Friday, 28 October 2011

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn

Title: The Viscount Who Loved Me
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: The Bridgertons (book #2)
Previous in series: The Duke & I
Next in series: An Offer from A Gentleman

My rating: 4.5 Stars

Synopsis: Anthony Bridgerton has finally decided to marry but must first convince his chosen bride’s sister that he is worthy. Unfortunately, Kate Sheffield is under no illusions that he is anything other than a rake and has made it her mission in life to thwart his betrothal plans. Things get even worse for Anthony when Kate begins haunting his dreams and he realizes that he may have been focusing on the wrong sister…

Review: A thoroughly entertaining sequel and it looks like I have become addicted to another series.

Quinn writes some of the best characters - Kate and Anthony have excellent chemistry, and their banter and arguing is hilarious. Kate is intelligent and witty. She speaks her mind and holds her own against Anthony in every conversation (and at Pall Mall too), which makes her one of my favorite historical heroines.

Anthony has is flaws, which is fine with me as I prefer my heroes to be less than perfect. He is an arrogant womanizer and falls short of being the ultimate gentleman, but does have many redeeming qualities such as his love for family and fundamental honor. While he is not as tortured or as gallant as Simon in The Duke & I, he is definitely a keeper.

Mrs. Whistledown’s gossipy comments are cute and funny. Upon reading them at the beginning of each chapter, I find myself considering who she may be and whether or not she is a character who has already been introduced. At this time, there are a number of good candidates and I really hope that her identity is ultimately revealed.

The story seems to lose a bit of momentum after the wedding but definitely makes up for it at the end. There are also one or two illogical notions, such as Anthony’s determination to not marry for love because this would make him fear his mortality when it is obvious that he already fears it, and Kate immediately overcoming her profound fear of storms once she realizes the underlying cause. Nevertheless, the writing is engaging and has several laugh-out-loud moments.

I rarely read books in the same series one after the other but I will definitely be making an exception in this case.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Duke & I by Julia Quinn

Title: The Duke & I
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: The Bridgertons (book #1)
Next in series: The Viscount Who Loved Me

My rating: 4.5 Stars

Synopsis: To protect himself from ambitious mothers, Simon Basset Duke of Hastings, makes a deal with his best friend’s sister – they will pretend to be engaged. For Daphne Bridgerton, the pretend betrothal turns out to be quite lucrative as she becomes the belle of the ball. The only problem is that Daphne begins falling for the devastating Duke who has made it clear that he has no intention of ever marrying.

Review: After hearing such marvelous things about this book and the series as a whole, I just had to see for myself and was not at all disappointed. The Duke and I is a wonderfully sweet and charming story with engaging characters and some of the funniest dialogue.

Julia Quinn’s writing style makes it impossible not to feel for her characters. Simon is a heart-wrenchingly tortured hero but unlike the physical torment that many characters of this type endure, Simon’s suffering is all emotional and as such even more compelling. It is amazing that he is still capable of love after the rejection that he bore as a child. 

Daphne is a spunky heroine and the way in which she handles both Simon and her brothers is inspiring. She and Simon have great chemistry and their banter is excellent. Their relationship develops in a predictable way. However, there is one questionable scene that some readers may find offensive. I don’t want to give too much away but suffice it to say that Daphne can be seen as taking advantage of Simon. I won’t say that the scene didn’t bother me because it places Daphne in a rather negative light but taken within the context of the story it is understandable if not quite acceptable. 

The introduction to the other Bridgerton siblings is mainly focused on Anthony and Colin. While both brothers are sympathetic and engaging, Anthony’s overprotectiveness and belligerence is often grating and excessive. Nevertheless, the Bridgerton family dynamic is one of the highlights of the story and I look forward to reading the rest of the series soon.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

When Blood Calls by J. K. Beck

Title: When Blood Calls
Author: J. K. Beck
Series: The Shadow Keepers (book #1)
Next in series: When Pleasure Rules

My rating: 3 Stars

Synopsis: Prosecuting attorney Sara Constantine has just been promoted and will now be prosecuting vampires and other supernatural beings. Unfortunately, the suspect in her first case just happens to be Lucius Dragos, the sexy stranger with whom she shared a night of unbridled passion. Is Luke guilty of killing the retired judge or is he protecting someone he loves? Will Sara live to find out the truth?

Review: Good world building with a compelling premise based on the idea that supernatural beings needing to be policed and prosecuted. Nevertheless, the actual story is predictable and the ending anti-climactic. The ultimate explanation for the murder and the identity of the villain is so obvious it makes me cringe.

Moreover, none of the characters are particularly interesting and the romance is uninspired. Sara constant shifting between her desire for Luke and her need to convict him becomes annoying after a while. Also, her fear of him is irrational given that he has had plenty opportunity to kill her if he so desired.

Luke is not a particularly likeable character. I love a dangerous hero as much as the next person and I don’t have any problems with the moral shades of grey that often permeate paranormal romance (see my review of Blood on Silk) but within Beck’s world it is difficult to escape the fact that Luke is a killer with some questionable motives and past behaviors.

The writing is descriptive but drawn out in places to the extent that I had a hard time finishing the book. I can't see myself continuing with the series.

Out of Body by Stella Cameron

Title: Out of Body
Author: Stella Cameron
Series: Court of Angels (book #1)
Next in series: Out of Mind

My rating: 2 Stars

Synopsis: Born into an ancient family of clairvoyants, Marley Millet is no stranger to the unsettling aspects of the psychic world but now she has encountered a dangerous foe. After witnessing the fate of two missing women, Marley teams up with former cop turned writer, Gray Fisher. Can these two unlikely allies uncover the truth before it is too late and an unspeakable evil takes hold in the world?

Review: Psychic phenomena are one of my favorite premises but Out of Body fails dismally in this area. The book would probably have been better as a straight serial killer/romantic suspense story without the paranormal aspects.

The plot moves at a snail’s pace and the writing is overly descriptive with some confusing jumps both in content and logic. The nature of the supernatural creature allegedly responsible for the victims’ disappearances remains unclear as does the identity of the actual perpetrator. Moreover, the supposed twist at the end is neither surprising nor exciting. 

The romance is lackluster and it is difficult to care about either of the characters. Marley and Gray are supposedly fated mates but their chemistry is non-existent and the explanation of their connection completely illogical.  Marley is too independent and secretive. She doesn’t even trust the members of her own family and never asks for help even though she is in desperate need of it (definitely TSTL). Gray’s characterization is better. He has a traumatic past and it is interesting to see his developing abilities but the reason he is drawn to Marley remains unexplained.  

Out of Body is disjointed and confusing, and the secondary characters are not interesting enough to compel me to continue with the series.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Darkness at Dawn by Elizabeth Jennings

Title: Darkness at Dawn
Author: Elizabeth Jennings

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Following the revelation of an existential threat to the United States, Lucy Merrit, the daughter of famed CIA agents, is recruited to return to the country of their death to retrieve vital information. Lucy, together with Army Captain Mike Shafer, infiltrates the Kingdom of Nhala where a megalomaniac dictator is on the verge of annihilating humanity. Can Lucy and Mike save the world and their new found love?

Review: An impressive and gripping plot with well-developed and appealing characters.
Lucy is quick witted, adapts well to extreme situations and has amazing inner strength. Mike is strong, sexy and resourceful. He provides Lucy with the love and care that has always been missing in her life. The only problem is that even though they have great chemistry, it never really fulfills itself and their relationship is left hanging.
The writing is fast paced and the action scenes are exhilarating. There are a number of gruesome moments, however, and the book might not be for those with weaker stomachs. Moreover, some aspects of the story require readers to take significant steps in suspending their disbelief, such as accepting the fact that the CIA would ask a document restorer to retrieve military intelligence. Finally, the ending is wrapped up very quickly and a little too neatly.

The author is obviously making some political points with her writing so be forewarned. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining read and I look forward to reading additional books by this author.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Heartless by Diana Palmer

Title: Heartless
Author: Diana Palmer

My rating: 1 Star

Synopsis: Gracie Marsh worshipped her stepbrother Jason while growing up but now her feelings for him have evolved into something more intense. The feeling seems to be mutual but Gracie has a secret that makes her deathly afraid of love. Stung by her rejection, Jason leaves and sets in motion events that may change their lives forever.

Review: OK, here goes my first and, hopefully, my last really negative review.

This book is awful but it is not the borderline incest that turned me off. Rather the characters are one dimensional and vapid, and the story is ridiculous.

Gracie’s characterization makes absolutely no sense. There is an inconsistency between her supposed mental deficiencies and her obvious social skills. Also, she becomes a teacher even though she apparently has a severe learning disability – weird. In addition, she is a perfectly sweet doormat and for too accepting of Jason's rejection and snide attitude. It is a pity that she didn’t put him in his place when he came home with Kittie the cow. Her reason for keeping her past secret from Jason is also inexplicable – there is nothing shameful about it, and depicting it as such belittles women who have suffered from abuse.

Speaking of Kittie, Jason’s engagement to her is a completely idiotic plot device. First, her bitchiness is way overdone and is obviously meant to contrast against Gracie's almost angelic status. Second, Jason’s reasoning for becoming engaged lacks credibility.

Jason is an obnoxious hero and borderline abusive. The scene in which he sets up an employee to be humiliated is a case in point as is his allowing Kittie to treat his family so badly.

The preposterous kidnapping subplots only add insult to injury. An honorable, sensitive kidnapper who just happens to be trying to save his country from a dictator and needs to kidnap people to fund his coup? The fact that there is not one, but two kidnappings? Perhaps this is an allowance for gender equality as there is one for the heroine and one for the hero?

I could go on and on but I’ll stop now as I’m sure my point is made. This is definitely my first and only Diana Palmer book.

Wild Heat by Bella Andre

Title: Wild Heat
Author: Bella Andre
Series: Hot Shots (book #1)
Next in series: Hot as Sin

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: Shattered by grief following the death of her brother, Maya Jackson has a close sexual encounter with a complete stranger. Six months later she finds herself investigating a series of arson fires and discovers that her biggest mistake is also her prime suspect – dedicated Hotshot firefighter, Logan Cain. Soon Maya and Logan are on a collision course not only with each other but with a crazed killer with a passion for setting fires.

Review: The arson premise makes for a good plot and reminds me of Nora Roberts’ recent release Chasing Fire, but without the excessive firefighting descriptions.

The characters are likeable even though too much space is dedicated to describing how gorgeous, honorable and self-sacrificing the hero is. He definitely suffers from the “overly perfect hero” syndrome. I was expecting much more anger and angst at his being accused of being an arsonist but he just takes it in stride. Maya is a strong and intelligent character. She has a good backstory and her emotions and reactions are to be expected. Nevertheless, there is something missing from her relationship with Logan – their connection feels forced despite their chemistry.

The writing is iffy with one or two discrepancies such as the hero starting out with brown eyes and ending up with blue. Also, there are too many unrealistic scenes. For example, neither protagonist thinks of calling the police/fire department after Logan’s truck explodes in his driveway. Instead, sex seems to be the only thing on their minds.

The arson investigation develops well even though it could have been more detailed and interesting. There are some good suspects but not enough clues for readers to really work it out for themselves. The villain is unexpected but logical, which is a pleasant surprise and garners the book an extra half star.

In sum, a promising start to the series and I will read the next one.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Edge of Hunger by Rhyannon Byrd

Title: Edge of Hunger
Author: Rhyannon Byrd
Series: Primal Instinct (book #1)
Next in series: Edge of Danger

My rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis: Constantly on edge with the darkness that lives within him, Ian Buchanan only wants to lead a normal life, but then Molly Stratton arrives on his doorstep with a message from Ian's deceased mother and nothing will ever be normal again. Now, Ian and Molly find themselves sharing the same intense and sensual nightmares, and soon discover that they are the prey to an unspeakably evil creature bent on their destruction.

Review: Intense and exciting from the first pages. The plot is intriguing and the characters compelling.

The world building is comprehensive and absorbing with a unique mythology involving original creatures uncommon in existing paranormal romance. The precise details regarding Ian’s true nature and that of the creature stalking him are revealed as the story progresses and there are enticing hints of an all-encompassing battle to come between the forces of good and evil.

The writing is descriptive and well-paced. However, there is some repetitious word usage, such as variations of “rasp” and “rasping” but this does not distract from the storytelling.

Ian is a perfectly flawed and tortured hero who has a difficult time coming to terms with his identity and abilities. Some readers may find him terse and uncaring, however, in my opinion, this only adds to his appeal and to the strength of his feelings for the heroine. Molly is strong and determined, and never allows Ian’s surliness to deter her in any way. Their chemistry is sizzling in its intensity, and their banter is one of the highlights of the book.

The secondary characters, most of whom form a secret society known as “The Watchmen”, are also appealing and will appear in the own books down the line. The villain is suitably despicable and the scenes told from his perspective serve well to ratchet up the tension and suspense. The final encounter between the hero and villain is one of the most exciting that I’ve read recently.

Overall, this is a thoroughly entertaining read that I found hard to put down and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Shades of Midnight by Lara Adrian

Title: Shades of Midnight
Author: Lara Adrian
Series: Midnight Breed (book #7) 

Previous in series: Ashes of Midnight 
Next in series: Taken by Midnight

My rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis: In the frozen wilderness of Alaska, bush pilot Alexandra Macquire comes across the mutilated bodies of an entire family. The killings stir up horrific memories from her childhood until the arrival of a seductive stranger who makes her feel safe. Kade is a vampire warrior hiding a shameful secret that threatens his fragile bond with Alex. Can he confront his personal demons and protect the woman he loves from an unspeakable evil that threatens to destroy them both?

Review: A significant improvement over the last book. The story is gripping from the start and the romance is one of the most intense in the series. 

Kade has just been added to my list of favorite vampires. He is one of the new additions to the Breed warriors and very little is known about him at the outset. The gaps are soon filled in and he is revealed to be sexy, sensitive and honorable. He is the first warrior whose family features prominently in the series, and it is interesting to see the dynamic between the members as well as how Kade copes with the secret he has been keeping from them. 

Alex is an independent and determined heroine, and the way in which her relationship with Kade develops and strengthens is simply perfect. As someone who has been exposed to rogue vampires in the past, it is not surprising that she has conflicting feelings once she discovers who he truly is. Her reactions are believable and compelling, and the way in which things work themselves out is intriguing. I do feel that her special ability could have been woven better into the storyline but this is a very small nitpick.

The secondary plots and characters add action and suspense to the main story arc. The appearance of the other warriors toward the end adds extra energy and the scenes presented from the Ancient's perspective actually had me feeling for him. He has suffered at the hands of his captors and cannot really be blamed for what he is or for his natural instincts. Brock’s story is set up well and I look forward to seeing where his connection with Jenna is going, as from what I can gather, she is not a breedmate.

Overall, this is a wonderful series that I wholeheartedly recommend to lovers of paranormal romance.

Monday, 17 October 2011

When You Dare by Lori Foster

Title: When You Dare  
Author: Lori Foster
Series: Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor (#1)
Next in series: Trace of Fever

My rating: 3 Stars

Synopsis: On a mission to recover his friend’s sister from human traffickers, professional mercenary, Dare Macintosh, rescues a badly beaten Molly Alexander. Intelligent and independent, Molly is not your usual victim and she hires Dare to help her track down those responsible for her abduction. As the suspects pile up and the danger increases, Dare becomes the only person Molly can trust but can he save her from the looming threat?

Review: A little disappointing after all the hype. The basic premise of human trafficking is interesting but most of the action takes place before the book even begins. The rest of the story lacks tension and suspense and the ending is predictable. Hard Evidence by Pamela Clare offers a far more in-depth and detailed look at this theme and is a more intense and exciting read.

While Molly and Dare have steamy chemistry, their character development is problematic. There is too much focus on their internal thoughts, emotions, and motivations. Molly's reaction to her ordeal is unrealistic - no one could possibly be that stoic after the torture and abuse she suffered. Dare is very sexy but seems too laid back, sweet and caring to be a mercenary and is more in line with law enforcement.

Finally, the villain is obvious and the motivation for the crime is bewildering and even trivial.

Nevertheless, the writing flows and the romance is sweet. So if you are interested in a light read to take your mind off things then this fits the bill. I will probably read the next one if I come across it at a used book store but I won’t be going out of my way to get it.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Hard Evidence by Pamela Clare

Title: Hard Evidence  
Author: Pamela Clare
Series: I-Team (Book #2)
Previous in series: Extreme Exposure
Next in series: Unlawful Contact

My rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis: After witnessing the murder of a teenage-girl, investigative reporter Tessa Novak believes Julian Darcangelo is responsible for the crime. However, Julian is, in fact, an undercover FBI agent on the trail of a human trafficker and vicious killer. Now, Tessa's reports have brought them closer both to each other and to an unimaginable evil that threatens both their lives.

Review: The first book in the series, Extreme Exposure, was good but nothing truly special. This book is a huge improvement. The plot is fast paced and suspenseful, the romance is intense and the characters are well-developed.

The human trafficking story is exceptional. Pamela Clare has definitely done her research and it shows in the details. The villain is diabolical and there are some truly frightening moments at the climax of the book that had me holding my breath. I did manage to guess the identity of the FBI mole but this sub-plot is cleverly done with appropriate red-herrings.

The characterization is excellent - Tessa's soft and vulnerable exterior belies her fierce intelligence and determination. She is completely fearless when it comes to her job and I appreciated her dedication even though she does some crazy things, like visiting gang bangers on their turf. It may seem stupid but makes sense in the life of an investigative journalist accustomed to taking risks for the story. Julian is the perfect combination - sexy, courageous and protective with a tad of tortured hero thrown in. Their chemistry is explosive and the development of their hate to love relationship is particularly captivating.

Overall, this is an incredible story with amazing characters. Hopefully the rest of the series will be just as good.

Kiss of the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Title: Kiss of the Night
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Series: Dark Hunters (Book #4)
Previous in series: Dance with the Devil
Next in series: Kiss of the Night

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Wulf Tryggvasen is a Dark Hunter cursed with inducing amnesia in others. No one remembers him for more than five minutes, which means he will never find true love or regain his soul. Luckily, Wulf finally meets Cassandra Peters, the one woman who can remember him. Unfortunately, she belongs to the cursed race he is sworn to destroy. Can Wulf and Cassie overcome ancient curses, prophecies and meddling Gods to find true happiness?

Review: An entertaining addition to the series. It should be noted that in terms of the timeline, this installment takes place in parallel to the events in Night Embrace and Dance with the Devil. Consequently, the other Dark Hunters are engaged elsewhere for most of the book and Cassie and Wulf are left to their own devices.

The world building continues with more intricate details about the Apollites and the Daimons as well as additional tantalizing hints regarding Acheron’s true nature and identity. Intriguing questions are also raised concerning some of the new characters such as Cassandra’s bodyguard, Kat.

The one problem is the overabundance of new characters and groups, which can be overwhelming and distracting because it is difficult to keep track of everyone.

Nevertheless, the story is engaging and the main characters are well-developed. Cassie and Wulf have great chemistry and their relationship is more emotional than in the earlier books. Of course, I am a sucker for the forbidden loves/opposites attract plot device. The dream sequences were a little weird but mesh well with the overall story.

Cassandra is a wonderful heroine. The way in which she copes with her eminent death demonstrates and incredible strength of will. Wulf is also an appealing character. It was interesting to see him come to terms with Cassie’s heritage and realize that the Apollites are people suffering under a terrible curse. His banter with Chris contributes to some of the funniest moments in the book.

The villain is one of the most dangerous and threatening in the series so far. He has some vicious tendencies and it will be interesting to see what happens with him in future books.

In sum, the Dark Hunters is a well-written series with one of the most fascinating mythologies in the genre of paranormal romance. I look forward to continuing on to the next books.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Snowfall by Sharon Sala

Title: Snowfall 
Author: Sharon Sala

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: Mystery author Caitlin Bennett is the target of a deranged fan who progresses from mailing threatening letters and rat parts to pushing her into traffic. Against her wishes, Caitlin’s publisher asks ex-cop, Conner “Mac” McKee to provide protection for her. However, just as she begins to feel safe, the bodies of women who bear a remarkable resemblance to her are discovered and Caitlin realizes that she could be next.

Review: An entertaining romantic suspense novel even if the plot is predictable.

The characters are well developed and engaging. Caitlin is intelligent and independent, finding it difficult to place her trust in Mac even though he is strong and capable of protecting her. They have a tangible chemistry and their romance is sweet although they do seem to get over their differences quite quickly.

The villain is seriously disturbed and even though his motive is far from original, it is fun trying to work out his identity. It shouldn’t take too long if one is following the clues.

The writing is strong, the dialogue flows and there is a good buildup of tension and suspense. The ending is fast-paced but ultimately feels a little anti-climactic.

In sum, Sharon Sala is a first time author for me. Even though Snowfall is a light and entertaining read, I’m not sure I would go out of my way to get another of her books. Nevertheless, if I came across one at the used bookstore, I’d definitely read it.

The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton

Title: The Perfect Play  
Author: Jaci Burton  
Series: Play by Play (book #1)  
Next in series: Changing the Game

My rating: 3 Stars

Synopsis: Tara Lincoln has been unlucky in love and has no intention of becoming involved again, especially with a certified heartbreaker like football pro, Mick Riley. But Mick has his heart set on Tara and will allow nothing to get in his way. Can Mick and Tara overcome their differences?

Review: It is necessary to preface this review with a disclaimer that I am not a huge fan of either contemporary romance or books that revolve around sport. I read this book because one of my Goodreads challenges required reading a book with an athlete hero.

As suspected, this book suffers from the customary flaw of most contemporary romances, i.e., what little conflict exists between the couple is based on a series of misunderstandings that could have easily been solved if they actually had a proper conversation instead of falling into bed at the drop of a hat.

The plot is predictable and the sex scenes are excessive and contribute absolutely nothing to the romance.

The characters, however, have definite potential. Mick is seriously sexy and caring, and Tara is single-minded and sweet, although she does have a tendency to over-analyze and whine every so often. The secondary characters are the real gems in the book, especially Mick’s brother Gavin (who has some of the best dialogue) and Mick’s agent, Liz whose bitchiness seems to conceal her softer side.

In sum, fans of erotica, sports romances and football will probably find this book entertaining. I may read the next book if only to find out how Liz redeems herself.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Undertow by Cherry Adair

Title: Undertow 
Author: Cherry Adair 
Series: Cutter Cay (book #1)
Next in series: Riptide

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Salvager Zane Cutter is in desperate need of a mechanic and Teal Williams fits the bill – she can “speak” to engines, dive and seems immune to his charms. Everything is perfect, or so Zane believes until he discovers the fascinating woman behind Teal’s cold fa├žade. Can these two deal with their growing attraction as well as with the dangers inherent to seeking treasure in the Caribbean?
Review: A sizzling romance against an exciting backdrop but the suspense plot fall a little flat.

The treasure hunt atmosphere and salvage is interesting and well written. However, the suspenseful aspects of the story are weak. To begin with, there are two separate threats to Zane’s salvaging expedition. The first, involving modern day pirates bent on stealing the treasure for themselves, is appropriate if predictable, but the sudden inclusion of a second subplot revolving around espionage and government agents just takes things too far.

Nevertheless, Teal and Zane are incredible characters and their chemistry more than makes up for the pitfalls of the suspense plot. Teal is an amalgamation of opposites – a boat mechanic who suffers from seasickness; a tomboy who hides her beauty and sensitivity behind a mask of dry wit and sarcasm. It is entertaining to watch her thaw out in the face of Zane’s sexy intensity and it is just as fun seeing Zane struggle to seduce the one woman that he truly wants. 

Adair’s writing style is engaging and the dialogue between Teal and Zane is witty and charming. Despite the problems with the plot development, Undertow is a fast-paced and entertaining read. I look forward to reading the next books in the series centering on Zane’s brothers.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Finding the Lost by Shannon K. Butcher

Title: Finding the Lost
Author: Shannon K. Butcher
Series: The Sentinel Wars (book #2)
Previous in series: Burning Alive
Next in series: Running Scared
My rating: 3.5 Stars
Synopsis: Her family torn apart by the Synestryn, Andra Madison has dedicated her life to rescuing children who fall prey to these grotesque monsters. On one such mission, Andra encounters Paul, a Theronian warrior, searching for the woman who can save his life. As one of these rare women, Andra agrees to join Paul in order to seek a cure for her traumatized sister, and the two set out on a journey fraught with danger and the possibility of true love.
Review: A good sequel with some excellent action scenes and interesting detail added to the world building. However, the romance is weak with the hero and heroine lacking the chemistry and intensity of connection that characterized the couple in the first book.
Paul and Andra’s relationship fails to resonate perhaps because each is preoccupied with their own problems – Paul with his need to find a compatible mate and keep her once he has, and Andra with her overwhelming desire to save her sister.
Neither character is completely sympathetic. Even though Andra is attracted to Paul on a physical level, she remains distant and aloof. She initially comes across as strong-willed and self-confident, but devolves as the story progresses and becomes insecure and hesitant to love because she feels that her failures make her undeserving. Similarly, Paul is never completely honest with Andra and the impression you get from him is that any woman would suffice to fulfill his requirements. Furthermore, the idea that he would force Andra to be with him against her will is repellent.
In terms of the plot, Butcher has created a fascinating world with a multitude of layers and several interlocking storylines. The writing is fast-paced and interspersed with hints of events to come. One of the best aspects of the book is the inclusion of compelling secondary characters, especially Madoc and Nika, who are a far more appealing couple than Paul and Andra. I look forward to reading their book as well as that of the other couple from book one – Zach and Lexi.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Hiding in the Shadows by Kay Hooper

Title: Hiding in the Shadows 
Author: Kay Hooper  
Series: Dark Crescent Sisterhood (book #1)  
Previous in series: Stealing Shadows
Next in series: Out of the Shadows

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: After awakening from a coma with no memory of the accident or her life preceding it, Faith Parker starts piecing her life back together and discovers that her only friend has disappeared without a trace. Soon, Faith is shocked by intimate dreams of an unknown man and tortured by visions of violence. Can she learn the truth about herself and her friend before her dreams come true?

Review: This review is going to be shorter than some of my others as I don’t want to give away any of the surprises. Suffice it to say that this is a good story with characters that are easy to identify with and a clever plot with an extra twist at the end.

The heroine, Faith, copes with the revelations concerning her life with strength and dignity. She never allows the pain and hardship to overwhelm her and I was really rooting for her happy ending.

The book is well-written with a skillful buildup of tension and suspense that ratchets up a notch toward the end. The romance angle, however, is too subdued and could have been better balanced with the suspense.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

Title: Dragon Bound
Author: Thea Harrison
Series: The Elder Races (book #1)
Next in series: Storm’s Heart

My rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis: Half-human and half-wyr, Pio Giovanni has spent her life on the run from unknown forces. After inadvertently revealing her abilities, Pia is blackmailed into stealing a coin from the most powerful of the Elder Races – Dragos, whose fury knows no bounds and who will stop at nothing to find and keep the one who stole from him.

Review: A book that definitely lives up to the hype. Dragon Bound has a gripping story, fantastic characters and an amazing romance.

The world building is incredibly detailed and intricate. The author’s knowledge of various mythological creatures and her skill at incorporating these elements into the plot and characterization is commendable. For example, the fact that Dragos hoards beautiful things is traditional of dragons in western culture and books such as Smaug in The Hobbit and the dragons guarding Gringotts in Harry Potter.

The romance is absorbing. Pia and Dragos’s chemistry is intense and kept me turning the pages. I just didn’t want their story to end. Some readers may find Dragos overly domineering and possessive but this aspect of his character is consistent with the fact that he is, in fact, a dragon albeit in the form of a man. Pia is spunky, intelligent and resourceful. She is more than capable of holding her own against all the male characters in the book (and the female as well) from her obnoxious ex-boyfriend to the spiteful fae king and the dragon himself. The mystery revolving around her wyr-form (i.e., the creature that she can shift into) is intriguing and the ultimate revelation of her identity is one of my favorite scenes. 

My one small nitpick is that the villain of the piece is a little generic and never really constitutes a real threat. He is easily thwarted and his ultimate demise is anti-climactic. Nevertheless, this plot point never detracted from my enjoyment of the story.

The secondary characters are also well developed and interesting with each of Dragos’s friends having their own distinct personalities and opinions. The series continues with some of these characters taking the lead and I look forward to reading future installments as well as re-reading this one quite soon.