Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review: Seeing Red by Susan Crandall

Title: Seeing Red
Author: Susan Crandall

Read copy: eBook
Published: February 1, 2009
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 0446557412
ISBN-13: 9780446557412

Ellis Greene remembers very little about the night of her cousin Laura's murder, but she does recall the face of the murderer. Ellis was the key witness to the crime, and her testimony helped put Hollis Alexander in jail for a long time. With Hollis behind bars, Ellis should feel safe, but the memory of that awful night still haunts her. Determined to free herself from the fear of being attacked like her cousin, Ellis has become an expert in self defense. However, when Ellis hears that Hollis has been paroled, she feels like a helpless teenager again—and she isn't the only one who notices that he's free.

Laura's boyfriend Nate was one of the prime suspects for her murder. After the court case, many still believed that Nate was guilty and he left town to reinvent himself. Now, fifteen years later, he has returned to protect Ellis from suffering the same fate as her cousin. As soon as Ellis and Nate see one another, sparks fly. But Ellis hasn't let herself fall for a man in a long time, and she isn't sure whether she can trust Nate. As Laura's murderer zeroes in on Ellis as his next target, she must fight to stay alive while she finally discovers her true feelings about Nate.

My rating:

Finally my perseverance with this author has paid off. I actually liked this book quite a bit (more than the previous ones I read by this author). The suspense was gripping, the villain a mystery until the end, the tension palpable, the hero and heroine were rather likable characters, the mysteries were plenty and so were the lies and half-truths.

Granted, it wasn't a masterpiece of romantic suspense fiction (especially due to the severe lack of romance), but definitely the best I read by this author.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: Hand-Dipped Pleasure by Leannan Mac Lyr

Title: Hand-Dipped Pleasure
Author: Leannan Mac Lyr

Read copy: eBook
Published: April 21, 2010
Publisher: Ellora's Cave
ISBN: 770550742
ISBN-13: 9787770550744

Tasha has always had a crush on Dale, the young stud muffin who owns the confectionery. The morning of the Strawberry Festival she comes to deliver strawberries for his specialty, Hand-Dipped Chocolate Strawberries. Only Dale hasn't even gotten his naked self out of bed yet. All thoughts of business fly out of her mind as Dale not only claims her, but teaches her the game of dominance. With some whipped cream and chocolate Dale shows her how sweet bondage can be and that their age difference means nothing to him.

My rating:

Short and to the point. An almost 39 e-pages long-sex fest without much plot, but with a hot stud muffin that (almost) compensated for everything.

Review: Pitch Black by Susan Crandall

Title: Pitch Black
Author: Susan Crandall

Read copy: eBook
Published: June 1, 2008
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 5551829189
ISBN-13: 9785551829188

Journalist Madison Wade decides to move to Philadelphia when one of her articles on violence in the city hits too close to home. Madison and her fourteen-year-old adopted son, Ethan, take refuge in Buckeye, a small town in eastern Tennessee where her father had grown up.

Despite the tranquility, Madison and Ethan feel like outsiders. But Gabe Wyatt, the local sheriff, is determined to welcome them to the town. He immediately falls for this beautiful journalist from the city. Madison resists Gabe's advances, but he's persistent and unlike anyone she's ever met before.

As a romance develops between them, Madison becomes comfortable in the rural setting, and when Ethan becomes friends with Jordan, a fellow outsider at school, Buckeye begins to feel like home. But a tragic death changes everything for them.

When Jordan's father is murdered during a weekend camping trip, Ethan becomes the prime suspect. Gabe's investigation of the murder causes a rift in his relationship with Madison. As small town gossip builds a damaging case against Ethan, Madison races to discover the truth. Heartbroken and lost, she struggles to find anyone who will believe in her and Ethan, despite their past.

My rating:

I'm not a big fan of Ms. Crandall's writing, so why do I keep reading her books? Well, one more to go and I'm done. Truly. Because I didn't like this one, either.

Great premise and intriguing start that soon gave way to slow pacing, bland characters, nonexistent suspense, and a killer that could be spotted from a distance.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: Assassin's Heart by Monica Burns

Title: Assassin's Heart
Series: Order of the Sicari
Author: Monica Burns
Read copy: Paperback
Published: September 7, 2010
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 0425236528
ISBN-13: 9780425236529

The half-angel, half-demon face that telepathic Lysander sees in the mirror is a reminder of the monster he must keep hidden to avoid expulsion from an order of assassins. His dreams of ancient Rome hint at a destiny with a woman he loves, but can never have.

When the gifted healer Phaedra travels to Rome in search of a legendary artifact, she works alongside a man who once rejected her love and healing touch. But her dreams of Ancient Rome tell of an irreversible and possibly dangerous future. For the distant past and present are about to collide-with the one man she is destined to love.

My rating:

Oh, yes. Yes, baby. Now we’re talking. Because this was a huge improvement from Assassin's Honor. Especially in the heroine department. Because I liked Phaedra. Very much. Sure, she had her moments – first when she believed Lysander’s lies and didn’t press the issue further, and second when she discovered what he kept from her and without thinking decided she couldn’t trust him. Yes, she changed her mind pretty quickly, thanks to her friends’ intervention, but that little lapse shouldn’t have been there.

Well, it doesn’t matter now, because this one was one heck of a story. Angst, baby, angst galore, drama, a little lighter on the action as the previous one, but what it had to offer was “da bomb”, smokin’ hot when it needed to be, sexy, bittersweet, and a lot angsty. Did I mention that? I usually don’t like my books so rife with angst, but Ms. Burns made it work in this one.
And all thanks to the one, the only, Lysander Condellarie. Boy, what a package. Hot and sexy as hell, eye-patch, scars and all. A protective streak a mile wide, loads of self-punishment, doubt, and guilt. And a whole lot of love for one woman. Angst personified, and I loved every minute of it. He was an idiot to push her away, but this reader could understand and sympathize, he was still an idiot one year ago but you could see he was wavering, and when Phae finally decided to take matters into her own hands and give him a push, this reader sighed in relief. Then there was another heart-wrenching couple of pages when he suffered for being an idiot in the beginning and not telling her (which would’ve resulted in the same treatment and they all knew it), some more suffering in the end when…Yes, there was a lot of suffering going on around in this book, but it was “good” suffering, don’t fret.

And there was an interesting side story – and possibly a glimpse into a future one – involving a Sicari Lord and the Prima Pilus, but I’m not saying more and risking spoiling it for those who haven’t read it yet.

The only problem this book had were the flashbacks in form of dreams. Sure, they were an intricate part of the plot, but they slowed the pacing down too much, and the only interesting part was the end of “history”.
And, yet again, the Sicari language bothered me. Sorry.

So, not 5 stars for this one but a solid B+.

Review: Hard and Fast by Erin McCarthy

Title: Hard and Fast
Series: Fast Track
Author: Erin McCarthy
Read copy: eBook
Published: May 5, 2009
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
ISBN: 1101044713
ISBN-13: 9781101044711

An experiment in romance...

New to Charlotte, stock car racing country, graduate student Imogen Wilson meets Ty McCordle, a driver who inexplicably has her pulse racing. After an encounter at the track with a woman whose main goal in life is to marry a driver, Imogen realizes she’s hit on the perfect thesis for her Sociology degree. If she follows The Rules on how to get a man, can she steer her way to into the hearts of the drivers and establish their dating—and mating—patterns?

That’s testing the limits of passion.

Although sexy and reckless Ty is the ideal test subject, she knows she can’t pursue him for the sake of science. Yet he’s the one who’s chasing after her, and Imogen realizes that she actually wants to be caught. A southern gentleman like Ty won’t fail to disappoint, will satisfy all her curiosity—and make all the risks worthwhile...

My rating:

Yeah! Finally an Erin McCarthy book that I liked. Really liked, actually. Compared to the two I read before this one was a romance instead of a sex-fest. Don’t get me wrong, we still get multiple-pages-long sex scenes, but there also is an actual story, and a budding romance thrown into the mix.
The fact both leading characters are likable and that attraction between them is “palpable”, believable, and realistic is an added bonus.

This was a cute, light-weight, sexy, “starry-eyed” little story with two great characters (though Ty was way greater than his Emma Jean) with quite a few hidden depths (Ty’s little secret for example), though that final “hurrah” in the form of the almost template conflict situation in romance novels, thanks to the characters lack of communication skills (which in this case was a bit OCC, if you ask me, in view of all the convos they had before where they exhibited some pretty good communication skills).

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review: Last to Die by Kate Brady

Title: Last to Die
Series: Sheridan
Author: Kate Brady
Read copy: eBook
Published: September 1, 2010
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 0446562033
ISBN-13: 9780446562034

A ruthless killer hides in plain sight, someone no one believes is capable of murder. Within a week, six women will be murdered, all punished for their dark pasts. Detective Dani Cole is determined to track down this serial killer whose victims include a young woman she pulled out of a life of crime. Her investigation leads her to a photography foundation and the renowned photographer Mitch Sheridan, a man she she fell in love with years ago but has tried to forget. Dani and Mitch are instantly attracted to each other again, though their troubled pasts keep them from getting too close. Together, through the course of the investigation, they unearth a dark chain of deception that leads to a killer who is closer than they think.

My rating:

Ms. Brady's previous book, One Scream Away, was one of my favorite books from 2009. Everything worked, the hero, the heroine, the villain, it was as close to perfection as it could get. So I had to read about Neil's (hero from the previous book) brother, Mitch.

I have absolutely nothing against Mitch, he was a much a perfect romance novel hero as his brother was, maybe even more so, because he was (almost) a perfect man. Heart of gold, protective streak a mile wide, he never forgot his first (and only) love, trying to save the world...In short, one heck of a guy.

I have a lot against the heroine, though, which isn't that surprising. Dani annoyed me from the first. And things didn't get any better with the pages. If possible she annoyed me even more. Usually the heroines slowly change during the novel, becoming less annoying, but the change in Dani happened too late in the story for her to be redeemed for everything she's done eighteen years ago and at the beginning of the story.

The villain also had much to be desired. Don't get me wrong, the plot was chilling and the villain nicely twisted, but Chevy Banks (the villain in the previous book) set the bar too high to be reached and a legacy that could not be surpassed in this second book in the Sheridan series.

The plot was nicely developped with good pacing and good characterization, but I couldn't help but feel something was missing. It just wasn't as good as the previous book...And it wasn't as good as it could've been.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Review: Into the Crossfire by Lisa Marie Rice

Title: Into the Crossfire
Series: Protectors
Author: Lisa Marie Rice
Read copy: eBook
Published: July 27, 2010
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 0062005359
ISBN-13: 9780062005359

Former Navy SEAL Sam Reston keeps to himself. His world is dangerous, uncertain, violent...and there is no room in it for the helpless and weak. Then the most beautiful woman in the world moves in next door to him . . . .

Nicole Pearce's life is complicated enough—with an ailing father and a new business to worry about—and the last thing she needs is to get involved with a secretive, hard-bodied, hardheaded neighbor. Yet Sam leaves her breathless—her body tingling with erotic desire—and it takes every ounce of her fabled control to resist offering herself to him, no strings attached. What she doesn't know is that Sam Reston is on an undercover assignment . . . and she's about to step into the crossfire.

Never has Sam ached for a woman so badly, and he's never fallen in love before. Now that Nicole is in grave danger, he will become her shield, and guard the tempting body he longs to touch and taste. Because a terrorist plot hatched half a world away is heading to their doorstep—and it can only be derailed by one man and one woman.

My rating:

Okay, here goes nothing. This one was a tad too similar to Elizabeth Jennings's writing style for comfort. Though they're both the same author, I like LMR stories better. This one was a bit too EJ for me.

It was rather slow moving, compared to the Dangerous series, it was too similar to EJ's Shadows at Midnight, and I didn't like the couple Sam and Nicole were. Sure they made fire together, but I didn't "feel" the connection between them. I loved Sam, despite his two almost TSTL moments when Nicole was in danger - that was a bit unbelievable for an ex-SEAL - but his protective nature, his single-minded attention (and devotion) to Nicole is something every woman secretly desires.

Now, Nicole was a completely different "animal". I absolutely hated her. Her prejudice toward Sam in the beginning (just because he looks like a thug doesn't mean he is one), her superiority-complex toward Sam at the beginning, her indecisiveness when they were finally together (I simply didn't get it), her hiding behind her father's illness, using it as a shield against everything and everyone...I found her hypocritical and vain. And her "worldliness" was belied by all the stupid mistakes she did throughout the novel.
I actually felt sorry for Sam for ending up with a chick like this.

I find that in RS stories I usually have a strong reaction to the villain - sometimes I even like him - and that depends entirely on the author's depiction of him. In this case, he was just bland. There was no depth, just a plain, blank, blind following of orders that was idiotic, had no content, and was utterly disappointing.

Even the main plot, which I assume will be the series' arc, about middle-Eastern terrorists, which could've been a great premise and move the entire plot, fell short, slowing the already slow story even further.

So, beside Sam (in his good moments), this story has nothing good working for it, I'm afraid.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Review: Treasured by Crystal Jordan

Title: Treasured
Author: Crystal Jordan

Read copy: eBook
Published: April 22, 2008
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
ISBN: 1599989220
ISBN-13: 9781599989226

A love for which even time stands still.

Graduate student Rebecca Small is so obsessed with the past—especially the Golden Age of Piracy—she doesn’t mind her unglamorous job preparing museum displays. This display is about her favorite subject, James Morrow, a famous pirate who mysteriously disappeared without a trace.

Becca touches the pirate’s antique sword, and finds herself on a ship in the middle of a sword fight, saving the sexy captain from being stabbed in the back—literally. Once the smoke clears, the man who claims he’s her husband is more than eager to reward her for her timely assistance.

James Morrow knows very little about the woman he was forced to marry five years ago, but the woman who saved him doesn’t fit the portrait he’s painted of her in his mind. She’s strong, brave, and submits to his every dark desire. She seems the perfect woman for a pirate, but he makes his living among the dishonest and disreputable—trust isn’t a commodity he trades in.

My rating:

Rebecca touches an old pirate sword and ends up smack in the middle of a sword fight on board a ship...A pirate ship...An 18-century pirate ship...In the 18th century…And the man whose life she saves happens to be the man whose portrait she’s been mooning over the past couple of days while she prepared a museum exhibit. The same man who claims to be her husband…Yikes.

Though this short story read more like an extended sex scene, there was enough plot, characterization, budding romance, and character development to keep this reader happy. In the end I wished it was a bit longer, but since we cannot have everything we wish for, I’m very satisfied with this quick read.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: Dark Peril by Christine Feehan

Title: Dark Peril
Series: Carpathians (Dark Series)
Author: Christine Feehan
Read copy: Paperback
Published: September 9, 2010
Publisher: Piatkus Books
ISBN: 0349400091
ISBN-13: 9780349400099

Dominic of the Dragonseeker lineage, one of the most powerful lines the Carpathian people has, ingests vampire blood laces with parasites in order to be able to go the very heart of the enemy camp and learn their plans. It is a one way mission. He knows he has little time once the parasites and the blood go to work. He plans to get in fast, relay the information to the leader of the Carpathians living in the area and go out fighting—an honorable way to end his life.

Solange Sangria is one of the last of the jaguar people, a royal pureblood. Her people, once many are now nearly extinct, a dying species that cannot recover from the choices they made over hundreds of years. She has long been alone, fighting to save the remaining women who are able to shift, from the hands of Brodrick the Terrible, her own father who slaughtered her family and everyone she loved. Wounded, weary, she plans one last battle, hoping to stop the man who has made an alliance with the vampires, accepting she will not come out alive.

They are two warriors who have lived their lives alone. Now, at the end of their time, they find each other, a complication, neither saw coming.

My rating:

They were both ready to die—one last mission (a suicide one) for him, while she knew sooner or later the Jaguar-men would catch up to her and she wouldn't let herself be captured alive.

They were both dreaming of their perfect mate, never knowing those weren't dreams...Until one day, in the middle of the jungle, when a desperate cry awoke his emotions and his world turned into color. But the parasites in his blood, the ones he ingested to infiltrate the enemy camp, doomed their relationship even before it started...

This was yet another winner from beneath Ms. Feehan's talented and proficient fingertips. This series is a perfect example of how a series could evolve in a good way (there are so many examples out there of a bad evolution in a series and while I stopped reading those, I'm sticking with this one for the time being). We went from dominant, arrogant alpha Carpathians dictating to somewhat TSTL, fragile, and whiny heroines when the series started to dominant, arrogant alpha Carpathians trying to dictate to self-reliant, self-confident, kick-ass heroines that are as much warriors as their male counterparts (and those male counterparts wouldn't want them any other way).
This is perfectly illustrated at the beginning of this book when Dominic thinks about his "dream woman", how he made her a warrior like himself, because that's the type of woman that suits him, the type of woman he needs at his side - the warrior to aid him in battle, the woman for...anything else. ;) He knows full well, a fragile woman would never do for him.

And that's the beauty of the last two books in this series. The heroine is as strong as the hero in battle. Bye-bye whiny, spoiled, selfish and childish heroines, welcome kick-ass, Amazon-like heroines.
And I'm liking this new angle so much I cannot describe. There isn't a thing I would change in either Dominic or Solange. They were absolutely perfect as individuals and equally perfect together. True partners in all aspects of their lives, and they knew it, accepted each other flaws and all.

The action scenes were great as per Ms. Feehan's usual, the man arc is nicely evolving, there's a new angle involving royal Jaguar blood, and a promise of Zacarias' story in the future. Dare I guess who his lifemate might be?

Another keeper in this amazing series.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Review: Shadows at Midnight by Elizabeth Jennings

Title: Shadows at Midnight
Author: Elizabeth Jennings

Read copy: eBook
Published: August 3, 2010
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 1101451386
ISBN-13: 9781101451380

A lost soul

Claire Day's promising career as a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst comes to a shattering end in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Laka, West Africa. For more than a year, Claire has been rebuilding her life and her confidence when she suddenly remembers the man who tried to protect her, and who might hold the key to the mysteries haunting her nightmares.

A lost love

Former Marine Gunnery Sergeant Daniel Weston believed Claire was dead. But the woman he grieved for has just come back into his life seeking to reconnect with her past, unaware of the feelings he has for her. Determined not to fail Claire again, Dan vows to help her heal.

A lost truth

Together, they begin to unlock Claire's lost memories only to uncover a conspiracy that puts them—and any future they might have together—in deadly danger...

My rating:

A year ago they shared a perfect kiss. A few minutes later he lost her in an explosion.

Now, she’s back from the dead, merely a shell of the woman she was before, amnesiac, haunted by nightmares and real-life danger…And only one man can keep her safe.

Though I’m a big Lisa Marie Rice fan (I loved her Dangerous trilogy), I couldn’t claim the same for her alter ego, Elizabeth Jennings. As in Pursuit the suspense in this one had its ups and downs (more ups than downs), the villain was obvious from the very first paragraph he was mentioned in, the pacing was slow…And the “romance” left me completely cold. There was no chemistry between Dan and Claire beyond what the author told us, the sex scenes were lukewarm at best, I couldn’t care less what happened to the two, and we’re talking about the hero and heroine here.

But the biggest surprise of them all was the fact it was the hero who was the annoying one in this pair. While I usually cannot stand the heroines, Claire wasn’t so bad, while Dan…Oh, boy, could the boy bitch with the best of them. And not bitch in a good way. There was oh-too-much inner whining and moaning, how he lusted after her, how beautiful she was despite the bruises, the fatigue blah-blah-blah, how he lusted after her, how he was afraid to break her with his lust, but he wouldn’t mind slaking his lust on her, despite all the fragility she displayed, but was still beautiful despite it…On, and on, and on he went, for pages and pages and pages.
But I guess I understand why there was so much inner bitching from the hero. We’d have a short story if he didn’t.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Review: Flat-Out Sexy by Erin McCarthy

Title: Flat-Out Sexy
Series: Fast Track
Author: Erin McCarthy
Read copy: eBook
Published: November 4, 2008
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
ISBN: 1440608199
ISBN-13: 9781440608193

She met him at the racetrack...

...which was the last place Tamara Briggs wanted to find a man. Even a deeply intriguing, seductively sexy man like Elec Monroe. Tamara's a single mother now after losing her daredevil husband in an accident—and she's not about to get involved with another driver and put her kids, or herself, through that again. Besides, Elec's young enough to be her...younger brother.

Now things are moving a little too fast...

But he sure does get her heart racing. And after she's tricked into a blind date with him, Tamara gives in to her passion. Things screech to a halt, though, when he asks to meet her children. Whatever happened to wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am? Suddenly Tamara has to decide how big a risk she's willing to take to experience the thrilling, terrifying power of true love...

My rating:

Tamara Briggs is finally ready to move on. Two years after her husband's (a race driver) accident, she's ready to embark on a sexual relationship. Pity she isn't sexually attracted to the man she's contemplating embarking on a sexual relationship with...So she dumps him, and loses her purse in the process. Unable to book another room, get a taxi etc. she's lucky to meet an old friend, another race driver, who offers her his motorhome to crash in...And an escort to get her there...The same man who she flirted with a few hours ago. The embodiment of hotness in a yummy male body. And he's a good listener, too.

So Tammy decides to get adventurous and have a one-night stand, only to discover the young stud is a little younger than her and a driver to boot, when she swore off that species...

After the disappointment of Mouth To Mouth, I really wanted to like this book (the whole one-book-fluke thing). Well, it turned out I didn't like it, not matter how I tried.

A few pages into the book I couldn't stand Tammy's worrying about the age difference between her and Elec, what her friends might think of her fling, what her in-laws might think of her fling, what her kids might think of her fling...Okay, we get it, you're a worried woman in her early thirties, knock it off already and have fun boinking! Sheesh.

The second problem was the romance part, which was the main part of the story, besides the sex. This one didn't have a suspense plot, if we don't count the sub-sub-sub-plot of a groupie scorned in the end that wasn't really resolved.
The romance was nonexistent for me. They met, they flirted, they kissed, they had sex, they woke up, they had more sex, the exchanged a couple of texts, she turned down a dinner-date, he got invited to a party she attended, they had sex, they decided to be a secret-sex-having couple, they had more sex, he met her kids, they had sex, he realized he loved her, she loved him back, they had sex, a groupie accused him of fathering a child, they [Elec and Tammy] had more sex, he asked her to marry him, they had sex, he had an accident, she broke up with him, she came back to him, and they had sex.
Yeah, I can see the romance sparkling...Not!


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Review: The Other Side of the Page by Terry Odell

Title: The Other Side of the Page
Author: Terry Odell

Read copy: eBook
Published: July 2009
Publisher: Cerridwen Press

An author is interviewing characters, looking for just the right people to be in her next book. After she finds just the right couple, she has to manage them through difficult scenes and rewrites, and persuade them to come back for a sequel.

It's actually a fictionalized nonfiction piece looking at how a writer develops character. It's short and funny, especially watching the author be manipulative when she knows the characters aren't going to like what's coming.

My rating:

An author is casting her new book, conducting interviews with possible heroes and heroines...

Not much of a story, more like a sneak peek into the true book she's casting for. It didn't make me itch to read that one, though.