Monday, 29 August 2011

Dreamwalker by Kathleen Dante

DreamwalkerTitle: Dreamwalker
Author: Kathleen Dante

My rating: 3 Stars

Synopsis: Damon Venizelos is an incubus or dreamwalker, who works as an assassin for the US government and kills people in their sleep. His latest mission is to recruit master thief and shapeshifter, Rory diScipio, for the most dangerous job of her life – stealing a nuclear weapon from terrorists. As the two work closely together, they risk not only their lives but their hearts as well.

Review: The premise is extremely appealing; unfortunately, the execution is weak and disappointing. The dream sequences ultimately distract from the plot and characterization, and the book would have been better as a traditional espionage romance without the added paranormal elements.

The terrorist plot is alright even though certain events within the reconnaissance storyline (such as the abuse toward prostitutes and the marks Damon kills) have an artificial feel to them and do not contribute to the overall plot. 

The romance is contrived and the sex scenes repetitive. They add very little to the relationship between the hero/heroine, which remains superficial and underdeveloped. In terms of characterization, Damon and Rory’s backgrounds and motivations are hinted at but never fully materialize, which makes it difficult for the reader to become immersed in their story. Their connection is based almost solely on sex and is neither intense nor emotional.  

This is a first time author for me and I may read another of her books if I stumble across it but I won’t be seeking them out.

Night Falls Darkly by Kim Lenox

Night Falls Darkly: A Novel of the Shadow GuardTitle: Night Falls Darkly
Author: Kim Lenox
Series: Shadow Guard (book #1)
Next in series: So Still the Night

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Archer, Lord Black is an immortal warrior whose only goal is to reclaim corrupt souls. That is until the day he saves Elena Whitney from a maniac and makes her his ward. Now, he has returned to London to reclaim the soul of Jack the Ripper and must come to terms with the emotions that Elena evokes in him before they prove to be a fatal distraction.  

Review: An intriguing mix of paranormal romance, historical romance and historical mystery. The traditional Jack the Ripper tale is engrossing as always and the additional twist as to his identity is unique to say the least. The author intersperses historical figures, such as Bram Stoker and Queen Victoria, among her fictitious characters, which adds an air of credibility to the paranormal elements and the gothic Victorian atmosphere contributes a chilling quality to the overall reading experience.  

The hero is wonderfully drool-worthy and despite the fact that he initially comes across as moody and unfeeling, he is slowly revealed to be fiercely protective and intensely passionate. His chemistry with the heroine and the gripping buildup of their relationship is one of the highlights of the book.

The characterization is good but there is insufficient detail regarding Archer’s background and his relationship with the other Shadow Guards. The reader is unceremoniously dropped into the midst of their ongoing conflict and it takes a while for the circumstances to become clear. Elena’s motivation and emotions are better detailed even if her background is murky (this is explained by the fact that she suffers from amnesia). The other Shadow Guards evoke a certain amount of curiosity even though they are not particularly likeable characters.

While it is easy to follow the plot, Lenox’s writing style can be a little disorganized, and requires more exposition and explanation. Nevertheless, I will continue reading the series as its underlying mythology is very appealing.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Scandal by Amanda Quick

ScandalTitle: Scandal
Author: Amanda Quick

My Rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Resigned to a life of spinsterhood following a youthful indiscretion, Emily Faringdon never dreamed she would meet anyone who could see beyond her past. Simon Traherne, Earl of Blade, will let nothing stand in the way of his vengeance against the Faringdon family until he meets Emily and realizes that some things are more important the revenge.

Review: Quick's books never fail to put a smile on my face. The writing is immersing and the dialogue exceedingly witty. 

Emily and Simon are a wonderful couple. While some readers may find Emily’s naiveté ridiculous and annoying, to me she is a charming and gutsy character whose fondness for romantic escapism actually masks her awareness of the harsher realities of life. The outlandish situations she gets herself into are refreshingly endearing and highly amusing. Simon is also a likeable character despite the fact that he initially comes across as cold and bitter. It is great to watch him struggle with his emotions until all his coldness and reserve melt away. 

One thing I could have done without is the excessive repetition of Emily’s "metaphysical, transcendental" nonsense. Once or twice was quite enough to get the point across. Nevertheless, this did not detract from my overall enjoyment of this highly entertaining story. 

On a side note, if you have never read Quick’s books before, I would not start with this one. I can, however, recommend her first historical romance, Seduction, as a starting point.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Passion Untamed by Pamela Palmer

Passion Untamed (Feral Warriors, Book 3)Title: Passion Untamed
Author: Pamela Palmer
Series: Feral Warriors (book #3)
Previous in series: Obsession Untamed
Next in series: Rapture Untamed

My rating: 4.5 Stars

Synopsis: A Mage witch with a gentle heart, Skye is forced to kidnap and enslave a Feral Warrior, but when she learns of the heinous crimes her leader has planned, she risks her life to help the warrior escape. Left with a deep and abiding hatred for anything Mage, Paenther swears vengeance against the beautiful enchantress who has ensnared him body and soul. When threated by demonic evil, the only way out for Skye and Paenther is to go against their instincts and trust each other or perish.

Review: There is a lot going on in this book - an abundance of twists and turns, revelations and shifting loyalties. A certain character, who shall remain nameless so as not to ruin the surprise, is redeemed while another is exposed as a traitor.

More details are provided concerning the ongoing conflict between the Ferals and Mages, and one particularly significant point emerging from the book is that appearances can be deceiving, and that representatives of good and evil are not so easily differentiated.

The characterization continues to be a high point in the series. As a seriously sexy yet tortured hero, Paenther belongs to my favorite category of heroes and his loyalty and devotion to his brothers contributes to his appeal. In addition, his internal struggle between his love for Skye and his prejudices against her race makes for a compelling read. Skye is an incredibly strong-willed and resilient character but the abuse and exploitation she has suffered for her entire life require a strong stomach to read through. Moreover, readers my find her initial interactions with Paenther, in which she seduces him against his will, a bitter pill to swallow. The relationship between the other Feral Warriors and their mates is also entertaining.

On the whole, Passion Untamed is a harsh yet absorbing book. There are some extremely difficult scenes that some readers may find off-putting but the intense writing style and emotional characterization definitely make it worthwhile. The epilogue is absolutely amazing and it also looks as if things are shaping up toward an epic battle, which should be exhilarating.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Lord of the Vampire by Gena Showalter (ARC)

Lord of the Vampires (Harlequin Nocturne)Title: Lord of the Vampires
Author: Gena Showalter
Series: Royal House of Shadows
Next in series: Lord of Rage

**Note**: The other books in this series are written by different authors: Jill Monroe, Jessica Andersen and Nalini Singh.  

My Rating: 3 Stars

Once a vampire renowned for his virility, Nicolai is currently a sex slave to a revolting family of witches. When he summons help, the most unlikely of women is unable to disobey his call. Jane Parker is a human scientist who finds herself in a magical realm and must save the life of the only man she has ever craved.

Review: An intriguing reverse fairytale plot, however, the execution is exceedingly disappointing.

While I’m usually a fan of dominant alpha males, Nicolai is just too much for me – the man is a complete Neanderthal. Jane is supposed to be an intelligent scientist but comes across as a naïve and idiotic simpleton. While their sexual connection is intense and steamy, their dialogue is repetitive and ridiculous. Moreover, the villains are utterly grotesque, which is not that bad but they also come across as cartoonish.

The overall story premise has potential but events become repetitious as the book progresses. There is very little foundation or build up and explanations appear to be tacked on as an afterthought. For example, the idea of Nicolai’s amnesia and returning memory has promise but ultimately misses the mark because the process is difficult to follow with abrupt transitions between reality and memory, and Jane’s role in the return of his memories is under-developed and vague.

Overall, I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief and was unable to become immersed in the fantasy world. Nevertheless, I will most likely continue reading the series as I am interested in seeing how a different author handles the same themes and world.

Lord of the Vampires is scheduled for release on August 23, 2011. An advance copy of the book was provided to me for review by the publisher and 

Friday, 19 August 2011

14 by J. T. Ellison

14Title: 14
Author: J. T. Ellison
Series: Taylor Jackson (book #2)
Previous in series: All the Pretty Girls
Next in series: Judas Kiss

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

The Snow White Killer has returned after a 20 year hiatus to finish his heinous fairy tale. Now homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson must determine if this new killer is the real thing or a vicious copycat before more innocent girls continue to die.  

Review: A multi-layered plot that can be difficult to follow at times but wraps up smoothly into a neat package.

Taylor Jackson is a compelling character, and more information is provided about her family and past. Nevertheless, her independence and self-reliance can be overbearing at times. She reminds me quite a lot of Jane Rizzoli in Tess Gerritsen's Rizzoli & Isles series but is not as likeable (this is a personal preference and her personality may still improve in forthcoming installments).

The other characters are not as fleshed out. Each has some sort of physical or personality trait associated with them so that the reader can keep track but other than that, they are very one dimensional.

The writing flows, however, there is an imbalance in the amount of information provided about certain characters. On the one hand, some are over-developed and too much information is given away, which hampers the buildup of suspense. On the other hand, the clues as to the killer’s identity are insufficient and rely too much on descriptions of Taylor’s incomplete memories from childhood. Although, the facts are forthcoming, the book does not provide enough detail for the reader to figure out the mystery and we are forced to follow in Taylor’s footsteps. Moreover, the focus on her personal life distracts from the serial killer storyline.

The book ends on a slight cliffhanger and is a worthwhile read, especially for those planning on continuing with the series. Nevertheless, the first book, All the Pretty Girls, is better.  

Chosen Prey by Cheyenne McCray

Chosen PreyTitle: Chosen Prey
Author: Cheyenne McCray

My Rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: When former cop turned private investigator, Dare Lancaster accidentally leads a fanatical cult straight to Lyra Collins, he realizes that he has placed her in danger and is determined to save her at all costs. An escapee from a cult, Lyra finds it difficult to trust anyone but will have to work with Dare in order to thwart the plans of a fanatical cult leader convinced that Lyra is the foretold mother of the new Messiah.

Review: A well-written, suspenseful and engrossing plot with just the right mix of action and romance.

The love scenes are steamy but not overly explicit, and the main characters are engaging. Dare is a strong, honorable and surprisingly forgiving hero – I’m not sure I would be as accepting of someone who sprayed pepper spray in my face. Lyra is independent, intelligent and courageous, and is able to get out of some seriously sticky situations using her wits alone. One problematic issue with their relationship is that, given Lyra’s past, it progresses for too quickly to be completely believable but it is enjoyable nonetheless.

The secondary characters are also well-developed, especially Dare’s partner (hopefully he will get his own book) and the cult leader, whose disgusting depravity is enough to make your skin crawl.

The writing is well-paced and the dialogue flows. There are one or two incidents that had me shaking my head in disbelief but these do not ruin the overall reading experience.  

McCray is another first time author for me and I will definitely be reading more of her books.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Burning Alive by Shannon K. Butcher

Burning Alive: The Sentinel WarsTitle: Burning Alive
Author: Shannon K. Butcher
Series: The Sentinel Wars (book #1)
Next in series: Finding the Lost

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Three separate Sentinel races work together to protect humanity from demons known as the Synestryn. Drake Asher is a Theronai warrior who will die if he cannot channel his immense power through the woman destined to be his mate. Now he has found her, but Helen Day wants nothing to do with him as he is the dark-haired man who watches her burn alive in her visions.  

Review: First time author for me and I was not disappointed. Butcher’s writing is smooth and her world building is imaginative and well-developed. While almost everything about the nature of the Sentinel races is explained throughout the book, there are some tantalizing hints at revelations yet to come.

The primary and secondary characters are skillfully drawn. The characterization is so good that each and every person in the book evokes some sort of emotion from me whether amusement, sadness, annoyance or even outright dislike.

The romance is intense and the chemistry between Drake and Helen sizzles. Their remarkable connection drew me right into the story. Helen is a bit too passive and accepting at the start but grows stronger and more determined as the book progresses. Even though she fears everything that Drake represents, she is not willing to sacrifice others and is ultimately able to overcome her fears when the moment of truth arrives. Drake is fierce, sexy and loyal. He can be overbearing and possessive but this is understandable considering the fact that he has finally found the mate who can help him survive and will do anything to keep her. 

The book ends on a compelling twist and I look forward to reading more in the series.