Monday, December 31, 2012

Big Sky Mountain by Linda Lael Miller

Swoon-Worthy Cowboys #2

          First, let me say, don't read this book before reading the first in the series, Big Sky Country. I felt lost during most of this story. That is probably the biggest reason I didn't enjoy it very much. There is a large cast of characters that I had trouble keeping straight in my head. And the book felt too long because so much time was spent setting up back stories for so many other potential pairs.

          That being said, this was a quick, fun read. While I did not feel a great deal of tension between the two main characters, Kendra and Hutch, their interactions with four-year-old Madison were wonderfully written. And, Opal, who appoints herself Hutch's housekeeper for the duration of the story was great.

          Kendra is a real estate agent in the small town of Parable, Montana. Hutch Carmody is a rich area rancher. They have some history, but their relationship fell apart years ago. Kendra married someone else, and they both moved on. Now Kendra is back, with her adopted daughter, and Hutch just left his fiancĂ©e at the altar.

          Kendra has some serious trust issues with Hutch, but the old passion is still sizzling between them. When her four-year-old daughter takes an obvious shine to him, they are thrown together. Eventually, nature takes its course, and they end up creating a family.

          Obviously, there will be other books in this series. If the next one hits the top of the best seller list, I'll read it and hope I like it better than this one.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Where We Belong by Emily Giffin

     This book started out well. A sweet teenaged romance develops between Marian and Conrad. It is a lovely fling during the summer after high school graduation. No one expects it to last, and both kids realize what a special time it is.

          Until Marian comes up pregnant.

          Suddenly it's not so idyllic any more. All Marian's plans for college and career are in jeopardy. She chooses to tell no one except her mother -not her father or her best friend, not even Conrad. One morning after a particularly intense bout of morning sickness, she decides she wants to end the pregnancy. Her mother makes the appointment, and takes her to the clinic. Marian makes it all the way to the table before realizing this is not the answer for her. She walks away determined to have this baby. She soon realizes, however, that while bearing this child is the right answer for her, raising it is not. She makes the decision to give the baby up for adoption.

          I thought at this point Giffin was going to lose me. I had no desire to read about the angst involved with giving up a child. Fortunately for me the story skipped ahead eighteen years at this point.

          Another teenage girl is approaching her high school graduation. Kirby Rose has always known she was adopted. She has listened to her parents tell the story time and again. While she has never had a burning desire to know about her birth parents, as her eighteenth birthday approaches, her curiosity gets the better of her. At eighteen she may, per the adoption agreement, have the contact info for her birth mother. Kirby gets the information from the agency and develops a plan to meet her birth mother. She takes a Greyhound bus from St Louis to New York City, walks up to the woman’s door and knocks.

          Marian opens the door to a perfect stranger with hauntingly familiar eyes.

          Kirby and Marian spend an uncomfortably thrilling weekend together. But Kirby's enthusiasm for her birth mother is tempered by the revelation that Marian never told Conrad about the baby.

          Armed with a small amount of information about Conrad, Kirby returns to St Louis determined to track him down. Her efforts are unsuccessful, however. Marian has better luck. When she and Kirby speak next, Marian announces she has found an address for Conrad. The two women plan a trip to Chicago together to tell him about Kirby.

          Talk about an uncomfortable conversation!

          Conrad is none too pleased about having been kept in the dark about the pregnancy and is obviously angry with Marian. Kirby on the other hand, seems to delight him. They have a great deal in common, primarily that they are both musicians.

          Kirby returns to St Louis happy to have started relationships with both her biological parents.   Her family supports her in this and graciously invites both of them to Kirby's graduation. Both attend, and join the family for lunch after the ceremony. As the evening approaches, Conrad offers to drop Marian at her hotel on his way out of town. They part intending to keep in touch.

          I've got to admit I was a little disappointed in the ending. Everything seemed to be leading up to Marian and Conrad falling in love all over again. But, while the possibility certainly existed, it was left an open question. I found this unsatisfactory - realistic, but unsatisfactory.

          This book had potential all over the place. I wanted it to be great, and at several points thought it was going to be. But the greatness never came to be.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Lover Reborn by JR Ward

Black Dagger Brotherhood #10

            This is the first Black Dagger Brotherhood book I've read, so I am obviously coming into the story line in the middle. Despite that fact, I liked this book well enough that I put the first one in the series (Dark Lover) on the TBR list before I finished this one. While there is a large cast of characters, they are very well defined so I had little difficulty keeping them straight in my head. I am also intrigued by the complexities of their society. That aspect is well thought out and detailed. I'd like to learn more about it. There are also some physical and mental abilities that I'd like to know more about. And, the love story, as always with JR Ward, was spicy indeed.

            This book dealt primarily with the ideas of love lost, and moving past one's grief. There was also a side story featuring the compromises necessary for two strong people in love with each other to build a marriage.

            Thorment (Did I mention I love the characters’ names?) has lost his life mate, Wellissandra. She died in a previous story, but he is not dealing well with the loss. He is refusing to feed and wasting away both physically and mentally. His refusal to deal with the loss of his wife and unborn son is preventing them from moving into the Fade - roughly equivalent to our heaven - and they will soon be lost to oblivion if something does not change.

            No'One has been sent back to the mortal plain after having committed suicide years before. She too must learn to move beyond her self-involvement and grief to arrive at a full productive life.

            Lassiter is an angel attempting to "earn his wings". It is his task to herd both Thorment and No'One in the right direction and prod them toward each other so all three can be redeemed; a task akin to herding cats in this case. The process is sometimes sad, sometimes funny and always entertaining. And Lassiter does finally succeed.

            Whether everyone lives happily ever after remains to be seen, however, as certain factions within their society are plotting to overthrow their king. We'll have to see what comes of that in the next book, Lover At Last.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Stay Close by Harlan Coben

            Who doesn't love a murder mystery surrounding a stripper turned soccer mom?

            Megan left her past behind a long time ago. For nearly seventeen years she has been living the busy, satisfying life of a suburban homemaker, selling a little real estate on the side. She has a loving husband, two teenagers and no regrets. But sometimes she misses the excitement of the old life just a little.

            While on a business trip to Atlantic City, she gives in to the temptation to drop by one of her old haunts. Suddenly, the past becomes very present in her life.

            A man who had been stalking and abusing her went missing the night she walked away from her old life. The police have had an open missing person case for seventeen years, but rumors have started to surface that he has recently been seen in Atlantic City again. A second man, in love with her, started a long, slow slide into depression and alcoholism the same night. The police have long assumed Megan had something to do with the disappearance, but another recent disappearance on the seventeenth anniversary of the first has them looking at things again.

            Surveillance from the nights of the two disappearances show lots of people wearing beads as they leave the club. And, they finally put the disappearances together with Mardi Gras. They begin to look at Mardi Gras on other years only to discover a disturbing pattern of disappearances. And the hunt for a serial killer begins.

            Megan doesn't know much, but she is the only lead the police have. Her happy home and her very life are put at risk as she struggles to do the right thing for her old life. With her help, the dogged police detective finally runs the killer to ground, a killer he has known for decades.

            This was a pretty good read. I liked it, although there were parts I didn't think needed to be there -like the issues with her mother in law. And I wondered what the title had to do with anything until it became quite clear at the end of the story. If you like who-done-its, definitely pick this one up.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

Chief inspector Armand Gamache #8

          I listened to this one on audiobook. I'm very glad I did. This was a great story. It takes place in Quebec where they speak a lot of French. I do not speak French at all, and I find French words and phrases in books to be very distracting. Same thing with Latin, which makes quite a few appearances here as well since the story takes place In a Catholic monastery. They also played some cool music at the beginning and end of the book.

          At any rate, I really enjoyed this story. This is the first of the Gamache series I've read, and had little trouble jumping right in and keeping up. The inspector and his sidekick arrive at an ancient monastery in the forests of Quebec where someone has murdered the prior inside the abbot's personal garden. Inside, they find twenty-three men living a cloistered and self-sufficient life. They live within a vow of silence except for the Gregorian chants they are famous for. The suspect pool is limited. Even though he is expected, the inspector found it difficult to get through the front gate. No mysterious stranger did this. One of the remaining monks murdered his brother.

          Inspector Gamache soon discovers that beneath the veil of silence, contemplation and cooperation lies a roiling mass of discord and interpersonal turmoil. A case could be made for almost any of the monks to have been the murderer, and the men's natural disinclination to speak can make uncovering information quite challenging.

          Gamache perseveres, and the killer is brought to justice. But not before his own boss arrives bent on making trouble, and a modern day Inquisitor arrives from Rome in search of a hidden treasure held within the monastery.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Third Gate by Lincoln Child

          The Third Gate is a supernatural thriller. Jeremy Logan is a professor who studies paranormal activity. He is asked to join an archeological expedition to lend his expertise. The expedition had been experiencing odd events, and talk of a curse was starting to make the rounds. Dr Logan is supposed to determine if more than the harsh conditions and isolation of the dig are to blame.

            Wildly successful archeologist, Porter Stone, believes he has found the tomb of the first pharaoh of a unified Egypt. It is located in the midst of the nastiest swamp on the planet. The entire expedition is housed on enormous interlocking pontoons floating on the surface of the swampy muck. Divers go down through a hole in the floor called "the Maw" into near zero visibility conditions searching for the tomb.

            The dig is plagued by communications glitches, equipment malfunctions, fires and accidents. One of the scientists on the staff is married to a medium, and together they attempt to channel any lingering spirits that can help them. One of those spirits tells of a particularly nasty curse guarding the tomb. Many of the mishaps seem to echo the phrases of the curse. Dr Logan and the senior staff work keep the dig moving along and the problems to a minimum.

            Finally their efforts begin to pay off. A skeleton is found, then a group of them corresponding to the number of the pharaoh’s bodyguard, and then an immense pile of the bones of the workers who built the tomb. Just a bit further on is the entrance to the tomb itself.

            Once inside, it is apparent this is no ordinary Egyptian tomb. But the floating compound will be inflames and the staff fleeing for their very lives before they realize just how different it really is.

            I like Lincoln Child (and his sometime writing partner, Douglas Preston). This was a good example of his work. It is not his creepiest, but was fine entertainment!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Dark-Hunter #2

            This is the second book in Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series. Dark hunters are rather like anti-vampires. They share the physical traits of vampires, but their role is to destroy them and keep mankind safe.

            Amanda has numerous sisters, all of whom have "special" abilities, including a vampire hunting twin. Amanda prefers to keep herself firmly grounded in reality, and avoids the supernatural like the plague. One evening Amanda's sister calls to ask if she'll go over to the house and let the dog out. Amanda grouses about it, but agrees. While there she is kidnapped by a vampire who seems to think Amanda is her twin sister. Amanda wakes later to find herself handcuffed to a very large, "yummy leather man". He turns out to be Kyrian of Thrace, a two thousand year old Greek Dark-Hunter.

            Amanda finds herself inexplicably drawn to Kyrian. His stunning good looks and intriguing accent may be partially to blame, but whatever it is, it is strong enough to get her past her avoidance of the supernatural. Kyrian also finds himself drawn to Amanda. He has not allowed a woman to get close to him since his Greek wife betrayed him, causing the loss of both his life and his soul.

            Kyrian gets himself and Amanda away from the vampire, Desiderius, who kidnapped them. He takes her to his home where he, and his squire Nick, can keep her safe. She must also walk a tight wire with her vampire slaying sister who does not differentiate between vampires and Dark-Hunters, keeping Tabitha away from Kyrian and out of the clutches of Desiderius as well.

            Desiderius is much more difficult to kill than most vampires and causes Kyrian no end of trouble. A prophecy indicates that only a Dark-Hunter with a soul can destroy him. But by definition, Dark-Hunters are soulless. Amanda does some checking around and discovers that if she is willing to sacrifice all, she can return Kyrian's soul allowing him to finish off Desiderius once and for all. She does what she has to do. Kyrian once again becomes mortal. He kills Desiderius, and Amanda and Kyrian are now free to live happily ever after.

            The love story between Amanda and Kyrian is sexy and fun. It’s very much an opposites-attract situation with a twenty something accountant unable to resist a two millennium old supernatural being. I also really enjoyed some of the other characters, including Nick, the squire. I'd love to see him get his own story.

            This was another fun read from Sherrilyn Kenyon. I look forward to reading the next installment in the Dark-Hunter series, Night Embrace.

            You can read my review of the first Dark-Hunter story I encountered, The Guardian, Dark-Hunter #21 here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

          I assumed, based on the title, that this would be yet another book about werewolves. In that regard I was pleasantly surprised. This is a story about a man who studies wolves. He and his family put the fun in dysfunctional, but they are all one hundred percent human.

          Luke is fascinated with wolves. He spends his time learning everything he can about them, and teaching what he knows to others. He meets a girl; they marry and produce two children: Edward and Cara. Then Luke decides that the best way to really understand wolves is to become accepted as a member of a wolf pack. He starts out by living with the wolves at the shelter where he works. But at some point he decides he needs to go into the Canadian wilderness, leaving his wife and young children behind, and seek out a wild pack. Two years later he comes back out of the woods having succeeded in being accepted into a wolf pack. But he has also (unsurprisingly) succeeded in destroying his marriage and his relationship with his children.

          Fast forward a few years. Luke's ex wife has remarried. His son, Edward, moved out shortly after his eighteenth birthday and headed to Thailand where he has been teaching English. Cara, his seventeen year old daughter is living with him and has inherited his fascination with, if not his need to live with, wolves.

          On an icy winter night, Cara and her father are involved in a single car accident. Cara is badly injured. Luke is brain dead. Edward is called and gets on the first flight back to the states. And a battle erupts over what to do about Luke.

          The doctors hold out little hope that he will ever recover consciousness. Cara, still a minor, wants to keep him on life support in the hope the doctors are wrong. Edward, based on a conversation between his father and himself before the trip into the Canadian wilderness, believes his father would want to be taken off life support and his organs donated. The courts get involved, and no one is happy.

          This book spends most of its time exploring the concept of death. What is it? How should it be approached? Whose opinions matter when a loved one is in limbo between life and death? This is a very angst ridden story, and gets a big zero on the fun scale. But it is very thought provoking.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fair Game by Patricia Briggs

Alpha & Omega #3

          This is the first book by Patricia Briggs I've read. I really liked it. Normally werewolves are not my thing, and I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this one. It felt more like a police procedural with some paranormal thrown in even though it really is just the opposite.

          Charles is the Alpha wolf in this book. Anna is the Omega, the peacemaker and tension calmer of the pack. They are mates and are having relationship problems as the story begins. Charles has become the enforcer for the American werewolves. Since the werewolves have recently "come out" and the general populace is now aware of them, a much tighter rein must be kept on the were population. Errors in judgment by new weres, and infraction of rules by all are being punished more harshly. Charles feels like he has become nothing more than an executioner. His pack leader is trying to help by removing all other duties from him, but that only makes the situation worse because he has no distractions from it. His mate, Anna, finally has enough and confronts both the pack leader and one of the pack elders about the situation.

          At about the same time the pack is asked by the federal government to consult on a case. The pack leader chooses to send Charles and Anna to help. While chasing down a serial killer that is preying on the Fae, Charles begins to be able to let go of the demons he has been wrestling. And just in time too. With the help of the local werewolves and some witches, the Feds are able to rescue the killers' most recent victim before she can be killed. In retaliation for this rescue, Anna is taken. She uses her wits to keep herself alive till Charles can come to her rescue.

          The bad guys are killed or captured. A trial is held. But the verdict is not what the werewolves and other Fae were expecting. In disgust, the Fairie King declares his people no longer affiliated with or subject to the laws of the United States. And the stage is set for the next book in the series.

          I am looking forward to that next book.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Thief by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott

Isaac Bell #5

          The Isaac Bell series celebrates the dramatic changes that were taking place at the turn of the previous century: the telegraph, the airplane, moving pictures. This story revolves around the budding movie industry and the holy grail of "talking" pictures.

          The story starts with Bell foiling the kidnapping or two men off a steamship that is preparing to cross from Europe to America. It is simply a case of Bell being in the right place at the right time. The two men, while grateful for the rescue, are reluctant to share the reason for the kidnapping. Bell, being a Van Dorn detective, determines to keep an eye on them to find out why they are so important.

          As it turns out, they have developed the first effective method for syncing motion and sound on film. They are traveling to America to offer their invention for sale to Thomas Edison. But the German Kaiser wants the invention for himself. He has a plan to use this invention to create propaganda videos aimed at getting America to back them in the approaching hostilities that will lead to WWI.

          The man known as The Acrobat, who masterminded both the kidnapping and the talking picture propaganda scheme, is certainly a worthy opponent for Bell. He is smart, physical, well trained and determined. He nearly succeeds in killing Bell more than once. Of course, Bell nearly succeeds in killing him several times as well.

          The action, the intrigue and the peek into history make this a very enjoyable read. I liked it better than the last installment, The Race [see my review]. Perhaps because I am now familiar with the main and recurring characters, or perhaps because I find these aspects of the history more interesting than the birth of aviation that was the basis of the last story.

          I recommend this book, and for those of you who like turn of the twentieth century history, this series.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wicked Business by Janet Evanovich

Lizzy and Diesel #2

            Lizzy and Diesel are back. This time they are on the hunt for the Luxuria stone, the Seligia stone of lust. Just like last time, Wolf and Hackitt are hot on their trail. And this time there is someone else looking for the stone as well. Someone even Diesel and Wolf don't know about.

            There is a scavenger hunt for clues in locations all around Massachusetts. And, this time Lizzy and Diesel need a little help from their friends. For instance, Diesel borrows a painting that seems to be the answer to a clue, but neither he nor Lizzy can figure out what it means. When Glo spots the painting, she can see numbered bells that no one else can. Once Lizzy and Diesel track down the bells, they cannot get them to chime, but Carl the monkey can. They persist in the hunt for, and eventually find, both the Luxuria stone and the clay tablet that will point the way to the next stone holder.

            I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first one. I just wasn't feeling the usual level of zaniness. Nor did I feel the levels of nuance surrounding the stone and its powers. Not to suggest this was not a fun book. The entertainment factor was quite high. I just don't think it lived up to the first book, Wicked Appetite.