Thursday, June 26, 2008

Blue Moon

Title: Blue Moon
Author: Lori Handeland
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Jessie McQuade has seen her fair share of things in her years on the Miniwa, Wisconsin police force - but nothing so strange as the wolf attacks plaguing the small town recently. When a wolf hunter shows up and she is assigned to help him, she starts wondering who to trust, and if she can trust the hunky professor Will Cadotte who has been giving her information about local Indian beliefs about the strange werewolf-like creatures that seem to be gathering around Miniwa.

Blue Moon is an interesting read. I never figured out who was good and who was bad until told and yet I know that if I went back and re-read it I would see all the clues, which is something I appreciate in a novel. Just for that I would give it at least 4 stars. But I'm forced to bring my rating down a notch when I consider the multiple times I saw words misused in the novel. Words where, if the author didn't know the correct word to use, the editor surely should have. For example, at one point a character should have said "descendant" but instead says "ancestor." Big difference there. It happens several times throughout the novel.

I'm interested to see more of the series, but I won't expect it to be anything more than preternatural fluff with good sex.

A Hunger Like No Other

Title: A Hunger Like No Other
Author: Kresley Cole
Genre: Horror/Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Emmaline Troy is half vampire, half valkyrie: something that should not exist. Sheltered by her valkyrie aunts her entire life, Emma decides to step out of her comfort zone and leave home, looking for answers about her life halfway around the globe in Paris. Lachlain MacRieve, king of the Lykae (werewolf) clan, has been trapped literally in a living hell for a century and a half in the catacombs under Paris by his hated enemies, the vampires. When he scents his mate - for whom he has been waiting for nearly twelve centuries - nothing will stop him from getting to her and claiming her as his. Forever.

I have several thoughts on this book. First, let me start with the cover image: it seems to be a little misleading, implying that he is the vampire about to bite her neck. Now that I have read the book, I realize that it is probably trying to be a portrayal of a pivotal scene in the book, but it was a slight shock to realize that the female was the bloodsucker in this novel. Now, on to my thoughts on the book itself.

I like the author's unique take on the paranormal world - she names it the Lore - and each species' take on the idea of mates. Vampires have Brides, Lykae have mates, and even the Valkyrie believe in the idea of a one true love. I was not pleased with how the male MC dealt with claiming the female MC, but I understood it as fitted the character and his own history and prejudices - even if it did bother me while I read it. I'll be reading the next book in the series, No Rest for the Wicked, and will see if the series is worth reading through. I hope it is.

So, fans of romance involving vampires, werewolves, and creatures of myth: this book is for you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Free books!

Since so far this blog has been only book reviews, that's kind of boring. I figure I ought to post some non-review posts here and there, no?

Well... time for free book opportunities!

HarperCollins has a first look program where you can ask for books they have on offer each month.
And hey, so does their teen division, HarperTeen!

Next up, LibraryThing, my favorite literary place on the internet. They have an Early Reviewers program, where publishers give LT a bunch of books each month, and they, in turn, give them to readers in exchange for a review posted (preferably before the release of the book). This month's batch is open for requests through today, but a new list goes up around the 5th of each month, and sometimes there are bonus batches in the middle of each month.

Around the blog-o-sphere, we have several giveaways. Smart Bitches Trashy Books is giving away six books - comment on their latest post to enter the contest. By the by, their latest post is on ways to acquire reading material on the cheap. Libraries, giveaways, and free ebooks are just a few suggestions in the post and its comments.

Lucinda Betts is giving away a copy of each of her new books, She and Eros Island, to random commenters on her blog.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is giving away a copy of her book Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel in a contest at She Is Too Fond of Books, which reviewed the book in this post.

Over at Maw Books Blog, there is a Stephanie Meyer giveaway: five copies of The Host, a set of all of Stephanie Meyer's books, and more. The post is here - go to!

Anyone else know of places to get free books? I'll add any more into the post as I find out about them!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Highland Knight

Title: Highland Knight
Author: Cindy Miles
Genre: Paranormal romance
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Amelia Landry is a mystery writer in a funk. To get her out of said funk, her best friend/publicist arranges for Amelia to spend the summer in a tower house in the highlands of Scotland.

Ethan Munro and his five kinsmen are not-quite-dead not-quite-ghosts. Seven hundred years ago they were enchanted into a state of perpetual in-between: they can interact with each other, be seen by and interact with those who are particularly receptive, but only physically materialize during the gloaming (twilight) hour each day. They do not know why they are in this state - except that it has something to do with the unsolved murder of Ethan's wife, Devina.

Highland Knight was a funny, enchanting (please excuse the pun) book - not surprising, given Miles' first two books, Spirited Away and Into Thin Air. I read it in roughly 24 hours, racing through the first two thirds in the first night, and savoring the last third throughout the following day. I cannot wait for Miles' next book, due (I believe) early in 2009.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

Title: Guilty Pleasures
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton
Genre: Horror
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

For those of you who haven't heard of Anita Blake, let me give you the rundown: Anita Blake is an animator. She has an affinity with the dead - all dead. She raises zombies for a living, but also carries the title of The Executioner. She kills vampires for the court. And she is very good at what she does.

In this, the first Anita Blake novel, the thousand-year-old master of St. Louis is gunning for Anita. Someone or something has been killing vampires, and has already managed to take out two of the most powerful vampires in the city. Nikolaos, the master, wants Anita to make these killings stop - and she will go to great lengths to ensure Anita does what she wants.

Having read most of the series in the past, and knowing what the series' reputation is, let me say that it starts off very good. The first half of the series is a horror series, with some mystery. Anita goes against different baddies, figuring out who is behind the recent slayings she investigates with the police. There is increasingly more sexual tension as the series progresses, and yes, the second half of the series is little more than porn interspersed with a little plot and bigger and badder bad guys.

BUT. The first few books are, without a doubt, very well written. I enjoy them immensely, and reread them every year for a reason.

And, I have to say that Edward is my favorite character in this series, by far.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Title: Cross Stitch (UK Title) / Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: Historical fiction/Historical romance
Rating: Can I give this 6 stars out of 5? No? Well then a very high 5 stars!

When wartime nurse Claire Randall goes on vacation in 1945 with her husband Frank to the Scottish highlands, she never dreams that she might walk through a stone circle and end up in the middle of a skirmish between English Redcoats and Scottish highlanders in 1743. Now, stranded and friendless, Claire must find her way amongst these people, fighting suspicion from both the Scotsmen who give her sanctuary and the English they hate, with but one true ally - a passionate and sincere young Scots outlaw named James Fraser.

What I can say about Outlander? I finished this last night and immediately made a post in my livejournal with lots of fangirlish squeeing going on. I'm trying very hard not to repeat that here, so I can make an intelligent review. To summarize it, though: Diana Gabaldon is amazing at her character building. I completely fell in love with Jamie, who is a very three-dimensional character, not just some generic Scottish highland romance hero. I was with Claire every step of her journey through time and the Highlands - including being PO'd at Jamie when she was. I hated the antagonist with every ounce of feeling I could muster, and loved Jamie's sister Jenny entirely.

Not only is Gabaldon a master at building characters, she presents Claire's fantastical story in such a way as to be entirely believable. I almost believe that if I were to go back to Inverness and Culloden, I would be able to find a circle of stones which could take me back to the Jacobite uprising - not that I would really want to find myself in that mess. I completely believed Claire's encounter with Nessie, and loved all the little historical details Gabaldon added to the book.

I cannot wait to race through the next 5 books in this series, and then on to the Lord John series (which is a companion series to Outlander - it takes place during the same time period, but with entirely different characters). Then I'll probably go back and re-read them again to catch all the details I missed the first time around. The book is some 850 pages long, and having gone through it in a week I know I missed a good deal of detail. I keep having to ask my mother (who introduced me to the series) about some bit or another, and have to refrain from begging her to tell me what happens later in the series!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Noble Destiny

Title: Noble Destiny
Author: Katie MacAlister
Genre: Regency Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars

Returning widowed to England five years after an infamous elopement, Charlotte Collins finds herself in a quandary: where once she was the darling of the ton, now she is cut by them. Where once she had no shortage of suitors, now she finds herself in desperate need of a husband - and a rich one at that.

Imagine Charlotte's frustration then, when, after trapping Alasdair McGregor, Lord Carlisle, into marriage, she finds that he has no wealth, few connections, and absolutely no desire to bed her without both parties being in love. And to top it all off, Dare's cousin - long thought drowned at sea - shows up (or at least someone claiming to be this cousin), stripping Dare and Charlotte of the one thing Charlotte thought they had left: their titles.

This was a charming book. It doesn't quite live up to the first in the series, Noble Intentions, however: Charlotte is flighty and sometimes hard to keep up with, and makes the most astounding leaps of "logic". Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable story with a satisfying ending.

I look forward to reading the third in this trilogy, The Trouble with Harry. Having read pretty much all of MacAlister's other work, I have no doubts that it will be just as enjoyable as Noble Intentions and Noble Destiny.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tess and the Highlander

Title: Tess and the Highlander
Author: May McGoldrick
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Tess is alone. For eleven years, an elderly couple raised her after finding her at six, alone and frightened, amongst the rocks on the shoreline of the island they keep. Now, though, Tess' guardians have died, leaving Tess to tend to the island and, as per their orders, hide whenever someone new comes there. When she finds a handsome young Highlander washed up on the shores of her island, she knows she must help him or he will die.

As Tess and the handsome Highlander, Colin, spend time together waiting for a ship to come take him home, they form a friendship and discover that Tess is not so alone in the world as she thinks.

This was a cute story, and definitely better than the last Avon True Romance (for teens) I picked up. It's the type of thing I would have swooned over as a teenager, had I deigned to read romances at that age (I admit, I had a bit of book snobbery going on, though I secretly loved any romance I could find in books I read). As an adult, now, I read the book and think it's cute. I would have loved to have seen how Tess and Colin's relationship matures as they do, but that is beyond the scope of this book and the age range it is intended for. I will probably be searching out McGoldrick's adult romance novels, though, given the promise this one held.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Border Wedding

Title: Border Wedding
Author: Amanda Scott
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

When Sir Walter Scott is caught in the act of stealing back his own cattle, he is given a choice by his captor: marry his captor's eldest daughter, Margaret, or hang - and his men hang with him. Wat chooses to marry Meg. The story that follows is that of their falling in love, persevering through their forced marriage, prejudices against each other, and violent politics of the Scottish borders on the 14th century.

I had mixed feelings about this book. It's an interesting story, and I kept reading it to find out what was going to happen, but I had a hard time for several reasons. First, Scott (the author, not the character) embroils her story in the politics of the period - who is loyal to whom, who is spying on whom, and who is intermarried to which family and regards themselves as English or Scottish. It got very confusing. Aside from that, the other thing that was off-putting in this story was, quite frankly, the hero's attitude toward having sex with the heroine, his wife. True to attitudes of the time period, Wat is only concerned with his own pleasure and with getting off. Unfortunately, this realism is not necessarily desirable in a romance novel. I want to be able to empathize with the heroine, and that means she can't be left hanging at the end of each sexual encounter with her husband! She may not know what she's missing, but I as the reader do, and it is very frustrating. Granted, Wat concedes that he's been a prig and resolves to make sure she comes every time he does - before he does, even - but that concession comes 50 pages from the end of the novel, and the reader never sees him do anything about it.

Come to think of it, the last two chapters seem almost like Scott was trying to finish her story and keep it under 400 pages, thereby condensing at least 100 pages' worth of story into 20.

If I hadn't been so confused about the politics (which, granted, may have been easier to follow if I hadn't taken a week-long break in the middle of the novel), frustrated over the lack of sexual resolution for the heroine, and disappointed by the rushed ending, I would be more than happy to give the novel 5 stars. As it is, I'm not willing to drop to 3.5, but will give it 4 stars. I may or may not be reading the sequel, Border Lass, when it comes out in September.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Into Thin Air

Title: Into Thin Air
Author: Cindy Miles
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Gawan of Conwyck is an honest-to-goodness Guardian Angel. As an Earthbound Angel, he lives basically as a mortal, but with some perks: he can read minds, see ghosts, and influence people's actions (kind of like a Jedi). His responsibility: make sure any and all of his Charges are safe. The catch: neither he nor his charges remember each other when the saving is accomplished.

Ellie appear one day, in need of Gawan's help. She's mostly dead - nigh unto becoming a ghost herself, with her body lost and dying - and needs Gawan to find her body and keep her alive - all before his retirement in less than a month, upon which he becomes mortal and is no longer a Guardian Angel. In the course of Gawan helping Ellie, they fall hopelessly and deeply in love - which of course stands to reason, given that they are each others' Beloved Intended: they are Soul Mates.

This book was insanely cute! I was laughing the entire time, and completely rooting for Gawan and Ellie. I didn't know whether I wanted Gawan to save Ellie or not - should he keep his vow as an Angel and a knight, or selfishly stay with his Intended for eternity? In the end though, if all turns out right, as you know it will in a romance novel - that's why we read them, no?

Miles references characters and events from her first book, Spirited Away, in this story, so it helps to have read it first - but it's by no means necessary! On a personal note, one thing I have noticed: although I'm irrationally terrified of ghosts, I seem to love paranormal romances involving them. Interesting, no?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Heroes Adrift

Title: Heroes Adrift
Author: Moira J. Moore
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Lee and Taro are out to save the world - kind of - again. This time they have been sent by the Empress on a super-sekkrit mission to the southern island (where, incidentally, her law is not recognized and Pairs are neither utilized nor believed in). They must find their way on the island, learning to earn a living for the first time in their lives, as well as learning that their mutual attraction is not necessarily a bad thing.

This was probably my favorite book of the trilogy. FINALLY the UST turns into RST - resolved sexual tension! And, AND, Lee finally got the glory in this one, not Taro! I love the image in my head of Lee as Leavy the Flame Dancer. Guh. Hello, new literary crush!

The only reason this book is getting 4.5 stars instead of 5 is because, as with the other two books, I figured out the "solution" LONG before Lee and Taro did - in this case, nearly 100 pages before them. For 100 pages I was shouting (in my head) "it's her! it's her!" Ah, well. Also, I really wish Lee would get over her self-esteem issues and realize that Taro's been in love with her since about halfway through book 1. I hope Moore writes a 4th book where this happens.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Hero Strikes Back

Title: The Hero Strikes Back
Author: Moira J. Moore
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Source and Shield Pair Taro and Lee are back in a second book, this time dealing with mothers and murderers and wacky weather (which they can't control).

This book was just as amusing as the first. I can totally see the UST building up between the main characters: Lee completely has the hots for Taro (understandable) but refuses to admit it, except to herself. She will certainly NOT admit to herself that she is in love with him. Taro, on the other hand, is head over heels in love with Lee, and all but tells her - and she's too dense to pick up on it! God, I hope that gets resolved soon.

I loved the author's tongue-in-cheek humor which shows itself at points. As I pointed out in the review for the first book, she has fun in naming some of the cities. Also, she references "The Walrus and the Carpenter" quite a bit - and I loved picking the references out! "'Shoes and ships and ceiling wax'" indeed

The only disappointment I had was with the characters not picking up on what was happening for so long. At the climax of the story I had an inkling 30 pages before Lee realized what was going on, and I had it solidly confirmed for me 15 pages before then. I was screaming at her "hey stupid it's a trap!" for nearly a whole chapter.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Dead and Loving It

Title: Dead and Loving It
Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Genre: Horror/Chick lit/Romance
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This collection of 4 short stories brings together Davidson's Wyndham Werewolves with Queen Betsy's vampires. And sex. Lots of hot, steamy sex.

There were parts I was uncomfortable with - namely the non-con which turned into dub-con in the second story, and seeing George, the feral vampire called a Fiend, fall in love was kind of strange, but cute. So, 4 stars. If I hadn't been squicked by the non/dub-con, I would have given it 5 stars.

Resenting the Hero

Title: Resenting the Hero
Author: Moira J. Moore
Genre: fantasy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Somewhere out there, there is a planet where the forces of nature are so extreme the natural disasters so frequent and devastating, that human habitation of the realm is made possible only by gifted individuals able to redirect and dissipate the forces threatening human existence. Unfortunately, though, channeling these forces kills a Source - unless he or she is protected by a Shield. Now, in this world, Sources and Shields are almost always bonded pairs, as they work better this way. This bonding is instantaneous, involuntary, and lifelong - regardless of the feelings of the individual Source or Shield.

Lord Shintaro Karish and Dunleavey Mallorough are one such Bonded pair. Source Karish (or Taro, as he likes to be called), has a reputation of being a party boy - so much so that he is nicknamed the Stallion of the Triple S. Lee, his shield, just wanted a quiet, sedate life Shielding a Source who was not likely to get her into scrapes or adventures. Unfortunately, she got Karish. On their first posting, they have been assigned to High Scape, a city so prone to natural disasters it needs six - now seven - Pairs to protect it round-the-clock. Soon they find themselves in the midst of intrigue involving the deaths of five other Pairs, a league of disgruntled Shields, and a madman with a grudge against the system.

I really like this new world I get to explore in this book and its two sequels. I like the tongue-in-cheek attitude of naming the world's places: Erstwhile (the capital city), or High Scape (presumably in the mountains). Lee is wry in her narration of events, though slightly too stoic and practical for my liking - no one could be that detached, surely! Still, she's not detached enough to see pitfalls I could see coming miles away, so that makes up for it.

I enjoyed this book, and am very much looking forward to reading the next two in the series. This new world intrigues me, and I hope that Moore writes further adventures in this land, with these characters. I would definitely recommend it to lovers of fantasy, and those looking for quirky new characters with a sense of humor.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Undead and Unreturnable

Title: Undead and Unreturnable
Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Genre: Horror/Chick lit
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

It's Christmastime for Queen Betsy and the gang, and she's in for yet another rough week. She's trying to plan a wedding (which her fiance may or may not want to go through with), figure out how to tell her beloved she can hear his thoughts during sex, get to know her half-sister (who happens to be the daughter of the devil), and baby-sit her half-brother (while not killing his mother). Oh, and figure out another streak of murders plaguing the St. Paul area.

The series is still a fun piece of fluff, but this book didn't quite have the pizazz of the previous installments. Maybe it was Sinclair being all mopey (when he wasn't screwing Betsy's brains out), or maybe it was the ever-annoying Jon. I don't know. I'll still keep reading the series (heck, I've blown through the first four books in 48 hours), and have my eye on one of Davidson's other series, The Alaskan Royal Family.

Undead and Unappreciated

Title: Undead and Unappreciated
Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Genre: Horror/Chick lit
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Queen Betsy and the gang are here for a third round - and what a round! This time, Betsy finds out that her bitchy stepmother is pregnant with Betsy's half-sibling - and not for the first time! Betsy sets out to find her half-sister who just happens to be the child of the Devil. No, really. Oh, and did I mention that Betsy finally admits she loves Sinclair?

This series has definitely grown on me. Betsy is annoying me less. It's not because she's getting any smarter or any less vapid, but because I'm getting used to her, and growing to love her as a character. And Sinclair! Hoo boy, he just gets hotter with each book!

I know this is a short review - I'm hurrying off to read book 4!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Undead and Unemployed

Title: Undead and Unemployed
Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Genre: Horror/Chick lit
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Betsy Taylor, the new queen of the vampires (and a most unwilling queen too, might I add) is back - and in need of a job. (Hey, designer shoes don't grow on trees, you know.) On top of needing to find - and then keep - employment, she also has the small problem of figuring out all the recent vampire murders.

Even though many people call this series a romance series, I just can't see the romance. Yes, Sinclair is head over heels in love with Betsy (though he has an odd way of showing it), and yes Betsy does love Sinclair (though she'd rather die - again - than admit it, even to herself), but really this series just doesn't have enough elements of a romance to truly be a romance series. Heck the main character ends up determined to stay away from the romantic lead by the end of the book! (As Betsy says, "Nothing good can come of having sex with Eric Sinclair.")

After reading the first book I was annoyed with Betsy but intrigued by the story. Now, after having read the second book, Betsy is growing on me. She's like Buffy, only slightly more vapid, much vainer, and not quite as kick-ass. But still charming.

Undead and Unwed

Title: Undead and Unwed
Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Genre: Horror/Chick Lit
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Betsy is having a crappy day: she lost her job, had to cancel her birthday party, and on top of all that, she gets hit - thanks to her cat - and dies. And as if that isn't bad enough, when she wakes in the morgue, she's in her bitch of a stepmother's ugly pink suit and cheap knockoff shoes.

And now she has two groups of vampires - one led by a raging madman, the other led by an incredibly good-looking, but pushy, hunk of man (nay, vampire) - fighting over her, trying to teach her the ways of vampires (half of which don't seem to apply to her), and all she wants to do is figure out how to live without relying on the charity of her superrich best friend.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, Betsy (who happens to be the narrator) annoys the crap out of me: she's shallow, vain, and lives for nothing but designer shoes (although I love her don't-fuck-with-me attitude; it reminds me of my best friend in so many good ways). On the other, the story intrigued me (and so did the male MC, Sinclair - what a hottie!). So I'll read the book, and I'll read the next one, and possibly the third.