Friday, September 28, 2012

Dark Prince: Author's Special Cut Edition by Christine Feehan

          Dark #1

          I struggled at the beginning of this story. I was listening to the audio book, and later determined that was part of the problem I was having. I didn’t care for the reader’s voice, and particularly the way she made Raven sound. Feehan introduced a young woman with psychic abilities whose job requires her to get inside the twisted minds of serial killers and hunt them down. She must be a strong-willed, mentally balanced person who has earned the respect of law enforcement officials, right? The reader makes her sound like a toddler with a high pitched, whispery almost-lisp. It took me a while to realize the disconnect here, and once I did I started to enjoy the story more.

          In this particular series, the Carpathians are the good guys. Vampires are Carpathians who have turned to the dark side and are hunted down and destroyed by the others. Raven is a human woman, vacationing in the Carpathian Mountains, who telepathically overhears the struggle Mikhail, the Carpathian prince, is having. Mikhail is beginning to despair of ever finding his life mate and is considering self destruction before he can succumb to the lure of the dark places in his soul. Mikhail immediately seizes upon the distraction Raven provides and then takes it up several notches of the creepy variety.

          Within the first pages of the story, Mikhail has begun stalking Raven and later psychically molests her. For reasons that completely escape me, this does not cause Raven to run screaming for the first plane back to America. It has been a few years since I last read a romance novel that starts with the “hero” raping the heroine. (Years ago it was quite common in the genre.) And, if I hadn’t been three quarters of a mile into my two mile walk, I would have stopped the story right there. But I soldiered on for lack of anything else to listen to on my MP3 player.

          Needless to say, the story improved. Raven, despite sounding like a toddler and feeling an inexplicable need to save Mikhail’s soul, stands her ground on her requirement for some autonomy.  Mikhail eventually comes around to her way of thinking, and she stops doing incredibly stupid and dangerous things to make her point.

          The plot line of the book has vicious human vampire hunters on the trail of the Carpathians. They have already found and killed one of the rare female Carpathians and are on the hunt for more. Raven and Mikhail, with the help of a few other Carpathians and the use of their special gifts, manage to track down and destroy this group. And ultimately, Raven and Mikhail live happily ever after. 

          I really liked some of the aspects of the Carpathian society Feehan created. For the most part the men seem a bit courtly and old fashioned right down to being domineering and expecting immediate and silent obedience from their women.  It makes for some entertaining reading as they encounter twentieth century women.  I also like their attitude of women and children first. Their safety and happiness are the first duty and desire of the Carpathian male. I also like the concept that the men are dark and the women are light and both are necessary for the eternal relationships they have.

          I’m glad I stuck with this book, despite the reader and the yuck factor at the beginning. I’ve got the next book, Dark Desire, uploaded on the MP3 and will listen to it next. There’s a different reader this time, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy listening to it.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Darker After Midnight by Lara Adrian

          Midnight Breed #10

          I had two vampire books going at the same time – this being one of them. It was interesting to compare and contrast. This book’s vampires lived in America and were fairly modern in attitude and activity. The other book’s vamps were more old-world types living far from modern society. I liked the way Adrian’s vampires kind of hid in plain sight.  I also liked the family groups and clan rituals. These were creatures that were easy for me to understand because they are a lot like us. Even the bad guys are attempting to take over the known universe through political means, just like humans do. 

          This is the tenth book in the Midnight Breed series, but the first I’ve read. I liked it well enough, and am curious enough about the other characters I met to have added the first book in the series, Kiss of Midnight, to my to-be-read list.

          This is Chase’s story and his love interest is Tavia. Chase is a very old vampire, but like so many old ones, his savage nature is rising to the fore without a proper mate. A highly skilled enforcer of Breed justice, he is traveling the edge of sanity, hanging on by his fingernails.

          And then, across a crowded room (cue the strains of Some Enchanted Evening) he sees Tavia. He is on a mission to assassinate a powerful hungry vamp posing as a regular businessman. In reality, Dragos is planning on taking over the Earth and turning the entire human race into slaves and food. Chase feels it is his duty to take out Dragos before his evil plans can come to fruition. But Dragos didn’t get to where he is without being quite wily. Chase’s assassination attempt fails, but he encounters Tavia, a senator’s aide, and the woman he is destined to spend eternity with.

          Tavia and Chase and the rest of the Breed warriors join forces to thwart Dragos’ evil plans. And the end of the book is pretty bloody. But the good guys win in the end. And, surprisingly, the vampires of Earth become recognized and no longer need to skulk in the shadows.

          I wonder if the reading public’s fascination with vampire books has to do with the age old belief in a one true love, prince charming, soul mate, in combination with the idea of getting to live forever with them. It is a pretty intoxicating combo, isn’t it?



Monday, September 24, 2012

Calico Joe by John Grisham

          I’m not a big John Grisham fan. I’m even less of a baseball fan. So it was with great trepidation that I started this book.

          The first chapter sucks. It was horrible. I hated it. After reading one chapter I didn’t pick the book back up for 2 days.

          But I have that pesky three chapter rule, and the chapters really are pretty short. So I sighed deeply and started chapter two.

          By the end of chapter two, I was totally sucked in. By the end of chapter three, I believed this would have been a best seller even if Grisham wasn’t the author.

          This is the story of a young boy’s love of baseball and his hero worship of a remarkable player. The boy’s father is a pitcher for the Mets and a generally lousy human being. The boy’s hero is a young man from Calico Rock, Arkansas who had a record shattering, and meteoric rise to stardom with the Chicago Cubs.

          The climactic meeting between those two men, while that young boy watches from the stands, echoes through the boy’s life long into adulthood.

          This book reaffirms why Grisham is such a great writer. He took me from my predisposed attitude of board and disgusted, and propelled me, apparently effortlessly, into a place where I was unable to put the book down till I had completed it. Granted, it’s a pretty short book, but I read the rest of the book in one day. I actually insisted my husband read this one – he’s not a fan of Grisham’s baseball books – but I know he’ll like this one!



Friday, September 21, 2012

Fifty Shades Darker by EL James

          Fifty Shades #2

          The plot thickens. This book is quite obviously written as the bridge between the first and last parts of a planned trilogy. The story of Ana and Christian continues.  As the very existence of a second book requires, they do get back together.  True love must conquer, after all.

          Their separation has caused both of them to reconsider their positions. Ana determines she is intrigued by certain aspect of Christian’s lifestyle and hopes she can accommodate some of his less violent needs. Christian, on the other hand, is so appalled and devastated by Ana’s leaving that he decides to abandon the lifestyle altogether so they can be together.

          The two of them continue to work on the compromises necessary for any relationship, and their email correspondence, while not as prolific as in the first book, continues to be one of the highlights of the story.

          Christian has difficulty controlling his “stalker” tendencies where Ana is concerned. He chooses to buy out the company she works for. And when her boss make inappropriate advances on her, has the man summarily fired. Ana is immediately moved into her former boss’s position after only days as his assistant. Has Christian traded BDSM for nepotism?

          Ana remains concerned that, despite his protests to the contrary, Christian has “needs” that she will never be able to meet. She is worried enough to make a visit to Christians psychiatrist to get his take on the matter. He assures her, with Christian’s permission, that her leaving jolted Christian into realizing his needs were really choices and he could change them.

          Ana finally meets “Mrs. Robinson” and continues to find her vile and pedophilic. At a Grey family gathering a confrontation between she and Ana is overheard by Christian’s mother, prompting mom to throw the woman out. Perhaps Christian gets his protective instincts from his mother?

          At any rate, the relationship moves along. Christian and Ana become engaged. All seems headed straight for happily ever after…

…but there’s a third book coming along.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon

          This is a sad and kind of creepy book. It begins with someone in a rabbit suit abducting a little girl from a public parking lot in front of a witness. The abduction happens so quickly, and the child accompanies the rabbit so willingly, that Rhonda doesn’t even realize what she’s seen until the rabbit has driven off with the child.

          Now, suffering from the guilt of doing nothing to prevent the abduction that happened before her eyes, Rhonda throws herself into the hunt for the missing girl.

          But, this is not the first time a girl has gone missing from Rhonda’s world. Her best friend from birth left for high school one day and never came home.

          As Rhonda remembers her friend’s disappearance and works to find the girl taken by the rabbit, she discovers many things she missed as she was growing up. She did not pay enough attention. People hid things from her. She did not attempt to ferret out the answers to questions about her friends and family. During her personal search for the missing child and her reassessment of events leading up to her best friend’s disappearance, Rhonda discovers secrets and lies she never knew were there. And, she finds out disturbing things about people she knows, loves and trusted.

          Both missing girls are eventually found, but the ending is still dark and sad.

          This book is well written and held my interest throughout. The imagery used would be great for book clubs and classroom discussions. I cannot say, however, the book was entertaining. I’d love to read something by this author that is upbeat and has a happy ending. I bet it would become one of my favorites.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Covet by JR Ward

          Fallen Angels #1

          Jim Heron is a construction worker on a crew building a palatial estate for a business mogul.  He is basically just one of the boys, although he pretty much keeps to himself. His dark, violent past makes him wary of other people. What he doesn’t know is that the powers of good and evil have chosen him to direct the final competition between them to determine the ultimate fate of humanity. He will be given seven opportunities to influence the lives of pre-chosen humans. If he turns them toward good, the powers of good win a point. If the human in question continues his evil ways, the powers of evil get a point. Whichever side gains four souls first wins the souls of all humanity.

          Naturally, the powers for good will obey all the rules.  And, the powers of evil will always cheat. But Jim is given some help with his tasks.  He has a pair of fallen angels, in the guise of biker guys, and a dog – a puppy really to give him help and advice.  Working for the other side is the incredibly luscious Divina – a demon willing to do really nasty things to innocent bystanders in order to get her way.

          His first task is to turn the business mogul, Vin, away from his heartless, single-minded pursuit of the almighty dollar and all the best toys toward a more loving and giving point of view. He must get rid of Devina, who has already laid claim to Vin’s soul before Jim even finds out about his task. Vin must change his ways and learn to love Marie-Terese, the hooker with the heart of gold.

          This is the first book in the Fallen Angels series. I picked it up because I enjoyed the third book, Envy [Envy review]. I didn’t like this one quite as much as I did the third, but practice does make perfect. And I do have the second book, Crave, on my to-be-read list.



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

          American Gods was written some ten years ago. It has won a number of prestigious awards. It appeared on the best seller lists last January about the time HBO announced they were going to turn it into a multi-season television series much as they did GRR Martin’s A Game of Thrones.  It is certainly a long enough book with enough action to provide several seasons worth of television.

          I’ve got to be honest, I struggled with this book. I’ve been trying for a few days to put into words exactly why. Perhaps it is the hodge-podge of religious imagery, myth and legend. Perhaps it is my ignorance of some of the pantheons involved. Perhaps it is because the main character is dazed and confused through most of the story. Perhaps it is simply that the themes are a bit dark and disturbing.

          The story centers on a man known as Shadow, an ex-con who is preparing to be released from prison a few days after the start of the story. He is actually released a day or two early due to the death of his wife in a car accident.  On his way home he meets a man named Wednesday with one glass eye who wants to hire him as a driver. Being at loose ends and knowing that jobs are going to be tough to find for an ex-con, he accepts.

          Wednesday is an odd duck with even odder friends.  As the story proceeds, Shadow also discovers he has some pretty odd enemies. Apparently, gods who are in vogue are wealthy and powerful. Gods who have fallen out of favor with the local population have to make their way as best they can as taxi drivers, butchers and even prostitutes. Now Wednesday is trying to get all the old gods together to fight a battle against the new gods so they do not become extinct in America. However, as all war mongers do, Wednesday has ulterior motives.

          I spent large portions of this book feeling confused and wondering where Gaiman was going with his story.  As I mentioned above, this may have been due to my own ignorance about many of the old gods the story revolves around. But I kept slogging through it.  I really liked Shadow and wanted to know how things turned out for him. He is the perfect underdog, having made a couple of bad choices and then having a lot of bad luck come his way. But Gaiman makes it clear that he a good man and I kept waiting to see how things were going to turn around for him.   

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison

          The Hollows #10

          A Perfect Blood is a paranormal mystery, the tenth in this series.  I gave it a 3 of 5 stars on Goodreads. It’s a fine book, and I know I’ve read at least one of the prior books in the series because I remember some of the magical concepts Harrison uses, but I’ll be darned if I can figure out which one I read.

          The story is about a demon, Rachel Morgan, and her friends and allies trying to uncover the culprits behind some nasty murders. A group called HAPA is trying to develop a means to destroy all non-humans, and they are attempting to synthesize demon blood to do it. Their attempts are leaving the witches they kidnap and experiment on, not only dead, but nastily transformed in the process. What they really need to achieve their goal is some of Rachel’s blood.

          Rachel has cut herself off from her most potent magical potential in order to retain as much of her life as she can after discovering her demonity. It hampers her ability to find and capture the HAPA members she is seeking. It also hampers her ability to really live her life.

          In the midst of uncovering the ring of bad guys, she must also uncover her true self. Once she is realigned with her magic, she is able to assist in ending the reign of terror envisioned by HAPA.  But now she must redefine her own life.

          I liked this book, but I’m sure I would have liked it better if I’d read the earlier books and understood the basics of the various creatures and abilities better. I particularly enjoyed Janx, the pixie.  He has a very colorful way of expressing himself! Waiting to hear his next exclamation is part of the fun of the book. 

          I don’t think I’ll add the earlier books to my to-be-read list just yet, but I do look forward to Rachel’s next adventure.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

          Stephanie Plum #1

           This is the book that started the long running series about a Jersey girl who turn bounty hunter. It hit the bestseller list last February when it was turned into a movie.  I’ve read a number of these books, and truly enjoy them.  They are generally fast paced and laugh-out-loud funny. Anybody who doesn’t love Lula and Grandma Mazur are simply lacking a funny bone.

          Stephanie Plum is unemployed. Her car is repossessed and she is both facing eviction and running out of items to pawn. While at dinner at her parent’s house her mother mentions that cousin Vinnie is looking for help at his bail bonds office. Stephanie stops in intending to apply for the filing clerk job only to find it is no longer available.  However, one of their bond enforcement officers is out and they are desperate for someone to pick up the slack. And Stephanie becomes a bounty hunter.

          She is after a guy she knew in high school, a local cop accused of murder. He is on the run because he didn’t do it, but cannot prove it. After several attempts to bring him in, he and Stephanie decide to join forces. She will help him prove his innocence and he will allow her to bring him in for the $10,000 bounty. 

          Stephanie’s learning curve is pretty steep, but very entertaining. And, of course, the SUV she is driving during most of the tale is totally destroyed. This book set the pattern for all the other books in the series to follow, but it’s a good one.  Why mess with success?




Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lothaire by Kresley Cole

          Immortals After Dark #12

          As the “Immortals” part of the series name implies, this is a vampire book. And as the “After Dark” part implies it has loads of sex. And as if that is not enough, it also has lots of violence. And, yet, despite all the legendary creatures and despicable meanness, the love of a simple Appalachian human conquers all.

          Lothaire is a vampire, known as the Evil of Old. He is centuries old, vicious and angry. In this world, vampires’ internal functions become inert at adulthood – late 20’s to early 30’s. Their blood no longer flows; they do not need to breathe or eat. This remains the case until they are “blooded”.  Vampires have one true mate and when they encounter that mate their bodily functions return to “normal”.

          Lothaire, a prince among immortals, a proud and vain vamp, expects his mate to be someone of a similar social standing to his own. And in this story, he is brought to an abrupt reassessment of this belief when he is blooded in mining country in Appalachia. 

          But there is a twist.  He would never have looked twice at the lovely young Elizabeth living in the trailer if she had not been possessed by the spirit of an evil goddess. Lothaire assumes the goddess is his mate, and the girl merely her current vessel. He goes to great lengths to acquire a talisman that will destroy Elizabeth’s soul so he and the goddess can live happily ever after.

          But while the search for the magic object goes on, he is keeping the “vessel” safe from harm. But can he keep her safe from himself?  He wants her badly, and his newly reawakened body is aching for release.  But her frail human body cannot possibly withstand his passions. And as he spends more and more time with Elizabeth, he comes to know her quick wit, clever mind, and stubbornness stronger than the roots of her mountain home. When he finally accepts that Elizabeth is his true mate, he must figure out how to get the spirit of the evil goddess out of her without destroying her. And there are still centuries-old promises to keep and goals to reach.

          This was a pretty good book, and Kresley Cole does an excellent job of creating and maintaining sexual tension through much of the book.  Some of the evil acts are a bit nasty for my tastes, but if you are going to be a prince of evil, nasty just comes with the territory. I did feel that the pace and the eased up an awful lot in the last part of the book. Maybe some rearranging of passages might have suited my tastes better. 

          I’ve also got to say that the guy in the cover art is pretty yummy looking too. 


Monday, September 3, 2012

The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

          Mistborn #4

          A fantasy with an American Wild West feel. How many ways could this concept go wrong? I really don’t know because none of them happened here. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is the first book in a planned trilogy.  A little research told me there are other books written about this world in an earlier time period. I have just increased the length of my to-be-read list again.

          Some folks in this world have special abilities, almost super powers in some ways. But they still retain the very human hunger for wealth and power. This makes for a good vs. evil tale with some interesting twists.

          The book starts in a small, mostly deserted, town in what could be mistaken for the American West during the days of expansion. A particularly nasty serial killer is being hunted down by a group of folks who fight for right. These people thrive in the wide open, lawless areas, and do what they believe is right to help protect its more helpless denizens.

          Waxillium (love that name), has made a successful career, and notorious name for himself, as a peacekeeper out in the Roughs. But he is of noble lineage, and a series of unfortunate deaths leave him little choice but to return to the city and take his place as the head of the family.  At first he feels stifled and confined, but as a series of robberies and kidnappings occur, he begins to realize that the Roughs may have been more civilized than civilization!

          He uses skills – mental, physical and magical – and relationships both old and new to track down and destroy the large well funded group behind the crimes. But has he destroyed the mastermind behind the group? Possibly. But since this is the first of three books, I’m betting the biggest bad guy got away.

          There’s lots of action in this one. I look forward to reading the next edition in the trilogy as well as learning more about this world by reading the first three books.