Raven's Prey, by Jayne Ann Krentz (as Stephanie James)

>> Monday, July 31, 2006

This one's for Pam, who wanted to know if she should get the reissue edition of Raven's Prey, a 1983 Jayne Ann Krentz oldie, originally written under her Stephanie James pseudonym.

I've had the original SIM in my TBR for a while (I can tell you, the new cover is kinda boring, but it's a HUGE improvement on the original!), so I offered to check it out for her. It's been a while since I've fished out an old JAK from the big pile I still have there in the TBR, so it was no great hardship!

Perhaps he was perfectly harmless. Then again -- perhaps he was her worst nightmare.

When a shady business deal goes awry, Honor Knight is desperate to flee the U.S. with her life -- even if it means taking refuge deep in rural Mexico. Her captor has other ideas. Judd Raven has been hired -- by two men claiming to be her father and brother -- to hunt Honor down.

Honor knows that delivery into their hands will mean certain death. Judd's been led to believe she's a compulsive liar. How can she prove to her kidnapper that these men are seasoned, murderous criminals? Judd's just a cold-blooded mercenary with money on his mind. Or could there still be a beating heart underneath that rugged exterior?
Well, Pam, I've got mixed feelings about this one. The whole first part drove me crazy, because the hero was a total bastard and the heroine a bit of a doormat, but remember how I told you that the one thing that could save this book would be an amazing grovel at the end? The good news is there is a grovel, and it is quite a nice one, too. Not quite incredibly wonderful enough to actually make me give the book a good grade, but enough to bring it to a C, from the depths of a D (and at a certain point, a D-).

Ok, let me backtrack a bit. The story is simple. As the book starts, Honor Knight has been in hiding in Mexico for a few months. She was working for some people who seemed to be consultants but turned out to be gunrunners, and when they realized she'd found out, she had to be eliminated.

So Honor is there, in a tiny little town in Mexico, not knowing who she can turn to, when another gringo shows up, and she just knows he's there to find her. The gringo is Judd Raven, who's been hired by two men claiming to be Honor's father and brother. They told him that he needs to bring her back to them because she's a spoiled neurotic who's supposed to be under psychological treatment and who's even tried to kill herself once already.

Honor obviously does her best to tell Judd her version of the truth, but even after they become closer, she doesn't succeed in convincing him. And for a woman like Honor, trust is something basic in every relationship, so that's that. As far as she's concerned, a relationship between them is now impossible.

Let's start with what bothered me. If this book had been by any other author, I wouldn't have reached the end of it. All the first part, right from the moment when Judd arrives in Honor's village and until the point where he finally becomes 100% convinced that she's telling the truth, sucks big time. And 99% of that suckiness was because of the horrid hero.

Judd Raven kept me gritting my teeth all through this part of the book. He pushed a huge hot button of mine: sexist pricks who think men have the right to treat "their" women as they will. His whole attitude had this "this neurotic woman needs a man who will lay down the law for her" slant to it that I hated. Why was he so decided to completely ignore Honor's story? I mean, he'd already been thinking that her eyes in her photo reflected an intelligence that didn't suggest the type of woman that had been described. And there are many clues that she's not a spoiled little princess. Let's see... spending so long in a backwater village, without any modern conveniences, the fact that everyone in the village liked her and that she was nice to everyone... isn't that enough to engender a few doubts?

But see, two men had told him that she was crazy and needed to be brought back, so that was that. Sooo frustrating! When Honor would try to make him understand, and all he would do was accuse her of being hysterical, I wanted to shake him until his teeth fell off.

What else? I'll just list stuff, to give you an idea of this section's flavour, because if I start explaining, it would take pages: We've got plenty of threats of physical violence (to beat her up, to rape her, you name it), we've got Judd thinking to himself she's practically asking to be raped, and that it's her fault that he's so tempted (and we've got him actually fantasizing about it), we've got a disgusting scene in which Judd makes this whole point about forcing Honor to wash his shirts (as any good woman has the obligation to do for her man. And she ends up washing them, too), we've got Judd constantly unable to take a little teasing, always feeling outraged at how she dares defy him, and many, many (believe me, many) more.

The other 1% of this first part's suckiness, if you were wondering, is because of Honor rolls over so easily. Though I do give her some latitude, because she really is in an impossible situation. She does try her best to convince Judd. I just wanted her to resist him a bit more when he makes a move on her!

I think the only positive I saw in this section was a tiny degree of vulnerability on Judd's part, a certain suggestion of loneliness when we are in his POV. If he hadn't behaved like such a boneheaded idiot, he could have been interesting to read about.

So, so far, a horrible book. But once Judd finally becomes convinced that Honor had been telling the truth all along, things do improve. At first, it's only a minute improvement... Judd is still on his best caveman behaviour, telling Honor that since she "gave herself to him" (read: she slept with him), she's now his (old-time JAK heros were quite fond of this reasoning; I've read this in a few of her books) and then kidnapping her so that "they can become friends". I guess it's a measure of how bad the first part was, that this is an improvement!

The only real improvement comes at the end, when Judd realizes exactly why Honor was so upset. And he totally understands then, when he finds himself in a position in which he needs Honor trust and isn't sure he'll get it. The grovel that comes after this isn't perfect, but it's pretty good, and it ended the book in a positive note.

My recommendation? Unless you're a big JAK fan, don't bother. She has plenty more books that are miles better than this, even with the nice grovel.

Oh, and before I finish, a bit of nitpicking. I can't help myself. The Spanish? It sucked. Especially that little bit about how they called Honor "Honora" in the village, "feminizing Honor's name with an "a" on the end". Nope, that doesn't ring true. Plenty of female name in Spanish that don't finish in "a". Mine, for instance. Or, I don't know, how about Leonor? It ends just like Honor. I know, I know, just a tiny detail, sorry for even mentioning it!


If Angels Burn, by Lynn Viehl

>> Saturday, July 29, 2006

If Angels Burn, first in Lynn Viehl's Darkyn series, is my first book by this author.

It's also one of the many, many paranormal books I've read this year. I just looked at my spreadsheet, and I think there will be a noticeable change from 2005 when I make my "year's end analysis" posts in January!

Alexandra Keller is Chicago's most brilliant reconstructive surgeon. Michael Cyprien is New Orleans' most reclusive millionaire-and in desperate need of Dr. Keller's skills. In the heart of the Garden District, Alex encounters the extraordinary Cyprien, uncovering a love Alex is willing to embrace, even if she must sacrifice her heart and soul to do so.
I've just read a couple of reviews of the next books in the series, and what many of the reviewers say about them applies to IAB, too: I'd hesitate to call this a romance novel. It's more horror / vampire with a strong romance subplot. Not that this affected my enjoyment of it at all! I quite liked it. The only reason I'm giving it a B- and not a higher grade is some (hmm, actually, a lot of) trouble with pacing.

Alexandra Keller is a plastic surgeon, the fastest surgeon in the world, according to a journalist who bothered to calculate this. As the book starts, she's being besieged by letters from a reclusive millionaire who keeps offering her more and more millions to go to his home in New Orleans for a consultation. Even though those millions would come in handy and allow her to take many more pro bono patients, Alex can't possibly leave her patients for a few days, so she keeps rejecting the increasing offers (no, it didn't make much sense to me, either).

The reclusive millionaire is Michael Cyprien, a Darkyn (a kind of vampire) who was tortured so badly by his enemies that he became a monster. See, being Darkyn means that Michael heals superhumanly fast, so his wounds healed spontaneously over hideously deformed bone and torn muscles. So obviously, he needs a talented plastic surgeon, but considering how fast he heals, not just any surgeon will do. He needs someone who can work fast, and that's where Alex (fastest surgeon in the world, remember) comes in. Since she refuses his offers, though, Michael simply has her kidnapped and gives her no choice but to operate on him.

Michael's plan is to release her as soon as she finishes her surgery, trusting that she'll keep his secret (who would believe her, after all?), but his assistant isn't so trusting, and she locks Alex up with the recovering Michael. And given that Michael hasn't fed in a long time, he can't help but feed from her, thus infecting her, too.

When Alex wakes up in hospital she remembers nothing, and when Michael finds her and explains what has happened, she refuses to accept it. But after a certain point, she's forced to do so and join him to try to understand better what has happened to her, even though she can't forgive him for it.

We've got here the conflict of Alex coming to terms with what has happened to her and with the man that made it happen, and that's just fascinating. As far as Alex is concerned, Michael's actions have destroyed her life. All her existence revolved around being a doctor, nothing was more important to her than her patients, and now she can't practise, for fear of accidentally infecting a patient. This means that her relationship with Michael is fraught with angst, and I liked what I saw of it, though, as I mentioned above, the romance isn't the main thing here.

Not only the conflict was interesting, Alex was an interesting character, too. She sometimes bordered on irritatingly feisty, but most of the time she was satisfyingly strong.I especially liked how Viehl depicted her laborious acceptance of what had happened to her. It rang true to her personality, especially that she would immediately start running tests on herself and trying to understand what was going on. And the suggestion that this whole thing might not be some kind of punishment delivered by God (as most of the Darkyn... medieval men, after all, believe) but be a fortuitous combination of viruses, was a good touch.

In addition to this conflict, there's also the trifling matter of a brutal sect, an old offshoot of the Catholic Church, whose mission is to destroy the Darkyn. These people are getting nearer and nearer, and they're trying to use Alex's estranged brother, a priest in the middle of a crisis of faith, to do so. So as Alex grapples with the changes in her life, we also get a subplot which shows her brother doing the same.

This is a very violent and graphic book. Viehl doesn't pull any punches, and some scenes are very strong. It's strange, but for some reason, they didn't really turn my stomach. All right, mostly they didn't. There was one which really made me shudder, but considering the high level of violence of the book, only one scene that bothered me is a low count. And I have to say, none of the violence felt gratuitous. It all worked to create the atmosphere of the book and to establish that the stakes were extremely high.

And now for the negatives. The pacing, that was the main one. When the book finished, it felt to me as if it was only getting started... kind of like "ok, she's set up her universe and introduced her characters, now we should really start getting into the story". A couple of pages after which, the book finished. I felt like I only skimmed the surface of both the plot and of Michael and Alex's feelings for each other, and that part of the plot ended especially abruptly. The end of the book was fight, fight, fight (one that was somewhat anticlimactic, too), The End. Whaaaa?

I also felt a distance from Michael. I think I really got into Alex's mind and understood her quite well, but Michael, not really. I didn't really get his thought processes, why he acted as he did. I loved what I saw of him, so this was especially disappointing.

The next book in the series is Private Demon, and it does sound interesting. I think I'll give it a try.


The Gates of Sleep, by Mercedes Lackey (Elemental Masters #3)

>> Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Well, waiting so long before finding wonderful authors like Mercedes Lackey certainly does have a silver lining: I can gobble up her series in one go. After The Fire Rose and The Serpent's Shadow, the first two books in Lackey's Elemental Masters series, comes The Gates of Sleep (excerpts: prologue, chapter 1, chapter 2), based on the Sleeping Beauty tale.

For seventeen years, Marina Roeswood had lived in the care of close friends of her wealthy, aristocratic parents. As the ward of bohemian artists in turn-of-the-century England, she had grown to be a free thinker in an environment of fertile creativity and cultural sophistication. But the real core of her education was far outside societal norms. For she and her foster parents were Elemental Masters of magic, and learning to control her growing powers was Marina's primary focus.

But though Marina's life seemed idyllic, her existence was riddled with mysteries. Why had she never seen her parents, or been to Oakhurst, her family's ancestral manor? And why hadn't her real parents trained her themselves? Marina could get no clues out of her guardians. But with the sudden death of her birth parents, Marina met her new guardian—her father's eldest sister Arachne. Aunt Arachne exuded a dark magical aura unlike anything Marina had encountered, a stifling evil that seemed to threaten Marina's very spirit. Slowly Marina realized that her aunt was the embodiment of the danger her parents had been hiding her from in the depths of the country. But could Marina unravel the secrets of her life in time to save herself?
I quite liked The Gates of Sleep, but my overall enjoyment was somewhat diminished by a few instances in which the author relied on characters acting in unbelievable ways to further the plot. Still, what I liked I liked enough to give this a B.

The book starts wonderfully, with a prologue, the baptism scene (which you can read here) which was colourful and atmospheric and the perfect fairy tale adaptation.

It's the very late years of the 19th century (or very early of the 20th, I'm not 100% sure. Turn-of-the-century, at any rate) and Elemental Masters Alanna and Hugh Roeswood have gathered with their closest friends on the occasion of their daughter's christening. Their friends are also Masters, and as part of the ceremony, they each approach baby Marina and grant her a gift: skillful hands and deft fingers from one, physical grace from another, and so on.

When only one of the girl's godparents is left to bestow her gift, there's an unexpected interruption. Hugh's long estranged sister, Arachne, waltzes in and, while all present are frozen in their chairs, as if caught up in a strange spell, curses Marina. She is to die before her 18th birthday.

Fortunately, though, the child still has a gift to receive from her remaining godmother, a powerful Elemental Master who manages to place some restrictions on the curse. Arachne will need to be in close contact with Marina to awaken the dormant curse, and if she doesn't do so before the girl turns 18, the curse will rebound on Arachne.

So how to make sure Arachne doesn't get her evil hands on Marina? Why, Marina should be hidden, of course. And so it is decided that until she turns 18, Marina will live with Sebastian and Margherita Tarrant and the latter's brother, Thomas Buford. Until the danger is over, she will be in contact with her parents only by letter. Hugh and Alanna (and most especially Alanna) obviously aren't at all happy about this, but it's deemed by all to be the best solution for the problem, and so parents and child are parted.

Fast forward 17 years, and Marina is fast approaching that critical age. As the day comes closer, it's more and more likely that Arachne will try something drastic, so Marina's guardians bring someone in to tutor her in her magic, especially her defenses. But before the training can go very far, disaster strikes and Arachne finds and takes control of her niece. And worst of all, Marina has gone into the situation blind, because she hasn't ever been told about the curse.

Ok, where to start? The first part of the book I flat-out loved. Maybe the first 150 pages? Right until the lawyers arrived with their bad news. It had the same type of fairy-tale feel as the prologue, and I really enjoyed seeing Marina's relationship with her guardians and the development of her magic as she grows.

Though, I must say, there was quite a bit of stupid behaviour even here that felt SO forced to me! This is what I meant above, when I talked about characters behaving unbelievably. From the extremely hurried decision that the only thing that could be done was to send Marina away, never to see her parents for the next 18 years (such a big decision to make without even exploring alternatives!), to Marina's guardians' extremely iffily reasoned decision to keep her in the dark about the curse even once she'd practically become an adult; from Marina's stupid reaction to her nightmare, to the way everyone froze when the lawyers came and didn't even try to do anything, even though they knew this was a life or death situation!

My problem with all this wasn't only that this behaviour was stupid, it was out-of-character too. I mean, maybe not Marina's reaction to her nightmare, because remember, she doesn't know she's in danger, but the others? Not at all in-character. These people behaving stupidly are shown by Lackey to be otherwise sensible, intelligent, resourceful persons, and yet in these instances, they don't behave as such. I guess you can tell this drove me crazy.

After the scene with the lawyers, once Marina comes into extremely close contact with Arachne, my enjoyment dimmed for a while, maybe because I was so pissed off at what her guardians had allowed to happen. It was just painful to see the very innocent and naive Marina walk blind into danger and begin to believe the crap she was told. And that was something else, unlike the other heroines in this series, Rose and Maya (especially Maya), Marina felt extremely and painfully naive and young to me. This is a girl who's not yet 18, and who, though mature for her age, still isn't quite an adult. This was especially uncomfortable to read when it came to the romance subplot (which I'm not going to go into here), though that long engagement thing in the epilogue was a nice touch.

Anyway, my enjoyment decreased for a while after that crucial scene, but once Marina starts catching on and realizing that things and people might not be exactly as her aunt and cousin want her to believe, I started liking the book again. And the final parts were great, especially the ending. I loved the way Lackey got around the whole "sleeping damsel in distress" angle that characterizes the Sleeping Beauty story, how she managed to manouver the situation so that Marina wasn't just sleeping and waiting to be rescued, but participated decisively in her own rescue.

Let's see, what else? Oh, another negative, I'm afraid. I mentioned in The Serpent's Shadow that something that annoyed me was the lack of real motivation for the villain's evildoing. Well, here it was even worse. At least Shivani (from TS'sS) wanted to get Maya's magic, but why was Arachne so bound and determined to destroy Marina, even when she was a baby? Why was she so determined that she would live the next almost 18 years of her life basically laying in wait, making plans for when she would get Marina in her clutches? We know that if she doesn't, the curse will rebound on her, but she doesn't know that! And the bloody, macabre nature of her evil was a bit much. Yes, perfectly fitting to the fairy tale theme (we all know most of those were pretty bloodthirsty before they were bowdlerized to make them fit for kids), but it made me ill at some points.

So, book #1, The Fire Rose: A-; book #2, The Serpent's Shadow: B+; book #3, The Gates of Sleep: B. This series seems to be going down a downward slope. A shallow one, granted, since we're still at a solid B on book 3, but still going down. Here's hoping we've reached the valley and that Phoenix and Ashes is the start of a climb back up!


Awaken to Pleasure, by Nalini Singh

>> Monday, July 24, 2006

Another book from right before I left for Japan, so again, please forgive any vagueness and/or factual inaccuracy!

I've had Nalini Singh's Awaken to Pleasure (excerpt) for a while. I can't really remember why I bought it -I must have heard something good about it-, but once it got here, the Harlequin Presents-sounding back copy made it languish in the depths of my TBR.

So what made it resurface? Actually, comments about another of Singh's books, Secrets in the Marriage Bed. In a short period I read first Meljean Brook's review and then jmc's, and the book sounded pretty interesting. I ordered it (it still hasn't arrived!), and searched my wonderful Excel to see if I happened to have something else by this author.

So that moved the book to the top of Mt. TBR. And when Nalini emailed me and kindly offered some suggestions about what I could do while in Japan, curiosity inspired me to actually pick up her book.

The proposal was as unexpected as her feelings for the man whose dark good looks rivaled an even darker past. Painful experience screamed that Taylor Reid should run far and fast from Jackson Santorini. But keeping custody of her brother meant becoming her former boss's bride. And giving Jackson a baby.

Despite his powerful size and presence, Jackson had been wounded… deeply… by a woman. Yet he'd protected her at a personal cost, if his restrained ardor in deference to her virginal apprehension was one indication. Suddenly, for Jackson's sake, Taylor wanted to replace pain with pleasure. Only, she'd never imagined what sensations-and secrets-she would awaken…
Well, considering I like the author very much personally, I'm pleased to report I liked her book, too. I'd rate it a solid B.

A few years back, Taylor Reid used to work as a secretary for movie producer Jackson Santorini. Back then, Jackson had been very attracted to her, but since he was married and an all-around decent guy, he considered her off limits.

Fast-forward a few years, and Jackson is now a widower with a bad reputation for cruelty, since his late wife killed herself and the tabloids had a field day accusing him of driving her to it. He's also got a weight on his conscience: his wife was pregnant when she committed suicide.

As for Taylor, she's got problems of her own. She's got guardianship of her younger brother, but his good-for-nothing father has began making noises about suing for custody.

When Jackson rans into Taylor while she's waiting for the bus under the rain, she drives her home and soon the truth about her problems comes out. To which Jackson has a very simple solution: they can get married. Taylor's former stepfather won't dare to bother such a powerful man and Jackson will get the child he longs for.

The only problem is, Taylor fears men, due to some bad experiences in her past, and she's not at all confident she can give Jackson the child he expects

I mentioned that the back cover copy sounds very Harlequin Presents-ish, and while this is a Desire, not an HP (I actually had to check back a couple of times as I was reading, just to make sure), I guess the storyline is very reminiscent of HP, too. We've got:

  • the virginal heroine (only this particular heroine has a good reason to still be a virgin)

  • the hero who's been hurt by his bitch of a former wife (only this particular hero hasn't let this turn him into a cruel, mysoginist bastard. Jackson is always perfectly kind to Taylor and never demeans her in any way)

  • the Italian hero (only this particular Italian doesn't use his heritage as an excuse to behave like a sexist pig)

  • the boss-secretary romance (only here they were boss and secretary in the past, but aren't any more)

  • the marriage of convenience (only the reasons for this particular m-o-c do make sense)
Are you getting the picture of why this book worked for me? Every single element that could have been groan-worthy was either perfectly justified or had something that offset whatever was objectionable about it.

Most of all, the worst element that comes to mind when I think HP isn't here at all. I'm refering to total and unreasonable miscommunication. If I think back to the old HP books I used to read, it feels as if in 99% of them, whatever the conflict was between the hero and heroine, it could have been resolved with a 5-minute (in some cases, 5-second) conversation.

Awaken to Pleasure is nothing like that. What most appealed about Meljean and jmc's comments on Secrets in the Marriage Bed was their assertions that the hero and heroine actually talked about their problems and dealt with them maturely. It was exactly like that here, too. Taylor soon shares with Jackson that she has a certain fear of men and the reasons why she does... and they work on that. Jackson soon shares with Taylor what his late wife did... and they work on Jackson's issues, too. However younger than Jackson Taylor was, they were both mature adults, and behaved as such. It was so refreshing! :-D

Some things didn't work so well for me, like the dynamics of Taylor and Jackson's relationship (the whole breadwinner / hostess thing, basically), which wasn't anything at all like what I aspire to in a relationship. However, even if their HEA looked nothing like what would be a HEA for me, I have to admit it worked for them, so this was a very minor objection.

On the whole, this was a solidly enjoyable, nicely steamy, character-driven romance. I especially recommend it to those of you for whom HPs are a guilty pleasure... this one will be a pleasure, without the guilt. As for me, I'm off to start Singh's upcoming paranormal, Slave to Sensation (I've got an ARC, nyah, nyah, nyah!). It sounds very good!


Tagged again!

>> Friday, July 21, 2006

1. When did you start blogging and why?

My first post was on August 26th, 2002, so my 4th anniversary is coming up in a month or so. Ancient, eh?

I originally started blogging purely to practise my written English. I'd noticed that it had been deteriorating from lack of use since I'd left school (writing even the most straighforward, two-paragraph email in that language took me an hour!), so I decided I should practise writing a little bit every day.

The next step was deciding what I should try to write, and since I was already writing a few lines of comments in my book spreadsheet about my reads, I decided I'd polish that up a bit (what I was writing until then was just kind of stream-of-consciousness stuff, in an extremely ungrammatical mix of English and Spanish) and write a bit longer. Plus, if I wanted to be able to keep it up, I knew I needed to choose a subject I was very interested in!

I kept writing only in my spreadsheet for a couple of months, until I saw LLB's blog (then at a different addy). She'd just started it, and I liked the idea, so I got one of my own.

2. What don’t you talk about?

These days, I keep to books. Mostly book reviews, with a few book- or blog-related memes and some round-up ("Best books of 2005", "New authors tried so far this year", etc) posts mixed in. I do sometimes put a bit of my private life in here, but usually inside a review, if something about my life is relevant to my reactions to something in the book.

I used to do some diary-style posts when I first started blogging, but I don't anymore. I just didn't feel comfortable writing them, not like I do with book posts.

3. Are you and your blogging persona the same person?

I don't know. I think I'm probably much more soft-spoken here in my blog, I don't know why. I had to laugh when Kristie joked about being shocked at me using "those words" in my review of Lisa Valdez's Passion. Offline I usually curse like a sailor, and I hadn't realized I was changing my language in my blog.

4. How do you use blogging to build friendships?

Well, as I mentioned above, my blog wasn't originally intended to build friendships, it wasn't even intended to be read by anyone! And at first, it wasn't. I don't think more than 10 people visited during the first year, LOL!

These days, though, it has helped me build some friendships I value tremendously. I'd noticed some of the people I now consider my friends because some of them posted at some of the message boards I frequent, but it wasn't until they started their own blogs (where I could leave comments) or until they started commenting on mine, that we became friends.

5. How would you describe your writing style?

Well, I'd love to be snarky, because I LOVE reading snark (and IRL, I am pretty snarky), but that's just not my voice. Sooo, how would I describe it? Messed up. Sometimes I read old posts of mine and some roundabout, badly constructed, comma-stuffed, loooooong sentences make me cringe. I write very well in Spanish... at least, when I reread my stuff, I like it. My English, on the other hand, I hate to reread. I manage to get my point accross, but it's not pretty.

What doesn't change from Spanish to English (and it's something I recognize as very "me") is my constant and excessive use of parentheses. My mind does tend to go on sidetrips!


Bump in the Night anthology (J.D. Robb et al)

>> Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I got Bump in the Night for the same reason 99% of its buyers must have: because it contains the new In Death story, by J.D. Robb. However, unlike in the other anthologies containing In Death short stories, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the other entries were pretty ok.

BTW, I wouldn't be surprised if my reviews of the last two stories feel a bit more unfocused than those of the first two. I did my best, but this was the ebook I was reading as I left for Japan, two months ago. The first two stories I'd already finished, and I'd written my review, but the last two I'm just writing right now, and after all that time, some details are a bit hazy.

The Big Author starts out the book, and Haunted in Death sets up what will be the tone of the rest of the stories. What is that tone? Just take a look at the story's title! This was a creepy little ghost story, and a very effective one. Robb turns up the chills as Eve investigates a murder in a a building supposed to be haunted since the murder of a famous singer was suspected to have taken place there in the 60s.

When the grandson of the suspected murderer turns up dead in such a retro way as bullet wounds, and someone seems to be setting things up to make it seem as if it was the singer's ghost taking revenge, Eve is offended that anyone would think she'd fall for something like that. But the haunting seems a little too real.

It's a simple case, which works perfectly as a short story, and the ghost aspects add a nice edge to it. There are plenty of interesting possible suspects and even a bit of a discussion between Eve and Roarke, as they find themselves in opposite sides of the "is the woo-woo stuff real?" debate. A good, solid short story. Not brilliant, but enjoyable to read. A B.

Mary Blayney is one of the two authors in the anthology that I read here for the first time, and her story, Poppy's Coin, is the least paranormal of the lot. All that's paranormal is the coin of the title, which is one of those wishing coins which really do work. Sure, pretty paranormal, but it's just that this aspect is just a conceit, and doesn't really affect the essence of the story, just as the intro, which shows a young woman in the present, visiting an old house-museum and being told the story, and then allowed to make a wish on the coin herself.

What this IS really about is former soldier Major David Lindsay and widow Lady Grace Anderson. Lindsay came back from Waterloo to find himself practically penniless. Until he gets a bit of money by selling his commission (not particularly easy in peacetime), he has no way to take good care of his wards. He wishes on the magic coin for enjoyable and profitable employment, and an offer soon comes from Lady Grace, a widow who isn't interested in marriage and would like to pay Lindsay for being her escort, which would dissuade other suitors.

The main conflict here stems from Lindsay feeling torn between his attraction to Grace and his humiliation at being paid for his escorting her... which in his mind, makes anything between them other than pure business completely impossible. Grace, meanwhile, lived all her married life being treated as an object, so a relationship with the boundaries hers and Lindsay's has is the only way she can feel really comfortable. Not my favourite story of the bunch, basically because though the issues explored were interesting, Blayney did it in a way that felt a bit shallow.

Still, a pleasant read A B-.

Ruth Ryan Langan's The Passenger had probably the best atmosphere of all the stories. It also had a beginning that had me hopeful that this might be a real gem.

Josh Cramer is well-known for his high-risk stunts. If it sounds crazy and wild and dangerous, he does it. As the story starts, he is a bit tired after his latest adventure, but his agent insists he needs to go on another one immediately, so off Josh goes in a tiny airplane to a reputedly haunted lake.

Flying over this lake, however, the weirdness starts. First, an enigmatic woman (stowaway! Josh assumes) appears, and shortly afterwards, his plane crashes. He's rescued, strangely unharmed, by Grace Martin, a photographer sent by her magazine to get a story on the lake's famous ghost.

The setup was very exciting, but after this and a couple more creepy events, the story became almost boring. There was nothing wrong with Josh and Grace, they were perfectly nice people, but I didn't find them very interesting and the chemistry between them was pretty much nonexistent.

And that was the thing, really. I ended up having to struggle to finish the story, because I started something else in the middle (I was so miserable on that plane -I hate American Airlines!!!- that I needed to read something great to lessen the pain), and then I felt no motivation at all to go back to the story. A C+.

Mary Kay McComas closes the anthology with Mellow Lemon Yellow a story that can best be described as "different".

When Charlotte's father dies, she feels completely alone in the world. Her whole life had centred on her parents... she was their partner in their accounting business, she still lived in the same appartment as her dad, even free time was given to activities her parents had enjoyed. So now that they are both dead, she feels lost.

While sitting quietly in her dad's funeral, Charlotte notices a very weirdly dressed man come in (and when I say weird, I mean "ruby slippers and football pants" weird). He sits next to her and seems to know her, but she doesn't remember him. Even more strange, the other attendants to the funeral don't seem to notice anything strange.

After a few more baffling encounters, Charlotte discovers Mel's identity. It's quite a strange one and one that I won't reveal here, but the upshot is that Mel becomes Charlotte's best friend, and with his help, she comes out of the hole into which she'd been sinking for the past few years. Until it comes to a point in which Charlotte has to decide if she still needs Mel or if she's ready to go on on her own.

As I said, this story is quite different. I'm actually not sure if I'd qualify it as romance, and it isn't perfect, or even that good, but it's not predictable or clichéd, and McComas takes quite a few chances. Some of them work, some don't (like Charlotte's sexual feelings for Mel, which I thought were somewhat icky, if understandable). The thing is, I found it very entertaining. I had fun reading it, and it intrigued me, so a B from me!

With no stinkers, and three stories in the B range, I'd say this anthology is a very good deal. A B for the whole of it.


The Serpent's Shadow, by Mercedes Lackey

>> Tuesday, July 18, 2006

2006 has so far been a wonderful reading year for me. I've read quite a few new-to-me books that I rated in the A range, and one of them was Mercedes Lackey's The Fire Rose, the first book in her Elemental Masters series.

Even though I was warned that the other books Lackey set in that universe weren't quite as wonderful, no way I wasn't going to give them a try. After all, a book doesn't need to be an A book to be very enjoyable!

Anyway, the next book is The Serpent's Shadow (excerpts, etc). Apparently it's actually considered by some the first in a series, and not a sequel to The Fire Rose (some kind of contractual reason, maybe? The Fire Rose was published by Baen, while the others are DAW releases), but most people do see it as the second in the Elemental Masters series, and well they should.

As a physician operating among London's poor in the early years of the 20th century, Dr. Maya Witherspoon has two strikes against her her gender and her status as the half-breed daughter of an Englishman and a Hindu woman. The magic she possesses, however, assists her not only in her work but also in fighting off an assassin bent on destroying her through the use of dark powers. The author of the popular "Valdemar" series turns her hand to historical fantasy in this intriguing and compelling re-creation of England in the waning days of its imperial glory.
I have to agree with everyone who says The Fire Rose is best in the series. However, The Serpent's Shadow comes very, very close. A B+.

Maya Witherspoon is a half-Indian doctor trying to practise in London in the early 20th century. She's also an Elemental Magician, an Earth mage, and uses her power to help her in her healing. She learned her magic in India, so it's different from the usual Western Magic, which she knows very little about. Add to this her lack of formal training, because she learned almost by instinct, and the magic emanating from her place of residence feels weird to English magicians.

Which is why the White Lodge, a London group of male magicians, send member Peter Scott to find the source of the powerful magic they see coming from a run-down area of the city but cannot locate. Peter, much more open-minded than many of his colleagues in the Lodge, is immediately fascinated by Maya and offers to help her by giving her some formal training. And a good thing, too, because Maya's evil Indian aunt has come to London and means to harm her, so she needs all the help she can get.

Maya is an absolutely wonderful character. I loved how she was so sensible and resourceful and strong, a brand of strength that didn't translate to a hard-headed insistence on doing everything by herself, but made her receptive to honest offers of help, like Peter's. And her tactics for establishing her medical practice were nothing short of brilliant. Very, very smart lady, too.

And Peter, oh, Peter! While Maya is very definitely the protagonist of the story, her hero is a very good one. I found it very refreshing that it is THIS Peter, the former sailor and ship's captain, the current shop-owner, and not the other Peter character, his friend, the powerful aristocrat, who is the hero. And speaking of the other Peter, our Peter's "Twin": was he Lord Peter Wimsey? Way too many coincidences for it to be a coincidence, lol, including those letters at the end!

The romance was subtle, but very nice. I liked how it was so very sweet and innocent feeling... no heavy breathing here (not that I don't like heavy breathing, when done well, but in this book it worked that it wasn't there). Peter is a sweetie, and his shyness with Maya was adorable. I would have liked more development (obviously! I mean, I'm not a romance novel fan for nothing!), but I loved what there was there of their romance. I especially enjoyed how both of them were so *proper* about it all!

The setting was just as wonderful as the characters. Not only was it interesting, but it felt aesthetically gorgeous. Lackey managed to paint some really beautiful pictures in my mind. The Indian element was especially fascinating. I've no idea how authentic the whole thing was (especially the way Shivani and devotion to Kali-Durga are depicted)... probably not much, from the comments I've heard, but I liked it.

I also liked getting a sense of the issues of the time, especially the difficulties faced by women who didn't just want to stay at home and be wifes and mothers. Women like Maya and her friend Amelia, and the rest of the sufragettes, basically. I'm probably going to sound very shallow for saying this, but usually I prefer to avoid books with this theme, not because I don't think it's important, but because reading about a woman facing extreme discrimination and sexism upsets me too much for me to enjoy the book very much. Here it was fine, basically because while Maya does face these difficulties, her magic and her financial position mean that she faces them from a position of strength, even though her race adds yet another reason for bigots to discriminate against her.

All the stuff about the White Lodge -the Elemental Magic aspect- was good, very well done. I liked the element of discovery of the whole magic present in Fire Rose, but this was great, too.

The main negative in this book was the villain. She was interesting, don't get me wrong, but I really would have appreciated more motivation for the her evilness. Why did she turn so extremely dark? Why did she hate her sister so much? There's just not enough background for this!

While The Fire Rose was very obviously based on the Beauty and the Beast story, this one had a Snow White theme, but it was less obvious. If I hadn't been looking for it, I probably only would have caught on at the end, when Peter comes back to Maya's house (you'll know what I mean if you've read the book), though the mirror thing might have given me a clue. Oh, and the seven dwarves! I've only now realized that! Apparentely, the next one (which I'll start immediately), The Gates of Sleep, is based on Sleeping Beauty, then Phoenix and Ashes on Cinderella, and finally The Wizard of London on The Snow Queen.

The thing about fairy tales is how easily they can turn into rescue fantasies, with heroines who do nothing but wait for the hero to come, but I'm hopeful Lackey will continue to approach her stories from angles which avoid this.


Sex, Lies and Online Dating, by Rachel Gibson

>> Monday, July 17, 2006

RenéeW has just posted her review of Sex, Lies and Online Dating (excerpts, etc.), by Rachel Gibson, and a few people mentioned something that sounded just like me. Gibson has only really published one book that I really, really liked (the wonderful See Jane Score), and yet I keep buying all her books.

Detective Quinn McIntyre figures women will be the death of him someday. Then he meets Lucy Rothschild and learns that day maybe sooner than he thought.

What is it about men anyway? Bad cars, bad jobs, even bad teeth, nothing convinces them that they can’t snare a Size Two Babe with a D cup chest. And after way too many internet dates with men named “luvstick” and “Bigdaddy182”, Lucy Rothschild should know.

But sitting across from her now is hardluvman, and he seems different — sensitive, honest, and hot! He says he’s a plumber, while Lucy claims she’s a nurse! She’s really a mystery writer, dating on line while researching her next book. Hey, everyone lies a little, don’t they?

But Quinn’s really an undercover cop hunting down a serial killer, and he sees Lucy as one of his top suspects. And while he could really go for this smart, sexy woman with the killer bod — if that’s the only thing “killer” about her — he knows he needs to wine and dine her and discover the truth. Hey, he realized the dating scene can be deadly — but this is ridiculous!
Well, I'm afraid this wasn't another See Jane Score. While it had some interesting moments, I just didn't truly connect with the characters and in the end, some very shameless sequel-baiting lowered my grade even further. A C+.

Lucy Rothschild and Quinn McIntyre are both masquerading under false identities when they meet. Lucy, a mystery author, is going on online dates (rather, real-life dates with people she meets online) as research for her next book, while Quinn, a cop, is undercover investigating a female serial killer (one who, he suspects, meets her victims online).

When some pretty strange coincidences put Lucy right at the top of the suspects list, Quinn has to push hard for a relationship with her, on the hope that she'll try to kill him. Which, unfortunately, puts him in quite a quandary, since he's powerfully attracted to her, and after a while, it's hard for him to remember that she's very probably a killer. Lucy, meanwhile, is just as attracted to Quinn, even while realizing that something doesn't ring completely true about him. And when the truth comes out, the fun begins.

This part I very much liked. I especially enjoyed the tension in Quinn knowing that Lucy's going to be upset by what he's doing, if she's not the killer, but being helpless to do otherwise. And when the truth comes out about Quinn's house being wired on *that* night, I thought Gibson had their reactions well. But other than that, both before and after these interesting moments, the story didn't succeed in completely engaging my attention. I mean, when I picked it up, it was pleasant and flowed well, but after I put the book down, I wasn't all that anxious to pick it up as soon as possible.

I think the main problem was that I didn't particularly care about the romance. It was nice, but not earth-shattering, and the characters were neither too interesting nor too likeable. I've read veritable raves about how Quinn is soooo amazing, such a realistic man, but I just didn't see it. He was... ok, I guess.

Oh, and there were plenty of annoyances. Nothing that will ruin a book, but things that had me wrinkling my nose for a moment. Stuff like, for instance, Quinn's favourite expression: Jesus H. Macy. Just what the hell is that? Gibson ssed it way too much! Oh, or Quinn's mother, presented as meddlesome but loveable, while for me, she was terribly obnoxious, even on second hand telling. And how about the whole thing about Lucy having to do online dating to get ideas for her new victims in her book? Weird, especially because authors so insist on how their writing is fiction, not related to their real lives, etc. What is Gibson implying when she shows Lucy not being able to invent a victim for her books and needs to actually meet an annoying guy before being able to kill him in her story? She even says she fears otherwise people will start noticing that she always keeps killing the same men!

Still, I was going with a B- right until the epilogue. That whole thing was really, really shameless setting up of Clare's sequel (and the only thing really about Lucy made me reconsider my liking her.... what kind of person insists on prom-looking pink and tulle for the bridesmaids? I've always wanted to know why a bride would do that to her supposed friends). I'm seeing that kind of thing more and more, that desperate "buy my next book, buy my next book" to the detriment of the story the author is supposed to be telling now, and it pisses me off.

And actually, the whole sequel baiting throughout the whole book, setting up the four friends' books, while more subtly done, ruined the one red herring that sounded interesting. It was so obvious that Maddie would get her book, that I couldn't really suspect her. Though, if it wasn't her, just how DID the killer know all those details in Lucy's book? I don't think Lucy would reveal so many DETAILS in her chats!

Eh, well, seems like some things about SLAOD annoyed me more than I had thought!


Fever, by Kimberly Dean

>> Friday, July 14, 2006

My first Kimberly Dean was a short story of hers in the Secrets Vol. 9 anthology, and I was pretty impressed by it. I hadn't been expecting all that much from it, but it was a fun and sexy read, which managed to pack in a convincing romance in a few short pages.

On asking for recs in my blog post about it, the consensus seemed to be that her
Fever (excerpt) novella, from Ellora's Cave, was good (if short), so I decided to give it a shot.

Relentless heat. Uncontrolled desire. And a man to slake her every need…

Delia Jenkins is distressed when a raging fever forces her to leave work on the day before a big bid. She’s brand new on the job, but her delirium has pushed her to the point where she can’t think straight. She goes home to recuperate, but the heat inside her only builds. That night, a man shows up at her apartment to care for her. He’s concerned about her well-being, but the fervor has reached a ravenous pitch.

There’s only one way to douse the flames.

It’s only after the fever breaks that Delia realizes her work situation has gotten hotter than ever before.
Well, the people who recommended this one were right, it was good. It was also short, but in this case, this was good, and the story felt exactly the right length. A B.

From the story description alone, I would never have bought this one. Delia Jenkins is feeling really sick, so her coworker and boss practically force her to go home and rest, even though there's still work to be done. And it's a good thing that they did, too, because she begins to run a very high fever; so high, in fact, that she becomes delirious. The thing is, this particular fever doesn't leave her plain delirious, but delirious with wanting, and when a mysterious man shows up, Delia realizes that he's the only one who can help her.

The main reason this did not sound like my cup of tea was that all the descriptions I read made it sound as if this would read a bit like the very vague dream sequences some authors are so fond of. Just anonymous, two-dimensional people doing stuff the author feels no need to provide motivation for (it's a dream, right? So they don't need motivation).

This wasn't like that at all. Delia was still Delia (only Delia in heat, I guess), and even through her hazy thoughts you got a good idea of both the personality and motivations behind her dream guy. And since both of the people participating were three-dimensional, the constant sex was engaging and hot and really did show a wonderful beginning to their relationship. And Dean also did a good job in the last few pages in showing that they do develop a good relationship later.

In other notes, the identity of the dream guy is not really much of a mystery if you're paying attention, but that was fine with me. Oh, and for those looking for adventurous erotica, this is not it. The sex here is pretty vanilla. Hot vanilla, but vanilla, all the same, which was a positive for me, as I really don't think the time to go into new territory is when one of the participants is out of her head with fever!

So far, Dean has hit two for two with me. I hope the next one I read (and after this, I definitely will read another one!) is just as good.


Bitter Waters, by Wen Spencer

>> Thursday, July 13, 2006

Last year I reread the first book in Wen Spencer's Ukiah Oregon series, Alien Taste, and read the second, Tainted Trail, for the first time. Given how I'd needed to go back and reread book 1 in order to understand book 2 (I'd first tried to start directly with Tainted Trail but gave up within 20 pages), I didn't want to let too much time pass before I read the rest of the series. I did let more time pass than I would have wished, but I thought I'd give it a try anyway.

Book # 3 is Bitter Waters (excerpt), and it starts right after Tainted Trail closes.

Ukiah Oregon has never had a normal life. As a child, he was found running with a pack of wolves. Captured, he was adopted by a lesbian couple and civilized. He works now as a private investigator and expert tracker in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is gifted with photographic memory, keen senses, and the odd ability to detect things down to a cellular level.

Ukiah and his senior partner, Max Bennett, are just returning to Pittsburgh after the events of Tainted Trail. Before they even land, they have a new tracking job -- to find a boy missing from his backyard. Driving straight from the airport, Ukiah and Max start another adventure, one that will involve kidnapped children, a drug-dealing biker gang, a UFO cult, a hostile federal agent, the Pack, Max's new love Samuel Anne Killington, Ukiah's FBI lover Indigo Zheng, his two adoptive mothers, and his infant son, Kittanning.
Bitter Waters was an interesting read, but I'm afraid it lacked that certain something that made the first two books so wonderful. A B-.

As I mention above, Bitter Waters starts right after the events narrated in book # 2, but it goes in a different direction. Whereas the first two books dealt with Ukiah discovering the earthshattering truth about his origins and dealing with it, BW offers no more major revelations. What we've got here is Ukiah investigating a case that's completely unrelated to what was going on before. Oh, there are Ontongard elements to it, but this isn't Ukiah vs. the Ontongard for world domination any more.

Obviously, since the plot goes into new territory, it's easy to get into this one even if you don't remember 100% of what happened in the first books. Not that this is a good place to start in the series, because you really need to know a bit about Ukiah's background to understand, but even if it's been a while since you read Tainted Trail, you'll be fine. Spencer does quite a good job in bringing the reader up to date. Maybe a bit too much exposition at first, but soon the story was soon progressing fine, and I felt all caught up.

I'm not going to go into the details of the plot, because it's an interesting and intrincate one and half the fun is trying to guess where things are going. I'll just say there are child abductions and religious cults and Ontongard weapons all mixed up, and the way Spencer links them together is pretty cool. It was interesting, though I felt it was a bit too too full of twisted sexuality, which made some sections pretty upsetting and distasteful to read.

However, this wasn't the main reason why I didn't care for BW as much as I did for the first books. I think that was probably because this wasn't so much about character and about exploring Ukiah's history and him having to deal with it. BW was more plot driven, and however interesting the plot was, I wanted more character development.

My main problem was that there were some pretty big things going on, but it felt to me as if Ukiah wasn't reacting enough to them... as if he was an action figure. I wanted to know how he felt about stuff, to see his struggle to function through these traumatic events, but no, he didn't seem to be all that much affected by anything.

Same thing about his relationship with Max... in the first books I felt the bond between them, but here, not so much. They have a fascinating relationship: not quite father-and-son, not quite brothers, not quite friends, but a mix of all of those, and I wanted more of that.

And Indigo? Where did the romance go? There's something there, but again, I wanted more, because their relationship is so unique!

Oh, well, I hope the next book, Dog Warrior, is more like the first two.


Goddess of the Spring, by P.C. Cast

>> Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ok, starting with the book posts... now! And if they turn out to be shorter than usual, my apologies: I've read some of these a while ago.

First up, Goddess of the Spring, my first book by P.C. Cast, an author I've heard very good things about. Oh, no, sorry, I did read something by her, now that I think of it... didn't she have a story in the Bewitched, Bothered and BeVampyred antho? Still, those were so tiny that they really didn't count, and this was my first real experience with her.

I've got a few of her Goddess books in the TBR, and I decided to start with this one for the simple reason that I've always loved the myth it's based on.

BTW, what spectacular covers she has! Just take a look at her page. Love, love, love those colours and designs!

Lina's trendy bakery in Tulsa is proving to be less than lucrative, and she must come up with a plan. When she stumbles upon an Italian Goddess cookbook, Lina can't help but think she's found the answer to her problem even if it means invoking a goddess to save her business.

Soon enough, Lina finds herself face-to-face with Demeter, who has a plan of her own. She proposes that Lina exchange souls with Persephone, the Goddess of Spring, who will breathe new life into the bakery. In return, Lina must set order to the Underworld.

Before all this, Lina's problems mostly involved sourdough and second dates. Now that she embodies the enchanting Persephone, Lina has weightier things on her mind, like the formidable task of bringing Spring to a world of spirits. But when the handsome,brooding Hades kindles a spark in her heart, Lina wonders if this Lord of the Underworld might be the man of her dreams.
Well, I didn't love the book quite as much as its cover, but the good stuff outweighed the bad, and I loved Cast's descriptions of the Underworld so much that I'm giving this a B.

Lina Santoro is in a tight spot. Her bakery, Pani del Goddess (that name! Crappy Italian) is in trouble with the IRS thanks to her imbecile accountant, and she's trying to find a way out. Her half-formed plan of diversifying into catering leads her to pick up some old Italian cookbooks, and when she tries out one of the yummy-sounding recipes, which comes complete with a spell, she accidentally calls on Demeter... who answers.

Demeter has a problem, too. The spirits calling on her from the Underworld are driving her crazy, and she knows they need the touch of a goddess. But she doesn't really want to send the obvious candidate, her daughter Persephone, there (for reasons that never became 100% clear to me). So when Lina calls on her, basically saying that she needs a favour and would be more than happy to return it with one of her own, Demeter takes her up on her offer.

The deal is that Lina will go down to the Underworld for six months, in Persephone's body, and pretend to be the young goddess while she ministers to the Dead. Meanwhile, Persephone will take Lina's place and Demeter promises that all her financial worries will be over by the time the 6 months are up.

While Lina isn't immediately convinced, it does sound like a good offer. The job she has to do seems pretty straightforward, plus, she is assured by Demeter that though Hades, the God of the Underworld, is a dour, uninteresting man, he will not bother her.

So off she heads into the Underworld, where she finds a world of a beauty she hadn't imagined and a man who, far from being the bore Demeter describes, actually reminds her of sexy, dangerous Batman! ;-)

As for Batman, err, sorry, Hades, he's quite surprised to find Persephone so different from what he'd expected. Goddesses, in his experience, and especially young goddesses, aren't usually sensible and sensitive and kind-hearted as Persephone seems to be.

As I said above, I just loved the world Cast creates. She's got a way of making it come alive, and the images she put in my mind were beautiful. I wanted more of it, but in a good way, not in an "I want more because I never got a sense of place" way.

The romance was nice. I always enjoy serious heroes who are considered boring by everyone but the heroine, and that was Hades, definitely. He did sometimes get a bit tiresome with his tantrums when he thought Lina meant something she didn't mean, but I liked how Cast ended up dealing with this. There were no silly misunderstandings that dragged on and on, partly because Lina was a mature, sensible woman and she didn't play high-school games, something I very much appreciated.

On the negative side, in the first sections, the constant, never-ending head-hopping almost made the book unreadable. It improved as the book advanced, but in those first pages (maybe the first 100 or so?), it was enought to give me a headache. I mean, I'm NOT a POV nazi, not at all. In fact, I'm of the firm opinion that it when the author does it right, it's a perfectly valid stylistic resource (did I get the terminology right? I'm translating from Spanish here in my mind). But here Cast went overboard, and the way she changed POVs kept flinging me out of the story. In some sections the POV changed with every paragraph, and, in one memorable occasion, within one single paragraph! It's good that this improved, because I'm not confident that I would have been able to finish the book, otherwise, no matter how much I was loving the rest of it.

Anyway, other than this, the book was great fun. Not much plot to it, since it was basically Lina exploring the Underworld and she and Hades exploring a relationship, but this isn't something that I minded. I actually like romances that are wholly character-driven!

A good start for me with P.C. Cast, so I'll definitely be picking up the other books I have by her in the TBR.


I'm back!

Hi everyone, I'm here, back again! I arrived on Friday, after a 40-hour-long trip, tired, but happy to see my family and friends again. Though I must say, after seeing everyone I was missing so much, I'm now missing Japan. It's hard to go from the 1st world back to the Third World again!

The last pics I took have been posted at my photo blog, though many aren't on the front page any more. Since my last update here, I've really posted quite a few of them, so if you want to see them, I made an index ("indice"), on the left sidebar, right under my About Me. The links are in chronological order.

Thanks to all of you who checked in here while I was gone! I apologize for not being able to answer the comments you left here, but I did read them, and I loved reading them.

Anyway, I hope to start with the book posts as soon as possible, so see you around!


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