Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Cutting Loose by Tara Janzen v2

Simple plot, multilayered relationships. I had to read it a couple of times before I really appreciated how wonderful this novel is.

I loved how the strands dovetailed together. The final showdown scene was brilliantly done. Tense, exciting, clever and it almost ended in tragedy.

The relationship between the main couple isn't really about true love. But so what? Both are adults and if they only make each other happy for a few years, it doesn't mean their feelings for each other are less intense.

I loved the road-trip part of the plot. Lily and Zach are the good guys but for a while they are portrayed like they were some kind of killer-couple on the run through the open spaces of New Mexico.

But most of all I like the world the author has created. A fantasy spy world that references bang up to date current affairs. I also appreciate the research done on custom cars, custom computers and weapons. A quirk of this series is that many action scenes take place out-of-story. That's why the series remains firmly in the women's market. Although this particular novel has some great little insights into the workings of the mind of a guy. And the writing style is wonderful too. Sometimes it fools the reader into believing this is a lightweight series.

Subtle and very entertaining.

Let's face it though. Zach should have taken a plane straight to DC. What kind of an op would drive such a highly distinctive auto on a mission. But these are minors.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Cutting Loose by Tara Janzen

I read this book and thought to myself: "What a Wasted Opportunity." Basic problem for me. As always. Too many threads to the plot and while they all tie together nicely towards the end of the novel, they take too much time away from the main couple, Zach and Lily, who end up being bit players in their own story. Which is a shame really. Because as a reader I liked them both. Despite the fact that Zach has still-born hots for Skeeter and smouldering embers for Jewel. Lily didn't seem to notice. Which is surprising seeing how her ex cheated on her.

Up front. This is about recovering a macrame bracelet woven with the electronic key to a Very Important encrypted file on a hard-drive somewhere. Lily has the bracelet. Zach gets it from her. Simple as that. The big showdown scene was very well done. Tons of tension, excitement and near tragedy. But it was over and done with very quickly...too quickly really.

Essentially this is a road trip novel. And how interesting can such an animal be in today's age of GPS and cell-phones? I suppose that's what the author thought and that's why she put all those other subplots. Takes a lot of guts to include black ops in Pakistan and give serious mention to yellowcake! However I personally would have appreciated longer spent with the main couple, apart and together. On the road, in the car and on the bed. Just to show I'm not totally stupid I will ask; 'Ever heard of air travel? Like are there no flights from Albuquerque that could get to Denver in under six hours?' I don't know what some reviewers are complaining about. Out of the Steele Street crew, we only got to meet Dylan, Skeeter and Honey. Not enough as far as I'm concerned. More Kat and Superman for me please. I also note that the couples have stopped getting married since Crazy Love. Presumably they're all co-habiting. Which is a shame. Thank the lord no divorces though.

I'd like to say that this reader doesn't really want to know about the personal relationships of the baddies, not least because this particular author makes them too similar to the good-guys. Yes. That is a failing. In fact Zach makes a very strange speech to Lily in which he describes all the characteristics of an evil gun-for-hire. And I thought: "But Zach. That is exactly like you." I didn't like the fact that in his former incarnation Zach was a drug-exporter. But I have come across other authors who use this same trick. The idea is that the drugs which Zach supplied were always intercepted by the DEA way down the line. How long would Zach have lasted if that had really happened? Certainly not the 8 years he lived as Alejandro Campos. Somebody would have offed Zach long ago. That theme could have been explored a little more in the book.

Next up is Crazy Sweet. Gillian's story. Already I can see why some readers didn't like her. Basically she pimped herself out for a while. In her Red Dog mode. Vengeance is pointless when it involves loss of self-respect. So Tony Royce won twice over. Despite the fact that he's dead. Not that Gillian has the moral compass to feel any of that. After that. I'll give the Crazy Series and its shirt-tail cousin, the Loose series a rest. Not Enough Meat Mother. (Otherwise known as 'you have to wait ages for the rumpy-pumpy which doesn't show up until the final third of the book' syndrome. And feels more like hot sex than hot love.)

Finally. It's such a shame there is so little buzz about this series. Because the author is actually a supremely talented writer. When I read a series by one author I only expect one of the books to be great. The remainder so so. Crazy Cool was my utterly favorite. I could go on about Kat's vulnerability for hours... The first novel I read was Skeeter's story, Crazy Love. That turned me on to the author's style. I also totally loved the Skeeter part of Crazy Wild. So even though I criticize, I'm more than satisfied with my cash outlay. Crazy Cool will definitely accompany me to a desert isle, outer space or the slammer. Should such situations ever arise. I will absolutely demand to be buried with Cold As Ice and Crazy Cool together.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Born In Death by J D Robb

Highly enjoyable. Especially the first half. When Roarke gets upset that his good name has been impugned (ha!) and asks Eve to give up a case. The way Eve gets round him is wonderful. Lovely shower scene. I even quite enjoyed the murder mystery. Although it goes without saying that I didn’t have a clue where Eve got her clues from. And I wasn’t convinced that ten annual illegal adoptions could fund the lifestyles of the main perps. I liked the little reminder in this book that however much Eve may deny it, she is the wife of a billionaire and has a lot more cash available to spend than the average joe. Eve should have volunteered to reimburse Delia for the baby-shower gifts before Delia reminded her to do so. Eve meets surprisingly little resentment about her income level. I like to see her deal with difficulties in her personal life.

Unfortunately. The second half of the book is almost completely given over to babies, babies, babies and Mavis. I have never liked the character of Mavis. One of those ghastly over-bright and bubbly pain-in-the-butts. I don’t even much like Peabody. Or Nadine. All of them seem to owe their success to either Eve or Roarke. Why are they so reliant on the friendship of yes-people? But that’s just my opinion and I know I’m in a minority. I even understand that the success of authors like Jodi Picoult mean that other authors are under pressure to incorporate children into their story-lines.

Anyway. Another very good effort by J. D.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Memories In Death by J D Robb

I quite enjoyed this. One reason being that for a change Roarke is allowed to show his nasty side...to Trudy...who turns into the victim of murder a few pages later. The more boring In Death books are all those where Roarke is turned into some kind of opinionless crutch for his wife. Which is most of them nowadays. Also. Eve shows her selfish side and then has to apologise to her husband. I enjoyed that too.

Towards the end of the book, the perp, Marnie calls Eve a hypocrite. I agree with her. Eve says that she would have prefered that sadistic foster mom, Trudy, should have been tried for her child abuse crimes and then put in a cage for many many years. But who would have the guts to see that justice was done? Not Eve. She had shut Trudy out of her mind and turned into a cowardly pussy the first time she saw her in her adult life. Yet Marnie, another abused foster kid had the balls to hand out vengeance and then had to suffer Eve at her sermonising, insufferably moralising worst. The case of Trudy's death should have been left unsolved and quietly closed.

In any case. This is a prime example of a crime some police forces categorise as 'no humans involved.' That is, one felon committing a crime upon another felon. Why a fairly decent human being such as Eve feels any personal attachment to Trudy is beyond my understanding.

Despite all that. Like I said I enjoyed this novel. Mainly because there are lots of scenes between Roarke and Eve. One relationship that continues to ring false however, is the one between Eve and Summerset. There really is no need for Eve to be so constantly abusive to Sommerset, who is essentially a well-loved servant. Sometimes it seems that she's bullying him. Seeing how she's married to his employer. By now all the readers realise that if it came to a choice between Summerset and Eve, Roarke would choose his wife every time.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Second Sight by Amanda Quick

What can I say? The written equivalent of muzak. It exists, its inoffensive and for a while it permeated my brain. I felt absolutely no emotions of any kind while reading it. No enjoyment, my ears didn't glow. Neither did I throw it at the wall. Obviously I didn't hate it either. What I did feel was security. Total security. This book is formula writing at its most mundane.

Amanda Quick used to write lovely romances about fairly interesting couples. I find it hard to believe it's the same person writing this wordy, boring dross. Has she franchised her name out to various anonymous authors who are kept on a very tight chain by the publishing house? What's with this crummy theme of mesmerism that keeps appearing in novel after novel. Is she grateful to the hypnotist who enabled her to give up smoking? Has her husband left her after 50 years of marriage?

Anyway. Second Sight isn't bad. Other than it makes no sense. But it is shoddily plotted. Seeing how the much vaunted psychic abilities of the hero completely desert him during possibly the only crucial moment in the novel.

At least the heroine, Venetia, doesn't dress as weird nor is she as nit-pickingly argumentative as some of Quicks previous lead females. But she does stay true to form in that she is a 28-yo who behaves like a 58-yo.

One of the things that lets the story down is the frequent references to the 'police.' In 19 century London? I don't think so.

I turned over page after page convinced that soon Something Would Happen. And it does. But not until about page 378 of a 400 page novel. The middle and the end of this story are basically squeezed into the final two, still uninteresting, chapters. Cunningly. The first chapter is actually quite good. With the start of the relationship between the main couple and the start of the mystery. But then nothing happens for chapter after chapter. I'm not even sure what the original formula was supposed to do to young Mr Stillings. Though I did get that he needed the box to find the cure to the slow-acting poison. Couldn't Rosalind Flemming tell that her lover 'old Lord Ackroyd' was actually a much younger man? Wouldn't he have made a far more suitable blackmail victim? It still didn't make sense that she totally hated Venetia.

For diehard fans. Plus those readers who need a short rest from Lora Leigh's bump and grind. And get it from a library. Don't bother to buy.

Upon the Midnight Clear by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Don’t be fooled by the gorgeous male on the cover. This is a horrible horrible nasty book featuring a rich whiney supremely self-centered small-minded jerk who thinks because he hands out money to his friends and relatives they should give him their undying love, gratitude and loyalty. And then hates them and the world in general when they don’t. News flash. When I get my salary every month it does not mean I love the corporation I work for nor am I particularly grateful for it.

The jerk’s name is Aidan. He’s about 100 times worse than an 80s Lowell hero. Aidan’s brother Donnie is in jail for lying to the tabloids about Aidan.!! (That could only happen to one of life’s serial losers.) So what does Aidan want to do? He sets out to kill Donnie. But will he end up in jail. Like hell. Because he’s a multi-multi millionaire. But the reader’s sympathies are supposed to lie with rich Aidan. There’s an absolute ton of this kind of stuff in the novel;

"(Aidan) was so tired of people playing him, using him to get what they wanted, then casting him aside the minute they got what they wanted."

Tons and tons of how Aidan is the only loyal, good, sincere person in the world. You know. This type of thing happens to many non-rich people in life too. I’ve had friends cry on my shoulder about how their partners or bosses have used them for money, career advancement. Sure they are hurt. But they get over it and on with their lives. To obsess about each bad life experience and plot vengeance or death is the type of thing only a social misfit or weirdo would do. Like postal killers or Klebold. People who can’t take not being the centre of the universe. People who resent other people being happy without them. And that’s the hero of this book!! Which is supposed to be a vampire action-romance.

But why am I complaining? I rumbled this author long ago. She puts her bad life-experiences in her novels, churns them through some kind of ‘this is how it should have been’ machine in her brain. And then foists them on her readers. But it just shows how narrow-minded and self-obsessed she’s become. Which is just like some rich people who believe that ordinary citizens should show them some kind of deference for the single fact that they are rich. I’m going to be even ruder. I used to work in special-ed. Believe me. The lack of ability to see any point of view other than their own is very much a characteristic of this client group.

So why did I pick up the book? Basically I forgot about the immature revenge fantasies the author often writes and just thought ‘greek gods and goddesses plus vampires plus good romance.’ I should have thought ‘petty trailer park mind-set.’ At least I just got it from the library. And the cover was very nice.

dnf.

I know that the author has a whole bunch of loyal fans. I leave it to one of them to write a glowing review.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

On The Loose by Tara Janzen

Well….Nothing special. Ok for us fans of the series. But…There’s three couples involved in this: Smith & Honey, Alejandro and Lily, Irena and Ari. Too many really. My problems were this; Honey turned out to be a bit helpless. She’d convinced herself she could drive in rugged terrain, but did nothing but squeal when faced with a river of rats; Irena should have died…but the minute the author revealed she was a mother and her kid depended on her I knew she wouldn’t; And I liked Alejandro too much for him being a minor character. Particularly the bits about his recent performances in the sack. I know his story is next…but hooking him up with a school teacher? She’ll emasculate him for sure. And that’s it. New readers might find it a little puzzling that the mystery of the ‘Z’ is not revealed in the novel. Of course if you’ve read the synopsis of ‘Cutting Loose’, like I did, you would know the truth of the matter.

The plot is about retrieving some secret info from the cockpit of a crashed light aircraft. All goes as planned. Throw in nuns, rebels, drug deals gone bad for entertainment value. It all takes place in some South American country. Like I said. Ok.

After reading this novel I’ve decided to go back and read Crazy Sweet. Maybe I was a little too harsh about Red Dog. After all. She was tortured by foreign nationals. I don’t mean banged up in a cozy cell and asked to wear an orange jump-suit whilst getting 3 meals a day courtesy of Uncle Sam. Gillian was pumped full of excrutiatingly painful experimental drugs. That’s real torture. And I want to see Royce get his just deserts. I’m keeping my fingers crossed it doesn’t happen out-of-story.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Soul Deep by Lora Leigh

The first half of this book is the usual straight-up smutty breed schtick. Lashings of hotness plus a high embarrassment factor because the main couple seem to do it in company. Although neither Simon nor Stephanie are likely to be in the least offended by anything they witness. But as a reader, I certainly felt like cringing. Which is ridiculous really because reading romances is all about the reader witnessing intimate acts between the main couple.

However. Suddenly at the half-way mark. Amazingly. I realised that I actually liked the main couple, Kiowa and Amanda. Her. Because she naturally protests at giving up what she thinks are her dreams of the future. While Kiowa tells her that she justs needs to adapt those dreams. And I like him because of what he said when he was eleven years old. ‘I have a soul, I always did.’ After all the years of his grandfather telling him he had none. Also. Apart from being the daughter of a fictional president, Amanda is totally normal. Well. Sort of. A 24-yo virgin who knows she likes giving head.Okay.Yes. Sometimes she does say na├»ve stuff. But she’s young. And it’s nice to meet a youngish woman who doesn’t display the cynicism of a 50-yo street hooker. Plus she’s not a doormat like Harmony, nor does she have ‘spechul’ psychic powers like Megan. Nor is she a slut like Scheme. Or an eeejut like Elizabeth.

In theory. Kiowa is an ‘evil Coyote breed’ although he wasn’t raised by the cruel scientists in the labs. Just had a completely loveless childhood courtesy of a cold grandfather. But like all the breed males, such experiences haven’t made him bitter and twisted. With another author Kiowa could have become a mother-hating psycho-killer. But with this series I am secure in the knowledge that Breed males are generally very sociable…even Kiowa has friends. I liked Kiowa a lot. I totally felt the pain of his early days.

So basically. This novel is all about how Amanda particularly comes to terms with mating with Kiowa. And all that entails. Unfortunately Amanda also reveals that essentially she is tstl. She forgets about the goons that kidnapped her, the chopper shooting at her n Kiowa and justs heads out to ‘escape’ from her protectors. On the other hand. I have also in my life cut off my nose to spite my face. At least in Lora Leigh novels it all comes good in the end. So I forgive Amanda. None of us are perfect. The other thing I would say about Amanda is that she could have shown a bit more gentleness to Kiowa. In particular, when he was showering, she could have soaped him up nicely... in high heels. He would have appreciated that I’m sure.

Like I said. There are a few totally cringe-making scenes in the story. The oral sex in the SUV scene, the scene with Amanda in the gynae-chair. And one completely outrageous scene featuring a knife. Which I didn’t personally find erotic at all. But it was interesting to read through. Nice to see some variety in the hotness too. Very light on the domination though. Which is probably why I liked the main couple. All very entertaining. Not for the faint-hearted though.

This novel is exactly what a good series romance should be like. A fairly simple plot that is a sexy, interesting, not too long read. With a couple of flawed scenes thrown in. I much prefer these 'dog' Breeds to the 'cats.'

btw. Cassie Sinclair makes an appearance. All I can say is thank goodness Dash and Elizabeth love her to bits.

This is the first novel I’ve read where the editor gets a publishing credit. How weird is that? For such a short story. So who actually writes the books? Which is a question I first asked when reading Kenyon’s Dark-hunter series which I have long since given up on.

Definitely recommended.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Origin In Death by J D Robb

I don’t like books that make me cry. And I got very emotional towards the end of this novel. Why, oh why does Deena have to die? What is the point? SHE was the one who saw through the brain-washing and escaped to freedom. But oh. She killed the Icoves. So she has to die. At least probably that’s what the author thought. But Deena deserved life. The Icoves were monsters incarnate. Particularly the son. With his swapping of the Avril clones every year. So as to keep them away from their children. They mofo Deserved To Die. Deena should have made them suffer a LOT more. Although I got a bit confused when Joseph Wilson seemed to claim the Icove murders as his own.

For me. This novel only got interesting once the murders had been solved. Over half-way into the book. It seemed to take forever for Eve to put two and two together. And inbetween we get a family Thanksgiving. Boy. That was boring. Basically when the author let the reader know that the wife knew a lot about her husband’s death. The glint in her eyes. But I never saw the 3-clone plot coming. I would say that it was a brilliant idea. Unfortunately it didn’t really work. Because. If Joseph Wilson cloned himself. Why didn’t the Icoves? The idea that Icove Snr was content to be 80-years old, when he could have been a 30-year old clone is nonsensical. Anyway. Just to reiterate. Both the Icoves were Devil People.

The other thing I got tired of was Eve’s moralising and sermonising on how murder affects her on a personal level. The reader gets pretty much the same thing in all the In Death novels. tbh. Eve’s experiences paled into insignificance when compared to the indignities the Avrils had gone through. Eve’s difficulties ended before she was 10. The Avrils and all the other clones had to endure decades of horribleness. But no. Eve’s just got to drag up all her memories and emote on behalf of the Avrils. Also. Why does Eve spend so much time giving Nadine, the tv-journo, information about her cases? It’s beginning to look like glory-hunting to me.

Has the author got something against pioneering members of the medical profession? Surely Conspiracy In Death covered much the same ground. Nutty, self-righteous, doctors with over-inflated egos.

The ending was totally ludicrous. Roarke letting 12-year old Diana walk away with the baby in her arms. Just how is she supposed to feed, and clothe that child. No matter how precocious a child seems, they’re still completely dependent on adults to provide for their physical needs.

I’m not giving this book a second read. Because of Deena. She should have been allowed to live. And the prologue was not nice too. Cracking good read though. For what is basically a formula novel. Much too much waffle throughout the first half of the story. Basically you get the Icove/Wilson tale told over and over again. I suppose the publishers demand a high wordage. It goes without saying though. Minimal romance. Which is a great shame. Would it totally traumatise Eve to put a bit more adult emotions into her marriage? Or to give Roarke some oral instead of it being all the other way?