Thursday, August 28, 2008

Review: The Impostor by Celeste Bradley

Title: The Impostor
Series: Liar's Club
Author: Celeste Bradley
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: October 19, 2003
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312984863
ISBN-13: 9780312984861

It isn't easy moving about Society dressed like a dandy-especially when one is a ruthless spy. But that's precisely the latest mission for Liar's Club agent Dalton Montmorecy. Dalton is posing as Sir Thorogood, the elusive cartoonist whose scathing political caricatures have all of London abuzz. The true identity of Sir Thorogood is a mystery, and Dalton hopes that impersonating him will flush out the real menace before his cartoons do further damage to the Crown. Now, if Dalton could only find a way to get the irksome, yet oddly appealing widow, Clara Simpson, off his trail...

When Clara meets Sir Thorogood at a ball, she's certain he is an impostor-because she's the true Sir Thorogood. Secretly penning the cartoons under the frothy nom de plume, Clara hopes to save enough money so that she can leave her in-laws and find a new residence. Now she is determined to reveal an imposter's identity-and that means doing some undercover work herself. But pretending to be someone you're not has a funny way of making a woman do things she wouldn't ordinarily dream of-even if it drives her straight into the arms of her devilishly handsome adversary!

My rating:

Sir Thorogood has the London society in an uproar. With his cartoons he's apparently ruffled a feather too many. The Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, entrusts the new "leader" of the Liar's Club, Dalton Montmorency, Lord Etheridge, to find the scoundrel and bring his drawing days to a halt.

Desperate to gain the respect of the Liars after Simon Raines' retirement, Dalton takes on the task by himself. Posing as Thorogood, a dandified fop, he has all intentions of exposing the real cartoonist and bring him to justice.

The problem is, Sir Thorogood is no dandy. He is in fact a she.

Widowed Clara Simpson (yes, the one from The Pretender) is justifiably outraged at the impostor pretending to be Sir Thorogood. She started drawing the cartoons in order to expose the corruption in the powerful of the ton and the impostor is stealing all the fame and glory. Now, she is determined to unmask him. So, she sheds her "widow-y disguise", acts like a ninny, shrieks and laughs at idiocies like a fishwife, and follows him everywhere, getting mightily on his nerves.

All the while, the two live another secret life, she as Rose, the neighbor's maid, he as Monty, a midnight burglar. And while Rose and Monty fall in love, Sir Thorogood and Crazy-Widow Simpson dislike each other with a passion.

But what happens when Dalton and Clara meet at last? Without pretenses, masks, and secrets?

While I quite enjoyed the prequel, The Impostor failed to rise to the occasion. While the premise was excellent and intriguing, I soon grew bored of the intricacies Ms. Bradley concocted to "heighten the suspense", and soon the appeal of the dual triple identity wore off.

The leads frankly left me cold, their characters were bland and there was no real depth to them. Why was it necessary for Sir Thorogood to be a parrot-color-wearing fop? Why was Clara acting like a loon when she was with him?

The romantic sub-plot suddenly took center stage and the mystery seemed to be forgotten. The lines between identities blurred, the two suddenly didn't know who they loved, who they despised, sometimes they loved who they despised and sometimes despised who they loved. It took forever to bring this sub-plot to its arc, then it got complicated again, and after twenty or so pages all was good and well. Instant HEA.

Also, for two such observant creatures, a spy and an artist who made a living by observing people, Dalton and Clara were incredibly dense. Their inability to see beyond their disguise was jarring.

To top this off, there are quite a few point that just didn't make sense. Clara's reasoning after she discovers who Monty is, for example. Plenty of loose ends, too, mostly revolving around Lord Reardon (I probably ruined it all by reading To Wed A Scandalous Spy first and knew the deal) and the whole spy/mystery plot.

Not a great read, but still worth a try, at least to keep up with the series. The supporting cast makes up for quite a lot.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Review: The Pretender by Celeste Bradley

Title: The Pretender
Series: Liar's Club
Author: Celeste Bradley
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: June 16, 2003
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312984855
ISBN-13: 9780312984854

Rule #1: Never fall in love.

She had a secret she'd do anything to hide.

Agatha Cunnington, a headstrong beauty from the country, has come to London in search of her missing brother James. The only clue she has is a cryptic letter signed The Griffin. Agatha decides to disguise herself as a respectable married woman so that she can go about the city unnoticed. But for her charade to work she needs a suitable "husband," preferably someone tall, elegant, and rakish-someone like Simon Montague Rain.

He had a secret he'd do anything to hide.

Simon Montague Rain, also known as The Magician, is a member of The Liar's Club, a renegade group of rogues and thieves in the service of the Crown. When someone begins murdering members of the undercover cabal one by one, Simon is given the mission to bring in The Griffin, one of his comrades who is suspected of betraying his brothers. Simon goes undercover and infiltrates the home of "Mrs." Agatha Applequist who he believes is the Griffin's mistress. Before Simon knows what's happened, he finds himself irresistibly drawn to Agatha's soft, feminine charms-and he is tempted beyond reason to break the first rule of The Liar's Club: never fall in love.

My rating:

Miss Agatha Cunnington is in dire need of a man. In search of her missing brother, James, she has ventured to London as Mrs. Applequist, but needless to say, her dear Mortimer does not exist. Now, with callers banging on her front door demanding to meet this elusive, adventurous Mortimer, Agatha snatches herself the first man available – a chimneysweep, Simon Rain. He’s an immediate success and the newlyweds promptly receive a pile of invitation for social gatherings.

Agatha has no intention of declining the invitations. She might learn something about her brother’s whereabouts from the military officers mingling among the ton and her uneducated, Cockney-accented, yet incredibly attractive chimneysweep will be her ticket. If she can teach him the intricate rules of the society, the right phrases to say and how to pronounce them, how to eat, and how to dance.

Little does she know her chimneysweep is in truth a master spy, Simon Montague Raines, working undercover to find a traitor in his organization, the Liar’s Club. Due to his abrupt disappearance, James is on the top of Simon’s list and Agatha, paying her bills from James Cunnington’s account, is suspected to being his accomplice… and mistress.

Simon, in order to get closer to her, agrees to the scam of posing as her husband, but soon discovers her to be a huge distraction for his mission.

The Pretender is the first in Ms. Bradley’s Liars’ Club series. I decided to pick this up after the great experience of To Wed A Scandalous Spy. I was slightly disappointed, but it was still a good read.

The main plot, the mystery / suspense, was slow throughout the story and only picked up pace in the last few chapters. Instead of building on the suspense, Ms. Bradley forsook the mystery and concentrated on the intricacies of the romance between the two leads. Don’t get me wrong, I so love the star-crossed-lovers ploy, but in my opinion that was laid a little too thick in this book.

The second bone to pick would be Agatha. I like the feisty, headstrong heroines that don’t let their “hero” trample all over them, but Agatha was a little too headstrong for my taste. She should be slapped regularly every two hours and there is no wonder she received so many marriage proposals. The blokes knew they had to save her from her own stupidity.
At times she also appeared extremely selfish and self-centered. Granted, she repented later on, but still, it’s the thought that counts.

What to say of Simon? Again, McDreamy, McSteamy, and McHorny combined. He’s a stuff of dreams, too good to be true. While Agatha was like an average woman, a little on the plumpish side, he was perfect. Ms. Bradley could’ve made him a little less mouth-watering, but she did give him pretty insurmountable mental hurdles. I understood his need for brooding, but again, it took too much space and time, and once again drew the focus off the plot, slowing it even more.
Also, for a super spy, he was a little thick and rather slow on the uptake.

In general, everybody in this book was a little slow. I figured out who the baddie was the instant the villain appeared in the book. Agatha took a little longer, and once again we proved the male species to be a little thick and (always) thinking with the wrong head!

Despite it all, The Pretender is a greatly entertaining book. While most books are driven by their plots and subplots, the thing keeping this book breathing are the characters, especially the supporting cast filling the gaps with their antics. Mostly, it’s an ode to love (brotherly and other) and patriotism.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Review: To Wed a Scandalous Spy by Celeste Bradley

Title: To Wed a Scandalous Spy
Series: Royal Four
Author: Celeste Bradley
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: Feburary 1, 2005
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312931166
ISBN-13: 9780312931162

Lovely, high born Willa Trent was an orphan, raised by a local, somewhat odd family in the country, who want nothing but the best for their girl. So when she drags the unconscious man she accidentally hit with a slingshot home, they arrange a hasty marriage and pack the couple off with best wishes. Armed with a groggy husband and a new future, Willa's pie-eyed optimism has no limits...until she discovers the secret, dangerous world of Nathaniel Stonewell, Earl of Reardon, a.k.a. "Lord Treason."

Though Nathaniel is reviled by most of England for his devious plot against the Crown, he is, in reality, a member of an elite cadre of secret royal defenders on a daring undercover mission. He must keep his secrets at all cost, especially from Willa. And yet, he is enchanted...though he stubbornly refuses to surrender to his passion. Far better, he tells himself, to turn his back on love than risk everything for it. Luckily, his bride has other plans...

My rating:

Country bred Willa Trent is an orphan and jinxed. It wasn’t enough every suitor she’s ever had has ended up with an injury of some sort as soon as he stepped closer to her. Now she’s maiming innocent bystanders as well. The only excuse she has for dropping the man off his horseback is the fact she had no idea slingshots were so very inaccurate. How was she to know that the stone she was planning of springing a poacher’s trap with will end up smashing the hornets nest?

Nathaniel Stonewell, Lord Reardon, a.k.a. Lord Treason, dubbed for one infamous act, is living in isolation, rebuffed by society, exiled and rejected by his own family. The truth is he’s as much traitor as Prinny George. Nathaniel is in fact a member of the Royal Four, an elite, extremely secret, groups of royal defenders. It was his undercover mission, that he’s still on, that landed him in the Lord Treason mess.

He also appears to be the only man who cannot be maimed or mutilated by Willa’s predilection to accidents (falling off his horse doesn’t really count). After the two spend the night together, albeit he’s unconscious, the villagers, Willa’s big, extremely extended family, seize the opportunity with both hands, and after he gentlemanly offers for her, the two are wed.

Since Nathaniel is still in pursuit of a traitor, not that he has any hopes of catching him, the two quickly leave for London. Along the way, Nathaniel does his best to ignore Willa (she’s a chatterbox), fend off her increasingly demanding pursuit (she’s more than eager to lose her virginity), has to reveal the “truth” about himself and his nickname (she doesn’t believe him, of course), and make her realize why she cannot stay with him even after they are legally wed (and again, she doesn’t want to listen to reason).

Stuck with a stubborn bride, Nathaniel now must fend off the sometimes violent revulsion of the ton, juggle his triple identity (he sees himself as Nathaniel Stonewell, the spy and Lord Treason), find the traitor, and stay the hell away from Willa, since they can never have a future together. Pity his bride thinks differently on the matter.

This is the first full-length novel by Celeste Bradley I’ve read and it certainly will not be the last. I’m only sorry to have picked this one up before the Liar’s Club series, since Nathaniel’s “downfall” is described in The Impostor.

The two strongest points this book has are humor (there’s plenty of it, especially in Willa’s internal banter) and the heroine. Willa is by far most my favorite HR heroine so far.
Though you’ll be hard pressed to find a HR with a plain, shy, idiotic heroine, Willa heightens the bar. She’s funny, smart, witty, loving, fiercely protective, and she never lets others think for herself. She doesn’t have that inbred sheep instinct all the young girls of that time had, maybe because she’s grown up in the country, but mostly because she thinks with her own head, she observes, she rationalizes and she draws her own conclusions She’s known her husband for less than a week and yet she is absolutely certain every single member of the ton is wrong about him, and despite his efforts, she will not be swayed in her conviction.
She’s a charming young lady, full of life, full of love… and a mean right hook.

There is not much to say about Nate. He’s the typical male, though his vulnerabilities do shine through, especially in relation to his step-father, and, toward the end of the book, Willa. Some of his decisions are appalling, when he decides to listen to orders instead of his heart, and has no qualms in playing dirty to get Willa to leave him. He quickly repents, of course, but that aspect of his personality didn’t sit well with me. On the other hand it is understandable. He’s known nothing but rejection and insults lately, and when Willa, with her sunny optimism and her stubborn faith in him, comes along, he’s out of his element and has no idea what to do.

The first part of the book was a delightful country romp. While in the first couple of chapters the humor reigned supreme with Willa mentally calling her spouse “Idiot Male”, “Unholy Beast”, and “Hell-husband”, the focus soon turned to bitter-sweetness as soon as he confessed his darkest sin of treachery. With her eyes, head, and heart open, she adamantly refused to believe him and proceeded in making everybody see the truth of her “big marshmallow sweet” of a husband.

Quickly after their arrival in London, though, the plot shifted gears so fast I could feel the burn. There were so many villains all of a sudden, searching for an important document, there was a possible murder plot to get the inheritance, the bitterness of a woman for her life spent married to a spy (causing more doubts in Nathaniel), and last but not least a shocking revelation of Willa’s parentage and her connections to an extremely high-ranking official in Court.

And of course, the main plot’s resolution (you have to read the book to know what I’m talking about) proved just how sheep-like people really are.

Despite the patched-up-ness of the last few chapters when all the loose ends were quickly tied up in a nice little bow, To Wed a Scandalous Spy was a very entertaining read, with a rich and layered, albeit a little hole-y, plot, great humor and dialogue, and good character development.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Review: Shadow Dance by Julie Garwood

Title: Shadow Dance
Series: Buchanan
Author: Julie Garwood
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: December 26, 2007
Publisher: Ballantine Books
ISBN: 0345453875
ISBN-13: 9780345453877

Jordan Buchanan is thrilled that her brother and best friend are tying the knot. The wedding is a lavish affair–for the marriage of Dylan Buchanan and Kate MacKenna is no ordinary occasion. It represents the joining of two family dynasties. The ceremony and reception proceed without a hitch–until a crasher appears claiming to be a MacKenna guest. The disheveled and eccentric professor of medieval history warns that there’s “bad blood” between the couple’s clans, stemming from an ancient feud that originated in Scotland, and involving the Buchanan theft of a coveted MacKenna treasure.

Jordan has always led a cautious life and has used her intelligence and reason to become a successful businesswoman. So she is intrigued but skeptical of the professor’s claims that the feud has been kept alive by the grave injustices the Buchanans have perpetrated over the centuries. But when Noah Clayborne, a close family friend and a man who has never let a good time or a pretty girl pass him by, accuses Jordan of being trapped in her comfort zone, she determines to prove him wrong and sets out on a spontaneous adventure to the small, dusty town of Serenity, Texas, to judge the professor’s research for herself.

Maneuvering through a close-knit community in which everyone knows everyone else’s business, Jordan never anticipates the danger and intrigue that lie in her path, nor the threat that will shadow her back to Boston, where even in familiar surroundings, her life is at risk.

A powerful thug who rules by fear, a man who harbors a simmering secret, and an unexpected romance that pierces all defenses–beloved author Julie Garwood weaves these dazzling elements into a brilliant novel of romantic suspense. Shadow Dance is a searing tango of passion and peril.

My rating:

Jordan Buchanan, the ultimate computer nerd, attends yet another brother's wedding and is charged to keep an eye on her sister-in-law's nineteen-year-old sister who's practically doing back flips to gain the attention of Noah Clayborne, an FBI agent with a score list longer than the Good Book. Not that he's interested, he knows the girl is too young for him, but still, it's better to be safe than sorry.

An uninvited guest crashed the party, a nutty professor that's been communicating with Isabel, the nineteen-year-old "acrobat", about her family roots leading all the way back to Scotland. The professor claims the wedding between the two families should never have taken place, since they've always been feuding.

Since he's a MacKenna, the saintly family, according to him, and the Buchanan's are the vile barbarians, Jordan feels she should defend her family from such slander, and is soon sucked into the professor's story about the family feud. And a treasure.

Intrigued, Jordan follows the professor to a small Texas town, Serenity, where everybody knows everybody, everybody is friendly and accommodating... Until professor MacKenna's dead body ends up in Jordan's trunk.

She manages to contact Noah with her predicament, before she's knocked out cold and arrested for murder.

Noah and her brother Nick come barreling into town, clear her of all the charges, get the incompetent chief of police fired, and even more tongues wagging.

Nick is called home, leaving Noah behind to get Jordan safely back to Boston. But another dead body in the trunk keeps them in town for a little while longer.

This book was an obvious improvement from Murder List. The mystery stayed constant and the romance never got in the way of the main plot.

The setting in the small, God-forsaken town in the middle of Texas was refreshing and also served as a sometimes comedic backdrop to the humdrum of murder and mayhem.

Jordan was fun to read. A strong, yet nerdy woman who's more at ease with computers than people. Her trip to Serenity was an attempt to shake up her life, the life many called boring, while for her it was just safe and secure - her comfort zone. Soon, though, her insecurities, again about her appearance, started getting on my nerves.
Why does Ms. Garwood always portray her heroines as shallow? I've read only two of her books, yet in both the heroine was always so self-conscious about her appearance, thinking no one could be attracted to her, because of her looks.

Noah was the typical romantic suspense hero. A playboy (at the beginning) with a soft heart that always changes his way at the end, thanks to his woman.

Yet again, the romance did seem a little forced. They were friends, suddenly, cooped up in the small town, she starts seeing him in a different light. We learn he's always been attracted to her, yet refrained from acting on it, because she was his best friend's sister, so he went on romancing other women... And suddenly, after resisting so long, they just cannot anymore and fall helplessly in love with each other.
Maybe it was something they ate.

The main mystery plot was much stronger than in her previous book, yet once again she just couldn't do without the deus-ex-machina end effect.
While the mystery was driving and keeping the reader at the edge of the seat, the final explanation seemed diluted and far-fetched at best.
While the story built on mystery, the ending left much to be desired.

Review: The Devil's Web by Mary Balogh

Title: The Devil's Web
Series: Web
Author: Mary Balogh
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: December 26, 2007
Publisher: Dell
ISBN: 0440243076
ISBN-13: 9780440243076

The last time Madeline Raine had seen James Purnell, she had been but a chit of a girl, and at his mercy. Purnell had held her helpless in his arms - but protectively above the abyss of her own dangerous hunger for him.

He had left her then, not taking her innocence but taking her heart, as he vanished from England. Since then Madeline had reigned as society's most dazzling and heartless beauty, making all men pay for one man's rebuff of her.

Now James was back, more handsome and arrogant than ever. And Madeline steeled herself not to fall under his spell again. But she soon discovered that the melting power of passion ignited by love would not easily die...

My rating:

I'm an avid reader and a very stubborn one, so there has never been a book that would make me put it down after a few pages and never pick up again. I always fight to the end.

Not with this one.

I came to the half of the second chapter and just couldn't read more.

It started well enough. A man who left it all behind four years before, was coming home. He had mixed feelings about it, though, who wouldn't. Apparently his father was a real pain to live with, and the only person he was looking forward to seeing was his sister. Which was nice.
Said sister was also married to the brother of the woman James has been trying to forget - no, sorry, he has forgotten her, because she was shallow and vain and blah-blah-blah.

Okay, so that was a touchy subject. It always is.

But then, there was James' weird obsession with kissing a girl, fresh out of Catholic church, who was traveling with him, and though her age wasn't specified, it was still a little too creepy for my taste.

So we move into a London parlor, where Madeline, the woman James has forgotten, holds her niece in her lap, talking with her twin brother. Apparently she's fallen in love again and is thinking of getting married at last.

There is a bunch of people present, which could make for a nice family scene, but the narration was so bad I couldn't tell who was talking. Also the relations between the players were never explained, so the following became tedious after a few sentences.

James' sister waltzes into the parlor, yakking about her brother returning and pushing Madeline back four years into a moonlit garden where she let the man in question kiss her and fondle her...
And apparently they've just met. She fell in love with him on the spot, offered herself to him on a silver platter, and when he had her in any way possible, except the biblical one (still in that short escapade in the garden), he left her - rejected her, and she hated him.

I cannot continue. The beginning was so utterly stupid and the narrative so contorted in places, I just couldn't bring myself to read any further.

So I skipped to the end, and even that didn't inspire me to persevere. This one is definitely going on eBay.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Review: Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Title: Acheron
Series: Dark-Hunters
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Read copy: Hardcover
Published: August 5, 2008
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312362153
ISBN-13: 9780312362157

Eleven thousand years ago a god was born. Cursed into the body of a human, Acheron spent a lifetime of shame. However, his human death unleashed an unspeakable horror that almost destroyed the earth. Then, brought back against his will, Acheron became the sole defender of mankind.

Only it was never that simple. For centuries, he has fought for our survival and hidden a past he’ll do anything to keep concealed. Until a lone woman who refuses to be intimidated by him threatens his very existence.

Now his survival, and ours, hinges on hers and old enemies reawaken and unite to kill them both.

War has never been more deadly... or more fun.

My rating:

He will be born when the moon swallows the sun and Atlantis is bathed in total darkness.

Eleven thousand years ago a new god was born. Cursed into the body of a human to escape death, Acheron spent a lifetime of abuse and humiliation. His human death almost destroyed the Earth and plunged the once thriving civilization back into the Stone Age. Brought back against his will, he became the sole defender of mankind.

For millennia he fought for our survival alone and hidden a past so horrendous he is prepared to do anything to keep it concealed.

Now, a determined young woman threatens all he’s become. She refuses to be intimidated by him, she refuses to listen to reason, and she is prepared to do anything to find the lost kingdom of Atlantis.

In this most anticipated Dark-Hunter novel to date we will learn the true story of the Dark-Hunter leader, Acheron Parthenopaeus. The truth about his human life, and the life of the god he has become.

He was made human in order to escape death, but in death he was reborn a god...


R/N: There are not many spoilers in here, but if you haven’t read the book, you might not want to read from this point on. There is just so much you can say about any book without revealing at least a little bit.
I’ve been waiting for this since the series started and have read it in one sitting (I’m still bleary eyed because of it), so I hope you’ll excuse me if I go into a little (not too much) detail.


The first part of the book, the longest part, focuses on Acheron’s human life. It starts just before his human birth and ends with the birth of the first Dark-Hunters.

Reading it chilled me to the bones. Although Sherrilyn Kenyon did write a short Author’s Note at the beginning warning us this wasn’t a DH novel we were used to (at least the first part), it was still hard to swallow.

The gruesome details of his life were softened a little, since the beginning, the most chilling humiliation of his childhood is told through his sister Ryssa’s journal. Through her eyes, the eyes of a pampered princess, the reader is spared some of the more detailed descriptions, but feels the torture and shame even more because of the words she uses to shield us.

It gives true insight into what makes Acheron tick, if you pardon my expression. I’m one of the many who’s been criticizing his actions and behavior in the last few books, yet the first part of his story explains just why he does what he does, why he acts like he acts, what makes Acheron Acheron.

The second part is an exemplary specimen of the DH novel we love and adore. Fast-paced, witty dialogue, the incessant banter. The AG even brought back characters from all of her previous novels for one hell of a reunion.

I do have a bone to pick on the second part though. It looked like at least a hundred pages were missing from the beginning of it. If they were cut—shame, if she didn’t write them—maybe she should have.

No offence, but for an eleven plus thousand-year-old god who’s been known to scoff at love (“Gods save me from love”), has big trust issues (read the first part to know why), and show/hide spoilerdoesn’t think sex is all that great [gasp] (again, read the first part to know why—who would blame him, really), he’s a little too quick to fall for the charms of a measly human, that compared to his age is an embryo (or so he claims).

Also, Soteria is even quicker to forgive him for the humiliation in Nashville. It made me grit my teeth. I know he’s a god and all and I know he’s prepared to do anything to prevent Atlantis to be found, but destroy a scholar’s reputation because of it... I think I’d hurl more than just a hammer. Anyway, she’s quick to make friends when she learns he can read the journal she’s found. And he does make a sweet apology. ;)

The whole tortured hero thing started to get old after a while. I know he’d gone thorough hell, only to be brought back to go through hell again, but still, at times it made me roll my eyes. He’s a freaking god, for crying out loud, he should’ve stopped moping, get himself together, and make them pay. As a god he was a little too selfless for my tastes, although I did understand his motivations...He does stop moping, get himself together, and make (some of) them pay. Eventually.

But every tortured hero is bound to get his salvation (usually in the form of a woman), and Soteria is his absolute salvation. She sees him for what he is, not what he’d been, she doesn’t even blink when she learns the truth about him except to keep the tears at bay. And what is most important to him, she holds him as if he matters and she doesn’t shy away from him in public...or at the sight of his eyes.

She is the one to finally banish all his demons, even a certain redheaded problem, because despite her scholarly ways, she’s like a mother cub, not afraid to fight a goddess for the man she loves. And she is also the one that makes Ash embrace who and what he really is...

“I am the god Apostolos. The Harbinger of Telikos. The Final Fate of all. Beloved son of Apollymi the Great Destroyer. My will makes the will of the universe.”

...not only the Harbinger for his mother, but also for the one woman he’s ever loved. For her he’s prepared to do anything, even destroying the world. Or suffering the worst humiliation ever for her to be able to restore her father’s reputation.

Apollymi has become one of my favorite characters. Despite being the goddess of death, the Great Destroyer, she’s still like any other mother. She would die for her son and she would give anything for him to be happy. Even part with a few of her powers to create a strong protector for her beloved Apostolos. The protector that would finally teach the ‘heifer-goddess’ a long-overdue lesson (I would have been happy to lay a helping hand).

The ending was just perfect, down to the dress, despite the ominous threat heard in the rumbling of the thunder.

P.S. I loved the drunk-on-Sprite scene, by the way. “You’re a cuddly drunk. And a real chatterbox.”

Monday, August 4, 2008

Review: Murder List by Julie Garwood

Title: Murder List
Series: Buchanan
Author: Julie Garwood
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: March 1, 2005
Publisher: Ballantine Books
ISBN: 0345453832
ISBN-13: 9780345453839

When Chicago detective Alec Buchanan is offered a prime position with the FBI, it is the perfect opportunity to leave the Windy City and follow in his brothers’ footsteps to the top echelons of law enforcement. But first he must complete one last assignment (and one that he is not too happy about): acting as a glorified bodyguard to hotel heiress Regan Hamilton Madison. The gorgeous exec has become entangled in some potentially deadly business. Someone has e-mailed her a graphic crime-scene photo–and the victim is no stranger.

Regan suspects that the trouble started when she agreed to help a journalist friend expose a shady self-help guru who preys on lonely, vulnerable women. In fact, the smooth-as-an-oil-slick Dr. Lawrence Shields may be responsible for the death of one of his devotees, which was ruled a suicide. Hoping to find some damning evidence, Regan attends a Shields seminar.

At the gathering, the doctor persuades his guests to partake in an innocent little “cleansing” exercise. He asks them to make a list of the people who have hurt or deceived them over the years, posing the question: Would your world be a better place if these people ceased to exist? Treating the exercise as a game, Regan plays along. After ten minutes, Shields instructs the participants to bring their sheets of paper to the fireplace and throw them into the flames. But Regan misses this part of the program when she exits the room to take a call–and barely escapes a menacing individual in the parking lot.

The experience is all but forgotten–until the first person on Regan’s list turns up dead. Shock turns to horror when other bodies from the list start to surface, as a harrowing tango of desire and death is set into motion. Now brutal murders seem to stalk her every move–and a growing attraction to Alec may compromise her safety, while stirring up tender emotions she thought she could no longer feel. Yet as the danger intensifies and a serial killer circles ever closer, Regan must discover who has turned her private revenge fantasies into grisly reality.

My rating:

Hotel heiress Regan Madison life turns for the worst when she agrees to join her two best friends in a scheme to nail a self-named help guru that schemes lonely, depressed women in giving him their life savings. The three join his seminar in hopes of collecting proof against him, but things are never that simple.

The seminar‘s first exercise is to compile a so-called murder list, a list of people you want erased from your radar. Regan, thinking it might be fun, compiles the list.

What started as a joke, soon turns into grim reality as people on Regan‘s appear at the morgue, and she starts receiving disturbing photos and e-mails. It turns out Regan Madison has a stalker.

Her protection detail is assigned to Alec Buchanan, a Chicago cop about to switch to the FBI. It‘s his last operation for the Chicago P.D. and though he‘s not overly enthused about the bodyguard duty, his resentment doesn‘t last long.

I was disappointed with this book. The plot was all over the place as if Ms. Garwood couldn‘t decide whether she wanted to write a thriller, a romance, or something else entirely.

Don‘t get me wrong, the beginning was great and the general premise of a deranged man with a blood-thirsty demon inside him had lots of potential, but by the first few chapters the interlocking subplots turned the story into gumbo, and the deranged killer was forgotten as last year‘s snow.

By the middle of the book the plot took a head dive into an average romance between the two leads and the suspense disappeared entirely. And yes, the romance was average, because the two seemed more like good buddies than potential lovers, but for the one (and only) love scene spanning a few pages toward the end of the book.

In short, the main plot, of the deranged serial killer / stalker, was too far fetched to be believable with a huge deus ex machina at the end that just plain made me laugh. The romance was completely out there, and the subplots remained unexplored and unfinished.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Review: The Hollow by Nora Roberts

Title: The Hollow
Series: Sign of Seven
Author: Nora Roberts
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: May 6, 2008
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 0515144592
ISBN-13: 9780515144598

In the small village of Hawkins Hollow, three best friends who share the same birthday sneak off into the woods for a sleepover the evening before turning 10. But a night of pre-pubescent celebration turns into a night of horror as their blood brother oath unleashes a three-hundred year curse.

Twenty-one years later, Fox O'Dell and his friends have seen their town plagued by a week of unexplainable evil events two more times - every seven years. With the clock winding down on the third set of seven years, someone else has taken an interest in the town's folklore.

A boutique manager from New York, Layla Darnell was drawn to Hawkins Hollow for reasons she can't explain - but the recent attacks on her life make it clear that it is personal. And though Fox tries to keep his professional distance, his interests in Layla have become personal too.

My rating:

Three boys who shared their birthday, Caleb, Fox, and Gage, decided to celebrate their tenth birthday at the Pagan Stone, a strange, altar-like stone in the middle of the woods surrounding Hawkins Hollow, the village where the three grew up.

A simple vow to always be friends sealed with their blood, unleashed an entity that‘s been haunting them ever since.

Every seven years, for seven days in the seventh month, the small town of Hawkins Hollow descends into madness. Strange accidents happen; neighbors turn against neighbors, husbands against wives… When the Seven is over, no one remembers anything.

Except the three blood brothers.

Now, twenty-one years later, the three boys turned men know the time might have come to end it. It has grown stronger, but so have them. And they’re not alone anymore.

This is the second book in the Sign of Seven trilogy. While the first book, Blood Brothers, was one of the creepiest (in some parts) book I've read to date, this one does not rise to the challenge.

I liked Fox, his tree-hugging roots clashing with a deep need to fight, and his deep urge to protect his mate with his life if need be. And I'd love to see those "tiger eyes" in person.

Layla was another story. In some scenes I got this crazy urge to slap the stupid girl. This one is most certainly one of the female characters I passionately dislike in fiction. Despite my efforts I just couldn't relate to her. I know we all have issues and worries, but she was a little too over the top for me.

At least the romance between them had a little more time to evolve and become a little more believable than in the previous book.