Saturday, June 30, 2007

Making Chase by Lauren Dane

After some incredibly frustrating efforts to get this damned book to load into my ebookwise, Lauren Dane very nicely sent me a copy of this book. It then loaded perfectly. I'm thinking I need to send Samhain a bitchy note. Sigh. Anywho...

This is the last book in the Chase series. Woe is me. I've thoroughly enjoyed this entire series. This last book focuses on Matt Chase, the last unwed brother. When a chance encounter with a car's bumper puts Tate on the ground and Matt in the role of rescuer (his job, BTW), she makes him some of her famous cookies as a thank you. And a great friendship is born. Tate, of course has had the hots for him for a long time, but this new friendship allows her to get to know him as a man, and she really likes what she sees. Matt also grows to care for Tate, and over the course of a few months realizes that she is the one. I loved seeing their relationship grow out of friendship, as did Maggie and Kyle's. Those are the best kind, IMO.

As with all of the Chase books, the heroines have huge issues, and Tate is no different. She hides her true issues behind an easy out - "I'm fat - how can you like what you see?" (How many of us have used that line? Raising hand.) Matt works hard to convince Tate that she is beautiful to him, both inside and out. In the course of all this, his issues come to the surface. All his life people have labeled him as the beautiful, shallow one, and whenever Tate uses that as an easy out to avoid discussing her own issues, it truly hurts him.

Once Tate's real issues do come out, Matt is appalled - not with her, but at the injustice of it all. Of all the brothers, he reminds me most of Kyle. He is warm, supportive, caring and sexy as hell in a very unabashed beta way. Very hot, just like my own beta man.

Tate is a strong lady who worked incredibly hard to overcome adversity and raise her siblings. Lauren Dane builds her character forcefully, yet not unappealingly. She has buried her issues for so long that once they start to resurrect themselves, they simply steamroll out of control. So much so that as a reader, at one point I was saying OMG, enough already! It was at that point that Dane made it enough already, and began the healing process for Tate. Smart cookie, knowing when your readers won't be able to take another minute without throwing the book against the wall.

And what a testament to those faboo Chase bros that Matt stuck it out with her through the whole thing. Holding her and cherishing her. And becoming so bewildered when stalking off for a few minutes alone to find that Tate's siblings were packing his bags to move him out, simply because he'd needed a few minutes alone (unbeknownst to Tate, lest y'all think she's a raging bitch).

I also liked seeing Tate finally get over her issues with the other Chase wives and bond with them. It was great fun seeing gorgeous Liv whine, "How come you like Cassie and Maggie more than me?!" Uh, maybe cause you're drop dead gorgeous and my boyfriend's slept with you? Duh? LOL.

I adored the ending as well. It was a wonderful wrap up to the series. I will be sorry to wave goodbye to Petal and the Chases. But thankfully, ebooks are forever.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Last Words by Mariah Stewart

Last Words by Mariah StewartThe next in the "Last..." trilogy, this one is drawn even more tightly than Last Look. Highly suspenseful and emotional, I was pulled into the story of Mia and Beck from the get-go. Another of the Shields FBI siblings, Mia definitely has issues with her brother having killed her cousin. Stewart has written another strong, capable, yet vulnerable heroine, along with another flawed, yet thoughtful and thoroughly wonderful hero.

This storyline is definitely not for the squeamish, as Stewart gets more graphic in her descriptions than she has in quite some time, I think. I, personally, loved it, freak that I am *g*. Her descriptive text is flawless, her characterizations are deep and appropriate, and her sense of suspense is terrific. This is one of those books where you think to yourself with each new character introduced – "Is he the one?"

I loved Beck, the Police Chief – loved the way he was so protective of Mia, yet completely allowed her to do her job in a professional manner. And Mia was so human – able to be so professional, yet teetering on the verge of a drinking problem brought on by her brother’s actions a year earlier. Once again, we see Connor, the last Shields sibling, and Anne Marie McCall, the FBI profiler who was to have married the murdered Shields cousin. Although Connor plays a very tiny role in this book (perhaps a total of 10 pages altogether?), Stewart definitely whetted my appetite for his book, Last Breath, which comes out in August. Woot!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Last Look by Mariah Stewart

Last LookNews that the body of a recently murdered prostitute—shot through the heart at close range, stabbed repeatedly and dumped on Georgia's Shelter Island—has been identified as Shannon Randall stuns the FBI, particularly Special Agent Dorsey Collins. Twenty-four years ago, nineteen year old Eric Louis Beale was convicted and later executed for Shannon's murder—and the agent in charge of the investigation was Dorsey's father. Now Dorsey is determined to find out where her father's investigation went wrong, what part he played in the death of an innocent young man, and where Shannon has been all this time.

The heat is on FBI Special Agent Andrew Shields to discover what happened to Shannon on that night decades ago, and to find out who killed her and why. Dorsey shadows Andrew's every investigative move, hoping to redeem her father's reputation and capture a cunning killer. Together, Dorsey and Andrew unravel a shocking mystery that will shatter one family, and rock an entire town.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I love Mariah Stewart. With Last Look, she carries on the story of the Shields family. This one is Andrew Shields' story. He's the brother of the FBI agent gone bad from Dead End. This one is far less romance and far more thriller. Less romance even than Stewart usually puts into her books (and usually it's not a whole lot). When I read a Stewart book, I never seem to mind. But the tension is definitely there between Dorsey and Andrew. Stewart writes that in masterfully. They share their deepest secrets and fears with one another. They share one kiss. Somehow, you just know that their relationship will progress further.

Characterization - fantastic, as always. We learn about Andrew and Dorsey, about her father, and about the families involved. Just enough. Never too much, never too little. But so much that we care about Andrew and Dorsey - a lot and immediately. We want him to overcome the emotional pain caused by his brother's betrayal. We want her to overcome the pain of her father's emotional betrayal. Simply put, Stewart writes them so well, we care from the get-go what happens to them, and we want them to succeed. Together.

As for the thriller portion of the book, it is a tight, emotional family drama; carried out in the small-town South, delving into family secrets long kept silent, ripping open the wounds of two families in Andrew and Dorsey's desperate search for the truth.

And once again, Stewart had me guessing on the whodunnit until the very end. Shocking and horrifying, as always. If you haven't read her before, even though they are all related, each one really is a stand alone, so go for it, although I highly recommend them all! Next up is Last Words in July, then Last Breath in August. One each month this summer. Can't wait.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sharing a trip down Memory Lane

I've just taken an interesting trip down memory lane. My mother sent all my school yearbooks to me a few weeks ago and I just got around to opening the box. To my surprise she also included my high school diploma which was in a fancy folder. Inside that folder was my valedictorian speech. Considering graduation year was 1968, I didn't remember what I'd said, so I re-read it. My overall point was we can't deal with each other successfully if we don't hold each other in mutual respect. I was referring to racial tensions on the societal level as well as the tensions between parents and children on the personal level.

Keep in mind I grew up seeing separate water fountains and toilets "for colored only" and there had been a race riot in Washington DC that year (I remember watching smoke from the fires from a friend's apartment which was on the river near the George Washington Bridge). Civil rights was a new concept and not universally accepted. Also, many of my friends came from broken homes or had parents that just didn't pay any attention to their kids. When Bill read it he said I sounded very mature for a 17 year old. I was just amazed (and saddened) to realize I'm still banging that same drum. *sigh*

Jen suggested I could post it here, so without further ado, I present my very first speech:

An ancient Greek philosopher once said, “The state is the man writ large.” We could paraphrase that and say that society is the family written large. We have heard repeatedly that our modern society is sick. When we see all the violence and revolution, both political and social, that dominates the news media today, we can indeed know that society is not in robust health. I will not make judgment as to whether this turmoil is a necessary part of evolution towards something better or whether we are convulsing with the pangs of decadence that have set upon us, but obviously something is not right. If society is indeed sick, then I submit that the family is also sick. What virus has infected our families to cause this illness? Doubtless its name is Legion. We could name several, and affluence ranks high among them. However, it is my diagnosis as a relatively inexperienced but very much involved young person that the most deadly virus that has infected our family lives and is mirrored in our society is a lack of understanding based on mutual respect.

We see the expression of this problem in the nations of the world. The United States and France are two historically national friends who have shared common destinies and have built the superstructure of their respective states on common philosophical foundations. Now they find their relationship in a state of rupture and we must point our finger at a gross lack of understanding and a loss of mutual respect. The so-called “Cold War” is a universal expression of the same problem.

Within the individual nations we have the races at each other’s throats. We do not need to be reminded of Selma, Watts, Detroit and our own front door, Washington, DC, where we have seen the horrible evidence of a lack of understanding between the races of men.

And what shall we say of the most recent phenomenon in our community, where one socio-economic class is making threatening demands of another class? What traumatic proportion will this lack of understanding reach before we face each other in common respect and see that the problem of poverty belongs to us all.

It seems that the “in” word today is gap. We have the “missile gap” and the “credibility gap”, and now we dismiss the historical lack of communication between the young and not young enough, as a “generation gap”. Oh well, it looks like the “generation gap” is going to take care of itself pretty soon. The kids can’t wait to get all the privileges and license of the adult world, while the aging population is making the cosmetic industry one of the biggest businesses is the country by trying to stay young.

We have painted a gloomy picture of nations, races, classes and generations, but it seems to me that the lowest common denominator in this whole matter is the problem of the individual. We can pass minimum wage laws, guarantee a certain income, give higher social security and set up firearms control; but let us not live with the unrealistic ideas that we can legislate an individual’s morality. This does not mean that we are relieved of the obligation of good legislation, however.

You people who complain about these situations, do you do something about them or do you just complain about them? “All the world loves a lover” and tolerates the complainer. But to those of you who want to help, I have a solution that is almost impossible in it’s simplicity. Each man must be changed by an act of his own will. If we are going to destroy this virus that infects our society and families it must be destroyed in me and in you. The poor man must stand in the affluent man’s shoes just as much as the affluent man must stand in the poor man’ shoes in order to understand each other. I cannot help to ease the tension between the races until I, by an act of my own will, determine to understand why a man of another race looks upon me with suspicion and I likewise upon him. This is the beginning of understanding. If a gap indeed does exist between generations, it exists as an individual problem and must be solved as such. If you and your parents do not communicate, if you are sick over the gap that exists between you and your child, let me assure you that you search in vain if you are looking for a psychiatrist or legislator to close that gap for you. When you really want to communicate and are willing to indulge yourself in a moment of tolerance, mutual respect and unselfishness, in that moment the bridge over that gap has gone under construction.

I warned you that this solution was almost impossible in its simplicity but there it is. Let us be realistic now and stop looking for a human messiah to elect to a political office or some miracle of modern science to lead us painlessly into a utopia. We have one set of alternatives - understanding between men and nations based on tolerance and mutual respect, or utter chaos. The choice is ours.

I imagine this was a real snooze-fest for my fellow students but I was supposed to give a socially relevant and inspirational speech. The Salutorian got to give the funny speech which spoofed his classmates. Lucky guy.

Our Endangered Values by Jimmy Carter

I read this a couple years ago, and it is as relevant today as it was then. I'm reposting my review of it, because my opinion hasn't changed one iota since I originally read this book, and it's too good not to mention it again. If you haven't read any of Carter's books, you really should.

Jimmy Carter has to be one of the most amazing, underappreciated, underrated men our country has been privileged to have as a public servant. Yes, his presidency was plagued with the energy/gas crisis, the Iran Hostage crisis, etc, but in the years since his presidency, he has earned himself an even bigger, brighter place in not just American history, but world history.

This book focuses on history and, to a large extent, on the current administration's subservience to the fundamentalist conservative right. Although parts of the book are a scathing criticism of the current administration, he backs up his positions with biblical scripture and historical events and perspectives. He is, by his own admission, a devout evangelical "born again" Christian. Yet he passionately defends the separation of church and state and defended the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, although it went against his own personal beliefs.

He devotes chapters in this book to civil rights, homosexuality, the death penalty, abortion, science and religion, divorce, women's rights, and environmental issues including drilling for oil in Alaska, preserving America's national parks and global warming, and the US policies on decreasing emissions in relation to the rest of the industrialized world. There are chapters on our global image, the growing gap between rich and poor both in the US and globally, North Korea, Cuba, nuclear proliferation/disarmament, humane treatment of POWs, government-sanctioned torture, and war (globally and specifically in Iraq).

This is not a "democrat" vs "republican" issue, he is quick to point out, and the book backs up this assertion. Instead, he concentrates on the increasingly strong influence of religion into politics, which, he contends, should be separate. He puts every chapter into perspective relative to his own strong religious convictions and beliefs. He contends that religion has its place in politics in the same way that it has its place in everyday life - by guiding our hand toward being valuable, moral and compassionate human beings - not by guiding public policy and law.

As a Jew, I found this a fascinating read, given his self-admitted evangelical bent. Although we have different religious beliefs, it is clear to me that he respects every human being's right to believe passionately in their own religion, but not at the expense of others. As an American, I found it equally as fascinating, although a bit demoralizing to read about some of the positions taken by our country's leadership (and by default, the country's citizenry), and as a human being, I am equally captivated and appalled by the lack of far-sightedness he portrays by current and past leadership of our country, and its lasting ramifications.

A fascinating read, and I recommend it highly, along with any of his other twenty-odd books, including his poetry.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Ascension by Lauren Dane

AscensionKari's simple life is tossed upside down. She's hospitalized after a dog attacks her, her doctor kidnaps her, and now a totally crazy man is telling her that not only is he a werewolf but so is she. And not just any werewolf but the queen!

She soon finds out Andreas is telling the truth. Being a werewolf isn't so bad when your husband stands well over six feet, is hotter than a movie star and richer than one too. It doesn't hurt that he adores and spoils her, and the wicked-hot sex is icing on the cake. What girl doesn't like cake?

But someone in the Cherchez Pack keeps trying to kill her. Kari is happy belonging to a big family for the first time in her life and she's not going to let one wolf with an axe to grind ruin that. Andreas, Kari and the wolves in the Inner Circle unite to end the threat and find the killer. It's kill or be killed and Kari intends to do the killing.

So, I’m not a huge fan of werewolf stories, but I am a huge fan of Lauren Dane. This book didn’t serve to turn me onto werewolf stories any further, but it did cement me as a full-fledged Lauren Dane fangirl. Why didn’t it turn me onto werewolf stories? I just haven’t read any other werewolf books like this one. Hell, if they were all written like this, I would buy them all, but unfortunately they aren’t. At least not the ones I’ve ever read.

What sets this one apart for me? Simple. Lauren Dane. Her voice, her characters. These aren’t "others" who speak in anachronistic voices and live in strange faraway countries – her werewolves sound like regular folks, hold jobs like regular folks, live in the real world like regular folks.

Kari is a kickass, take no prisoners heroine. Andreas is her perfect match. An alpha who adores his woman enough to let her be her own…umm… person (?). She rules that house with an iron fist, and I loved it. But he is no pushover, either. And his dominance really comes out in the bedroom. Uhhh, YUM.

Lauren sent me this book with the hope of guiding me into the paranormal world – the "dark side" as she put it. Well, I like her version of it, and I wouldn’t call it the dark side at all. But, I think I can honestly say it’s because I just love her books. And I’m truly glad that I read it. I will be reading the next in this series for sure.

So I didn’t say much about the book itself plotwise, but it’s one I enjoyed. And y’all know I’m not the paranormal girl most of you are. So, if you’re looking for a book with strong, believable, kickass characters, lots of humor, loads of great sex, and a lot of love, pick up Ascension now. You can get it here.

I have only one negative thing to say about this book, and I mentioned it in my review of A Hunger Like No Other. What’s with all the long hair? All these guys live in the real world and completely mesh in it. Every time I read a paranormal, I’m picturing Fabio, and I just can’t get into that. Is it like a Samson thing? Cut off their hair and they lose their magic powers? Or am I a freak? Does everybody else out there love the long hair?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Something Wonderful by Judith McNaught

Something WonderfulThis book was truly something wonderful. Believe it or not, this was only the 2nd book by McNaught that I have ever read. The first was Once and Always, and I loved it as much as this one. This is clichéd romance at its finest. Her hero is a wounded, jaded soul, and her heroine is (albeit a bit too) naïve, innocent fresh girl who sees the good in the world, but who also has a deep, educated, "old" soul.

Once I got past Alex falling in love with Jordan at basically first sight, I was as enchanted as Jordan. It was beautifully written, watching his barriers crumble, one by one. Of course, there is a great tragedy that befalls them, and Alex must grow up, and Jordan becomes very distrustful. As Alex becomes disillusioned with Jordan and her memories of him, I wanted to cry right along with her - McNaught writes it that well. When Jordan misinterprets Alex's transformation, I wanted to smack him - I was that invested.

We see Jordan get pulled nder Alex's spell almost unwittingly, unable to help himself from buying into her pollyanna vision of life. As she matures, and tries to take on his more cynical and rakish characteristics, we watch him mourn the loss of that which he thought he didn't want, need or even like. His attempt to win her back brings out the best in them both.

McNaught's writing paints beautiful pictures, and seeing Jordan and his autocratic, cynical grandmother both melt under Alex's wide-eyed excitement for life made me remember why I started reading romance lo those many years ago. It looks like many of McNaught's books are being re-released, and I'm going to go looking for more.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Eye Of Heaven by Marjorie M. Liu

I liked everything about this one, experiencing the same awe I did when I first read Tiger Eye.

Dirk & Steele have a creed: Protect the innocent in secrecy. No member of the Agency is "normal." Blue Perrineau is no different. And now, when it is clear that darker shadows exist in the world -- people who followed no rule under heaven -- every secret is a liability. Blue wtll soon see.

They come from all over the world to observe Iris’s lithe, catlike body and her affinity for wild creatures. All eyes are upon her, seeking, judging -- coveting. But one gaze is that of a savior, a man of electricity and mystery -- a mystery as deep and convoluted as her own. And together, they might yet see the dawn.

I was particularly drawn to the heroine, Iris. Vulnerable to the point of near shattering, Liu uses her to put readers at the edge of their seat right from the start. You spend the whole of the story tensing in anticipation every time Iris is present. Wondering if she will be able to keep her human form, wondering if this is the moment when Blue will break through her defenses. Not previously a fan of shapeshifter stories, I succumbed here as easily as I did in Tiger Eye. Iris was as real to me as any other heroine I’ve read. And I wanted her HEA as fervently. She was exotic, but still relatable—at an emotional level—if that makes sense.

Blue was equally fascinating. Charged, if you don’t mind the pun, and patient, probably my favorite quality in a romance hero. Liu treats us to development of his character on two levels—through his romance with Iris and, in another emotional vein, through his budding relationship with his brother. Both lines provided glimpses of Blue’s humor, insecurity and loyalty.

I want to say that the secondary storyline—that between Blue and his brother—interested me as much as the primary. But, it doesn’t serve Liu justice to word it like that. She deftly blends characters and events, past and present, romance and suspense, into one tale, without any noticeable breaks or even the subtlest of parallels. Every moment leads to the next. I was completely wrapped up, surrounded by the story.

Of course, anyone who has read Liu knows that she is a master storyteller. Vivid prose, diverse characters, boundless worlds. It’s all here.

Coming back to the ‘wholeness’ of the story. Liu calls in more characters from previous books (Dirk and Steele series) and relies on them to help finish the story. With a few twists. Again, every part served to strengthen the whole. And, because her characters live for the reader, there was no hesitation, no gap in the action to allow readers a moment of recognition. Wasn’t needed. Recognition was instant and the focus on this story unerring.

Sounds like I’m stuck on how tightly woven this installment felt to me. Occurring within a short timeframe, with most of the action limited to one of two locations. Yeah, I keep boiling it all down to that. I think my appreciation for it is higher than usual because the last full-length book—Red Heart Of Jade—left me dazed. Satisfied, but with scrambled eggs where my brain used to be.

Final note. I also read A Dream Of Stone And Shadow (anthology) last month. Thought it perfect too.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Risk by Ann Christopher

I met Ann Christopher at Lori Foster's Reader/Writer Weekend and found her to be so delightful I had to buy one of her books. And boy am I glad I did.

A Spark Of Desire...
Fine and fearless, Justus Robinson doesn't hesitate to hit on gorgeous law student Angela Dennis at his brother's wedding even though she's the bride's sister. That night the two share an unforgettably sexy dance, but nothing more--until ten years later when a tragedy reunites them...

...A Test Of Love
Angela has barely healed from a breakup when her sister and brother-in-law are killed in an accident. Sharing their grief, Justus and Angela discover they are still attracted to one another. But when they find themselves competing to adopt their orphaned young niece, their rekindled passion is sorely tested. Justus is determined to raise the child even if it means alienating the woman he's never stopped wanting. Reeling from loss and tormented by her desire for Justus, Angela makes a drastic move--one that will change the lives of everyone involved...

Although there's very little actual sex, there's a lot of sexual tension. When Angela and Justus first meet, she's seven years older than he. Since he's seventeen at the time, that's a whopping big deal. She's embarrassed that she's attracted to him, hence just the one dance at the wedding. He's also deeply attracted to her although it's primarily sexual - hey he's seventeen, what do you expect?

When they meet again 10 years later, she's being publicly dumped by her boyfriend of three years from whom she'd been expecting a marriage proposal. Justus tries to comfort her even though he's there with another woman. During the intervening 10 years he's become a serious player so of course the other woman is HOT, but he's not serious about her. Seeing Angela again after 10 years reminds him of how special she is.

Seemingly the next day, his brother and Angela's sister die in a freak car accident that leaves their little three year old daughter, Maya, unharmed. Now, Angela is an attorney who never had any time for Maya because she was too focused on her career. Justus, on the other hand, had established a loving relationship with her over the last three years. Naturally, Angela takes her in but she's feeling overwhelmed. She'd just been dumped and then her last relative (sister) died and, of course, she hasn't a clue how to deal with Maya. Justus sees this as the perfect opportunity to pursue Angela while spending time with Maya whom he already loves.

Angela and Justus are three dimensional characters. They are so real. I understood how Angela felt about talking with a three year old stranger - panic. LOL Christopher takes her time with these characters so they are fully formed and I ached for them when they misunderstood each other or reacted out of their own insecurities. The relationship Justus has with his father is fascinating too. Oh and I kept picturing Justus as the actor Henry Simmons who played Det. Baldwin Jones on NYPD Blue. But that was just MY imagination. LOL Christopher has a real gift for describing an action in just a few words so that you can easily picture the emotion in the activity.

I highly recommend this book and plan to get her others: Trouble and Just About Sex.

Remember the grading system? I'd give Risk an A.

Dirty by Megan Hart

Like Anne, I was deeply moved by this book. Its unerring focus on the heroine, written entirely in her POV, makes for some uncomfortable reading. Imagine a public narration of your own thoughts, your own emotional responses to the people and events in your life. Stripped clean to your bones. Anne was right. It was disturbing, yet compelling. A story you could not turn away from.

There are already a number of reviews for this book out there. Anne’s, Lauren’s, two at DearAuthor--Janine’s and Jane’s, Stacey’s, Wendy’s, and more I’ve probably missed (with apology). All do a wonderful job of recapping and sharing the effect of Dirty and its narration. Nothing more for me to say on it.

I will share a couple of personal notes though. First, Hart’s character Elle was so much like my best friend from grad school that I came dangerously close to picking up the phone and demanding to know why my friend published a near-autobiographical book without telling me. No, my friend did not suffer the trauma that Elle has. But she shares the same emotional detachment and engages in relationships with men that downright mirror that of Elle and Dan’s. It was spooky. And it primed me to care about Elle from the start. Where others found her flawed, I found someone I already knew and loved. Where others experienced frustration or disappointment in her, I could readily defend her responses, or lack thereof. Not because I understand that kind of emotional numbness, but rather because I learned a long time ago to accept it in a friend who has shown me more love and compassion over the years than most. It made for a different reading experience for me. Powerful, but rather familiar.

Second, and this one’s really personal, for every five words that leave my mouth (or fingertips), there are 105 words tripping through my head. A constant narrative that, before now, I’ve never felt remotely compelled to share with anyone. Now however, there is someone in my life that I desperately want to know and understand all that I do not share out loud. Not today, mind you. He is only four years old. But someday, I want my son to know how powerful his impact has been on that narrative. We all want our children to know how much we love them. Sure. But this feels different somehow. Like I want to capture the words, or narrative, on paper, to someday share with him how profoundly his being changed me. If I don’t, I will lose it. I’m already losing it from one month to the next. There is humor, growth, reflection… So much I’d like to impart. Or maybe just keep. For myself. At any rate, the first person POV Hart uses to lay it all bare reminds me that, however unattractive or flawed, I too want to start spilling. And one of the biggest blocks—my lack of animation or physical expression—may not be such a block after all. Hart delivers this narrative without it and still manages to convey the emotion, humor, indecision, etc.

Lover Revealed by J.R. Ward

Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series just gets better and better. Dark Lover was entertaining, a hip addiction, Lover Eternal a bit wilder and Lover Awakened highly emotional, heartrending. Officially hooked on the series and attached to the characters, I had no doubt Lover Revealed would be a good read. I bought it when it released, piled it with my books (small, small stack) and looked forward to reading it. Then kept putting it off, selecting other titles instead. Should have read it the day it arrived. It was better than good. Lover Revealed had everything.

Suspense right from the start. I was edge-of-my-seat desperate to see where Ward would take Butch after his abduction by the Lessers. It was clear from the moment Vishous found him that Ward would journey to a mark off the stereotypical map. Despite trying, I could not predict the outcome. Nor could I turn the pages fast enough to get there. Without spoilers, I can only say that the fate she held for these characters made all kinds of sense. And it was breathtaking. When I finished that scene, my only thought was Wow.

Emotional depth in unexpected places. In the romance, Butch’s feelings for Marissa inspired a few tightening grips on the book. The romance more than held its own. But it was Vishous’ feelings for Butch that sucked the air from my lungs. It is so powerful you ache with it. Regardless of how you view it, romantic or brotherly, it is written brilliantly. Without hesitation or apology. Like I said, you ache with it.

That banter. I actually told a friend that the brothers’ humor and antics in this one felt adlibbed. Not scripted. How’s that for testimony to Ward’s talent for lifting characters from the page? Dennis Leary, who provides a living, breathing presence for his Rescue Me character, adlibs. Characters limited to typeface do not adlib.

A promise of more to come. Vishous. I’ll push down the elderly and young to get my hands on his story come September. And John. This book whispered of his assault more than once and I look forward to the solace and reflection we know he will find in Zsadist.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Gideon by Jacquelyn Frank

Jacob was absolutely breathtaking (the Little Flower thing notwithstanding). I had very high hopes for Gideon. After all, it's not just any paranormal that can grab my attention in such a positive manner.

Gideon is the Ancient healer, who in Jacob, came out of a self-imposed isolation to assist in the climactic battle. Legna is Noah's youngest sister. I would have had no problem with this pairing, except that he was called "the Ancient" and much reference was made to his silver hair, etc. while the reference was made to Legna's youth quite frequently. It, quite frankly, started to creep me out. I began to imagine an old guy with a hard-on for a very young woman. Just... yuck. It was very difficult for me, then, to picture Gideon in the role in which Frank later put him - that of a romantic lead - manly, virile, youthful.

Having said that, I did enjoy once again the dialogue between the H&H - once the relationship was established, there was an irreverence in the way that Legna dealt with Gideon, along with the innate respect they obviously had for one another. Humor tempered with understanding of the importance of the situation in which they found themselves. I also once again enjoyed Frank's voice, her characterizations, and her supporting characters, who each seem to take on a leading role at some point. Once again, I found myself skimming through the battle at the end, reading just enough to discover who was injured, who was ok, and who was where.

Ancienty-Creepiness factor aside, Gideon seems a fascinating... errr, umm... man, able to bring different factions of Nightwalkers together for a common cause; commanding respect from all who know him. I was less than enthralled, however, with the reason for his self-imposed exile. There was the huge build-up in Jacob, and the reason seemed so insignificant in the grand scheme of things once revealed. I was frustrated with his excuse for stalking a human when he "couldn't" have Legna.

I liked Legna and Bella's friendship, and would have liked to have seen more of Legna's life explored in depth. I felt that Frank really just scratched the surface here, and there was much more that she could have revealed.

All in all, still a very enjoyable read, but not nearly as good as Jacob, IMO.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Virtually His by Gennita Low

This book just knocked me on my ass. I read it in one sitting, staying up half the night to reach the last page. Then I laid awake a bit longer trying to figure out how to share this thrill ride without ruining it for others. Everything that happened in this story was a surprise. Determined to tell everyone about this read, I even considered writing up a review and asking Ms. Low to check it for potential spoilers. Then I ditched that idea and figured I’d just be adamant (using the F word a lot) that folks read it, but remain vague as hell.

Then, this morning, I checked Low’s website to see how much of this story she is sharing with readers. Whoa. Quite a bit if you drill into her site and read the blurb for the next book, Virtually Hers. Whew. That makes it easier to review Virtually His, but I can’t say enough about how much I benefited from going into this read completely blind. As far as I knew, Virtually His was the start of a new series for Low. Aside from a few blog posts about the virtual reality technology, I had read little about the story. Hadn’t even read the back cover blurb. I simply ordered it from Amazon and waited for its release. (After reading her backlist last year, Low is an auto-buy for me.)

When I picked up the book, I read the back cover first. The blurb is a cryptic introduction of Helen Roston, the book’s heroine and Low’s newest ‘ultimate secret operative’. Very scifi. Then I read the acknowledgements. Low thanks the individuals who read/critiqued for her along the way and apologized for keeping the hero’s identity from them. Hmmm. I hadn’t read a word of the story yet and already my mind was jumping ahead.

Page one kicks off the story with a classified government memo and is followed by outtakes of Roston’s virtual remote viewing training. This was a really clever way of bringing readers up to speed without the traditional info dump. I call them outtakes because Low infuses each lecture or session excerpt with classroom antics from Helen, her star pupil. Funny and insightful. By the time the story begins, we all know that Helen, aka Hell, is a beloved smartass.

Right away, characters from Low’s previous books show up. While I had already recognized the acronyms of government agencies Low established in earlier stories, I had expected nothing more than mention or reference to those early characters. I was still thinking whole new series, whole new cast. Series slut that I am, I was thrilled to see familiar faces in full attendance to guide and care for the new heroine.

As the project unfolds, Hell continues to endear readers with her wit and determination. All the while, the unnamed hero watches her, his intent questionable, his own character suspect. And she knows he is watching. The effect? There is sexual tension long before their first virtual meeting. That tension is heightened by his formal position as the one in control as well as by his sexual manipulation of her in her first virtual tests. He is her monitor (think handler) during virtual remote viewing and each of his tests serves to bind her to him with unerring trust. Sexy as all get out.

Low deftly uses the imagery of shadow and light and a surround sound echo instead of voice to keep the hero’s cover. She also employs a hilarious device to hide his appearance in later virtual meetings—allowing Helen to create her own image (avatar) of him, fueled by her wicked sense of humor. Every sensation, every image adds to the sensual undertone, pulling the reader into the romance. All the while, Low is carefully assembling the critical pieces that make up the story’s endgame. Cunning, sexy and more than a little devious. You will just shake your head when it all comes together.

We do get the hero’s POV throughout. Not too much, but enough to ensure the reader will not sleep until his identity is revealed. We also get a handful of alpha commandos positioned to execute the final mission. Neither Helen, nor the reader knows the true intent or purpose of each commando. Low cloaks them all in mystery, leaving Helen to wonder who, if any, could be her monitor. As Helen’s need to unmask him escalates, so does the readers’. I was dying here. Trying to imagine each one as the monitor. Even taking a couple of leaps, curious about just how outrageous Low could be. I could not figure it out. Had no fucking clue. Loved that.

I also loved the humor. In one instance, Low introduces a commando during a tension-filled, high-level government briefing. His appearance and the subsequent vampire comment from his peer had me laughing so hard I nearly wet myself. Overall, for every dangerous alpha speaking softly (shiver), there are equal doses of spirited, adolescent banter. Again, sexy as all get out.

So, familiar characters, enticing romance and bulging alphas all headed toward a dangerous mission. What else? Villians, yes. But they don’t take up too much time or space. More like they provide another twist that pops on the next to the last page.

That leaves the hero’s identity and the book’s conclusion. Both of which will kick your ass. When he did finally appear, his description alone stopped my heart. In that instant, Low delivered a wallop that gave new meaning to the concept of pivotal moment. Not saying who he is. And trust me, if you go looking, you’ll find the answer. Don’t. Do. It. Savor this book first.

As for the ending, well…shit, I’m not saying anything about that either. I’ll just say that I was a touched pissed. Didn’t expect that and August is a fucking long way from now.
Buy Virtually His here.

Returning to the fold...

Like Lori, I am back from my month-long hiatus. I’ve read a handful of fucking fabulous books (waving to KarenS), but lacked the mindset and time to chat them up. Because they are so fucking fabulous however, I’m going back in time to write the reviews. I started yesterday, penning a review for Ward’s Lover Revealed and a commentary on Megan Hart’s Dirty. Both were deeply affecting reads. Next up was to be Liu’s Eye of Heaven and Rachel Gibson’s Sex, Lies and Online Dating—the latter a sexy little find that caught me by surprise.

I planned to write them all up and post them in one fell swoop today.

Best laid plans…I’ll finish writing those up and post them later. Right now, I’m going to post a review written with feverish haste just this morning. Virtually His by Gennita Low. Where the others offered gritty emotion, mystical beings and a flirty romp, Low’s latest book provided a thrill ride that kept me up waaayyyyy past my bedtime last night. I read this book in one sitting and have yet to come down from the rush. Love when that happens.
Related Posts with Thumbnails