Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review: Shades of Midnight by Lara Adrian

Something inhuman is stalking the frigid Alaskan wilds, leaving unspeakable carnage in its wake. For bush pilot Alexandra Maguire, the killings stir memories of a horrific event she witnessed as a child and evoke in her the inexplicable sense of "otherness" she has long felt within herself but never fully understood . . . until a darkly seductive stranger with secrets of his own enters her world.

Sent from Boston on a mission to investigate the savage attacks and stop the slaughter, vampire warrior Kade has his own reasons for returning to the frigid, forbidding place of his birth. Haunted by a secret shame, Kade soon realizes the stunning truth of the threat he faces--a threat that will jeopardize the fragile bond he has formed with the corageous, determined young woman who arouses his deepest passions and most primal hungers. But in bringing Alex into his world of blood and darkeness, Kade must confront both his own personal demons and the even greater evil that could destroy all he holds dear.

As a "Midnight Breed Novel" this latest in the series of stories is about one of the newest members of a Boston-based group of vampire warriors who are seeking to find a rogue vampire who has awakened one of the original vampires from centuries before, and who is forcing breed-humans to have children who are then turned into automaton warriors. Obsessed with world domination, the one group who stands between himself and success are these powerful and resourceful warriors, one of whom is the former Alaskan resident, Kade. Born and raised in the northern reaches of that frozen land, he has returned to a land and family who he feels have rejected him and who have withheld their support and approval for what he is now doing. Yet his presence, his powerful skills, and his superior knowledge are needed to find the rogue vampire or whatever is causing the terrible wholesale slaughter of families and outlying villages.

I have enjoyed all the novels in this series. I think Lara Adrian is an exceptional writer who has done her geographical research thoroughly and who has developed this entire series of stories carefully and in exquisite detail. We are introduced not only to Kade but to Alex -- a breed mate who doesn't know why she has always felt "other" and who is a woman who is lonely and feeling "on the edge" of reality. Little does she realize that Kade's world is beckoning to her. Little does she realize that the story of Kade and his reasons for leaving Alaska in the first place are going to stretch her credibility as well as force her to face her own strengths as well as her weaknesses. A woman of skill in her own right, she finds her stride within the challenges her growing love for Kade present to her. She is the stuff of which true pioneer women are made. Living in Alaska has given her the context in which she can grow, but she has brought with her the memories of the massacre of her family in Florida. Her relationship with Kade require that she face not only his unique reality but the horror of her own past.

This story is so very well written and it engages the reader from page one. It is just a bit formulaic--all the stories in this series are really about each warrior finding his true life mate -- but within that formula there is a unique quality to the characters that outweighs the shape and form of the story. If you have read the other novels in this series, you will like this one. There is enough "hair-raising" to keep any paranormal fan happy. And there is love and friendship and forgiveness in abundance. I think you will find this a good read. I give this book a 4.5 out of 5.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Edge of Desire -- by Stephanie Laurens

"Christian, I need your help. There is no one else I can turn to . . . L" When Christian Allardyce, 6th Marquess of Dearne, reads those words, his world turns upside down. Lady Letitia Randall is a woman like no other, and the day he left her behind to fight for king and country was the most difficult of his life. He never forgot the feel of her lips against his, but never expects to see her again. Yet now she seeks his help, and Christian knows he will not resist her plea.

Letitia believes that Christian abandoned her when she needed him most, and she hates to call on his aid. But to clear her brother's name, she has sworn to use every weapon at her command, even if it means seducing her ex-lover. Yet all the while, Christian is waging a war of his own--a campaign of pure pleasure and sweet revenge that will take them both beyond the edge of desire.

Loveless marriages were not uncommon, in fact, they were more common than most modern individuals realize. It was not only royalty who married to continue an aristocratic line. Often the future of any title was held in the tenuous hands of a man and woman who wedded and bedded in order to continue on their way of life. There were also marriages of convenience which passed wealth (in the form of fat dowries) from eligible maidens to high-living aristocrats as well as poor but gently born maidens who sought to bring wealth into their families through marriage. However, Lady Letitia Randall did not fit into either of these categories. Her husband was a secretive, possessive, common man who simply set out to add the beautiful Lady Letitia to his museum collections and to wile his way into the salons of the haut ton. She knew the basis of her marriage was never going to be true affection, and in her hour or need, when she needed the man to whom she had given her heart, she received nothing but silence in response to her desperate calls for rescue. Little did she know that her lover, Christian Allardyce, was actually an undercover agent for the British Secret Service, or at least the early 19th century version of that agency. He was, in fact, so deeply undercover that he never received Lady Letitia's letters or her calls for rescue.

Now, many years later, with her husband having been found murdered and the authorities having set themselves to arrest her brother as the murderer, Lady Letitia knows of only one person she can trust to put matters to rights and to clear her brother from all guilt or perception of guilt. In spite of her resentment at his cavalier treatment of her in her hour of need, she knows that Christian has the contacts and the skills to uncover the true murderer.

This novel is a part of the Bastion Club series and as such brings in some of the characters from other stories in this series. Yet they are not an overwhelming presence but make the reader curious about those characters. I know it made me want to read more of their particular situations and relationships. As is the case in so many historical romances, there is a conflict between the main characters that is supposed to give "spice" to their repartee and to create tension which is resolved when they fall into each other's arms. There is some of that in this book. But the underlying story of the murder, the hint of espionage, the mysterious identity of Christian's former boss, the secret room, and so on, give a unique flavor to this romance that lifts it out of the usual to become somewhat unique. There are some surprises which also add to the ornamentation of the story. I really liked that.

As with all historicals, I like the descriptive passages, the clothes, the palatial dwellings, the ups and downs of the narrow English society, the struggles that many women had to be truly themselves within the constraints of a society who saw them only as decorative breeders. Lady Letitia is a strong and courageous character who has done what she had to do and come out on the other side better, more mature, more beautiful and multi-dimensional as a person and as one who can attract and keep the attention and affections of someone like Christian.

If you like really good historical romance, you'll like this story. I give this novel a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife--Pride & Prejudice Continues, by Linda Berdoll

Every woman wants to be Elizabeth Bennet Darcy -- beautiful, gracious, universally admired, strong, daring and outspoken -- a thoroughly modern woman in crinolines. And every woman will fall madly in love with Mr. Darcy -- tall, dark and handsome, a nobleman and hearthrob whose virility is matched only by his utter devotion to his wife.

Their passion is consuming and idyllic--essentially, they can't keep their hands off each other--through a sweeping tale of adventure and misadventure, human folly and numerous mysteries of parentage.

Hold on to your bonnets!! This sexy, epic, hilarious, poignant and romantic sequel to Pride & Prejudice goes far beyond Jane Austen.

Anyone who has loved Pride & Prejudice in its many forms has probably wanted the story to go on! Ending with the double wedding of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet, the original Austen story is beautiful as far as it goes. But as we all know, especially those of us who delight in romance novel series, we need the story to go on.

There are a number of authors who have attempted to continue the story of Elizabeth and Darcy and some have done OK and others have not done well at all. Linda Berdoll has done, in my opinion, a magnificent job of telling the continuing story. We must all realize that Jane Austen was herself a maiden, unmarried lady, who included married couples in the original story -- Mr. & Mrs. Bennet, the Gardeners who were aunt and uncle to Elizabeth, and Mr. Collins and his bride, Charlotte--there is limited information about the inner characteristics of the marriages of that time. It would have been almost impossible for Ms Austen to continue on with the Darcy story without simply making it "more of the same" as that was all she had experienced. Suffice it to say that Jane Austen told such a story of depth and color that it is possible for a talented writer like Berdoll to take the saga to the next level.

Ms Berdoll has not only related a story that is, in many ways, equally as fascinating as the original, but she has successfully adapted her writing style to very closely reflect that of Ms Austen. The terminology, vocabulary, and sentence structure are reminiscent of Austen's style of writing. That not only tells the story with greater authenticity, but also helps the reader to feel that they have continued on with the Bennet/Darcy story in a very real way.

Ms Berdoll has also continued the stories of Mr. Bingley & Jane, Lydia, as well as the Bennets. She again acquaints us with the acidic Lady Catherine, and tells us more about Mr. & Mrs. Collins. So be of good cheer, Pride & Prejudice fans: not only do we learn more of the Bennet/Darcy marriage, we continue on with all of these colorful and much-loved characters. There are some who are classic in their reading tastes who are offended that anyone would try to continue Ms Austen's stories. I think that is narrow thinking and as one who loves a good romance, I applaud Ms Berdoll's efforts to give us a great extension to the story and more of those wonderful people of Merry Ole England. I give this book a rating of 5 out of 5.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Devils on Horseback -- Zeke's Story

Ezekiel (Zeke) Blackwood, his brother Cornelius (Lee) and their cousin Gideon Blackwood are the three remaining members of the Devils on Horseback. In the little community of Tanger, Texas, together with their buddy Jake Sheridan, they have found a welcome and very possibly, a home. They have been successful in ridding the town of the marauders who were kidnapping women and selling them as sex slaves in Mexico. The town's mayor has been found out to be an embezzler and along with Gabriella's mother, have escaped the penalties for their crimes by running away to parts unknown. However, there is trouble in paradise. Zeke has been forming an attachment for the preacher's daughter and during the last raid, this lovely and demure creature has been killed right in front of him as he struggled to save her from capture. His failure to do so and her resulting death have thrown him into a world composed of an alcoholic haze that is now months' long. Zeke's brother Lee is himself a casualty of the War having lost one of his arms to a battlefield surgeon. His continuing anger at this eventuality and his rage over having to live as a partial man (as he sees it) are a part of the background of these two brothers.

In a strange series of events, the town council of Tanger comes to Zeke asking him if he would be the new sheriff--initially on a month's probation -- providing he stayed sober and didn't cavort with whores (another activity in which he indulged repeatedly during his drunken stupors). He agrees and makes a serious attempt to fulfill their expectations as he has come to realize the the drink and the resulting craziness are not how he wants to live. He is hoping that this new job and responsibility to the people of the town will help fill that emptiness he no longer knows how to combat.

Enter Lucy Michaelson -- a young woman who is herself a survivor of the War and who is seeking a job in the local saloon. She is not a prostitute and makes it clear that she does not plan to earn any of her money "on her back" as is often the case with saloon girls. She is a hard worker and an honest person, but because she works in the saloon, she is branded a "fallen woman" -- guilt by association. Even after being put in jail as the instigator of a bar fight--a charge she successfully repudiates--she is treated with respect and kindness by the new sheriff who is attracted to her strength, her obvious survivor skills, and her honesty.

Beth Williamson continues the saga of this little town while telling Zeke's story. She draws a picture of a 19th century community that is populated by good people and not-so-good, people who are anxious to judge others before knowing the facts -- persons who seem to inhabit every town and city in the world--and characters who are normal, troubled, kind, generous, stingy, and who are all wanting to be accepted and nurtured within the context of this town and its dynamic. Zeke struggles with his own demons while trying to correct situations in the town, some immediate like the drunks in the saloon on a Saturday night, as well as problems of long-standing and which could change the course of history for the entire community. He is a character that is very real, and in a world that had no Alcoholics Anonymous, he tries to find the solution to his own problem. His heart is slowly healed by Lucy--a brave, gutsy, brassy, pushy broad of a woman who is not herself whole but who is willing to confront both her own neediness and Zeke's pain in order to bring them both to wholeness.

What is there not to like about this story? Williamson has written brilliantly of the personal story of the main characters while also telling the story of the community and its rehabilitation in a difficult post-war world that will not be fully healed for over a hundred years in the future. This is a warm and winsome story set in the heart of the Texas of old, yet it brings the reader face to face with issues that are as current as tomorrow. Reading this and the other Devils on Horseback stories will never be a waste of time. I hope Williamson plans to tell us Lee and Gideon's story in the future. I give this book a rating of 5 out of 5.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Devils on Horseback -- Jake's Story

The post-Civil War soldiers of the Devils on Horseback continue on with their search for a new life after the horror and hell of war. Now reduced to a group of four -- Nate was married and starting a new life in a small Texas community -- and searching for employment as D. H. Enterprises, Jake and his companions find themselves in a small community that has been nearly destroyed by the deaths of their sons and husbands in the Civil War as well as other difficulties with night raids from a mysterious band of criminals who are sweeping the town and kidnapping any woman they can find under the age of 35. The mayor of the town sends word to the Devils on Horseback that their muscle, their savvy as soldiers and their need for employment would be useful to this small struggling community.

Jake is a former corporal in the Confederate Army and is also being sought by a Union Army captain who was commandant of a Union prison camp. These "devils" were the only Confederate soldiers ever to escape from his "hell-hole" and he has become obsessed with revenge for his "failure" to keep them imprisioned. Jake is also a former thief -- a child who stole in order to feed siblings and himself after being abandoned by his mother and who took the last name of one of the whores in a brothel where he was living. All in all, a very troubled person when he went into the war and who found a "family" of sorts when he found these comrades who have become the only people he trusts. Now the Devils are hoping that their current "assignment" is located far enough off the beaten path that the Union captain will have difficulty finding Jake.

In the midst of trying to solve the mystery of the night raids -- who is behind them, where are the women, how to prevent future raids, etc, Jake meets Gabriella Rinaldi, the daughter of the mill owner who had been beaten almost to death during one of the previous raids. She must now run the mill as well as try to bring some common sense into the town thinking on how to protect themselves. Needless to say, Jake and Gabriella are attracted to one another, but they are also both needing to find that "someone" who will believe in them and will accept them for who they are. Jake struggles with his past, his sense of being a nobody from nowhere and worthless to anyone other than his Civil War buddies. The friendship and love they find together begins to rebuild what fear and hopelessness have destroyed in the past.

Again Beth Williamson has populated this book with personalities that are strong, varied, interesting, authentic, and the kind of people-at least in some cases-one would like to have known in real life. Underlying this story is the continuing loyalty and friendship of these men for one another, for respect and value they have given one another because they were soldiers of honor and who sought to be true to their ideals even when war and life in general did everything to destroy their sense of themselves. I still love to read of their Southern charm and the respect they show women -- they all love women in any shape or form, but no matter how disagreeable one of the female characters may be, they are unwaveringly polite and respectful. Oh to have some men in our modern times like that!

I also appreciate the way that the author has not backed away from the debris that war creates in lives and communities, especially as Jake faces himself and his past, as he deals with his need to love and be loved, and as he faces his the reoccurring terror of dark, small places born in the Union Army prison camp. War is indeed hell, but out of that conflict came five men who learned that there were people upon whom they could depend. Gabriella's love and the acceptance of the community are the "medicines" Jake needs and grabs for his hurting soul. This book is a great read and will not disappoint. I give it a rating of 5 out of 5.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Devils on Horseback -- Nate's Story

Oh my, oh my, oh my! Hunks, hunks, and more hunks!! Beth Williamson keeps filling up the pages of her books with delightful and colorful characters that are rooted in the historical development of the Old West. Nate Marchand is a former lieutenant in the Confederate Army who, like thousands of others after the American Civil War, returned to homes and properties in the South that had been torn down, burned down, or otherwise made uninhabitable as well as finding that members of their families left behind in 1860 had died or been killed as "collateral damage" of that armed conflict. Together with four other Confederate soldiers who he fought with for four years, Nate finds himself on the road, searching for employment, finances, and most importantly, roots. Hired as D. H. Enterprises to remove a recalcitrant family from property that had supposedly been sold during the Civil War, the Devils on Horseback (as they call themselves) find themselves embroiled in a situation that involves greed, murder, political and governmental shenanigans as well as a beautiful young woman who rides like one who was born on a horse, shoots to kill and has the moxy which far exceeds some men of her times.

Of course you have the romance between Nate and Elisa, and since this is a romance, that is to be expected. But I found that the author developed all the characters in the Devils in bold strokes of her pen and with a great deal of detail. Those five men really live in these pages. I was also struck with Beth Williamson's sensitive characterizations of the pain of the Civil War, the anger and torment, revenge and grief, external wounds and internal damage that lived on long after 1865. One catches intriguing glimpses of the smells of battle, the horror of the prison camps, the starvation and disease that continued on after the war. There were no Americans whose lives were not changed irrevocably by that conflict. Not only were these five characters comrades in arms but they were "family" and because of that bond, they are always present in varying degrees and in various circumstances. Nate is not related to anyone of the other four except they have become his "brothers" and together they attempt to find healing and a new direction as people who have lived through Hell and survived.

The Old West was never portrayed with better word pictures, an engaging story line, balanced conflict and resolution within the plot, and, of course, the sizzle of romance that seems to creep up on people who not only aren't looking for it (at least knowlingly) but who are surprised by the holes in their souls it fills. I really enjoyed this book and loved the characterization of the Southern gentleman that seemed to have survived the awfulness of way -- a true tribute to those Southern belles who raised their men to be the "iron fist in the velvet glove." Their absolute adherence to the Southern traditions concerning justice, care for others, respect for women, and desire to be productive citizens is awesome and is a critical ingredient in who Nate really is. Williamson tells an awesome story. I hope she keeps right on giving us more glimpses in the hearts and souls of the Devils on Horseback! I give this book a rating of 5 out of 5.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I have Been Gone, but Hopefully Not Forgotten

I have been on a professional retreat for the past two weeks and have been studying as well as reading up a storm. I will be posting some reviews very shortly, but in the meantime, I hope all of you are still reading and enjoying and checking out other blogs that give information about good books that stimulate and bring entertainment as well as giving all of us a "window" into other times, places, cultures, and situations. Life is such a varied smorgasbord of experience! And reading opens up so many contexts that are often not possible to enjoy in real life. I would have loved to have had sufficient funds to travel all the places that fascinate me. Since I didn't and don't books are my transportation of sorts. I hope you are finding some good books and will post some of your discoveries.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

True Love Can Be Super Rough -- Phenomenal Girl 5 by A. J. Menden

Lainey Livingston (Phenomenal Girl 5) has just been made a member of the Elite Hands of Justice, the world's premier cadre of superheroes. Her work with the Red Knights and the Power Squad was impressive; all her senses are extraordinary and her great strength and her ability to fly are equally remarkable. But no one gets a free pass to active duty, and Lainey's next test is going to be her hardest. She's to train with the Reincarnist.

Robert Elliot, the Reincarnist, is a magician who has lived multiple lifetimes, and he's the smartest man in the world and Lainey's last obstacle to a goal that has lived within her since her earliest childhood. He was personally responsible for seeing Pushstar wash out. But his eyes are the softest, kindest that Lainey has ever seen, and he's just the sort to knock her for a loop. Her first lesson: to realize that romantic entanglements among crime fighters are super exploitable, and falling in love with a man who can't die is like waving a red flag at a bull. Especially when the most fiendish plot ever is about to break over Megalopolis like a wave of fire.

What a fun book!! It was reminescent of reading Wonder Woman while I was growing up, and I mean that in the best possible way! Lainey Livingston is a young woman who is as phenomenal as her name but is one who is never going to allow another human being to force her to think less of herself, even while going through her "rookie" training. She has wanted to be a part of the Elite Hands of Justice for as long as she can remember, and that goal is the factor by which she measures her opportunities and which guides her choices. She is mouthy and forthright, qualities which could be chalked up to her youth, but are more likely to be inspired by the underlying male chauvenism that exists even in a society with superheroes. She has also been a orphan for many years and has had to "make her way in the world" all on her own. Robert Elliot is a reserved, quiet, somewhat outspoken person who seems to respond positively to Lainey's penchant for "telling it like it is." In fact, before long, he is responding to her beauty and powerful sensual aura as much as any other man. Their desire grows into love but that love is short-lived. Enter Wesley, Robert's new persona. Lainey's promotion, her struggle with Wesley while grieving over Robert's "death" are all sources of conflict besides the obvious one caused by the overwhelming evil that is discovered by the Reincarnist and faced by the EHJ.

This is a delightful book full of interesting superheroes who are subject to the foibles of all human beings, their jeolousies, their ego games, their need to excell and be first among equals. Sometimes they sounded like a room full of kindergarten children. There are curious relationships here--a man who cannot die, and having to deal with his "children" born from past relationship during past reincarnations is strange and stretches the credibility of the reader in a nice way. There is a threesome among this elite group, a centuries-old loe goddess, a homosexual superhero, and so forth. It is heartwarming to see Lainey's desire to be true to herself and to her desire to be a force for good while having to be subordinate to superheroes who, for the most part, are more concerned with publicity and celebrity status than in doing what they were asked to do as the champions for good. This book is full of power and magic, love and loss, joy and grieving, good and evil. It is not heavy-duty historical romance, but it is full of romance--the best kind of romance that embraces genuine desire and true, life-long commitment and love. Amy Mendenhall has written a very readable novel which will be a joy to read for any romance fan. I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I Just HAD to Review This Book: Seduced By His Touch by Tracy Anne Warren

Marry a young woman because he lost a bet? Unreformed rake Lord Jack Byron would do anything to get out of it. But the rich merchant who holds his debt insists Jack lead his on-the-shelf daughter to the altar . . . and make her believe it's a love match. With no options, Jack agrees, thinking he'll be shackled to a closed-in spinster. But Grace Danvers is no milk-and-water miss. When he first encounters her in a London bookstore, Jack is struck by her tempting sensuality and soon becomes determined to bed--and--wed her (in that order). Yet though he plans to seduce her with his touch, he never dreams he'll also want to win her with his love.

This is Jack's book! Tracy Anne Warren has created a character that is both forceful and gentle in the delightful and delectable Lord John Byron. As with all the Byron men, Jack is full of himself on the one hand, yet able to appreciate humor and individuality and spirit in others. His first encounter with the lovely Grace is surprising for him. She turns out to be a tall, lithe, graceful and shy lady of 25 years, overly conscious of her height, and more than aware of her lack of status in British society being the daughter of a "man of trade" rather than an aristocrat. Her childhood experiences in an upper-crust school for young ladies has taught her that no matter how scandalously wealthy her father may be, she is still one of the "lower classes." So young Grace prepares herself to lead a solitary and quiet life as her father's daughter. Dad has other ideas, wanting happiness for her daughter with a man who will respect her and make her happy as a wife and most especially, as a woman. Deliberately leading Lord Jack into a game of chance where he lost an amazing 100,000 pounds, Grace's father calls in the debt, so to speak. He wants Lord Jack for his daughter, having watched him with men as well as his reputation w ith women. He wants Jack's experience in the bedroom as well as his reputation for treating his women well and his title.

All goes well for a while. But where would a romantic story be without the predictable conflict, sense of betrayal, hurt feelings, quiet and non-communicative pair? Grace discovers her father's and Jack's perfidious plan and even though the wedding goes forward, the remainder of the story involves Jack winning back his wife's trust and love. It is here that we encounter Jack's strength of character, his determination to make things right, and his honesty with himself over the discovery of his true feelings for Grace. Just as his wooing began to bring out the best in Grace, the difficulties in their marriage and their journey toward resolution together bring out the best in both of them.

Jack is a man of honor, in spite of his rather wild manner of living during his bachelor days. He cares about Grace because he respects her, cares for her, seeks to secure her enjoyment in their physical relationship along with his own, and is willing to go many extra miles to be once again accepted and trusted.

I like Jack immensely. He's a "hunk" for sure, but he is a man that is multi-dimensional and oh so loveable to his mother and his sisters. Who doesn't love a man who loves his sisters? Even in his wildest days, he is a man who knew his own limits and kept his counsel about the way he lived and his private encounters with mistresses. His word and his fidelity to Grace, even in the hard times, is the true measure of him as a man. Grace is a wonderful character as well. She is a woman of great artistic talent who is willing to live by her own devices and not necessarily allow her father's money to define her life. She is a woman who "knows her place" in society but is not afraid to stand up for herself. She is so vulnerable to Jack's wooing in a way that is endearing and which draws the reader to feel so deeply for her, especially when she discovers her father's and Jack's deceit. I really ached for her. Yet she is willing to define her life on her own terms, to be what she needed to be as prescribed by society, but unwilling to allow others to force her into a mold she doesn't desire. She guards her heart diligently, but she is also honest about her physical desire for Jack.

And, of course, their is the entire Byron family. What a rockem-sockem bunch they are! They remind me of my own family. Their capacity to be open with one another, to love and accept, to forgive and redeem each other's failings and to "be there" for one another is so endearing and uplifting. I have read Cade's story --Tempted by His Kiss -- and hope to read Duke Edward's story soon -- The Duke's Pleasure (be sure to catch Rowena's review on The Book Binge). I am hoping that Tracy Warren continues the Byron saga with Mallory & Esme. Wouldn't it be wonderful to meet them in real life? I know this book has probably been reviewed elsewhere, but I just had to share my thoughts on it. I give this book a 5 out of 5 rating.

On The Road Again -- on a "horse" called Amtrak

Again, many thanks for all those who visit and leave their imprint behind through comments. I appreciate all who are enjoying the possibilities of good story and imagination that reading opens up to all who pursue it. I am off again -- on my annual professional enrichment trip -- going, this year, by train rather than by air. In fact, after my grandson's wedding last Spring and the vile experience we had with the whole flying thing, my husband and I decided that unless someone is dying and we had to get there post-haste, no more airplanes. We are just going to travel the civilized way -- by train. I have come to believe that those days on the train are as much a part of the "unwinding" as the time away itself. Meeting people, watching our beautiful country and its scenery unfolding past the windows of the observation car -- all are truly a part of letting go of the stress and just snoozing, chatting with new acquaintances, reading, listening to music, getting re-acquainted with my "one and only" and so on. I will be checking in and posting reviews and, perhaps, some errant thoughts as they present themselves, but I hope you all will be sharing some of your experiences with reading and whatever the stories call forth from your own life journeys. Obviously, this is not a "small group" setting, but I think the sharing part of blogging is some of the best in the entire experience. I am taking lots of books in my suitcase--another reason I like train travel. You can take two cases on the train with you and check up to three bags. Boy can I lug lots of books. But I also have a "slug" of books on my eReader -- if indeed books come in "slugs" -- and so I hope that will hold me for two weeks. I also hope some of you will send me some guest reviews, and I hope to contact some of my favorite authors and post some "interviews" with them as a way of keeping them involved with us, the readers, in ways other than their stories. The Book Binge and The Daily Basics are both great blogs/websites and have great book-buying opportunities on them, not only for physical hard or paperback books, but eBooks as well. So keep coming back and let me know where you are so I can return the visit. Until next time . . .

Friday, February 5, 2010

Vampire Romance & Action: Destined for an Early Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Her deadly dreams leave her in grave danger. Since half-vampire Cat Crawfield and her undead lover Bones met six years ago, they've fought against the rogue undead, battled a vengeful Master vampire, and pledged their devotion with a blood bond. Now it's time for a vacation. But their hopes for a perfect Paris holiday are dashed when Cat awakes one night in terror. She's having visions of a vampire named Gregor who's more powerful than Bones and has ties to her past that even Cat herself didn't know about.

Gregor believes Cat is his and he won't stop until he has her. As the battle begins between the vamp who haunts her nightmares and the one who holds her heart, only Cat can break Gregor's hold over her. She'll need all the power she can summon in order to bring down the baddest bloodsucker she's ever faced . . . even if getting that power will result in an early grave.

This is the 4th novel in the "Night Huntress Series" and Jeaniene Frost has not strayed from the quality demonstrated in the first three books. She has continued to broaden the personalities of the characters that have populated the beginnings of Cat's and Bones' story and she has found new dimensions of their personal stories to add to their attraction and to rivet the reader's attention. Cat continues to exhibit her fears and insecurities, built into her by her fearful and angry mother who thought she was "demon-spawned" from before her birth. She is madly in love with Bones, but is fearful of commitment and betrayal, vehement that trusting is going to leave her vulnerable (which it will) but to a degree with which she cannot live. She is so afraid of being alone but everything she does seems to lead her away from the relationship which is more important than her own life. She has nearly lost Bones on several occasions and she is so afraid of having to live out her life without him. Yet she seems to inevitably do everything she can to keep him at arms length.

Bones is such a complicated character but perhaps that is why I am so fascinated by him. He is a 250 year old vampire who has experienced life on many levels and lived through so much of the world's history. He has become increasingly powerful, yet his desire for and complete commitment to Cat is so uncharacteristic for vampires. His hopes for their relationship keep him working to make her safe, not only physically but within her own insecurities, and his patience is awe-inspiring. Even though they are blood-bonded, he is willing to even go through a "human" wedding in order to relieve her anxieties about his fidelity. I really like this character--he is relentless in protecting what he believes to be his own, yet he is caring and careful with her needs and her relational inadequacies. Cat keeps trying to "save" him when time after time he has proven that he doesn't need her "saving."

This story is full of tension, action, and that nail-biting quality that well-written novels possess as Frost explores the tension between Cat-Bones-Gregor, the on-going stress within Bones' & Cat's relationship, Cat's uneven relationship with her mother, and the stresses within the paranormal community. Yet underneath the surface conflict is the tender love that Bones has for Cat. It is really a very engaging quality that seemed to linger with me after I had read the final page. Frost is one of those writers that keeps on growing in her craft and keeps on giving her reading public excellence in her story lines, in her ability to develope characters and conflicts, and her desire to explore her own talents. I look forward to reading the next novel in this series. I give this book a rating of 5 out of 5.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

On the Value of Used Books

I am a confirmed fan of used books. I have books coming out of my ears because, in part, I love to read and I am delighted to be surrounded by books. The other reason for my large library is the need for professional books. I hang on to those largely because I have a hard time parting with books for which I had to pay so much. Maybe that is why I love library sales and used books stores. I wish I could find more of them. Our local Library Committee is always trying to raise money and has used book sales two or three times a year -- it is a veritable feast for used book lovers!

I have to admit that the main reason I use Amazon to buy books is that I can buy used books online. I am now starting to research other resources but continue to use Amazon more than any other, having found that in spite of paying shipping, a used book is considerably less than buying a book new. Now, I realize that someone has to buy a new book in order to keep the publishing industry alive. Don't worry -- just walk through Barnes & Noble or any other mass marketing book seller and there are tons of new books literally flying out the door. That is good news for people such as I who want to be finding used books for my library.

I also buy used books because I read so much. I just couldn't afford to buy the number of books I like to read if I had to buy new books. I use the library lots and lots of times, but they do not always have complete sets of a fiction series as in the case of Shana Abe's "drakon" series. I have found this to be true with several other authors. So I borrow what I can and buy used when I can't find them at the library. Of course, I have my daughters book shelves which is a great resource. What am I going to do when I read all those? I don't even want to consider that, but if I know Tracy, she will be adding to her book total even as I try to keep up with her.

Just thought I would share some thoughts. Until next time . . .

A Paranormal Romance: At Grave's End by Jeanine Frost

It should be the best time of half-vampire Cat Crawfield's life. With her undead lover Bones at her side, she successfully protected mortals from the rogue undead. But though Cat's worn disguise after disguise to keep her true identity a secret from the brazen bloodsuckers, her cover has finally been blown, placing her in terrible danger.

As if that wasn't enough, a woman from Bone's past is determined to bury him once and for all. Caught in the crosshairs of a vengeful vampire, yet determined to help Bones stop a lethal magic from being unleashed, Cat's about to learn the true meaning of bad blood. And the tricks she has learned as a special agent won't help her. She will need to fully embrace her vampire instincts in order to save herself and Bones from a fate worse than the grave.

At Grave's End is book #3 of the Night Huntress Series of books. It is a complicated story that was a little hard to get started as I had not read the first two books in the series. However, to the author's credit, she brought enough background information into the narrative that I caught up surprisingly well and felt that I was current in understanding the main characters and their relationships with one another. The heroine is a vampire "half-ling" whose mother was a human and whose father was a very young vampire who had not yet lost completely the ability to pro-create. Taught by her mother that vampires are demons (her mother harbored a relentless hatred of Catherine's vampire-father Max) "Cat" as she was called, became the leader of a group of vampire hunters sanctioned and financially supported by the U. S. Government. She is known in the vampire community as The Red Reaper because of her red hair. She is in love with and has been mated with a 250-year-old vampire named Crispin but who has adopted the nickname "Bones." Because she is a halfling she has many of the extraordinary powers that vampires have -- greater sensory perception, greater physical strength, greater speed. However, as the promo states, she has to decide whether she will embrace her human or her vampire half in the face of challenges she has not encountered previously. Cat's group include both vampires and humans, one of whom hates Bones with a passion because he is also in love with Cat. The presence of Tate is a continuing source of tension between himself and Bones and is constantly putting pressure on what is a genuine friendship with Cat. But she and Bones have been "married" vampire style so thus both are off-limits to other vampires and to invade that relationship in any was is grounds for severe punishment and death. Tate has never been able to accept Cat's and Bones' exclusive relationship and the pressure continues throughout the book.

This is a very readable novel but it is populated with lots of persons who move in and out of the story. I found it hard, at times, to keep them all straight. Having not read the first two books, perhaps that accounts for my sometimes confusion, but I wasn't sure that all those vampires with really strange names were necessary. There are twists and turns, conflict between Bones and Cat's mother and the human who is in love with Cat; there are two occasions when humans willingly submit to transformation from human to vampire, mostly for professional reasons--better and more powerful while fighting vampires who destroy or misuse humans. The author expands Bones' power base and there are instances when friends become temporary adversaries and when old enemies make peace. There's lots going on all the time. The latter chapters contain some plot surprises I didn't see coming. That's always a winner in a good book--well, maybe not always, but if the plot is strong than the surprise is going to make the plot even better.

I think Frost has written an interesting, and possibly fascinating novel of the paranomal--vampires functioning within the American government with governmental sanction. It is a complicated and multi-layered story and the energy is consistent. The flow of the story moves the reader from person to person and scenario to scenario. The battles were a bit overwhelming but then I am not really into ghoul/vampire battles and zombie attacks. I admit to skimming those pages somewhat. I just kind of move to the last moments to see who wins. Sorry about that. In the end, I am looking forward to the next book in the series. Such colorful characters can not be allowed to fade into literary limbo. I give this book a 4.25 rating out of 5.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Another of My Guest Reviews Posted -- Revenge Wears Rubies by Renee Bernard

Galen Hawke desired nothing but revenge against the woman who betrayed his dearly departed friend. Instead of mourning the loss of her fiance, Miss Haley Moreland is merrily celebrating her upcoming nuptials to another man. Now, Galen has one mission: to seduce Miss Moreland and enslave her heart. And when she is completely his, he will destroy her. With her family on the brink of financial ruin, Haley knows she should be grateful for her providential betrothal. But then she meets the dangerously handsome Galen, whose wicked touch makes her long to abandon all logic. If Galen's promises are sincere, the match to a family of noble blood and strong financial accounts could be the remedy her family desperately needs. And if he isn't sincere, one last chance to taste the passion he ignites before settling into a life of convention is equally alluring.

This novel is the first in the Jaded Gentleman Series built on a group of Englishmen who have been kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured, and in some cases, killed by a mad shah in India during the Victorian Era. When the survivors return to England, Galen Hawke is bound by his promise to one of his compatriots who died in his arms, that he would watch out for the fiance in question, one Haley Moreland. His anger and desire for revenge grows out of his belief that Miss Moreland has not mourned her supposed fiance in an appropriate manner, rushing into another betrothal for obvious financial reasons. Thus his plan to ruin her physically and savage her reputation for all time, thus making an advantageous marriage impossible. In giving a brief introductory description of the imprisonment, torture, and bare survival of these Englishmen, a very solid foundation is established for this story as well as novels to come. Each of these survivors has his own individual style of re-entry into London/English society, but Galen's preoccupation with his revenge against Haley Moreland takes his mind off of any other issue in his life.
I found this book to be very readable and if the reader is seeking sensuality, then it is to be found in bags and gobs in the accounts of the torrid affair between the two main characters. It is so torrid, in fact, that this book is best read in a cold room! The underlying conflict in the story is between the Jaded Gentlemen and the East India Company, and add to that the conflict within Galen as he seeks to maintain his loathing of his intended target while realizing that he has become addicted to his lover. Intertwined are Haley's issues with her father's alcoholism and the impending financial ruin facing their family if she does not marry well. Yet her heart is engaged and her decision to indulge her own desires until such time as she must marry leads her into unknown depths of passion. She is finding it harder and harder to extracate herself and she is not sure she wants to. There's lots and lots of “stuff” going on in this book. It is so very well-written. There is humor and passion, suspense and intrigue, grace and love in the midst of betrayal throughout these pages. I really couldn't put it down. I am looking forward to reading much more of these Jaded Gentlemen. I give this book a 5 out of 5 rating!