Thursday, April 23, 2009

Review: If You Deceive by Kresley Cole

Title: If You Deceive
Series: MacCarrick Brothers
Author: Kresley Cole
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: May 22, 2007
Publisher: Pocket
ISBN: 1416503617
ISBN-13: 9781416503613

Burning vengeance...
Ethan MacCarrick was a heartbreakingly handsome rake until a powerful nobleman ordered him brutally beaten and his face scarred for a crime he didn't commit. Ethan's reprisal—bankrupting the nobleman and forcing his exile—does little to appease his wrath. Ten years later, a haughty, mysterious beauty enchants Ethan—the daughter of his enemy. At last, Ethan will have the revenge he's craved; he'll promise her marriage, seduce her, then cast her aside.

Bitter hardships...
When Madeleine van Rowen's family was suddenly plunged into destitution and dishonor, she steeled herself against further heartache. She never weakened, never trusted, until a towering, scarred Highlander relentlessly pursues her, breaking down her defenses.

At what price forgiveness?
The passion between them burns hotter than Ethan's fury, and soon he finds he can't let her go. But when Madeleine uncovers the truth about him, can Ethan convince her to accept all he now offers—when he once destroyed everything she had?


My rating:

Yes, this is the best book in the series. I don't care much about what happens to the previous two, but this one is staying with me for a bit, I'll definitely read it again.
Maybe Ms. Cole should've added a few more brothers to the MacCarrick brood, since it seems this series improves with time.

From the first book onward I was intrigued by Ethan, the oldest MacCarrick brother. The hints and innuendos sparkled throughout the two previous stories created almost a mythological quality around the man...His scar, his cold demeanor, his deadened eyes, the mysterious death of his fiancée...All this made me literally itch to read his story.

And I admit I wasn't disappointed. Far from it.

The emotional roller coaster this books takes the reader on is extraordinary and extremely well-developped and plotted, holding unforeseen depths I'm utterly glad I explored.

The prologue introduces us to an Ethan, completely different from the Ethan we came to know in his brothers' books. Ten years ago he was a drunken, whoring libertine...Whose destiny is completely changed by a chance encounter in a country inn. And it is the punishment for the act he didn't commit that sets the grounds for the true story that picks up ten years later.

I could easily say that Ethan MacCarrick was one of the best developped male characters I've ever read about. In the course of this book he goes through so many changes it could easily make your head spin, not being able to tell top from bottom, yet the author did a splendid job of keeping him and the reader (more or less) grounded, despite all the upheavals he and the story went through.
We first meet him as a good-for-nothing, handsome bastard intent on bedding yet another married woman, then everything comes tumbling down around him, transforming him into the surly bear we know, until he meets the one woman that "could break his family curse", yet the discovering of her true identity embitters him even more. It is only after learning the truth about her, and accepting his involvement in what happened to Maddy, that Ethan finally accepts the possibility of his feelings toward her and slowly starts to change.
But ten years of bitter anger and striving for revenge, deceit and lies cannot be buried, and instead of revealing the truth, hoping for forgiveness, he decides to lie and deceive further, almost bringing about his own downfall.
The only chink in my appreciation of Ethan was his "tender" feelings toward Maddy that (as even she noted), bordered on obsession. I know that he felt strongly for her, the woman who saw beyond his scar, and wanted to make some kind of amends for what she's been through, but this (almost) sudden reversal from cold and distant blackguard, to obsessed, besotted fool came off as a little unrealistic...Although it was a great excuse for his impromptu trip to cholera-infested Paris in the end.

Maddy quite paled in comparison with this larger-than-life Highlander. I liked her for her dogged determination and resilience, the environment in which she grew up shaped her into a strong woman who knew her worth and far from the replica of her mother (which was her worst fear). All of which made her rash decision toward the end so much more out of character. As her friend said, one should know when to run and when to stick around and wait for an explanation.
For the strong female character Ms. Cole created with Maddy, her flight from Ethan was odd...And stupid.

Instead of creating some suspenseful plot, Ms. Cole decided to stick on the simple dynamic between two completely opposite not-so-strangers, and explore the romance that evolved between them despite having to constantly struggle underneath deceit and lies, stubbornness, pride, and waning revenge.
The author made the right choice and this reader readily recommends this book to all lovers of historical romance, Scottish brogue (and superstition), nicely-timed humor, and a pinch of a little star-crossed love. A very satisfying read.



Friday, April 17, 2009

Review: If You Desire by Kresley Cole

Title: If You Desire
Series: MacCarrick Brothers
Author: Kresley Cole
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: April 24, 2007
Publisher: Pocket
ISBN: 1416503609
ISBN-13: 9781416503606

He tried to run....
In his youth, Hugh MacCarrick foolishly fell in love with a beautiful English lass who delighted in teasing him with her flirtatious ways. Yet he knew he could never marry her because he was shadowed by an accursed family legacy. To avoid temptation, Hugh left home, ultimately becoming an assassin.

She tried to forget him....
Jane Weyland was devastated when the Highlander she believed would marry her abandoned her instead. Years later, when Hugh MacCarrick is summoned to protect her from her father's enemies, her heartache has turned to fury—but her desire for him has not waned.

Will passion overwhelm them?
In hiding, Jane torments Hugh with seductive play. He struggles to resist her because of deadly secrets that could endanger her further. But Hugh is no longer a gentle young man—and toying with the fever-pitched desires of a hardened warrior will either get Jane burned...or enflame a love that never died.


My rating:

I must say I found this book a vast improvement from the first in this series. It's still not a masterpiece of fiction, and it would've been much better without the slightly too tramp-y heroine and the rather obtuse "yeah, yeah, you're cursed" hero, but we can't have everything.

The suspense subplot is the saving grace of this one, with the villain much more interesting than the leading couple. I wished there'd be more of him throughout the story and his demise was a bit too abrupt and swift, providing quite an anti-climatic resolution to the main reason the two idiots (read: hero and heroine) got together in the first place.

And here's the major bone I have to pick about this book. Once again the hero and heroine were too bland to elicit much enthusiasm in me to even bother to care for them.
Jane was a hussy and a tramp even before she turned eighteen...And she wondered why the guy split. He saw a nutjob in the making and decided to cut his losses. Tell me again, what was with the plan of getting to marry her by teasing him mercilessly? The only thing such a plan ever accomplishes is for the heroine to end with her skirt around her waist and ruined, while the hero merrily moves on.
Unfortunately that wasn't the case with Hugh. He was as much in love with her as she was with him, but he was cursed. Remember that nasty little curse that's supposed to be the main story-arc of the series? Once again, it only appeared when convenient and to make the hero even more of a jackass as he already was.

Of course, now I have to read the final book. The little cliffy about Ethan getting shot and disappearing from the face of the earth (Is he dead? Is he alive? Do we even care?) had me flying through the rest of Hugh's story so I could see what really happened.

And speaking of the rather anti-climatic end of the villain and the untimely death of the suspense subplot...I skimmed through the remaining pages, barely stiffening yawns, because the two idiots of the leading couple reverted back to the beginning of the story when the villain met his deserved death...And it was boring...Even the requisite happy ending was boring...Not to mention Court and Annalia's (from the first book) cameo...Yawn! But a great plot devise to get the hero thinking and finally forgoing the blasted curse.

Not good, but not as bad as the first book. I truly hope Ethan will make up for it...He better.



Monday, April 13, 2009

Review: If You Dare by Kresley Cole

Title: If You Dare
Series: MacCarrick Brothers
Author: Kresley Cole
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: April 26, 2005
Publisher: Pocket
ISBN: 1416540946
ISBN-13: 9781416540946

CAN HE EXACT A REVENGE?

High in the Pyrenees, a band of mercenaries led by Courtland MacCarrick wages war for General Reynaldo Pascal. When Court turns on the evil general, Pascal orders him killed but Court narrowly escapes and exacts revenge by kidnapping Pascal's exquisite Castilian fiancee.

CAN SHE DENY HER PASSIONS?

Lady Annalia Tristan Llorente despises her towering, barbaric captor almost as much as she does Pascal. Her inexplicable attraction to the Highlander only fuels her fury. But nothing will stop her from returning to Pascal—for if she doesn't wed him, she signs her brother's death warrant, as well as her own.

CAN THERE BE LOVE BETWEEN THEM?

From the moment Court discovers that Anna's prim facade masks a fiery, brave lass, his heart's ensnared, and he dares to defy the curse that has shadowed his lif<—to walk with death or walk alone. But Pascal vows that he'll hunt the two, never stopping until he's destroyed them both.


My rating:

I hated the heroine in this one. Hated her! She was the worst heroine I've read about so far. Prejudiced, haughty, opinionated...The only saving grace was the obvious love she held for her brother, willing to do anything to save him, although that one safely landed her in the TSTL pile.

The entire book was a bit silly, if you ask me. The heroine kept ending up in one mess after another, and for a person so "educated" and of "so elevated rank", she didn't appear to have any brain cells at all.
The hero was your typical monosyllabic, acerbic, towering, glowering etc. brute, but unlike the rest of his hero-mates out there, he was a bit more on the Neanderthal side of the block, topped with complete lack of social capabilities and utter inability to act as a normal human being. When brutes such as him meet their intended they tend to soften and develop some communication skills, beside conking the woman with a club, but Court was as much of a brute after he met her than he was before.

The plot was all over the place, as well. After the initial perilous situation wore off, all the later attempts at rekindling the suspense provided more of a comic relief than anything else. For such skilled and ruthless assassins those Rechazados did a really lousy job if you ask me.
And then, there's the curse. Judging by the prologue I was sure I'd get a gripping historical paranormal romance, instead the blasted curse was only mentioned sporadically and when it was the only thing that explained some stupidity the hero did or said.

And I hoped the first book (actually a novella) was a fluke about me not being able to relate to the characters. I was completely detached from Court and Annalia as well, not to mention their romance...The author could've done a good service to her readers if she didn't make her such a idiotic virgin (I hate when that happens - a virgin, yes, but why ignorant as well?) and him such an overbearing ass.

The only thing that saved this book for me were the few, yet satisfying, humorous passages. They made me laugh - out loud - and that's always a good thing.



Friday, April 10, 2009

Review: Murder Game by Christine Feehan

Title: Murder Game
Series: GhostWalkers
Author: Christine Feehan
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: December 30, 2008
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 0515145807
ISBN-13: 9780515145809

As bodies pile up, a violent new cross-country game is blamed on the GhostWalkers. To clear their name, they infiltrate the dangerous sport. And to survive it, they must ignore the rules.

My rating:

This was a rather disappointing read and I can't help but notice the thicker these books are the worst they get. Ms. Feehan should definitely cut the page count, this one would not have suffered from it, and made it a tad more interesting and gripping to read.

It is becoming some kind of a ritual for these supposedly suspenseful books to throw the suspense through the window and leave the two leads to have their wicked way with each other. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with steamy sex scenes, but when the sex gets the upper hand on the book's main genre (in this case - suspense), it just gets on my nerves.

I started reading this series because it was a mix of two of my favorite genres - suspense and paranormal, but this one unfortunately severely lacked in both. There was too much sex, too little action scenes and too much page count between them, too much oily-sludge infested glimpses into the heroine's mind (and let me tell you if those were supposed to heighten the suspense and adding a thriller effect, they fell quite short) and it was just too damn much repetitive.

Okay, when the heroine feels the violence, her mind fills with oily sludge. Gotcha!
The hero is a block of ice with icy water running in his veins when he isn't with her. Gotcha!
The heroine smells and tastes of cinnamon. Gotcha!
The victims locked behind that mind door wail constantly and beg for help. Gotcha!
The main villain is a puppet master. Gotcha! (Has anyone else notice the uncanny resemblance to the author's other series? The vampires also have a puppet master. Hm.)
Even the sex scenes started repeating themselves...When that happens, yikes.

There should've definitely been less pages, a more consistent plot (this one just plainly lagged behind), and a more interesting and involving leading pair. I apologize to all Tansy and/or Kadan fans, but these two were plain boring to me.
Luckily we had the pleasure of entertaining some oldies but goodies GhostWalkers (I just love their banter - and the off-key rendition of Cinnamon Girl, hilarious). And the pace did pick up toward the end, though I wished the eight "cleaning actions" were a bit longer, that would've been worth the extra pages.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Review: Dream Warrior by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Title: Dream Warrior
Series: Dream-Hunters, Dark-Hunters
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: February 3, 2009
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312938837
ISBN-13: 9780312938833

We are the Dolophoni. Diligent. Vigilan. Fierce and inescapable. Servants of the Furies, we are the right hand of justice and no one stands before us...

The son of Warcraft and Hate, Cratus spent eternity battling for the ancient gods who birthed him. He was death to any who crossed him. Until the day he laid down his arms and walked into self-imposed exile. Now an ancient enemy has been unleashed and our dreams are his chosen battlefield. The only hope we have is the one god who swears he will never fight again.

As a Dream-Hunter, Delphine has spent eternity protecting mankind from the predators who prey on our unconscious state. But now that her allies have been turned, she knows in order to survive, the Dream-Hunters need a new leader. Someone who can train them to fight their new enemies. Cratus is her only hope. But she is a bitter reminder of why he chose to lay down his arms.

Time is running out and if she can't win him to her cause, mankind will be slaughtered and the world we know will soon cease to exist.


My rating:

Unfortunately I'm quite disappointed by this book. Judging by all the hype, I expected something more, and the initial few chapters promised quite a gripping read, yet in the end the book seemed almost anti-climatic.

Despite more than 300 pages, I felt it was too short. With so many parallel storylines and interesting characters, I got the feeling the author kind of failed to develop the leading two characters to their full potential. I was far from convinced.

From all the reviews and recommendations from my GR friends I got the impression Jericho was similar to Zarek and Xypher, but where those two were quite psychotic in a stimulating (and hot) sort of way, Jericho came thought more on the softer side. With the first few chapters building on his merciless history and even more merciless 6000+ years of torture, the end result was too mellow to be believable, and only enforced the idea the author or didn't have time to fully develop him or couldn't be bothered with delivering more than another six foot plus, muscular, blue-eyed, ex-god for the heroine to salivate after.
Delphine was also on the weaker side. She didn't appear to have a personality at all. And while Jericho's side of the romance could be explained (their history and his knowledge of it), her falling for him seemed too rushed and more of a high-school-type crush than a deeper emotion.

The saving grace of this book was the plethora of secondary characters. Even the main villain, though he had quite a limited scene time, appeared more interesting than the two leads.
The glimpsed of old, and much loved characters gave this book the much-lacked depth and character. Zarek (as crazy as ever, gods bless his soul) and Astrid made their appearance with little Bob in tow. Tory and Ash were featured in all their domestic (and twinge-inducing sappy - is that the same guy that made my stomach quiver when he first appeared on scene?) glory. Nick was a little less of a prick and I can't wait for him to get his punk-ass kicked...

And the cherry on the cake...More insight into the complex characters (and their still mysterious relationship) of Jaden and Jared. I couldn't shake the feeling Sherrilyn Kenyon used this book for the introduction of their arc and the others just happen to get sucked into it. Her usual humor was sadly lacking, the sporadic sarcastic remarks fell flat, and even the action scenes seemed forced.

Definitely not a keeper but a good jumping board into the next books (and story arc).



Saturday, April 4, 2009

Review: One Silent Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Title: One Silent Night
Series: Dark-Hunters
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: November 4, 2008
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312947062
ISBN-13: 9780312947064

While the world carries on unawares, Stryker, who leads an army of demons and vampires, is plotting an all out onslaught against his enemies—which, unfortunately for us, includes the entire human race. To avenge his sister, Stryker prepares to annihilate the Dark-Hunters. But things go awry when his oldest enemy returns. Enter his ex-wife. Zephyra. Just when he thought nothing could stop him, he’s now embroiled in a centuries old war with a shrew who gives new meaning to pain.

My rating:

Well, Stryker is definitely one of those evil baddies I love to hate. This book merely confirmed why I can't truly hate his tight, sexy butt. I always suspected there's more to Stryker than we've glimpsed so far, and I was so right it's scary. Deep down he has a certain integrity, and a (twisted as it may be) sense of honor. Also, when a bad guy, no matter how evil he might be, shows he's capable of deep and true love, I just can't hold a grudge...Until the next time he does one of his evil deeds.

The bad guy getting his book ploy was an interesting, bold, and possibly damning move, yet Kenyon marvelously nailed it with panache. I hesitated with picking this book up, because I was truly afraid it would be a total bust, but in reality it was a really good read.

We got interesting glimpses into the life, psyche and heart of the series' leading villain, which explained some of the rather ambiguous and mind-boggling moves he's pulled along the story-arc.
I'm glad he got his HEA, though it'll be a rocky road with that hellion at his side, but if I know something about Stryker it's that he doesn't back from a challenge.

The last couple of chapters were an almost masterpiece in plot-twistage. Since the book was released around Christmas, the big whopper of a twist might come through as sappy and overly touchy-feely, but Kenyon once again showed her true mettle and pulled an ending that was fitting and poignant without any seasonal sappines, but instead filled with her signature sarcastic undertone and kick-ass action. Beautifully done.

There are three things that prevented me from fully enjoying this story, though.
One was Nick's usual blame-game that's really getting old by now and just made me roll my eyes and skip those passages. For someone who used to brag about how manly and butch he is, he apparently can't be man enough to admit to his own blame...It's much easier tossing that blame around and get angry at the whole world. I really wish someone would pummel some sense in the little cretin.
The second was Zephyra. I love tough, kick-ass chicks, and I'm glad she's there to give Stryker some grief, but the hate-you routine was dragged for too long and at the end the loathing act was more out of habit that real anger. For someone who's lived as long as she has, she acted a bit childish in that department.
And the third was the whole life-source-bonding thingy. It started with Ash and Styxx, but now everybody is somehow bonded to someone like one big hippy family. It's a bit too convenient for my taste, and it's slowly turning into a cheap party trick instead of tension and drama increasing plot device.



Friday, April 3, 2009

Review: and Able by Lucy Monroe

Title: and Able
Series: Mercenary/Goddard Project
Author: Lucy Monroe
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: September 1, 2008
Publisher: Brava
ISBN: 0758211775
ISBN-13: 9780758211774

Meet three sexy men who individually are READY, WILLING, and ABLE to go the distance - and together are unstoppable...

Claire Sharp trusts few people and relies on no one. But after her life is threatened, ex-mercenary Brett Adams blows into her self-contained world, full of southern charm and rugged good looks. But Claire is not about to fall into Brett's bed. For one thing, the guy has a no-commitment clause that would stump most big-shot attorneys, and for another, despite her response to his sensual kisses, in Claire's experience sex isn't exactly fireworks and brass bands...

Brett plans to prove her wrong. He'll give her a white-hot pleasure like nothing she's ever known and she'll realize that some things in life are worth every risk. When the threat to Claire grows dangerously close, pitting them against deadly odds, Brett will do whatever it takes to save her. Because Claire Sharp has just found herself a man who's ready to bring it on, willing to do what it takes, and able to go the distance...


My rating:

Okay, so it wasn't a vast improvement from the previous two books, but it came across a little freshed, so it deserved a little higher rating (since we don't get half stars, it got a whole one).

Yes, the suspense pretty much went down the drain after it was revealed why the baddies were after Claire, I'd like to see a little more ambiguity to keep things more interesting, but it was okay, I guess. It lasted longer than before, at least.

The characters for once didn't make me flinch (overly much). Claire was a bit too whiny for my tastes and she was apparently blind, but we can credit her childhood for that.
Hotwire has been my favorite of the three mercs since the beginning of the series and I'm glad my "fascination" wasn't unfounded. Like his friends, his excuse for the no-commitment clause was a bit far-fetched and got old pretty fast, but in the end he came through and showed he wasn't as emotionally-retarded as his friends...He was as blind as them, though. To think it took two ex-commitmentphobics to open his eyes to the truth is telling something.

The romance, for once, didn't leave me yawning and its progress was nice and consistent, not the usual snap-of-fingers kind of deal. The only thing that bothered me was the quickness of feeling-development on Claire's side...But the way the two leisurely slid into a more intimate relationship and then accepted what was between them (though it took them a little longer to name the thing between them) was nice to behold and a true relief for me and my fears it might turn into yet another carbon copy of the previous two books.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a masterpiece and will never end up on my keeper shelf (I'll probably never pick it up again), but after the two duds, this lesser dud was a nice respite.