Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Loretta Chase 'Miss Wonderful'

Quick review of this one. I'm reading Chase's back stock slowly. And not too surprisingly this one wasn't quite up to snuff. Strong amusing early interactions, decent plot lay-out but the plot devolves into some kidnapping silliness, her father's delusions fade away, and the heroine has a major change of heart off screen with no real description of "why now?"

What did I like, smart funny main characters, and really, I loved the valet.

Historical Romance 2004: 3 out of 5 discreet coughs.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Gena Showalter 'The Darkest Pleasure'

Having recently read an amazingly articulate argument as to why reviewers should not couch their reviews in self deprecating terms like, 'maybe it's just me', or 'you might like it but it's just not my thing' I'm a little daunted as I begin this latest review. My favorite romance genre is certainly historical but I'm pretty open to the paranormals as well. This third book in the Lords of the Underworld series was mediocre. I do think the first fourth of the book was a slog for me due in large part to my jumping into the series with the third book. But then I got caught up in a little of the mystery of the plot and more importantly, would these two overcome their difficulties and 'get together in the end?'

So complaints: convoluted world building since we have real mythologies woven into created mythologies; greek gods, titans, pandora's box, heaven and hell. One dimensional characters, especially our hero's view of our heroine, yikes, if he mentioned her fragile angelic beauty and glowing white tresses one more time, ugh. The internal/emotional difficulties preventing our couple from being together sort of evaporate, or never materialize. This is not a riveting way to resolve what is supposed to be a major aspect of the book.

What I liked: the external-to-couple plot was mildly interesting and was effectively resolved yet continued for purposes of the series. The hero is suitably alpha and totally devoted to the heroine in that 'must have you, you are my destiny' sort of way. There are a lot of gorey descriptions that don't result in death, since these guys are immortal within reason, which was fun in an entertaining unrealistic violence sort of way. And how else do I put it, the sex was hot.

Overall, what's the word I'm looking for? Meh.

Paranormal Romance 2008: 2.5 of 5 self inflicted stab wounds.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Julia Quinn 'Mr. Cavendish, I Presume'

It never fails that I just can't wait for PaperBackSwap to send me the latest Julia Quinn. I finally broke down and bought it, full price, at the grocery store. Can you imagine! Well, it was my birthday week so maybe I can be forgiven.

Did I mention my birthday, let's talk about that for a second. I started the day with my 5 year old waking me at 4am, and 5am and 6am. Then on my way to class, (Tuesdays I have to bike), I discovered my bike seat was all wet from the recent rain when it soaked through to my undies. Moments later my shifter actually cracked right off leaving me in a very low gear and feeling like a hamster on a wheel. My Sociology professor had very inconveniently scheduled an exam ON my birthday, the nerve, so I had to take said exam once I finally arrived. After the exam I walked out of the building and looked up and realized it was the MOST gorgeous fall day. I took the five year old out to lunch where there was no whining or screaming. (the kid is on steroids, this is amazing!) When we got back home said angel child went off to play, I grabbed Julia Quinn and sat in the fall sun on my lovely porch and read. Really 38 doesn't get much better. I even managed to finish up the day with drinks with some good friends at a hip and edgy bar. Well, as hip and edgy as Madison gets.

Oh, back to Quinn. I'm happy to report that I have a complaint. Not a complaint really but at least something I can say other than," Goodness, this woman's stories are brilliant." Quinn's endings are never her strong point, usually they suffice since the beginnings and the middles are so completely brilliant. But as long as I'm pretending to review the book; the sex scenes near the end seem to come out of nowhere because there isn't much build up to their desire for each other. We are told that Thomas thinks about Amelia 'that way' but we aren't shown through their own physical experience of their own physical desire. As a result the sudden physicality of their need at the end seems incongruous. Oh, it's nitpicky, no doubt there. I loved that Amelia stayed relatively weak willed, not something I would ever have expected to love, but that's the brilliance of Julia Quinn.

Historical Romance 2008: 5 of 5 bucolic Irish villages.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Talia Gryphon 'Key to Conflict'

Picked this up from the library, our heroine is a US Marine Corp Captain and a paramortal psychologist (she treats the mental illnesses of non-humans.) Our hero, well that's not entirely clear, but we know at least that he is a Romanian vampire. Gillian goes to Romania to help a vampire lord deal with his unresolved feelings over his fiance's betrayal and his rebirth as a vampire 400 years ago. She gets caught in the crossfire when Dracula picks this moment to decide to take over the world, because Count Aleksei is on the top of Dracula's hit list.

The set up is fine, world building is decent and I liked the book for a while. Gillian spends the first two thirds of the book being protected by Aleksei and his family. During this section it is pounded into us that vampires are out of human league as fighters, Gillian couldn't possibly defend herself, etc. When she finally runs away from Alexsei's protection (is this a smart move) she assembles her old comrades in arms, and heads off to rescue Aleksei's brother from Dracula. They have a ridiculously easy time doing the rescue, and so Aleksei has to admit that she's extremely competent. What?

Throughout the book we are told over and over and over about how great she is as an operative, as an empath and as a psychologist, but she keeps losing her temper and yelling at everyone, wandering off into the forest and the pyramids and barely surviving, generally having to be rescued by someone. I couldn't help comparing her to Patricia Briggs' tough girl characters who know their limits, and use that knowledge to survive and even win in tough situations.

Ugh, this book is 150 pages too long and runs out of ways to describe each successive male character's beyond amazing physique and looks. Boring. I believe this is a first book for this author. I wouldn't buy her second book, but maybe a fourth or a fifth. There were some reasons to hold out hope.

Paranormal Urban Romance 2007: 1 out of 5 tawdry togs for tasty trollops.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Crusie & Mayer 'Don't Look Down'

Clearly taking sociology is bad for my brain. (I feel compelled, as a brain surgery survivor, to point out that the last statement is a joke.) I was so intrigued by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer's website that I had to get their first collaboration, Don't Look Down. Let me start by saying, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

But what struck me was how I was not judging it by my typical romance novel standards. I think I was very entertained by the whole male vs female perspective/writing style thing. For example, I'm coming to realize that a successful romance novel for me generally involves a less than emotionally realistic male character. He needs to be smart and witty, sure, but he also needs to be (eventually) completely devoted to the heroine, whether he understands why he clearly needs her or not.

In this book, the hero is more emotionally realistically male, which fascinated me, but it didn't help me understand why he wants to be with Lucy (aside from physical attraction of course.) He's interested in Lucy, but why exactly? And truthfully if his attraction to Lucy is under question, why does she want him, other than the hero stuff. On the other hand, it's well written, decent plot, I liked the combat/survival stuff.

The sociology angle comes in that while I was reading this book, we were talking about classifications of people; why do we use the categories we do when describing someone? Gender, age, race, sexual orientation; and not, say, handedness or "ass man or breast man" for instance. That got a lot of chuckles from the men in the class. And I was reading an article about the 'hook up' scene on college campus's at the same time. This pattern of sexual contact first, relationship later, acknowledges human sexual needs but seems to be viewed differently by the two genders. Men appear to use it to satisfy sexual needs first, while allowing for the possibility that a relationship might develop, whereas women seem to use the pattern primarily to open the pathway for a relationship and secondarily to satisfy purely sexual needs.

So, why do young men engage in relationships? (And yes, I'm addressing the generic male, the group not the individual.) If being a husband and possibly a father is so dauntingly tied to being a good provider and heavy responsibility, and if young men are genuinely stymied when asked to look at their own emotional needs or to understand interpersonal relationships, why do they get involved with girls? Especially if they are in a social setting where sex is available without an emotional commitment. Really, this is a serious question.....

Oh, and back to the book, really liked it. Didn't love it. Contemporary Romance 2006: 4 of 5 Moot points.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Patricia Briggs 'Moon Called'

I read my first Patricia Briggs book this year and really dug it, and I'd seen a lot of fans of the Mercy Thompson books so I picked up this one, the first in the series. I don't know that I liked it as much as 'Steal The Dragon' which was all about the female protagonist, I barely remember the love interest in that one. Mercy is surrounded by men who love her. Older characters who are looking out for her, younger characters who have crushes on her and then the characters who outright vie for her affections, although she gives them little encouragement.

Mercy as a character is terrific, she's stubborn, smart but willing to act impulsively for things she thinks are right and worth some risk. She also thinks she knows the limits of her abilities (a smart/likable trait) but keeps finding that they might be wider than she thought (a lovely trait in a fantasy character).

There's the female teenage sidekick type character who needs to be rescued, a very convoluted bad guy plot, and a bunch of werewolves running around. I will knock the book for the overly convoluted bad guy plot, but I personally didn't mind too much as I was more interested in the character development and the world building. I have to guess that the author was as well.

The only other defect, although that's a strong word, was the number of males vieing for Mercy's affections. I mentioned I don't even remember the love interest in Stealing the Dragon, that's because that book was only marginally about love. This book spends a lot of time obliquely fixed on Mercy's possible male match-up's and while that tension drew me through a lot of the book, it's not resolved at the end. I knew this wasn't a romance novel, so I didn't feel cheated by the lack of resolution, but if it ain't a romance novel, maybe I can complain a little about the focus on (in this werewolf world) mates.

That being said, I love P. Brigg's female characters. They're tough, but use their smarts, not their brawn to get out of the trouble that their soft hearts get them into. I would highly recommend this book to lovers of urban fantasy/women protagonist fiction. This is a good one, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.