Friday, March 30, 2012

Medicus by Ruth Downie

Gaius Petrius Ruso is a divorced and down-on his luck army doctor who has made the rash decision to seek his fortune in an inclement outpost of the Roman Empire, namely Britannia. His arrival in Deva (more commonly known as Chester, England) does little to improve his mood, and after a straight thirty six hour shift at the army hospital, he succumbs to a moment of weakness and rescues an injured slave girl, Tilla, from the hands of her abusive owner.

Now he has a new problem: a slave who won’t talk and can’t cook, and drags trouble in her wake. Before he knows it, Ruso is caught in the middle of an investigation into the deaths of prostitutes working out of the local bar. A few years earlier, after he rescued Emperor Trajan from an earthquake in Antioch, Ruso seemed headed for glory: now he’s living among heathens in a vermin-infested bachelor pad and must summon all his forensic knowledge to find a killer who may be after him next.

Who are the true barbarians, the conquered or the conquerors? It’s up to Ruso—certainly the most likeable sleuth to come out of the Roman Empire—to discover the truth. With a gift for comic timing and historic detail, Ruth Downie has conjured an ancient world as raucous and real as our own.

Where to Buy

An interesting little mystery that pulls you in pretty much from the start. The pacing is fairly casual as the author follows Ruso through his daily activities, and as he tries to avoid getting caught up with the lives of the girls at Merula's bar, but only succeeds in becoming more tangled up in their affairs. It all begins pretty much on page one when he has to examine a corpse that's brought into the hospital - an unidentified female, naked, with all of her hair shorn off. All signs point to foul play, but as no one knows who she is, and all signs are that she was likely a prostitute, no one really cares - except for Ruso, for all that he tries not to care.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Everlasting Kiss by Amanda Ashley

Daisy O'Donnell doesn't get the attraction some women feel for vampires. She likes her men with a heartbeat. And she's just met one who's full of life: Erik Delacourt, the unreasonably sexy man she keeps meeting at a popular L.A. nightclub called the Crypt. She barely knows him, but there's no resisting the connection she feels. . .

There's one important detail Erik hasn't gotten around to telling her yet. He's a powerful vampire out to hunt the Blood Thief who is draining young vampires all over the city--and who has just raised the stakes by destroying one of Erik's friends. To Erik, Daisy is a bright spot of innocence in a world of darkness and menace. He'll do anything--even lie to her--to keep her safe and pure.

If only he knew that Daisy has something of her own to hide. . .

Where to Buy

This book did a great job of catching my attention early on and keeping me interested and turning the pages to see what would happen next. There's rarely any lull in the action, and the story progresses steadily throughout, with a pacing that seems fairly natural and right for the most part. From the moment Daisy and Erik meet, there is undeniable chemistry between them, chemistry that they both recognize, but they approach it in a very realistic manner I think, for they aren't immediately all over one another and heading straight to the nearest bed or other convenient location to have sex, but rather the intense chemistry actually causes them, or Daisy at least, to be even more cautious about getting carried away and giving in too easily than she might otherwise have been.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Merlin's Harp by Anne Eliot Crompton

When I was yet a very young woman I threw my heart away. Ever since then I have lived heartless, or almost heartless, the way Humans think all Fey live.

Among the towering trees of magical Avalon, where humans dare not tread, lives Niviene, daughter of the Lady of the Lake. Her people, the Fey, are folk of the wood and avoid the violence and greed of man. But the strife of King Arthur's realm threatens even the peace of Avalon. And while Merlin the mage has been training Niviene as his apprentice, he now needs her help to thwart the chaos devouring Camelot. Niviene's special talents must help save a kingdom and discover the treachery of men and the beauty of love...

Where to Buy

A different take on the Arthurian legend, this book tells the story from the viewpoint of Niviene, a fey mage whose mother is a friend to Merlin. Through Merlin, Niviene eventually becomes caught up in human affairs, particularly those of King Arthur. Familiar events play out through the course of the story, but with a different twist to them, the true identities of some of the players, or the relationships between them, having been changed. Through it all, the writing manages to conjure up the mystical feel of the land that is part fantasy and part legend.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Club Shadowlands by Cherise Sinclair

Her car disabled during a tropical storm, Jessica Randall discovers the isolated house where she's sheltering is a private bondage club. At first shocked, she soon becomes aroused watching the interactions between the Doms and their subs. But she's a professional woman--an accountant--and surely isn't a she?

Master Z hasn't been so attracted to a woman in years. But the little sub who has wandered into his club intrigues him. She's intelligent. Reserved. Conservative. After he discovers her interest in BDSM, he can't resist tying her up and unleashing the passion she hides within.

Where to Buy

I've read this book several times, and each time I have enjoyed it as much as the first. It's become something of a go-to book for me when I'm in the mood for something racy, edgy, and quick to read. It's short enough that even I can put it away in a few hours, and I'm a pretty slow reader, but for all that it's short, and the story just a bit rushed at times because of that perhaps, it still packs a lot of punch emotionally.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

Where to Buy

Probably one of the best books I've read in a long time. It kept me enthralled from page one all the way to the end, trying to guess which way the twists and turns of the story were taking me. Rarely did I guess right, though, as this book keeps you guessing, and continues to surprise you time and time again. Sometimes I guessed right though, but even then there was usually some twist involved that I hadn't seen coming right alongside the bit that I had figured out ahead of time. To try to sum up my reactions and thoughts about this book in a relatively short review hardly seems possible, but I'll do my humble best.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Bite Before Christmas by Heidi Betts

Where do single vampires go when they're looking for romance? To Love Bites, of course, Angelina Bertolli's highly successful, top secret vampire dating agency. Angelina helps three mortals find love in this trilogy of sexy, witty, irresistible vampire novellas.

Where to Buy

This collection of short stories actually reads more like a novel that has a shifting focus since the stories are all linked via characters in common. Angelina, the matchmaker, is the primary linking figure, though we only see her more or less in passing until the third story, which focuses on her. The first and second stories had premises that could easily have been developed out to novel length on their own and not suffered for it, though they also work fine as short stories and don't feel like the author rushed things too much to wrap it up.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

Nalini Singh dives into a world torn apart by a powerful race with phenomenal powers of the mind-and none of the heart.

In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of "rehabilitation" - the complete psychic erasure of everything she ever was...

Both human and animal, Lucas Hunter is a changeling hungry for the very sensations the Psy disdain. After centuries of uneasy coexistence, these two races are now on the verge of war over the brutal murders of several changeling women. Lucas is determined to find the Psy killer who butchered his packmate, and Sascha is his ticket into their closely guarded society. But he soon discovers that this ice-cold Psy is very capable of passion - and that the animal in him is fascinated by her. Caught between their conflicting worlds, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities - or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation.

Where to Buy

This book lays the foundations of a world that we'll see more of in other books. A world that is an alternate version of our Earth populated by three main species: humans, changelings, and psy. The changelings are shapeshifting beings, usually called were or shifters in other books, and it's somewhat puzzling why the author chose to call the changelings, a term more commonly associated with faeries and such to my knowledge. The psy are basically just humans that have psychic powers that set them apart to the extent that by the late 21st century when this book takes place, they have evolved into a separate species from humans. They are also set apart by their conscious and deliberate shunning of all emotion, a "protocol" that they have termed Silence, and while their intent in adopting Silence was well-intentioned, it was not particularly well-thought out, even by these highly cerebral beings. As is seen during the course of the book, many of the side effects of the policy have had very grim consequences, and it can easily be seen that it has done far more harm than good. It's doubtful the psy themselves will manage to figure that out, however, unless things change drastically in future volumes.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spirit Bound by Christine Feehan

Lethal undercover agent Stefan Prakenskii knew a thousand ways to kills a man—and twice as many ways to pleasure a woman. That’s what made him look forward to his new mission: arrive in the coastal town of Sea Haven and insinuate himself in the life of an elusive beauty who had mysterious ties to his past, and a link to a dangerously seductive, and equally elusive master criminal who wanted only one thing: to possess her.

Judith Henderson was an artist on the rise—an ethereal, and haunted woman whose own picture-perfect beauty stirred the souls of two men who have made her their obsession. For years she has been waiting for someone to come and unlock the passion and fire within her—waiting for the right man to surrender it to. But only one man can survive her secrets, and the shadow she has cast over both their lives.

Where to Buy

This one started out kind of slow for me, and for most of the first half of it I was growing increasingly disappointed with it. While it certainly had it's intriguing points, and was promising to wrap up a few ragged loose ends left over from the first book in the series, it also seemed to just be plugging along on the same espionage mega-plot story arc that was started back in the Drake Sisters series, and I personally have gotten a bit weary of it. It was starting to spawn so many interconnections between people, families, and places that the "coincidences" were starting to seriously stretch the bounds of credibility, because, c'mon, what're the odds really that all of these disparate individuals would have all been drawn together to the same little sleepy village on the California coast, and that they'd all end up caught up in the same web of international intrigue in one way or another? But just when I was really beginning to wonder why the author had to thread this plot through all of the books instead of just letting them be nice little romances involving people with psychic or mystical powers, she suddenly drew back a cover to reveal another layer of the Big Picture story in a way that so deftly starts to weave all the disparate threads together that I can't help but admire how she's doing it. And the Big Picture that's being revealed in more of its entirety is a far more interesting one than a simple and somewhat dull story of espionage and state secrets being endangered by wealthy and powerful criminals. It promises to be far more personal, and holds out the hope of some great wrongs eventually being made right, with people who have had their lives shattered in one way or another finally finding a more empowering happily ever after. And it definitely has me hooked on this series now.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Perceptions" by Angela Verdenius

Perceptions Perceptions by Angela Verdenius
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cute little "ugly duckling" type short story about a plus size (?) woman and her "Hunk-o-Spunk" neighbor. I question the plus size designation here, because I can't help but think from the description given of her that Tess exaggerates how "fat" she is by comparing herself to the near-anorexic exercise over-achievers like the skinny little "Miss Stride-it-Out" that does her power walking past Tess's house quite frequently. Perhaps I'm misreading it, however, and the author intended her to be larger than it sounds.

As the title indicates, this story is largely about the assumptions people make about themselves and others simply based on looks. A handsome man couldn't possibly be interested in a not-skinny woman according to the infamous "they", and Tess isn't immune to falling into that stereotypical-thinking trap. There's not much heat here aside from a few serious lip-locks, but I think the story is more realistic for that. Normal people rarely jump each others' bones at the drop of a hat just cause circumstances threw them together (literally in this case). It's easy to see this story playing out in real life (including the escape artist cat), something which can't always be said of romance stories, and that adds to it's charm.

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Water Bound by Christine Feehan

The last thing Lev Prakenskii remembered was being lost in the swirling currents of the ocean and getting sucked deeper into the nothingness of a freezing black eddy off the coastal town of Sea Haven. Just as quickly, just a miraculously, he was saved—pulled ashore by a beautiful stranger. But Lev has no memory of who he is—or why he seems to possess the violent instincts of a trained killer. All he knows is that he fears for his life, and for the life of his unexpected savior.

Her name is Rikki, a sea~urchin diver in Sea Haven. She has always felt an affinity for the ocean, and for the seductive pull of the tides. And now she feels drawn in the same way to the enigmatic man she rescued. But soon they will be bound by something even stronger, and their tantalizing secrets will engulf them both in a whirlpool of dizzying passion and inescapable danger.

Where to Buy

I'm not really sure what to say about this book, for I find myself somewhat conflicted regarding how I feel about it. On the one hand, I loved it, hence my 5 star rating, on the other, there were several things that annoyed me to a greater or lesser extent in it. Overall my reaction is definitely positive, though that might have changed had the book been very much longer. One thing I will note is that I think you'll get a lot more out of this book, or at least some things will make a lot more sense, if you've read the Drake Sisters series first, as this one picks up pretty much right where Hidden Currents, the last book in that series, leaves off, actually overlapping the end of that book a bit to show some of what happened "elsewhere" during the climactic scene at the end. Certainly this book can be understood on its own, since enough is explained of prior happenings and people, but the reading experience will definitely be a lot richer I think if you have the full background of the other books going into this one.