Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dark Obsession - Allison Chase

Dark Obsession - Allison Chase
The Plot - Nora Thornegoode's mother always told her that her painting would get her in trouble.  When  Nora arrives at her first showing she is horrified to find that her "teacher" has painted a picture of her naked and informed the crowd that he is having an affair with her.  Of course none of this is true but to society it doesn't matter Nora is damaged goods and her reputation is in tatters.  Grayson Lowell is haunted literally by his brother Tom and his brothers wife Charlotte.   After Tom had confessed to Gray that he had gambled away the entire Lowell fortune they had a terrible row - after which Tom's body turned up battered at the base of a cliff.  Although Gray was determined innocent it is believed by most everyone that it did in fact kill his own brother and is little more than a cold blooded killer.  Nora needs to marry to save her reputation and Gray needs to marry for money to make sure there is an earldom for his nephew Jonny to inherit.    Nora's father quickly arranges for the two to be married.  Although there is mutual distaste for the hasty reasons for their marriage both Nora and Gray accept there circumstances and find themselves quite fond of one another.  This all changes when they leave for the Lowell estate in Cornwall.  Grayson continually becomes more withdrawn and distant as he deals with the guilt over his brothers desk and the ghostly sightings become more frequent.  Nora is confused unable to decide which Grayson is the real Grayson the one she spent her wedding night with or the cold, angry Grayson she is currently residing with.  The two must unravel the mystery of Tom's death if they ever wish to have there happily ever after.

The Hero - Grayson is definitely tortured, he is wracked with guilt over his brothers death.  He also feels guilty for the way he always treated Tom when they were growing up and the way he blew up at his brother when he came to him for help.   However, you never get the feeling throughout the book that he actually murdered his brother.  He is still a good man even with his quick temper.  The only problem I had with Gray was his self-loathing got to be a bit much.  The whole I'm a tainted horrible person and Nora deserves so much better argument got old after awhile - especially because really now that they were married what was she supposed to do?  It's not like they could have gotten a divorce and she could have gone off and met someone else.  If you really think she deserves better shape up and treat her better! Gray was the same way with his nephew Jonny - he feels so responsible for his Jonny not having a father that he leaves him in Cornwall to be raised alone by servants? Huh?  The poor kid is so traumatized he hasn't spoken in a year and you think the best thing is to leave? Jeez, anyhoo other than that Grayson was your typical romance hero nothing about him really stood out but he fit with the story just fine.

The Heroine - Nora is a great heroine.  She comes from "new money" and is not afraid to stand her ground and fight for what she wants.  What she wants is the Grayson she made love to on her wedding night and she's determined to bring him back.  Although, Grayson continuously tries to scare her away for her own good.  Nora is able to think about what he's doing and trust her own instincts enough to know that he's not a cold blooded murder.  There wasn't a lot of growth for Nora in this novel but she didn't really need to grow anyways.  She came to Gray as a self assured and confident woman who didn't need a man to feel complete but who found a perfect partner in Gray.

What worked - The ghosts of Thomas and Charlotte were well drawn but not spooky.  They were driven to save a Gray and Jonny and didn't do this by terrifying people but by appealing to them for help.  I also really liked Jonny - your heart just bleeds for this poor little boy who has lost his mother and his father and has been left alone to be raised by servants.  The mystery of what happened was also really well done.  The author kept me guessing through the whole story.  I would be so sure it was this person because of that reason and then three pages later it would be something else.  I also didn't guess it before the end so that was a nice surprise.

What didn't - Gray's self sacrificing that did nothing but hurt other people.  I was also a little disappointed it wasn't spookier.  I thought this would be a good halloweeny type book and it wasn't really scary at all.  Other wise I really enjoyed it.

Should you read it? This is really only the second gothic romance I've read and I've really enjoyed both of them but I'm not sure how this book stands up to the rest of the genre.  The first book I read was far spookier than this one - even so I'd still recommend it as a very good historical romance.

One other note - I was quite excited after reading this book because right on the front it says "A Novel of Blackheath Moor" to a series whore like me this is gold a brand new fabulous series to read and considering this is the authors debut novel it's likely to only get better.  Unfortunately, after visiting the authors website she has only published one other Blackheath Moor book and has moved on to a new series.  It's unclear as to whether she will come back to this series but I find that very disappointing.  I will check out the other series though.           

Rating 7.9/10                                                                                                         

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sometimes I do stupid things...

In 2001 my second cousin got really into reading fantasy.  She showed up at our house one day with a huge pile of fantasy novels she'd just picked up at Chapters and I made the teensy tiny comment of maybe I should try one of these.  Well that launched us on a two hour book buying binge that ended with me leaving with the first books of about 20 different series.  (I miss the days of unlimited disposable income).  Anyhoo, I have a number of those first books which are still unread - that book buying binge sparked a weekly visit to Chapters for me where I began to amass my now ridiculously large collection of unread books.  So last week I picked up The Diplomacy of Wolves by Holly Lisle which I bought during that first trip to Chapters.  Fantasy novels have been mostly miss for  me lately but I decided to try it anyways and it was really really good.  So I'm thinking to myself "Sweet an awesome new series to read".  Yeah...No.  I get to the end of the book and it's a huge cliffhanger - like gigantic, enormous I can't read a book between these two because I need to know what happened cliffhanger.  Now did I mention I bought this book in 2001??  That perhaps I should have made sure the following books were still somewhat readily available?  Cause guess what - they aren't.  I've searched high and low on the internet and I'm not able to find a copy of Vengeance of Dragons or Courage of Falcons anywhere that doesn't have a ridiculously high shipping charge (yea Canada Post!!).

So now I'm pissy -I'm sure I'll come across it eventually but I'm one of those instant gratification people and I don't wait well.  Of course this happens right after my husband put me on a very strict book budget - very strict meaning you have 1200 + books you do not need to buy anymore - budget.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

MIA and The Phantom

I've been missing in action for awhile.  There is something about being sick that completely zaps all my motivation.  I see in my absence someone who appears to have even less of a life then me left a very "witty" comment on my last post.  What a charming fellow.

Anyhoo, on to the review.  

Phantom by Susan Kay

When I was 10 years old my mother took me to see The Phantom of the Opera at the Pantages theatre in Toronto.  To say that experience had an effect on me would be an understatement.  I lived and breathed all things Phantom for the better part of my pre-teen existence.  I received the soundtrack (on tape) along with Gaston Leraux's original book for Christmas that year and I don't think I could ever be found without one or the other.  Even as a 10 year old I still couldn't figure out why the heck Christine would leave The Phantom for sissy boy Raoul.  Actually, come to think of it perhaps this is where my love of love triangles as a plot device came from...

So - I heard about Phantom by Susan Kay quite some time ago and I put it on "my list" (this was a printed out list three columns wide and three pages long of books I wanted based on things I read on the internet).  The list has since been retired and I know keep track of books on my bookpedia wishlist.  There were probably a dozen books on that original list that I gave up on finding Phantom was one of them.  So imagine my excitement when my cousin drops me off two large boxes of books and at the very bottom of the second box is Susan Kays Phantom.  Trust me it was huge - hubby still isn't sure if he should be jealous of this book.

This isn't just a re-telling of the Phantom of the Opera - using the few pages of background on the phantom that is provided in Leraux's original novel Kay expanded on it and wrote The Phantom's (Erik) biography.  The novel is told in a narrative style and is divided into sections based on the storyteller.  I really liked this style of writing and it was interesting to see Erik through his own eyes and then through someone else's.  I especially like Raoul's section at the very end.  I don't want to give away any spoilers but although the story is still tragic there is just a little twist about what happened after Christine and Raoul left the theatre that I loved.

I know some people were annoyed about how the ending was tweaked but she really didn't stray so far from what happened in the original novel she just added to it a bit - and I for one really appreciated it.

Christine was the same weak-willed ninny she always is (I've never been a fan of Christine and figured the Phantom could have done better) but she does grow up a bit at the end of the novel and the glimpse into her diary we get makes her a little more sympathetic.

Erik is tragic.  His story is always tragic but reading about his life before the events of the Opera make it even more so.  It is no wonder Erik had no regard for human life there were very few people with redeemable qualities in his life.

The only quibble I had about this book was that I was a little disappointed in the Christine/Erik section.  It was actually kind of slow for me but perhaps that was because I had built it up so much in my mind and I couldn't wait to get there.

This book is most definitely going up on my keeper shelf.

Rating 9/10


Friday, October 16, 2009

My Top 16

I read on Kristie's blog here - that she saw a challenge on Jessica's blog here to list your top 16 romances. I'm sure there are plenty more lists out there but I haven't had much time to blog hop today. I admit this is the first time I've heard of Forever Amber but I'll have to keep an eye out for it now.

Here's my top 16

1. Outlander - Diana Gabaldon

I don't know if there will ever be another book like Outlander for me. I have yet to find another book that even comes close to having the same effect on me as Outlander. I also haven't been able to find another hero that is on the same level of awesomeness as Jamie.

                                             2. Heart of the West - Penelope Williamson

It's very hard for me to rank my favourite romances but Heart of the West is as close to No. 1 as you can get in my books without being Outlander :) This is still my absolute favourite Western and is also the first book I read with the love triangle (one of my favourite angst devices).

3. The Way Home - Megan Chance

Another western with a love triangle - what can I say I'm consistent.  Love love love this book Aaron is the most perfect beta hero.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      4. For My Lady's Heart - Laura Kinsale

This is my absolute favourite medieval - it's pretty much perfect.  Perfect hero, perfect heroine, perfect couple, the most romantic book I think I've ever read.

5. Midnight Honour - Marsha Canham

Most people seem to prefer the first two books in this series but Midnight Honour was heads and tails above the other two for me.  Coincidentally it also has a bit of a love triangle going on...

I also don't think I ever cried more than I did when I read this book.

                                                                                                       6. Almost Heaven - Judith McNaught

I just read this book recently and was absolutely blown away by it.  I loved Ian and Elizabeth.  This is probably the second most romantic book I've ever read.

7. By Arrangement - Madeline Hunter

Another fabulous medieval - David is one of my favourite heros.

                                                                                                  8. Twice Loved - Lavyrle Spencer

Surprise, Surprise another love triangle!! Lots of angst in this one.

9. Silk and Secrets - Mary Jo Putney

This was my favourite of the silk series and my favourite MJP so far.

                                                                                                               10. Devotion - Katherine Sutcliffe

I loved everything about this book.  Even the ending.  And I don't want to talk about Obsession.

11. The Enchanted Land - Jude Devereaux

Another western with lots of angst, big misunderstandings and long separations.

                                                                                                       12. Hummingbird - Lavyrle Spencer

Okay, even I'm surprised there is another love triangle on my list.  Apparently I like these even more than I realized.

13. A Kingdom of Dreams - Judith McNaught

If you've read it you know how wonderful this book is.  If you haven't you simply must go out and find it right now!

                                                                                                        14. Bodyguard - Suzanne Brockmann

Another book where I differ from the majority.  This is my favourite Brockmann and I've read the majority of the troubleshooters series.  It's also the only non-historical romance to make it to my list.

15. A Knight in Shining Armour - Jude Devereaux

I also loved everything about this book - including the ending.  Unlike most people it seems.

                                                                                                        16. One Sinful Night - Kaitlin O'Riley

I'm still shocked by my reaction to this book.  I did not expect to love it as much as I did.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Reason to Live - Maureen McKade

In order to avoid reading slumps I try to vary genres and sub-genres so that I don't ever feel burned out on anything - which in theory works well. Sometimes in practice however, it doesn't work so well. I was worried about over doing it with western romances so I tried everything but in an effort to keep away the dreaded reading slump - what happened I ended up in a slump because all I really wanted was to read a western so of course nothing else worked. So guess what? I read a western and it was awesome.

A Reason to Live - Maureen McKade

The Plot - The story takes place shortly after the end of the civil war. Laurel Covey had been a confederate nurse during the war and has taken it upon herself to personally deliver the death bed messages of 21 soldiers to their families. Creede Forrester is an ex-gunslinger turned rancher who is looking for Laurel because he heard she may have been with his son when he died. Laurel is most fortunate that Creede happens upon her when she is attacked by two men on the road. Although Creede is disappointed that Laurel doesn't have any final words from his son after witnessing the earlier attack he refuses to allow Laurel to continue on her own. Having little say in the matter Laurel reluctantly agrees and the two begin their journey across the southern states.

The Hero - Creede has had a seriously difficult past and I mean difficult. Everyone he loves has been killed or taken away from him and he's left alone. Once he'd lost the very faint hope that Laurel would tell him there was a mistake and his son was really alive the need to protect Laurel on her journey is the only reason he doesn't spend the foreseeable future drowning in whiskey. Creede is your typical western hero and I mean that in a good way. I can't think of a more perfect fantasy. Creede is the strong silent type, he's incredibly capable and (my own made up word here) a take-care-of-er. He takes care of Laurel and he takes care of anyone else who needs him. However, for all Creede's wonderfulness he wasn't fully there for me as a character. To me this was very much Laurell's story and Creede seemed to not be quite as fully developed. Like I could swap him with any other number of western hero's and the story wouldn't miss a beat. I find this is something that quite often happens with heroines but I don't believe I've ever read a book before where it happened with the hero.

The Heroine - Based on the blurb and what I'd previously read about the book it seemed to me Creede would be the tortured soul who needed saving - don't get me wrong he was tortured but he would have eventually come around without Laurell to save him. Laurel is an incredibly strong heroine but she was so strong she was intent on destroying herself to keep from losing anyone or anything again. She lost her family when she married her husband against their wishes and then she lost her husband to the war. After witnessing the grief of mothers and fathers who lost their sons in the war she is determined to never care about anything again. Laurel is also suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - not that she realizes that of course - and believes she is going crazy. Even as she develops feelings for Creede she could never force him to saddle himself to someone who is losing her mind. Although, Laurel was stubborn and tough to love at times she's managed to worm her way into being one of my favourite heroines. This is no easy feat since very few heroines ever actually stand out enough for me to remember them shortly after I've finished the book. I completely believed Laurels reasons for not wanting to love Creed. The flashbacks from the war were so well written and tragic I couldn't help but understand exactly why she felt the way she did.

What Worked - Like I said previously I loved Laurel and she really stood out in the story for me. The relationship that developed between her and Creed was believable and filled with plenty of angst. These two were so broken and damaged and they healed one another slowly and realistically. There were a few other sub-plots that were brought in and resolved quickly so most of the story focused on Laurell and Creede and their developing relationship. Something else that worked for me THE EPILOGUE! It's the first one that I can remember that has actually completely fit with the book and it wasn't overly sappy and sweet and I felt added sooo much to the book.

What Didn't - I had very few problems with this book - although Creed was a very likable hero he did kind of fade into the background when compared to Laurel. The only other tinsy problem I had was the ending (prior to the epilogue) seemed a tad rushed and a bit too easy. The scene in the middle of the book with Seb and the mule (I won't go into to much detail since I don't want to enter spoilerish territory) brought tears to my eyes and I expected more emotion at the end of the book. The epilogue did a good job of bringing that back though.

Should you read it - I think most people who like Westerns will really enjoy this book it's gritty, heartwrenching and there is plenty of angst.

Grade 9/10

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wandering Aimlessly Through My Book Shelves

I can't remember the last time I had so much trouble finding a book to read. You would think that with almost 1200 books 2/3's of which are unread I'd be able to find something - but no. I've tried romance, fantasy, historical ficiton, non-fiction and horror yet nothing is holding my attention for more than 50 pages. I don't know if it's the books I'm picking or just that I'm in the mood for a particular kind of book I just haven't figured out which one. Either way I've already wasted a week of reading with nothing to show for it.

I did happen to come across a copy of Susan Kay's Phantom (which I gave up looking for years ago) in the boxes of books my cousin gave me perhaps I'll try that next...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Good News and Not So Good News

Good News - my cousin just decided she didn't like how much space her "already read" book collection was taking up and gave them all to me. Yea!!! It's mostly horror and fantasy (no romance at all) and she does horrible things to her books but it's two huge boxes of free books!

Not So Good News - I'm so not enjoying "The Golden Compass" it's got 15 more pages to prove to me that I do in fact want to read it and then I'm moving on.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Banned Books Week

I almost missed it but I read about the ALA's banned books week on Wendy's Blog. Although I'm in Canada I still think it's important so I searched high and low on the web to find a book in my collection that has stirred up some kind of controversy. Low and behold I found one - and the controversy was even close to home! In honour of banned books week I'm reading The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

In case anyone is interested I found this information on the "controversy" at

Pullman, Philip. The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass

2007—After receiving a single complaint, the Halton (ON) Catholic District School

Board ordered the withdrawal of these fantasy novels for young readers from the open

shelves of libraries in elementary schools. The books were collected at library circulation

desks, and students who wished to read the novels had to ask librarians for copies. The

board also formed a committee to review the books. Within days, the Roman Catholic

school board in Peterborough (ON) received two complaints about the novels and

withdrew copies from school libraries. In Peterborough, school employees denied

students access to the novels while the board set up a committee to review the novels.

The Durham (ON) Catholic District School Board followed suit. The Calgary (AB)

Catholic School District told employees to pull the novels from library shelves, not use

the novels in classrooms and exclude the books from Scholastic book fairs. In Calgary,

the school board also established a committee to review the novels.

Cause of objection—The stories, which are set in an alternative universe populated with

talking animals, undermine belief in God and organized religion and promote atheism.

Challenged Books and Magazines Page 9

Update—In 2007, the Halton (ON) Catholic District School Board ignored the recommendation

of its review committee and voted to ban the novels from schools. The board’s

order proclaimed, “Philip Pullman’s trilogy of atheist ideology, carefully couched within

the realm of fantasy for young readers, is in direct opposition to the mission statement

and governing values of our board.” But a few weeks later, in 2008, the board of the

Calgary (AB) Catholic School District decided to use The Golden Compass in schools.

“There is no doubt that the text is harsh in terms of its language about organized religion

and that it presents a consistently negative view of church, clergy and faith-based institutions;

however, there are glimpses of light with opportunities for positive reflection,”

the review document said. The board urged teachers, when using The Golden Compass,

to use instruction guides to ensure “a carefully planned approach” and a Catholic focus.

Unbelievable. Like Wendy said - some people really are asshats.

Force of Nature and new review style

Since it appears that most of my posts are going to be written in the wee hours of the morning I've decided to try some different review styles to see if I can't get a handle on my ramblings and actually write something that makes since.

Force of Nature - Suzanne Brockmann

The Plot - Ric Alvarado is an ex-police officer who is now working as a private investigator. He has just hired Annie Dugan, his best friends younger sister to work as his receptionist/assistant in the office. Unfortunately for Ric, Annie doesn't want office work she wants to assist him in the field. In an effort to keep her from quitting Ric allows Annie to accompany him on what appears to be a routine missing persons case and they end up being "escorted" to the home of one of Florida's most dangerous crime bosses Gordon Burns. Ric and Annie end up being hired on to protect Gordon's less than intelligent son Gordie Jr. Meanwhile in Washington DC FBI agent Jules Cassidy has just been informed that Gordon Burns is planning to smuggle an Al-Quaeda operative into the country to carry out a very large terrorist attack. So Jules hops a plane to Florida where he discovers 1) that an ex-police officer he's worked with before was seen at the Burns mansion and 2) the "in the closet" actor he's been in love with for years just happens to be attending the Sarasota Film Festival and is their best chance at infiltrating Burns' lair. Once Ric and Annie learn what Burns is possibly up to they agree to work undercover to stop the potential terrorist attack.

The Hero - Which one? No really I mean there were three in this book. Let's start with Ric - he's very much a Brockmann hero - Alpha without being a jerk, capable, gorgeous, protective, smart and very kick ass. I thought he was great although I was hard pressed to find any faults with him so he was a little too good to be true. Jules - I've always loved Jules and have been waiting for his story for a long time (of course isn't that always the case with Brockmann). Robin - Well where Ric was too good to be true Robin had so many issues I was worried about Brockmann being able to convince me he was going to be worthy of Jules. Not only is he in the closet thus not being able to have the open relationship Jules needs but he has a serious drinking problem a very very serious drinking problem. Of course I worried for nothing Brockmann did a fabulous job with Jules and Robin.

The Heroine - Annie - what can I say about Annie. Annie Dugan is not your beautiful, skinny, long haired temptress - she is curvy, with short curly hair and she after spending 6 months building stone walls she isn't exactly what you would call delicate :) However, Annie seemed to be the least developed of all the characters. I mean everyone else in the book kept saying how great and wonderful she was but I didn't see it. There was nothing bad about her she was just blah.

What Worked - Jules and Robin. I'm pretty sure they were the secondary romance in this book but man did they take over the book. I've read quite a few M/M romantica e-books that had very hot sex but I was never able to buy into the love story. I bought Jules and Robin - there was so much emotion involved with their relationship along with the crazy hot sexual tension they far out shadowed Annie and Ric. The plot also worked and kept me reading into the early morning. In typical Brockmann fashion these were not card board cut out villains. They were serious baddies and there was plenty of suspense. The last half of the book flew by with me thinking - OMG how are they going to turn this around it can only end badly - even though I knew I would get my happy ending.

What didn't Work - Annie and Ric's relationship fell a little flat for me. Annie's mistaken belief that Ric was a total hound dog was kinda hard for me to buy. I mean she knows this guy so well they can communicate whole conversations with a mere glance at one another but she doesn't know his history with women? and then even when she's told by one of his best friends who knows all the details of his past relationships that he doesn't hump everything that moves she refuses to believe it. Like I said I didn't buy it. The conflict between these two just seemed too contrived for me. Thank God for Jules and Robin.

Should you read it?

If you haven't read previous Troubleshooters Books I would recommend you go back and start with the first book Unsung Hero. There are so many plot lines that are stretched out over this series it would take away sooo much from the book if you didn't read those first. If you have read them and haven't been that happy with the previous few books I'm not sure if you will love this one. I really enjoyed it but every troubleshooters book has been an A read for me. If you have been dying to read Jules's story then this book is totally worth reading even if you hate everything else about it. They make this book.

Rating 8/10