Friday, December 16, 2011

Review: High Noon by Nora Roberts

Title: High Noon
Author: Nora Roberts

Read copy: Paperback
Published: June 5, 2008
Publisher: Piatkus Books
ISBN: 0749938986
ISBN-13: 9780749938987

Police Lieutenant Phoebe MacNamara found her calling at an early age when an unstable man broke into her family's home, trapping and terrorizing them for hours. Now she's Savannah's top hostage negotiator, defusing powderkeg situations with a talent for knowing when to give in--and when to jump in and take action. It's satisfying work--and sometimes those skills come in handy at home dealing with her agoraphobic mother, still traumatized by the break-in after all these years, and her precocious seven-year-old, Carly.

It's exactly that heady combination of steely courage and sensitivity that first attracts Duncan Swift to Phoebe. After observing her coax one of his employees down from a roof ledge, he is committed to keeping this intriguing, take-charge woman in his life. She's used to working solo, but Phoebe's discovering that no amount of negotiation can keep Duncan at arm's length.

And when she's grabbed by a man who throws a hood over her head and brutally assaults her--in her own precinct house--Phoebe can't help but be deeply shaken. Then threatening messages show up on her doorstep, and she's not just alarmed but frustrated. How do you go face-to-face with an opponent who refuses to look you in the eye?

Now, with Duncan backing her up every step of the way, she must establish contact with the faceless tormentor who is determined to make her a hostage to fear...before she becomes the final showdown.

My rating:

Do it to me one more time, once is never enough...

Okay, the song has nothing to do with the book, but this part of the lyrics describe very well, what I think of when I finish a NR book (and it's not about the sex, get your minds out of the gutter, it's the simple fact that once I finish one I want to immediately start the next - on(c)e is never enough).

This one was no different. The strong heroine, a strong, supportive, funny and sexy hero, great plot, wonderful writing, gripping suspense, and a twisted villain.

Loved it and now I want to read another. If only I could decide which one. ;)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Review: The Search by Nora Roberts

Title: The Search
Author: Nora Roberts

Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: April 12, 2011
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 0515149489
ISBN-13: 9780515149487

To most people, Fiona Bristow seems to have an idyllic life-a quaint house on an island off Seattle's coast, a thriving dog-training school, and a challenging volunteer job performing canine search and rescues. Not to mention her three intensely loyal Labs. But Fiona got to this point by surviving a nightmare...

Several years ago, Fiona was the only survivor of the Red Scarf serial killer, who shot and killed Fiona's cop fiancé and his K-9 partner.

On Orcas Island, Fiona found the peace and solitude she needed to rebuild her life. But all that changes on the day Simon Doyle barrels up her drive, desperate for her help. He's the reluctant owner of an out-of-control puppy, foisted upon him by his mother. Jaws has eaten through Simon's house, and he's at his wit's end.

To Fiona, Jaws is nothing she can't handle. Simon, however, is another matter. A newcomer to Orcas, he's a rugged and in-tensely private artist, known for the exquisite furniture he creates from wood. Simon never wanted a puppy-and he most definitely doesn't want a woman. Besides, the lanky redhead is not his type. But tell that to his hormones.

As Fiona embarks on training Jaws, and Simon begins to appreciate both dog and trainer, the past tears back into Fiona's life. A copycat killer has emerged out of the shadows, a man whose bloodlust has been channeled by a master with one motive: to reclaim the woman who slipped out of his hands...

My rating:

And Ms. Roberts does it (yet) again. I wonder how she accomplishes that? I want to be Nora Roberts when I grow up. I want to be Nora Roberts in my next life. This woman's writing is absolutely amazing.

What I love most about her books is the 'equality' between hero and heroine. Don't expect to find a damsel-i-distress heroine when you open a NR book, and don't expect to find a chest-thumping hero either.
Sure, Simon was a bit on the brooding type, but just enough to keep it real, and though Fiona came off as a bit annoying at times (yes, we know you're strong, we hear you roar, but it wouldn't hurt to let someone help you from time to time), the balance between them was excellently written.
And they literally came alive on the page—along with their four furry companions.

And don't get me started on the whole banter thing, because we might be here until next week. I just love how NR writes her dialogs between hero and heroine—the humor, the spunk, the sass, the sexiness of it all...It really reads like a verbal foreplay. Love it.

I missed a bit more time in the killer's mind (I can't believe I'm writing this, but I did), but this little hiccup didn't deter from my overall enjoyment of the book. And it most certainly won't lower the rating.

5+ stars!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Review: Contest by Matthew Reilly

Title: Contest
Author: Matthew Reilly

Read copy: Paperback
Published: January 1, 2010
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
ISBN: 0330513427
ISBN-13: 9780330513425

The New York Public Library. A silent sanctuary of knowledge; a 100-year-old labyrinth of towering bookcases, narrow aisles and long marble hallways. For Doctor Stephen Swain and his daughter, Holly, it is the site of a nightmare. Because for one night this historic building is to be the venue for a contest. A contest in which Swain is to compete - whether he likes it or not.The rules are simple: Seven contestants will enter, only one will leave. With his daughter in his arms, Stephen Swain is plunged into a terrifying fight for survival. The stakes are high, the odds brutal. He can choose to run, to hide or to fight - but if he wants to live, he has to win. For in this contest, unless you leave as the victor, you do not leave at all.

My rating:

This was the first book Matthew Reilly published—before Ice Station and I must say I was rather disappointed. Don't get me wrong, it had all the usual MR elements (the non-stop action, thrills and chills galore...), but there was just something missing...The reality check.

Yeah, I know, the Scarecrow books also need quite a lot of suspension of disbelief, but at least the aforementioned Marine is trained to fight and he fights human enemies.

Steven Swain, hero of Contest is an M.E. and he fights aliens. Yes, you read correctly—he fights aliens in a seven-contestants contest held the New York Public Library. Seven contestants enter, only one will come out (maybe).

It was good, but it was a little too out there for me.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Review: Ice Station by Matthew Reilly

Title: Ice Station
Series: Shane Schofield
Author: Matthew Reilly
Read copy: Paperback
Published: January 1, 2010
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
ISBN: 033051346X
ISBN-13: 9780330513463

A team of U.S. scientists makes an amazing discovery at an ice station in Antarctica: something buried deep within the coastal ice shelf; something made of metal . . . something worth killing for.

My rating:

The first in the series about Marine Lieutenant Shane M. Schofield, call-sign Scarecrow. I read Scarecrow a few months ago and loved it from the start, so I was curious as to what the start of the series was like.

Let me tell you, it was as good as the third book in the series. It pulls the reader in and it doesn't spit him/her out until the very end. Engrossing, gripping, action-packed, sometimes you'll even need some suspension of disbelief, let me tell you, but I absolutely enjoyed the ride.

The action was wonderful, the suspense gripping, the plot flowed effortlessly, the characters were great (I still love 'Mother' best), the mystery kept on, the intrigue was thrilling...It kept me guessing and at the edge of my seat for the entire duration.

Loved it from beginning to end and I can't wait to start the second book.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review: Possession by Linda Mooney

Title: Possession
Author: Linda Mooney

Read copy: eBook
Published: March 15, 2011
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press Torrid
ISBN-13: 9781603139540

If you were murdered by a stranger, wouldn’t you want the chance to be able to come back and find out who killed you? And why?

J was born blind, but she could "see" things. Her gift has always helped the police find such things as missing persons, serial killers... a ghost or two.

Detective Kiel Stark has worked homicide for eight years, but he has never met this mysterious Seer his fellow officers claim could almost perform miracles. Not until a gruesome triple homicide has his superiors calling in the reserved woman to help with the case.

Now Stark is faced with a double threat. Not only is he finding himself dangerously attracted to the mysterious beauty, but she could very well discover his own carefully guarded secret—a secret that could bring an end to his career, his way of life, and any future he had hoped to have.

My rating:

It's not often that an author completely new to me knocks me off my feet with a story. Linda Mooney has succeeded with Possession. Very RomeoandJuliet-like only with a blind psychic and a ghost. When you think these two have it bad already, wait until you learn of the case the dead guy and his partner are embroiled in. Someone is offing people, literally shredding them to bits with an unknown weapon, leaving the remains scattered around the city.

Then, the dead guy and the blind chick fall in love with each other, knowing full-well there's absolutely no possibility of them having a future together (yes, this is a paranormal romance with a ghost able to take on corporeal form, but that's it), since the dead guy will probably only hang around until they find his body. But they fall in love anyway, until...

Okay, no more revealing stuff. But let me tell you, despite the theme, and the more fiction than romance feel, this is an amazing story. Just the perfect length, the pacing is excellent, the conflict tight and gripping, the characterization wonderful (I didn't even mind the pity-party the dead guy often threw, he was entitled, after all), the mystery isn't really a mystery (beyond the point of explaining something paranormal to a bunch of normal cops)...But what got me was the last chapter. Despite everything, I was hoping for an easy solution to the romantic predicament, some kind of easy fix in the form of voodoo or a resurrection spell, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. People die, right, even in fiction and Romancelandia, they die. There's no easy fix to being dead. And when your spirit ends its mission, you're gone. Bye-bye.

So yeah, there were tears. Especially in the epilogue (aptly titled Aftermath), there were tears because of another senseless (and in my opinion, rather meaningless) death. But it wasn't meaningless and it wasn't senseless. To know what it was, you'll just have to read the story.

All I can tell you is that I loved the story...And the ending.

Review: Quicksilver by Amanda Quick

Title: Quicksilver
Series: Arcane Society, Looking Glass Trilogy
Author: Amanda Quick
Read copy: eBook
Published: April 19, 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
ISBN: 1101524391
ISBN-13: 9781101524398

Virginia Dean wakes at midnight beside a dead body, with a bloody knife in her hand and no memory of the evening's events. Dark energy, emanating from the mirrors lining the room, overpowers her senses. With no apparent way in or out, she is rescued by a man she has met only once before, but won't soon forget.

Owen Sweetwater inherited his family's talent for hunting the psychical monsters who prey on London's women and children, and his investigation into the deaths of two glass-readers has led him here. The high-society types of the exclusive Arcane Society would consider Virginia an illusionist, a charlatan, even a criminal, but Owen knows better. Virginia's powers are real-and they just might be the key to solving this challenging case.

My rating:

And JAK's alter-ego does it again. As I said in my review for In Too Deep there was something missing in the contemporary part of the Looking Glass Trilogy. This historical part had it all. Romance, intrigue, murder, mayhem, secrets, suspense, sex, paranormal. Even the "soul-mate thingy" on steroids, since the hero came from a family where men needed "the One" to stay sane. Cliché, I'll readily admit, but once again it worked. Everything clicked.

And, lucky me, the reader is once more spared the annoying trait of old AQ heroines - the know-it-all factor. Virginia is aware of her shortcomings, she's more than willing to learn, and, what's most important, doesn't try to lecture on how Owen should conduct the investigation. She goes with the flow, and I loved her for it.

I won't mince words when it comes to the hero—Owen Sweetwater. Rawr. In my imagination, he's one of those guys you meet on the street and the first thing that comes to mind is hubba-hubba. He's dark, he's mysterious, he's strong, he's protective, he's sexy...He's a hunka-hunka burnin' love, if you ask me, and I wonder just why they don't make men like him anymore (if they ever made them).

Oh, and one more thrilling tidbit I'll reveal about this book. It had humor. Not that previous AQ books didn't have funny parts, but this one, with Owen's huge family, especially his three cousins, Virginia's housekeeper and Virginia's best friend, the conversations about Dr. Whateverhisname and his "vibrating cure for female hysteria"...I couldn't help but chuckle. There weren't any LOL moments, the humor was subtly inserted in the story, but there were a lot of chuckle-inducing moments. And I loved it. The balance of it all.

A keeper.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Review: In Too Deep by Jayne Ann Krentz

Title: In Too Deep
Series: Arcane Society, Looking Glass Trilogy
Author: Jayne Ann Krentz
Read copy: eBook
Published: December 28, 2010
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
ISBN: 1101476508
ISBN-13: 9781101476505

Scargill Cove is the perfect place for Fallon Jones, confirmed recluse and investigator of the paranormal. It’s a hot spot, a convergence point for unusually strong currents of energy, which might explain why the town attracts misfits and drifters like moths to a flame. Now someone else has been drawn to the Cove Isabella Valdez, on the run from some very dangerous men.

When she starts working as Fallon’s assistant, Isabella impresses him by organizing his pathologically chaotic office and doesn’t bat an eye at the psychic element of his job. She’s a kindred spirit, a sanctuary from a world that considers his talents a form of madness. But after a routine case unearths an antique clock infused with dark energy, Fallon and Isabella are dragged into the secret history of Scargill Cove and forced to fight for their lives, as they unravel a cutthroat conspiracy with roots in the Jones family business…and Isabella’s family tree.

My rating:

I have a problem lately with the contemporaries in this series. I don't know why, there seems to be something missing. Don't ask me what, it's just a feeling. That doesn't mean I don't like books written by JAK, and that especially doesn't mean I didn't like this book. Because I did. A lot, I just wish it was written by her alter ego, I think it would've worked better as a historical.

Why? Because it had a rather Old World feel to me. First with Fallon's impeccable manners, his being a little of a throw-back into the Victorian era (the guy carried around a handkerchief, for crying out loud), second with Isabella - she too seemed a bit out of place in the particular time, and third with the setting, isolated, special...It all felt a bit Victorian, if you ask me. That's why everything else seemed a bit jarring when it intruded in this special, little world. The suspense, the intrigue, the change of setting...Somehow it didn't quite gel.

It wasn't the suspense that made this book work - though it wasn't bad, once I got past the "intrusion", but it were the two leads. In my opinion, this was the first Arcane contemporary, that concentrated more on the two leads than the suspense and the mystery. And it worked. I've been waiting for Fallon's story since the beginning. I was fascinated by this reclusive, mysterious character living like a hermit somewhere "in the wild". And I wasn't disappointed when his story has finally been told. From the beginning of the series I've been watching him through the eyes of others, now he finally got a voice of his own, and the recounting of others didn't do him justice. He was this utterly misunderstood soul, everybody thought he was going nuts, becoming a conspiracy theorist of the worst kind, and it took a real conspiracy theorist to enlighten Fallon and the rest of his family and coworkers, that the guy was as sane as they come, relying on logic and detective work to fuel his "conspiracy theories" instead of guess-work and blind luck.
Yep, it took a special woman to show the reader, Fallon and the world, just what a special kind of guy this hero was.

The rest was pretty much predictable - the romance part, I mean, since it was obvious in that one scene in Fired Up just where Fallon and Isabella were heading romance-wise. It's such a cliché, the whole boy-meets-girl-boy-falls-for-girl-and-vice-versa and its paranormal twist (their abilities are completely compatible, so thy must be soul-mates) even more so, but it works. Every single time it works.

The only unpredictable thing in this book was the suspense. The villain came out of the left field, the Nightshade is back in business (I've forgotten about them), and the Bridewell curiosities were a nice touch (I hope to read more about them in the second book in this trilogy). But the suspense was just a side-dish, a garnish for the story of Fallon and Isabella.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review: No Way Out by Andrea Kane

Title: No Way Out
Author: Andrea Kane

Read copy: eBook
Published: November 15, 2001
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing
ISBN: 0743418808
ISBN-13: 9780743418805

Something is wrong with teacher Julia Talbot's favorite second-grader, the mayor's son Brian. Seeing the outgoing little boy become increasingly anxious and withdrawn, she suspects problems at home, inside the mansion of a high-profile political family. But even Julia doesn't know the real truth. Venture capitalist Connor Stratford, the boy's powerful uncle, does.

Intrigued by Julia, Connor plans a campaign of seduction designed to keep her from snooping — and to get her into his bed. Yet Julia has already learned too much. As danger bears down on her like a runaway freight train, Brian vanishes, and a desperate hunt to find him draws Julia deeper into a family's secrets and an irresistible passion — and closer to a place where a child's future, and her own fate, hang in the balance.

My rating:

Another great AK read, though it did drag a little in the first 20 chapters or so, and the initial reason for the story (the concern for the well-being of a little boy) got on a little too long. Once that “connection” was made, it would’ve been better to go on to the romantic suspense part of the story, instead of the continued psychoanalysis of the kid, who, in my opinion, was just a tad too spoiled and resenting not being at the center of attention anymore.

Okay, let’s thrust that issue aside, and concentrate on the rest of the novel. Yes, the pacing was a bit wobbly, and it could’ve been a couple of chapters shorter, since things got a bit repetitive overtime, but overall, it was a great story. Intriguing and sexy, and even rather suspenseful in the last couple of chapters. And once again, AK did a great job at blending the romance into the story, so it didn’t stand out, and it wasn’t pushed into the background.

And I absolutely loved the hero, though there was some doubt as to his motives at the beginning, but once he got involved, he got “involved” and there was no ulterior motive to his actions and words...Not that the heroine wanted to believe that.
And that’s another little hiccup for me - the heroine. I just didn’t understand her at first (and even later, when she actually turned out to be human and likeable, I still didn’t get her initial behavior) - her idealism got on my nerves, her head-in-the-sand routine was annoying...And I just didn’t understand what made her tick - I still don’t, but once she got over her hang-ups, she grew on me.

Beside the romance and the suspense, this was also a good little insight into the life in the public eye and the pressures parents put on their children - and the result of that pressure on children not strong enough to handle it.
Though everything could’ve been resolved with an honest talk, everybody kept a tight lid on the truth, creating rather unnecessary tension and conflict, turning the heroine into a busybody, and prolonging the before-mentioned psychoanalysis of the kid, that though it started the story, really wasn’t the gist of it, though some might think it was thanks to pages and pages of focus.

I just realize I’m rambling, so I’ll finish in a concise manner. It could’ve been better, but it was still better than many books that pass for romantic suspense out there. It actually had a plot. And it was a pretty tight one. It circled a lot, but it got the job done. Loved it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review: Killer Curves by Roxanne St. Claire

Title: Killer Curves
Author: Roxanne St. Claire

Read copy: eBook
Published: January 15, 2005
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing
ISBN: 1416506683
ISBN-13: 9781416506683

He's fast. She's furious. They're in for the ride of their lives.

Rising star Roxanne St. Claire puts the pedal to the metal in a story of intrigue and passion that will get your heart racing!

When sexy NASCAR racer Beau Lansing tracks down high society debutante Celeste Bennett, it's a matter of life or death. Stunned at the secret Beau reveals, Celeste is forced to make a life-altering decision. But with her love life on the skids and her family life in a tailspin, escaping incognito into Beau's world is just what she needs — especially if she can get answers about her past.

Beau needs Celeste to save a man's life — he never expected a high-octane attraction that could wreck his well-protected heart. And when Celeste's life is threatened by someone who clearly knows her real identity, Beau has to risk everything — including his own life — to save her. With menacing forces in the driver's seat and time ticking too fast, the two must win the biggest race of all...the race for their lives and their love.

My rating:

First thought: It wasn’t bad, but it could’ve been better.

Well-written and well-paced with a plethora of interesting and different characters, smokin’ hot, exciting in its race-track imagery...But there was something off. First of all, the initial premise was ruined by the heroine and her rather self-centered offer of possible help for a dying man. Second, and biggest problem of all, the suspense somehow didn’t work. Okay, it did work, until the real motive was revealed. It just caused a great dissonance with the rest of the story. It was flimsy, rather unbelievable, and seemed quickly (too quickly) put together.

The rest was absolutely great. Once the heroine decided to embrace her true self and grew up, the hero, the racing, the romance, the sex, the second-chances storyline. Pity it didn’t have a more solid suspense sub-plot. It could’ve worked out so much better.