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Sunday, January 01, 2006

December 2005 Books

My ratings for the last half of the month are just guesses--I'm writing them way after the fact because it's been a really busy couple of weeks.

  1. ***½ Love with the Proper Stranger_ by Suzanne Brockmann. Contemporary category romance. Pretty good category about an FBI agent undercover to catch a black-widow serial killer (woman who marries men for their money & kills them to inherit) and a workaholic woman vacationing under an assumed name. Some dropped threads, possibly due to length restrictions.

  2. ****½ The Perfect Waltz_ by Anne Gracie. Historical romance. I have the impression that this is part of a series, because the heroine's married sisters were mentioned, and because the heroine is a twin, but that was hardly explored at all. I may have to check the previous books out--the writing is excellent. I didn't want to put it down. The hero is guardian for his younger sisters who he's only recently recovered--one wears a knife at all times, the other doesn't speak. Neither of them will trust him, and they can't keep a governess. So he decides he needs a wife who'll know how to deal with his sisters, and Elinore fits the bill--serious, 6 years older than him, spends a lot of time volunteering in orphanages. However, he's drawn to Hope Merridew. He's aided by his best friend, who ends up with a great side benefit to helping his friend.

  3. **** One Man's Art_ by Nora Roberts. Contemporary category romance. Re-read. This book was saved by having Grant's POV. If it had been written in the style of older category romances that don't show the hero's POV, he'd have come off as inexplicably obnoxious, and the romance would never have made sense. I really liked Grant's curmudgeonly character, and how he got smacked in the face with falling in love. I didn't feel, though, that I knew Gennie all that well, and I didn't really feel the chemistry between them.

  4. ***** Chill Factor _by Rachel Caine. Urban fantasy. This series keeps getting better & better, but it's definitely one that MUST be read in order. Just as book 2 picked up where book 1 left off, this 3rd book picks up where book 2 left off, and Joanne *spoilers**** not only has to get used to being just a human again, but also being a human without a djinn's power boost. She also **** learns about the nature of love, along with battling the forces of nature and driving fast cars. There are some shocking developments that I can't wait to see dealt with in book 4, which, fortunately, is waiting in my TBR pile.

  5. ****½ Games of Pleasure_ by Julia Ross. Historical romance. I'm only docking this one ½ star because the language is a bit flowery, and one of the problems got glossed over at the end. Instead of the usual virginal heroine, she's a courtesan. He's a duke's heir. Much personal growth, and duty vs. desire, and conflicting desires.

  6. ****½ Record Time_ by Beverly Brandt. Contemporary romance. It's a fairly standard romance plot--ugly duckling heroine and the wealthy businessman with emotional issues hero--but Beverly Brandt makes it sparkle. Kylie is a well-meaning disaster coming close to, but not falling into slapstick, and David has a horror of being made a laughingstock--a result that seems guaranteed if he's around Kylie for any length of time. The plots around the homeless alcoholic brother and loud obnoxious mother could have easily become cliches, but didn't. As I've come to expect from this author, there are laughs that are underlined with seriousness. A wonderful read.

  7. **** The Texan's Reward _by Jodi Thomas. Western historical romance. 4th in the series. Hero's known heroine since she was a young girl. He was already a Texas Ranger when he met her, so there's obviously an age difference, but it's ignored. In a previous book, she was shot in the back, & the bullet remains lodged next to her spine, so she's mostly an invalid with a lot of pain. Hero returns to town when she takes out an ad offering a half interest in her properties (there are quite a few) in exchange for marriage. He proposes, but she says no because she wants better for him. Cute because they're both so clueless, but the back & forth got to be a little much, plus the reasoning for it wasn't very clear. A couple of secondary romances, too, which was nice. And a mystery, part of which wasn't explained at the end.

  8. **** Dark Secret_ by Christine Feehan. Paranormal romance. The 12th Dark book. Nice, in that the heroine doesn't just fall in line with the lifemate thing. But then she fell back on the old TSTL trick of being too "independent" to accept any help in protecting her brother & sister and being stubbornly ignorant. Argh. Hero was entertaining, though--clueless earnestness. And I liked the heroine again in the last part of the book. Really, if you just took out, say, the 3rd quarter of the book, where the heroine turned TSTL (in which the S could mean either stupid or stubborn--the effect's the same), I'd be much happier.

  9. ***½ Heartbeats_ by Susan Rae. Romantic suspense. *sigh* @*#*$& secret baby plots. ARGH. I hate secret baby plots. And the fairly decent romantic suspense doesn't make up for it, particularly when the hero is too TSTL to even suspect. At all. And the heroine had no good reason for keeping the baby a secret from him. GAH. The suspense/mystery itself was pretty good--heroine's a cardiologist, and she comes home to find her best friend, who'd been staying with her, murdered. Hero's an FBI agent. Cute thread about one of the cops considering hero a suspect. If you cut out the damn secret baby, I'd have loved this one.

  10. ****½ Face the Fire_ by Nora Roberts. Paranormal romance. I like Mia, I like Sam. I liked the story. The only thing that throws me off is the spells. Cheesy. They always make me wince.

  11. **** Thuvia, Maid of Mars_ by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Science fiction. Classic pulp sf. Hero is framed for the abduction of princess Thuvia, so he goes to rescue her and clear his name. It's also a pretty classic romance plot, with the h/h in love with each other, but unsure how the other feels, and societal/political conventions standing in their way.

  12. **** Roommates_ by Whitney Lyles. Chick lit. Pretty realistic story about a young woman and her roommate problems as well as a bit about her family & her love life. You'll relate if you've ever had to have a roommate. I did like the romance, though the final conflict was predictable.

  13. ***** Sylvester_ by Georgette Heyer. Regency romance. I hesitated over giving this one 5 stars. It's good. Very good. There were no problems with it at all. But I guess I'm just not seeing what makes everyone drool over Heyer so much. Perhaps they just don't read much good Regency romance. That's the problem when something's over-praised. I was expecting to have an "OMG, this is so GOOD" reaction, but instead I just liked it very much. Maybe it's the historical context--because nobody was writing Regency romances when this was written. Anyway, we have a young independent woman, a matchmaking mama, a duke, a young nephew, a self-centered widowed sister-in-law. It's a very nice story.

  14. MacGregor Brides_ by Nora Roberts. Contemporary romance. Re-read.

    **** "Laura". This is the first MacGregor story I'd ever read, and that initial bit by Daniel really threw me. I really needed to have gotten to know him in earlier books to not find him strange and kind of creepy. But now that I know him, it's not so bad. Anyway. Parts of this story were great. But I didn't like that the hero was coming on to a woman he'd only just met. And I didn't like the heroine's father much in this one. Other than that, it was a good story. (I'll read the other 3 stories next month)

  15. ****½ Alley Kat Blues_ by Karen Kijewski. Mystery. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed this author. Victim of the massive TBR pile. Parallel cases--Kat's and her long-distance boyfriend's (he's a cop in Vegas)--an apparent hit & run that the victim's mother insists can't be, and a serial killer who hits too close to home for Hank. There are also some real relationship difficulties in this one, honestly dealt with.

  16. Hot Spell. Paranormal Romance.

    ***** "The Countess's Pleasure" by Emma Holly. Too short, but then it's a novella. Another Yama story, like The Demon's Daughter. The hero is a Yama (demon), the heroine, a widowed countess. He's an indentured servant, working as an erotic dancer to keep his mother from prison. As expected from Holly, it's steamy and emotionally true.

    ***** "The Breed Next Door" by Lora Leigh. Part of a series I'll probably have to check out now. Reminds me of Dark Angel, particularly since we've been watching season 2 on DVD lately. The hero is genetically engineered with cat DNA. Steamy, good suspense.

    ***½ "Falling for Anthony" by Meljean Brook. This one really needed to be longer. If it's part of a series, I'll give it back a half star. But there's enough going on here for a 300+ page book. The paranormal world of angels and nosferatu and guardians; the hero's complex relationship with his mentor; the heroine's complex relationship with her father; the complexities of their developing relationship.

    ***** "The Blood Kiss" by Shiloh Walker. Evil vampire king imprisons the brother of the werewolf king. Werewolf king goes to get him back, is attracted and aided by vampire king's daughter, who he takes captive in retaliation. Nice intrigue, steamy.

  17. ****½ To Sir Phillip, With Love_ by Julia Quinn. Historical romance. Huh. To refresh my memory for this one, I looked up the Amazon reviews. One bad review complained of "multiple references to masturbation"??? Gee, I can understand how upsetting that would be. We wouldn't want the hero to go blind, or grow hair on his palms. Plus, there's that "every sperm is sacred" thing. (that was sarcasm, if you didn't guess that already). Anyway. Hero's first wife, and mother of his now-8-year-old twins was depressed, and ended up killing herself. In response to being emotionally drained by trying to make her happy, and in trying to avoid being violent like his own father, he withdraws from the children, sticking to his plants (he's a botanist). He starts a correspondence with the heroine after her letter of condolence, and after a year of correspondence, he proposes marriage, and invites her to come to stay to see if they would suit. His primary criteria for a wife is that she be a happy person. Some pretty serious issues, and they're not resolved in a too-easy way.

  18. ***** Axel of Evil_ by Alina Adams. Mystery. Oh! This is the author who wrote Annie's Wild Ride, which I really enjoyed, & parts of which were very familiar. It just clicked. Cool. I'm not sure how many stars to give it, but I enjoyed it, and don't have any complaints, so it's getting 5. Nice inside looks at the figure skating world, and Russia, which was cool. Good mystery, a couple of nice twists, cold war intrigue, & skating politics. It's apparently the 3rd in the series--I'll have to check out the earlier ones. I would get tired pretty quickly of the emphasis on ice skating, but they appear to only be one a year, so I could deal with that.

  19. ****½ Christmas Stalkings, ed. by Charlotte MacLeod. Mystery. A mystery short-story anthology. Some of the stories were better than others, but thank goodness, they were all readable mystery stories--not those weird navel-gazing symbolic ones you can only really get into if you're a drunk, high, sleep-deprived college student (er... not that I'd know anything about that). I bought the book for the Evelyn E. Smith story about Mrs. Melville. Her middle-aged female assassin was such fun. I'd so woed that she only wrote 4 books and the short story in this anthology about her.

  20. **** Gabriel's Angel_ by Nora Roberts. Contemporary Category romance. Re-read. Really not sure why this is being marketed as a Christmas romance--and in hardcover yet. I understand the Amazon reviewers who felt ripped off. Still, it's a nice early book from Nora--and no, I didn't spring for the hardcover. I've got the old Silhouette. I did think some parts weren't as fleshed out as they could have been, but for its time (1989) and as a SIM, it was a good read.

  21. **** The Colorado Kid_ by Vicki Lewis Thompson. Contemporary category romance. Three cowboys and a baby. Unapologetic remake of the 3 men & a baby movies, but if you can get over the predictability, it's a cute read. I did get a little irritated by the hero's insistence that he was the father once his friend turned out to be another candidate--in the movie, it was clearer that they all WANTED to be the father because they'd fallen in love with the baby, but that didn't really show in this book. He also stuck to his idiotic plan to marry the baby's mother even if he was in love with someone else WAY too long--because his parents were divorced. Um. Marrying one person when you're in love with another one seems like a good recipe for divorce, if you ask me. But I did enjoy VLT's writing.

  22. **** My Favorite Witch_ by Annette Blair. Paranormal romance. I really hesitate to call this one a paranormal romance. The paranormal part was very weak. I read it the same day I watched the movie Bewitched, and it fits that same niche very well. Romantic comedy, light, fluffy, fun. Nice read for a busy time of year when you can't really concentrate on something serious.

  23. ***½ Prey_ by Michael Crichton. Thriller. Kind of a standard mutant killer disease story, except that this one's caused by bacterial/nanobot hybrids. Standard Crichton writing--lots of scientific details (whether they're realistic I don't know, nor do I much care--I read his books as fictional thrillers, not as cautionary tales), and written with an eye to the eventual (inevitable?) movie.

  24. ****½ Good Girls Do_ by Cathie Linz. Contemporary romance. The librarian and the bad boy who's recently returned to town, with some twists. Julia is recovering from a lifetime growing up in the shadow of her free spirit mother and sister, who think nothing of causing scenes. She only wants a nice, quiet, NORMAL life. But then chaos arrives, in the form of Harley-riding town rebel Luke, and, hard on his heels, her mother & sister, 2 llamas, and her out-of-control niece. My favorite kind of romance story--one with humor and heart. Serious problems and laugh-out-loud moments.

  25. *** Season of Fire_ by Joseph Judge. Non-fiction. Civil war. Some interesting behind-the-scenes political/military details, but you have to sift through quite a bit of uneven writing to find it. The writing style changes from pedantic to historical-colloquial to chatty to straightforward so frequently it was disorienting.

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