Tuesday, July 29, 2008

His Wicked Sins - Review

Book: His Wicked Sins
Author: Eve Silver
Category: Gothic Romance
Grade: B
In the quiet hamlet of Yorkshire, the hallowed halls of Burndale School stand...and evil lurks in its dark corners. For a serial killer with a proclivity for blonde women has struck again-this time, murdering two of its teachers. Now everyone is wondering when the killer will seek his next victim...

Elizabeth Canham has accepted a teaching position at the local boarding school in Yorkshire. But her quiet life takes a surprising turn when she meets Griffin Fairfax-the handsome father of one of her pupils. His mesmerizing stare quickly draws her in, and she can't deny the fierce attraction between them...

Griffin Fairfax appears to be a doting father and gentleman. But one disturbing truth lies at the heart of the murders-all of the victims were intimately connected to him. When Elizabeth discovers this, she wonders if it's a mere coincidence or if Griffin could be a charming, seductive killer so many women have lost their hearts-and lives-to...

The first romance's that I read were Gothic. I still remember sneaking into my mother's book crates as a young teen and making away with her Gothics. I loved reading them on dreary days, when the rain was pouring and the thunder was rolling. The perfect setting for such a book. Ever since then I've been a Gothic Romance fan, but the sub-genera has been noticeably missing recently. Taken over by Romantic Suspense and Paranormals. Through searching recently, I have found a few new authors that are bringing this moody sub-genera back to life. Eve Silver is one of them. Her upcoming release of His Wicked Sins was a welcome return to Gothic Romance.

The story alternates between time periods. Opening in 1813 with a horrific multiple murder case that sets the tone of the book. Henry Pugh has been assigned to the murder and we are able to witness the disturbing loss of life through his eyes. It then jumps forward to 1828 where we meet Elizabeth Canham or Beth. Beth is on her way to Yorkshire from London. She has accepted a position as a teacher at Burndale Academy. From the moment that Beth is introduced, the reader can feel that there is something burdening her and we know it has to do with her past. At the same time, a young woman named Sarah has been kidnapped. She fits the profile of three previously murdered women who met a brutal end. Her torture is witnessed, through her point of view and it is a grisly crime to read.

I thought the story was well told and as a Gothic it succeeds. The atmosphere was dark, the characters were shadowy, the mood was mysterious and suspenseful. All great makings for a good Gothic. I liked the way that the snippets of the past played directly into the present. And though I knew the past tied into the present, I never imagined in just how many ways it did.

Beth and Griffin were both likeable characters. Beth is the star of the story, fiercely dedicated to her family, willing to be the source of strength for them- all the while fighting her own demons. Griffin was the traditional Gothic hero in that his reputation is cloaked in whispers of a murderous background, he even openly admits to his villainous ways. And in true Gothic hero fashion, his suspicious actions and disreputable past weren't able to hide the misunderstood man he really was.

The romance had a slow build that I love. By the time that Beth and Griffin came together (in lovemaking) I was convinced of their feelings for each other which made the love scenes oh-so-steamy and well worth the wait.

The only problems I had with the story, and they are very small in the whole scope of things, are the prose and the dialogue. The prose was robust - this is the only description that I can find that fits - and full. At times it was almost too verbose. I believe that Jace thought this same thing. And the dialogue was scarce. I kept hoping for more conversation between the characters and less internal thought. Sometimes the internal monologues went on for pages, that is a bit much for me. Toward the end of the story the dialogue did pick up, and when it was there it shined.

Overall, His Wicked Sins was a good read. The writing was engrossing and I remained invested in the story and characters the whole way through. I will be checking out Eve Silver's back list. For this book, a solid B.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sea Witch - Review

Book: Sea Witch
Author: Virginia Kantra
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Children of the Sea, Book 1
Grade: A
From the water…
For years, Margred has gone without the touch of another. Now, her need has driven her beyond her world to sate her desire. For she is a Selkie-a legendary being of the sea, able to shapeshift into seductive human form. Finally, she has found the one man she wants…

From the land…
A burned out veteran of big city streets, Caleb Hunter was only too happy to take a job as police chief on the peaceful Maine island of World's End. Nothing ever happens in this tiny community bounded by the sea. Until he meets a woman who's everything he's ever dreamed of. And more…

To each other…
Their passion is undeniable. Irresistible. But when a murderer begins targeting women in World's End, Caleb must face the terrible possibility that the killings are somehow connected to the mysterious Margred - and that the power of their love may change the fate of human kind

During a recent book buying binge, I picked up Sea Witch on a whim. After reading it, I'm glad I did. Sea Witch is the best Paranormal Romance I've read this year. Virginia Kantra has taken a paranormal element not often written about and brought it to life in this book.

Margred is a seven hundred year old selkie. After loosing her mate years ago she has lived alone in the ocean, the way that most all selkie's do. Her need for physical release (sex) brings her ashore to World's End, Maine where she spies a cop who she is drawn to. The cop, Caleb, is to Margred the perfect specimen of a man to use for a release.

Caleb is a veteran soldier, he's done years in Iraq where he was injured. Still haunted by dreams of war, he has come back to his home town of World's End to live a quiet life as the towns only law enforcement. On a routine patrol, Caleb comes across a very beautiful and alluring woman, Margred. She wants him to have sex with her and isn't shy about asking for it. Despite her beauty, Caleb is wary of her intentions. They end up leaving each other unfulfilled until the next night when they are drawn back together and act on their attraction.

After she gets her release, Margred leaves Caleb and goes back to the sea. Weeks pass and she's not able to forget her night with Caleb so she ventures back to World's End. Upon arriving she is attacked, her pelt is stolen from her and destroyed. Without their pelt, selkie's are unable to shift to their seal form, this Margred is trapped in human form.

Caleb was left with more questions than he had answers to when Margred deserted him on the beach after an explosive night together. He has written the interlude off as nothing more than a one night stand, but still holds out hope that the mysterious woman will show up again. The mystery woman is brought back into Caleb's life when he saves her from an unknown attacker. Caleb takes Margred in and works her case. While he tries to figure his way through a case with no leads, Margred is stuck in the small sea side town of World's End where she must learn how to live as a human.

They both struggle with the burgeoning feelings they have for each other. Margred because she's not familiar with the strange emotions she feels for Caleb, and Caleb because while he's falling for Margred, he's not completely sure of who she is. While Caleb and Margred are working through feelings there is an evil at play, bent on destroying the innocent, and sure to destroy them both if they don't get to it first.

I really, really enjoyed Sea Witch. Caleb was such a good guy. He was steady and loving, the perfect hero. He cared about his family, which was clearly shown in his interactions with his sister. He's had a lot of ups and downs in life. Being abandoned by his mother at a young age, having his father turn into a drunk, suffering an injury in Iraq that left him with a limp. I rooted for him from the start and just wanted him to have some happiness. Margred is great character as well. She's a free spirit used to living alone, called to the ocean and Caleb at the same time. She struggles with wanting to return to the sea and wanting to remain with Caleb. Both, very believable obstacles that she must face head on to find true happiness.

The world building is both simplistic and intricate. There are no big info dumps to commit to memory, or overcomplicated paranormal elements that leave the reader confused. The paranormal aspects flowed easily into the story. The secondary characters are also weaved in seamlessly. Caleb's sister Lucy, Regina, a single mother and restaurateur, and the towns people all held a place in the story while never becoming overwhelming. There was just enough info given on the characters of Lucy and Regina to pique interest and give the promise for a future story without over doing it.

For anyone looking for a good paranormal romance, I highly recommend Virginia Kantra's Sea Witch. Grade A.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Secrets of Surrender - Review

Book: Secrets of Surrender
Author: Madeline Hunter
Category: Historical Romance
Grade: C
He catches her eye across the dining room–a handsome stranger who stands out among the lewd noblemen and bawdy painted women. But their worlds are about to collide in a way Roselyn Longworth could never have imagined. For before the night is out, she will be auctioned off to the highest bidder and Kyle Bradwell will lead her from one kind of hell to another. Yet from the moment he wins her, Kyle treats Rose with a gentleness she hasn’t known since a family scandal destroyed her reputation. And when she finally learns what is really driving Kyle, it’s too late. For Rose has fallen for the man who knows her most intimate secrets. Now he has stunned her with a proposal of marriage–the first step in a seduction that will demand nothing less than her complete surrender.

After reading The Rules of Seduction, and really liking it, I was looking forward to Rose's story. Rose is the cousin of Alexia, the heroine of TROS. After Rose's brother squandered all of the family's money, and stole from the accounts of many others, her family suffered ruin. Her brother fled, leaving Rose and her younger sister, Irene, to fend for themselves. Luckily, they had the help of Alexia, who offered financial support to her cousins.

Rose, for whatever reason, naively takes up with a man, Norbury. Unknown to her Norbury is one of the people who's account her brother had stolen money from. Though Norbury had been made whole he can not resist a chance at exploiting the sister of the thief. He uses her and when he's had his fill, he decides to sell her off to the highest bidder.

Kyle has seen Rose before and was captivated by her beauty. Being that Rose's station was far above his, he could never act on that attraction, regardless of her lack of financial wealth. Not able to watch Rose get sold off to a harsh fate, Kyle steps in and saves her. He is successful in getting her away from Norbury but Rose knows that there is nothing to be done about her now ruined reputation. That is until Kyle proposes a marriage of convenience.

I really struggled with this book, not because the writing wasn't good (it was), but because I was unable to connect with the characters. I read about their feelings, suffering, and love, but never felt it. I've read a few Hunter books and this is the first one where the heroine and hero, came off dry. The beginning of their story was promising but as it progressed it seemed that the characters were simply going through the motions, which bored me. I became disconnected with the characters, and sometimes with the story as a whole.

Something else that I'm not exactly sure if I liked is that there was never any "I love you" exchanges. Despite the lack of oomph between the two, Rose and Kyle's relationship progressed naturally enough that I knew that they loved each other. Still, to never actually have them say it... I don't know. Maybe I'm old fashioned and like to have those words exchanged.

I was also bothered by the bit of information that Norbury shared with Kyle through a letter. It was a BIG revelation/accusation but it never received any other mention. Something of that magnitude, I think, deserved further exploration. That it never got it was disappointing.

Rose and Kyle were strong enough characters to have a great story. Sadly, I felt that the potential they had was never realized. Grade C.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Should authors review their own books?

I love perusing blogs, message boards, and Amazon in search of new books to read. At times my love affair with amazon has gotten me burned, when I buy a highly praised book only to be disappointed with it and wonder where all the five stars came from. I'm a little ashamed to admit that this happening multiple times hasn't stopped me from going there.

Just today I came across an author recommendation and, of course, I went to Amazon to see what the reviews for this author were like. Her books have solid 4 1/2 star ratings. Like always, I scrolled down to see what types of discussions are going on about the author's work and see a thread titled 'Don't trust these reviews'. Basically, a reader was warning future buyers that the author often times reviews her own books on Amazon under different names, and gets friends to do it for her as well.
Don't by into the so called "reviews" This author is notorious for writing her own reviews and getting her friends to write reviews of her books. There's even a discussion in paranormal romance called "reviews as weapons" where the author and her friends pat each other on the back for their fraudulent marketing tactics.

The author responded with this:
Troll farts troll farts--run away run away!!!

Her reaction piqued my interest and I went looking to see if she really reviewed her own books, and yes, she does review them, just under different names. I wouldn't have known this was true if she had bothered to hide her identity under the different names. She will post under a name other than her author pen name letting everyone know that she is the author. She has even started threads under one name then switched up halfway through discussions using her author pen name. One of the names that she began a discussion under is used in reviewing two of her own books, giving a four star review of one book, and a five star of the other.

Finding this out made me automatically believe the buyer beware poster. Now I'm not even wanting to read the author any longer, even with the praise that came from readers not affiliated with her. But I wonder if I'm being too critical? Maybe it's not that bad that an author reviews their own work. What do you think?
Is it fair for authors to review their own books?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Archangel - Review

Book: Archangel
Author: Sharon Shinn
Category: Science Fiction
Series: Samaria, Book 1
Grade: B-

Angels and men exist in harmony on the world of Samaria. Every twenty years, a new archangel is chosen to govern the land and lead all of the people of Samaria in great musical chorale to honor the god, Jovah. But Gabriel, the Archangel elect, finds himself constantly feuding with Rachael, the bride who has been chosen for him by Jovah--and he is slowly coming to realize that the aging Archangel, Raphael, has no intention of giving up his power, even if it means all of Samaria could be destroyed.

I am a fan of Shinn's writing. I find it to be colorful and enticing. Her words are quite lively and can keep me engaged in the story even when I dislike one of her characters. This is what happened with Archangel. I really loved the storytelling, the prose was effortless to read, but at the same time Rachel made me want to fling the book across the room. Had it not been for the writing, I would have given up.

Rachel is not an agreeable woman and she does not even attempt to be. She's highly judgemental, very rude, and just plain contrary. She is not eager to become Angelica to Gabriel and fights him at every turn. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt since she had been in slavery for five years and as soon as she was released it was into the world of the Angels, who she despised. But Rachel's attitude made it hard for me to sympathise with her. Archangel is very much her story, her journey, but I didn't feel like she grew much through it. Even up to the last few chapters she was placing the blame for her actions on Gabriel. I hoped that I would eventually warm to her, but unfortunately, I didn't.

Gabriel is a bit secondary in this story. He is preparing to take the position of Archangel and has a lot of trouble facing him in the form of merchants that don't want him to become Archangel because they are pleased with the current Archangel's reign. Raphael has convinced many of them that Jovah, the god of Samaria does not exist and if they want to keep money in their pockets then they need to follow him. Gabriel spends most of his time dealing with this aspect of the story. The moments spent with Rachel are often filled with uneasy tension and quarreling. Gabriel never knows what will set Rachel off so he often is on eggshells around her. trying to gauge her mood. This is often in vain since Rachel always finds a reason to become upset with him. Still, for some strange reason, Gabriel loves Rachel.

The highlights of the book were the passages where the singing was described.
The female voice fell away, and Gabriel sang on in a luxurious, exultant tenor. He reached the top of his vocal range as the song exploded in a joyous trill. His voice was liquid fire, and each note burned against Rachael as it fell. She shut her eyes; her body tightened in a brief moment of transport as if the music physically yanked on the thin cord running up her spine.

These passages and the overall storytelling kept me engaged in the story. Had it not been for Rachel being so disagreeable then I'm sure I would have loved this book. I found the world of Samaria to be very interesting and look forward to reading more about it in the second book in this series, Jovah's Angel. For Archangel, Grade B-.