Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review: Crossing Borders by Cora Zane

Title: Crossing Borders
Series: Werekind
Author: Cora Zane
Read copy: eBook
Published: June 23, 2008
Publisher: Cobblestone Press
ISBN: 1600880126
ISBN-13: 9781600880124

A lonely howl in the night draws Laney Parker out of her cabin. Determined to warn the rogue werewolf away from her pack's territory, she heads into the wilderness unprotected. Little does she know, old wounds are about to be opened, and she will soon be forced to revisit her heartbreaking past. Two years have passed since Cole Holbrook was exiled from his pack. Now he's back, determined to claim Laney as his mate, even if it means trespassing onto enemy territory to take her. Nothing will stop him. Not even his old rival--Laney's pack leader brother, Seth.

My rating:

These Werekind are rather hit-and-miss, and this one is somewhere in the middle. I'm still "wobbly" on the rating, because it started rather PWP-ish, went straight into a full-on battler between two alpha wolves (over one's mate and the other's sister), and ended back in the slightly PWP-ish territory.
Still, the characters were pretty interesting. I just missed more of a story, especially an explanation as to what happened two years ago and to all the hatred the two alphas had for each other. It was just there.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Review: Into the Night by Janelle Denison

Title: Into the Night
Series: The Reliance Group
Author: Janelle Denison
Read copy: eBook
Published: March 29, 2011
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 1429993286
ISBN-13: 9781429993289

A former Marine and Las Vegas Vice cop, Nathan Fox has seen it all and then some. Heading up security for The Onyx Casino is tame compared to his past, but it’s not his only job. Working for The Reliance Group is his real passion project. His current case: A missing woman. His mission: To find her. But soon Nathan must deal with a stubborn—and stunning—journalist who’s nosed her way into the investigation...and into Nathan’s fantasies.

To reporter Nicole Hutton, exposing a ruthless, twisted criminal who abuses vulnerable teens isn't just a job. In fact, this story has become very personal, especially now that she's gotten tangled up with sexy Nathan Fox. But before she can break the story, and help rescue a missing girl, she and Nathan must brave the labyrinth of Vegas's dark underbelly...where the heat simmering between them is about to burst into flames...

My rating:

This book simply didn't work for me. I'm not sure what Ms. Denison tried to do with this mix of romance and suspense, but it doesn't bode well for the rest of the series (which, based on this book, I won't be reading).
It looked like she debated between romance and suspense throughout the entire story, focusing on one and then the next, instead of blending the two genres into what we lovingly call "romantic suspense".
They didn't work together, and they sure didn't work separately, because the romance was rather bland, and rushed (Nathan and Nicole ended up in bed together on the night they met), I didn't feel a connection to them and didn't feel the connection between them.
And as far as suspense goes, I certainly have read better.
I guess, the fault lays mostly at the narrative style's door. The narration didn't pull me in, it dragged, it was bland, and it was boring.
Unfortunate, since I was looking forward to discovering a new suspense author, but it turned out Ms. Denison isn't my cup of tea.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review: Something About You by Julie James

Title: Something About You
Series: FBI / US Attorney
Author: Julie James
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: March 2, 2010
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 0425233383
ISBN-13: 9780425233382

Fate has thrown two sworn enemies...

Of all the hotel rooms rented by all the adulterous politicians in Chicago, female Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron Lynde had to choose the one next to 1308, where some hot-and-heavy lovemaking ends in bloodshed. And of all the FBI agents in Illinois, it had to be Special Agent Jack Pallas who gets assigned to this high-profile homicide. The same Jack Pallas who still blames Cameron for a botched crackdown three years ago—and nearly ruining his career...

...into each other’s arms

Work with Cameron Lynde? Are they kidding? Maybe, Jack thinks, this is some kind of welcome-back prank after his stint away from Chicago. But it’s no joke: the pair is going to have to put their rocky past behind them and focus on the case at hand. That is, if they can cut back on the razor-sharp jibes—and smother the flame of their sizzling-hot sexual tension...

My rating:

Three years ago she tanked his investigation, he insulted her on TV, and she had him transferred to Nebraska (or so he thought). Now, she’s an audile witness to a murder and he’s lead investigator. And they still hate each other’s guts (or so they try to convince themselves).

Julie James isn’t one of my favorite authors for nothing, and I’m feeling pretty bad about doubting her while reading the first part of this book. Because it was rather slow and uneventful. Having finished it, I know better and will never doubt you again, Julie. You have my word.

Sure, it started slow, but it was necessary to create a realistic foundation to the rest of the story, providing important info on the two leads (and the killer’s motive) in three flashbacks, the first two also illustrating the start of what I lovingly call “the big misunderstanding”.
Yes, BM is almost a must in some stories to keep things lively and moving forward, often descending into cliché, but not with Ms. James. Nope. It was there, sure, it creating the necessary tensions (and some humorous moments), but it didn’t overwhelm the story with its bulk and it was resolved in a timely manner (which isn’t often the case) and when both BM participants were willing to communicate (which also isn’t often case—actually, this just might be the first “easy” BM in my reading experience).

But let’s go back to pacing. The first half was to set the chess pieces on the board, the second one, even before the resolution to the BM, was to grab that chess board and shake it like mad. Because once the pace picked up and the story started hurling toward the big finish, there was no stopping it. And I loved every minute of it.
For a first venture into suspense, Julie James did a great job.

And now to what Ms. James does best. Characterization. Sheesh, but I loved every single one of the bunch (even the killer had that extra spark for me, but that’s probably because I’m a fan of the author).
Cameron was your typical JJ heroine. Funny, a little self-deprecating, smart, sarcastic...What’s not to love about her. But the hero, Jack Pallas, the brooding, glowering, Alpha fed, was the one who stole the entire show, with his scruff, his muscles, his protective nature, his “hidden” personality, his sense of humor, and his bike. And Cam’s friends and Jack’s partner provided the comic relief.

And another commendation for Julie James. You’ve graduated from sex scenes. Yay! Some fellow reviewers claimed it seemed forced, but I didn’t get that impression. Far from it. It was sexy, sensual, and H-O-T, laced with a pinch of humor, and Jack, of course. :D

This is a pretty lame review for such a great book, but I don’t think anything could do it justice. You’ll just have to read it and experience Jack Pallas on your own. ;)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: Rapture in Death by J.D. Robb

Title: Rapture in Death
Series: In Death
Author: J.D. Robb
Read copy: eBook
Published: October 1, 1996
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
ISBN: 1101203609
ISBN-13: 9781101203606

They died with smiles on their faces. Three apparent suicides: a brilliant engineer, an infamous lawyer, and a controversial politician. Three strangers with nothing in common - and no obvious reasons for killing themselves. Police lieutenant Eve Dallas found the deaths suspicious. And her instincts paid off when autopsies revealed small burns on the brains of the victims. Was it a genetic abnormality or a high-tech method of murder? Eve's investigation turned to the provocative world of virtual reality games - where the same techniques used to create joy and desire could also prompt the mind to become the weapon of its own destruction...

My rating:

This was, IMO, the weakest of the first four books in the series. It started rather slow, dragging its feet, it picked up pace only somewhere in the middle, once again slowed down, and rushed to the finish in those last few pages.

The biggest problem with me was the “lack of romance” between Eve and Roarke. What there was of it seemed lackluster compared to the previous books. Sure, they’re a married couple now, but that doesn’t mean romance is dead, now, does it?

The second problem was the predictability of the entire book. Some reviewers were a bit shocked by the “closet scene” between our intrepid couple, and I don’t know why. Everything pointed to it happening (maybe not in a closet, but happening nonetheless). But it was done well, if you ask me, providing just enough tension to keep the story flowing, while also providing quite a red herring, though I wasn’t deterred.

I knew who the real killer was from the first scene (nothing beats a female intuition, and mine has helped me determine the killer in three of the books so far), and that also added to the whole predictability of the plot.

Now, I really need a break from this series.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Review: Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb

Title: Immortal in Death
Series: In Death
Author: J.D. Robb
Read copy: eBook
Published: July 1, 1996
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
ISBN: 1101203579
ISBN-13: 9781101203576

She was one of the most sought after women in the world. A top model who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted—even another woman's man. And now she was dead, the victim of a brutal murder. Police lieutenant Eve Dallas put her professional life on the line to take the case when suspicion fell on her best friend, the other woman in the fatal love triangle.

Beneath the façade of glamour, Eve found that the world of high fashion thrived on an all-consuming obsession for youth and fame. One that led from the runway to the dark underworld of New York City where drugs could be found to fulfill any desire—for a price...

My rating:

Another winner for me, mostly because of the relationships and interaction between characters. I was lovely to see more of Mavis, get to know Peabody...And see yet another step in the Eve/Roarke relationship evolution.

Well-written, nicely paced, good mystery plot (I wonder how many motives can an author invent to carry on a series)—loved the drug angle and description...
The only hurdle for me was that yet again I spotted the killer early on. Again, probably because I took an immediate dislike to the person.

I’m reading Rapture at the moment, and also have an inkling about who the killer is only 4 chapters in, so I guess a break from this series is truly in order. I don’t want to get bored.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Review: Glory in Death by J.D. Robb

Title: Glory in Death
Series: In Death
Author: J.D. Robb
Read copy: eBook
Published: December 1, 1995
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
ISBN: 1101221038
ISBN-13: 9781101221037

In a time when technology can reveal the darkest of secrets, there's only one place to hide a crime of passion—in the heart...

The first victim was found lying on a sidewalk in the rain. The second was murdered in her own apartment building. Police lieutenant Eve Dallas had no problem finding connections between the two crimes. Both victims were beautiful and highly successful women. Their glamorous lives and loves were the talk of the city. And their intimate relations with men of great power and wealth provided Eve with a long list of suspects—including her own lover, Roarke. As a woman, Eve was compelled to trust the man who shared her bed. But as a cop, it was her job to follow every investigate every scandalous explore every secret passion, no matter how dark. Or how dangerous.

My rating:

One of the initial reservations I had about this series was the doubt about the “readability” of a series with the same leading characters, Eve Dallas and Roarke. I mean, wouldn’t it get boring after a while?

The first book read like a “standard” romance to me. Boy meets girl, falls for her, girl falls right back, they defeat a murderer, and live happily ever after. What’s to add?

Well, my worries and doubts were completely unfounded if this second book is any indication. Because there was plenty more for the reader to learn about both of them and for them to learn about each other. And there was a rather big obstacle in the middle, thanks to Eve and her stubborn refusal to lean on anyone. Lucky for them (and us) they resolved the issue, but I’m glad it was her that made that last step, because Roarke deserved it. Boy, did he deserve it.

In other news (just kidding), this was again a great book, fast-paced, wonderfully written, with great characters, and suspense. The only hiccup for me was the fact I knew who the killer was from the second murder on. Maybe because I loathed the person, but I was right.

Oh, and I have to talk about the ending. Well, not as much talk about it than go “awwww”. Loved it. Absolutely perfect timing.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Review: Naked in Death by J.D. Robb

Title: Naked in Death
Series: In Death
Author: J.D. Robb
Read copy: eBook
Published: July 1, 1995
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
ISBN: 1101203544
ISBN-13: 9781101203545

Eve Dallas is a New York police lieutenant hunting for a ruthless killer. In over ten years on the force, she's seen it all—and knows that her survival depends on her instincts. And she's going against every warning telling her not to get involved with Roarke, an Irish billionaire—and suspect in Eve's murder investigation. But passion and seduction have rules of their own, and it's up to Eve to take a chance in the arms of a man she knows nothing about—except the addictive hunger of needing his touch.

My rating:

I kept putting this series to the back of my mind, because it's long (and growing longer) and I wasn't really sure about NR writing a futuristic suspense series.

But then I read Nora Roberts's Night Tales series, and my fellow reviewers kept mentioning that 1990's Silhouette/Harlequin series being the building stone for In Death, especially in the h/H department, and I really liked the Night Tales books, so I decided it was time to give In Death a spin.

And let me say it loud and clear—I wasn't disappointed. Quite the opposite really.

The style was completely different from her alter ego's contemporaries—it was grittier, more "down-and-dirty", it didn't have that "flowing prose" you can spot in her later novels, the dialogs were were more 'staccatto' than 'legato'...Nothing was "smooth" and it worked perfectly, presenting a slightly different world than we live in now, complimenting the character of Eve perfectly.

Eve was great, flawed, issue-filled, but so utterly realistic that it was a real pleasure to read. Dedicated, stubborn, strong, self-reliant, but with a deep-seeded need to be loved, to be held, to be taken care of that scared her to death.
And here's where Roarke comes in. Tall, dark, handsome, brooding, sexy as hell, dangerous, "bad boy" to the core that can't help but fall for our valiant detective, even when she's still investigating his possible involvement in a triple murder. I loved the guy to bits, and that love turned into a little fan-girl obsession when he said the L-word first. What's not to adore about a guy like that? A guy that brings you fresh coffee, that keeps you in bed for hours (and not to sleep), that needs to take care of you, wants to take care of you no matter how much you struggle, that goes to the line for you...Oh, boy.

Now, having read this first book (and planning on reading all of them in the very near future), I can see the "similarities" between the characters in this book and some of the characters in the Night Tales series (the first books' heroine's last name was O'Roarke, the second book's heroine was her sister and hooked up with a guy very similar to Roarke—complete with a mansion and a bed under the skylight, the heroine in the third book was a determined cop with a dark and painful past—sound familiar?, there are not much similarities with the fourth book, but the fifth one has it all—a determined female cop, a self-made man, filthy rich, that doesn't hurt women, skirting the edge of legality, a protective father figure who's also a cop...). If the Night Tales series can be considered as warm-up, research, and drafts for In Death, I'm really in for a treat. And I cannot wait.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Review: Naked Heat by Richard Castle

Title: Naked Heat
Series: Nikki Heat
Author: Richard Castle
Read copy: eBook
Published: September 28, 2010
Publisher: Hyperion
ISBN: 140139616X
ISBN-13: 9781401396169

Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook are together again in Richard Castle's thrilling follow-up to his New York Times bestseller, Heat Wave.

When New York's most vicious gossip columnist, Cassidy Towne, is found dead, Heat uncovers a gallery of high profile suspects, all with compelling motives for killing the most feared muckraker in Manhattan.

Heat's murder investigation is complicated by her surprise reunion with superstar magazine journalist Jameson Rook. In the wake of their recent breakup, Nikki would rather not deal with their raw emotional baggage. But the handsome, wise-cracking Pulitzer Prize-winning writer's personal involvement in the case forces her to team up with Rook anyway. The residue of their unresolved romantic conflict and crackling sexual tension fills the air as Heat and Rook embark on a search for a killer among celebrities and mobsters, singers and hookers, pro athletes and shamed politicians.

This new, explosive case brings on the heat in the glittery world of secrets, cover-ups, and scandals.

My rating:

I’m happy to report, this was a huge improvement from the previous book (Heat Wave). While the first one came through as more of an inside joke, riding the tidal wave of the Castle TV show and seemed more like a fanfiction than an actual book written by a “New York Times Bestselling Author”, this one actually read like a book.

The writing and style was the first obvious improvement, the characters had (a little) more depth— though still not enough for my liking, the pacing was good, and so was the plot, and the villain was a little more difficult to spot.

I’m so glad I decided to read this right after Heat Wave, because it improved my notion of “Richard Castle” as an actual writer in a big way.
Also, the fact Rook wasn’t such an idiot was a major plus, though I still have some reservations regarding Nikki Heat.
Now I can go back to the TV show (which is still better than the books, even for a big Caskett shipper like me) and wait for the next book in this series.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review: Heat Wave by Richard Castle

Title: Heat Wave
Series: Nikki Heat
Author: Richard Castle
Read copy: eBook
Published: September 29, 2009
Publisher: Hyperion
ISBN: 1401394760
ISBN-13: 9781401394769

Richard Castle, proprietor of the successful Derrick Storm franchise, wants to introduce us to the new crime fighter in town. She's Nikki Heat, a sexy, opinionated NYPD homicide detective who is being asked to bite into more than her fair share of perplexing Big Apple murders. Adding insult to overwork, her boss assigns her to babysit a handsome Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter. Sparks are flying in every direction in this series.

My rating:

This is a prime example of TV-show-success exploitation. It reads like a fanfiction written by someone NOT Richard Castle. At least not Richard Castle from the TV show. Because from what I saw in the series, the “original” Richard Castle at least appears to be a (much) better writer.

So, why the fanfiction-y feel?

1. It read like one of the episodes of the TV show, though to be turned into one if would need a lot of work.

2. All of the “main” characters were there (with slightly different names), and Mr. Castle didn’t bother much with characterization. They were all pretty much one-dimensional and would’ve been bland without my imagination providing for their voices, images, and filling up all the other holes.

3. It had a little more nudity (scene with Pochenko).

4. It had the mandatory sex scene between the two leads (What’s the acronym for them in the fanfic world? Caskett?), though it still read like an episode part (...they tumble onto the bed. [Fade to black] The next morning...). I missed the “steaminess” so-much-advertised in one of the starter episodes of Season 2.

Especially given the last one, which could be Richard Castle living out writing up his fantasy scenario with “real life” Nikki Heat (Det. Kate Beckett), why did I say it was written by someone so obviously not Richard Castle from the show?

Well, sure, Jameson Rook (Richard Castle’s “fictional” counterpart, and the one Nikki Heat had a naked one-on-one on “page 105” sans all the steam if we don’t count the fictional heat wave) was a bit more “heroic” and more obviously protective than his “real life” counterpart, but why on earth would Rick Castle write himself to be such an idiot? Because while the “real” Richard Castle would sometimes act like a child (well, most of the time) he’s a pretty good detective, often providing insightful and helpful information for solving the case. James Rook on the other hand appeared to have no clue, jumping from conclusion to conclusion, suspect to suspect, offering himself up for embarrassment and pick-on fodder for Heat and Roach.

Maybe I dissected this a bit too much (when it comes to characters), instead of just enjoying it for an entertaining romp that it hoped to be was. But as a new, yes, but enthusiastic fan of Castle I couldn’t help but feel cheated with this book.

This is one of those times when you wish you could get a refund.

One-dimensional characters, some of them acting not at all like them (Jameson Rook is one example, Nikki Heat the other, because she was being a bitch through most of the book), a pretty standard crime with the perp visible from a mile away, not particularly well-written. The flow was broken, the pacing slow, the jumping from scene to scene a bit too jarring...

I do have the next book on my eReader, but I think I’ll wait and enjoy the TV show instead.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Review: The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance by Trisha Telep (editor)

Title: The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance
Author: Trisha Telep (editor)

Read copy: Paperback
Published: March 9, 2009
Publisher: Running Press
ISBN: 0762436514
ISBN-13: 9780762436514

Fall in love with someone out of this world.

If love transcends all boundaries then paranormal romance is its logical conclusion. From the biggest names around, here are 24 tales to take you to another time and place.

Let Alyssa Day, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Cheyenne McCray, Jeaniene Frost, Ilona Andrews, Kelley Armstrong, Maria V. Snyder, Carrie Vaughn, Allyson James Marland and others show you powers beyond your wildest imaginings.

Within these pages mythical beasts, magical creatures of all shapes and sizes, heart-stoppingly handsome ghosts, angels, and mortals with extra-sensitive sensory perception play out the themes of extraordinary desires.

My rating:

Nothing to write home about, that's for sure. There were a couple of good stories in here, but were unfortunate to share space with other not-so-good stories, and so seemed rushed and not long enough. The potential was there, though.

The Good:
Paranormal Romance Blues by Kelley Armstrong (good humor)
Taking Hold by Anya Bast (wanted to read more about Mac and Lily)
How To Date a Superhero Jean Johnson (it promised, but didn't show the "big scene")
Trinity Blue by Eve Silver (again, wanted to read more)
Grace of Small Magics by Ilona Andrews (the absolute best in the bunch)
Night Vision by Maria V. Snyder (interesting premise, too little space)
Pack by Jeaniene Frost (what's not to love about werewolves, especially hunky ones, although the heroine was the most annoying one of the bunch)
The Dream Catcher by Allyson James (definitely not long enough)

The So-So: (with a little more work, and more plot, they might've worked)
John Doe by Anna Windsor
Light Through Fog by Holly Lisle
Once A Demon by Dina James
The Princess and the Peas by Alyssa Day
At Second Bite by Michelle Rowen
In Sheep's Clothing by Meljean Brook

The Bad: (utterly unnecessary, IYAM)
The Temptation of Robin Green by Carrie Vaughn
Succubus Seduction by Cheyenne McCray
Daniel by C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp
The Tuesday Enchantress by Mary Jo Putney
Pele's Tears by Catherine Mulvany
When Gargoyles Fly by Lori Devoti
The Lighthouse Keeper and His Wife by Sara Mackenzie
Blood Song by Lynda Hilburn
Blue Crush by Rachel Caine
The Wager by Kinley MacGregor

Monday, April 4, 2011

Review: Hard Evidence by Pamela Clare

Title: Hard Evidence
Series: I-Team
Author: Pamela Clare
Read copy: eBook
Published: October 3, 2006
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
ISBN: 1440619638
ISBN-13: 9781440619632

Investigative reporter Tessa Novak witnesses the murder of a teenage girl-and believes Julian Darcangelo committed the crime. But Julian is actually an undercover FBI agent on the trail of a human trafficker and killer. And now Tessa's report has brought them closer than either one of them could have imagined-and put both of their lives in danger.

My rating:

Another intense and gripping story in the I-Team series, though not as enjoyable as the previous one. And the guilt lays full on the shoulders of Tessa Novak, the heroine.

The previous book worked despite the fact the heroine was an investigative journalist conducting a full-scale investigation into an environmental crime, because said heroine knew her limitations, knew the danger, and acted accordingly.

Tessa, at least in the first half of the story, didn’t. And despite the intelligence she showed, despite her smarts, the fact that she deliberately thrust herself in dangerous situations not caring much about her life or that of those intent on rescuing her, puts her firmly in the TSTL territory for me. And the fact that it really took a near-death experience (the guy took five bullets for her!) to change her ways says a lot. And nothing good.

When she finally saw reason, I finally began to like her, but still, her initial behavior left a sour aftertaste in my mouth.

As for the rest of the story…You won’t hear any complaints from me on any account. Fast-paced, well-written, equipped with a great leading man (brooding attitude, leather jacket, dark past, tortured soul, and all that jazz), delightfully twisted villain, and a tight and wonderful plot (though I did know who the FBI leak was from the beginning, what can I say – female intuition).

The romance wasn’t as prominent in this one as in the previous book, but it subtly tagged along, “piping up” when it needed, working its magic in the background, planting the seeds…And finally blooming in the last few chapters, when the going really got tough. Sometimes it really takes a good life-or-death situation for people to look into their heart.

Despite the initial idiocy from the heroine, this was still a gripping tale.