Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Susan Carroll: The Courtesan

The Dark Queen: A-
Gabrielle Cheney & Captain Nicolas Remy
The Dark Queen series #2

Paris, 1575.

The consort of some of Europe’s most influential men, Gabrielle Cheney is determined to secure her future by winning the heart of Henry, the Huguenot king of Navarre. As his mistress, Gabrielle hopes she might one day become the power behind the French throne. But her plans are jeopardized by Captain Nicolas Rémy, a devoted warrior whose love Gabrielle desires–and fears–above all. She will also incur the malevolence of the Dark Queen, Catherine de’ Medici, whose spies and witch-hunters are legion, and who will summon the black arts to maintain her authority. With the lives of those she loves in peril, Gabrielle must rebel against her queen to fulfill a glorious destiny she has sacrificed everything to gain.

Alive with vivid period detail and characters as vibrant as they are memorable, The Courtesan is a sweeping historical tale of dangerous intrigues, deep treachery, and one woman’s unshakable resolve to honor her heart.

Continuing the story started in the first novel, The Dark Queen, readers discover that the evil Catherine de Medici is still in power and still as evil as ever. She is, after all, a very powerful witch daughter of the earth.

Gabrielle Cheney, jaded and embittered by her past experiences by her first love has made it clear in The Dark Queen that she wanted to be powerful in the royal court. Her way to achieve this: by becoming a very famous and much desired courtesan in the French royal court.

It has been three years since she moved from home – and three years since the fallout she’s had with her eldest sister, Ariane. She is popular, desired, and essentially has everything she desires. However, she still thinks of Captain Nicolas Remy, the honorable and very loyal soldier whom Ariane cared for when he came to their home. At the end of the first novel, we are led to believe that Remy has died.

Gabrielle is stunned when Nicolas seems to have come back from the dead, by the help of his young friend and admirer “Wolf.” Remy is back to save his prince, who had surrendered power to Catherine de Medici, and is currently in the French royal courts. When Remy discovers what Gabrielle is – and what her position is in the courts – he is appalled, despite being in love with her.

Remy’s prince is infatuated with Gabrielle and wants her to be his latest mistress – something he tells Remy, and in order for everyone to safely get out of France, the Prince orders Remy to pretend to wed Gabrielle (hah!). Things get sticky when Gabrielle consorts to dark magic with the help of a sorceress, Cassandra, and witch hunters come return, with the once-innocent Simon Astiride as the group’s leader.

This is an action-packed novel with an intricately woven plot. It also has delicious moments between Miribelle and Simon, two characters whom I love dearly (and are the h/h for the third novel!).

Reeeeeeead this read this!

More mean things to say

Do you know what book I used to love until I snapped out of my delusion?

Good 'ol Twilight.

I think Stephenie Meyer is a genius. She managed to attract tons and tons of tweens, pre-teens, teens, and even adults to love her incredibly dull and boring books.

When I first read Twilight, I was so intrigued with Edward. Edward Cullen = every young girls' fantasy. Beautiful, protective, slightly distant, and loving all wrapped up in superhero vampire powers.

Awesome, right?


While the first book might have been bearable, (let's be honest here: Twilight is Bella's whiney monologue. It catalogs her daily day-to-day life in the most boring prose. It's gray. She feels gray. Edward is gray - albeit because he's a vampire and cannot tan, but that's besides the point. The entire book is gray.) the second is ATROCIOUS. HORRIFIC. AWFUL. TERRIBLE.

If you haven't read it, let me sum it up for you:

Bella: Edward, I love you!
Edward: Bella, I love you!
Bella: I love you, Edward!
Bella: Edward, turn me into a vampire!
Edward: Sorry dudette, I can't. But I still love ya.
Edward: I'm going away for a little bit.
-Three months later-
Bella: Edward, I still love you, yet I am finding comfort in Jacob. JACOB, I love you and I'm totally leading you on by making you love me, but EDWARD! OH EDWARD! I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU! Oh, I am feeling suicidal tendencies. Maybe I'll jump off a cliff to hear Edward's voice. EDWARD!! But... JACOB! Jacob! Jacob! EdwardJacobEdwardJacob!

The end.

Actually, I'm sure there some sort of a plot with those evil, bad vampires, but I wouldn't know because I stopped reading and instead chose to do more productive things. Like counting the number of eyebrow hairs I have. And cleaning the dirty spots off of the cement outside my house. And counting the number of pebbles that are in my backyard. Really important things like that.

If I was Edward, I would have probably stopped loving Bella. How freaking annoying is she? She's totally living up to her teenager stereotypes.

I told my younger sister this.. and she said I was too critical. This is true, I am quite mean and ferocious and critical.
My friend said that my expectations were high because I read too many romance books. This is, once again, true.

But whatever the reason... I am a hater.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Kresley Cole: Dark Needs at Night's Edge

Dark Needs at Night's Edge
Neomi Laress & Conrad Wroth
the Immortals After Dark series 4

A New Orleans ballerina in the 1920s, Neomi Laress had her life cut short by a murderous fiancé. She has haunted her estate, Elancourt, for the past 80 years, desperately seeking contact. Conrad Wroth is a self-loathing vampire mercenary with serious bloodlust. His brothers bring him to Elancourt to try to make him sane again, but he soon gets drawn into Neomi's difficult world, and the two fall for each other. But since Neomi isn't embodied, they can't touch. And that's just one of their problems. The banter of secondary characters, particularly Mariketa the Witch, distinguishes this standard story of an unattainable woman who needs saving and a rageful man who needs taming. (amazon)

Dark Needs at Night's Edge was my very first Kresley Cole novel, which, now that I think about it, wasn’t a very wise decision.

I’m known to be somewhat of an anal book picker. I no longer randomly “pick” books out at the library; I deliberate on the title to ensure that the book isn’t in the middle of some impossibly long series. (I’m specifically thinking of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, Stephanie Lauren’s Cynster series, and of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series.). It is the most impossible thing when you come home with a book that you’re (somewhat) looking forward to read when, after reading a couple of pages, you realize you have no absolute clue as to what’s going on because of all the back-stories you’ve missed out on.

Such is the unfortunate case for DNANE.

I imagine this to be at least the third/ fourth book in the Immortals After Dark series since Conrad has three brothers.

Only the third book, you say?

While some authors do a great job integrating readers into the middle of a series, Ms. Cole does not. That and that her paranormal world is vastly complex; this isn’t the middle of a bunch of brothers finding their true love – it’s about werewolves, witches, demons (with horns!), trolls, gnomes, and [fill in random non-human thing here].

So, in comes Conrad who apparently is a vampire, but hates being one. In fact, he despises his eldest brother who turned him some-hundred years ago. Reason is revealed as one reads further, however, Conrad has a wicked reputation of being a very badass and very bloodthirsty soldier. His eyes are bloodshot, symbolic of him having drained others of their blood. He also has a wicked temper, to boot.

Troubled, his brothers lock him in an abandoned house – that unbeknownst to them, is haunted by a ghost. The very attractive ghost is Néomi Laress, former prima ballerina in the 1920/1930s. She was brutally murdered by her ex-fiance and stuck around for eighty-some years.

To Conrad’s dismay, he is the only one who can see her.

I know what you’re thinking. Ghost?!?! Who reads J.R. Ward here? (spoiler: I immediately thought of Vishous’s Jane, too.)

I’m not ruining anything when I say there is a happily ever after, though the process of Néomi and Conrad’s is painful requiring a lot of voodoo witchy-spell stuff. A little over my head (did that witch get her own book? I want to say yes, which means this is the fourth book – at least!)

The love story itself was decently powerful and poignant…enough. It was interesting.

I say, give it a try – but read from the beginning of the series!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lisa Kleypas....!!

I finished reading Scandal in Spring, Book 4 of the Wallflower series today, and I must say that I am in love with Ms. Kleypas's writing! I was totally sucked into the story.

I just want her to write and write and write........ c'mon, pop those books out faster!!

I wonder why I didn't think much of the series while I was reading it several years ago (?). I think I enjoyed Evie's story (Devil in Winter), but didn't like Annabelle's (something Late Summer), and was partial to Lillian's (It Happened One Autumn).

Anyhow, reviews (and of Susan Carroll's novels - I remember!) are coming. Hopefully sooner than later.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Catherine Anderson: Sweet Nothings

Sweet Nothings: B+
Molly Sterling and Jake Coulter

Kendrick/ Coulter series #3

Out of work, out of luck, and almost out of money, Molly Sterling Wells shows up at Jake Coulter's ranch, the Lazy J, with Sonora Sunset, a beautiful horse who has been so badly beaten he may even be beyond Jake's talents as a horse whisperer. Jake intuitively knows there is more to Molly's story, but he agrees to help if Molly will stay on as the ranch's new cook and housekeeper. Little by little, Molly and Sonora Sunset find peace and security at the Lazy J until the day Molly's past catches up with her. Anderson continues to demonstrate a gift for creating richly emotional, deeply satisfying romances with her newest tale, which features Jake Coulter… (amazon)

Catherine Anderson is terrific at bringing a sense of realism into the fantastical romance world. She is not afraid of delving into difficult physical and emotional scars and does a superb job of showing the growth of the heroine.

My first CA was Blue Skies, a story where the heroine has an eye disease which has a huge impact on her and the hero’s life when she discovers that she is carrying his child. When I read it, I remember being blown away (and a little overwhelmed) at the range of emotions shown in the story, the book being more than the usual fluff.

In Sweet Nothings, an abused woman, Molly Sterling, shows up on sexy Jake’s horse ranch with an abused horse, Sunset. With a bit of luck and Jake’s kindness, she manages to stay on the ranch to pay for her horse.

Within hours of knowing her, Jake sees Molly’s nonexistent self esteem and her self-consciousness in everything she does. He does his best to reassure her as she struggles with her own inner demons.

I love how Jake is patient with Molly; he is the type of friend (or lover, heh) that she needs in order to deal with her insecurities. He is confident and kind enough to guide her and to love her for her golden heart, something she realizes she’s never had from her ex-husband. I love how Jake falls in love with Molly’s personality, despite her looks (which he is also attracted to). I love how he encourages her and I love how Molly finally comes to trust Jake.

When Molly is able to acknowledge and love herself, she is able to see Jake, which is wonderful.

Sweet Nothings is a tender tale with lots of love.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Lisa Jackson: Lost Souls

Lost Souls: C+
Kristi Bentz & Jay McKnight

New Orleans

Twenty-seven year old Kristi Bentz is lucky to be alive. Not many people her age have nearly died twice at the hands of a serial killer, and lived to tell about it. Her dad, New Orleans detective, Rick Bentz, wants Kristi to stay in New Orleans and out of danger. But, if anything, Kristi’s experiences have made her even more fascinated by the mind of the serial killer. She hasn’t given up exploring the darkest recesses of evil – and now she just may get her chance.

Four girls have disappeared at All Saints College in less than two years. All four were “lost souls” – troubled, vulnerable girls with no one to care about them, no one to come looking if they disappeared. The police think they’re runaways, but Kristi senses there’s something that links them, something terrifying. She decides to enroll, following their steps… there are whispers of a dark cult on campus whose members wear vials of blood around their necks and meet in secret chambers – rituals to which only the elite have access. To find the truth, Kristi will need to become part of the cult’s inner circle, to learn their secrets, and play the part of lost soul without losing herself in the process. It’s a dangerous path and Kristi is skating on knife-thin edge.

And comes another romantic suspense (romantic thriller?) from Lisa Jackson. Though I think that she is a great storyteller, her stories are often outta the world outrageous. I tried reading the first to her New Orleans series Hot Blooded, only to find the heroine doing some idiotic things (oh, fine, since you’re curious, I’ll vent write about it later. J)

I also read Twice Kissed and Final Scream, both intriguing reads but was a bit incestuous for my liking.

So… I don’t know what possessed me to pick up this novel. I guess it was done out of boredom, and I figured, oh why the hell not? I was, afterall, in a library.

Lost Souls is Jackson’s latest installment to her New Orleans series. Apparently, a bunch of shady murders have been happening down there because Jackson has written seven books about it, all probably being about psychopathic anti-social killers. (Oh wait, that’s what all these suspense books are about, huh?)

Kristi Bentz is the daughter to a homicide police detective, Rick Bentz (hero of Cold Blooded, book numero dos). She has, apparently, lived through multiple life-traumatizing experiences. She feels stifled living with her father, so she decides to move out, go back and finish her undergraduate degree at All Saints College. And whaddya know, there have been four missing girls at the college in the past year. The local police have shrugged off on the case, thinking that the troubled girls most likely ran away from college with a floozy boy. However, Kristi’s gut feeling tells her that these girls have met a very fatal end. She is on a mission to track down their ‘killer.’

Meanwhile, she is shocked when her high-school sweetheart is teaching a class… her class on forensics. Jay McKnight has come a long way from the boy Kristi used to know. He works for a police department as a crime lab detective and agrees to sub for a class when his friend has an emergency come up.

It is when Kristi goes to Jay for help that they are faced with each other, and both try to hold their feelings at bay. Meanwhile, there are more girls disappearing from the college – all freakishly interested in a vampirism class…

In all honesty, the read was better than I expected: no weird sisters going after the same boy, unexpected pregnancies from nowhere, and all that jazz. Instead it was just a somewhat decent, kind of rushed story that didn’t really focus on the romance aspect, as these thrillers usually don’t. The outcome of the story was predictable and the vampirism cult aspect was mildly interesting.

Skip this one unless you’re trapped on an unchartered island with only this to keep you company.