Saturday 27 February 2010

Re-read: "Welcome to Temptation" by Jennifer Crusie

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Page count: 416 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Re-read started: February 27th, 2010
Re-read finished: February 27th, 2010

Eagle-eyed readers may notice that I re-read this book all in one day. The first time I read it, on holiday in Russia this summer, it took me a whole two days, but then I was busy exploring St. Petersburg for the most part, and didn't have the luxury of doing hardly anything but reading for a whole day.

Sophie Dempsey comes from a long line of con-men and hustlers. Her father's one, her brother's one, her sister isn't exactly innocent. Yet Sophie just wants to stay out of trouble, and keep her family safe. She is perfectly content making wedding videos when her sister drags her to the little town of Temptation, Ohio to film an audition tape for her brother's faded movie starlet ex-girlfriend. They're only going to be in town for a week, making what Sophie thinks is a perfectly innocent little movie.

Phineas T. Tucker is the mayor of Temptation, like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather before him. He hates being mayor of the dusty little town, but has to live up to the family legacy. As if his life wasn't difficult enough being a single dad with a controlling mother, now he has to deal with a film crew coming to town, and the rumours that they are shooting a porn movie. Sparks fly the first time he and Sophie meet, and they just keep getting hotter each time they run into each other, and the more complicated things get.

Nothing much ever happens in Temptation, but soon Sophie and Phin have to deal with porn allegations, a murdered anchorman with at least a dozen people likely to have wanted to kill him, an unfortunately phallic water tower, various murder attempts, pool, softball, Dusty Springfield and very ugly wallpaper.

I love this book. I really do. It's funny, well plotted, and has an intensely likable cast of characters, including a delightful and not at all annoying little girl. It quotes The Princess Bride, which a sure-fire way to charm me. The romance is completely convincing, the various families portrayed are utterly believable and most important of all, the book delights me and makes me all fuzzy inside when I've finished reading it. A wonderful way to spend a day.

Friday 26 February 2010

CBR2 Book 30: "Black Magic Sanction" by Kim Harrison

Publisher: Eos
Page count: 496 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Date begun: February 23rd, 2010
Date finished: February 26th, 2010


I spend a lot of every year waiting for books by various authors to come out. Since 2006 I've been waiting impatiently for the next installment of Kim Harrison's books. This eight book her Hollows series is no exception.

Rachel Morgan is a witch, living in an alternate universe Cincinnati. In Harrison's world, witches, vampires, werewolves, pixies, fairies, elves and even demons exist side by side with the humans. They stayed hidden until an event know as the Turn, when a plague caused by bio-engineered tomatoes killed off a substantial amount of the human population. The supernatural beings (minus the elves, due to a lot of inbreeding with humans) were immune to the disease, and helped put the world to rights again. So most humans fear and avoid anything to do with tomatoes, bio-engineering is strictly outlawed, and there are two law enforcement agencies, one run by the supernaturals, one by humans.

Rachel lives in a church, and is a runner (a sort of bounty hunter/private detective). She works with her best friends, Ivy, a living vampire (has enhanced senses and strength, drinks blood - but can still go out in sunlight and live in a church, won't become full vamp until she dies) and Jenks, a pixie, whose huge family live in the church garden. Due to increasingly complicated events in previous books, the witches' Coven for Moral and Ethical Standards has shunned Rachel as a black witch (which means that no decent witch should have anything to do with her, or sell her things, or help her in any way). It probably doesn't help that every weekend she has to go into the Everafter (where the demons live) and take lessons from a demon. Not content to have her avoided by most of polite society, the Coven now want to imprison Rachel in Alcatraz, lobotomize her, and harvest her eggs.

Rachel clearly does not find this amusing, and needs to find a way to getting the Coven off her back, and preferably, her shunning completely revoked. She keeps having increasingly more chaotic confrontations with the Coven, her sneaky, thieving, no-good ex-boyfriend Nick is back in town, her nemesis Trent Kalamack wants her to sign a paper that will pretty much mean he owns her, and Al, her demonic tutor, seems to think that the best thing for her would be to just move in with him, and avoid the human world altogether.

Black Magic Sanction is, as I mentioned, the eight book in this series, and would really not work very well as an introduction to Kim Harrison's world and characters. The book features a huge number of Harrison's recurring characters from previous books. People and events from previous books are constantly referenced, and as a long-time reader of the book, I found it amusing and satisfying to see how Harrison utilized many of them. Rachel does spend a bit too much time brooding and agonizing over previous choices, and especially bemoaning her fairly disastrous previous love life when considering a new love interest (who I'm still not sure if I like or not, don't quite see him staying until the end of the series), but most of the time the book is action-packed and very amusing, while still having an interlude that made me cry.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Re-read: "The Colour of Magic" by Terry Pratchett

Publisher: Corgi Books
Page count: 284 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Re-read started: February 19th, 2010
Re-read finished: February 22nd, 2010

My husband has been spending the last month or so pretty much exclusively re-reading the works of Terry Pratchett (he claims to have read lots of other stuff in January, but the only ones I can recall seeing him read are Pratchett ones). He was telling me that I should try re-reading The Colour of Magic, which is Pratchett's first Discworld novel, and probably one of my least favourite. It's one of the few ones I've only read once before. He feels that it's interesting to see a series' origin, and where things come from.

I'm sorry to say that I didn't like it much more on a re-read. While I love many of the Discworld books intensely and think Pratchett is a genius writer, I just don't think the first books of his truly monumental Discworld-series are very good. The Colour of Magic is not unfunny, I certainly giggled and even laughed out loud a few times while reading it, but I just don't think it's very good. In the book, Rincewind, a very inept wizard, who only actually knows one spell, is given the task to guide Twoflower, the Discworld's first tourist, and owner of the fearsome Luggage (a magical trunk on legs who follows its owner everywhere - no matter what) around. During the course of their adventure, Rincewind cheats Death several times, they escape a great fire in Ankh-Morpork, meet and fly on dragons and even see over the rim of the Disc.

Of all the many recurring Pratchett characters, I just can't seem to grow fond of Rincewind. I think he's lame, pure and simple. When he doesn't outright annoy me, he just bores me. Hence, it is very difficult for me to invest in anything that happens to him. With the exception of Thief of Time, all my least favourite Discworld-novels are the ones featuring him. I will probably re-read several of the Pratchett books over the next few months, as it's been quite a while since I read most of the older ones, but I doubt I'll prioritize the Rincewind ones. I've also realized that I if I don't like the early works of an author, I don't have the patience to revisit them if I didn't like them the first time. I would much rather spend time reading the books I actually enjoy.

Thursday 18 February 2010

CBR2 Book 29: "Pleasure of a Dark Prince" by Kresley Cole

Publisher: Pocket
Page count: 448 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Date begun: February 16th, 2010
Date finished: February 18th, 2010

Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series is one of my true guilty pleasures. The books are pure fluff, with absolutely no literary substance whatsoever, but I greatly enjoy them, they're a supernatural soap opera. The more books one reads, the more characters one is introduced to, and it is really only a matter of time before the central characters get their own book and romance.

Kresley Cole's books feature a number of supernatural races. There are the valkyries - who are born when warrior women near death are blessed by Odin and Freya and saved by them (I never quite figured out how this made them pregnant). So each valkyrie sort of has three parents. They are extremely fierce warrior women, attracted by riches and shiny things, and when they get angry or excited, lightning strikes. There are also various demon races, good and bad vampires and werewolves. Pretty much all the races in Cole's world have one fated mate. They know instantly when they meet said mate, and will do anything to get said person, even if all sorts of complications ensue.

In Pleasure of a Dark Prince, the Scottish werewolf Garreth MacRieve finds out that his fated mate is one of the valkyries, Lucia the Huntress. Lucia is a legendary archer and was granted her awesome archery powers by wowing to serve the goddess Skathi, and staying chaste forever (due to a really unfortunate first time when she was 16, this did not seem like a difficult promise). She hardly ever misses a target, but if she does, she experiences great pain. Garreth is overjoyed when he finds his mate, but Lucia is not happy. If she gives in and has sex with Garreth, she will lose her archery powers - and these are essential to save her from a really unpleasant fate (going back to that nasty event when she was 16). She needs to find an arrow that can kill a God, and get rid of the source of all her nightmares.

After chasing her for a year, Garreth finally catches up with Lucia on a riverboat going down the Amazon river. They are stuck together, and clearly absolutely mad about each other. Having learned from his brother and cousin, Garreth is determined not to force Lucia into the mate bonding, and Lucia keeps trying to hold him off, as her chastity is necessary if she wants to keep her powers.

Having found the other two books of Cole's with werewolf heroes a bit less enjoyable (partly because of the truly awful faux Scots brogue she insists of having them speak with) than some of the other installments, I was not sure what to expect from the seventh entry in her series. The book also confused me to begin with, as timeline-wise it starts before the events of the first book. The events that happen "one year later" are after the events that have already taken place, however. Both Garreth and Lucia are likable characters, who actually communicate fairly satisfyingly once they are trapped on a boat together. Yes, many of their problems could be solved if Lucia would just come clean with Garreth, but when he does find out most of her dark secrets, he deal much better with the truth than many other romance heroes would. A very enjoyable read.

Sunday 14 February 2010

CBR2 Book 28: "Ceremony In Death" by J.D Robb

Publisher: Berkley
Page count: 336 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Date begun: February 12th, 2010
Date finished: February 14th, 2010

When one of her fellow cops dies of seemingly natural causes, Lt. Eve Dallas, is surprised that his granddaughter insists on meeting with her, claiming that her grandfather did not die of a heart attack, but was killed by occult means by an evil cult of Satan worshippers intent on getting back on Alice (the granddaughter). Eve is deeply pragmatic and does not believe in anything spiritual or occult. She believes Alice was drugged and manipulated, and sexually abused by said cultists, but refuses to contemplate anything supernatural. Shortly after, Alice turns up dead, and Officer Peabody, who'd been set to tail the girl, says that she ran into oncoming traffic after seeing a black cat.

Eve asked by her superior officer to investigate whether Frank had been involved in illegal drug trafficking, after it becomes clear that he had been witnessed purchasing something from Selina, the leader of the Satanist coven in a seedy club. Neither her superior, nor Eve, believe Frank was a dirty cop, but Eve is forbidden to tell anyone about her investigation, especially not Feeney, the cop who trained her, and who was Frank's old partner. During her investigation, Eve has to interview the self-styled sorceress Selina, who becomes very upset with her treatment, and Eve's obvious disdain for her. Soon after having questioned Selina, a corpse is left on the pavement outside her and Roarke's mansion, and the case takes on a much more personal note.

Ceremony in Death is different from several of the other Robb books in that the reader fairly early on is given an idea of who the murderer is. Eve is pretty sure she knows who the killer is, the problem is that she has to prove it. She also has to come to choose between her job and her friend, and deal with the ugly aftermath of Feeney discovering that she's been set to investigate his friend. While she completely disregards any belief in the occult or supernatural, she comes into contact with several witches, of both the dark and white persuasion, and discovers that while she is pragmatic and disbelieving, Roarke may have more spiritual beliefs.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

CBR2 Book 27: "First Drop of Crimson" by Jeaniene Frost

Publisher: Avon
Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Date begun: February 9th, 2010
Date finished: February 10th, 2010

Having read all four of Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress novels, but only really loving the first two, I was a bit undecided as to whether I wanted to check this one out. The absolutely awful cover did not help. Seriously, all of Jeaniene Frost's books have bad covers, but this has to be the worst of the lot. However, there was a sample chapter in Destined for an Early Grave that made me curious, and I decided to give Frost one more chance. I'm very glad that I did.

Denise MacGregor is fully aware that there are scary things that go bump in the night, her best friend is half-vampire Cat Crawfield. But after losing her husband in a particularly horrible incident, Denise no longer wants anything to do with the supernatural world. She moves far away from her former friends, avoids her remaining family, and just wants to forget. But then her aunt and two cousins die in the space of a few days, and the cause turns out to be a shape-shifting demon, who makes a deal with her. Denise has to track down one of her ancestors who made a deal with the demon, or he will kill every remaining member of her family, and the longer she takes to track said ancestor down, the further down the path to becoming a cursed shapeshifter she moves.

Quite desperate, Denise needs help from someone in the supernatural world. She is unable to reach Cat or Bones (due to events in Destined for an Early Grave) and after considering it some more, is unwilling to expose them to the danger she is in anyway. She manages to track down Spade, Bones' best friend, and asks him for help instead. To begin with, Spade is convinced Denise is just a bit hysterical, but after showing up at her house while the demon is torturing her, he realizes that Denise is right to be worried. He promises to help Denise track down her demon-dealing ancestor, so her life can go back to its normal, non-supernatural state as soon as possible.

Of course Denise and Spade feel massively attracted to each other. But Denise is really messed up after her husband's death at the hands of supernatural creatures, and Spade has sworn to never get entangled with a mortal woman again, after he lost his girlfriend to rape and murder centuries ago. He is also painfully aware that Denise is Cat's best friend, and neither Cat, nor Bones would be happy if he toyed with her. Lots of complications ensue, Denise and Spade's attraction grows. Both protagonists are much more enjoyable to read about than Cat and Bones ever were. In the course of the book many characters from Frost's Night Huntress series make their appearance, and help the protagonists to complete their quest and find happiness in the end. Based on this book, I will continue to check out Frost's work, as it's by far my favourite of her books so far.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

CBR interrupted: "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov

When a Pajiba book club was suggested, I thought the idea sounded good. The first book proposed for the book club was Nabokov's Lolita, and there were many enthusiastic comments about it in the thread on Pajiba. It's one of the many books I've never read, so I thought I would try to yet again improve my mind by reading a book considered a literary classic. It failed miserably, however. I have managed to force myself to read a third of the book, but have now read three other books as well (two rereads), and I just cant bring myself to continue, as the book just bores me too much. My husband claims that I'm a crazy, shallow person, and that the book is beautifully written and that Nabokov has a wonderful grasp of language. I'm sure that's true, but I don't care how brilliantly a writer can twist words if the book I'm reading does not engage me on any level, and has trouble holding my attention (the fact that I've read three other books rather than more of Lolita suggests it's just not something I find particularly gripping). More to the point, every time I've finished one of the other books, my heart sinks a little at the thought of having to read more of Lolita. I find the book both boring and a bit creepy, not at all witty and clever like my husband describes it. I figured that after reading a third of the book, I've given it a fair try. I'm just not going to bother expending any more energy on it. Guess Lolita will be another literary classic I can never say I've completed, mainly because I cannot bring myself to read the rest just to say I've read the book. Hopefully I will find future reads in the Pajiba book club more to my liking.

Friday 5 February 2010

CBR2 Book 26: "Archangel's Kiss" by Nalini Singh

Publisher: Berkley
Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Date begun: February 3rd, 2010
Date finished: February 5th, 2010

Elena Deveraux is a Guild Hunter, and hunts vampires. Not like Buffy, or Anita Blake. In the complex world created by Nalini Singh, angels and archangels rule all significant cities in the world and have the ability to create vampires, who are then under contract with said angel for a specified amount of time in return for their immortality. A lot of vampires try to escape their contract, and its Elena and her fellow Guild Hunters' job to track these vampires down and return them to their angel masters.
At the beginning of Archangel's Kiss Elena has just woken up from a year in a coma, and to say that she has changed is an understatement. After a battle to the death with a fellow archangel gone horribly evil, Elena's lover Raphael, the archangel and ruler of New York, gained the once in an angel's eternal lifetime's ability to create ambrosia. He changed Elena into an angel to prevent her from dying. After a year in the healing coma, she is now an immortal and has glorious angel wings, but is still extremely weak, and needs to gain strength and learn how to master the art of flying much faster than Raphael would prefer. However, the most ancient of the archangels, Lijuan, who has gained the power to raise and control the dead, has invited them to a ball in Beijing in three months' time, and seems extremely interested in meeting and playing with Raphael's mate.
To complicate matters further, there are clearly others who have it in for Elena as well. One of Raphael's vampires is found beaten to near death, and there is a clear message that the perpetrator wants Elena dead. When an angel child disappears, the situation quickly escalates. After waking up from the coma, as well as having to learn how to fight efficiently with her new wings, build up her strength and get used to her new status as an immortal, Elena seems unable to control the flashbacks to her childhood, when she and her two older sisters were brutally tortured and tormented by a sadistic vampire. That Lijuan is aware of this past and clearly won't hesitate to use the horrific death of her two sisters to get to her, does bode well for Elena's visit to Beijing.
I discovered Nalini Singh's first Guild Hunter novel last year, and have been eagerly awaiting Archangel's Kiss for months' now. I'm so happy that the book didn't disappoint. The world that Singh has created in these books is very well realized and you get all the information you need portioned out without ever feeling as if there are just huge chunks of exposition thrown at you. Elena is a very strong and independent heroine, and the relationship with Raphael which began in Angels' Blood, continues to develop and as the book is not first person POV, you get insight into both sides of the relationship in a very satisfying way. Raphael is extremely powerful, and quite terrifying at times, but Elena is determined to not just become a pet or a plaything and stands her ground against him. Raphael is concerned that his love for Elena might be seen as a weakness by others, and is determined that nothing and no one should be able to use her against him, while also making it clear that no one harms her again.

I really love these books, both the paranormal and romance side of the books are great, and I will probably need to reread both books soon. I am also tempted to check out Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series, to see if they are as compelling and sexy as the Guild Hunter books.