Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Broker by John Grisham

John Grisham is back to his old form with this book. After years of reading dreadful stuff by this author it's great to see him comeback with a book that kept you wanting more until the very end. At the end it was an edge of your seat thriller.

The Broker refers to Joel Backman who, in his prime as a Washington lawyer, rubbed elbows with the crème de la crème. He earned over 10 million a year and had the largest, most successful firm in all Washington. Then he took on as a client three young Pakistani men that had written software to manipulate a satellite that was not suppose to be in orbit. When they went after the highest bidder for the technology, they were arrested (to tell you the truth, the whole reason why Joel was arrested escaped me but since it really didn't change the story, I moved on). After his partner was murdered, Joel confesses and goes into protective custody at the Federal Prison. There he spends 6 out of his 20 year sentence in solitaire confinement, until the outgoing president gives him a pardon he has not asked for.

The CIA wants him out so they can have another country assassinate him. Seems Joel has too many secrets he is not willing to share with the USA, so the CIA would rather the secrets die with him before he has a chance to share them with anyone else. He is taken out of the prison and sent to Italy where he is supplied a new identity and a tutor to get him acclimated to the new life the US, supposedly, has bought him. He knows better and the game of Cloak and Dagger that takes place in the following months is the juice of this story.

The story reminded me of Grisham when he was at his best, with stories like The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client & Runaway Jury. Well worth picking this one up, even if you had given up on Grisham.

Grade: B+
Format: Audiobook

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Color of the Wind by Elizabeth Grayson

As part of my yahoo group's (Historical Romance Chat) Author of the Month series, I selected Elizabeth Grayson's Color of the Wind as my February read. As things worked out the title also met the requirements for Angie W's TBR challenge.

These are the questions that Angie W had asked about the book selected:
Title: Color of the Night
Elizabeth Grayson
Year published:
Why did you get this book?
As an Author of the Month selection for my yahoo group.
Do you like the cover?
Yes, it's not overly cheesy.
Did you enjoy the book?
Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again?
Grayson was a new to me author and I will definitely be looking for her work in the future.
Are you keeping it or passing it on?
I will be trading this copy since I don't usually keep books.

With that said... on to my thoughts of the book.

Baird Northcross & Ardith Merritt are damaged individuals. Baird due to overindulgence and being spoiled, and Ardith due to being the ugly duckling. Baird was once betrothed to Ardith but during their engagement party he met Ariel, Ardith's half sister and fell for her beauty and passion for life. They eloped on the day he was to marry Ardith. Shamed over the scandal, Ardith abandons London and moves with her uncle to Boston.

16 years later, Baird is banished to America after his involvement in his cousin's death. He has lived his life going from exotic place to exotic place and is accustomed to luxuries that don't exist in Wyoming. Thinking to outsmart his family, he sends for Ariel and his three children but Ariel dies after her arrival in Boston. Her dying request is made to Ardith, pleading that the children be taken the rest of the way to their father. Ardith, who is now a children's author but has no experience with the real thing, honors her sister's request.

She expects to just dump the kids and get back to her life, but realizes that Baird is even more clueless as to the needs of his children than she is. So an agreement is reached where Ardith will stay until Baird can acclimate himself to his new role as a single parent.

Grayson's vivid descriptions of life on the frontier, makes the story just bounce off the pages. I admit that the book can be put down but you will carry with you the detailed images that the author has painted. I also love that Grayson doesn't rush the romance between Baird and Ardith. Instead she lets them develop a relationship based off their common need to assure the children's well being. The characters grow into people that you can admire. Baird stopped being the selfish man we meet at the beginning and Ardith is a stronger woman, more self assured. The soft transition between who they were at the beginning of the book and who they became really gives credence to the talent of this author.

Grade: B+

Monday, February 20, 2006

Summer in Eclipse Bay by Jayne Anne Krentz

It seems that I'm a down roll... The last two books have been such a disappointment. This is the third book int he Eclipse series but Krentz did a good job making it readable without having read the first two.

Nick Harte is a widow who has avoided commitment until Ocatvia Brightwell. The Art Shop owner is the great niece of Claudia, the woman who caused a huge rift between the two most powerful families in Eclipse Bay. Trying to make amends for the sins of her aunt, Octavia comes to town to try to help mend the feud between the Harte's and the Madison's but they are well on their way to harmony with the marriages between Nick's sisters and two of the Madison clan (seen in the first two books of this trilogy). Octavia is ready to pull out but gives into her attraction to Nick as a way to "live a little". She doesn't like it when after a tumble in the hay (so to speak) he picks up his cloths and leaves. He tells her that she gave him 'the talk' declaring that she was not into a long term affair so there is no reason to recriminate him. The talk is what Nick usually gave his women before taking them to bed, where he told them that there was no hope for a long term affair. When a painting goes missing from Octavia's shop, Nick's protective instincts go into high gear.

I'm not too sure if it was that I had not read the first two books (although I doubt it since this one did well as a stand alone) but the characters and Eclipse Bay never really found a spot in me. I just could care less what was happening to them and I didn't care who took the painting or why. When we finally find out who took the darn thing it was anti-climatic. It could have been the narrator of this Audiobook that made the book flat but I am not sure of it was that either. When a book doesn't resonate with me in its audio form I try to imagine the story being read. I think of myself sitting with the book and reading it. I must admit that if I was reading this book I would have stopped reading half way into it. The book just did not do it for me.

Grade: C-
Format: Audiobook

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Against His Will by Trish Jensen

Wow.. This one was bad. Not completely horrendous but bad enough. I am so disappointed because I actually liked her Stuck with You book (or at least, I remember liking it).

This is the story of Jake Donnelly, an FBI agent that has just inherited his Aunt Sophie's pet bulldog. Muffin inherited everything else. If Jake cannot deal with Muffin, he can give up claim on all properties and give it all to LeAnne Crosby, psychologist to the dogs and owner of Happy Hound resort. As part of the stipulations in the will Jake has to spend two weeks at the doggie resort. Of course Jake is skeptical of LeAnne and believes her to be a fraud as well as a gold digger, that is until he meets her, then he thinks she's a hot and sexy gold digger.

The premise of the story made me think it would be a blast but there was a lot of doggie moments that just seemed out of place. There was more on how Jake fell in love with his role as a dog owner than on how he fell in love with LeAnne. There was lust but I was not convinced that he fell for her or at least why he fell for her. Then there was the lack of real sexual tension, there was an attraction but I never got the raw feelings I have perceived in other work where "if I don't have her, I'll just die". The subplot of some goons going after them because they want to get to the witness that Mark Colson and Jake were protecting just didn't fly either.

I really thought I would drop this one but I felt committed to finishing it and as I said, it was bad but not horrendous.

Grade: C-

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Chill Factor by Sandra Brown

This author never disappoints, at least not with her romantic suspense books. They always grab you and throw you for a loop in one way or another and this one follows suit.

Five disappearances in the small town of Cleary has the FBI investigating, but when they finally narrow things down to a suspect they drop in town during the worse ice storm of the season. Ben Tierney appears to be their man and the reader is lead to believe this as well when we see him walking out of the woods with a shovel in hand. Ben is hit by the car of Lilly Martin, the ex-wife of Cleary's sheriff Dutch Burton, when she is heading down from her mountain cottage. Lilly had been closing a painful chapter in her life with the sale of her mountain home when she hits Tierney and finds herself stranded on the mountain as the storm hits.

Ben and Lilly had met the summer before while white water rafting and felt attracted to each other but Lilly was still married and trying to recover from the death of her daughter, so things had gone no where. Now she is stranded in a cabin with him and, although the attraction is still there, something does not feel right.

Back in town the FBI finds newspaper clippings in Tierney's hotel room and all hell breaks lose. Dutch who is still obsessed with his wife is going over the deep end (as well as mountainous cliffs) as he tries to reach her at their cabin. The local High School coach, Wes, has secrets of his own as he tries to protect his son from the FBI because he thinks Scott might have something to do with the disappearance of the latest victim. The story weaves itself around the people in Cleary and the secrets just keep popping up all over the place. Brown keeps you on your toes, guessing as to the identity of the serial killer 'Blue'. Halfway through the book you just cannot accept that Tierney is the killer and start looking elsewhere and then Brown throws you a fast one that has you questioning your judgment.

The culminating scene at the end has you at the edge of your seat and cringing with every shot fired. Brown is a queen at her game and Chill Factor just reinforces her position as one of the best romantic suspense authors of her time.

Grade: A
Format: Audiobook

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Surrender by Pamela Clare

Dorchester Publishing sent out a few Advanced Readers Copies of this release, and I was fortunate enough to receive one. This is the first book in a new trilogy by Pamela Clare which tells the story of the MacKinnon brothers, who have been pressed to serve the British after being falsely accused of Murder.

In this first installment we meet the brothers and get to know the circumstances that has the brothers, as highlanders and jacobites, working as Rangers in the French / British war. We then meet Lady Anne Burness Campbell who also has been falsely accused of a crime and is sold into indentured labor to the colonies.

When Iain (the eldest of the MacKinnon brothers decides to intervene and save Anne from rape and then death, the writing is set on the wall.

This was my first book by Clare and I was pleasantly surprised. I received the book as an ARC and to be honest, I had no expectations for the piece. The blurb on the back of the book just didn't make it sound that exciting and I found that I had no real interest in reading it right away, but I had committed myself to read the book and so I started it as soon as I got it.

As soon as I situated where in history the events took place, the book came alive. I am a BIG Last of the Mohicans fan and the atmosphere that was created in the book reminded me of that movie/book. The brothers had been adopted by a tribe of Indians and they fought crudely like the Highlanders and Indians were known to fight. The romance between Iain and Annie was not rushed or hindered by a bunch of silly misunderstandings. When Iain reacted stupidly, he admitted it and accepted his flaw. He realized the importance in life and treasured his time alive. This is how I would expect a sensible man would act in a time of war like the brothers lived in.

The rhythm Clare set in the plot had great timing and the characters were all well developed. When you closed the book you felt as if you were leaving good friends behind. This is something that an author writing a series needs to establish from book one. You need to want to go back and read about those other two brothers. You need to care about the characters and feel the need to revisit them. I must admit that even the 'villain' of the book, at the end, had me wanting a HEA for him as well.

Besides all that... the book was quite steamy. Lord William and his friendly fingers and Iain with his handy razor, made the book sizzle with scenes that were just not your typical 'let's go tupping!'. Definitely a series to watch out for and an author with great talent.

Grade: B+

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Eldest by Christoher Paolini

I discovered Christopher Paolini at the end of last year when I picked up the Audiobook of Eragon. Eldest is the second book in the Inheritance Trilogy and it picks up just a few hours after the battle at the end of Eragon. These books are not independent of each other. They are not like romance novels, where a trilogy indicates that there are three separate characters and each book will cover the story of a separate couple. No, this trilogy is more of the Saga type of books, where you need to read the first book to know what is happening in the next. The Inheritance trilogy reminds me very much of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

When we last left Eragon he had just slain the Shade, Durza, in the battle of Farthen Dur, where the urgals had attacked the Varden. The success of the battle was the beginning of the war against Galbatorix's Empire. The wound that Durza, the Shade, gave Eragon leaves him crippled, in a sense. He now has a scar on his back, like Murtagh, that pains him into oblivion. Ajihad has been slain in the battle and the Varden need a new leader. The elders on the council decide to ask Nasuada to replace her father and be a puppethead, but she has other plans and after accepting the confirmation she surprises them all by proving to be an independent leader and worthy of the title. After Nasuada takes command and decides to move the Varden out of Farthen Dur to Gil'ead, Arya, the elf, takes Eragon to Ellesmera for his training as a Rider.

In this installment we also follow Roran, Eragon's cousin as the Ra-zac attack Carvahall in search of him. They want to use him to get to Eragon. The villagers abandon Carvahall through the Spine to get to the Varden, in hopes that they can join the fight against the Empire and protect themselves from Galbatorix. I enjoyed Roran's storyline more than Eragon's even though Eragon goes through many transformations (he becomes more elf-like and takes on apprenticeship from Oramis, a hidden Rider) there is no real action until the very end. Roran's story is stronger because we see him encounter many obstacles in his trail to the Varden. During the last battle a twist is revealed that leaves the reader stunned, not just by the revelation into the prophesy Angela had made to Eragon in the first book but also by revealing who the prophesy was referring to. Angela had told Eragon that he would be betrayed but someone of his blood and when Eragon's paternity is revealed we discover exactly who betrays him.

Excellent Saga! If you are into Fantasy, this is the book you cannot miss. In the same line as the Harry Potter series, this book is not just for the young. The story and characters come alive with the fight between good and evil. The characters are multifaceted, where they are flawed and human-like. A code of honor keeps the good true and all creatures have a separate code.

If you want more information about the book you can visit http://www.dragonriders.co.uk/, which has tons of info. The first book, Eragon, has already been picked up by Fox to make as a movie. The next installment, tentatively titled Empire, will be published in 2007. Can't wait!!

Grade: B+
Format: Audiobook

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Wedding Game by Jane Feather

This is the last book in the Duncan Sister Trilogy. The first two books are The Bachelor List & The Bride Hunt which tell the stories of Constance and Prudence Duncan. This trio of sisters has had to find ways to supplement their income after their father loses a large portion of his wealth on a bad investment. The stories take place in the early 1900 which was quite different for me. There really aren't that many books that take place during this time, when the women's suffragist movement was taking root and women were testing the limits society had imposed on them for so long. The sisters decide to continue the suffragist work their deceased mother had started by printing a broadsheet called The Mayfair Lady where not only do they talk about the movement but also run advertisements, an advice column and a matchmaking service. The Go-Between is the matchmaking service which we have seen has had some success in the previous books.

Chastity Duncan goes to interview a potential client and encounters a man she had seen before (in The Bride Hunt). Dr. Douglas Farrell is committed to a slum clinic but he needs funds to afford the medication that his patients cannot afford. He is looking for a wealthy wife that will give him an influx of funds and put him in the path of wealthy clients. He believes that by treating the wealthy and all their imaginary diseases he will be able to treat the truly needy. Regardless to say that his disdain for the wealthy comes through loud and clear during his interview and since he didn't explain his motives for taking on a rich wife, Chastity, who is the most sensitive of the sisters, is livid. When she discusses the client with her sisters, they agree to take him on even though his motives appear mercenary.

The book covers Chastity and Douglas
romance, but also Lord Duncan's (the sister's widowed father) romance to an Italian Countess, whose daughter, Laura, is the candidate the Go-Between have chosen for Douglas. The events in the book take place during Christmas which is nice. This is the best story in the trilogy, although the others were good as well. I especially enjoyed that the Hero/Heroine can be seen falling in love. After Chastity discovers what Douglas is doing her attitude changes and she starts seeing the real Douglas. It's a straight forward love story with not alot of complications and barriers (unless you call the fact that Chastity is dirt poor an obstacle).

Grade: B

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Mackenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard

After many discussions about this series, I picked up the first two books. This is the story of Wolf Mackenzie and Mary Elizabeth Potter.

Wolf is an Indian half breed and Mary is a school teacher just arrived to Wyoming from Savannah. She goes up Mackenzie's Mountain to investigate why Joe Mackenzie (Wolf's son) has dropped out of school when he is very talented. This is where she meets Wolf and is instantly attracted to him. She does not see his race and this confuses Wolf who has faced prejudice in the town of Ruth since he arrived 10 years before. At that time he was unjustly accused of Rape and spent two years in prison before he was cleared when the real rapist is captured and he confesses.

When Mary challenges the community's prejudice a threat is presented against everyone who talks in favor of the Mackenzie's. When Mary is almost raped Wolf takes it personally and claims her as his woman, giving into his desires. The book was nice and spicy. Even though it was short, the story was well weaved and made sense, it didn't seem rushed at all. I also liked that although you suspected who was behind the events taking place in the town, you were never really sure until the very end. I can see how it would be hard for Howard to top the success of this book.

Joe's story is told in the sequel, Mackenzie's Mission.

Grade: B+
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