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.

Review: Midnight Crystal by Jayne Castle

Title: Midnight Crystal
Series: Arcane Society, Dreamlight Trilogy, Harmony
Author: Jayne Castle
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: August 31, 2010
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 0515148369
ISBN-13: 9780515148367

For many earthly centuries, a legendary curse has plagued the Winters family, stemming from the tumultuous founding of the Arcane Society. But now, on the futuristic world of Harmony, the curse's final mystery will be unraveled...

Head of the ghost hunters guild Adam Winters and dreamlight reader extraordinaire Marlowe Jones must break the curse, save Harmony's entire underworld-and fight a passion that could destroy them both.

My rating:

Another wonderful installment in this series. For someone not familiar with the futuristic world of Harmony (and let me tell you, it’s a little different from the one of St. Helen), this book might represent a little of a challenge at first, what with all the new terms, the history, the psi ruins, weapons etc., but once you get into it, you’ll love it, even if you find it difficult to grasp sometimes. For most readers who’re discovering Harmony for the first time, this is just a good enticement to start a new series. It’s JAK/AQ/JC, after all. And yes, I’m one of those “most readers”.

Now, to the book. It was great. Simple as that. A must read for those who follow the series, because it’s the end of the Dreamlight trilogy and a must read for all JAK/AQ/JC fans, because it’s her name on the cover, and there are really few authors in her category. Those who can grab you on the first page and spit you out only when you finish the book. This one was no different.

It was pure excitement from start to finish, expertly mixing action, sex, humor, sci-fi, suspense, romance and a little drama thrown in for kicks. I loved Marlowe and Adam, both individually and as a couple that turned out to be a force to be reckoned with. And when they were “hot”, it was really hot. I chuckled every time Gibson appeared, and I kept wondering just who the heck the villain was. Great suspense tack, keeping the reader guessing, and I readily admit I had no idea until the identity was finally revealed.

I’m sad to see the end of this trilogy, but rest assured I’ll keep following the series until the end. It isn’t one of my favorites for no reason. And yeah, I’ll search for the rest of the Harmony books as well, because I’m curious just why Adam had to be appointed Guild boss.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Review: Starstruck by Michelle Celmer

Title: Starstruck
Series: Mediterranean Nights
Author: Michelle Celmer
Read copy: eBook
Published: April 1, 2008
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 1426815344
ISBN-13: 9781426815348

After years as a Hollywood wild child, Claire Mackenzie put the urban jungle behind her and laid down roots in British Columbia, where she found stability running a plant nursery.

So when her grandfather—screen legend Frederick Miles—invites her on a vacation aboard the cruise ship Alexandra's Dream, Claire finds it almost impossible to let her hair down again. And since Frederick has agreed to perform in a Golden Era revival show, Claire decides she'd better protect her grandfather's interests by chaperoning rehearsals.

She's convinced that Liam Bates, the ship's smooth, charismatic assistant cruise director, is trying to use her grandfather to further his own showbiz career. But as much as Claire can't believe that Liam's charms aren't an act, she's having an even harder time resisting them...

My rating:

One of the rare good and likable books in this series. For one, the hero and heroine were actually the center of the story (without other plots and characters butting in) and I actually liked them both.

The suspense sub-plot, on the other hand, seemed rather redundant, and lowered the rating.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review: Primal (anthology) by Lora Leigh, Michelle Rowen, Jory Strong, Ava Gray

Title: Primal
Series: Breeds, Skin
Author: Lora Leigh, Michelle Rowen, Jory Strong, Ava Gray
Read copy: Paperback
Published: February 1, 2011
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
ISBN: 0425239055
ISBN-13: 9780425239056


You can't deny it. It's something primal.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Lora Leigh returns to her sensual world of the an all-new Breed novella that explores just how savage, how far, and how deep a man is willing to go in the name of desire.

Set in the same dark, seductive corners as Michelle Rowen's Nightshade innocent young woman is drawn into the dangerous world of a dhampyr whose love could be the death of her.

Jory Strong's "worldbuilding is nothing short of stunning" (Genre Reviews)...and now, in a novella of the Djinn, comes the story of an angel who crosses the boundaries of desire after committing the ultimate sin—falling in love with a mortal female.

Ava Gray, known for her "riveting romantic suspense" (Publisher Weekly) tells a tantalizing tale of an ordinary man—blessed and cursed with extraordinary powers—who gets a second chance at life and love.

My rating:

I struggled with the first three novellas, because they were part of series I didn't know (or one I didn't like the first book), so I was floundering in the dark. They also didn't inspire me to go look for the rest of the series, as it sometimes happens when I read anthologies.

And Primal Kiss, part of one of my favorite series, Breeds, left me rather cold. Maybe it was the shortness, maybe it was the unknown characters...I just didn't "feel" it.