Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Stealing Shadows by Kay Hooper

Stealing Shadows (Shadows Trilogy)Title: Stealing Shadows  
Author: Kay Hooper  
Series: Bishop/Special Crimes Unit (book #1)  
Next in series: Hiding in the Shadows

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Cassie Neil is a psychic who helps the police capture killers until the day she makes a mistake and feels compelled to live a quieter life. Unfortunately, Cassie's new home is being stalked by a murderer but no one believes her until the bodies start piling up.

Review: Well-written with several twists and turns to keep you guessing.

The plot appears to be your typical serial killer fare but the climax turns out to be quite a shocker. For once, I was unable to guess the killer even though there are definitely sufficient clues. This might be because I was distracted (in a good way) by the romantic and paranormal aspects of the story.

The psychic elements are believable perhaps due to the fact that a main character has his doubts concerning the heroine’s abilities. He is eventually convinced by the evidence and becomes a staunch believer, thereby mimicking the readers experience and allowing for suspension of disbelief.

The primary romance builds slowly but develops into an intense and captivating relationship. Cassie is extremely strong willed and keeps herself at a distance, which can be irritating at times but is clearly consistent with the nature of her psychic abilities. Ben is attractive and sensitive but not without his own flaws, which he must overcome to save Cassie’s life.

The development of the minor characters is one of the details that draw you into the story because the women, who are easy to identify with and care about, are potential victims while the men are possible suspects. One of the few flaws in the book is that the killer’s motivation is not sufficiently developed and it would have been better to have more information about what makes him tick.

Overall, this is an entertaining and suspenseful read and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Sins of the Heart by Eve Silver

Sins of the Heart (Hqn)
Title: Sins of the Heart
Author: Eve Silver
Series: The Otherkins (book #1)
Next in series: Sins of the Soul

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: When Roxy Tam first met Dagan Krayl, he changed her life forever. As the son of Sutekh (Set), the Egyptian god of Chaos, Dagan is a soul reaper but, nevertheless, chooses to spare Roxy’s life. Now, eleven years later, the two are on a collision course when they find themselves on opposing sides while investigating the murder of Dagan’s youngest brother. Can they put old hurts and rivalries aside in their common goal to discover the truth and prevent an all-encompassing war that may result in the destruction of humanity?

Review: Starts out a little slow but picks up pace and finishes off with a cliffhanger that leaves you gasping for more.

The plot develops slowly and becomes quite complex with the connections between people and events unclear at first. However, as the story progresses, things begin to make sense and I enjoyed the process of working out the mystery for myself without being spoon fed the details. There are, nonetheless, one or two unresolved questions and gaping plot holes that will hopefully be filled in later.

Roxy and Dagan have an intense and sensual relationship, and both are extremely likeable. Roxy is strong willed, defiant and honorable, and Dagan is intelligent, charming and sensitive despite his occupation as a soul reaper. I enjoyed the push and pull between them and it was interesting to see them reconcile their conflicting loyalties. In terms of the secondary characters, there are numerous gods and their minions to keep track of (not as many thankfully as in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters series), and the more prominent figures, such as Dagan’s brothers and the various villains could have been better developed.

The writing is good and the banter between characters, especially between the hero and heroine, is witty and engaging. I did find some of the transitions between scenes and chapters disjointed, and there are several repetitive descriptions and turns of phrase, such as the emphasis on Roxy’s skin and eye color. The world of the Otherkins is intriguing but some readers may find it dark and disturbing. Some characters, for instance, are serial killers and child molesters.

Overall, a bold beginning to a promising series and I look forward to reading the next one.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Behind Closed Doors / Shannon McKenna

Behind Closed Doors (The McCloud Brothers, Book 1)
Title: Behind Closed Doors
Author: Shannon McKenna
Series: McCloud Brothers (book #1)
Next in series: Standing in the Shadows

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: Security expert, Seth Mackay seeks revenge against the man responsible for the murder of his brother, and he will go to any lengths including stalking his target's latest flame, Raine Cameron. What Seth doesn't know is that Raine has her own agenda, but when the two meet, sparks fly and all is forgotten until Raine becomes the object of obsession for a madman...

Review: Despite the intricate and well-paced plot, this book is not without its flaws. To begin with, the hero is completely obnoxious and domineering. While it is obvious that his rough exterior is merely a façade meant to conceal the insecurities of a man who was neglected as a boy and who has lost the only person he ever loved, I found it difficult to identify with him because this wall never comes down not even at the end when he has supposedly learned to love and trust again. The heroine, however, does grow and change throughout the story and becomes more likeable. As the tale begins, she is annoyingly naïve and a complete doormat but thankfully develops a backbone and begins standing up for herself. I liked the fact that she knew how to put the hero in his place both in and outside of the bedroom.

In terms of the secondary characters, the book has two villains – one completely diabolical and the other quite witty and charming. This is actually one of the few books in which I found myself liking the “bad guy”. Despite his machinations, he has true affection for the heroine and makes the ultimate sacrifice for her (you’ll just have to read it to find out what I mean).

The writing flows and Ms. McKenna definitely knows how to write a love scene. Nevertheless, I found that her descriptions of the various surveillance technologies and techniques were excessive; the role play scenes were irritating and the supernatural overtones out of place. The book is supposedly a romantic suspense and the paranormal aspects detract from the overall reading experience.

Overall, I enjoyed it enough to read the next book in the series, which according to all reports only get better from this point on.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Samson's Lovely Mortal by Tina Folsom

Samson's Lovely Mortal: Scanguards Vampires
Title: Samson’s Lovely Mortal
Author: Tina Folsom
Series: Scanguards Vampires (book #1)
Next in series: Amaury’s Hellion

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Samson Woodford has two problems. First, he a vampire and second, he’s impotent. While there is nothing he can do for the first, he is determined to solve the second by visiting a psychiatrist. Nothing seems to work until the moment that Delilah Sheridan arrives on his doorstep wet, bedraggled and scared out of her wits because someone is following her. After sharing a night of passion, Samson finds it difficult to let his new found treasure go, especially since someone is obviously interested in killing her.

Review: An engaging mix of romance, paranormal and suspense.

Yes, the main characters’ names are Samson and Delilah (corny, right?) but their personalities and back stories are, nevertheless, exceedingly well developed and interesting - I really liked the fact that the vampires have very human emotions and predicaments. Samson is completely charming and witty, and the way he copes with his performance problems contributes significantly to the humor in the story. Delilah is just as likeable with her own personal demons. She definitely knows what she wants and never allows herself to be dominated.

Folsom’s vampire world is not unique; it actually calls to mind Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breeds only it lacks the intricate detail of that series. The plot is not the most exciting but it is well paced and intelligent. It also involves compelling themes of greed, betrayal and vengeance. I did, however, have a couple of issues with it. First, the nature of the mystery and the identity of the villain are obvious from the outset, and second, the story would have been just as enjoyable without making the hero a vampire - human corporate types can be just as dangerous. Thus, the paranormal elements feel a bit contrived.

On a final note, while the opening line is seriously explicit, I did not find the sex scenes too excessive or overly graphic (despite the warning at the beginning of the book). It is nothing compared to the ACRO series.

All in all, I went in with few expectations and was pleasantly surprised. This book is a light and entertaining read and I will definitely read the next.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Night Embrace by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Night EmbraceTitle: Night Embrace
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Series: Dark Hunters (Book #2)
Previous in series: Night Pleasures
Next in series: Dance with the Devil

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: After sacrificing his soul for vengeance against those who murdered his family, Talon becomes a Dark Hunter and vows never to love again. However, once Sunshine Runningwolf comes into his life, he can no longer deny his emotions. As the two grow closer, they discover that they are merely pawns in a horrendous plan to release the ultimate destroyer on an unsuspecting world. Talon and his fellow Dark Hunters are the only ones who can stop the inevitable destruction but will it be at the price of Sunshine’s life?

Review: A good story with some really funny moments and some equally poignant ones. It does, however, drag at times. The first half in particular feels too drawn out until the action begins. In addition, an excessive number of characters and concepts are introduced, and I personally found it difficult to keep track of everyone.

Kenyon’s strongest skill is her characterization and this book is a case in point. Talon and Sunshine's personalities and back stories are engrossing and they are what make this a worthwhile read. Talon’s suffering is heart-wrenching but not overwhelming and he never comes across as too anguished or whiny. Sunshine is also a likeable character once you get passed her annoying name and tendency to fall for inappropriate men. She is strong and independent, and I found her quirky forgetfulness endearing. While their sexual relationship begins very quickly, their immediate connection is explained within the plot and is, therefore, realistic and believable.

The secondary characters are just as interesting, especially the psychological and physically tortured Zarek. I also look forward to reading more about Vane and the other Were-Hunters.

The epilogues are also something I appreciated in the book. The flashbacks of the other Dark Hunters’ histories are actually what compel me to continue reading the series as I am interested in discovering the connections between the characters and how they will overcome their differences.

Overall, a worthy read with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Taming the Fire by Sydney Croft

Taming the FireTitle: Taming the Fire  
Author: Sydney Croft  
Series: ACRO (book #4)  
Previous in series: Seduced by the Storm  
Next in series: Tempting the Fire

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: Tortured and abused by the diabolical Itor agency, Ulrika Jaeger is now on the run together with her internal beast, which she can only control using sex. Trance is the ACRO agent sent to capture and control her but he soon finds himself awakening long buried desires and emotions that will change both his and Rik’s lives forever.

Review: The Sydney Croft duo are adept at incorporating multiple romances into one all-encompassing story. The main couple, Trance and Rik, are an interesting pair. Both are plagued by personal demons but refuse to be controlled by them, and ultimately manage to come to terms with who they are. Their initial relationship is based on sex but develops and grows into something more quite quickly (an element that is missing in Unleashing the Storm). I should point out that the books incorporate several BDSM scenes, and even though I do not particularly enjoy books of this type, the scenes are skillfully woven into the fabric of the story and manage not to become excessive.

Meg and Ryan are my favorite couple possibly due to the slow build-up of their relationship and the intensity of their emotional, and ultimately, sexual connection. Ryan’s amnesia and internal struggle with the possibility of his dangerous desires add to the complexity of their bond. Dev and Gabe's story was also sweet but not as engrossing perhaps because I am not really into m/m relationships.

Although the writing flows and the story is entertaining, I did not find Taming the Fire as enjoyable as Seduced by the Storm. First, the animal theme was too similar to the second book, Unleashing the Storm, which was a disappointing read (see review here), and second, the ending feels forced and contrived.

Finally, the hints at Marlena’s story are intriguing and I look forward to reading more about her in the next book.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Cruel Enchantment by Anya Bast

Cruel Enchantment (Dark Magick, Book 2)Title: Cruel Enchantment
Author: Anya Bast
Series: Dark Magic (book #2)
Next in series: Dark Enchantment

My rating: 5 Stars 

Synopsis: Many people would love to see Emmaline Gallagher dead but none more so than Aeric O’Malley. In her role as the Summer Queen’s assassin, Emmaline disposed of sadists and murderers but she also killed Aeric’s fiancée and now he wants revenge. However, when given the opportunity, he finds himself inexplicably attracted to his nemesis and soon learns that things are not as they seem and Emmaline may be the only chance the fae have to secure their freedom.

Review: I absolutely adore this series. Bast is an imaginative writer and it is so easy to become immersed in the intricate world of the fae. The abundance of different races never becomes overwhelming as often happens in books of this type. The story is exhilarating with several nail-biting moments that left me breathless.

I must admit that I was somewhat skeptical about the romance between Aeric and Emmaline given the depth of animosity between them, but Bast cleverly intertwines hints and clues to demonstrate that appearances can be deceiving in more ways than one. Emmaline is a wonderful character – tortured and vulnerable but with a core of solid steel, and Aeric’s struggle against his growing feelings for her is riveting.

The secondary characters are also well developed and some will obviously have books of their own in the future. The villains are truly diabolical and I can’t wait for them get their eventual comeuppance. I do have one miniscule problem with the way in which one evil character meets his demise – he did not suffer nearly enough given his crimes.

A compelling mixture of danger, intrigue and intense romance, Cruel Enchantment is a great read and I am definitely continuing with the series.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Midnight Awakening by Lara Adrian

Midnight Awakening (The Midnight Breed, Book 3)Title: Midnight Awakening
Author: Lara Adrian
Series: The Midnight Breed (book #3)
Previous in series: Kiss of Crimson
Next in series: Midnight Rising

My rating: 4.5 Stars

Synopsis: Elise Chase has lived a sheltered life in the Darkhavens of the Breed race but following the horrific death of her son, swears vengeance against those responsible for his downfall. In order to attain her goal, she must first learn to control her debilitating gift and is forced to turn to the most unlikely of allies, Tegan, the deadliest of the Breed warriors.

Review: An engrossing page turner. Midnight Awakening has the best plot in the series so far and contains many of my favorite devices including a secret book, an enigmatic riddle and the rise of an ancient enemy. The book wraps up the story line from the previous installments only to conclude with a cliffhanger that introduces the conflict to come. My one small nitpick is that the villain’s eventual demise is a little anti-climactic.  

The romance comes in a close second to the previous book, Kiss of Crimson. Tegan and Elise are a wonderful union of opposites and develop an intense emotional and sensual bond. Some readers may find Elise to be snobbish and aloof but I found her strength of character and underlying vulnerability to be engaging - she can definitely kick butt with the best of them. Tegan is a tortured soul and it is great to see him find his ultimate match. I particularly enjoyed the complementary nature of their extrasensory gifts, which added an additional layer to their connection.

Adrian has created an imaginative and immersing world that only improves with each new book, and I look forward to reading the next in the series.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts

Chasing FireTitle: Chasing Fire
Author: Nora Roberts

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: As a smokejumper, one of the elite group of firefighters who thrive on danger and adrenaline, Rowan Tripp doesn't usually mix business with pleasure but she's about to make an exception with the new rookie, Gull Curry. Soon their new found romance is threatened when they become the target of a madman bent on vengeance.

Review: Another solid story from Nora Roberts. The characters are engaging and the dialogue and banter is hilarious. The hero is sweet and charming, but the heroine is rather brash and there are one or two scenes in which she is completely unlikeable (she does redeem herself toward the end). The secondary characters could have been better developed and almost become interchangeable.

The smoke jumpers plot is well-researched and gripping but the fire-fighting sections are overly detailed, drawn out and become tedious after a while. It feels as if these descriptions come at the expense of the suspense plot and characterization of the humans in the book. 

The story really pulled me in at the outset but as I got past the halfway mark, there was no real suspense or tension either in terms of the romance, which is somewhat lackluster, or the mystery as the identity of the villain is obvious and his motivation, while reasonable and sympathetic, is also quite trite.

While the book is enjoyable and I recommend it for fans of Nora and the romantic suspense genre, it is not one of her best efforts.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Desire Untamed by Pamela Palmer

Desire UntamedTitle: Desire Untamed
Author: Pamela Palmer
Series: Feral Warriors (book #1)
Next in series: Obsession Untamed

My rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis: Kara MacAllister has always lived a quiet life in a sleepy town but suddenly learns that she is the key to the survival of an entire race. Soon her life is threatened by a malicious evil and the only one she can trust is the man who arouses in her a fierce and primal hunger that threatens to consume them both. 

Review: Absolutely amazing read! The phenomenal story grabs you from the start and won't let go until the very end. On one or two occasions, I even began talking to myself about certain scenes or holding my breath in anticipation. There are several twists in the tale that keep you guessing and a cliffhanger that leaves you wanting more.

The characters are very well developed. Some readers may find the names of the warriors a bit trite but I appreciate the symbolism behind them and the way the names reflect their individual personalities. The romantic leads have a sizzling chemistry and the heroine can definitely stand up for herself in a house full of uber-alpha men. The hero’s backstory provides insight into his emotional distance; it was unfortunate that the heroine’s background is not as clearly delineated. However, as her story is central to the plot arc, this may come in subsequent books.

The writing is well-paced and engrossing. The sex scenes are cleverly merged into the plot and do not have that “tacked on” feel that characterizes some paranormal romance books.

Overall, this is possibly the best first book in a series that I’ve read and is a wonderful introduction to the continuing story. I really can’t wait to read the next one.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Nightkeepers by Jessica Andersen

Nightkeepers (Final Prophecy, Book 1)
Title: Nightkeepers
Author: Jessica Andersen
Series: The Final Prophecy (book #1)
Next in series: Dawnkeepers

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: The apocalypse is coming on December 21, 2012 and the Nightkeepers, a race of warriors with special powers originating in the barrier between this world and the next, are the only ones who can prevent it. Detective Leah Daniels is investigating a cult dedicated to human sacrifice and cashing in on the end of the world. She is on the verge of becoming their latest victim when Strike Jaguar, the Nightkeeper prince, rescues her and the two discover that their destinies are intertwined and they must work together to save humanity.

Review: An intense plot, strong characterization and a well-developed mythology based on the Mayan culture. Nevertheless, the story is a bit drawn out, could have had better focus and been reduced by at least 100 pages. Numerous characters, places and magical abilities are introduced which may be confusing and makes it easy to lose track of the narrative if one is not paying attention. I, for one, enjoy this type of detail and made good use of pen and paper to keep everything organized.

While the romantic leads were interesting as individuals, Leah and Strike’s relationship was lacking chemistry and had absolutely no emotional foundation or impact. They barely know each other but suddenly feel that they are soul mates. The secondary characters were more engaging. Rabbit’s teenage angst was endearing and I truly commiserated with his parental issues. In fact, his father, Red-Boar is one of the very few apparently good characters that I found myself despising. It is a sign of Ms. Andersen’s writing skill that she could evoke such emotion in this reader.

Speaking of writing, the book is obviously well-researched and the prose flows. However, I did find the language and dialogue grating at times with an overabundant use of slang and cliché, and some repetitive wording here and there.

All in all, this is a pretty good read and the series has potential. I will read the next book to see if it improves on its shortcomings.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Elizabeth's Wolf by Lora Leigh

Elizabeth's Wolf (Wolf Breeds, Book 4)
Title: Elizabeth’s Wolf
Author: Lora Leigh
Series: Breeds (book #3)
Previous in series: The Man Within
Next in series: Kiss of Heat

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Dash Sinclair is a lone wolf with no one to call his own until one single, innocent letter brings him literally back to life. Elizabeth Colder is a mother on the run who will do anything to protect her child. Now, Dash and Elizabeth must overcome their worst fears and learn to love and trust or they will never survive the deadly threat they face.

Review: A compelling and entertaining addition to the imaginative Breeds series. There is a significant improvement in the balance between the story and the scorching love scenes, which mesh well with the plot rather than overshadowing it as they do in previous installments.

The characterization is well-developed and consistent. Dash and Elizabeth have an intense chemistry from the outset. Dash exhibits some of the characteristics of a tortured hero but these are tempered by his emotional connection to his brothers-in-arms, and to Elizabeth and her daughter. Elizabeth is an intriguing amalgamation of the pure mothering figure and the smart and sexy spitfire. Although she is immediately drawn to Dash’s strength and sensuality this does not override her doubts and trust issues. I liked that fact that their relationship builds over time and is not an instantaneous combustion as in the first two books. One problem I did have is with the sudden materialization of secondary characters toward the end with little to no development, and the fact that the villain always remains in the background, which minimizes the threat of his menace.

The writing is smooth and the book includes one of the most engrossing prologues I’ve ever read. The use of letters to establish the initial connection between the characters enhances the romance and is an excellent plot device. There are number of plot holes such as the inconsistency between Dash’s desire to protect Elizabeth and his deliberate decision to place her in harm’s way. Nevertheless, these do not detract from the overall story.

This is a sexy and entertaining read and I can’t wait for the next one. I finally get to read about Kane and Sherra.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Heart of Evil by Heather Graham (ARC)

Heart of Evil (Krewe of Hunters)
Title: Heart of Evil
Author: Heather Graham
Series: Krewe of Hunters
Previous in series: Phantom Evil
Next in series: Sacred Evil

My rating: 3 Stars

Synopsis: When a man is found murdered following a civil war reenactment, Ashley Donegal seeks the help of an old flame, Jake Mallory, a member of the FBI's paranormal investigative unit. It soon becomes clear that a madman with a grudge is on the rampage and Ashley and her family are his target.

Review: The idea of a killer with a historic score to settle is interesting and constitutes a strong foundation for the story. Nevertheless, the plot is poorly executed. The prologue provides no preliminary information and could easily have been another chapter. The division into chapters is problematic in the sense that the narrative begins from the POV of one character and switches to another in the same chapter with no warning, which can be confusing at times.

The characters are like cardboard cutouts and their characterization lacks substance. Even though the romantic couple has more of a connection than the pair in the first book; there is still a serious absence of chemistry in their relationship. The secondary characters are not sufficiently developed and the suspects are merely candidates for a police line-up. Very few clues are provided for the reader to follow, and the villain is ultimately revealed after everyone else is either killed or has an alibi. I would like to point out that I enjoyed the plot in this book more than in the first.

Ms. Graham has many fans out there. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. Her writing does not appeal to me as I do not enjoy having the story spoon fed to me as if I am unable to follow a narrative thread.

I can only recommend this for Graham devotees but I will not be continuing with the series.

Heart of Evil is scheduled for release on June 28, 2011. An advance copy of the book was provided to me for review by the publisher and