Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lamplighter by DM Cornish

Lamplighter: Monster Blood Tattoo: Book 2Lamplighter: Monster Blood Tattoo: Book 2 by D.M. Cornish

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This took a long time to finish because I was listening to this at night before bed and I would often fall asleep and have to rewind it the next night!  I finally finished it early this morning. While I didn't like this one quite as much as the first book or the last (I had to read book 3 a few months ago for review), it was still a good read, and I was drawn into the world of our intrepid young hero.  I just love Rossamünd. He's like my honorary little boy. Just a sweet kid.  When he hurt, I hurt, when he was lonely and uncertain, I wanted to hug and comfort him.  I was proud of him when he triumphed.  He has a lot more honor, bravery, love, and heart than a lot of grown men, and he is a very humane person, which counts for a whole lot in these books.  He alone makes this book series worthwhile.

I wasn't as enamored of the lifestyle of a lamplighter.  Perhaps a bit too regimented for me.  I believe that Rossamünd is about ten or so, but he is treated like a grownup, like an army recruit in a dangerous job that didn't make a lot of sense to me. Mind-numbingly boring, and unnecessarily dangerous.  Not a good mix at all.  Basically folks risking their lives on the roads to keep the highways lighted, way out in the boondocks (because that's so important), for the glory of the Emperor of the Half-Continent.  The grunts are hard-working folks, and some of their superiors as well. But as always, you run into useless bureaucrats like the Master of Clerks who appear to want folks to end up dead.  I couldn't figure out if he was just clueless or deliberately evil.  I am leaning towards the latter since he is in cahoots with one in this book who definitely is evil.

As always, Rossamünd struggles with the moral conflicts of killing monsters or stepping aside in this war, when innocent humans' lives are at stakes. He knows quite well that not all monsters are bad and not all humans are good. He has to make the choice to fight or not near the end when things come to a head.  And he chooses rightly.  But for his troubles, he has to deal with enemies that are high in the government's workings.  Good to know he has a powerful person or two on his side like Europe.

I have to be honest that I spent a lot of this book looking for Europe when she wasn't around.  It's because I love the relationship between her and Rossamünd. I think that she is the mother that he never had, and he is her child in all but birth. But beyond that is a mutual respect and an essential aspect to their relationship that challenges them both to be better in the ways that are unique to each as an individual.

Threnody, a young girl that also joins the Lamplighter corp is much as I would have imagined Europe as a girl.  Very haughty, yet unsure, her social superiority much like armor against the hurts of the world and the fact that she can't ever live up to her highborn mother's expectations.  It was not surprising that she and Europe didn't get along at all. No doubt due to a sort of jealousy for Rossamünd's attention that Threnody feels, and perhaps some projection on her by Europe for the young Europe that she sees in the girl. Threnody was a bit annoying for most of the book, but at the same time, she grew on me, because I could see how she connected to Rossamünd and depended on a relationship with him to be 'normal' and perhaps feel human.  And that is a bit of irony in itself.

Cornish has a way with imbuing this work with characters of distinction, even if their roles are quite small at times.  I loved seeing Masters Fransitart and Cramupalin again.  And I liked some of the fellow lamplighters and authoritative figures that Rossamünd engages with. The bad guys are quite unlikeable, be it evil monsters or evil beaurocrat humans.  But the good thing is no one is cardboard or lackluster. 

As far as world-building, this book has a complexity that makes it a more difficult listen than read.  However, it was distinct, creative, and interesting. This world of monsters against humans isn't all black and white, but very much in shades of gray, which works well when you have a lead figure like Rossamünd who doesn't fit especially perfect in either world.

Although I didn't enjoy this as much as book one or book three, it was still enjoyable.  More than anything, this is due to an unforgettable and utterly endearing main character.  My beloved Rossamünd stands out to me.  What a sweet kid he is.  Equally fascinating is our Lady Europa, The Branden Rose.  A woman of power and authority who has a surprisingly tender heart when it comes to Rossamünd.  I love her for that.

I am sad to see this series come to an end as far as my reading pleasure. I would love to see more of Rossamünd and Europe.

This won't work for every YA or even older reader, but I like that it is a bit off the beaten track and challenging in the subject matter. I feel that the writer put a lot of energy and effort into building this world, and his characters will linger long in my mind, even though I have finished this book. A sign of a good book indeed for this reader.

Kodi Smit-McPhee as Rossamünd Bookchild

Gemma Arterton as Lady Europe, The Branden Rose

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Monday, July 23, 2012

The Cleaner by Brett Battles

The Cleaner (Jonathan Quinn, #1)The Cleaner by Brett Battles
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The Cleaner was a slow read for me, but ultimately I enjoyed it. I appreciated the attention to detail evident in this novel. It felt authentic (although I could hardly say yay or nay since I am not a spy and I don't know any). I feel that the world-building lends a credibility to the concept of Quinn as a Cleaner, at any rate.

As far as characterization, Quinn remains a mystery, but I felt that I get to walk inside of his skin and get a feel for how he processed things. He clearly knows his stuff when it comes to the spy world. He is more than able to handle himself in a lethal situation. He uses his brain to get himself out of tough spots, and violence is a last resort, although he has no problem using it if necessary, although lethal force is not his preferred method. In his way, he is a man with values. He might steal a car, but he won't murder an innocent person, and he tries to protect those who are under his charge. It's clear that Orlando is very important to him, although he doesn't feel he can act on that. I think is apprentice Nate is in good hands with him.

I feel that people who enjoy spy movies (like myself) but haven't read a lot of spy novels might enjoy this book. It had that feel of the spy TV shows and movies I enjoy. Although at times it wasn't the most exciting book, I wasn't at the point where I wanted to give up on it. I would read it and then put it down if my attention wavered. But I did want to go back to it. I wanted to follow the story and see where it led me. I think that was because I was engaged with Quinn's character and his shadowy world of a cleaner, a man who goes behind the ops and erases any evidence of what occurred.

I will read more of these books.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Bridal Price by Barbara Boswell

Bridal Price (Western Weddings)Bridal Price by Barbara Boswell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fun, well-written update of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew (actually one of my faves by him). In this case, Carling (Katarina) is an only child, the spoiled society princess of a Texas Congressman and wife, and Kane (Petruchio) is a principled, hardworking, focused rancher. If you don't like a heroine with a sharp mouth who isn't particularly nice to the hero, you might want to avoid this book. I was quite impressed with how Kane took many of the verbal darts from Carling cheerfully. I love a hero who doesn't give up on the woman he wants and shows honor in the pursuit. Yes, I love a bad boy, but not a sleazy guy. Kane is an earnest, strong-minded guy and that comes through in his actions and personality. He's not exactly domineering, but he definitely has his ideas about how things should go. I'm not into the whole "I want my wife to stay at home with our kids and just be my wife" type guy, but if that works for a woman, than Kane will definitely appeal. As it was, I still liked him and found him sexy and attractive in this book. He has a rugged, cowboy vibe that really works.

Carling has some growing up to do, but down deep, she is a decent, good-hearted woman, unfortunately a product of her shallow environment. But she has a lot to offer Kane as a wife, and I'm glad that he picked the right woman to pursue in the end. Their love connection made for a fun, sexy reread.

I'd recommend this book to folks who like the Taming of the Shrew dynamic, as well as modern western/ranch-set romances with sexy cowboy heroes.

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The Man With the Money by Lynn Raye Harris

The Man with the MoneyThe Man with the Money by Lynn Raye Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I gave this book five stars because it kept me drawn in. The passion was intense and well-written. Two characters who didn't want to fall in love but did anyway. I loved how Ms. Harris takes them to glitzy, high class locales and describes them so well, but the story always stays grounded with authentic characters. The characters had depth and a realness that transcended the fact that their worlds are not familiar to me. Their realness formed that bond between me as the reader and them as the characters that kept me reading.

I really appreciate this series, how each Wolfe has manifested the scars of their flawed family in different ways. How they are moving forward in the present to face that past and their brothers and sister to repair those broken bonds.

Jake wasn't just a high class, monied wheeler dealer with a taste for the ladies. He was a hurting man who was running from his past, from the anger, disappointment and guilt he felt for the tumultuous family dynamics he had lived through as a youngster but never fully healed from. To him, protection was not allowing himself to feel deeply for anyone and using money to accomplish what he wanted in his life. Power to substitute for a childhood where he had very little power. At the end of this book, he showed true bravery and that he was ready to break free from the cycle of emotional cowardice spurred on by his past. He struck me as very sensual, masculine, and distinctly British (which is the icing on the cake for this Anglophile). He might have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but he knew how to handle himself in every situation. Just a well-crafted character all around.

Cara was down-to-earth, authentic, and deeply principled. She was woman of courage and integrity. She was unafraid to expect the most from a man, to meet her as an equal in a loving relationship. I admired and liked her. Even though she was afraid and out of her league at points in this book, she still carried herself well. I rooted for her happy ending, and I loved how she inspired Jack in his own way to face his troubled past and confront his anger at his brother Jacob.

Jake's book turned out to be my second favorite in this book after Nathaniel's. I am reenergized to continue this series and to explore more of the Wolf family, whom I am completely emotionally attached to now.

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Roccanti's Marriage Revenge

Roccanti's Marriage RevengeRoccanti's Marriage Revenge by Lynne Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very enjoyable read. I honestly adored Zara. She has a sweetness, a genuineness, but also a inner strength that appeals. Her parents treated her terribly, and her self-esteem as a result wasn't great. But despite that, she still stood up for herself and didn't let Vitale control her. More than anything, he became like putty in her hands because he fell in love with her for the unique, good person she was. That's always sighworthy to this reader.

I liked the descriptions and imagery in this book. I could see the characters and the settings very clearly. I also liked the dialogue. I think Ms. Graham did a great job of showing how Roccanti and Zara went from enemies to lovers. Roccanti had some serious emotional issues from a childhood filled with pain and insecurity. Not easy to overcome, but Zara provides him a place of safety, security and love and opens him up to trusting and loving others. I liked seeing how Roccanti realized how wrong he had been about Zara and how fruitless revenge can be. Except in this case, his revenge bore unexpected, bountiful fruit because he met the love of his life and started a family with her.

I read Zara's sister Bee's story first, A Deal at the Altar, and I was insatiably curious about how Zara ends up with Vitale instead of Sergios, and I have to say I liked this one just as much. The only thing I wish is that I had gotten to see the sisters interact more, although I understand why they don't, considering the tumultuous relationships with their connected family and the failure to marry Sergios (since Bee marries him instead). I hope I do see more sister interactions in Tawny's book, A Vow of Obligation

Lynne Graham delivers on her sexy, passionate, entertaining and emotional romance yet again with this book. I recommend it.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Thursday's Child by Sandra Brown

Thursday's ChildThursday's Child by Sandra Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book and I couldn't put it down. But I honestly have to say I was almost repelled by Spencer initially. I mean ugh! Even if you are strongly attracted to your best friend's fiancee', that doesn't mean you have a right to pursue that and wreck his engagement because you feel like you have a stronger bond with the woman than your friend. He didn't respect boundaries at all. Keep your octopus hands to yourself dude! I think his insistence on honesty came out of a sense of self-indulgence, arrogance and not true honor. If he was the better man he would have walked away. I wasn't sure I wanted him to be the hero of this book until well into the story. I thought Allison was much too good for him. He gave me this skeevy vibe that I couldn't get past. Towards the end of the book I felt better towards him, but I can't say I love him as a hero. He is merely okay to me. When I finished this book, I shrugged and thought, "If that's what she wants, okay." If I had a choice, I would have gone for a different hero with a lot more class than Spencer (and I'm not talking money and polish).

I really liked Allison. Despite her insecurities, she was twice the woman her sister was. Her sister had the same level of intelligence, but seemed kind of shallow, and I feel that her guilting her sister into pretending to be her with her fiance' was selfish and immature. Why would you do that to your sister? Put her in that situation, just so you could get a (view spoiler)[ surprise boob job (hide spoiler)] for your fiance' and not be sensitive to the distress you were causing her? I loved when Allison finally got fed up with both guys and came clean on the switch. That was the best part of the book. If I am going to be honest, I might as well lay it out here. My sister would never want me to go off to have a fling with a sleazy guy who was hitting on his best friend's fiancee'! I'd want him to stay far away from my sister, not helping her buy sexy clothes and unpacking her bras when she went off for her fling. Honestly, I don't find her sister's fiance' to be a deep man either. I hope they will be happy together in their shallowness. Your mileage may vary.

This book was pretty darn steamy. For a book written in 1985, I was like, wow. Very sensual. Sandra Brown knows how to write some sexy romance! I liked the voyage of discovery for Allison, and I liked that she realized that her life was a lot more open to possibilities than she could imagine. But I also liked that she did fall in love with Spencer instead of just being hot for him. That would have made the whole situation a lot more tawdry in my view than it had the potential to be. It was also a saving grace that Spencer clearly did fall in love Allison as well, instead of just being on the make. If not, I think I might have used this book as a hockey puck based on how he was acting at the beginning.

I think the fact that I enjoyed this book despite having very little respect for most of the characters is a sign of good writing by the author. If I just go with the flow, I can think of this as a fun, grown up version of The Parent Trap with a little bit of Love Potion No. 9 thrown in. A good oldie by this very popular and talented author.

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Passionate Scandal by Michelle Reid

Passionate Scandal (Harlequin Presents, #1695)Passionate Scandal by Michelle Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very good lovers reunited romance. I think for a short book, it successfullydelves into and explores what makes a relationship between two people who truly love each other fall apart. Sometimes it's a complex mix of internal and external forces. In the case of Madeline and Dominic, it was insecurity, differences in age, and fears on how that affected their relationship, and too much interference from their family in their relationship.

I liked that neither was perfect and neither was demonized. Neither was the bad guy who destroyed their relationship the first time around. Madeline was young and willful, and Dominic was presumptuous and controlling. Eventually that worked against their first chance at love. But four years later, they are able to see past all that and find the strong chord of deep love between them and refuse to allow their insecurities, pride and fears stand in the way. I truly liked that about this story. I love that idea that two people who truly love each other will get the chance to be together, and I like that Ms. Reid delivered that in this book. I also loved the intensity between them, that strong, fierce emotion that neither could deny. Even four years later, it was so strong that they couldn't move on with other people. That love drew them back together.

This was a quick, involving read. Not just a momentary diversion, but involving me emotionally in the story. Normally with lovers reunited, I feel like more than anything there is too much angst and repercussions about why it didn't work the first time, and this doesn't draw me into a story. I prefer the first contact and the build of their relationship to the happy ending. In this case, I found it interesting to see how they were able to get past what went wrong in the past and work it out in the future. The layers intrigued me and kept me enthralled in the story. I saw a lot of growth and maturity in both Madeline and Dominic, and I appreciate that. Of course the HP drama and zing also makes for a good read for me. Another thumbs up book by this author on my keeper shelf.

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Deal of a Lifetime by Susan Napier

Deal of a LifetimeDeal of a Lifetime by Susan Napier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love you, Susan Napier. This is why you're my favorite Harlequin Presents author. What's wrong with being a career-oriented woman? What's wrong with being highly educated and working in the business world? What does that do for your dating chances and what sacrifices will you have to make?

Emma faces this situation and I cheered her along. I could understand what she was going through. Just because she liked children, could cook, and had an earth mother vibe didn't mean that was all she wanted in her life. I could understand the armor she used in a world where men are so comfortable calling the shots and forcing women to jump through hoops or prove they belong there. You have to be very careful about every word you say, every step you take. And yes, you do become paranoid. And better yet, Emma didn't have to give up anything to get her happy ending. She could be a career woman and she could love kids and want a family. Yes, you can do both.

I liked Frazer a lot. He had that teasing, arrogant in a good way vibe that Napier handles so well with her heroes. He only made me mad one time in this book for what he says to Emma about when Tom (his son) got sick. But I sure did cheer when Emma got him told. And he knew he was wrong for it and apologized and owned up to his vulnerabilities. He loved that Emma was a fierce woman who stood up for herself and knew how to handle herself. His courtship is a bit sneaky, but I didn't find him manipulative or undermining of Emma because of what he wanted with her or wanted her to be. He wanted her to be with him and be happy with who she was. The power plays don't have to dictate this relationship and I appreciate that they don't. Parity is so desirable in a man/woman relationship, and I love seeing this dynamic in a romance novel. Yes, yes, more HP books like this. Please write more, Ms. Napier.

I like the message here. Womanhood is not one thing. Womanhood is many things. A woman who handles her business doesn't have to be a Sex and the City heroine to be modern. If that shoe doesn't fit, then not every woman has to buy a pair and force herself into it. If her values don't fit that model, she is doing herself harm to force it onto herself. On the other hand, a woman can't suppress who she is deep inside because others want her to. In the office, be a professional, but be your own woman all the time. That's what I liked in this book, Emma coming to embrace who she was and not worry about what she wasn't. To me, that is the message behind feminism. Women having the ability to decide for themselves what they want in their individual lives, even if that doesn't look like the woman standing next to her, and especially not what men tell them they should want.

This was a very good book. Fun, enlightening, sexy, inspiring. I had read this before years earlier, and I appreciate it more as a woman in my 30s who has experienced some of those challenges in the career world that Emma deals with. This will definitely go on my faves list by this author and as a Harlequin Presents reader overall.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Street Game by Christine Feehan

Street Game (GhostWalkers, #8)Street Game by Christine Feehan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

***Reread from July 17-July 19, 2012

My Thoughts:

Looking back at this book, I can't believe how much I came to love Team 3. They are firmly entrenched in my heart. Initially I felt sort of thrown and betrayed that Ms. Feehan had left my beloved Teams 1 and 2 and went to a bunch of folks I didn't know. I am eating my words. These guys (and two girls) rock! A different feel and relationship with this group. All the teams are a family, but these folks grew up together, and that bond is many years in the making. I could feel that family tie between them and it makes this book shine.

Jaimie and Mack--

This couple is very complementary. Mack is hard and decisive. Authoritative. Jaimie is warm and welcoming. Her strength is in her mind and in her heart. She is thought and intellect. Her mind is kind of scary and beautiful at the same time. Mack is acting and moving. Jaimie is pondering and mental exploration and examination. That is not to say that Mack is not intelligent and Jaimie isn't decisive. But in those areas where one abounds, the other benefits. I liked that about this book.

I liked Mack more this time around. I could see that he loves deeply and strongly, but that's not about declarations, but about doing. He did learn a lesson when he lost Jaimie the first time, and it has impressed on him that he needs to give her what she needs, the affirmation. We can take people for granted, assuming they know how important they are. But Jaimie didn't know how important she was to Mack. She thought that she was an add-on to his life, easily replaceable or forgettable. She didn't know that his life more or less fell apart without her. When he comes back, she can't understand his anger. But the thing about a man like Mack is that if he can't change or fix something, it makes him mad. When Jaimie left him, he couldn't fix that. So now he is angry at her for taking something so precious away from him and not understanding how important she was. She thinks she's the one who has more of a grudge to bear against him.

Their job now was to find that way of giving each other what they truly needed. I liked seeing them come to this point of understanding that one was not too hard or the other too soft, but perfect for each other. Together they were complete and full, making something even stronger as a unit. It was also funny seeing how the family worked through and around their issues with each other, because their relationship affected the whole group and the guys loved them both. I liked how integrated the romance aspect was into the overall group dynamics.

Overall Thoughts: I didn't think this was a favored romance in this series, because Mack is so pushy in some ways. In the end, and even moreso on the reread, I loved it so much. It's different from all the other books (as each one is). While Mack isn't my favorite GhostWalker, I have come to love him for who is. There are some people who challenge you in a way that no one else does. And that's good. Because their presence in your life makes you well-rounded in ways you lacked before. I am taking Mack this way. He is teaching me to deal with the kind of guys that get on my nerves, and teaching me understanding. I do need that.

A different installment, but great in its own way. Love Team 3, love all the characters, and I loved the escalation and expansion of the conspiracies.

Another thumbs up. Yes I am hopelessly in love with this series!

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Original Review:

To express my powerful feelings for the GhostWalker series, I would like to borrow the words from Oliver by its namesake: "May I have some more please?"

Street Game takes the GhostWalker series to a different level, but captures everything that I loved about the preceeding books. I love how this series is so intricate, with different storylines that intersect. There are familiar things here that continue to light my fire for this series, but this story is also unique as Mack McKinley and Jaimie Fielding get closure on their past relationship.

Street Game focuses on the Urban Warfare team led by Mack McKinley. He loves his job and what he does. He even loves the enhancements that Whitney's program has given him. This is slightly different from the heroes in the prior books, because they generally felt betrayed that their bodies had been manipulated in such a fashion. Mack takes it all in stride, enthusiastic that his enhancements enable him to do what he does best, fighting the bad guys and protecting his country.

Mack is very much an alpha hero. In fact, he almost comes off as nearly unlikeable at times. He is the macho type, not one to express his feelings unless it involves putting his fist into something, giving orders to his men (and girlfriend), and expecting them to be followed, or having a bout of energetic sex with his girlfriend. He is blown away when Jaimie leaves him. He tells himself that she'll come back, because she needs him much more than he needs her. However, he finds that to be far from the case. Jaimie was his everything, and every day without her is like a gaping hole in his life. When a mission leads him to Jaimie's doorstep, he's determined to get her back, still baffled that she left him.

I said that Mack nearly was hard to like at times. Well, this would be be the case without Ms. Feehan's masterful handling of him. Hugely surprising to this GhostWalker fan, but Mack is probably the most alpha hero yet in this series. He is aggressive and intensely male, take charge, and used to giving orders. At first, it's hard to see his vulnerabilities, because he's quite adept at keeping that part of himself concealed. He's not a man who likes feeling helpless or wounded, and doesn't know how to express himself emotionally. Being in control is crucial for him. Before, this was something that Jaimie was used to. Mack was the one who kept their self-formed family together. They met when Jaimie was an eight year old genius who was already in high school, and Mack took care of her from the very beginning, protecting her from bullies and watching over her, along with the rest of the guys and girl they grew up with in their Chicago neighborhood. Over time, their relationship became a romantic one. For as long as he could remember, Jaimie was his, to protect, to watch over, and to come home to, loving the fire that they had together. Mack always admired Jaimie's intelligence, and was proud of her, but he didn't like her expressing doubts about the GhostWalker program, especially on a botched mission, and his way of dealing with it turned out to be the last straw for Jaimie.

Jaimie never stopped loving Mack, although she knew they couldn't be together, because they were too different, and she didn't like the violence of what their GhostWalker abilities allowed them to do. She didn't trust their superiors when they went into a mission that could have led to the death of some of their team members. When she tried to express her doubts about it, Mack doesn't listen. Instead he dismisses her concerns. She's devastated that he doesn't trust her or take what she's saying seriously, and knows that she has to leave him. Two years later, Jaimie has made a new life for herself, but plans to set up her business so she can take care of her brothers. She knows she can't be with Mack any more that way, but she still cares about him. When Mack and his team end up on her doorstep, she isn't surprised, knowing that she's being set up to be taken out because of the information she had recovered about the conspiracy behind the GhostWalker experimentation.

This book delves further into the conspiracies behind the GhostWalker program, going above and beyond Whitney to the power players that have ties with the White House. Jaimie is a thinking woman's heroine. Her phenomenal brain and analytical skills are used to follow the trails of information to find out who is setting up the GhostWalker teams and why. This installment of the series flows seamlessly into the other books, although the only returning characters are peripheral ones, or characters we only got an intriguing glimpse of in past books. Instead, we meet a whole new group of men, who managed to claim their place in my heart. What I love about this series is that each book makes me want more.

Christine Feehan really knows how to write characters that you become attached to, and yearn to read about. You see their flaws and their pain, and you want them to be happy. This book challenged me, because men like Mack tend to rub me the wrong way. I'm not a big fan of chest-thumping type men. But I was allowed to peel back the layers to see that Mack is a simple, yet complex man who takes his responsibilities very seriously. He has to be brash and confident, because he takes the lives of his team as a powerful responsibility. His way of taking care of others is leading and protecting them. For him, his feelings for Jaimie couldn't be described with mere words. Yet, Mack had to learn that Jaimie needed more from him that he was giving her. He thought that she saw his devotion and adoration, but she felt as though her only place in his life was as his hero-worshipping, cheerleading, brainy, and nurturing girlfriend.

This book has some moments that really strike me with their emotional intensity. These moments show the profound nature of the feelings between the characters. My favorite is when Mack is finally able to express into words just how much he loves Jaimie. I love how that scene is written, and how unexpected it was. She's blown away by it, and so am I. You know that Mack will never be the type to say the three words all the time, and freely, but it's more than clear how much he does love Jaimie. The steamy sex in this novel is pretty awesome, but the emotions behind it are what really enthrall this reader. You feel the fire between Mack and Jaimie, and the powerful bond between them that goes beyond the bedroom to the deepest parts of their heart and minds.

As usual, I love all the interactions between the GhostWalker team. I already love the new characters introduced in this installment, and look forward to seeing more of them. Each character brings something different to the table. I am impressed with the incredible storyline that Ms. Feehan has created with this series. I love reading about the abilities of the different characters, and how they seem imminently plausible, but fantastic at the same time. The action scenes are well-done, and I feel that this book would appeal to a fan of techno-thrillers as much as paranormal and romantic suspense fans. But what I love about these books is how you get the octane moments, the well-thought out and often mind-boggling plot involving the GhostWalkers, the steamy love scenes, the funny and heartwarming moments, and the three-dimensional characters that you cannot help but love, all fashioned together into a beautiful package. This book ends with the evidence that there are more adventures ahead, as the groundwork is laid to follow up on some important storylines introduced in the preceeding books, and touched on in this installment. And all I can say is, I Can't Wait!!

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Tangled Hearts by Carole Mortimer

Tangled Hearts by Carole Mortimer
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I don't have anything grand to say about this reading experience. It was pretty good. I liked Garrett a lot. He was actually a very kind, decent man. Sarah was a good person as well. She did a lot of harsh judging of Garrett based on the limited understanding she had of his marriage to her sister. She judged him wrongly, as it turns out, and didn't see her sister realistically. Her young age was actually a factor in that. I'm glad that she did realize the truth in time to give her the chance at love with Garrett. Yeah, I know it's sort of icky on the surface that her sister was married to Garrett, but reading this book takes that sting away. It's one of those books where you have to go with the flow and things will turn out right in the end.

What I thought about specific aspects of the story:

(view spoiler)[ I found the aspect about her being so terribly in love with Garrett as a sixteen-year-old, and that being the cause of why she was so hostile to him, hard to swallow. I was like what? I didn't think she had spent enough with Garrett to be that in love with him. Okay, whatever. Go with the flow.

As far as her sister having an affair with Garrett's brother, despite him being so in love with his wife, and his wife being oh so forgiving....Yeah, that's true love, ain't it? Especially when he tried to go into Sarah's room, half-believing she was her sister (like ten years after the sister was dead). And having your brother clean up your mess by marrying Sarah's knocked up sister? And look, he's a US Senator. Awesome! Not! That was a more digestible piece Harlequin Presents wacky goodness drama than Sarah being so in love with Garrett since she was sixteen. It made me feel some love for Garrett that he did step up and be a dad to his brother's child. And how he claims the boy as his own. Very sighworthy. (hide spoiler)]

Points for the cute ending!

This one was a 3.5 star read.

A good vintage HP for readers who like a more betaish hero.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Unbuttoning Miss Hardwick by Deb Marlowe

Unbuttoning Miss HardwickUnbuttoning Miss Hardwick by Deb Marlowe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book called to me because I love unrequited love stories. I also like the idea of the heroine working for the hero and having a buttoned up/no-nonsense demeanor but still getting under his skin. I have to say I was very satisfied by this book. Deb Marlowe is going on my reading list now for sure. Her sense of time and place is excellent, but so much life and feeling in her writing, her characters.

Chloe found her way into my heart. I liked everything about her. I can see a little of myself in her, that determination to fix herself so that she could handle anything that comes her way. Her situation in this book called to me deeply. Her fear and loneliness. Her loving heart, and her keen mind to match. Her struggle to face and defeat her fears and climb out of that box she had created for safety, but had grown too big for, so that it was just constricting her overall growth as a person. I really loved her, cheering her strengths and feeling for her vulnerabilities. I wanted her to get her man, and I love that her strategy did exactly that. Not only did she get her man, she let him realize for himself that she was the right woman for him. What a savvy, lovable heroine!

I found Braedon absolutely lickable, warts and all. Big, vital, strong-minded, wounded, afraid to love. What a complex mix that made for a hero I fell head over heels for. Even when he frustrated me with his stubborn determination to cling to old thought patterns that no longer would keep him safe and certainly didn't bring happiness. I felt for him and understood why. His family would make anyone afraid to love and open one's heart. Deep down though, he was a man truly worthy of loving. Even if he didn't think so. Like us all, he faced some real challenges that he had to overcome in his relationships with others, including a young boy who enters his life and raises some old demons. But like a well-made sword, he comes out of the fire even stronger as the impurities are burned away.

As I said earlier, I loved the main storylines, but also the plot threads about Braedon being a collecter of ancient weaponry. It made sense on a deep, symbolic level that a man with his emotional wounds would build himself a citadel of safety full of sharp, protective weapons. In the process, he realizes that when a man walls himself in, he builds a prison as well as a fortress. Whereas, if he allows himself to trust and to love those who prove worthy, he is much more safe in the long run, even if that requires a step of faith and going out into the danger zone of the unknown frontiers of emotion. What a beautiful, meaning-filled message. I am trying to be more strict about five star reviews, but when a book touches me this way, I have to give it the highest rating.

People regularly put down Harlequin books. To each their own. For myself, some of the best and most meaningful books I have read have been written by authors in the Harlequin imprints. They might not be long or have the dubious honor of freedom from the "Harlequin title stigma", but they are hidden treasures all the same. This is one of those books. Definitely recommend it!

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Fearless Maverick by Robyn Grady

The Fearless MaverickThe Fearless Maverick by Robyn Grady
My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

I wasn't that keen on reading this book. I am not into sportspeople as a rule, particularly race-car drivers (Sorry, they do nothing for me!). I mainly read this because it's part of the Notorious Wolfes series and I didn't want to read the series out of order.

I ended up liking it more than I thought. Alex had more depth than I expected, and I really liked Libby. Alex as a race-car driver is a metaphor for trying to outrun the pain in his past. Eventually he comes to realize that he has to slow down and face the ugly emotions from his past. Ms. Grady got the anatomy and physiology facts right, and kudos to her for that. It added credibility to Libby's being a physiotherapist. There is a nice twist with Libby that adds impact to this story. Overall, this was good but not great.

I liked Libby's backstory a lot. (view spoiler)[The fact that she used to be a champion surfer until a shark attack. I wasn't expecting Libby to have lost a lower leg in an accident. I felt that this made her more identifiable than the typical Harlequin Presents heroine, who seems to be so perfect that the identification factor is blown to smithereens. Honestly I didn't think the fact that she was an amputee who wore a prosthesis was handled to the degree that I wanted. She didn't describe it or dwell on the day to day of having a prosthesis. I was looking forward to that part. Since I have recently had mobility issues, this was in my mind as I read the book. I wasn't sure that she would have that degree of freedom of movement to be completely unnoticeable as a prosthesis-wearer, but I will give a benefit of the doubt on that. Overall I was disappointed about the overall handing of this part of the story. But still, kudos to having a heroine who has an obvious and permanent physical 'imperfection' in this line but has taken measures to move on with her life. (hide spoiler)]

I would have liked to see more of the Wolfes in this installment, because that's why I enjoy this series, the family dynamics. On the other hand, I appreciated a closer glimpse at the family through the eyes of Alex and to see how that terrible night that changed the whole family impacted him in particular, especially as Annabelle's twin.

All in all, this was a good book. The romance was well-written and I felt the chemistry and feelings between Alex and Libby. Both had character depth and their emotional angst had an impact on me. Fundamentally, I just didn't like this as much as the other books, and I don't feel that for me it's a four star book. Pretty close though. After all, I liked it more than I thought I would, and Libby's character kicked this one up a notch more for me. I am excited to read Annabelle and Jacob's stories.

Overall rating: 3.75/5.0 stars

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Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins

The Haunted HotelThe Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this story. It was multifaceted in that it was not just a haunted house story, but also a murder mystery.  Collins builds the suspense and the feeling of curiosity that keeps the reader engaged.  I found the writing to be far from dated. The language was not antiquated, but felt almost modern in some ways. The print for my copy is rather small, and that's the only reason I didn't read it faster.  Yesterday, I kept saying, I'll read to this point, and to that point, before I knew it, it was quite late and I had to put the book down to go to bed. 

I didn't find the prose melodramatic. Instead, I found that Collins is matter of fact in describing horrors. It's merely in reading of such things that the horror is evoked.  I was quite suprised at the horrible things that had occurred, and it wasn't do to that Campy Gothic or Victorian Penny Dreadful tendency to use outlandish language to evoke a dark, sinister tone.  I liked his subtle but hilarious humor, particularly in the part in which Francis Westwick goes to the room in question.  I was laughing out loud on that part.

The Haunted Hotel starts out in an curious manner, with a false narrator. Which is quite brilliant.  This beginning narrator never makes another appearance, and I was left to wonder how this plot thread would end up in the titular place.  Further reading shows Collins' tendency to continuously introduce new point of views, leaving it up to the reader to see how it ties together.  As I consider this novella, I wonder if this was not his way of revealing the intriguing character of the Countess through different eyes.  So one cannot easily make of their mind about her. (view spoiler)[ I have to admit that I felt sympathetic to her up to almost the end of the story. While what she does is completely heinous and terrible, I felt that her allegiance to her awful brother was no small factor in her moral failing.  In the end, she seemed to merely live down to everyone's expectations of her, instead of reaching higher.  Instead of staying true to what I felt was an inner cord of strength, she followed that fatal path to destruction. So I admit that in the end, I still pitied her despite her actions.  I was in no small way surprised that she actually was guilty. I thought perhaps she was just a victim of a bad reputation.  My feelings towards the Countess make me admire this story more for the clever way in which it was written.   (hide spoiler)]

Now an impatient reader will wish for Collins to get to the point, but I rather enjoyed the journey.  I found the characters interesting, all of which evoking sympathy to some extent (except the Baron, who I found totally repugnant).  Collins has a way of writing characters that is quite appealing to me. Even the lesser important characters come to life and earn their screen time when they come into the scenes.   I enjoyed the roundabout way of presenting a story that was actually quite chilling in parts.  I appreciated how intricately the mystery builds to a satisfying climax for this reader. 

In the end, I was impressed with this novella by Mr. Collins. I will read more of his work because I think he has a way of writing mystery and suspense that is timeless, drawing me into his writing and not easily letting me go. His characters have impact and come to life for this reader, not sacrificed to a greater goal of evoking horror or terror, as can sometimes happen in this genre. I for one recommend this story to fans of classic/gothic horror and suspense.

Read out of The Haunted Hotel & Other Stories.

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Saturday, July 07, 2012

Murder Game by Christine Feehan

Murder Game (GhostWalkers, #7)Murder Game by Christine Feehan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

****Reread 7/4-7/7/2012
My thoughts:

Loved this book the second time even more! I personally find serial killer stuff highly disturbing, so some parts were tough for me. Poor Tansy, using her psychic gifts to hunt serial killers from a very young age, even without having any psychic barriers built up. That's courage. The storyline about the murders was very dark and twisted. The psychic elements ramped up the tension and made this even more visceral a read. Despite the unpalatable aspects of these killers, they didn't make the romance seem inappropriate. Instead it intensifies the connection between Tansy and Kadan that she is crucial in solving these crimes, and working with Kadan, she can do her job without it compromising her mental and physical health.


I love him so much, even though he's barely sane at times (in my opinion). He's super-duper bossy and domineering, but it somehow works for his relationship with Tansy, so that made it okay for me, although that's not something that I normally find appealing. On the other hand, loved his possessive/jealous nature, and how crazy about Tansy he was. What happened near the end was just powerful reading. If I had ever doubted how much Tansy meant to him before that, this brought it home. Kadan, you are so lickable!


Loved her. She's soft and sweet, but also very tough down deep. She could definitely give Kadan a run for his money if she wants to. But she likes making him happy and taking care of him in the way he needs. She likes him that way and truly looks into his heart and understands the hurt child who had to compartmentalize those violent parts of himself to stay sane, thus the cold as ice demeanor. She trusts him to do the same for me. I know some readers don't like soft, sweet heroines, but I love them, and Tansy is especially well done for that type. She doesn't feel the need to pretend otherwise when she enjoys being with Kadan and his protective and demanding nature. I give Ms. Feehan props for not being afraid to write her this way. I don't think I could see any other woman with Kadan.

Final Thoughts:

Murder Game is just so good. It's even more enjoyable on the reread as I was able to savor aspects I buzzed through the first time in my enthusiasm. I loved the relationship between Tansy and Kadan (although it did challenge my personal views on this sort of relationship, moreso on the first read. But then I'm not either character and if that works for them, why not???). As always, loved the action and suspense, the bad*ss heroes, the joking and bond between the GhostWalkers, and how they opened their family to Tansy so generously. I'm so grateful for this series!

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Original Review:

Ah, how could I not love a hero like Kadan. So crazy, and delicious, from head to toe.

Here I was thinking that Kadan was going to be mellow compared to the Norton twins. NOT! That man is intense. I loved this book. It starts out with a bang and keeps going.

I think Christine Feehan is wonderful at pairing these characters. Tansy and Kadan are a great match for each other. She's strong but willing to be submissive with Kadan. He's very much a dominant kind of man. At times I vacillated between being completely in love with him and thinking he was way too dominant for my tastes. It was like a knife edge in the very hot and sensual scenes for me. I was thinking, "Is he being too rough?" But he really wasn't. He didn't do anything that Tansy didn't like or made her feel uncomfortable. But he was all about control. He would do and say things that showed he was in charge, and Tansy probably could have fought him on more things, but she really didn't seem to feel the need to do it. She was a very calm, composed person.

Kadan thinks of himself as an ice man. Very remote, and always in control. Because of a traumatic event as a child, he sees himself as a cold-blooded killer, almost a monster. He didn't think he could have a family or a woman. He felt all he had was his Ghostwalker family and the next mission. From the moment he sees Tansy, he feels like there is something more for him. It was very refreshing to read a book where the hero is in love from the first moment. He might not have said 'I love you,' but if this man wasn't in love, than I don't know what love is. He was completely crazy about Tansy. I don't know why, but these kinds of heroes that I call 'stalkerific' never fail to appeal to me. They are crazy possessive and obsessed with the heroine. And sometimes it's a little scary, but since it's romance and fiction, it's all good. Well Kadan might be the King of Stalkerific heroes.

I think that he would be more scary if it wasn't absolutely obvious how much he adores Tansy. This man is crazy about Tansy. He would always need to touch Tansy, even around the other Ghostwalkers. It wasn't anything over the top, but definitely PDAs. The thought of her suffering or being hurt or in pain drives him absolutely crazy. It makes him get even more dominant alpha. I have to give it to Tansy. She really understood that, and reassured him that he had her love and always would.

Tansy was a very mature person. She was quite Zen. Although not an alpha heroine, she had a formidable inner strength. She had weathered so much for young age, and she goes through even more during this book. Tansy had a way of accepting things and seeing them for what they were. But I believe that her near breakdown and getting through that gave her the strength to be able to deal with very bad things in a straightforward manner without going off on the deep end.

I really loved Tansy as a heroine (which I love all the Ghostwalker heroines but she's my favorite now). She has the phenomenal mental ability to track serial killers by touching the objects they handled, although it makes her physically and mentally ill when she does it. Initially that was the reason that Kadan finds Tansy, to track the rogue Ghostwalker team who is committing a series of murders. When Kadan sees how devastating it is for Tansy to use her ability, his protective instincts override the desire to use her talents. He sees that she has not been shown how to use filters to protect her mind. I liked how Kadan was so protective of Tansy, and how he didn't like her doing something that was so bad for her. Although Tansy submitted to Kadan in almost every way, she refused to stop using her talent if it could save lives. So he did everything to help her to be safe when she did use her talent. Those scenes were very well done. This showed that although Kadan was so dominant, it was clear that he was able to be gentle and caring. Also this was shown in the other moments when Tansy is hurt or suffering. He couldn't handle it.

Kadan and Tansy have their first sexual encounter very, very early in this book. It didn't feel wrong to me. It felt right because of a few factors: intense relationship, their being paired because of Mad Scientist Whitney, and the fact that Kadan has already realized that she is the woman for him and that he's not letting go of her. If Tansy hadn't been the kind of heroine that wasn't as level-headed and philosophical, it could have felt ugly and forced, but it didn't. She's a special person, and made for this man. He'd be way too scary for a lot of women. But she is fine with him, immense control issues and all.

The action in this book is very in your face. I love action as much as I love romance, so it was a great combination. It was so cool to see the original Ghostwalker team (especially Nico, Gator, Ryland, but also Tucker and Ian) in on the action. They are in this book a lot (I was in heaven because I love these guys). It was nice to see the joking and comraderie between the Ghostwalkers. The pretty much adopt Tansy into the family. Kadan gets teased a lot because of his obvious adoration of Tansy. The Ghostwalkers work so well together and love each other (although they are alpha males and don't get all mushy about it, this is very clear). We also get to see Ken, Jack, Jeff, and Mari. These guys are total, badass (pardon my French) warriors. I am in awe of them. I could hug Christine Feehan for writing these books, because they really meet my needs for a great romance novel with high octane action. Readers who are sensitive about violence should be warned about this book. It does have quite a bit of violent scenes. I didn't think they were gratuitous, but definitely might be too much for a sensitive person. The subject matter is quite dark. There are people who kill for money and for sport in this book. But Kadan's Ghostwalker team is going to shut them down with Tansy's help. The end was very intense and Tansy has her own battle to fight with the Ghostwalkers' help. I wasn't expecting the way things wrapped up. It was sort of like a one-two punch. At first I thought the storyline was wrapping up a little too tidily, but then wham, bang. All I can say is wow.

There was nothing I didn't like about this book. It is my favorite in the series now. Kadan is just an incredible hero (kind of crazy in a typically quiet and deadly fashion, but really in the best ways). Tansy is just the heroine to handle this intense guy, and give him the love, acceptance and home he craved. And he's just the man to love her within an inch or her life and keep her very, very happy at the same time.

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Friday, July 06, 2012

Why Pray by John Devries

Why Pray?: 40 Days--From Words to RelationshipWhy Pray?: 40 Days--From Words to Relationship by John F. Devries
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How do I condense 40 days of learning into one reasonable length review? Don't think I can do that.
All I can do is say what this book has done for me. So that's what I'll do.

I have been a Christian for a long time. However, I don't think I really accessed most of that power that comes from being a follower of Christ. Prayer is that key, that instrument to access the power that Christ gave all his believers in his ministry, persecution, crucifixion, death, and resurrection from the grave. Jesus prayed, all the time. And he is the living God. But he needed to access the power of God while he was in a fully human body. He did this through prayer. Jesus prayed through some of the most painful times in his life. When he and his disciples had material needs to be met. When he was tempted by the devil for 40 days, when he knew he was going to be tried and crucified. His last night before he was crucified, he prayed so hard that he sweated blood. If my Lord prayed, and I follow him as my model, then how could I not pray every day of my life, not just in the worst moments, but in the best, and in everything between? That would be huge folly on my part not to follow his model. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray and he told them to say what we know as The Lord's Prayer:

‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.'

Matthew 6:6-13

I learned to say this prayer when I was a very young girl, but I didn't realize the absolute power in it until I read this book. God still blessed me in my life despite that. But there is so much more God can do with his children if we only ask him. Let me tell you, practically every need you would have as a human being can be met through this prayer. God will supply all your needs. He's just waiting for you to ask him to do it. And also you should pray this when you pray for others. They need the same things and this prayer accesses the unlimited resources of heaven to give them what they need. Sometimes we see so much hopelessness and it makes feel us helpless. Well, believers in Christ are not helpless in any way. Even if we can't reach out and touch and physically help someone, we can pray for them, and there is power in that prayer. Merely using The Lord's Prayer. Now, I have learned to pray it out loud and let every line resonate through my spirit. You see, there is power in God's word. When we pray God's word, he hears us. He hears the prayers of the believers (and even those who don't know him but are seeking to know him and need his help) anyway, but God will always honor his word. If it says that he will give us our daily bread, then he will do it (and I truly have found that out in this season of my life). This book helped me to understand this, that I should use my prayers with power. Not demanding anything from God, but agreeing with him in what he says in his word.

I will honestly admit that prayer is something I've done half-heartedly most of my life. It's very foolish of me. As a believer in Jesus, why wouldn't I want to spend time with him? And that's what prayer is. Prayer is fellowship with the Living God. He loves us and he wants to spend time with us. Does he need us? No, but he takes great joy in us, his children. I think it's like if you are a parent and your children don't ever want to spend time with you. It must feel bad to know they don't care to spend time with you. Well, I know that God loves me so much, and because of his love, I love him so much, quite desperately. So now, even when I don't feel like praying, I still pray, because the power of agape love gives us the strength to break through the barriers that come between us and those who we share a relationship with. God doesn't care for fancy gestures, just a sincere heart. The Holy Spirit will make the words when we need them. And let me tell you, whenever I pray and spend time with God, the peace that comes into my heart is like nothing else, no matter how bad things seemed before I started praying. It's like being wrapped in his arms. My insides become suffused with a powerful light. There is no substitute for fellowship with the Living God. This book has encouraged me to dive into experiencing the presence of the Living God. And I know that I don't need to be ashamed of my sins and shortcomings, afraid to approach my father in heaven, and Jesus my lord. The Lord paid for my cleansing from sin and he has promised that I can always approach him in confidence. Now I cast all that at the Lord's feet, and I know he can do better with it than I can. Every believer has this right and privilege.

Another incredible revelation that this pilgrim has discovered is the incredible supernatural power that we can harness through prayer. Jesus said that anything he did, we could do.

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:12-14

That means heal the sick, provide for material resources, protection from spiritual and physical enemies, and yes, even raising the dead. How do we access this? By praying in confidence (not in ourselves but him) as the Lord did. That doesn't mean fancy prayers. Jesus didn't pray 'fancy'. He prayed with faith and humility. That's all that we have to do as believers in him. This is not just me saying this. This is in the Word, which is the inerrant essence of God.

The very essence of your words is truth; all your just regulations will stand forever. Psalm 119:60

Oh goodness. Very hard to condense all of this. I'm getting excited to write this, to share this incredible message through this review. Let me talk about the writing a little. Mr. Devries has a good way of illustrating his points. He tells stories of his life and what he's seen and had others tell him. They are very good at bringing the importance home of the power of prayer. Some of the stories had my jaw dropping. The supernatural happening right here in the middle of this mundane world. And it has encouraged me to follow this model of prayer and marvel and praise God for doing what he promised to do. I think that Mr. Devries sets challenges out there for the readers. Some of his guidelines may not work exactly as he suggested, but don't let that turn you off his message. The essence of what he is saying definitely has merit, and this is a very good starting point for a Christian who doesn't feel like they are very good at prayer.

I am very grateful that my church decided to read this book as a group, and even provided free copies to everyone. The blessings reaped are without measure. I would recommend this book to Christians--old and new--who want to understand just how valuable prayer is.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep

Spider's Bite (Elemental Assassin, #1)Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very good and very gritty.  Gin is absolutely lethal.  Killing someone is just a job to her. Not that she kills just anyone, but if you're on her radar for death, you get dead very quickly.   I found her character very credible.  I won't deny that I sort of have a fascination with fiction stories about assassins.  This is a good one.  Estep builds a three-dimensional character here with Gin. She's not evil, but she's not a a saintly person either. How can you be when you kill people for a living?

That's where the grays come in.  If you knew what some of the folks she's killed have done, then you might not count it as such a loss.  Ashland is a place full of dark souls, you see.  The whole place is corrupt to varying degrees, except for Donovan Caine. He truly is the only honest man in this place.  So imagine the dilemma when they discover an attraction between them. Between the cold-hearted (but warm-pantsed) assassin and the straight arrow cop.  Yeah, that makes for quite a conflict.

If you like magic noir, definitely check this book out.  If you like bad*ss women who know how to get the dirty jobs done, definitely check this out.  If you have a problem with women who are a bit callous about sex, you might have a problem with Gin.  I'm not big on that trait in a heroine (or a hero for that matter).  I did like how she does the pursuing when it comes to Donovan. That was kind of cute.  And she can be a bit of a bully when she wants to.  I can understand why her character is that way, having lost her family and lived on the streets. It's made her into a hard woman, one who doesn't let anyone make a victim out of her.  For all that, she does have a sense of honor.  At least someone does in this place.  As for Caine, he was a bit self-righteous at times.  I totally respect his sense of honor, but I think he needs to open his mind a little and ask the whys instead of just blindly following. I find it hard to believe he was completely oblivious to the corruption in his police department. I think he was just willfully ignoring it.  A bad tree cannot produce good fruit and vice versa. If his partner was doing that horrible stuff, why didn't he have a clue?  I like that Gin didn't try to defend herself to him. Why should she?  She was true to herself, and he had to accept her or leave her.  Either way.  I like that he can't put her into a box and forget about her either. Too bad Gin can't get this cop out of her mind either.  That relationship is fraught with issues.

The magic was cool. I liked the concept of elementals, and how many folks in Ashland had elemental magic.  I liked the use of runes to identify people, and how it was used to seal magic, if you will. The vampires felt sort of extraneous, but maybe that's because I'm jaded with vampires being in every single urban fantasy series!

Overall, this was a very good book. Gin is a very lethal, fascinating character. I didn't like everything about her, but I liked a lot. I loved that she was so bad*ss and capable.  She does a lot of the saving, but she also works together with others, so there was balance in that. Donovan is an interesting love interest.  It should be entertaining to see where things go with that angel.  I also liked the foodie aspects (being a big foodie myself), and the glimpses of Southern life and society. I recommend this book to readers who enjoy enjoy dark, gritty urban fantasy, and tough female leads. I will definitely continue this series!

Thanks for recommending this book off my tbr pile, Suzi!

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