good with my hands, despite being a decent artist and gardener. I do respect those who can build functional things with their hands. Lerris's approach to woodworking--initially one of boredom and disinterest, which changed to one of intense focus and commitment to perfection--was a metaphor for his maturation from boy to man. He has a hard, often lonely road ahead of him in this novel. Seeing that slow, often painful growth made me come to love him as a hero. He showed that his heart was in the right place, although he seemed so disinterested and self-absorbed initially.

The magic system was very interesting. It turned a a big thing on its head as far as conventions: the black wizards are the good wizards, and the white wizards are the evil wizards. That was an unique twist that I liked. I was surprised that I figured out some of how the chaos versus order dynamic worked. I was putting the pieces together along with Lerris. I liked how the order in persons and things were manipulated by Lerris and his eventual mentor, gray (mostly black but a little white) wizard, Justen. That was their power as order-masters. And it wasn't just a matter of creating things to solve problems. If done wrongly or for the wrong motives, this could become an act of chaos. Lerris had to continually weigh his actions to make sure he wasn't doing that. As I read, I wondered what could and couldn't be done and stay on the side of order.

Although this story is focused on Lerris, there are some interesting secondary characters, and quite a lot of strong, well-developed women characters. I liked that the women were in powerful roles, often serving in the military and as soldiers. Krystal turned out to be a good character, showing her own evolution in character for the best. And I loved Lerris trusty mountain pony, Gairloch. He's quite the boon companion.

I am the risk of being long-winded, so I'll bring this review to a close. This was a very good book. I'm glad I hung in there and kept reading past the slow beginning, and that I paid attention. Mr. Modesitt lays a powerful foundation for this story, and everything ties in together. I appreciate being recommended this story by a fellow Goodreads friend. I will definitely continue reading this series. Recommended to readers who like an intricate fantasy story.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

His at Night by Sherry Thomas

His at NightHis at Night by Sherry Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

His at Night was a very clever, multi-layered story. It is about two people who live their lives while playing out a role, 24 hours out of the day. Both Vere and Elissande have very good reasons for why they pretend to be someone that they are not. Vere does it to right wrongs, to exact vengeance when he could not save his mother so many years ago. Elissande does it for her survival.

I was quite impressed with how Ms. Thomas wrote this book that made me laugh myself giddy in some scenes, and feel a deep sense of sadness, frustration, and anger in other scenes. You see, Vere plays the fool, and he does it very well. He pretends to be what many called an idiot. I wonder how I would feel if I knew him. Probably, I would find myself loving him and wanting to protect him, since the world is cruel to people who are different and who don't live up to their standards. That's what his younger brother, Freddie did. Others simply treated him with contempt. I imagine that was really difficult for Vere. To be such an intelligent person, with so much to offer the world, and to be perceived by the world in such a negative light. Thus, he is a very lonely man. He has created a female companion, his perfect woman, who shares his life, and sees him as he truly is. That is his only solace, outside of his ability to see justice done, and taking care of his brother.

When Vere first sees Elissande, it's love at first sight, although he rejects this feeling. And when he sees that she is scheming to catch herself a husband, he becomes hardened against her. When she engineers being caught in a very compromising position with his brother, he arranges to be there instead, and his opinion plummets to an all time low--but he must marry her. Such begins their marriage.

Elissande turned out to be an equally complicated heroine. She's led a life of fear, living with her frail aunt and her cruel, wicked uncle by marriage. She learned to always smile and act as if everything is okay. Her sunny smile is a mask to hide her deepest fears and pain from the world. When she meets Vere and realizes that he's an idiot, smiling gets really hard. Physically, he's a dream come true. But, does she want to spend her life married to a fool, even if he represents freedom for her aunt and herself? Desperation leads to her trying to entrap Freddie, his younger brother, but she gets Vere in her clutches instead. She'll make do with him, make a marriage that helps her to gain her freedom.

Elissande doesn't expect to feel such passion with him, like she is coming home in his arms. He seems to be two different people: the idiot, and the demanding vital husband who will take all of her, or nothing. She comes to realize that being free from her uncle is not the only possibility from her marriage. Neither come to realize how much they will come to love each other. Watching their relationship unfold kept me riveted.

I must give Ms. Thomas my respect for capturing the late Victorian period so beautifully. Her prose is elegant and vivid. I felt like I was in the 19th century as I read this story. When I had to put the book down, it was with a sense of annoyance. I think this would make a wonderful movie.

The characters in this story are realistic, sometimes to a painful degree. The confrontational encounters between the characters made me wince, because it felt so real to me. I don't think Ms. Thomas is afraid of showing her characters at their ugliest, and I'm not sure that this would work well for every reader. At times, it was jarring to me, to see the cutting way Vere used words with Elissande, to push her away. How Elissande was not afraid to stab back with her own words. Conflict of this sort isn't comfortable for me. But, it felt authentic, which is something that I appreciate. I like a story that has elements of darkness, with characters that are flawed and struggling. His at Night does have this element in spades. But, it's also a fun, enjoyable book. I liked Vere's cleverness, his ability to stay in character and get the job done, even when it was so hard for him. I liked seeing his covert capers. He stands out as a crusading hero who fights the good fight, and that endeared him to me. He is a strong, vital man--my favorite kind of hero in that regard. His willingness to make personal sacrifices for the good of others only made me love him more. If only he realized how well Elissande complemented him. She really wasn't so different. I wish he hadn't tried so hard to push Elissande away, afraid to let himself love her because it wasn't comfortable for him. I was glad that he came to his senses and realized that an honest relationship isn't always comfortable, that true love hurts. But some hurts heal us deep inside.

It was hard to say what I thought of this book, but to put it simply, I valued my reading experience with His at Night. This was my first book by Ms. Thomas, and I look forward to reading more books by this talented author.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Vacations from HellVacations from Hell by Libba Bray

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Lessons learned from reading this book:

1)Do not go on a cruise for your vacation...There might be vampires aboard.
2)Be aware of childhood rivals that you go on family vacations with...They might be evil witches.
3)Never spend your vacation in the French countryside, and by all means, avoid striking up a conversation with a garrulous Frenchman...It could very well be deadly to you and yours.
4)If you go to Jamaica, avoid the strange house with mirrors on it...Just take my word for it.
5)Never, ever take a backpacking trip through strange European countries with even stranger names like Necratul. Trust me on that!

This turned out to be a very good short story collection. I was kind of worried at how the first story, "Cruisin'", by Sarah Mlynowski, started. I thought, "Crap. This is like the CW teenie-bopper shows I avoid like the plague. Young girls out to get laid, 17 going on 35." I'm glad I kept reading. Just when I was about to give up, it got interesting. I have to admit that she threw me for a loop with the unexpected twist. Nicely played, Ms. Mlynowski. 4 stars.

"I Don't Like Your Girlfriend" by Claudia Gray took an interesting look at childhood rivalries between two girls whose mothers are both initiating them into their lives as witches. Cecily is a by-the-book girl, following all the rules of the Craft faithfully. Kathleen, her nemesis, has no problem breaking one of the first rules of witchcraft, not using your power to influence others. And to make it even worse, she's using it over her sweet boyfriend, Scott, who Cecily has a crush on. Cecily is out to see justice done. This was a pretty good story. Not really a subject I'm that interested in, but it kept my interest. 4 stars.

"The Law of Suspects" by Maureen Johnson struck me as such a well-done story. It starts out so funny in a completely sarcastic way. I was laughing out loud at Charlie's observations of her trip to France. And then, suddenly this story became as creepy as heck! Imagine being stranded in a country where you barely speak the language, and there is a weird French guy telling you an incredibly unsettling story. You know something is Just Not Right about this guy. Then, there's a very cute French guy who shows up. He tells you that you and your sister's lives are in danger. What do you do? What do you do? Man, this was a suspenseful story. I had no idea how it was going to end. Was Gerard telling Charlie the truth? Argh! I was holding my breath! When it ends, there's still this lingering fear. Is it over? What a good story. 5 stars.

"The Mirror House" by Cassandra Clare unnerved me, enthralled and riveted me. Ms. Clare used her prose very skillfully, creating a story that was beautiful and sinister. Despite the sunbleached brightness of the Jamaican beach, there was a dark undertone to everything. Along with Violet, I feared for young Evan. I had no clue initially what the threat was, but when I found out, I really liked the direction that Ms. Clare took. Brimming with atmosphere and intensity, this was a 5 star story for me.

"Nowhere is Safe" by Libba Bray. Man, oh, man. I'd rather have the most boring summer on earth than have the vacation from you know where that this group of friends had. I couldn't believe how scary this story got. Imagine going to a town where the townspeople had a pact with the Devil, sacrificing their children for prosperity for many years. They haven't done that in over one hundred and fifty years. But, some traditions aren't easily forgotten. I loved that the main character was half-Asian. He was subjected to prejudice because of his heritage, but he is heir to a special ability that may very well be the saving of his friends. He's sweet on his best friend, Izzy, whose parents were Haitian refugees, and who understands very well being a stranger in one's own land. Can he and his friends survive the nefarious plans of the villagers on their last Feast before their village is uprooted to build a power plant? Boy, this was not an ideal story to read before bedtime. Although the ending was a bit rushed, I still give it 5 stars for really scaring me, and for the hidden themes of prejudice and identity that I think it handled very well.

I was very happily surprised with this story collection. It was a quick but fulfilling read. I didn't expect these stories to be quite so scary, but it was, and in the best ways! Although this is a young adult collection, I think a lot of older readers would enjoy it too.

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5.0 stars.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding by Various Authors

My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding (Includes: Dark-Hunter Related Book, #4; Sookie Stackhouse, #6.1; The Dresden Files, #7.5)My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding by P.N. Elrod

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a great anthology. I enjoyed each story, and I breezed right through it.

My thoughts of each story:

Spellbound by LA Banks. This was a fun story about two star-crossed lovers who happen to be part of voodoo/root-practioner families who hate each other. The Hatfields versus the McCoys, except they are Black. I laughed a lot, and some of the characters reminded me of some family members on both sides (minus the voodoo-practicing part). Both the hero and the heroine were virgins. This is probably my favorite story by Banks now, although I do love her other short stories that I've read. Five stars.

Something Borrowed by Jim Butcher. I just love Harry Dresden. In this story, he is helping his friend Billy the Werewolf get married. Too bad a miffed faerie stole his bride and decided to take her place. But Harry is on the case, with a little help from Detective Murphy. Five stars.

Dead Man's Chest by Rachel Caine. What a pleasant surprise. A bride gets talked into getting married on a pirate ship by her fiance. It turns out the pirates are all dead and under a curse. And her fiance had some nefarious motives. But, true love conquers all. Between the erstwhile bride and the pirate captain. Great fun. It helped that Captain Lockhart reminded me of an Anne Stuart hero. I'm so easy that way. Five stars.

All Shook Up by PN Elrod. This was an interesting story. I think Elvis fans would really love it. There is a wedding singer who has an uncannily perfect imitation of Elvis going on, and an ability to help the wedding couple along their course of true love. An ability shared by the caterer, who is the main protagonist. I'm not a big Elvis fan (although I like a lot of his songs), so it was weird how the hero was sort of possessed by the spirit of Elvis, but I still enjoyed it. Four Stars.

The Wedding of Wylda Serene by Esther M. Friesner. This story made me laugh. I enjoyed the whimsical feel, and the slyly ironic narration. A bastion of upper class entitlement is plagued by mythical creatures, in time to 'spoil' a sweet, young debutante's wedding. This is a must-read for Greek mythology enthusiasts. Four and 1/2 stars.

Charmed by the Moon by Lori Handeland. I haven't read any of the books in her Nightcreature series, and this is a follow-up story about Jessie and Will from Blue Moon. They are getting married, but Jessie is having cold feet, not sure if their feelings are true for each other. They go on a spirit journey to find that out when they find a love charm in Will's ceremonial wedding gear. I really liked this story. The magic and the mysticism hit the right note with me. It has a bittersweet feel as their HEA is not my ideal, but I can understand the choice they made for the dangerous world they live in. Four and 1/2 stars.

Tacky by Charlaine Harris. When I read Ms. Harris' stories, I usually teeter on the edge of sincere admiration for her imagination, amusement, and a bit of cheesy overload, all at the same time. I sort of like the goofy approach she has to the paranormal world, but sometimes it feels too goofy. I like the way she pokes fun at Southerners in a goodnatured way. I must say this was an unusual wedding, with the bride being a vampire, and the groom being a werewolf, and human fundamentalist assassins attacking the wedding party. For some reason, the main protagonist, Dahlia, kept making me think of Pam from the TrueBlood show, although she's hetero. Four stars.

A Hard Day's Night-Searcher by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Yay. A Black Dark-Hunter paired with a Black female Squire. Thank you, Ms. Kenyon. This is about Rafael Santiago, who was a pirate in his mortal life, and OCD Squire Celena, who's afraid to lose yet another Dark-Hunter to the ongoing battle with the Daimons. They end up crashing an Apollite wedding teeming with Daimons. This was a really good story, but it felt way too short to me. Sort of an abbreviated version of a full-length Dark-Hunter novel. Everything was resolved, but I felt like I wanted more. Four stars.

"...Or Forever Hold Your Peace" by Susan Krinard. I liked the Victorian paranormal feel of this story. This is a paranormal mystery in which Olivia and Kit, a crime-solving duo, work to find a bride who was kidnapped from her wedding, using their Talents. This is an alternate England called Albion, where most people have some sort of magical Talent. Olivia can see inside a person's body to see their anatomy, and Kit can change into a large Black Dog. It was fun and had the pulp fiction, neo-Victorian vibe I love. I felt the tone could have been a little more vibrant for maximum enjoyment, but I'd love to read more of Kit and Olivia's adventures. Four stars.

I really want to give this collection five stars, mainly based on the first three stories and the overall appealing vibe it holds, despite the preponderance of stories not reaching five stars. So I will. Recommended to fans of humorous paranormal/supernatural fiction, be it urban fantasy or paranormal, with a little gaslit Victorian mystery thrown in.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sun Kissed by Catherine Anderson

Sun Kissed (Kendrick/Coulter/Harrigan #7)Sun Kissed by Catherine Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although this isn't near my favorite book by Catherine Anderson, it was a very good. I loved Tucker and Samantha. Even though I felt that the balance was a bit off between the mystery/suspense element and the romance development, I did feel their connection and the love between them. Tucker, like most of Catherine Anderson's heroes, is just wonderful. He falls pretty hard for Samantha and does a great job of showing it, although he does something that momentarily feeds into Samantha's residual insecurities from her divorce and bad marriage. Otherwise, a girl couldn't ask for a better hero. Samantha felt true to life, and was a woman that I would admire in real life and possibly become friends with, if we traveled in the same circles. I liked that although she came from money, she was very grounded and a kind, warm person. She loved her horses very much, and it was abundantly clear.

I also loved how Ms. Anderson showed family interactions. That's always a good part of a book to see characters with loving families, although things are not always 100% perfect. Although Samantha's father and brothers were controlling and meddling in Samantha's eyes, you could clearly see that they cared about her and were trying to watch out for her. I could see how Samantha felt stifled and wanted to make her own decisions. I am the youngest daughter and I have family who think loving is telling people what decisions they can make and how to live their lives. It can be frustrating, but this book reminded me to consider that these people are showing love, perhaps in ways that may bother, but love all the same. I was actually pretty envious of Samantha having all those protective older brothers. I always wanted that. Another enjoyable aspect for me, seeing Tucker with this close-knit family. It was nice to catch up with Jake and Molly from Sweet Nothings.

I think that some readers will have issues with the significant degree of the narrative that was focused on the horse aspects. I actually enjoyed that. Although I am a surburban girl who was never around livestock until I went to college, I have become horse-mad later on in life. I think they are beautiful, fascinating animals. It broke my heart to see Samantha's horses poisoned and how they suffered from that. I can't imagine doing something like that to animals for any reason. I cried when she had to bury her horses that died. I loved the medicine aspects, finding it very interesting. With my background in animal medicine, it was sort of a no-brainer that I'd like that, but I could see the descriptions of the medical care that Tucker administered possibly being dry for some readers who are not interested in horses or medicine. I think he was an exceptional vet, really caring and devoted to doing a good job for his patients.

Although I think this could rub a non-religious person the wrong way, I actually liked that Samantha was a person of faith, and you could see evidence of that in her daily life. I think it's important to show a person of faith who does walk the walk, instead of professing something that is not evident through her behavior. I don't feel that Ms. Anderson was too heavy-handed in this book with it. I haven't read many books were the characters were devout Catholics, so that was interesting for me.

I wouldn't rate this book as a five star because of the intrigue plot being a little too much of a focus. I would have liked to see a little more romantic moments between Tucker and Samantha, although I enjoyed what was there. Also I had a little pet peeve with a small part of the story. I am hugely against declawing cats, which is the removal of the last digit of their toes. I find it cruel and unnecessary. It can be done painlessly, but it does cause residual soreness and effects on animals when it's not a crucial surgery. I think it was a little jarring for a major message of this story to be against cruelty to animals, but mention Tucker performing a procedure that I feel is not beneficial and necessary to most cats. I am not saying that a caring, conscientious veterinarian cannot perform this procedure, but my personal beliefs against declawing made it hard to swallow in a story that seemed to speak so strongly against animal cruelty. Most likely, this would not bother most readers. But, it did bother me. I mean no offense against Ms. Anderson, but it's food for thought that I felt necessary to add to this review. Most laypersons do not really understand the mechanics of this procedure, and that it's not necessary, and that was one of my things I tried to educate clients on. I learned to do this procedure, but made a decision not to do it in practice, based on my personal beliefs against it. Sorry for the PSA! This is a subject close to my heart, so I couldn't leave that out of my review.

Another issue I had was how they kept referring to one of Samantha's employee's Carrie, as mannish and homely. Her attempts to pretty herself up were made to seem clownish. That just felt mean to me. I realize this was tied in heavily to the overall story, but it seemed shallow. Not all women are going to be small, delicate, and drop-dead gorgeous. Beauty comes in all shape and sizes. It's hard for me to see people treated badly because they don't fit the popular modes of beauty. Carrie did something truly awful, and I don't let her off the hook for it. But the judgment of her shouldn't hinge on her looks or lack thereof. I wasn't quite comfortable with how that was handled, to be honest.

Despite my issues, and all in all, this was a very pleasant read, and one I will be adding to my keeper shelf with her other books. I love Catherine Anderson's stories because they are full of heart. I was glad to be able to reconnect with the Coulters and to meet the Harrigans. I look forward to reading more of the stories in this series.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Jackson Rule by Sharon Sala (Dinah McCall)

Jackson RuleJackson Rule by Dinah McCall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you are looking to read a book with a hero who has really, really gotten a bad break in life, look no further! Poor Jackson. He went to prison for fifteen years. He was sixteen years old. I cannot imagine how that must have been. Only to serve his time and go out into a world where few people are willing to look past what they think he is: ex-con, murderer, trash. I like to think that a person should be given a clean slate in life. I guess that doesn't really happen in real life. I don't want to get into my beliefs about the criminal justice system, because I don't think anyone wants to hear them. But, I will say that I think a person who serves their time and is willing to live an honest life, should get the opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, that's harder than it seems. For people generally take things at face value, and let their fears and suspicions rule them (I am not excluding myself from this).

I was surprised at how narrow-minded and judgmental Rebecca's reverend father was. I do realize that many Christians (but not all) are true to this portrayal of Reverend Hill. They are goody-goody and never miss church, but do not show their true beliefs through their actions. I was glad that Rebecca tried to live true to his teaching and her faith, and she called him on his hypocrisy. And Reverend Hill is forced to search his own heart and realize his own actions do not show what he preaches and believes.

In contrast to Reverend Hill, Rebecca and a few others were willing to give Jackson a chance. In fact, Rebecca was more loving and understanding to Jackson than he was to himself. He had a huge case of self-hatred! It was hard to deal with at times, but given his awful childhood and the fact that he spent almost half his life in prison, I could see why he was this way.

The cynical reader would probably find Jackson's continued shows of goodness a bit too much. Let's count:
1)Saves Rebecca by pulling her out of the path of an oncoming vehicle, and fixing her truck which had overheated for free.
2)Saves his next-door neighbor child from his abusive father, and later from a fire
3)Does CPR on Pete (a coworker and friend of Rebecca) when he has a heart-attack, thus saving his life.
4)Reads to, spends time with, and counsels young children who live at the shelter where he volunteers.
5)And there's a big whoozy, which is a major spoiler, so I won't say, but I'm counting it.

This wasn't an issue for me. I liked that his actions showed what a good person he was, even though people assumed the worst of him. He was very innocent in many ways. A sweet boy who had been weighed, judged, and found wanting, and given no first or second chances in life. This book made me cry a few times. I'm the kind of girl who likes to believe that people are good and good things happen to good people. Deep down, I'm an optimist, which is why I do like feel good romances (disguised as deeply angsty and sad romances with deleriously happy endings). So, this book did not fail to impress me. I know that some people will find this book too sappy. I can't speak for them. I loved this book, and I wanted to give Jackson a big, huge hug. I'm glad that he has Rebecca and other loved ones to do that for me.

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Yours Until Dawn by Teresa Medeiros

Yours Until DawnYours Until Dawn by Teresa Medeiros

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book quite a bit. But, to be honest, I expected to like it more than I did. It was very good, and I liked both the hero and the heroine. Samantha really did help Gabriel to come to terms with the loss of his sight, his disfigurement, and his loss of his place as 'golden boy' in his society world. I think one of my major issues was the events after the climax. Hmm, I think I would have preferred that he not regain his sight. Sounds bad, huh? Getting his sight back made things too easy, I think. If he didn't get it back, then he really would have to change for good. But, his change was good for him, overall, but he didn't really lose anything to make a significant epiphany. Also, I didn't like how he didn't recognize Samantha when he sees Cecily again. If he was really that much in love with her, why wouldn't he have felt that connection? He had sex with her as Cecily, he'd had sex with her as Samantha, and the light bulb didn't come on. I was a bit surprised with that, considering that he was so in love with Samantha, and searched for her for many months after she disappeared. Also, I thought he was pretty callous to Cecily. She offers herself to him, and he takes what she's offering, but comes right out and coldly says, "I'll never love you." It made me wonder if he really had changed. It seemed like something the old Gabriel would have done.

This was a perfectly good book. But I don't think it's near my favorite of Teresa Medeiros's. Gabriel was, and ended up being just too much of a golden boy type for me. A man of privilege used to getting exactly what he wants in life. He suffers for a season, but he returns right back to his previous place in life, with few lessons learned. At least, that's my opinion.

This is one of those books where I wondered what really had been accomplished. If you don't think too hard and don't expect too much evolution and change in your heroes, you'll probably be fine with this book. I would have liked to see a little more in Gabriel after what he went through. I do have to say I loved Sam the dog, and Samantha, the heroine, and it was engaging and well-written. Thus, the four star rating.

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The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes by Jennifer Crusie, Eileen Dreyer, Anne Stuart

The Unfortunate Miss FortunesThe Unfortunate Miss Fortunes by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book, simply put, was fun! It was a nice change after my last book, which wasn't that fun. I liked the light-spirit of the story, with one of my favorite themes: family. I adore my sister, so stories with sisters who love each other and get alone are always welcome.

Can I be honest? I read this book because Anne Stuart was one of the writers. I happily tried to pick out which parts of the narrative that she wrote, and I think I did a good job. But, in the process, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was very cool to get three, count them, three love stories in one. Each sister was very different, and their happy ending perfect for them. I liked each of their beaus, although Danny and Elric edged out slightly ahead. Danny seemed like an Anne Stuart hero, not from her Ice series, but from her lighter Harlequin romances. He was scrumptious! And Elric, well, I was cracking up that his name was Elric. Elric is a character by Michael Moorcock, an albino sorceror emperor of a dying race in a high fantasy series that I just started reading last year. I thought that was pretty cool that they used his name. And Elric was delicious, a wizard with long blond hair, dark eyes, and a silver earring, in a three piece suit. (drooling). He seemed a lot like Anne Stuart's kind of heroes. Crash was pretty cool, too. Easily the most traditionally gorgeous, and the kind of guy most women would fall in love with. Not as much my type, though. He works on motorcycles and lives in Italy. And the youngest sister, Mare, never got over him.

I liked each sister. They each had their own character quirks. I think Mare reminds me of my friends--movie buffs to their soul. She likes to quote movies. I liked Lizzie's penchant to manifest sexy (hooker) shoes when she's horny. She's determined to perfect the ancient practice of alchemy, but doesn't have it down just yet. Mainly, she creates bunnies from eating utensils. Dee has the ability to shapeshift, and paints pictures from the viewpoint of the animal she's shifted into. Because she shifts when she gets excited, she's been unable to have sex yet, making her The Oldest Virgin in America (or so she thinks).

The sisters' nefarious aunt casts a spell to bring the sisters' true loves to town, so they can have a happy life, and she can have their powers. This aunt is an evil witch who the sisters have been hiding from since their parents died. The sisters are fairly unhappy, unable to control their powers, and each dealing with the consequences of their unwanted abilities and having to live in obscurity. When their true loves come to town, it's clear that love does conquer all. And it's a lot of fun watching love do its work.

This is not a book to take seriously. It's a book to enjoy--laughing and enjoying the lovely, sexy romances for each sisters. And some drooling over the guys, lots of drooling.

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Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs, #1)Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With my sinus allergies kicking my butt, I don't have the energy to write a really long review, so I'll keep it simple. I thought this was an excellent book, though not really a comfortable book. I don't think this book is for everyone. The language is very coarse, to be honest. Liberal use of the worst word for women in written language is employed. It starts with a 'c' and ends with a 't', and I think you can fill in the blanks. I winced just about every time. Despite this, and the fact that this story deals with prostitution and horrible abuse of women in a disturbingly intimate manner, I don't feel that Mr. Morgan showed misogynistic tendencies in his writing. In fact, some of the most strongest, most three-dimensional characters in this story were women, and each one was different. I particularly liked Ortega, and her relationship with Kovacs. Trepp was interesting, as well. Miriam was somewhat standard noir fair. You know, the bodacious vixen who also happens to be the wife of the victim, who seduces the PI? Yeah, that's in this book.

This book was fairly violent, although not quite what I'd call gratuitous. Not gratuitous in the sense that the whole book wasn't violent. But, yeah, there are some pretty in your face scenes. Let's just say I would be looking away on quite a few scenes if this was a movie. There's a fair amount of sex, too. I thought it was tasteful and well-written, despite all the nasty inferences to particularly 'icky' sexual practices. That was all off-scene, thankfully.

The worldbuilding was very good. The whole concept of sleeving (changing bodies), and stacking (digital storage of consciousness) was a bit disturbing for me. They have figured out the key to immortality in the 25th century, and that immortality is not a pretty one, at least to me. Bascially, if you have enough money, you can have your consciousness continually transferred to different bodies as the old ones wear out, or your present body is prematurely damaged. Let's just hope you do have the dough to spring for a new body. If not, well, I guess you get to hang out in a digital storage bank, for eternity. Yikes. I did like the tech, some aspects that made it clear this was a future setting, but not so much that I got bored. I did have some issues getting used to the vocabulary; but I soon fell into the stream of things.

This book gave me some things to think about. My feelings about what gives a person her or his identity. Is the soul what they are storing, or is it merely the consciousness? What happens to the soul? How can you be unique if you can download your consciousness into more than one body at a time? Mr. Morgan doesn't try to answer these questions, so I'm still pondering it, left to draw my own conclusions. In this future world of Earth, the Catholics definitely don't agree with digital storage of consciousness, and they fight it. Unfortunately, that makes Catholics a particular target for people who don't have respect for human life.

That was another theme this book touched on. There are some people (powerful ones) who don't seem to value human life; since, well, you can just buy a new body when the old one is not working anymore. And people who are not worth anything in society, they are simply disposable. One of the major bad guys comes right out and says this. It made me think that even today, when we don't get replacement bodies, people have the same attitude. Life isn't sacred, if the person isn't worth anything in the material sense. Kind of sad to see that things haven't changed.

Kovacs was a protagonist that had layers. He was a ruthless killer. But, he was also a principled man, who had limits to what he would and wouldn't do. A man who cared about people, capable of loving and being loved. But, also a man who could kill remorselessly and does. He doesn't seem to have an issue with sleeping with another man's wife, but he doesn't like prostitution. Using drugs is not something he's against, either (I hate drugs, so I didn't really care for that). He's in over his head, several times. He gets hurt, badly. So, even though he's clearly a very dangerous man, he's not invulnerable. You really don't know if he'll make it through some of the sticky situations he ends up in. You see this crazy world through his eyes, and it's not pretty.

One thing that surprised me, was that the environment wasn't screwed up. I had expected that this would be an issue in the far future. But, not so much. I guess, with all the bad stuff that was going on, why throw in environmental catastrophes?

To sum up things: This was a very good read. I'd like to read more stories with Takeshi Kovacs, and more of Mr. Morgan's writing.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Love is Blind by Lynsay Sands

Love Is Blind (Leisure Historical Romance)Love Is Blind by Lynsay Sands

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was a cute book, and I enjoyed reading it. It's nice to read a romance where you actually like both the hero and the heroine. I could sympathize with their self-consciousness about their perceived flaws. Poor Clarissa thought she'd be rejected by her husband because she looked ugly in her spectacles. Poor Adrian thought his wife would be disgusted when she saw his scar. It takes some skill to handle this kind of storyline where the couple is keeping secrets from each other, and I think Ms. Sands did a great job here.

The mystery was good, but it didn't overtake the story, and it didn't compromise the sweet, cheerful tone of this story. She kept me guessing about who was the culprit behind Clarissa's 'accidents,' and I liked the resolution. Although I am into noir romance, I do like to read a sweet romance where there are lots of laughs, and the characters are people I would like in real life. Love is Blind is one of those stories. I really liked the end where Clarissa and Adrian confront their insecurities and confirm their love for each other, 'flaws' and all. It was an 'aww' moment for me. I'm glad I pulled this out of my tbr pile for my Slightly More Challenging Challenge. It wasn't too fluffy or silly for me to enjoy, and I do have a low threshold for that kind of story, if I'm not in the mood for it. If you read Love is Blind, go into it with an open mind, and a willingness to enjoy a lighter, sweet read with good characters. I did. But then, I'm a sucker for scarred heroes, sweet heroines, books that make me laugh, and likeable characters. It also helped that I am near-sighted myself. Here's to the four-eyed folks out there!

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harrison

Every Which Way But Dead (Rachel Morgan/The Hollows, #3)Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harrison

My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

It's been a while since I last read a Hollows book, but it was good to be back. I like this world that Kim Harrison created. I like the mix of different species, and how complex their relationships are. I really like Rachel. She's down to each, and flawed enough to be relatable. I like that she's self-conscious about her appearance, freckles and frizzy hair, and boyish figure. She seems like she'd be a nice person to know in real life. Although Rachel slips up in her inter-personal relationships with the people in her life, she is a good person who really does care about others, and that always shines through. I feel bad for her having been hurt by people she should be able to trust. It makes her gun-shy about committing to the new people who come into her life. Completely relatable. This aspect adds a realism to this urban fantasy novel that resonates with me.

I did have a big complaint: too much vampire storyline. The whole vamp pheromones and allure aspect gives me indigestion. In a way, it's pretty interesting. I really hate how these vamps try to control humans and others with their allure. It gets my goat. After all, there are plenty of willing victims, but they seem to prey on those who aren't interested, namely Rachel. I wish Ivy would get over her fixation with Rachel and being able to bite her and take her blood. She's way too predatory about Rachel. It gives me the creeps. It's not even mainly sexual. It's like it's killing her that Rachel won't share her blood. It's really too much for me. I'm not sure how I feel about Ivy. Sometimes I like her, sometimes I don't. She's not a comfortable character at all. But, I do give Ms. Harrison props for creating such a complex female character. Let me just say this...I do not want Rachel and Ivy being a couple. That would not work for me. There are some heavy sexual tension vibes between them, all tied up with the vampire bloodlust, and a deeper affection. It's just messy. I think they'd be a lousy couple. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the story doesn't go in that direction. A friend on here who's a big fan of this series told me the vamp storyline stops dominating. I hope so. This world is so intriguing with the mixes of fae and other species with witches, that I feel a lot more interesting plotlines could come to pass beyond the vamp thing. But that's just me.

I didn't like the 'resolution' with Nick. It seems like it sort of just faded away. I would prefer that they had it out and it was clear that it was over. Part of me thinks that this was done on purpose. Sometimes relationships ends like that. I guess I'm in the minority, but I liked Nick, although I don't like how he 'dumped' Rachel. I wanted to see what happened with his dabbling in black magic. That was a huge worry of mine. I've stayed mostly spoiler free, so I don't know if he will come back or not. If he does, I hope he doesn't end up turning bad. I'd rather he just be a jerky ex-boyfriend.

The whole Kisten storyline ended up winning me over. I didn't like him. He seemed sort of like a wannabe and a pretender. He still kind of has that aspect, but I see him deeper after this book. I started thawing at the scene in the dance club. I definitely started seeing his appeal, and he dances!!! I think that he was there for Rachel when she needed him, and they have good chemistry, so I think I'm okay with them being together. Kisten is okay--a nice beta with appeal that I ended up appreciating.

I love Ceri. I was so glad that Rachel was able to save her. She's very interesting, and I'm a sucker for fae/elvish storylines. I hope to see more of her. For some reason, when she was crying and Jenks' pixy daughters were trying to comfort her and were braiding her hair, I got all teary. Aww! It must be the faery fanatic in me. I perk up whenever that is a big part of a scene. Which leads me into another thing that makes this series stand out over a lot of other urban fantasy:

I love Jenks and his family. The pixies are such a rich aspect of this story. I want pixy roommates!!!! I'd happily allow them to plait my hair, and spread pixie dust all over the house. But, I guess I like my cold environment a little too much for them. I hope that Jenks gets over his anger at Rachel. I missed him and his family when he moved out.
it interesting, mostly.

The demon storyline...very twisted. Poor Rachel can't seem to stay out of trouble with those demons. Things got better, but possibly worse, since she owes two demons now. The images of the ever-after reminded me of the movie Constantine, when John would cross over to Hell, and it looked like Los Angeles, but much worse. Vivid, disturbing imagery there. Whenever the demons come around in this story, it gives me the shivers. But the Christian in me really feels uneasy with Rachel making deals with demons. It feels very wrong to me. However, it is fiction, so I leave it at that.

The bad guy and the story resolution. Ms. Harrison threw me for a loop here. I started getting this idea toward the end about who would end up being the Big Bad, and there you go. I liked how Rachel turned things around on him. Good for her. Rachel is interesting in her arrogance about her rep as a tracker, yet seems to doubt her confidence as a witch. I think she will come to realize how truly powerful she is as this series progresses.

Trent--I get this vibe that he has a thing for Rachel. That should be interesting. Rachel mostly hates him, but some part of her doesn't. As she said herself, she tends to go for the guys who tend to be bad. So who knows? He has an intriguing anti-hero vibe that appeals to me. What can I say? Maybe I'm like Rachel when it comes to characters???

To sum up my rambling: I liked this story, a lot. The progression toward the climax seemed to go kind of slowly, and I felt like it would take forever to get there. But it ended picking up. Some things I love about this book, some things, no so much. But, I'm in this series for the duration. It's too good to stop reading.

Overall rating: 4.25/5.0. The vamp aspects are like eating a really rich, spicy meal and getting a stomach ache, so it detracted from my enjoyment, and it was a bit slow in parts. Otherwise, solid entertainment.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Shotgun Marriage by Day Leclaire

Shotgun Marriage (Fairytale Weddings Trilogy) (Harlequin Romance 3440) Shotgun Marriage by Day Leclaire

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An interesting idea, a ball held every five years, where one can go and meet their 'true love' and marry that night. Rafe feels he has a huge reason to hate the Cinderella Balls, and Ella and her parents, even though he was once in love with her. Ella feels that this ball is the last chance she has to have the elusive happy ever after that was stolen away from her when Rafe left her. Rafe shows up at the ball and delivers an ultimatum to Ella. Marry him, or don't marry at all. He's seething with a violent mixture of desire, rage, and a love he dare not admit to. He tells himself he marries Ella, out of revenge, but when she tries to give herself to him on their wedding night, he spills the beans and walks away. Ella takes the courageous step of following him to his home in Costa Rica. Once there, the natives are convinced she is the long-prophesized "La Estrella" who will bring peace and prosperity back to the town of Milagro, but Ella has her work cut out for her. She has to convince her husband that her love is true, and that he can trust in her love. But how can he, when he holds Ella responsible for his sister's broken heart.

Rafe is a very intense man. He carries a lot of emotional weight on his shoulders. At times, he's hard to like, but I could see why Ella loved him. Slowly but surely, Ella chips away at the stone around his heart, seeing that he's a man more than capable of loving intensely. That's the problem. He loved Ella, and felt she betrayed him. The truth of what happened five years ago comes out, and Rafe realizes his future is with his Cinderella bride.

This was a good read, but I think the ending was awkward. Ms. Leclaire tried to recap some of the other couples who had attended the Cinderella Ball in the past, and it didn't seem to fit. I would have liked the book better without that ending. Still, it was a good read, and a keeper.

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House of Glass by Michelle Reid

House of Glass (Harlequin Presents, #1615) House of Glass by Michelle Reid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Michelle Reid's books are usually very readable. This one is not an exception. However, I found Dane very unlikeable. He was mean and judgmental towards Lily from the get-go. He didn't like that he felt so strongly for her, and made her pay for it, especially since she was marrying his brother. Also, he didn't seem to see very well, as Lily told him. I figured out the truth very early on. I think Dane was caught up in his ideas of masculinity and machismo, and didn't see his brother for who he really was. His reaction to his brother's secret was somewhat distasteful. It didn't endear him to me. Also, I think his susceptibiilty to Lily made him want to blame her for everything, when she was really a victim, or a secondary accomplice to the dark secret that Daniel was keeping from his family. The only reason I didn't end up totally hating him was because he really did love Lily, although I think he did a lousy job of showing it. He doesn't really change much by the end of this story. He's still a hard-headed, 'stone-cold' alpha man type. I hope that his love for Lily softens him, and he becomes a more emotionally available man as the time passes. Well-written, but not a favorite by this author.

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The Bedroom Barter by Sara Craven

The Bedroom Barter (Harlequin Presents, #2442) (Foreign Affairs) The Bedroom Barter by Sara Craven

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book has a different storyline for a HP. Chellie is a poor little rich girl who's kept on a tight leash by her cruel, unloving father. She runs off with a man who she thinks truly loves her, but only wants her money. He uses her and abandons her, and she ends up in the clutches of a prostitution ring run out of a seedy bar. For now, she's singing to pay her way, but it wouldn't be long before they were forcing her into prostitution. A blond stranger shows up at the bar and asks for a private dance. He convinces her to leave with him, that he'll give her a ride off the island and safe harbor on his boat, which she can pay for by cooking. But it turns out that Ash is not who he is pretending to be.

Chellie falls head over heels for Ash, even though she knows there's no future for them, since he appears to have a girlfriend, and her father has a far reach. Ash takes the job of finding wild socialite Michelle Greer, as his last mission for his security firm. He doesn't expect to fall head over heels for her. But, the truth threatens to tear them apart, especially with Chellie's weary heart after trusting the wrong man.

This was an entertaining read, although not a favorite by Ms. Craven.

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Newlyweds of Convenience by Jessica Hart

Newlyweds Of Convenience (Harlequin Romance) Newlyweds Of Convenience by Jessica Hart

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
This turned out to be a very engrossing, well-written story. Mallory spends much of this book teetering on the edge of unlikeablity, despite the fact that she was a sympathetic character in many ways. She is peevish and callous in the things she says to Torr, making me wonder why he doesn't just send her packing back to England. I had to keep reminding myself that she'd been badly hurt by her ex, and she was having to go through a grieving period. However, I don't really like it when one character is so callous in their feelings towards another. I realized that she saw Torr in a way that wasn't truly who he was. I figured out pretty early on that he was head over heels for her, and that was why he married her. It took her until the end of the book to figure it out. Despite the fact that Mallory was a hard pill to swallow, I loved this book. I liked the descriptions of Torr's inherited rundown castle in the Scottish highlands, the natural wonders of that place, from craggy hill to seashore. I loved Torr. I think he was really a great hero. He persevered through much to win his heroine, and I was glad he got her. I was glad to see Mallory have a wakeup call that she didn't need the bright lights and the big city to be happy. She just needed to love and be loved. And she needed the sense of purpose that rebuilding and making a home out of the castle brought her. She needed Torr's steadfast love to heal.

Warning: Mallory's dog gets sick and has to be put to sleep, if you are a doglover, this will probably make you cry. I know it did me.

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5.0 stars.

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Substitute Wife by Rachel Lindsay

Substitute Wife by Rachel Lindsay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Be careful what you wish for. When a person makes decisions without considering the emotional cost of those decisions, they usually backfire. Such was the case with Adam's decision to marry his secretary, Julia. He was trying to show his lover that he wasn't her whipping boy, content to continue in their affair indefinitely so she could get her inheritance as dictated by her late husband's will. Julia was dealing with her own hurt feelings after she was dumped by her fiance shortly after he took a job in Canada. She had no expectations for her marriage to Adam, and she didn't want a love match anyway. However, they both end up falling in love, and are afraid to show their feelings for each other.

This was a subtle book, with a lot of intense undercurrents. I was kind of surprised that the hero had been having an affair with a married woman. And how she was willing to live with him and even have children with him out of marriage for the time period until her husband's will allowed her to marry. This was written in the early 80s, and it is a Harlequin--so that was an eye-opener. But, the way that the author deals with these unconventional aspects is so matter-of-fact, it doesn't really come off as risque. I liked that the heroine is the more self-controlled out of the couple. The hero isn't a lit fuse, but he does let emotions dictate his behavior to a larger extent than Julia does. He truly is susceptible to his ex-lover for a significant part of this book, although he doesn't cheat on Julia. It was nice to see how he realizes that his feelings towards Julia are much more right and intense than his feelings for his sex-girlfriend were. There's a bit of his POV, but his actions towards Julia reveal when he falls in love with her, outside of his POV. Of course, Julia is oblivious, thinking that she's just a mere substitute for the woman that Adam truly wants. Her father was a womanizer who continually left her mother and made her life miserable, so she has no faith in a strong emotional attachment to a man, especially one who is dynamic and virile, like Adam. However, she falls deeply in love with him, even knowing it's the worst thing she could do. Finally, she gets the epiphany that makes her want to fight for his love. Will it be too late? Of course not. This is Harlequin, where the endings are always happy. And I'm always glad for it. Recommended to readers who enjoy vintage books.

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Stolen by Kelley Armstrong

Stolen (Women of the Otherworld, #2) Stolen by Kelley Armstrong

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Stolen was nothing like I expected. Well, I wasn't sure what to expect, actually. Ms. Armstrong expanded the world she created in Bitten, to encompass other paranormal beings, adding witches, sorcerers, demons, and vampires to the mix. I liked how it was very much in the mode of realistic and everyday. The origins of these beings are not clearly stated, but speculated on. She doesn't ascribe good or bad characteristics to them overall, other than the sorcerers tendency to be more on the bad side, mostly due to the bad blood between them and witches.

This ended up being a slowly-unfolding, but at the same time, intense read. There seemed to be a strong underlying theme to this story about the necessity of violence. Accordingly, there's quite a bit of violence, most of it warranted, as Elena and the other paranormal beings she becomes acquainted with find themselves fighting for their lives and freedom. There's also some violence that made me squirm. Some of the actions of Elena, Clay, and Jeremy fall very much in the moral gray area, if you were to consider them human beings, with the ascribed moral absolutes that go along with humanity. However, they are not humans--they are werewolves, and their actions tend to show that aspect of their natures. Even still, Elena, Clay, and Jeremy are different in their approaches to situations. Jeremy is the most self-controlled--his actions governed by reason and what is best for the Pack. Elena is more likely to help others who are not Pack. Clay thinks only of his mate, Elena, and the Pack. Nothing else matters to him. He'll take care of others to make Elena happy. But, otherwise, he wouldn't go out of his way to do something that didn't benefit the Pack. In essence, Clay is pure wolf, even though he walks in human skin. As a whole, they kill, and it's more out of expedience at times, than an absolute need to do so. But, Elena doesn't make excuses for her actions. She admits that there would be another way, but this way turns out to be the best for the circumstance. While a part of me was somewhat troubled by these killings, I couldn't escape the reality of the fact that those that Elena, Jeremy, and Clay killed were men and women who had showed a lack of respect and value for the lives of the paranormal beings they had stalked, kidnapped and held captive. And, faced with the villain in this story, it's clear what is worse: to kill out of necessity, or to kill for the fun of it. Tyrone Winslow is a geeky, billionaire computer genius who decided that he likes the idea of a real life death match in which he makes the paranormals run for their lives, with no sure chance of escape. Why? Because he's a megalomaniac, craving power, and even in the most petty ways. Because it's fun for him, and because he can. He came off as petty and completely objectionable, showing how loathesome he was in his power struggles with Elena, and how he interacted with his employees at the place where they were imprisoning the paranormals. For all my qualms about the killing of people in this book, I didn't feel too bad for him when Elena and Clay turned the tables on him. He got his just deserts.

Stolen introduces the witch characters Paige and Savannah, who will play major roles in this series. I must say my interest was perked, and I do look forward to reading their stories. However, the highlight of this story was seeing Clay and Elena, and their relationship. Clay would do just about anything for Elena. His love is powerful and steadfast. And in this story, you can see that Elena does love him just as much, whereas in Bitten, she was running from that feeling and trying to avoid acknowledging that she loved Clay. They just felt right together. Jeremy was fascinating, and there was tantalizing bits of him in this story that make me want to see more of him.

Stolen was a book that took some investment on my part to read. But it turned out to be worth the time spent. It wasn't quite as fascinating to me as Bitten, and I'm not sure why. But I did like seeing the development of Elena. She seemed more multi-faceted in this story. I saw more of her humor, and her emotional depth that I didn't quite see in Bitten. Although slow-moving at times, this was a good follow-up to Bitten.

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Friday, July 02, 2010

Dmitry's Closet by Latrivia S. Nelson

Dmitry's Closet Dmitry's Closet by Latrivia S. Nelson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Note to the author:
Ms. Nelson, I am in awe. How did you know I wanted to read a book like this? Maybe we are on the same wavelength here. You see, I have a thing for Russian guys. It developed slowly over time, and this book has not helped me get over my fixation. Now, I think I will be much, much worse. But the thing is, how many books after this one will have a hero like Dmitry Medlov?

I don't care that he's seven foot tall. He didn't need to be a giant to be larger than life in my mind. It was the sheer force of his personality, the many textures to him. He is an utterly ruthless crime boss, but he is a gentle, adoring lover and friend to Royal. How did you conceive of this man? Well, you did such a great job here.

This book: It was so many things. I love a book that gives me a seven course dinner in one story. This was a beautiful love story, and an intricate crime drama. And I don't even like crime dramas! I love how it started out as a glittering fairy tale. A girl meets her prince who saves her and sweeps her off her feet. Their love is perfect and pure. And then, the pages turn, and you see the other side. You see how Dmitry is a man that is feared by many, and for good reason. I was riveted to the page. I couldn't believe how well Ms. Nelson integrated these two. Her portrayal of this Russian mafia gang was so intricate, I completely believed what I was reading.

I do have to admit, I couldn't understand how Royal didn't see what Dmitry was. But, as my sister suggested (when I was gushing about the book to her), and as it is soon revealed, she trusted Dmitry implicitly. She loved him with all the power of her innocent heart. She didn't believe he could ever hide such a thing from her. Yet, even though Dmitry kept such a massive secret from Royal, he never lost my sympathy. You see, Dmitry was who he was. He wanted to be a different man for Royal, and he was. He was the sweetest guy to her, a dream lover. He didn't lie to her or do her wrong. He just didn't tell her everything.

I'm not into all the bling and the designer clothes. There's a lot of that in this book. Dmitry pulls out all the stops. I mean, he showers Royal with all the material things her heart could desire. Reading Ms. JR Ward really helped me to be somewhat immune to designer name-dropping, and it was part of the scenery here, so it wasn't terribly off-putting. Royal had a queen's equivalent of jewels and ice, and all the fancy clothes she could want. She liked that, but what she really loved was Dmitry. He was her family, her home, her present, and her future.

This book really made me think about shades of gray. If someone told me Dmitry was a bad man, I couldn't argue with that. But, at the same time, I would attest that he is a good man. What makes a person good? What makes a person bad? It's hard to say, and we would all have different answers. It was interesting how Dmitry saw Royal as a sweet innocent, even though she told him her deepest, darkest secret, which is not so innocent. Dmitry loved Royal so much, cared for her so well, that I couldn't see him as a bad man. He protected his men and made sacrifices to see that they could have good lives. He was a good father to his son. And he had limits about what he'd do to make money. For me, that made him a better person than some men who have less shady jobs than his. It's a dicey thing to hold others in judgment. This book gave me some food for thought when it comes to that. I firmly believe in the scripture that says, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." And, as I read this book, I could see a lot of people making choices that could easily be judged, but I had to look at why they did what they did, and not that they did it. Because, in the end, we are all just humans. Some of us do more bad deeds than others. But, we're all human beings, with all the accompanying failings.

As for Royal and Dmitry, I could really believe in their love. Even when things started coming down around them. The scene where she confronts Dmitry was very powerful. I felt like the world was ending. I didn't want to believe that anything could come between these two lovers. My heart stopped at the thought. And things just get worse. But, Ms. Nelson doesn't let me down. The fairy tale essence of this story holds true. And here's the thing about fairy tales: the young maiden always suffers. She has to be strong and persevere to get her happy ending. She might lose a lot along the way, but her love with her handsome prince will stand the test of time. That's what I believe about Royal and Dmitry.

My heart is still stuttering as I have just read the first chapter for the next book, Dmitry’s Royal Flush: Rise of the Queen. Of course, I will have to read this sequel, holding my breath the hold time, most likely. Until then, I can only hope that the future holds much joy for this couple. I think they have earned it.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Question: Zen and Violence

The Question Vol. 1: Zen and Violence The Question Vol. 1: Zen and Violence by Dennis O'Neil

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I first became acquainted with The Question on The Justice League Unlimited animated show on Cartoon Network. I was intrigued. He wears a mask that gives him a face with no features. The Question is sort of a more philosophical (and less badass) Batman. He's a crusader against injustice and corruption, who doesn't mind using his fists, although he's also very cerebral.

This was a good introduction to him in the graphic novel/comics form. I liked seeing how he goes from being rather brash and unorganized in his pursuits, to becoming more spiritually focused and more of a deadly weapon, when necessary. This is very much in the crime drama genre, but with little bits of supernatural elements mixed in, since The Question comes back from the dead.

Zen and Violence uses the common villain of the evil, corrupt church member. I'm not sure how I feel about that. As a Christian, I do take exception to Christians almost always being portrayed as crazy, evil, hypocritical, and megalomanical, more than we are shown as being mere humans on a spiritual journey. We don't seem to get the same even-handed approach as the other religions (which seem more palatable in the media and the humanities as a whole). On the other hand, I respect that there are members of the clergy and so-called Christians who do give credence to the bad reputation of those who profess to follow Christ. It wasn't a deal-breaker, but more of a somewhat painful pinch to me as I read this story, since the only obvious Christian in this story was the most evil, craziest character. But, sadly, I've grown used to this (not sure if that's good or bad).

I was in the mood for a quick graphic novel read, and I enjoyed this. I liked the noir elements, and I'm a sucker for brainy, crime-fighting martial arts practitioners (Batman, Deadpool, and Daredevil anyone?). Although this was not a five star book, I'd like to read more stories about The Question, since I like my heroes on the edgy, yet thoughtful side.

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Heat Stroke by Rachel Caine

Heat Stroke (Weather Warden, #2) Heat Stroke by Rachel Caine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Heat Stroke begins chronologically almost immediately after Ill Wind. It starts out rather like a paranormal romance. A lot of time is devoted to Joanne's relationship with David, who has made her into a djinn, since she died horribly in the last book. Although they don't come out and say it, there's definitely a strong emotional tie between them that I'd call love. David seems a little more committed than Joanne, and I'm not sure how I felt about that (Joanne is still sorting out her feelings). They spend a lot of time getting to know each other, with the major objective of David trying to teach her to be a djinn.

Joanne loves her connection with David, and likes being a djinn, although it's very intense--their perceptions are a lot more intense than humans, and it throws her for a loop. Rahel, a djinn that Joanne had a few run-ins with in Ill Wind shows up. Her task is to escort Joanne and David to David's friend, and the most powerful djinn in the world, Jonathan, where she finds out the enormous price David paid to save her life. Jonathan is not too happy with Joanne, but out of his loyalty to David, he gives her one week to learn to exist as a djinn without drawing on her connection to David. If she can't adjust, then her number is up.

Unfortunately, learning to be a djinn doesn't turn out to be the biggest of Joanne's problems. There is a huge imbalance in the forces that control the weather, fire, and the earth, causing potentially major catastrophes to occur. With some odd anomalies in the aetheric, which is sort of an intangible layer in the upper spheres of the atmosphere where the Wardens and djinn manipulate the earth forces to control them, that turn out to be very dangerous, especially to the djinni. And then, there's a very wicked woman who wants control of David, and is willing to use Joanne to get that control. Yikes. Things get pretty wonky in this book.

Admittedly, Heat Stroke started out slowly. Don't get me wrong. I love my romance, but not as so much of the focus in an urban fantasy book. Frankly, I was starting to wonder when the action was going to start. I suppose that Ms. Caine planned it that way, because I was thrown for a loop with what happens next. Joanne finds out the hard way the worst part about being a djinn, when she gets claimed by a very troubled teenaged boy, under the guidance of the stepmonster from Hell, a woman that David hates with a burning passion.

Ms. Caine manages to skillfully weave this story with a rich mix of action, angst, sensuality, and the power of loves lost and found. Joanne is a good protagonist. She has some aspects that lend her narrative voice to chick lit, but at the same time, she has the credibility to be a good action heroine. She's quick thinking, and courageous, dealing with some pretty hairy situations, and trying to work around her new master, Kevin, who inspired a complex combination of sympathy and disgust within me (he has very poor hygiene, but it's for a reason which made me very sad).

I really liked the djinn aspects. It brought to mind the sly wit of "I Dream of Jeannie", but also the origin folklore of djinni (which I appreciate even more). The humor is good, and I liked the biting sarcasm, wry humor, and fashion-oriented voice of Joanne. Of course, I love David. He's quite a co-star in this book--with the potential to steal the show. Lewis (who I also love), Joanne's old flame and friend, and the most powerful Warden on Earth, has a big role, which looks like it will play out heavily in the next book.

So, despite the slowish start, and the fact that some of the atmospheric lingo and physics went over my head (although it was kind of interesting at the same time), this turned out to be a very good read. Ms. Caine more than delivers the goods with this second installment in the Weather Warden series. I'm not quite sure where she'll go with this story, but I'm definitely invested. The next book is definitely going to deal with some huge implications, based on the crazy cliffhanger in this book. I like the science and folklore aspects, and the message about how great power has even greater consequences, both in the right and wrong hands. I'd recommend this book to urban fantasy fans, but don't give up if the beginning drags a little.

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