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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

May 2006 Books

  1. ****½ Hunter's Moon by C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp. Contemporary paranormal romance. Wow--really excellent story, and beginning of a series. In the first place, it's extremely unusual to read a romance written in first person. And when that first person is the hero? Unheard-of. I'd like this book just for that alone. But then the story was good, too. A werewolf who's a mob assassin falls in love with a woman who hires him to kill her.

  2. **** The Return of Rafe MacKade by Nora Roberts. Contemporary romance. Re-read. I'm a little tired of the heroes who are always getting in physical fights. I guess it's supposed to show how manly they are, but it just makes me think they're idiots. And not in an indulgent way. I'm also a little tired of romance characters who either "don't want a relationship" or assume it's going to end. And then there's dumping the whole relationship because of one misunderstanding. Bah. We won't mention the dream with the two corporals. Except to say that I really, really, don't like dream sequences in books. At all. I'm still waiting for the exception to that one. Still, the ghosts in this one were okay (yes, I know--gasp, shock, amazement)--it was all just feelings, cold spots, seeing a room the way it used to be--that works fine for me. And of course the red leather skirt & pool scene is a classic.

  3. Summer Love.

    • ** "Straight from the Heart" by Janelle Taylor. Contemporary romance. O. M. G. If this were a play, I'd say the actors were chewing the scenery. Horribly overdone. It's an okay premise--the hero's law firm represented the heroine's ex-husband in a custody battle, and a mutual friend sets them up to be stranded in a cabin together. But the story goes downhill from there. Every reaction is exaggerated--frex, at one point the hero throws his head back and laughs... at something mildly amusing. And what was up with the "wheat bread"? Am I missing something? They've got bread, and it's mentioned multiple times, and there's only one kind of bread, but every time it's mentioned it's always "wheat bread." Really started to drive me nuts. We won't mention the exclamation marks.
    • *** "Summer Fantasy" by Jill Marie Landis. Contemporary romance. TV screenwriter's agent sends her to Kauai to relax and get over writer's block. The handsome Hawaiian B&B owner is the hero. The descriptions were very nice. I saw the "twist" coming from the first assumption the heroine made about the hero. Too much Fred (authorial intrusion) took away from the story. And the heroine... first, she's a the pinnacle of her profession at age 25. I thought we'd given that up in the 80s. And then she's all hot for the hero, so she's hostile toward him, comes on to him and then gets mad at him for responding.
    • "Early in the Morning" by Stella Cameron. Paranormal romance. WTF moment #1: we have a couple who's on the eve of getting married, and they've--or rather she's--just now decided they ought to discuss sex. WTF moment #2: so he repeatedly changes the subject, avoids the question, and finally accuses her of being sex-obsessed. WTF moment #3: she doesn't actually dump his sorry butt. I have zero problem with a couple deciding to wait until marriage for sex. But I do think it's something they would/should discuss before, you know, the night before the wedding. And his reaction? That really doesn't bode well for a happy marriage. WTF moment #4: we get the reason for his reluctance--his ex-wife told him he wasn't any good in bed. Isn't that pretty much standard? Don't an awful lot of divorcing people accuse their exes of being bad in bed? WTF moment #5: the aliens show up. And.... Oh, god, I can't go on. It gets worse from there, if you can believe it. It's a complete mess. What the aliens want, how they communicate, how the couple plans to get away, and then how things change at the end--none of it makes any sense. Okay, I've got to add one last WTF moment because I just can't believe it: WTF moment # whatever: they don't want to have actual sex where the aliens can observe them. BUT they have no problem with getting completely naked and having oral sex.
    • ***** "Sultry" by Anne Stuart. Western historical romance. This is why I bought the book. And it made it worth it. Stuart's an exceptional author. From the first page, I felt myself relax and sink into the story of a saloon owner and the town's new sheriff. She packed a ton of story into a novella length, and I still didn't feel rushed or like things were left out. Emotional, lush, descriptive, even suspenseful. She makes it look so easy. Quite possibly, the contrast between this story and the others in the anthology account for a half a star here, but it deserves it for being stuck in a book with duds.

  4. ****½ No Ordinary Man by Suzanne Brockmann. Romantic suspense. The serial-killer thing is getting kind of old, and I didn't think the initial part of the romance was that convincing--chemistry may well be the answer IRL, but I like something more solid in a romance novel. In fact, for the first half of the book, it was a solid 4 stars. Then Brockmann ratchets the story up a notch--several notches, and I'm really wondering who the killer is, and even so I know it can't be the hero (I'm not dumb--this is a Harlequin Intrigue--heroes are never serial killers in Harlequin Intrigues), I can feel the heroine's fear & distress at being only 99.9% sure that he's not, which was really well done.

  5. ****½ The Marketplace by Laura Antoniou, w/a Sara Adamson. Erotica. I was really quite pleasantly surprised by this story of the training of four would-be slaves. It was on the order of Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty books, but focused more on the characters of the slaves than on the sex (as compared to the Rice books--there's still plenty of sex & kink). Anyway, a surprisingly complete read.

  6. ***½ The Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke. Science fiction. Not a bad story about humans colonizing other planets, and an encounter between those from the first wave and those from the last wave, but nothing much happens. And I admit, I was turned off by the author's note at the beginning of the book which pretty much said that everybody else claiming to write science fiction is really writing fantasy, and he's the only one who writes real science fiction. Get over yourself, already. Bah.

  7. **** Immortal in Death by J. D. Robb. Futuristic romantic suspense. Not one of my favorites of the series--I'm not sure if it's because of all the little nits that bugged me, or if I noticed all the little nits because it's not one of my favorites. Frex: the biggest thing is that I can't buy that Eve, no matter how great a cop she is, would be allowed to head a murder investigation when her best friend is the primary suspect. Eve uses magnolias to describe one character's voice and another character's skin, yet doesn't recognize petunias. There's no reason for Leonardo to wonder if he's killed someone when he wakes up, other than to provide a red herring. Roarke admits sleeping with Pandora, yet elsewhere, Pandora's described as only sleeping with men who are easily manipulated. And of course the irritating "that's so first millennium" line, when you know they're not talking about 1 - 1000 A.D. Also, even though I've read this probably a dozen times, I still get the characters mixed up. And Eve's reaction to the revelation from her personal life was just goofy. I buy that she'd have trouble coming to terms with it, but the specifics didn't make a lot of sense. The mystery was pretty decent--the new drug, the overkill murders, but there wasn't much development on the relationship side, either, which is probably another reason for liking this one a bit less.

  8. ****½ So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams. Science fiction. Morning read with the boys. Arthur's back on the reconstituted Earth, and finds a girlfriend. Still hilarious, but I missed the other characters and the traveling around in space.

  9. **** Honor's Splendour by Julie Garwood. Historical romance. This is a book I'd classify as a guilty pleasure. Not in the sense that I'd hide it from anyone else, but in the sense that though I realize it's not very good, I enjoy it anyway. In this case, the heroine is just too naive to be believable, but it makes the book very funny anyway. As long as I ignore the little voice in my head that says she should be able to learn something eventually. Her naivete makes sense at first--she was raised by elderly priests--but it goes on too long, and she doesn't seem to learn anything. Still, as I said, it's very funny. There's adventure and romance, and a heck of a lot of humor, but it's one of those books that I have to turn off my internal critical reader to enjoy.

  10. ****½ Tiger Eye by Marjorie M. Liu. Contemporary paranormal romance. Wow. Now I see what everyone was raving about. This is one of those books I was hesitant to read because there was just so much hype about it. And again, the hype was well-deserved. It appears to be the start of a series about characters with a wide variety of paranormal and/or psychic abilities. The heroine, an artist with a psychic affinity for metal, is in China on vacation, where an old woman convinces her to buy a puzzle box, which, when she opens it, contains a shape-shifting warrior who's been cursed to be a slave to the owner of the box. The magi who cursed him is now after both of them, and there's an assassin after her as well.

  11. ***** Speaks the Nightbird, Vol. 2: Evil Unveiled by Robert McCammon. Horror. Second half of the book. Nicely intense, great characterization.

  12. *****+ Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher. Contemporary fantasy. Re-read. It's even better the second (well, 4th, sort of) time around. It's not only polished, it... hmmm. what's more than polished? Every single word's just right, and it means something, and it echoes off something else. Okay, could be I'm sappy because of Mother's Day, or because of the inscription (I got it signed--yay!), but damn, it's a good book. Just when you think he can't get any better. Also, Best Use of a Pitcher of Ice Water in a Work of Fiction, ever.

  13. *** The Pride of Jared MacKade by Nora Roberts. Contemporary romance. Re-read. Quite possibly it's the contrast with the last 3 books I read, but every time I read this, I never like Savannah, and at least this time around, I don't like Jared either. She doesn't have just a chip on her shoulder--it's the entire rock. And he's a hypocritical Neanderthal. She's nasty and rude, and thinks the worst of people (or at least of men) before she even meets them, and I can't find anything in her to relate to. He apparently thinks any woman he deigns to be interested in should be a virgin, or at least a victim. I didn't believe the romance--all I saw was that they had the hots for each other. I didn't understand the rush--that demand for immediate trust and complete disclosure of every event in her entire life 5 minutes after they meet (yes, I'm exaggerating, but not much). I was not remotely amused or sympathetic when she destroyed a couple thousand dollars worth of his belongings because she was pissed off at him. The three stars are because there are some genuinely good parts. Like when Jared talks to Bryan before asking Savannah to marry him. But on the whole, really not one of Nora's better efforts.

  14. ***** Dreams Made Flesh by Anne Bishop. Fantasy. The missing romances for Lucivar/Marion and Daemon/Jaenelle, and a couple of short bits. Loved revisiting everyone. I was a little worried it would be hard to get back into the world, but it wasn't--this was much easier reading, except for the short bit about Saetan, and, perversely, I missed being slightly confused. Still, I love these characters, love the world, and really did not want to put this down, did not want it to end.

  15. *** Tickled Pink by Rita Rudner. General fiction. I like her humor, but it doesn't seem to translate well to fiction. Or maybe just not this piece of fiction. Two young women, a dancer and a model, meet in a women's hotel in New York. The story follows them over several years as their dreams start coming true, are shattered, and change. Not a horrible story, but not great, either.

  16. **** Powers of Detection, ed. by Dana Stabenow. Mystery, sf/f. As with most anthologies, it's a grab bag. Some of the stories were good mysteries. Only a couple of them were the kind of short stories that are one small step up from poetry in the navel-gazing, see-how-clever-I-am category that makes me hesitant about the whole idea of short stories. I bought this one for the Anne Bishop story, and didn't even plan to read it shortly after Dreams Made Flesh. Fate loves me. Anyway, the Anne Bishop story was worth it--the others--the good ones, that is, were just frosting.

  17. **** Room Service by Beverly Brandt. Contemporary romance. I love this author's writing, but boy, did she make things hard on herself with this one! The prologue sets up the heroine as a spoiled rich girl whose father's just cut her out of his will. Suddenly penniless, she finds herself unable to pay a several-thousand-dollar hotel bill, and ends up taking a job in housekeeping at the hotel to pay it back and to save up enough money to hire a lawyer to break her father's will. My only problem with this story is that I wanted more. I wanted to see more of her conflicted feelings about her father, more of her struggling to accept that she has to earn money at least temporarily, more of the developing emotional connection between herself and the hero, the manager of the hotel. I get that it's a light story, so you don't want too much angst, but this author's pulled off that feat before, so I expect more.

  18. ****½ Elphame's Choice by P.C. Cast. Fantasy. Yikes. No pulled punches on this one. I can't believe she.... Okay, no spoilers, but I suspect that's one of the things that makes this "fantasy with romantic elements" rather than paranormal romance. It takes place 2? 3? generations after Goddess by Mistake, in the same world. The heroine is half-human, half-centaur--looks a bit like a satyr, but horse instead of goat, and is the descendent of the couple in Goddess by Mistake. She's the goddess incarnate, but all she's ever wanted is to be treated like an ordinary person. All her life, she's been pulled to this castle ruin, so she, her brother, and a bunch of misfits set about restoring it, and they build a community and a home along with a fortress. She also finds her life mate, also a hybrid, but he's half-human, half-Fomorian--a sort of winged vampire, a demonic race that was believed to have been exterminated. So she's torn between her new friends & responsibilities and her heart, and he as well is torn between his heart and a prophecy that claims her sacrifice is all that can save his people from succumbing to the madness of their demonic forefathers.

  19. **** Rapture in Death by J.D. Robb. Futuristic romantic suspense. Re-read. This is about the point in the series that, whenever I'm re-reading, I get tired of it. I can't put my finger on why, either. It might be that I feel the mind-control stuff isn't well-explained, or maybe it just squicks me. But geez, poor Mavis! She took a beating in Immortal, and now she gets trampled on again. Could be that's part of it, too. Or maybe it's just me.

  20. ***** Sister of the Dead by Barb and J.C. Hendee. Fantasy. This series keeps expanding rather than just presenting the same kind of story over and over. Here we learn about Magiere's origins, and there are some painful and emotional developments. No black and white characters--even the villains have motivation and are sympathetic. Some questions are answered, but more arise.

  21. **** Ties That Bind by Kathryn Shay. Contemporary romance. I had a really hard time getting into this book. The first couple of chapters had 5 separate POVs, and a lot of backstory, and it was hard to attach to any of the characters and care about them. Which bothered me, because I generally love this author's books, and find them intense and emotional. Part of the problem, admittedly, was that the book is about a divorced couple, and that immediately made me less sympathetic. Without that, the backstory & multiple POVs might not have bothered me so much. Then, too, the heroine... I really could not relate to her. But once the story kicked in, I did get hooked. A divorced couple of lawyers is named as the reason for a prison inmate's suicide, and the allegations could ruin both their careers, so they're forced to work together to figure out who implicated them and why, causing latent sparks to burst into flame and a lot of resistance from their new significant others. Kathryn Shay never hesitates to tackle tough subjects in her books, and this is no exception--we see how the divorce and subsequent reunion affected all 5 people involved, and they're all realistic, 3-dimensional people: no caricatures, or anyone who's all good or all bad, and they all have very human, very believable reactions.

  22. ***½ Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings. Fantasy. I had a rough time getting into this--didn't care overmuch about the characters, too many names introduced in too short a period to distinguish them, contradictions (though, to be fair, the contradiction that bothered me most--saying magic was too exhausting to use casually, and then proceeding to do just that--appears to have been deliberate). The repeated ploy of the main character asking for clarification only to be told it was none of his business, or something he didn't need to know got very, very tedious. Which could also have been deliberate, to show how frustrated he was getting, but the only way you can do that without irritating the readers as well is to let the reader in on some of the secrets. Instead, it just looked like the author didn't know the answers either. The last third of the book went a little faster, but I read this over 4 days. Unheard-of for me, particularly for a book that was only 300+ pages. It was just too easy to put down, and I was never really interested in picking it up again.

  23. ****½ The Heart of Devin MacKade by Nora Roberts. Contemporary romance. Re-read. Odd. I don't like victim heroines, and I don't like the way Nora does paranormals, and this story is very similar to Rising Tides (Ethan Quinn's story), yet I liked this one much better than the first two. Go figure. Part of it, I'm sure, is that I was just so tired of reading the same book for 4 days that I was bound to like whatever I read next. The fact that Cassie was a victim did make me feel a little distant from the story, and ****spoiler****completely breaking off a relationship because of a 10-year-old's unfounded fears (note: I'm not saying he didn't have a reason to be afraid of his father--I'm saying that his fear of Devin in particular was unfounded, particularly since he already liked and trusted Devin before the question of marriage came up) is really stupid. I totally get putting the kids first, but not even giving him 24 hours to get used to the idea? Stupid.**** Still, I think Nora did an amazing job, particularly for a category romance, in portraying these characters. They were very believable. And Devin may have been slow to let Cassie know how he felt, but at least he wasn't the silent type.

  24. ***** Last Girl Dancing by Holly Lisle. Romantic suspense. There might be some problems--this is a serial killer story, after all, and I did guess whodunit pretty early on, but that doesn't seem to matter. Holly Lisle's writing just sucks me in anyway. A young dedicated cop gets a chance to make it into the elite homicide squad if she helps solve a series of stripper killings. The downside is that her career, which is her whole life, is on the line. Because of her dance background and her undercover experience, she's asked to go undercover as a stripper. And to work with a psychic. And she really hates psychics. There are excellent reasons for everything, but the backstory is doled out naturally, in small doses--you don't get a big "this is who she is and why she's doing this" speech right up front, and the same goes for the hero. Just fabulous writing. This is only the 2nd book of Holly Lisle's that I've read, but I'm slowly collecting the rest, which are sf/f, but since it was the writing I was so enthralled by, I expect I'll like them, too.

  25. ****½ Undead and Unpopular by MaryJanice Davidson. Contemporary fantasy. A fun, fast read, as expected. And I liked it a smidgen better than Undead and Unappreciated. Betsy has a couple of real dilemmas in this one--a friend has a serious illness, and a foreign vampire dignitary turns out to have killed another of Betsy's friends.

the rest of the list:

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Comments:
I agree with your opinion on the books we've both read (discounting the Robbs since it's been so long ago).

I'm not sure whether I've read Queen Of Sorcery, but I'm a pretty big Eddings fan, and I love all of the books.
 
Glad you enjoyed Hunter's Moon! I found your blog by accident, but thought you'd like to know that the third book in the Sazi series (Captive Moon, which will be released in August) is set IN Germany! Stuttgart, to be precise, and, while it's not from Tony's point of view, he does appear. Enjoy! :)

Cathy Clamp
 
Oooh, I'm looking forward to it, Cathy! Book 2 is in my TBR pile.

BTW, I already told you I loved Hunter's Moon... on McAnally's. :)
 
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