Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein

As many of you know Fairstein is a must read for me. I cannot get enough of Alex Cooper, Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace but this one... I was devastated while reading.

The story opens up with Alex arriving at the scene of a murder that took place in an abandoned Maritime building off the coast of Staten Island. The girl has been tortured and brutally stabbed and by the stench she has been there for a while. When the bodies of two more young women show up they suspect a serial killer is on the loose. One that has an affinity to women in uniforms.

The connection between the girls seem to be the bars of Jimmy and Kiernan Dylan, a father/son business that have had a brush with the law for serving alcohol to underage patrons. When Kieran is arrested, it flushes out an unlikely source that points to another more viable candidate.

And the chase begins. That chase takes them back to the string of islands that surround Manhattan and when a storm comes rolling in our favorite team is stranded on one of the islands with the latest victim and only survivor of the maniac, but has the Serial Killer escaped or is he hiding behind the storm to finish the job he started?

Besides the main story we also follow Alex as she tries to balance her job with her new romantic interest, French man Luc Rouget (sp??) and we see her wrap up on the conviction of serial rapist Floyd Warren who raped Kerry Hastings over 30 years ago. Justice might be slow but it always catches up with you. While in court and while dealing with the murders of these women, the members of the Latin Princes gang are bent on hurting Alex and making her regret putting their gang leader behind bars.

Okay here is the thing with this installment of the Alex Cooper series. I only LISTEN to these books. They are Audiobook reads for me. Not because I love them less than my romances, but because I have a terrible imagination and the spoken word will put the pressure on the narrator to bring to life my favorite crime fighting team, Barbara Rosenblat has read all the Alex Cooper books I have listened to. Except this one. I actually considered NOT listening to it. I had such a hard time getting into the story because the voices were not of Alex, Mike and Mercer
Think of Harry Potter with someone else playing Harry. Think of The Outlander without Davina Porter giving that beautiful Scottish accent to Jamie! Yeah, I took it hard!

What else went wrong with this one? The History Channel was transported to the pages of the book. Fairstein always includes a good dose of NY history in her stories, it's part of the charm. Mike knows EVERYTHING about NY. He is a walking Wikipedia. But in this one, it went a bit overboard. Mike tends to throw out these historical facts as he moves along the crime but in this one, it seemed as if he pauses and regurgitates his knowledge. Not just him but Alex throws out her share of historical facts. Too much info all at once feels like I'm watching the History channel. Also, Mike was very out of character. He seemed to dismiss and, in a way, belittled Alex. At times there was so little respect for her knowledge and for the things that they had gone through, I had to attribute it to the narrator but in reality, it was the writing. It seemed Linda took our Mike Chapman and gave him a dose of Dr. Jekyll / Mr Hyde potion, because honestly, at times I didn't even recognize Mike.

Regardless of these flaws the book still earned a decent grade because when the Storm rolled in I was glued to my seat in anticipation of what would happen to our trio of crime fighters.

Grade: B-
Format: Audiobook

Sunday, April 27, 2008

After the Kiss by Karen Ranney

Karen Ranney is a new Author to me. I had read a small piece by her in the Tapestry Anthology but this was my first full length novel by her. I have much of her backlist in my TBR pile after a strong recommendation from my Yahoo reading group but I had a feeling that these books would be emotional heavy hitters and I had put off reading them. When I was selecting books for my challenges I made sure that I added one of Ranney's titles in the challenges so I would be motivated to start reading them. I am happy that I did because the emotional backlash was not as bad as I expected and Ranney's talent surpasses many classic romance authors.

Michael Hawthorne, Earl of Montraine is in need of a wife. He doesn't necessarily want a wife, he would be happy to spend his days surrounded by his mathematical equipment cyphering. Michael works secretly for the English government as a code breaker. He hates the social circles his title forces him to be part of but as a second son he never really expected to have to be part of the ton. When his father and brother died he inherited the title and the responsibility it brings with it. In essence, he inherited his mother and three sisters. They don't seem to understand that the money is scarce and if he is to keep the properties that are not entailed, they need to economize. They believe that by having Michael marry an heiress they will be able to continue living the lifestyle they have become accustom to, thus Michael needs a wife.

Margaret Easterly was content to be a booksellers wife. She was never titled, never had a hidden father who was actually a Duke hidden in her closet. No, she was just plain Margaret, married to the bastard son of a Duke (okay, so there was a Duke hidden around there). When a fire leaves her widowed with barely the cloths on her back and a small strong box in her hands she decides to move away from London and the memories. After a couple of years when the small amount that was in the strong box is depleted she is forced to look into selling the other items in the box. Three journals of a very sensuous nature from a mysterious Augustine X. These journals appear to be very valuable since her husband had kept them separate with a short list of potential buyers. Margaret had hesitated in selling them because it awoke a curiosity in her that was not easily assuaged, but her circumstances force her to send inquiries to the names on the list to see if there is a potential buyer for one of the journals.

When Margaret arrives at the home of the buyer, she discovers that he is hosting a masquerade. As she is leaving with her money in hand she stops to observe the festivities from the balcony that leads to the gardens. That is where Michael first encounters Margaret. he confuses her with one of the guests but is surprised that she is not frightened/intimidated by his brooding presence. Most young ladies of the ton hold a fascination with Michael but at the same time find him a bit frightening. Margaret does not know anything about the stranger and feels no inhibitions (they will never meet again anyway). They share a few words, a few glances, a dance that almost leads to a kiss and then Michael is left bereft when Margaret flees his arms.

Of course Michael becomes his obsessive self and cannot seem to put aside the image of the woman he almost kissed. his search for a wife has gone down the drain and he can't break a code even if his life depended on it. When he hears from his friend that his mystery lady will be returning to London to sell another volume of the Journals, he arranges to intercept her and claim his kiss.

The story blossoms with the kiss and the bit more that was taken before the kiss took place. Ranney weaves a tale of passionate encounters, obsession, lust and finally love. The sensuality of the scenes were wonderful written burning the pages of the story. The struggles between morality and the love they feel for each other is vividly written and is never dismissed. The circumstances of their lives makes their relationship impossible and yet they find themselves so drawn to each other, it puts their values to the test.

Wonderfully written piece that should be read by anyone who is a romance lover.

Grade: A

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Fun

Found a few more things to add to my blog...

I found the Friday Fill-Ins while I was out reading someone elses blog and loved the idea, so I decided to join the fun.

Friday's Feast was found while I was reading someones Friday Fill-Ins! LOL! Are you confused yet? I thought it was food related but it's more a meal for the mind!

Okay, so here we go:

1. When I fell in love it scared me!
2. Everything looks sooo pretty when the flowers bloom and it heats up outside!
3. Oh no! The internet connection is down, I hate that %^&@# Cable Company!
4. Eli Stone is the craziest tv show ever.
5. Cheese and anything make a great meal!
6. I would kill every plant if I had a garden.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to coming home from work, tomorrow my plans include Weight Watchers Weigh-in and Sunday, I want to finish my Merry Gentry book!


Name something you would categorize as weird: Some of my daughter's roommates!


What color was the last piece of food you ate?: Brown (an ice cream bar)


On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest, how much do you enjoy being alone?
8, I'm more of a loner and love doing solitary things like reading, writing & watching foreign films (not alot of people like these)

Main Course

Fill in the blank:

I will need to decide who to vote for when elections come around in November.


Describe your sleeping habits: Early to Bed, Early to Rise

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Springing

So I was thinking a bit about the blog and how I would like to put more time into it and all that. But there is just so many books I can review and sometimes I'm really stumped about what to say about a particular book, so I'm expanding my views and adding a bit of a kick to the blog.

I decided to join the Booking through Thursday movement! It's a weekly meme mostly about reading or books... right up my alley. So here is the question of the week:

Do your reading habits change in the Spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don’t have a garden? More light fiction than during the Winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack?

Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the Spring as you do the rest of the year?

I will say Spring is not a big 'season' to go specialty reading for me. Big seasons for reading something special is Halloween (a month that gives me the excuse to only read Paranormals) and Christmas (you have to get into the holiday spirit somehow). Other than those two holidays, the change in seasons does not inspire me to change my reading habits.

How about you? Are you a seasonal reader?

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

To Bed a Beauty by Nicole Jordan

This story was the 2nd book in the Courtship Wars series and one I was looking forward to. Although To Pleasure a Lady, the first installment left me a bit dissatisfied it didn't leave without the curiosity to know the fates of the other two Loring sisters, especially Roslyn who is known as the beauty of the group.

Poor Roslyn has had her share of bad luck with men since the sisters feel in disgrace after their mother ran off with a Frenchman. We discovered in the first book that the mom was a victim of circumstance as much as any other and that the real culprit for the sister's disastrous reputation could easily be laid on the father's feet.

After experiencing several years in poverty, Roslyn was not seen by men as a Lady, but as a fallen woman, a woman that has been propositioned several times. Roslyn seeks love in her marriage and won't settle for less. She witnessed many parental arguments due to her father's infidelities and then her mother's. She has sworn to avoid a marriage of convenience at any cost and has set out to educate herself in the art of making a man fall in love. She has her eyes set on a particular neighbor who just came into his title and who, she observes, has all the characteristics of a man she could love. Now all she needs to do is make him fall in love with her. She recruits Fanny Irwin, the courtesan family friend we met in To Pleasure a Lady, to help her. Fanny takes Roslyn to a Cyprian Ball so that she can observe how the courtesan's entice the men. She never expected to see the Duke of Arden at the ball.

Drew Moncrief, the Duke of Arden is one of Marcus, Lord Danver's best friends. He has put aside his most recent mistress and is out shopping at the ball when he catches a glimpse of a newcomer. He goes off to pursue her only to have her run from him. When he finds her, he seduces her into a few kisses and a bit of first base, but is completely confounded by her reluctance in accepting his protection. This is completely cleared up later on when he discovers that the beauty he was seducing was his friend's new sister in law! He is a bit upset but quickly puts it aside when he discovers that she was not out to trap anyone into marriage (one of his worst nightmares) but was in fact trying to pick up skills to capture the heart of another. Obviously he has decided to offer his services in teaching her everything a man is looking for in the woman to be his bride.

The book itself has a worn premise and the whole 'I met you in a masked ball and could not get you out of my mind' has been used so many times it should be banned among plots that can be used in a romance but then the story moved into another plot outline that has been so overused it also should be banned "Let me teach you the secrets of love so that you can seduce the man you REALLY want". What is different about this book is that Jordan made it work.

Arden was so jaded and Roslyn so refreshing that the story just worked. Arden has never been loved for himself and because Roslyn only had eyes for her neighbor, she didn't pose a threat to him, he never felt pursued and could bring his guard down, learning to savor a relationship with a woman that, although lustful, was relaxing. I loved that even though the time line was short he fell in love with a friend.

Roslyn on her part found herself the resistant one. She did not want to fall for the Duke, a man who admitted he did not have a heart to give. Someone that she argued with and who caused painful memories to resurface. When she was found compromised, she still resisted the marriage because she wanted love. She was a wonderful character who had some wounds to heal. She would eventually learn that she could not have love without trust and she needed to trust Arden capable of loving her.

There was a secondary story line where Winifred, lady Freemantle, discovers that her husband not only kept a mistress but a whole separate family. She recruits Drew and Roslyn to find out who is trying to steal a brooch with a picture of her late husband only to discover the alternate life he had led before dying,

It seems that the third installment to this series was taking place at the same time this story was evolving because Lily, the youngest Loring sister, runs away to London. What is she running from, we will have to wait to read about it in her story.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Caress of Twilight by Laurell K. Hamilton

I'm loving this series. This was the second installment in the Merry Gentry series and in this one we get to delve more into the crazy life of a Sidhe princess.

In A Kiss of Shadows, Merry was told she would be crowned Queen of the Unseelie court if she can bear an heir before her cousin, Prince Cel could have a child of his own. This caused enough noise in court to have Prince Cel punished for his assassination attempts and have Princess Meredith running back to her familiar life in LA. She has brought with her her Ravens, a retinue of guards that have been supplying her with enough sex to keep Andais, Queen of Air and Darkness, happy that she is at least TRYING to get pregnant.

Merry has refused any monetary funds from the Queen (her motto being if you take, you owe) so she is living with her 5 guards (Doyle, Frost, Galen, Rhys and Nicca) and one goblin (Kitto) in a tiny, one bedroom apartment. To pay her bills she continues to work as a PI for Grey's Detective Agency which brings her in contact with Maeve Reeds. Maeve, who is now a famous movie star, has been exiled from the Seelie court after she angered Taranis, King of Light and Shadow. She has been prohibited from seeking out another Fey but she risks it all because she wants a child with her dying husband.

Merry shows that she is a very politically minded advisory and what she lacks in immortality she has in smarts. Although she was concerned over her meeting with Maeve she believes that the movie star holds a secret so big, that if shared with Meridith, will give her an edge over her uncle, King Taranis. But the King is not likely to allow that and when an ancient power is released onto humans causing mass murders to pop up everywhere, Merry wonders if the King has not shown his hand too quickly.

On top of her dealings with Maeve and the King, Merry also is working an alliance with Queen Niceven, the Queen of the Demi Fey who we met in the previous book. The damage that has been done to her Raven, Galen during the first book appears to be permanent and it would eliminate him as a candidate to father her child but Merry is not accepting of this and calls upon Niceven to provide for a cure. When a much guarded secret of the Demi Fey is revealed, Merry jumps all over it to assure an alliance between herself and Niceven. The deal adds Sage to Meredith's male followers, as an emissary to Queen Niceven.

In this installment we get to know so much more about the Ravens and their previous lives, not just as the Queen's guard but also as Fey themselves. Doyle, the Queen's Darkness finally gives into the flesh and beds Merry, causing conflicts of loyalties. We also discover an interesting fact about his parentage. Frost's feelings for Merry have grown strong and he fears losing her by not being able to give her the heir she needs. Rhy's prejudice against Kitto as a goblin comes to a collision which causes Merry to question who has the power in her relationship with her guards. She has to balance her love for the men and her position as the future Queen. Rhys also reveals his past which puts him in a whole new light and not so much the charlatan and movie buff he portrays himself to be.

There was a lot of growth happening in this installment and a lot of alliances which is positioning Merry to be the heir to the throne. Now if she can only get herself pregnant!

Grade: A

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke

First time reading this author. I had heard great things about her Inkheart series but it was a YA book and unless I get a vibe I tend to push it aside, but I have discovered with books like Eragon and the Gemma Doyle series, you sometimes have to take a leap of faith, so I picked up one of Funke's earlier titles and was pleasantly surprised. I think the fact that this audiobook was narrated by Brendan Fraser added to the enjoyment. The man is the real deal. His manager should be fired for not getting him the roles he deserves because he has an extraordinary range and brought to life each and every character in the book.

Humans are invading the mountain caves that a group of dragons call home. One of the dragons has decided to go in search of a legendary sanctuary all think to be just just that, a legend and not really 'REAL'. Firedrake was raised on the tales of the Rim of Heaven and decides to journey into the world in search of this place so that the dragons of his clan can go live a peaceful existence with out the humans breathing down their throat. He takes his closest friend, a brownie girl called Sorrell, and collects quite a few more companions on his way.

One of these companions is a homeless boy called Ben. Firedrake and Sorrell have flown to the city to get the assistance of a mouse called Gilbert Great Tail who is a cartographer known for his maps and who, is rumored to know how to reach the Rim of Heaven. While they are hiding from the humans, Ben runs into them, offering his assistance in navigating the streets, hiding from the other humans and finding the mouse cartographer among all the mouses in the city. Firedrake agrees over Sorrell's protestations and by the time they leave the city Ben has joined their adventure.

Before they do leave, Gilbert Great Tail tells them how to get more information on finding the sanctuary by giving them a map that will take them to a genie, who can answer questions on how to get to the Rim of Heaven, the mouse also tells them that they are not the only ones searching for this place. The Ravens have been asking about it for many years. They have been searching for The Golden One, a dragon said to reside in the Rim of Heaven. But the Ravens are not searching for the Golden One, they work for Nettle Brand who is in fact a dragon with Golden scales. Nettlebrand searches for the dragons that have fled to the Rim of Heaven. And he has very bad intentions when he does find them.

This book was filled with great adventures and is a true treasure for children. The trio adds another companion in the form of a homunculus called Twiglegs. Twiglegs was first a spy to Nettlebrand but finds love and acceptance with Ben and Firedrake (Sorrell is always disagreeable in a humorous way). It's Twiglegs emotional growth and his turnaround that gives the book the moral lessons that parents are looking for in a children's book (there is always a lesson learned).

When I looked for books for my daughter I remember always searching for a book that held enough fantasy to intrigue her, enough adventure to grab her and a lesson that would add to her moral fiber. This book has it all. A book that if she would have read it as a child would most likely still be sitting on her bookshelf with her keepers.

Grade: B+
Format: Audiobook

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Princess & the Pea by Victoria Alexander

This one started sooo slow I thought for sure I was going to have to dump it, but then something happened around page 85 (I give my books 100 pages to prove themselves and this one barely made the mark), the story took a turn such that it became a page turner, at least for a while. How did that happen??

Cecily White is an American Heiress that lives in Chicago. Her friend had recently been in London and returned to Chicago heartbroken because the Earl of Greystone had lead her on and then dismissed her. Cece, feeling indignant for her friend, convinces her parents to take her to London to find a husband but in truth the independent minded Cece plans to attract the Earl and break his heart. When she and her family arrive in London they stay at a family friends house where she meets Jared Greyson who she believes is an impoverished inventor who dreams of creating a fleet of cars.

Jared Grayson is the Earl of Greystone and he has fallen head over heels for the daughter of the American butcher that is staying at his friend Quentin's house. When he meets Cecily White he keeps his title to himself but his title is a big roadblock for the life he would like to lead with Cece. He would like to be the man Cece believes him to be but with his title he also inherited many responsibilities that cannot be pushed aside, and to meet those responsibilities he needs to marry an heiress. He does what he has to do and breaks things off with Cece and returns to his pursuit of an heiress.

The book then moves into the more interesting phase in which Jared discovers Cece is in fact an heiress and tries to persuade her into marrying him. The following is an excerpt of the moment in Jared realizes that he can have his cake and eat it too:

"Good Lord, Cece" Discovery rang in Jared's voice. "I just realized what this means."

She lifted her head and gazed curiously in his midnight eyes. "What 'what' means?"

"The fact that you are an heiress" Excitement colored his words. "Don't you see. This means we can be married. I love you and you have money. It's perfect"

Cece eyed him cautiously. "Explain that phrase, 'it's perfect.'"

"I need to marry an heiress. You are heir to an impressive fortune." Jared's enthusiasm grew and so did her outrage. "The beauty of it is, I've fallen in love with you. This will not be the least bit distasteful after all."

He shook his head and expelled a sigh of relief. "I can't tell you how much better I feel about everything now. An heiress and you in the bargain. It's bloddy marvelous."

"Is it?" she said quietly.

She stepped away from him and primly folded her hands together. "Let me make quite sure I understand this as well as you seem to. First, you could not marry me when it appearsed I did not have, as you so charmingly put it, an impressive fortune. Is that correct?"

Confusion crossed his face. "Well, yes, but -- "

"When you believed I was not an heiress, even though you admit you love me, it was quite all right to leave me clutching a terse -- and badly written, I might add - note, my heart broken and my life in ruins."

"It was not badly written," he said with indignation.

"Hah! And now that you know my true financial status..." She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "Just how broke are you?"

"We are not broke," he said defensively. "But the cost of maintaining my mother's home, my townhouse, Graystone castle-" his tone brightened-"did you know I have a castle?"

"Cold, ugly and out-of-date, no doubt."

Jared shrugged. "Well, we needn't spend much time there."

She stared with disbelief. "What on earth makes you think I'll marry you now?"

He gazed at her in genuine bewilderment. "I love you. I don't see the difficulty."

"A man should not marry for money. It's disgusting and ill-bred."

"Not in my country," he said staunchly.

"Well, no marriage of mine will be based on money."

"Of course not." Relief crossed his face. "Ours will be based on love."

"Ours will be based on nothing!"

As you can see, Jared is not the brightest bulb in the pack, he is a bit dense and as the story continues it made me wonder what, other than the fact that he was handsome and had a title would attract any woman to him, not the least Cece who is smart and ambitious and has her sh*t together. On top of Jared being a bit dense, Cece had to deal with her in-laws

Jared's mother, Olivia, wants the best for her son and has devises several tests that Cece must pass before she gives her blessing to the match. Since Jared has prohibited her to interfere, she has to figure out ways to put these tests in Cece's way without showing her hand. I kept wondering why Ms. Alexander didn't let Jared inherit a bit of his mother's wit.

Honestly, I really thought the book would recover after the couple meets as Earl and heiress but the book kept falling apart. From the secondary story line where Cece's mother is brought face to face with an old lover who wants her to abandon her family, divorce her husband and run away with him, to Olivia picking up her life just to consider marrying a low life. And the last conflict could have been dropped altogether, I saw it as it was, a manipulation from the author to give the book a kick. Jared giving up his title? What about the people that depend on him, which is why he needed to marry an heiress to start off with.

The book had it's moments and just to watch Cece out wit her future mother-in-law was worth finishing the book.

Grade: D+
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