Friday, January 30, 2009

Kiss of a Demon King by Kresley Cole

This book sparkled from the first sentence. Love the lead-in with introducing Sabine's character. I finished this book yesterday and I loved it. It was dark in a way that the others weren't quite dark. The usurped kingdom of Rothkalina has some dark happenings under the helm of Omort the Deathless. I believe this is also do in part to the fact that the heroine is supposed to be evil in this story. I wouldn't exactly call her evil. I'd call her pragmatic. She's had a rough life that taught her to look out for Number One and her sister. She died several times, and faced enemies out for her blood innumerable times. She was raised in a environment where kindness was considered weakness, and where she always had to be on guard. In that context, she didn't come off as evil. But juxtaposed to virtuous King Rydstrom, she probably does seem amoral. I admired Sabine for her survivor traits and for being down to earth about who she was. She was a sensual being, she liked her gold, and she liked to dress dramatically. And she was do what was necessary and wouldn't hesitate in the doing of of it.
That is the great thing about this story. Rydstrom and Sabine are soulmates. They may not view life the same way, but I felt they were a great pair because their strengths complemented each other. And although Sabine is not exactly what Rydstrom thought he wanted in a queen, it turns out she is exactly what he needed, and vice versa.
I hesitate to call this story a redemption story, because I don't believe that Sabine is actually redeemed all that much. She does learn to let others into her heart and to allow herself to care, but she was never a person who killed for no reason or went out of her way to hurt others. Merely, she was a person who was hardened to others. And we see that she does grow in her ability to feel for others. It was nice to see her bond with the demon orphan Puck, despite the fact that she has no use for children, and her kind is raised to look down on demons. She will always be a bit of a wild card, who has moral flexibility, yet it is clear that she won't harm innocents, and is devoted to her King and would do anything for him. I truly believe she will be an excellent Queen for Rothkalina.
A purist would find some of the happenings in this book somewhat objectionable. This story has a lot of bondage, control, and captive themes. The pages get flipped around and the captive becomes the captor. I didn't have issues with the way things unfold because it was very true to the characters and the storyline. Although Rydstrom is a boy scout type hero, every person has their limits as to what they will take, and he is also a Rage Demon who has been under lots of stress for millenia. So it made sense that he would explode or implode at some point. And Sabine was following through to her nature as an extreme pragmatist of a morally flexible disposition. Considering what Sabine did to Rydstrom in the first part of the book, I felt that it was fair what Rydstrom did to Sabine when he got the opportunity. The term parity was used. I believe there was definitely parity in his treatment of her. The great thing is the huge lie that he told Sabine was acutally laughed off by her and she was proud of him for doing it. It was an interesting moment to read, as I was expecting the stuff to hit the fan, but Sabine laughs and says that she is proud of him for doing what he did. So in the end, they were a very interesting couple with a unique dynamic between them for a romance.
I really liked how the relationship issues were resolved between Ryd and Sabine. He didn't feel that he could trust Sabine to stay with him, and he had to learn that she would stay with him out of choice, so he had to learn to trust her love for him. Sabine had to learn to do what she said she would instead of lying all the time, which she did. She had to learn to trust someone to take care of her, as she had always taken care of herself or her sister, and vice versa. And she had to learn to allow herself to be loved and to trust in that love. She wanted a strong man, but then she had to realize that a strong man would want to protect his woman. For a woman used to being in control, surrendering control must have been extremely difficult. I can understand having those issues, because I don't like depending on others or being under someone's control. So in that way I could identify with her, due to my own trust and control issues.
The world-building and fantasy elements in this story were excellent. It was exciting to keep reading and to see more of the Lore world that Cole has written. Fundamentally, this is a very steamy paranormal romance, but it is also just as good as fantasy on the sword and sorceror side, if the readers doesn't mind lots of steamy, descriptive sex scenes. The humor is also excellent, and I found myself laughing out loud many times. I really admire the way that Cole can combine humor and intensity in her books. She is the queen of great one liners. This along with the sexy men and their devotion to the women they love, is what keeps me coming back to her books, and the Immortals After Dark in particular. Not to mention the wonderful, mythical world she has created, using her imagination, and the old folklore and myths that I grew up hearing. And I love that her heroines are strong and real-life, with their share of flaws and admirable traits.
It was great to get inside of the Demon King's head and to see his conflict with Cadeon from his viewpoint. To see what his struggle has been. And his loneliness waiting for his true female. You feel for him because all along, having a woman to love was probably just as important as regaining his throne, but he couldn't wear his heart on his sleeve since he was a King. Thus issues are deeper than it seemed on the outside. Yes, Ryd was upset that his kingdom was lost, but he also was upset with the way he felt that Cadeon was wasting his life. I was glad to see the brothers make up and come to an understanding of each other. Rydstrom turns out to be a three-dimensional character with a good and a bad side, and with scores of passion locked inside of his methodical demeanor. He is as intense as they came, and boy do I love the intense heroes. I loved his fixation on Sabine, although at times, it seemed quite out of control, but then Sabine was a pretty maddening heroine to deal with for a man/demon like Rydstrom. I was glad that in my opinion, he never truly hurt her or did anything beyond the pale, based on their unusual relationship.
It's also great to see appearances by other members of the Lore, such as Nix, who always has a rather pivotal role, Holly, fighting off some massive morning sickness, and a brief appearance by Regin. It's like seeing old friends again, and catching up. We also get to meet some new characters that I hope to see more of. I feel that there is much to be resolved between Sabine's sister Melanthe and Thronos, who is out for her blood. Future couple? I think yes. I am also intrigued by Lothaire, a Fallen vampire, who seems like he may not be as evil as one would think.
So when this book ended, I was sad. I wanted to read more, and experience more of this universe. But I enjoyed every moment of the reading. I hope that Cole continues to write these books long into the future, and I can't wait to see how the Ascension goes down, as we see the formidable Lore being paired up and forming the force for the good.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Be With You by Marie Rochelle

If you like Diana Palmer, but also love interracial romances, you'd like this book. It has the hero running as hard as he can, but trying to seduce the heroine on the other hand thing that Diana Palmer does so well. Having said that, I believe that Rochelle has her own unique style that shines through. She seems like a real romantic at heart to me. A reason why I like her books.
I would have rated it higher, but Rally is such a knucklehead about Sage not being Native-American. It was kind of silly, since she grew up with him in his household. He was attracted, and deep down loved Sage, but he had real issues about preserving the Native American heritage. He even had a Native American woman picked out to marry but he clearly didn't love. At the same time, he felt jealous and possessive toward Sage, and was livid when he thought she had slept with another man.
Also ***spoiler warning**** I don't think that Sage should have slept with Rally and then went off with the intent to marry his friend. That felt dishonest to me. I didn't think it was fair to her fiance. I think she was trying to move on with her life, but her fiance didn't deserve to be snuck around on, and with his best friend.
It was my first book by Rochelle and I enjoyed reading it. The chemistry was pretty hot but it had an old-fashioned love story in it's way (hence the Diana Palmer comparison). I like the combination because I am pretty vanilla when it comes to sex, but I like steamy vanilla sex in my romances. It was refreshing because I ran into issues where there were ebooks that were way too erotic for my tastes. So I am glad that they also have sweeter ebooks out there.
Like a lot of the smaller-press ebooks, it did have some editing issues, but they weren't so bad that it made it hard to read. I look forward to reading more of her books.

PS I didn't post a picture of the cover because it's very racy.

Shadow Game by Christine Feehan

I gave this book five stars because I enjoyed it so much. I have heard that it is not the best of the series. I am happy to say that if this is not the best, then it will be a pleasure to read the rest of the books. Right from the start, I knew I would like Ryland, the hero. He came off as a principled, caring person, although with a dangerous edge (which I like in a hero). I liked his immediate attraction to Lily, and how he saw the beauty in her although she never thought she was beautiful. Lily is a good heroine with some qualities that make her stand out from other cookie-cutter heroines. I like that she has the tendency to be a nerd/brainiac type and is very cerebral. She can get sucked into her research and be cranky at times. It's refreshing to read about heroines who aren't goody-goody all the time, although they are good people all the same. It is clear that despite being a very scientific person, she also cares about people and about doing the right thing. I definitely saw the chemistry between Lily and Ryland and hoped that they would get together. I loved that they had a psychic bond that helped each other, when either was feeling pain or anguish. By the time the love scenes came, there was already a deep emotional connection that made the love scenes that much better.
I also liked the premise of the story. It's cool to read a paranormal with humans who happen to have enhanced mental powers. I loved how the Ghost Walkers could tell someone to look away and not see them, and persuade them to do things, yet they never used these powers in a cruel way. I thought the science was plausible, although clearly Feehan made an effort not to bog the reader down with it. The romance and the relationships were the strong focus, yet set in a world that is very exciting and interesting.
I also liked Ryland and Lily's relationships with the other Ghost Walker men and also with Lily's family of employees that have been with her since she was a small girl. I would say that Feehan has a skill at writing about relationships and the intricacies of those interrelations with people. She shows the turmoil that Lily had about her father and her discovering that her father did do some less than ethical experimentation on her and other young girls in his quest to develop psychic powers in human subjects. All the characters in this book were interesting, and I had quite a few good laughs as they joked with each other.
The action scenes were exciting and well-written, showing that this was another area that Feehan is good at. I love reading about tough people who can kick butt, and this book has this in spades. Also I liked seeing the Ghost Walkers and Lily use their powers when they got into fights and went on missions. It reminded me of the X-Men movies, comics, and tv show.
I can heartily say that this book was enjoyable and I am adding it to my keeper shelf. I am eager to read all the books in the series.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

To Have and To Hold by Patricia Gaffney

This book is one that sneaks up on your senses. You start reading the first sentence and before you know it, you're hooked. It was that simple. The writing flows, and the beauty of it is captivating. Yet at the same time, it is not flowery or florid. Just exhibiting the careful and artistic use of words to tell a story of redemption and growth. Sebastian Verlaine is not a pretender in the world of rakes. He is a true rake. He has lived an aimless existence of a sybarite, doing only what felt good to him, and only as long as it pleased him. He is on the crux of either descending to a lower level of debauchery, or turning his life around. When he encounters Rachel Wade, a woman just recently released from prison after 10 years, and arrested for vagrancy because she is homeless, this becomes a crucial moment in his evolution.
The manner in which the story enfolds is interesting. Sebastian has recently inherited Lynton, which is property from his disceased relative. He decides to go and stay there for a lark, and for fun and out of drunkeness, agrees to act as a local magistrate. As such, he is in a position of power to offer Rachel Wade a job as his housekeeper. In reality, it is also the position of his mistress. Sebastian finds himself fascinated by this beaten down woman, who was sentenced for murdering her husband, who had committed depraved acts on her. He is attracted to the luridness of the situation, and also by the woman herself.
When reading this, you are thinking, how could a person do a good deed for such a questionable reason. You see Sebastian laying his trap and allowing Rachel to settle into her position and you worry for Rachel. Yet Rachel is no fool. She knew all along to expect something along those lines, but her choice is to be put in the gaol for vagrancy, and to starve, or to accept relative comfort of a job, a place to stay, even if the price tag is to accept the unwanted attentions of her employer.
So begins this unlikely romance. At first, this is more of a character study as you watch Rachel adapt to no longer being a prisoner for ten years. You see her gain her self-confidence and overcome her sense of shame for being a convict, when she had been falsely accused in the first place. At the same time, you see Sebastian plotting and continuing along on his nefarious course, yet at the same time, slowly changing and developing a sense of purpose when before he only had a sense of boredom and jadedness. This evolution is so well done, that by the time you realize why Sebastian is such a rake, you have already forgiven him for it and accepted that this was his past. This was profound to me, because I have read more than a few books with rakes who really never seemed all that repentant, and certainly weren't fully changed by the love of the heroine. Characters that you wondered if they wouldn't end up falling off the wagon years later on, after the book was over.
The first sexual encounters are not consensual. Yet this is also done tastefully. Again, you are not reading this book as a romance novel at this point, but as a fiction work, and so it doesn't jolt you or offend your senses. Instead you keep reading, to see how this will unfold.
There are moments when I felt, that Sebastian commit the final act that would serve as the straw would breaking the camel's back, and I would come to hate him. Gaffney leaves the reader poised on the cliff of expectation, so skillfully keeping the reader's interest, as Sebastian has to make a choice, whether he truly is an unforgivable, irredeemable rake, or if he is a human being who does have ethical boundaries he won't cross. This moment arrives when he invites some of his jaded companions to his house, and allows them to bait Rachel verbally but does nothing. The situation worsens as one of the attendees states his intent to force his attentions on Rachel. At first, he acts like he could care less, because that is how the old Sebastian would have reacted. At the last minute he intervenes, and the breath that I was holding is let out.
From this point on, the story shifts as Sebastian learns how to love for the first time in his life. He becomes a caring person, learning to put someone else's needs first. And it really is touching the degree to which he devotes himself to making Rachel happy. I love redemption stories, so I really enjoyed reading about his transition to an honorable man. Or maybe, that seed was always deep inside of him, but he didn't allow it to germinate. When you get a glimpse into his family life towards the end of the book, you really how no questions why Sebastian acted the way he did at the beginning of the book.
This book works wonderfully on many levels, as a fiction book, and as a romance. It's not at all predictable, which is refreshing. Of course, you know that a happy ending is going to be given, but you don't exactly know how it will arrive at that point until you get there, and you almost want to read it again just in confirmation.
To Have and to Hold is a good example of the fact that romantic fiction should be respected for its power. Romance novels are wrongly labeled as fluff, trash, and worthless. But how could a book with such a deep message, and with such powerful storytelling ever be considered fluff? I will proudly put this piece of romantic fiction on my keeper shelf.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lover Unbound by JR Ward

This book was amazing in a lot of ways. Who would have thought I would go ga-ga over a bisexual, seriously dominant, kinda scary guy like Vishous? Well I fell, flat on my face. This guy is amazing. He is extremely attractive, imagine big, tall, ice blue eyes, black hair (I'm a sucker for blue eyes and black hair), and extremely intelligent also. The way that JR Ward wrote this book did it. She put so much love and effort into telling this man's story that you couldn't help but love him. I love his selfless love for Butch. I love how he looked at Jane and saw his soulmate. I love that he fights for the Brothers and helps them out in manifold ways. Also I cry for the torture and abuse he suffered at the hands of his so-called father. And what amounts to neglect from his mother. And then she wants him to step up as Primale and leave behind all that he loves.... Man. And not to mention having to give up Butch but always be there for him. This book really ripped away at my heart. I couldn't put it down. I really liked Jane. She was very down to earth and likable. But tough at the same time. Most people would have flipped out when they were exposed to a world that was so different from what they knew. She took it like a champ. And she never even blinked at the fact that Vishous was in love with another man and was seriously into bondage and stuff. She accepted him for who he was. Jane fits into the Brotherhood's life like a long-lost puzzle. She is the half to Vishous' whole that he was missing. She doesn't replace Butch but she still gives Vishous the love and acceptance he deserved for so long. If I had one complaint, then it was how things were resolved with Jane. Don't worry. They end up together. I can't give it away because it will spoil it. I am still feeling a little uncertain about that. Otherwise, I loved this story. Even writing about it makes me get an ache in my chest.

Lover Revealed by JR Ward

I loved this book from page one. Butch resonated with me because he was so tortured. He was just as tortured as Zsadist but in different way. He got abused by his father and his mother ignored him. And his siblings pretty much followed their example and disowned Butch when his sister died. He felt like he was worth nothing and had nothing to live for. He was abusing himself and slowly killing himself day by day because his family had basically rejected him. That's why I love that he found The Brotherhood. He found a sense of family and belonging, although he still felt different because he wasn't a vampire. I love the relationship between Butch and Vishous. I haven't read many romances between men, and this one isn't per se. But the bond between Butch and Vishous has different layers and elements, and one of them is a romantic/sexual one. Their relationship remained unconsummated, but they definitely have strong feelings for each other that will remain, the sexual moreso on Vishous' side. I was so glad that Butch had Vishous to love him and take care of him, and vice versa. More than anything, I am so glad that Butch has Marissa. I think they are a wonderful couple, my second favorite in this series. Butch never thought he deserved anything, but he got his princess in Marissa. Marissa is not perfect, but to Butch she is perfect. And the great thing is that Marissa needed to be loved and adored. She felt rejected by her people (the glymera) since Wrath did not love her and did not want her as his Shellan, and she felt she could not live up to their and her brother's expectations. She was slowly dying inside, until Butch came and his adoration gave her the acceptance she needed. I also loved how Marissa came into her own and became the strong woman she was meant to be so she believe in herself, and she could stand at Butch's side, not behind him or in front of him. I really could not put this book down and was on the emotional rollercoaster ride along with the characters. There are more moments of interaction between the Brothers and their Shellans that are touching, and you get to see how everyone is doing. There is also trouble brewing with the Lessers and things heat up, and Butch is intricately involved with this change in the War with the Lessers. We also get to see more of the intriguing and seductive Rhev. He is so yummy to me. I love how tender and solicitious he is to Marissa. If there was no Butch, I'd probably like Rhev and Marissa to be together. But since there is a Butch (Thank God), Marissa is his. There are so many scenes that I love, but one of my favorites is when Butch goes to be inducted into the Brotherhood and all the shellans are lined up in their dresses that represent their Hellrens, and there is Marissa waiting for him. I almost started crying. I am tearing up writing this right now. In the end, I cannot even put into words how deeply this book affected me. Although I love Lover Awakened the most, this is definitely my second favorite.

Lover Awakened by JR Ward

This book is pretty darn awesome. Zsadist is definitely one to seduce a reader if you love tortured, sexy heroes. The only disadvantage is too much Lesser narrative. Otherwise I love it! It is full of passages that wrench at your heart as you read Zsadist's sad but ultimately triumphant story. You really root for Zsadist to accept the unconditional love that Bella has for him, as you see him give all of himself to her because he cannot help but love her, even believing he is far from good enough for her. And the relationship is not one-sided as Zsadist helps Bella to heal from her captivity with the Lesser. He is the only one that can help her through this ordeal. But long before she was kidnapped, she was drawn to Zsadist. You see the seeds of their connection start in Lover Eternal, and to be honest, that's what made me keep reading Lover Eternal. I was so fascinated by the interaction between essentially The Beauty and the Beast played out in this sophistocated, urban vampire universe. I knew that their relationship would be explosive and captivating, and I was right. The scenes of Bella and Zsadist during her needing are enthralling and sexual, but also tender and poignant. I don't think any man could love a woman more than Zsadist loves Bella. The ending will make the sternest, most cold-hearted person tear up as Zsadist very clearly shows just how much Bella means to him. And the gift that Bella gives Zsadist is just the icing on the cake. This is a wonderful love story.

Lover Enshrined by JR Ward

I loved this book. I had heard many criticisms about it not being as good as the others, and Phury not being as fleshed out. I have to say that I have a real understanding of Phury now. His torment is very much internal and revolves around his sense of failure, his not being able to "get there on time", as my mother so wisely said as we discussed the book last night at dinner. He failed in helping his parents, he failed in getting his brother back faster. Boy does he have a whopping case of Survivor's Guilt. I went through the whole gamut of emotions as I read this book: anger, sadness, joy, rage, helplessness, you name it. I was right there next to Phury every step of the way. And most of all, I felt his isolation. I firmly believe that he is the least understood of the brothers, and in some ways has been given less understanding. I would never justify drug abuse, but pretty much all the Brothers, possibly excepting Wrath, have had some pretty destructive habits. I hurt for him when he was kicked out of the Brotherhood, but at the same time, I knew it was for the best. He could not grow if he didn't leave that safety net behind. And in my understanding of addiction, you cannot enable the addicted person. Zsadist said some harsh things to Phury, and maybe they needed to be said, and at the same time, I am so glad that Phury confronted him on never saying thanks. It needed to be said. Phury has been in a vicious cycle, as my sister said. He always feels the need to play the Knight in Shining Armor, yet continually goes without having his own needs met. It has taken a toll on him and I believe, lead to him seeking solace in drugs. These Brothers are very highly sexed individuals, so I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to spend many, many years celibate, and Phury did not have Zsadist's issues with sex to lessen his sex drive. The red smoke was a coping mechanism that started to consume him. But what is most telling is that when Phury gets the chance to have all the sex he wants, as the Primale, he is tormented about it, and hedges at doing his duty. I interpreted this as Phury being a romantic, pure and simple. Also it tied into his Savior complex issues. He was just burned out, and the last thing he wanted was to be responsible for forty more people, and their offspring. Plus, he wanted one woman, Cormia. Once again, I am utterly impressed with JR Ward's ability to tell a story. This book shone from the first sentence. I love how she starts the book from the Omega's perspective, showing a little of his side of things, and showing some vulnerabilities, and what seems like 'humanity' in him. It leads so well into a major shift in the storyline. And what a shift it is. I read this book late compared to other reads. I did that on purpose. I wanted to stagger my reading of the wonderful series because I did not want to go a long time before a new installment came out. Since I am very active in the romance novel fan community, I have heard many comments about this book, a lot of them less positive. Another area of major complaints was with Cormia. I don't understand why. I adored Cormia. I think she is PERFECT for Phury. They are both innocents in some ways, and their coming together could be nothing but destiny. I was quite annoyed that Phury wouldn't yield to this destiny, but understanding his Savior/Failure complex, he felt his was not worthy of her, and would only destroy her if he gave into his love for her. Cormia was not a doormat, as has been implied. She is a soft, sweet woman, with a backbone of TITANIUM. This is made clear in how she steps up and is not afraid to tell off the Primale. I can't blame her for being intimidated by a houseful of enormous, formidable warriors. Going from a world of white and blandness to a world full of color, textures, emotions, and sensations. In fact, I loved seeing her immerse herself in this world. I enjoyed her innocent childlike enjoyment of simply running around on the lawn, and swimming naked, smelling roses, and watching movies for the first time. If anything, I wish that Phury had spent more time with her enjoying these moments. Whenever Phury was off "lighting up" I was telling him, go "play" with Cormia. However I did like that we got to see John Matthew interact with and be attracted to Cormia and to realize that his destiny lay in another direction as far as mates, a tough, strong woman that makes his heart beat faster. That person being Xhex. It was nice to see Cormia and Bella interact and become friends. Cormia picks up right away, that Phury is mooning over Bella. She feels that Bella is a rival for his affections, because right away, Cormia feels possessive of Phury. He is her man, and she does not want to share him with anyone, much less her Chosen sisters, or Bella. But soon, she realizes that Bella is a true friend, and that Bella wants Cormia to win Phury. I loved their girl-bonding moments. Cormia did help Phury in ways that the other characters could not. Her love and peaceful nature helped him to deal with his demons as he detoxed from two hundred years of drug abuse. That was a grand moment for me. I love Phury and I hated seeing him on that awful downward spiral. The scene in the bathroom was one of the most painful scenes in a book I've ever read (and since we are talking about the Black Dagger Brotherhood books, that's saying something.) It made the final triumph of Phury so much sweeter. That is not to say that Phury doesn't have a hard struggle ahead, but he is not alone in it, as he soon finds out. It was painful to see Phury and Zsadist so at odds in this book, but I realize that this had to happen for their relationship to evolve and to heal. I was so glad at the scene near the end where Zsadist comes and sings again for his brother, accompanied by the other Brothers. I was practically crying, but also smiling at this. In fact, had this not been in the book, I would have been severely disappointed. And we also find out that although it seemed that Zsadist washed his hands of Phury, he never did abandon him. That was also great to experience. I loved seeing Cormia and Phury interact. There was chemistry and fate in their interactions, although neither really seemed to grasp it. I think their relationship is one of the sweetest, most innocent in this series, and for that, it earns a special place in my heart. Now for the other character's in the book. It was so great to see more of the triad: John Matthew, Qhuinn, and Blaylock. I wish there was more of Blay's viewpoint, but maybe that will be in the next few books. I just love John Matthew so much. I am happy that he is healing, slowly but surely. Not there yet, but he's going in that direction. His sense of shame for what happens to him, should not be a burden he has to bear, but I was so glad that he knows that there are people there to love and support him. His heartbreak about the loss of Tohr is readily apparent. And his joy at his return was sweet. Qhuinn is such a complex character that we are just getting to know. He is a tortured guy just as much as the other brothers. I don't like his habit of picking up any person who's interested, but it makes sense in light of his self-worth issues. I cannot believe how callous his family was. It hurts to see "a male of worth" treated in such a way. And it shows the deep decay and rot in the society of the Glymera that a terrible person like Lash is lauded, whereas a really good, worthwhile person like Qhuinn is disparaged because he happens to have odd-colored eyes. Come on now. His relationship with Blay is so moving to me. I wish I could wave a magic wand and work things out for them, but that's not meant to be. Time will tell how things resolve in their case. Now onto Rhev. Goodness I am fascinated and attracted to his character. He is complex with a capital "C." I loved how Ward seemed to put Phury and Rhev forward as contrasts to each other. The interesting thing is that they are like different sides of the same coin. The interesting thing is that Rhev is the "dark knight," whereas Phury is the "white knight," yet in some ways Phury might be more tarnished. I don't like that Rhev is a drug-dealer and pimp. Basically he is a smooth criminal. But he is also a really good person with valid motivations. This book only made my appetite for him grow. There are so many questions about him I want answers to. I can't wait to see him find his shellan to love him. His loneliness is heartbreaking, although he does have his good friend Xhex. But even with Xhex, he has to maintain a distance that leaves him in the solitary wasteland of his own inner sorrow. Xhex has just a small part in this book, but it makes me hunger for more. She is a really cool, interesting character. I am dying to see her and John Matthew get together. They are made for each other, although one might shake her or his head at the thought of it. The bathroom scene with them was short, but WOW! Chemistry! Other great moments: Qhuinn finding his place in the world of the Brothers. That was so cool. Go Wrath! Also loved the advent of the oh-so intriguing Lassiter. I can't say the evolution of Lash was a great moment, but it made for good reading. I feel I could write ten pages about this book, but I won't belabor the point. I love this book. My life has been enriched in the reading of it. And although not all the moments I experienced in the reading were fun, I have no regrets in following these characters on their dark journey, with the hope of light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, it was some of the most enjoyable hours I've spent in the past several days.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Never Romance a Rake

This book was an enjoyable read. I must admit that Kieran's determination to debauch himself into the grave was a bit annoying at times. He had some serious guilt over an infraction he committed against his brother many years ago, and was horribly abused by his uncle guardian. Fundamentally, he has a lot of self-hatred which drives his cycle of drinking, carousing, and not taking care of himself. One thing I liked is that although it appears that he is saving Camille, she is actually saving him. He never even rethought his lifestyle until she came into his life and gave him something to live for. He carries on the act (minus the carousing) into the marriage, but Camille's backbone and determination are the factors which help him to turn his life around. Carlyle is an exquisite writer. I do enjoy reading her books. Her love scenes are pretty hot but tasteful. I didn't like the first love scene because it felt tawdry, but then maybe that was the point. This is rather early on into their relationship, and Kieran hasn't faced that his feelings for Camille are deeper than sexual. The other love scenes have more of the emotions that were missing from the first one. It was nice to see Kemble in this one. He's a fixture in the Carlyle books. This is actually the third in the trio after Never Decieve a Duke and Never Lie to a Lady, so we meet the two prior couples after the fact. However this doesn't spoil the book. This works well as a standalone, although you will probably be tempted to go back and read the other books, as you will probably find the supporting characters interesting and engaging enough to read more of their stories. I would say that this book shines because of its heroine. She is strong and a survivor. She's very intelligent and pragmatic. She's not a whiny, insipid, stupid heroine that makes you want to throw the book down out of frustration. In fact, her balanced, mature personality is a saving grace for Kieran, and ultimately it is why I did like this book so much. She's had a rough life, but she is determined to succeed in having a better future. Her grit is irresistible. I also like that she is so very French, but not in a stereotypical way (at least not to me). I also liked that Carlyle uses the slavery culture of Barbados as a major plot point, as Kieran grew up there. It plays a role in shaping why Kieran has the issues he does, and becomes part of his mission for the future once he turns his life around. While this was not my favorite book by Carlyle, it was engaging and a keeper. I have an issue with prolonged self-pity (everyone is allowed five minutes and then you need to move on), so I think that is why this wasn't five stars.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

My Hopefully Exacting List of Qualifications Before I Will Buy A Book

I have way too many books. I admitted it. Having put together four bookshelves that are 6 1/2 feet tall by 3-4 feet wide in the past few days and having filled them more or less to the brim, I must admit I own too many books. I have more books in the garage. I am a bibliophile. I am a book-addict. It's the truth. There are worse addictions, most definitely. And I am not about to give up my books. But I must cut down on my book-buying. So here is a plan. I will put together a list of questions I must be able to answer yes before I buy a book.
Here are the questions:

1. Can I afford to buy this book right now?
2. Can I get this book for a better price?
3. Do I have to read this book?
4. Why do I want to read this book?
5. Do I honestly think I will enjoy this book?
6. What is the track record for my reading of books by this author? Good or bad?
7. Have my trusted bookreading friends raved about this book?
8. Is this book worth taking up more space in my crowded book collection?
9. Will reading this book be a good use of my admittedly sparse free time?
10. Will buying this book get into the way of fulfilling a more important fiscal responsibility?
11. Is this book one of my not-to-be-missed themes (i.e. virgin hero, tortured hero) but does notinvolve themes I detest (adultery) or objectionable subject matter (menage, non-vanilla sex)?
12. Is this book part of a series not to be missed?

Okay I think this is a good list. I think that I should have to be answer yes or have a good answer to Questions 1, 3-6, 9, and 10-12, and no to 2 before I buy a book. If I am undecided, then I will require question 7 to be a yes as well.

In addition, I will no longer buy a book because what the heck, it's only $1, unless I can answer most of the above questions in the required manner.

I will not buy a book just because it is the latest controversy in the romance novel reading world. That is just a waste of time and energy, and I may end up hating the book and being frustrated anyway.

Lastly, I will do my best to keep my trips to the bastion of all book lovers' havens, Half Price Books, to once a month. Danielle, you can do this. I know it's hard, but you can do it.

The Wedding Journey by Carla Kelly

This book was a joy to read. It was so well-written and engaging. Jesse is a hero you cannot help but love and admire. His steadfast, deep love for Elinore remains silent for a long time, but when she has need of him, he moves heaven and earth for her. Jesse is considered shy, but he is the perfect example of the shy person who has a core and will of steel. As a doctor, he is not a violent person by nature, but his intellect and strong sense of morality and resourcefulness are much more enjoyable. The sensuality is very subtle but pleasantly evident. When Jesse and Nell consummate their marriage, it's so well-done you want to reread it. It's nice to read a book where the love relationship is evidenced in so many ways in addition to bedroom scenes. This book takes place on the frontlines of the Napoleonic Wars in Spain. Jesse is a doctor in the army, and Elinore is an aid in the army hospital, and the daughter of a ne'er do well officer. When her mother dies, an unscrupulous major calls in her father's debt, asking for her in exchange for the large sum that her father cannot come up with. When push comes to shove, Jesse offers to marry her to save her from ruin. He does it because it's the right thing to do, but also because he truly, deeply loves her. His love for Nell will bring warmth and light to your heart as you read this book. The good news is that his regard is returned. Nell has always thought Jesse to be out of her reach, but she has admired him, and felt deep affection for him. Her affection believably turns into love as she spends time with him, and realizes that he would do just about anything for her. The journey is fraught with danger, but there is also lots of humor, sometimes off-color as you are reading about people who are in the military and face life and death every day. Kelly's writing feels period to me, but also has a warmth, intelligence, and humor that is irresistible. Jesse is mostly the third person narrator, and he has the dry but hilarious Scottish wit that I cannot ever resist in a character or person. He represents the shy person that doesn't speak unless they really have something to say, and when they do, you listen. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for those lovers of romance who want to go back to basics and see the journey that two lovers take as they come to realize their future is together.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

2008 Reading Recap

Categories of books read (approximate numbers)
Harlequin Presents: 60
Silhouette Nocturne: 3
Silhouette Desire: 11
Urban fantasy: 7
Mainstream Contemporary Romance: 2
Single Title Contemporary Romance: 3
Paranormal Romance (contemporary): 21
Dark Fantasy Erotic Romance: 1
Short Story Romance: 5
Anthology (non-romance): 10
Young Adult: 2
Regency Historical Romance: 8
Western Historical Romance: 7
Medieval Historical Romance: 14
Elizabethan Historical Romance: 2
Victorian Historical Romance: 2
Georgian Historical Romance: 1
Colonial Historical Romance: 1
Interracial Romance: 7
Traditional Regency Romance: 1
Harlequin Romance: 1
Silhouette Romance: 1

Totals: 179 (lowest in a while--unfortunately the job and putting in the garden gotg into the way!)

Faery: 4
Scotland/Scottish Hero: 4
Shapeshifter: 1
Horror: 2
Sheikh: 7

Best Books of 2008
Dark Needs at Night's Edge by Kresley Cole
Dark Desires After Dusk by Kresley Cole
Surrender by Pamela Clare
Christmas Getaway by Stuart/Leonard/Lennox
A Western Winter Wonderland by St. John/Kernan/Crooks
Only a Duke Will Do by Sabrina Jeffries
Fire and Ice by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Tempt Me Not by Eve Byron
Romance of the Rose by Julie Beard
The Desert Lord's Bride by Olivia Gates
The Dream Hunter by Sherrilyn Kenyon
This Is All I Ask by Lynn Kurland
From this Moment On by Lynn Kurland
Sale or Return Bride by Sarah Morgan
Ice Storm by Anne Stuart
Hostage to Pleasure by Nalini Singh
My Immortal Protector by Jen Holling
A Personal Matter by Karyn Langhorne
Comanche Moon by Catherine Anderson
Into the Shadow by Christina Dodd
Into the Flame by Christina Dodd
Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer
Charming the Prince by Teresa Medeiros
Murphy's Lore: Through the Drinking Glass by Patrick Thomas
Lover Revealed by JR Ward
Lover Unbound by JR Ward
The Spinster and the Rake by Anne Stuart
Unshapely Things by Mark Del Franco
Mr. Fix-It by Crystal Hubbard
Cory's Salvation by Shara Azod
Red Skies at Night by Shara Azod
Tallchief's Bride by Cait London
Tallchief for Keeps by Cait London
Rafe Palladin: Man of Secrets by Cait London
The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole
Nightingale's Lament by Simon R. Green
The Warrior by Kinley MacGregor
Bad Ass Faeries by Various
Tales of the Arabian Nights compiled by Andrew Lang
The Crimson Fairy Book
The Violet Fairy Book
The Perfect Fit by Cait London
Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
Mistress for the Weekend by Susan Napier
Dark Side of the Moon by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Love in the Valley by Susan Napier
Penelope and Prince Charming by Jennifer Ashley
Mustang Wild by Stacey Kayne
Maverick Wild by Stacey Kayne

Best New to Me Authors
Stacey Kayne
Olivia Gates
Crystal Hubbard
Shara Azod
Aliyah Burke
Patrick Thomas
Sarah Morgan
Pamela Clare

Reading Goals for 2009

Read more books that are not necessarily romance
Try to read more of books that I own already and try to buy less books until I have read more of my owned books (yeah right)
Read more new authors
Read more ebooks
Read more classic horror/weird fiction/pulp fiction
Read more urban fantasy
Read a Carpatian (Christine Feehan book)
Read more young adult/children's fantasy
Read more historical romance, particularly western, traditional regency, exotic
Read more sheikh-themed books
Read more interracial
Read more contemporary romance (nonparanormal)
Read more paranormal romance
Get most of my collection into good reads and shelfari

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Blue Moon Rising by Simon R. Green

Blue Moon Rising is a thrilling, entrancing story that you will have trouble putting down. It's quite long, at just under 500 pages, and there is so much going on. Yet the storytelling is so involving that you don't have time to be bored. Although this is definitely a fantasy book, it also is a story about an everyday type of hero, even a reluctant hero. Rupert is a man who was raised to live in his brother's shadow. He is the unwanted second son of the Forest Land Kingdom. His father deliberately did not encourage a close relationship between him and his son because he thought he might have to one day order his death to prevent civil war in the kingdom, as there can only be one king. Also the rather cutthroat world of court politics did not encourage him to trust. As such, Rupert is a loner by nature, his one friend his trusty unicorn. The story begins when Rupert sets out on his quest to find and kill a dragon, as ordered by his King. Unfortunately he must travel through the Darkwood, which is a place of ancient evil and darkness. This journey starts Rupert down the road to becoming the strong, cpable man that he is meant to be. Watching Rupert evolve is fascinating. I found myself falling in love with Rupert early on in this story because of his will do what is necessary, but also his heart and ability to love and give of himself selflessly. When he meets Julia, neither of them knows how pivotal they will be to each other. Julia is a cast-off from her own kingdom, meant to be a sacrifice to the dragon, who doesn't want to eat her, and actually would prefer if she went away with the Prince. The dragon is a jovial personality, who becomes friends with Rupert, and accompanies Rupert on his journey back home. So begins a trek that will test the mettle of the four, in every way. For the Darkwood is expanding, and the night is spreading, and the bloodthirsty demons with it. This book has a lot of sad things happening, and a lot of people die, but there is also a lot of humor. To me, that is the best thing about Green's writing: he is very funny. But he also uses worlds richly but not floridly, to tell a great story. At times, this story can be bloody, but Green's humor and what I believe is his goodnatured approach to life that shines through in his stories keep the book from being depressing. I wouldn't want to spoil anyone, but it definitely has a happy ending, or I wouldn't love it so much. For those romantics, there is a great love story between Rupert and Julia. This couple is made for each other, and you are glad to see them find love with each other. There are magical creatures and magic throughout the book. If you like such things in a book, you would love this one. I don't know that I've read much high fantasy, but I would consider this in the vein of high fantasy, but with a sense of humor and lots of action that keeps it readable and moving along at a rapid pace.In the end, I cannot say enough how much I love this book. I definitely look forward to reading more about Rupert and Julia's adventures, which continue in the Hawk and Fisher books.

December Reads

1.The Desert Lord's Bride. Olivia Gates. A+. (Disguise, Misunderstood, Bad Reputation, Sheikh, Lost Heir, Arranged Marriage). Silhouette Desire. Farah, Shehab. 12/6/08.
2.The Executive's Valentine Seduction. Merline Lovelace. B+. (Reunited, Military, Hero in Pursuit). Silhouette Desire. Caroline, Rory. 12/6/08.
3.Windfall. Emily Carmichael. A+. (Pregnant, Marriage of Convenience, Across the Pond, Woman Doctor, Victorian, Western.) Ellen, Jordan. 12/7/08.
4.The Changelings: Firestorm. B. (Erotic Romance, Anthology, Review Read, Shapeshifters, Paranormal, Non-vanilla sex). 12/6/08.
5.A Bride for the Holidays. Renee Roszel. A. (Holiday, Cold heart, Wary of Love, Marriage Bargain, Pretend Lovers, Animals). Silhouette Romance. Dragan, Trisha. 12/10/08.
6.The Heir. Johanna Lindsey. A. (Scottish hero, Family feud, Seeking a Bride, Friends to Lovers, Plain Jane, Regency, Family Scandal). Sabrina, Duncan. 12/2/08.
7."Fire and Ice" from Man of My Dreams. Sherrilyn Kenyon. A+. (Scarred hero, Tortured hero, Futuristic, Scarred heroine, Healing Abilities, Avoiding forced marriage, Shotgun marriage.) Adron, Livia. 12/13/08.
8.Home for the Holidays. Johanna Lindsey. A. (Revenge, Cold and Heartless, Holiday, Family, Knight in tarnished armor, Tortured hero, seduction, Hero in Pursuit). Larissa, Vincent. 12/13/08.
9.Naughty or Nice. Melanie George. A. (Addiction, Self-made hero, Military, Holiday, Woman in Pants, Guardian, Tarnished Knight, Dark Secret, Vengeance). Lucian, Fancy. 12/14/08.(Challenge read-holiday)
10.Romance of the Rose. Julie Beard. A+. (Elizabethan, Spy, Intrigue, Woman Playwright, Shakespeare, Theater, Enemies to Lovers, Unrequited). 12/20/08. Drake, Rosalind. (Challenge read-marriage/four letters in title)
11.The Desert Virgin. Sandra Marton. A (Captive, Special Forces/Warrior, Alpha hero, On the Run, Pseudo-scarlet woman). Harlequin Present. Cameron, Leanna. 12/21/08.
12.Tempt Me Not. Eve Byron. A+ (Compromised, shotgun marriage, unrequited, friends to Lovers, Family secrets, Love wary, Historical Regency). Jillian, Max. 12/21/08.
13.The Moon: Dravian's Seer. Selena Illyria. A-. (Seer, Tormented heroine, crush, Bargain, Fated to be mated, Dark Fantasy (sword and sorceror, Interracial: BWWM). Dravian, Lilya. 12/22/08.
14.A Western Winter Wonderland. Cheryl St. John, Jenna Kernan, Pam Crooks. A+ (Holiday). 12/22/08.
15."Sultry" from Summer Love. A+ . Reread. (Sherriff/Gunslinger, Pretend Marriage, Saloon Owner, Showdown, Hero in Pursuit, Fallen from grace, Western). 12/25/08.
16.Christmas Getaway. Anne Stuart/Tina Leonard/Marion Lennox. A+ (Holiday, Family, Stolen Diamonds, On the Run, fugitive, Lawman, Related stories). 12/26/08.
17. The Prince's Arranged Bride. Susan Stephens. B+. (Arranged Marriage, Bargain, Royalty, Lawyer heroine, Pregnant). Harlequin Presents. Emily, Alessandro. 12/27/08.
18.Christmas Wedding Belles. Nicola Cornick/Margaret McPhee/Miranda Jarrett. A. (Regency, Georgian, Harlequin Historicals, Famous Historical Figures). 12/27/08.
19.Winter Kissed. Michele Hauf/Vivi Anna. A. (Paranormal, Winter Folklore. Interracial (AWWM) in Ice Bound by Vivi Anna. 12/27/08.
20.Only a Duke Will Do. Sabrina Jeffries. A++. (Reunited, Betrayed, Hero in Pursuit, Crusader heroine/Bluestocking, Confirmed Spinster, Regency, Politics, Social Reform, Celibate Hero, Tortured Hero.) Simon, Louisa. 12/27/08.