Saturday 30 June 2012

CBR4 Book 65: "A Beginner's Guide to Rakes" by Suzanne Enoch

Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Date begun: June 5th, 2012
Date finished: June 7th, 2012

Lady Diane Benchley's late husband was a dissolute gambler, who left her with nearly nothing after she paid off his creditors. She does possess the deed to his town house in London, however, and has very specific plans to make herself a fortune. Shocking all of polite society, she sets out to establish an exclusive gentleman's gambling club, run and staffed entirely by respectable women.

Oliver Warren, the Marquis of Haybury, has tried to forget Diane for two years, since they shared two incredible weeks of passion shortly after she was widowed. Diane knows only that Oliver abandoned her in Vienna without a word and sped back to England, and his heartless behaviour means she has no qualms about blackmailing him into providing the start-up capital for her club. She intends for him to be a silent, entirely passive partner in the club (once he has used his considerable experience as a very successful gambler to help train her staff).

Oliver has other plans. He's not spent long with Diane again before realising that he was a fool to leave her. Now he just has to convince the woman whose heart he broke to take him back, through fair means or foul.

While the book has an completely baffling title, which has NOTHING to do with the plot of the novel at all, A Beginner's Guide to Rakes is a lot of fun, and can now be added to my list of delightful romances where the heroine shoots the hero at some point. Diane has very good reasons for detesting Oliver, and being reluctant with trusting any man with her heart. To his credit, and very refreshingly in a romance hero, once Oliver realises the truth about his feelings for Diane, he does whatever he can to make up for his previous misdeeds and sets out to prove to her that he can be trusted.

As well as creating an engaging central couple, who spar most entertainingly, Enoch doesn't neglect the supporting cast, making sure that they are fully fleshed out, making the reader more invested in the creation and continued success of the Tantalus Club. Several of the characters are also clearly going to feature in future books, without their introduction and presence in the story feeling as forced as it sometimes does in planned multi-book series by other authors. The first instalment in the Scandalous Brides can definitely be recommended.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

CBR4 Book 64: "At Your Pleasure" by Meredith Duran

Page count: 400 pages
Rating: 1 star
Date begun: June 3rd, 2012
Date finished: June 5th, 2012
The year is 1715, and England is a divided county, with a lot of complicated political and religious unrest. Lady Eleonora is a young widow, who's put in a very difficult position when an agent of the Crown comes to search her brother's estate, where he has weapons and barrels of gunpowder buried in the basement, to be used in a Jacobite rebellion against King George I. If the weapons are found, Nora and her brother will be tried for treason. Making the situation even harder is the fact that the King's agent is Adrian Ferrers, the Earl of Rivenham, and Nora's first love.
Adrian used to be a Catholic, and Nora's family refused to let them marry, forcing Nora into an unhappy marriage with an older, violent man. Now that she's a widow, she wants nothing more than to manage her brother's estate for him (a place she loves, but has no rights to, being a mere woman in a time when women were considered chattel). Adrian, however, doesn't know that Nora was forced, and believes she faithlessly abandoned him. Having converted to Protestantism and worked his way up in Queen Anne's court, he's now helping King George track down and stop Jacobite rebels. He knows Nora's brother is guilty, he now needs to know if she's willingly abetting him, or unaware of his doings and whereabouts.
During Adrian's siege of the estate, he learns just how miserable Nora's marriage was, how much she lost when her family discovered her youthful tryst with Adrian, and that she thought he'd abandoned her. Can the lovers be reunited, even though they are on opposite sides of the political and religious divide?
This book was a huge disappointment to me, made even more so by the fact that I rate Meredith Duran's previous novels so very highly, with several of them being among my all time favourites. Add to that the fact that this book's been very favourably reviewed by a lot of reviewers whose opinions I trust on the internet, so my expectations were high. As it was, only stubbornness, and the desperate hope that it would get better at some point if I only kept reading, allowed me to finish the book and not quit it in anger and disgust.
While Nora should probably be pitied, being a woman in a time when they were completely at the mercy of the men in their lives, and treated like property, I just wanted to reach into the book and slap her, hard and repeatedly, for her incredible stupidity. Even though she owes her brother nothing (he helped sell her into marriage to an abusive man) and knows he's committing treason, she helps him endanger her life and those of all the people on the estate she loves, by letting him bury huge amounts of very volatile and dangerous explosives under the manor house. She keeps protecting him, even after it's clear that he intended to marry her off to a cousin, again without even asking how she felt about the match.
Adrian is no prince, either. He tortures Nora by depriving her of sleep for several days, acts in an incredibly arrogant and high-handed way towards her, and even marries her by force (she's bound and gagged at the time) because he's decided that it's what's best for her. Even with all this, he's still the more sympathetic of the two, and that should tell you how insufferably idiotic Nora was.
The only reason I'm giving the book 2 stars is because even though I hated the main characters, and had to force myself to finish the book, Duran still has a magnificent grasp of language and should also be commended for writing a novel set in a different time period than most historical romances. The book is very well researched and written, I just really disliked the plot and central premise. I really hope that this was a one-time occurrence, and that Duran's next book is more to my liking. I would hate for this to be the last of her books I ever read.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

CBR4 Book 63: "A Night Like This" by Julia Quinn

Page count: 400 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Date begun: May 30th, 2012
Date finished: May 31st, 2012

Shortly after becoming the Earl of Winstead, Daniel Smythe-Smith rather foolishly engaged in a drunken bout of cards, where one of his close friends accused him of cheating, and challenged him to a duel. Drunk and foolish, Daniel slipped when attempting to fire his weapon away from his friend Hugh, but instead shot him in the leg, nearly killing him. Hugh's powerful father threatens to kill Daniel over what he did to his son, and Daniel has to spend years dodging assassins on the Continent.

When his friend finally promises that it's safe to return, Daniel arrives back just in time for his family's infamous annual musicale (barely any of the Smythe-Smith women who take part every year can play the instruments they perform on, and most are completely unaware of the dreadful racket they make). This year, however, one of the more astute ladies has pulled out at the last minute, feigning illness, forcing Miss Anne Wynter, the family's governess to step in and play the piano. Daniel notices her from back stage, and is instantly smitten with her, to the point that he tracks her down after the concert and kisses her before he even knows who she is.

Anne Wynter is an excellent governess, and knows that she is incredibly lucky to be employed by a kind lady, with clever, if spirited daughters. She knows that not all women would be happy employing a beautiful woman of unknown origins in their household, so while she's equally attracted to Daniel, and flattered by his attention, she knows that nothing can come of his advances, and hopes he will keep his distance. To complicate matters further, Anne is not who she pretends to be, and knows that if her true identity and past were revealed, at best, she would find herself unemployed and friendless, with no references to her name, at worst, involved in a full-blown scandal.

Hence, while she sees that Daniel is a good man, who will loyally stand by his family, is good to his servants and quite happy to play with his young female cousins, she tries to dissuade him from spending time with her. Daniel has other plans, however, and keeps finding ways to spend time with Miss Wynter and the young ladies who are her charges.

As well as the story of how Daniel and Anne fall in love (which is told with Quinn's trademark lightness and wit), there's a subplot where someone is clearly trying to cause harm to one or both of the couple. Is it Hugh's crazy nobleman father who's reneged on his promise to leave Daniel alone? Is it someone from Anne's past, finally having discovered her new identity and location, bent on revenge? This part of the story was supposed to infuse the story with added complications and a sense of danger, but just seemed a bit far fetched to me. I did like the few appearances we got from Daniel's friend Hugh, though, and hope he gets to be the hero of his own romance in the future. Like Just Like Heaven (the previous book in the Smythe-Smith series, about Daniel's sister, Lady Honoria and his best friend, Marcus), this is fluffy and light hearted, but can't compare to the best of Quinn's novels.

CBR4 Books 58-62: "Fever-series" by Karen Marie Moning

Total page count: 2384 pages
Date begun: May 23rd, 2012
Date finished: May 29th, 2012

The Fever series:
1. Darkfever - 3 stars
2. Bloodfever - 3.5 stars
3. Faefever - 4 stars
4. Dreamfever - 4 stars
5. Shadowfever - 4 stars

MacKayla Lane is a self-proclaimed sunshine girl, both in appearance and disposition. She has long, blond hair, she wears pastels and rainbow colours and adores pink nail polish. Her life in Georgia is easy and care free. Then her sister Alina, studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland, is brutally murdered, and her life is turned upside down. Defying her distraught parents' wishes, Mac goes to Dublin to find answers, as the police fairly quickly dismiss the case. On the voicemail message Alina left Mac just hours before she died, it's obvious that she was on the run from someone. She also claims that she has to find the Sinsar Dubh or everything will be lost, and Mac doesn't even know how to spell the thing, let alone what it is.

To her shock, shortly after arriving in Dublin, Mac realizes that not only had her sister been hiding her activities from her family, but Mac has unusual abilites, and can see the fae, which normally appear cloaked in powerful glamour to normal people, or walk through the streets invisible to but a few. She finds an unlikely ally in the dark and mysterious bookstore owner Jericho Barrons, who explains to her that she is a sidhe-seer, and that the dark faeries in Dublin's streets may well kill her if they discover that she can see them as they truly are. Barrons is also the one who tells Mac what the Sinsar Dubh her sister mentioned actually is - a legendary Unseelie (dark) faerie book, believed to contain all the magical secrets of the Unseelie king. It alledgedly holds the power to remake worlds, and Alina is certainly not the only one wanting to find it. Barrons discovers that as well as being able to see the fae, Mac seems to possess the ability to sense powerful fae artifacts. He therefore proposes that she move into his bookstore, that they team up to find the Sinsar Dubh, and he will help her try to find her sister's murderer.

It quickly becomes clear to Mac that the quest for her sister's murderer, and to locate the Sinsar Dubh is extremely dangerous, and she has a number of near death experiences. Luckily, as Barrons refuses to let his faery artifact-detector get injured, he's always around to get her out of scrapes. More and more unseelie show up on the streets of Dublin, and Mac discovers that the shady figure who's opening portals to the faerie realm and letting them through, allowing them to roam the streets, hunting humans, calls himself Lord Master, and that he was Alina's boyfriend. The Lord Master also wants the Sinsar Dubh, and claims he had nothing to do with Alina' murder. He wants Mac to join his cause, something neither she, Barrons or Mac's other unlikely ally, the Seelie (light) fae prince V'Lane, are very enthusiastic about.

Over the course of the five books, Mac, Barrons, V'Lane and the coven of sidhe-seers in Dublin have to try to stop the Lord Master and his Unseelie allies from taking over not only Dublin, but large parts of the world. Mac goes through more than one transformation, and in the end, is far from the innocent, optimistic, naive and sunny blonde who traveled to Ireland to find the truth about her sister's death. When she finally does find out who killed her sister, she's gone through Hell pretty much literally and metaphorically, and lost pretty much everything she thought she cared for in the world. Her quest for revenge and to locate and discover the truth about the Sinsar Dubh, not to mention herself and her heritage takes her to some incredibly dark places, and what doesn't kill her, not only makes her stronger, but harder and more ruthless.

In Darkfever, Mac is pretty much a ditz, but even to begin with, she refuses to take orders from the autocratic Barrons without constantly demanding anwers the cryptic gentleman is reluctant to give. She as a few moments of TSTL in the first book, but they are pretty much excused by the fact that she's 22, raised in a sheltered and loving environment, and ideas of bloody vengeance, sinister faeries that prey on humanity and a huge plot to alter the world as she and everyone else human knows it, are very far from her reality. She adapts and learns quickly, and gives herself surprisingly little time to dwell on the miseries that life keeps throwing at her. Because it annoys Barrons immensely, she persists in being bubbly, optimistic and dressing in rainbow colours for as long as possible. When things turn darker, and it's clear that she'll have to adapt into becoming a fighter, she again barely flinches, and learns what she needs to stay alive.

Barrons is one big mystery. His origins are unknown, and as Mac discovers, he is unlikely to be just 30, no matter what his driver's license says. He doesn't react well to birthday surprises, and as she gets to know him better, Mac starts to doubt that he's even human. He's tall, dark, impeccably clad,  very striking looking and a self-proclaimed villain. He holds his cards extremely close to the chest, and only very occasionally lets anything slip about his past or his motivations. Mac is frequently unsure whether she finds him deeply attractive or completely loathsome. He's very dangerous, owns a bookstore described as something that would put the library in Beauty and the Beast to shame, has a garage full of expensive sports cars, and is clearly wealthier than Bruce Wayne. I can see why romance bloggers all over the internet are weak at the knees for him. Barrons is the ultimate alpha, and there is nothing soft or sensitive about him. He is willing to do pretty much everything to get what he wants, he is ruthless if crossed, but also willing to kill to protect those he cares about. For a lot of the series, he's frankly incredibly mean to Mac - but like so many other magnificient bastards of literature, he pulls it off wonderfully.

I was surprised when I added up the page count and saw how much the five books actually consist of, as they are very fast and easy reads. Faefever and Dreamfever (books 3 and 4) both end on cliffhangers, and after both books, I didn't waste a second before starting the next one. They are gripping and addictive, if occasionally very dark and quite violent reads. Also, while not wishing to spoil, readers who have a problem with rape as storyline trope should be warned that at a certain point towards the mid-point of the series, this is unavoidable. So if you can't get past it at all in storylines (I can if it's not used just for gratuitiousness and shock effect), you may want to give this series a miss. Otherwise, I would recommend it for fans of dark paranormal fantasy with romantic undertones.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

CBR4 Book 57: "Code Name Verity" by Elizabeth Wein

Page count: 288 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Date begun: May 21st, 2012
Date finished: May 22nd, 2012

In October 1943, a British plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Both the pilot and the passenger are women, and they are best friends. Queenie, code name Verity, a British spy, is captured by the Gestapo, and tortured for information. While she knows she should be strong and defiant, revealing nothing to her captors, she breaks, and hopes to prolong the time before her execution with a Sheherazade-style narrative about herself and Maddie, the pilot who's killed in the crash. She writes her story on beautiful stationary, recipe cards, prescription pads and unused sheet music, hoping to keep the interest of the Gestapo officer in charge, earning herself a day or two longer with each "chapter" of her narrative.

The story of how Queenie (actually a Scottish noblewoman) came to befriend the granddaughter of a Jewish motorcycle salesman, and how Maddie became a successful pilot during the war, while Julia was recruited into espionage, is told interspersed with desperate ramblings about her time imprisoned in an occupied hotel, her feeble hopes of further survival, her self loathing about having cracked under torture, how she knows the other prisoners despise her for being a collaborator. Each new chapter gives further insight both into Maddie and Queenie became unlikely best friends and got involved in the British war effort in their different ways, and the horrible situation that Queenie finds herself in.

About halfway through the book, there is a surprising revelation, and if I wasn't already completely engrossed in the story, this development ensured that I was even more reluctant to put the book down. The chapters in the latter half of the book are much shorter, and I kept reading with bated breath, both to find out the end to Queenie/Verity's and Maddie's story, and what would ultimately befall Queenie? Would she be rescued by the allies, and have to face their condemnation for her treachery? Would she, condemned as a nacht und nebel (shadow and fog) prisoner, be sent off to a concentration camp to have medical experiments performed upon her? Did Maddie actually die in the plane crash, as the Gestapo claimed?

It shouldn't come as a surprise that a book about a young woman, imprisoned and tortured, during the Second World War is heart breaking and unlikely to end with puppies and kittens and sunshine and fun. I haven't cried so much during the latter half of a book since I read The Fault in Our Stars earlier this year, although it has to be said, not all the tears were sad. The book is very cleverly written, with more than one surprise in the narrative, and the two protagonists and their friendship are wonderful. True heroines both, they defy the contemporary gender roles of women, and risk their lives to make a difference.

While the book is not based on actual events, the author confesses that the story is inspired by a number of incredibly brave women who fought for their countries during World War II. This book is an absolute treasure, although the subject matter is obviously not a frivolous one. Because it's written for young adults, most of the references to torture and the true horrors of Queenie's imprisonment are implied rather than graphically described, but it's still quite a harrowing read, so readers who tend to invest heavily in the books they read (like I do), should probably be warned that it's a bit of an emotional roller coaster. You should still read the book, though, because it's awesome. Easily one of the best books I've read this year, possibly several years.

CBR4 Book 56: "Finding Cassie Crazy" by Jaclyn Moriarty

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Date begun: May 17th, 2012
Date finished: May 18th, 2012

Cassie, Em and Lydia are best friends and go to Ashbury High. Because their English teacher is all about forging friendships across school boundaries and The Joy of the Envelope, he makes his class write letters to pupils at the nearby Brookfield high school. While and Lydia appear quite lucky with their pen pals, and strike up tentative friendships and even flirt through their letters. Em tries to help the boy she's writing impress a girl he likes, and as their letters progress, she even offers to take him on practise dates. Lydia and her pen pal give each other secret missions and challenge each other to perform dangerous and even borderline illegal feats of daring.

Cassie, whose father died the year before, and who is still grieving, is less lucky with her pen pal. What starts out as abusive messages and threats that she refuses to respond to with anything but sunny cheer, take a turn for the dark and sinister when the boy she's writing to seemingly warms to her, and suggests they meet. When Em and Lydia finally find out what Cassie has been hiding from them, they are furious, and soon the two schools are in all out war against each other.

Just as Feeling Sorry for Celia, Finding Cassie Crazy is an epistolary novel, made up chiefly from the letters between the Ashbury girls and the boys of Brookfield. However, the story also unfolds in diary entries, e-mail, notice board announcements at the two schools, reports and Lydia's creative interpretations of the "lessons" given in the So You Want to be a Writer journal her father gave her for her birthday

Jaclyn Moriarty is brilliant at depicting teenagers, and the seemingly mundane realities of their lives. The previous book centred on only girls, whilst in this book, the Seb and Charlie (the two boys who write to Em and Lydia) are just as important, and as fully realized as the female characters. This book's got a larger cast of characters, but you feel deeply for all of them, and the growing unease Moriarty develops through Cassie's diary entries and correspondence makes it even more satisfying when her loyal friends finally discover the truth and utilise everything at their disposal to find out the true identity of the creep who hurt her, and in getting revenge.

While I didn't adore this book as much as Feeling Sorry for Celia, possibly because this book didn't quite so much remind me of my own teenage years and writing to a best friend, it was still a book that I had trouble putting down. I'm very glad I have the final two Ashbury/Brookfield novels lined up on my reading list.

Monday 4 June 2012

CBR4 Book 55: "Feeling sorry for Celia" by Jaclyn Moriarty

Page count: 278 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Date begun: May 16th, 2012
Date finished: May 17th, 2012

Elizabeth Clarry is a pupil at the posh Ashbury Academy, where her new English teacher has decided that the pupils need to be introduced to the fine art of letter writing. Each of the pupils are to write letters to a pupil at the neighbouring Brookfield school, in order to improve relations between the schools (Ashbury students think that the majority of Brookfielders are delinquents and drug-dealers, while Brookfield students think the Ashbury kids are spoiled, vacuous and snooty).

Elizabeth lives with her mother, who is absent a lot, but communicates with her through the medium of hilariously written all-caps notes that she leaves around the house. Elizabeth also seems to receive a large amount of snarky letters from her own subconscious, addressed from the Cold Hard Truth Association, or the Association of Teenagers (who feel that she is a dismal failure, both in her lack of rebelliousness and never having had a boyfriend and it would be easier for everyone if she just climbed into a fridge and died). Elizabeth's parents are divorced, and her father used to live in Canada, but has now moved back to Australia temporarily, and keeps wanting to see her and spend time with her. When Elizabeth isn't worrying about her distinct lack of coolness, her non-existent love life or her missing friend Celia, she tries to keep both parents happy, and she also enjoys long distance running.

Elizabeth's best friend Celia is clearly a rather unusual person, and in her letters to Christina, Elizabeth talks about the many different antics Celia has got up to in the past. This time, she's gone missing, though. Celia's mother seems to think everyone around her is overreacting, and that it's perfectly natural for a teenage girl to want to spread her wings and find herself. After a while, Elizabeth starts receiving post cards from Celia, who's run away with a circus.

Christina comes from a big family, and confides in Elizabeth about her wish for some privacy on occasion, which is difficult when you share a room with your younger sister, and her boyfriend troubles. While Elizabeth has little experience in the romance department, she advises Christina as best she can, and the two strike up a close friendship through their correspondence, encouraging each other, comforting and helping each other, without ever meeting face to face.

As the book progresses, it becomes clear that all is not well with Celia on her circus adventure. Elizabeth, with the the help of a boy she's been running with, goes to rescue Celia, but their friendship isn't the same anymore, for a number of reasons, and Elizabeth really struggles to come to terms with this. When she and Christina finally meet, it's under fairly dramatic circumstances, where several story line threads have come to a head.

This is a really difficult review to write, because when trying to describe the plot of the book, not that much seems to happen, but it's an absolutely delightful novel, made more interesting because of the epistolary device. All the characters are incredibly well fleshed out, even the supporting characters like Elizabeth's parents, or Christina's boyfriend Derek, and the two main characters are both wonderful girls, who you'd be lucky to have as friends in real life. There are also several unexpected twists in the narrative (which while a bit dramatic, nonetheless seem plausible), the first being the reveal that Celia's run off to join a circus.

I absolutely loved this book, probably not helped by the fact that I got to know my best friend Lydia through old timey correspondence (back in the days when we didn't really have regular access to Internet and e-mails), and the entire book made me miss the joy of writing letters. I'm just not very good at writing about books I feel really strongly about (I never seem to get across exactly what's so great about them), but take my word for it, this book is a complete delight, and I will try to get as many people as possible to read it.

Friday 1 June 2012

CBR4 Book 54: "Grimspace" by Ann Aguirre

Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Date begun: May 13th, 2012
Date finished: May 15th, 2012

Sirantha Jax has a rare gene that allows her to jump spaceships through Grimspace, allowing them to travel huge distances in relatively short amounts of time. Hence she's been prized as a navigator for the Corp. However, on Jax' last journey, the space ship crashed, killing the several hundred passengers (including a very beloved diplomat), as well as the pilot (Jax' lover). Jax is in jail, being questioned and blamed for the disaster, but has absolutely no memories of what happened.

Jax is broken out of jail by a band of mercenaries, who want her help in starting up a rebel academy for navigators, to challenge the Corp's monopoly in space travel. One of the down sides of being a Jumper is that travelling through Grimspace takes a heavy toll on the navigators who do it, and they tend not to have very long life expectancies, because they burn out. Jax has survived a surprisingly high number of jumps, and lives with the knowledge that every jump could be her last. She's devastated by the loss of her pilot/lover/best friend, and not all that inclined to help the merry band of rogues who come to bust her out of prison. Yet their jumper burned out on the way to rescue her, so she has to help them at least get away, and once she joins up with them, they become fugitives hunted by the powerful and influential Corp. Will the mercenaries convince Jax to join their noble cause? Will Jax find out what actually happened with the crash? Will she survive the bounty hunters the Corp are sending after her? Can she settle in with a new pilot and crew and get over the massive emotional trauma of losing her partner?

Grimspace was this month's backup book in the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout, and while at first glance, it shares many similarities to Gabriel's Ghost, I ended up liking this one a whole lot more. While both books start with a heroine being broken out of prison by the hero (with psy mind powers) they will later develop a romance with, having been set up/framed for some huge accident, the plots of the books then diverge pretty rapidly.

I really liked the concept of the Jumpers, with a special gene that made them unusual and highly valued. Clearly being a Jumper also takes a massive toll on people, though, and Jax is messed up for a whole host of reasons, not just because she's the sole survivor of a massive crash where she lost her partner. Cynical, sarcastic, yet brave sometimes to the point of stupidity, she's a very interesting heroine. She and March (the love interest) start out having a decidedly antagonistic relationship, and as she figures out really quickly that he can read her mind, she keeps thinking of all sorts of horrible things happening to him, just to wind him up.

Having been lauded as one of the darlings of the Corp, Jax' change in situation, where she is imprisoned, then hunted and forced to flee with a band of merry misfits, is not an easy adjustment for her. She's not at all enthused about the idea of throwing her lot in with them, and certainly not keen on the idea of travelling around the galaxies, one step ahead of whomever the Corp has sent after them, to gather recruits for the new Jumper academy that the rebels want to set up. Jax just wants to clear her name and get on with her life. Of course it's not that simple.

With a very prickly, but likable heroine, a pretty intriguing romantic subplot, a cast of interesting supporting characters and very cool world building, Ann Aguirre succeeded where Linnea Sinclair failed. I will absolutely be reading more books in this series, even though I normally avoid sci-fi, and I will probably check out her series of paranormal fantasy books too.

CBR4 Book 53: "Gabriel's Ghost" by Linnea Sinclair

Page count: 447 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Date begun: May 9th, 2012
Date finished: May 12th, 2012

Captain Chasidah "Chaz" Bergren has been stripped of her rank, court-marshaled and sent to die on a remote prison planet for a crime she didn't commit. She is defending herself from a brutal attack from a jukor, a vicious genetically engineered  killer creatures believed to be extinct, when she is rescued by a man she (and most of the rest of the world) thought was dead. Gabriel Ross "Sully" Sullivan needs her help in tracking down the people who are once again breeding jukors, and he's willing and able to get her off the planet in return for her aid.

In the years before Sully faked his own death (for a whole number of reasons), he was known as a mercenary, smuggler, sometimes space pirate and all around rogue. On opposite sides of the law, Chaz and Sully would banter and flirt, but Sully would always get away in the end, and Chaz was always drawn to him. So when they team up for a dangerous mission, it doesn't take long before sparks fly between them. But Chaz also wants to find out who set her up, and Sully has a number of secrets that could stand in the way of their future.

I don't normally read a lot of sci-fi, and mainly picked this up because it was May's pick of the month in Felicia Day's Vaginal Fantasy Hangout. Besides, I do try to challenge myself to trying new things occasionally. When reviewing the book at the end of this month, the four ladies who run the book club all highlighted a number of things they weren't overly fond of about this book. I agree with them on several points.

As far as I can tell, this is one of Sinclair's earliest novels, and some of the writing is quite repetitive and cliched. There's also Sully's deep dark secrets. I didn't  have problems with Sully having things he was hiding from Chaz (dude's entitled to some privacy now and then), but the truth kept coming out in little drips, where every time, the situation got a bit more extreme, and he ended up a little bit more unbelievably special and unusual. I can see why there are sides he's afraid to reveal to Chaz (due to the nature of said secrets), but he also takes liberties which are not cool, and when Chaz eventually finds out, her reaction is not to turn around and confront him with the massive betrayal of her trust, but to pretty much instantly forgive him, because, well she loves him now. I don't want to go into more specifics for fear of spoiling the plot.

Chaz starts out as a strong and independent heroine, but seems to change her character almost entirely towards the end of the book, when she pretty much submits completely because of her woobly feelings for Sully. I have no problem with character development, but it makes me sad when the supposedly strong female regresses into a weak-willed ninny just because she's found the love of a big strong man.

There's good stuff in this novel too, though. While normally not a fan of sci-fi (I don't know why I'm fine with dragons and faeries and vampires and werewolves etc. in fantasy, but the minute it's set in space, my brain goes: meh), the actual space travel and quest to stop the evil jukor breeding was pretty good. Ren, who is Sully's blue-haired alien sidekick is awesome, and I pretty much enjoyed every scene he was in. A lot of the dialogue was excellent, and I did like the depth of feelings Sully clearly had for Chaz, and had never had the guts to tell her about before he rescued her from the prison planet.

Felicia Day insists that several other Linnea Sinclair books are much better than this one, but while I didn't hate this one, it didn't exactly wow me either. I doubt I'll be checking out others by her any time soon.