Saturday, January 27, 2007

Anthology - Over the Moon

I picked up my first Anthology in the year mostly because I am so hooked on those Mageverse stories. I also was looking forward to the Wyndham Wolves story by Davidson. Although I have not yeat read all the books in that series, my daughter just loved Derik's Bane and I find myself looking for good reading material for her. With this first Anthology under my belt, I'm just 11 books away from reaching my reading goal for 2007!

Angela Knight – Moon Dance: More of the Mageverse world! Yeah me!! A little more on the Direwolf clans (first introduced in Master of the Moon, and then revisited in Master of the Wolves). Elena is part of the aristocracy of the Direwolves. Her father has elected the Direwolf that would be her mate more for the fact that Stephen will conserve the ways of the past, than the possibility that he will be good to his daughter. Elena refuses to give in and when her burning moon finds her on the way to being raped and impregnated by the bully of a man she seeks help from Lucas Rollings.
Lucas is one of the 'bitten'. He is young in terms of his time as a Direwolf but he has learned from the best. He is a Cop in a small town where Direwolf population is down to 1. When he sees Elena being smacked around by Stephen in the parking lot of the Police station he has to step in.
Knight definitely knows how to take a short story and put as much into it as she can. The story was well rounded, believable and very hot!! It's a must read for anyone following this series since it does explain the bureaucracy among the Direwolf and the separation of classes. I had to give this one an A

Virginia Kantra – Between the Mountain and The Moon: Kantra was a new author for me and I was impressed with the ability she demonstrated in writing a short story about love that developed in a few hours. This is a sequel to an earlier story of this author (In the Anthology Man of My Dreams) but the funny thing is that even though I enjoyed this tale I am not inclined to search out the first book. The first tale is about the parents of the heroine of this book and Kantra really didn't let me develop an affinity for them. Caitlin finds herself lost in the woods on the night of Beltane.
The Queen of the Sidhe has never forgiven Cat's father his abandonment so she ends her son to seduce the girl and bind her to him in an act of vengeance toward her parents. Rhys accepts his fate as the tool in his mother's revenge until he meets Caitlin and cannot stand aside while she pays the price for her father's sins. The mood in this story is dark and a bit unnerving, it gives the fae world a very sinister feel which is part of the charm of the story itself. B

Mary Janice Davidson – Driftwood: I found myself reluctant to dive into this one just because I have not caught up with the Undead series or with the Wyndham wolf series, so I was concerned this would spoil it for me be honestly I needn't have worried because I really just needed to know who the main characters of each series was to fall right into this one. No spoilers are given to any of the two series. The story started out very funny with Burke (a hermit werewolf) encountering Serena (a vamp) on the beach when she is stuck in a hole. Serena is a sassy thing and when Burke tries to help her out of the hole before he turns, it becomes a ping pong of words of comedic proportions.
The problem is that the story peaks at the start. After they discover who they are, her a vamp and him, a Were, there is not much happening. Yeah there is a mission that Serena needs to accomplish that Burke assists her with, gaining her respect/love but honestly, the story was just a tale about two lonely people that find each other. Could not see myself giving this more than a C.

Sunny – Mona Lisa Three: Last one in this anthology had me double checking the author because it was way too similar in content to Laura K. Hamilton's Merry Gentry series. I really must say this one was the downfall of this anthology. It seems to take place between full length books. Most of the story was a recap of the series itself and by the time we get to the meat of the tale (which is just a quick physical healing that involved sex) the author had lost the reader's interest.
If you're familiar with the series, the story will still bore you because there is way too much recapping taking place; if you are not familiar with the series (like me), you will have lost interest in what is to come because there is so much politics involved in the recap you find yourself lost. As a Merry Gentry fan, I'll admit it did pull me in a bit, but not enough for me to look up the series or to connect enough with the character to really care who is left behind or not. This one really brought down the book itself and I had to give it a D (For the great sex scenes).

This brings the anthology to a close and I find it funny that the book lost it's steam as we kept reading each story. All of these tales are part of one series or another and I guess you would assimilate your appreciation of each story based on the background you might have on each author's work. Still, when I look at an Anthology I'm looking for stories that can be told in a short format, with a beginning, middle and end. All the characteristics of a story should be included, regardless of the length of the tale itself. Some of these stories did a great job at that, others failed miserably.

Grade: C+

Friday, January 26, 2007

Master of the Swords by Angela Knight

This one is part of the Mageverse series. I admit to have fallen in love with this darn series. In December I gobbled up the first three books of the series and now I tackled the last full length novel published in the series.

We first get a glimpse of Gawain in the previous Mageverse book where the second black grail is destroyed. Gawain is one of the original knights converted by Merlin when Arthur becomes a vampire. Gawain befriended a dragon many centuries ago, but the Dragonlands would not accept the dragon's friendship with the vampire knight so Kel (the dragon) was cursed to spend an eternity in the form of a sword that could yield magic. Kel could break his curse if he used the sword to kill Gawain but his friendship made him chose his imprisonment. This action created a bond between Kel and Gawain that was similar to a spirit link which allowed them to feel each others thoughts, which in turn brought these two very close.

After the intro which explains the relationship between Kel and Gawain, the story picks up just a bit before the last grail was destroyed in Master of the Wolves. The bad vampires have invaded Avalon while the werewolves battle the rouge vampire/maga.

Lark is a relatively new Maga. She is granddaughter to Tristan (from Tristan and Isolde) and when, during the battle she almost dies from an attack of a vampire, her confidence is shattered. She has already shown signs that she is not content with her role as a Maga, but when this happens she is not sure she can continue to fight to protect humans.

It is decided that all new Maga and Vampires will be paired up with more experienced fighters and Lark has the good fortune to be paired with Gawain. Of course she is a feisty witch which entices Gawain but she is also very frightened of having a relationship with her new trainer. First she has already been on an emotional ride, but every time she thinks of Gawain sinking his fangs into her (vampires must feed from the Maga and the Maga need to donate to the Vampires in order to live), she falls apart. She is scared sh*tless. It doesn't help that she shuts down emotionally to avoid having her heart broken. Gawain on the other hand recognizes early on that Lark is different and he is on a mission to seduce her out of her fears (and her clothes).

This was one of the best of the series. Not just your followup on the same theme - 'we must destroy the bad vamps!!'
This one had a twist with the inclusion of the dragons and the fact that most events took place in Avalon is another notable difference from the others. The bad guy was REALLY bad, vengeance as his motivator. We even see someone that we have learned to care about die. I just could not put this one down. Gawain was a yummy hero, strong and warrior like. Lark was weak and vulnerable at the start and then we see her grow into her powers and into who she was meant to be. Fabulous storytelling!!

Grade: A

My Favorite Witch by Annette Blair

I'm all about reading a series in order and the great part of this Salem Witch series is that the three books have already been released and I have them all! Yeah me!!

We met Kira Fitzgerald in The Kitchen Witch. She babysat Shane at one point in the story and was well known to be the REAL Witch in the bunch. When we start the book Kira is putting behind a very bad relationship where her soon-to-be husband was caught in bed with Kira's younger sister. She has decided that she needs to move away for some time since her parents don't know why she has dumped the minor league ball player a few days before the wedding. Since she really can't cope with her family's doubt in her judgment - not that she blames them since she was just days away from marrying the toad that was Charlie - she accepts a position as Assistant Event Coordinator to the Pickering Foundation.

Jason Pickering Goddard is laid low when he severely injured himself carousing with a blonde bombshell and almost lost his livelihood as a hockey player. He has sworn off women completely and is struggling to get back on the ice. His doctors are not very hopeful, they have actually deemed it impossible, but he is focused on his physical training and won't let anything in his way back to his dream.

His grandmother has convinced/coerced him into giving the Pickering Foundation 6 months of his time. She has teamed him up with a witch of an Event Coordinator that has him jumbled in knots from the first moment he saw her casting a spell against her ex-boyfriend.

The book is just 298 pages but it holds a wallop of a punch. From ghost searches, bee attacks, crow counting, ice skating and many, many rabbit holes, this book just keeps you glued from page one. There is this chemistry between Kira and Jason that just pops off the page from the moment you open the book. I find it funny that the characters appear to want to be flawed (Jason has a kissing issue and has a phobia of commitment while Kira has an issue with Jocks in general and is avoiding commitment as well), yet they are not. These issues are normal issues and might have popped up in anyone's life if they had the same life experiences as these two. These two were just two people that had to find their way to each other at their own pace. And this is where I find the only fault in the book.

It took them FOREVER to find their way to each other. We were 20 pages from the ending and neither of these knuckle heads could see more than desire when they looked at each other. It was so obvious to the reader but they just could not see it. It wasn't even that they were in denial, it was not even there as a possibility. I would have liked to see a bit more struggle on their end to accept the feelings of love. I also would have liked to see the relationship consummated much earlier in the book. They had done everything except the deed and I found it a bit too much to believe. Don't get me wrong, their trips into the rabbit holes were very entertaining but darn, just get it over with!! LOL!

One more thing I need to throw in here is how much I LOVED the use of quilts by Kira. Lots of people associate quilts to elderly grandmothers, and I appreciate that Kira who was a 'bewitching' woman was a quilter. Quilts are a wonderful heritage to leave to your children but to leave them the ability to MAKE quilts is a gift that will last longer than the threads themselves.

Grade: B+

Monday, January 22, 2007

Meet Me At Midnight by Jacqueline Navin

I started to read this story last year and it actually received the lowest grade of any book I read in 2006. I actually couldn't finish reading the darn thing because I found it utterly boring. At the insistence of one of my fellow readers in my reading group (Thanks Mal!) I gave it another shot and I was very surprised in discovering that I actually enjoyed the book!

Raphael, Viscount Fontvilliers had a difficult childhood after his mother abandoned him to the mercy of a man who doubted Raphael's legitimacy. He was emotionally battered and his faith in love destroyed by his father. He became a cynic which made him vulnerable to the wager his friends put upon him. He was to prove love did not exist and he was to do this by destroying one of the most stable couples in London.

Julia Brodie was just at the wrong place at the wrong time when she was chosen to be the instrument to win Raphael's wager. Julia has lead a comfortable life, never aspiring more than she felt her station merited. She had an 'understanding' with her beau, Simon and just awaits the day in which he pops the question. Every thing in her life is smooth and on target until she meets Fontvilliers and he makes her question the complacency of her life.

The problem with this book originally was that the story was too slow to start with. It didn't help that I was really not in the mood to read it. I originally felt no connection with Raphael and found him a bit on the slimy side. He was just so calculating and uncaring I could not feel anything besides anomosity toward him. On this second reading I actually picked up more on little nuances in Raphael's behavior that made me more receptive to his actions. After I passed the slow start (which didn't really change on the second serving) the story picked up a life of its own, Raphael seemed to become more vulnerable the more his heart is given to Julia. Julia becomes more secure in herself, rallying up the nerve to defy her family and go after what she wants.

There was an interesting twist close to the end of the book when Simon and Raphael have a duel over Julia. This added a different atmosphere to the book itself and I'm not sure I really cared for it. I guess it gave Julia and Raphael more time to be together; also it gave more time for Raphael to accept his vulnerability to Julia's love as well as acknowledge what was in his own heart. I loved the ending though. Raphael needed some redeeming and a lot of groveling for all that Julia had to put up with. HE did an excellent job at earning her love.

Grade: B

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Kitchen Witch by Annette Blair

When I started reading Annette Blair's The Kitchen Witch I was mostly looking for a light funny tale. I was a bit surprised to find something more heavy than that. I find it somewhat difficult to review this book because I have mixed feelings about it.

The first part dragged a bit and I kept getting distracted every time the word 'cajones' got thrown into the mix [Cajones means boxes while 'cojones' means balls (Like in 'You sure got big balls to do that')] but then I got to the middle of the book and I just read right over everything and it just became a page turner, keeping me up late and getting me up early until I finished it. Let me give you a bit of a run down about the book.

Logan Kilgarven recently moved back home to Salem after a difficult marriage that left him a single father of an adorable 4 year old called Shane. He is determined to leave his past as a juvenile delinquent / troublemaker behind and create a stable future for his son, who already suffers from abandonment issues. He has taken a job as producer at the local TV station (WHCH – I love how this looks like WITCH), but management is not very keen on single fathers and so he finds himself relying on his neighbor and his mother for babysitting. When he finds himself in a bind he resorts to asking his downstairs neighbor, who is rumored to be a witch, for help.

Melody Seabright is as far from being a witch as can be. She might associate with them and might playact the role but she doesn’t look very Witchy from Logan's point of view. Melody has her own set of problems though. She suffers from indigestion from all the crap she has eaten from the silver spoon she was born with. Her father thinks she is a failure and she is starting to believe it until Logan agrees to set her up for an interview as the host of a cooking show, if she agrees to baby-sit for him. The only problem is that she doesn't really know how to cook. This does not stop her from getting the job when she pitches a fabulous idea to the station manager. The Kitchen Witch show is born and who better to host it than the sexy Melody, who appears to bewitch everyone she meets.

I find it funny that I found the first part of the book slow when in truth you had the funny instances happening in the beginning and the attraction starts to take form at this part as well. I think the problem was more the structure and layout of the story than the story itself. Like I mentioned, the 'cajones' thing really bugged me - sue me! I'm Hispanic! But also the story seemed a bit disjointed and I felt I was being pulled all over the place when it skipped a few days here and there. For example, something would happen that would take up a page of storytelling and the next paragraph would move forward a few days. This editing stops around mid book and the rest of the story just flows.

Blair has a talent to just through in certain comments when the characters are sparing that has you laughing and just shaking your head. The woman does have an undeniable wit!

I also think that when the funky jumping around stops you are allowed to connect with the characters and you actually start caring what happens to them. Melody is a sunshine and her energy just smacked you in the face. Regardless of her insecurities fostered by her issues with her father, she came through as a strong woman with so much caring and love that you have to cheer her on all the way.

Logan was the character with the issues! He's determination to become a stable care giver to his son had him all out of place and made him miss the most important part of being a good parent was to give unconditional love and check your fear of screwing up at the door. I kept wanting to slap him over the head! I think Mel's realization that she was loved was unnecessary in the book because she was not the flawed character. I never got the feel that she was doing anything to please her father, or to prove him wrong. I found her always going after something more for herself and to prove herself strong enough to succeed despite the lack of support. Yet Logan seemed to have received lots of support over the years and he yet he couldn't stop trying to prove himself worthy to his son.

So, now you know how difficult it is for me to review this book and grade it because, although I had some issues with it, I ended up really enjoying it. I guess that is the whole point of reading, to enjoy yourself. And if when you close the book you find yourself smiling, you could call it a success.

Grade: B-

Monday, January 15, 2007

McClairen's Isle: The Reckless One by Connie Brockway

This was Raine's story and I admit to being disappointed. Raine is the second son of the Earl of Carr and the one that suffered the most as he grew up. His father despised him because he looked so much like his dead mother (a mother that Carr killed). Carr ignored Raine as much as possible and when Raine started rebelling in hopes of garnering any attention from his father, Carr left him to the wolves.

Raine was accused of raping a novice and the McClairen's who sought vengeance on Carr tried to murder him. He was saved by a young lass who made a death bed promise to her mother to save Raine in hopes that the King would spare her own children imprisoned as jacobite traitors. Carr arrived while the clan argued with the young girl and proceeded to slaughter the remaining clan members in a political move that would leave the McCairen lands unchallenged and his for the taking. The girl was left behind with the guilt of having caused her clan's destruction.

Raine eventually found himself in a French prison being ransomed to a father that didn't want him. After four years in prison he had lost all hope until a woman shows up and takes him away from the stench of the prison. He originally thinks that she is a seductress that takes her pleasure from the convicts but he discovers that she is not who she pretends to be. The young woman has fooled the authorities in letting her take him out of the prison but not for seduction, but for a distraction that will allow her male companion to escape the smuggler's noose while she herself escapes to Scotland. Raine thinks he is just arranging passage to Scotland for a widow and her child and finds himself betrayed again.

When they meet again it is under Lord Carr's roof where Raine is searching for a treasure in jewels his mother left behind and Favor McClairen,the girl that saved him both in his youth and in prison, is out to marry Lord Carr in an effort to set to rights the debt she feels she owes her clan.

I felt the story drag a bit and found myself not really interested in finishing the book itself. I did finish it though. The problem was that everything appeared to be too neatly wrapped. Although Raine hated his father, the character didn't really show much hatred, just indifference. Although he had been left to rot in the prison, he showed no emotional scars. I was expecting a very damaged hero and I was presented with a devil may care man who was way too honorable for his own good. It was just not believable, especially after reading how Ash held his guilt and suffering so close to the surface. Favor was TSTL. Her determination to let everyone around her walk over her because of some sense of guilt was too much to bear.

The last book in the series is Fia's story in The Ravishing One. Her hero will be Thomas Donne, Favor's brother who we met in the first book in the trilogy. Honestly I will not be picking up her book, althouh it's in my TBR pile. I didn't connect to Fia in any of the books and have no interest in seeing her find her HEA.

Grade: C-

McClairen's Isle: The Passionate One by Connie Brockway

Picked this one up from my TBR pile as part of the Author of the Month selection from my reading group. It is the first in the McClairen's Isle trilogy and is the story of Ash Merrick, the eldest son of the Earl of Carr who mercilessly killed off his wife's clan after the Jacobite rebellion in 45. Ash was raised to despise his father who murdered his mother. He was alienated by his mother's relations so he never found love or tenderness from anyone.

Ash had spent several years as a political prisoner in a French prison before his father ransomed him out to serve as his lackey. Carr left his younger son, the one that most resembled his mother, to rot in prison, refusing to pay that ransom. Ash is determined to raise enough money to liberate his little brother and so he saves all the money he earns in gambling and serving his father in hopes that it will be sooner than later that he can save his brother.

Ash takes on the task to go and fetch Rhiannon Russell who is by all accords his father's ward.
Rhiannon has lived a quiet life after having witnessed her family being slaughter by the English and then being refused shelter by the ward she was suppose to belong to. She had been taken in by the Frasier's who raised her and treated her as one of their own. Ash shows up and is intrigued by the young lady but not as much as the ability this lass has to throw a wrench into his father's plan.

It seems that Rhiannon is to be wed in a mere two weeks which would ruin whatever plans his father has for her, since Ash believes that his father in intent on marrying the chit. He agrees to stay for the wedding and then bring the 'happy' tidings to his father, but it seems that the attraction between them will damn him in his resolve and the fact that there is someone trying to kill Rhiannon.

The book was an easy read, since Brockway does a great job at building characters that are full of life and, those with dark undercurrent are palpably wounded. The sadness in Ash kept me rooting for a happy ending which in turn made this a page turner. Carr was evil and Fia, Ash's younger sister, was not a character I much sympathized with. I did see the effort that Brockway made to show Fia as a damaged girl whose personality had been formed by her father's influence, but I could not really feel much for her. On the other hand Ash's character was so well defined that you could feel his suffering emanating from his wasted body. I am looking forward to Raine's story which I can only guess will feature a much more scarred man since he had to deal with his father's hatred as well as his imprisonment.

Grade: B

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Update and Recap for 2006

I'm back with a new home and a new vigor to document my readings for the year 2007. As you can see, it's been a while since I last posted on this blog but not for lack of interest. Some might now have known but I recently moved from NH to TX.

This was definitely a big life change since I sold the house that had been our home for over 7 year (the most stable home my daughter had ever known) and bought a beautiful place in the Fort Worth Area in TX. With the move it was not just the house I left behind but also my job. I loved working as a technical support engineer with Progress Software but I wanted to see if I could make a change in the direction my career was going.
Moving to TX gave me a chance for a new start in life and I have been enjoying the ride thus far.

Here is a picture of our new home.

Now that I'm finally settled in and have had a chance to fall into some semblance of a routine I think I can pick up my reviews again.

During the time I have been away I have not stopped reading but my reading definitely suffered a bit for lack of material and for lack of a comfortable setting.

Last weekend I was able to pull out my books and find them a home. I discovered that I am ready to move away from some authors that just are not doing it for me anymore. Catherine Coulter is one of them and Stephanie Laurens as well. These two authors have given me many hours of contented reading but I have found that most of their books follow some pattern and they eventually have melded together to a point that it feels as if I'm reading the same story over and over. The worse part of this is that I had collected most of their backlist which is very long. Now I have all these books that I really don't want to read. I think I'm just going to put them up on ebay and not dwell upon the $ I have lost.

Recap of 2006:

Recaping my reading for 2006 has been soooo much easier this year because my friend Rosario shared her spreadsheet to keep track of the books read in the year. This makes it quite simple to see at a glance any trends in my reading.

Total books Read in 2006: 103
Total New Authors: 27 (That was a big surprise to me!)
Total re-reads: 1 (so that means 102 were new reads!)
Best Reading Month was April with a total of 18 books read.
Worst Month was November with 0 books read.

I read an average of 227 physical pages since I listened to 31 Audio books.
I read mostly contemporaries with 48.5% going to that category and 10.7% of my reads were Alt. Reality/ Fantasy and the rest were some sort of historical (40.8%)

The bulk of my reading was from books published in the last 5 years with 27 of them being published in 2005

Sweetest finds for me were Pamela Clare and JR Ward. Both authors consistently showed their talent, book after book I read of theirs.

Goal for the New Year will be the same as last, which I honestly must say I did well at (while I was reading consistently).
I would like to read an average of 1 Anthology a month. That would put me at 12 Anthologies read at the end of the year and would put a significant dent in all the anthologies I have in my TBR pile.

I had wanted to finish two series this year but I could not even make a dent in them. So I want to commit myself to making a dent in the Carpathian series by Feehan. I'm giving up on the Cynster series; I think I have lost my love for those characters.

So I start a new year with a new outlook and new reading goals. With that said... let the reading begin!!!

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