Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Re-Read Review: Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night

I picked Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night as my March reread because it is my favorite book in Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series. I loved it the first time around, it was a funny and light read with enough twists and turns to keep me turning the pages. And the second time was no less enjoyable.

Bowen MacRieve lost his mate, Mariah, in a terrible accident over 200 years ago and has never gotten over her death. Immortals only get one true mate where they find complete happiness, so they are either incomplete until they find their mate or incomplete forever if they lose them. Bowen is the latter. He hasn't touched another woman since Mariah died and wants more than anything to have her back. When he is told by Valkyrie Soothsayer, Nix, that the Talisman Hie was the way for him to find his mate, Bowen enters the race, the prize being the opportunity to go back in time and change a past event. Of course Bowen wants to change the circumstances that led to Mariah dying. He never expects that his plans will be thwarted by a diminutive witch with unstable magic and the ability to make him question himself and his past.

All of the witches of her coven know that Mariketa the Awaited will be a great witch, they just don't know when her greatness will come to pass. Nevertheless, Mari is invaluable to them and they will do anything to keep her safe and with them. Even going so far as to make her wear a cloak to shield her from the prophesied male that is predicted to take her away from them once he finds her. Mari enters the Hie to show everyone that she has skill enough to win the grueling race and prove that she is as powerful as she's awaited to be, even if her magick is unpredictable. Things are going well for Mari until Bowen MacRieve enters the picture. The Lykae sends the young witch's hormones into overdrive and they share a kiss that Mari thinks that she may have enthralled Bowen in to.

Bowen, thinking that he has been tricked by a witch, and ever eager to win the race, traps Mari and some other competitors in an ancient Mayan tomb and runs off to finish the race, but not before Mari curses Bowen, taking away his immortality. Mari and her counterparts are trapped in the tomb long after the race ends with no food or water and a gang of nasty, half dead incubi. Meanwhile Bowen is unable to regenerate and has lost most of his head and his hand during the race, which he doesn't win. He returns home to lick his wounds and try to get Mari out of his head. he gets there he finds that his actions against Mari may set off the Ascension. Her coven is pissed and they want her back. Bowen realizes that he too needs Mari because he wants her to give him his immortality back and lift the enchantment he's positive she has put on him. But has Bowen really been enchanted? This is the question that both Bowen and Mari will have to answer as they make their dangerous journey back home.

What I loved about this book the first time around is what I loved about it the second - and that is Bowen and Mari's chemistry. They have this light banter that is witty and funny and it just feels natural. Though Mari is young, only 23 (which is like an infant to immortals) she knows her own mind and is very strong willed. It's not easy for Bowen to get back in her good graces after his actions almost get her killed. She's a great match for him and her youthful attitude is the perfect counter to Bowen's more stiff approach to things. Bowen is my favorite of Kresley Cole's heroes. He had an innocence about him that is endearing, yet at the same time, he is full on sexy male. He struggles with his feelings for Mari since he thinks that being drawn to her so deeply is a betrayal to his dead mate. This is the major struggle in the story and it is well paced and executed.

Something that I really liked the first time I read was the way that the whole mate situation was wrapped up. It was very twisty turn-ey and surprising. I'm usually good at figuring out plot twists and this one I never saw coming. I was looking forward to reading the resolution a second time to see if it was just as good with me knowing the outcome already, and it was. I had a greater appreciation for it, I think. So, I loved Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night the second time around. This one has been on my keeper shelf and it will remain there. Grade A+.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Review: Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

Ella Varner lives in her stable little bubble, avoiding her self-centered mother and wayward sister at all costs. After growing up under the unfit guidance of her mother, Ella feels that distance between the two most unstable people in her life is what's best. She has a job that she loves as an advice columnist, a boyfriend that is just as wary of commitment as she is, and she's seemingly happy. When her mother calls her, breaking the news that Ella's sister Tara has had a baby and abandoned him, Ella's safety net is pulled out from under her. She has no choice but to drop everything and rush to her mother's side in hopes that she will be able to quickly work out the problem.

Ella arrives to find her mother up in arms over the baby that Tara abandoned. Ella's mother is insistent that Ella take the newborn, Luke, off her hands and with no other choice, Ella does. From what she's able to find out, her sister has checked into a mental rehab clinic in an attempt to get her life back on track. Ella decides that while her sister is there that she will find out who Luke's father is. A phone call to a cousin sets Ella on the path of Jack Travis, a very eligible Houston bachelor and ladies man. She, with Luke in tow, travels to Houston, finds Jack Travis, and breaks the news of his parenthood to him. But Jack insists that he can not be Luke's father. Ella is persistent though and they set up a paternity test, that never happens because Ella receives a call from her sister letting her know that she never slept with Jack and that he can't be Luke's father. She begs Ella to leave the paternity issue alone and assures her that she will be back for Luke after she's more stable.

Ella is left to care for the baby on her own, but is still determined to find his father. She continues the search with the assistance of Jack Travis, who is insistent on helping her find Luke's father, he does everything in his power to see that she does. As Ella settles into life with an infant, Jack is there every step of the way. A connection is formed between the straight forward, Jack and commitment phobic, Ella, but their takes on relationships might be too different for them to ever really be together.

Smooth Talking Stranger was a book that I read in a 24 hour period. As soon as I started, I was glued to the pages, anxious to find out how things would work out. Like Lisa Kleypas' previous contemporaries, I immediately took to the characters and their struggles. I felt for Ella and her damaging childhood and Jack was a classic Kleypas hero; strong, caring, and full of sex appeal. I was a little wary going in to the book, because I knew a baby would be involved. I'm usually not one for books that involve babies and kids, as they always seem to take away from the story or become annoying. I didn't have a problem with baby Luke in Smooth Talking Stranger. In fact, the infants presence made for a better story.

I do have a couple of minor complaints, though. The first being how easy it was to figure out who Luke's father really was. I'm not sure if the "reveal" was meant to be so easy, but I'm leaning towards not since I figured it out way before Ella did. There is also the issue of Joe Travis, youngest Travis brother. I had hoped to find out more about him, and though he is involved in a major part of the story, he remained a shadowy character to me.

Aside from those small problems, Smooth Talking Stranger was a really good book. It's full of emotional punch and laugh-out-loud moments. Something that I really enjoyed about this book over the first two contemporaries is that the Jack and Ella spend majority of the story together. Those who have read Sugar Daddy or Blue-Eyed Devil know that the H&H were separated for most of the book, so having Ella and Jack in close proximity was a definite plus. As a whole, I really enjoyed the story and I think that any one who has loved Ms. Kleypas' previous contemporaries will fully enjoy this one as well. Grade A-.

Review based on advanced copy. Smooth Talking Stranger hits stores stores tomorrow, March 31. Read and excerpt here, visit Lisa Kleypas's site here.