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Sunday, November 06, 2005

October 2005 Books

A few days late, but here's the list. To read the spoilers, highlight the space after the **.

  1. Kick Ass
    *****"The Bride Wore a .44" by Maggie Shayne.
    Romantic suspense. At least I think this one gets 5 stars--my copy has 30 pages missing in the middle, and I can't return it because the packing slip from Buy.com has already been recycled. Argh. Anyway. It's an amnesia story, reminiscent of that movie with Geena Davis (hmmm. must look for that one on DVD and ask for it for Christmas).

  2. ****½ "The Incredible Adventures of Boo and the Boy Blunder" by MaryJanice Davidson. Paranormal romance. Albino vampire slayer gets a geeky sidekick and meets a vampire stand-up comedian. I think this is my favorite of MJD's novellas, even though we don't actually see Betsy.
    ***** "Warfem" by Angela Knight. Paranormal romance. I've been looking forward to this one, and I wasn't disappointed. It's a secret baby story, but the plot reminded me a bit of something.... argh. Must.... resist... spoilers....
    **** "Painkillers" by Jacey Ford. Romantic suspense. I've been looking forward to this one, too. I think Jacey Ford does better with full-length books. This was still pretty good, and there was a really funny epilogue, but it had that sex while they're hiding out from the bad guys thing that bugged me. The heroine was a supermodel and CIA agent, complete with her own secret agent handbook. The weakest story in the anthology, and it's still very good.
  3. ***½ Too Wilde to Tame_ by Janelle Denison. Contemporary romance. Eh. Not horrible, but not great, either. Kinda meh. Heroine is your standard acts-&-dresses-like-a-slut-but-is-just-misunderstood. Hero is a P.I. and partners with her cousin. Somebody's stalking her and calling her a slut, tramp, etc, and her roomie is in an abusive relationship. I figured out the stalker immediately, but still didn't buy the motive, and didn't like the consequences. But the main reason for the "meh" is the writing. It's kinda bland--telling, again, instead of showing. At one point, she tells us that the position they're having sex in is erotic. Good grief. If it's really erotic, you don't have to tell us that. Anyway, like I said--not a bad story, but there are too many better writers to waste my time on more books by this one.
  4. ****½ River's End_ by Nora Roberts. Romantic suspense. I'm only docking it the half star because Noah is pretty much Michael from Public Secrets, and I'm a little creeped out by an 18-year-old boy falling in love with a 12-year-old girl.
  5. **** Off the Record_ by Jennifer O'Connell. Chick lit. Strait-laced attorney Jane, on the fast track to partner, discovers that she was Janey, the inspiration for a mega-hit song about a party girl 15 years ago. Now the one-hit wonder rock star is making a comeback, and being reunited with Janey is part of the promotion. Jane tries to connect with her inner Janey to figure out what he'd seen in her all those years ago, and ends up learning about herself. With a couple of small threads left hanging, and a couple others that weren't developed quite as well as they could have been, this could have been an excellent book if it had about 100 extra pages.
  6. **** Master/Slave_ ed. by N. T. Morley. Erotica anthology. Some excellent stories, some not so great.
  7. **** A Perfect Evil_ by Alex Kava. Suspense. A small town is again the target of a serial killer, with the same M.O. as the original... who's been executed. The sheriff has to figure out if it's a copycat, or if the previous sheriff, his father, let the real killer go. Some inconsistencies, and a little uneven in spots, but it's a first book.
  8. Mercenaries_ by Angela Knight. Romantic erotica.
    ****½ "Trinity." Heroine asks merc cpt. to join his crew so she can escape the patriarchal planet she's on before she's auctioned off as a bride to the highest bidder. He tells her okay, if she agrees to be a sex toy for him & his 1st mate for 6 months--assuming she'll back out. She doesn't back out. I didn't completely buy them falling in love, but that wasn't really the point. Hot, hot, hot. Bondage and sharing, but there was also the development of respect.
    **** "The Thrall." First mate from the previous story goes undercover on a BDSM planet to rescue a prince from a rival kingdom's evil dominatrix princess. Her younger sister was raised to be a dominatrix, but has submissive tendencies, which are seen as a perversion. Really good story, but it didn't grab me the way the first one did.
    **** "Claiming Cassidy." Merc female pilot & enemy pilot stranded together after a battle. He challenges her to a "claiming duel." More world-building, less kink, and wouldn't you know it, I was disappointed. Good story, interesting universe she's made here, with the different cultures on different planets. Hope she writes more in this series.
  9. ***½ Black Wind_ by Clive & Dirk Cussler. Adventure. *sigh* It's almost totally Dirk junior now. That's part of my problem, though I think most of the reason I didn't enjoy this one as much as I normally would have is that I was interrupted too often while I was reading it. Like all the other Cussler books, it jumps around from thread to thread, and with all the interruptions, it got confusing. I should have just put it down and read something else, waited to read this until I could have some uninterrupted time to enjoy it. The plot was--bio agents developed by Japan in WWII recovered & expanded on by N. Korean megalomaniac. Over-the-top as usual. Dirk Jr. seems to have developed his dad's ingenuity & invincibility, but he & Dahlgren, or he & Summer, just don't have the chemistry of Pitt & Giordino. (who, btw, look distressingly like McConaughey and Zahn now)
  10. *** The Angel and the Warrior_ by Karen Kay. Western historical romance, with a touch of the paranormal. The hero's tribe is under a curse--they live in a shadow land, and each generation one young man is chosen to try to break the curse. Visions lead him to the heroine--but is she supposed to help him, or are the visions a warning? Not a bad story, but in general, I'm not fond of this sub-genre, and a half hour after I read it, I tried to write a review, and found I couldn't remember the story. Not sure if that says more about me, or the book.
  11. ****½ For Now, Forever_ by Nora Roberts. Hmmm. I'll call it contemporary category romance, though it's actually a bit historical. I figure it takes place in what--the 50s? Must be--it's after WWII, I'm pretty sure. But it can't but much later, because their grandchildren are getting married in 1997. I didn't buy Anna's initial objection to marriage, but later on she made more sense. Vivid characters, though.
  12. **** One Knight Stands _by Jocelyn Kelley. Historical romance. I really like this series--about women trained at St. Jude's Abbey in the "knightly arts." This one has the heroine looking for a stone in Wales that is cursed so that if the King steps on it, he'll die. The hero is on a quest to kill the man who killed his wife. It gets 4 stars because I didn't quite get the point of the killer--seemed like there should have been more to it.
  13. ***** Where's My Cow?_ by Terry Pratchett. Children's book. Yeah, but it's PRATCHETT. Vimes reading Where's My Cow? to his son, and bringing in a lot of the Discworld characters. Almost made me wish my kids were little so I could read it to them over and over again.
  14. **** The Hob's Bargain _by Patricia Briggs. Fantasy. All the magic in the land has been bound up by the evil, mad bloodmages, and those born with magic have to join them or die, so Aren hides that she has The Sight. Until raiders come to their village and kill her family and half the village, and she makes a bargain with a hob to help her protect the village with magic. I enjoyed this very much, but the relationships between events weren't particularly clear. That may be because I was tired while reading it, but when I tried to write a synopsis, I had a rough time putting the main events in some sort of order.
  15. ***½ Pants on Fire_ by Maggie Alderson. Chick lit. Another Australian chick lit. Be warned: lots of promiscuity, and drugs in this one. I had a bit of trouble with all the casual drug use--that's not something I see in fiction much at all, unless it's the villain, and it's a cautionary tale. Entertaining, but it was more of a "slice of life" story than one that actually went somewhere.
  16. **½ The Irish Devil_ by Donna Fletcher. Historical romance. I'm not sure whether to give this 2½ or 3 stars. The writing itself is okay, and I liked the characters well enough, but the plot.... ARGH. The heroine had survived an attempted rape/murder with her virginity intact, but with a big ol' scar to show for it. Of course, nobody believes she's still a virgin, and everybody thinks she's shameless for not having the decency to die, especially the evil stepmother. To get rid of her, they marry her off to "the devil" (WHY is it that so many historical heroes are nicknamed "the devil"? Particularly when anyone can easily see they're just pussycats? Gah.). And then we get the conflict. At first it's pretty amusing, though it's not played for laughs, that every time they start to consummate their marriage, they get interrupted. Then he sees her scar, asks about it, & when she tells him, he asks if she's still a virgin. She refuses to answer. FOR HALF OF THE BOOK. WTF? I do not understand this. He's supposed to "trust her." Um, she has to answer him first so he has something to trust or not. And... ***spoilers ahead*** when they finally do get around to having sex, he doesn't want her on top (his leg's been injured) because it's too painful for a virgin. She asks how/when he knew, and he says he's always known. **banging my head on the wall** ARGH. For this we spent half the book listening to them go back & forth? And then in the last 20 pages, they decide to figure out who attacked her, and that was also extremely anticlimatic. Okay, I decided. 2½ stars it is.
  17. ****½ True Betrayals_ by Nora Roberts. Romantic suspense. I hated, hated, hated Grandma Byden, and I ****spoilers: really hated that she didn't get what was coming to her. **** Other than that, it was a good story, some nice intrigue.
  18. ***** Don't Say a Word_ by Barbara Freethy. Romantic suspense. Love, love, love Barbara Freethy's books. They're so complex, and all those little threads get tied up. In this one, the heroine sees a photograph of a little girl outside an orphanage in Russia, and the little girl is wearing a swan necklace identical to one she had as a child. So she looks up the photographer to ask him about it, and opens a huge can of worms. Spy stuff, intrigue, danger, hidden identities, families torn apart.
  19. *** One Enchanted Autumn_ by Fayrene Preston. Contemporary category romance. Pretty ordinary, but we've got that darn trust issue again. The main conflict is that these two people who've just met each other demand each other's trust. The twist this time is, it's both of them. They're both refusing to tell the other one things, but at the same time they're demanding the other one trust them. Gah.
  20. ** Dark Ruby_ by Lisa Jackson. Historical romance. I just couldn't get over the premise of this book. Heroine's married to an evil man who's killed his last two wives because they didn't give him sons. Hero's a thief who's hiding in her room while the midwife gives her a gyn exam to see if she's pregnant yet. She's not. She demands the thief get her pregnant to save her life, otherwise she'll turn him in & he'll lose his hands if not his life... and it turns out she's a virgin. *bashing my head repeatedly on the desk* How stupid is this heroine? Talk about TSTL--this takes the cake. The hero's not all that great, either. Once he returns to claim his son, he despises her for making compromises to save his son's life. I guess these two morons deserve each other, not that I could see any reason for them to fall in lurrve other than the hot nookie 12 years earlier which she forced on him.
  21. ****½ Her Bodyguard_ by Michelle Jerott. Romantic suspense. Shoes, gangsters, a hot bodyguard. Cool stuff. My only complaint was that there was the usual "I can't stay with you because of your job," that you always see in romances when the hero has a dangerous job. At least that wasn't the main plot. And to be fair, part of her problem with his job was that he was actually pretty miserable doing it. I do like the way this author writes.
  22. **½ Dark Sapphire_ by Lisa Jackson. Historical romance. Heroine helps hero escape from her father who's just killed hero's father--they're both young. She asks him to take her with her. He doesn't, but he does take a sapphire ring that's said to be cursed. Years later, they meet again when she stows away on his ship, running away because she killed her husband on their wedding night. There's a lot going on--an evil stepmother, hidden parentage, feuding families, but it's a lot of busy-ness without much point. And the heroine is the type for which idiotic defiance is confused with strength. I really started hating her when she was "asserting her independence" by insisting she could wander around freely on a ship full of men of questionable backgrounds who hadn't seen a woman in months. It's just tedious.
  23. * Damsel in the Rough_ by Ann Mary Tempesta. Fantasy. Like reading in Dutch, where you *think* you know what words mean, but they don't seem to make any sense. Gratuitous use of commas and, for the love of God--hyphens! WHY??
  24. Hot Blooded_ by Christine Feehan, Maggie Shayne, Emma Holly, & Angela Knight. Paranormal romance.
    **** "Dark Hunger" by Christine Feehan. Carpathians meet Jaguars. I'd have liked to see more info about how/why the two races can/can't mesh, but I realize there wasn't space in a novella. Both the h/h have siblings who'll probably get more stories.
    **** "Awaiting Moonrise" by Maggie Shayne. Werewolf, voodoo, a cryptozoologist. I kept thinking this was by Rebecca York--it felt very much like her Moon stories. Nice story, but one that would have been better if it had been longer--I didn't really buy that the h/h fell in love so fast.
    **** "The Night Owl" by Emma Holly. Again, just too short. I'd been looking forward to Bastien's story, and I wanted to see more of it. Still, nice portrayal of a natural ruler who's wary of taking power.
    ****½ "Seduction's Gift" by Angela Knight. Lancelot! Woo-hoo. Heroine's a cop, knows all about the magi and majae (sp?--I always get them confused--would have been nicer if AK had given them more distinctive designations from the beginning, but...), and in fact already knows Lancelot & that sex with him will bring her into her powers, so it makes the story fit better into the novella length.
  25. **** Playing the Odds _by Nora Roberts. Contemporary romance. Nice solid romance. I liked that Serena **spoiler: saved herself, always an attractive trait in a heroine.
  26. ****½ Temptress _by Lisa Jackson. Historical romance. Wonderful intrigue. A man is found, beaten to a bloody pulp, outside Morwenna's castle, and the only thing identifying him is a ring on his finger suggesting he might be Carrick of Wybren, who loved & left Morwenna for his sister-in-law, and reputedly set fire to Wybren, killing his entire family. While he's in the castle, unconscious, someone's creeping around hidden passageways spying on the inhabitants, and someone (else?) has started a grisly series of murders. There are a lot of twists and turns, and so many people who might be the killer. My only quibble was that the romance itself wasn't all that fleshed out, but the rest of the story was so good, I didn't really care.
  27. ****½ Dragonsword_ by Gael Baudino. Fantasy. A wee bit heavy-handed on the social commentary, but you know, after I got into the story, I just didn't care. World invented by bitter divorced mysogynistic professor--he needs a successor and his assistant is the one chosen by the dragon--and she's a pacifist who still has nightmares about Kent State.
  28. **** Rahab's Story_ by Ann Burton. Historical fiction. 2nd in the series of "women of the Bible," this one tells about Rahab, the harlot who was the only one spared when the Jews conquered Jericho. Fascinating look at a woman who played a pivotal role in the Bible, but about whom not much is said.
  29. *** The Day the War Ended_ by Martin Gilbert. Non-fiction. Where various ordinary people were, what they were doing, how they felt, when WWII ended in Europe. Interesting, but not very involving.
  30. **** Private Demon_ by Lynn Viehl. Paranormal romance. 2nd in the series, it still jumped around a lot without explanation. I did figure most everything out by the end, but if I weren't so stubborn, I'd probably have given up on this one before it straightened out. One thing that bugged me a LOT was in the initial fight scene where we meet the hero, he says "Connor" several times, and "we" once. ***spoiler, sorta: I guess the "we" might have been a giveaway, if I hadn't been totally confused by that point, but finally near the end of the book, it dawns on me that he was speaking French, and since we were in the heroine's POV, "Connor" and "we" was what she heard, instead of oui and whatever the French word was that I'm guessing means bastard or coward or something else bad. Good thing Antje warned me about the mangled German and the fact that the author thinks people drive on the left in France & Germany. *rolling my eyes* But other than those niggles, it was a good story. I liked that there were a lot of different things going on--Darkyn politics, skinhead ex-priests, secret plots, unrequited love, a couple of different familial angst threads... This was one of those few books that would have benefitted from an extra 50 - 100 pages. If it had been more fleshed out, I'd likely have given it 5 stars.

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