Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: Grave Intentions by Lori Sjoberg

I wasn’t sure what to expect with a book about a grim reaper, but I enjoyed Grave Intentions quite a bit.

David has been a reaper for 60 years, trying to work off his sins to avoid eternal damnation. The book explains the process of how and why reapers are chosen – at least the way David understands it. Not entirely sure he knows the whole story. I felt some of the rules to be a bit extreme. Maybe I just don’t like the idea of a higher power being so hard and fast with his rules and unyielding with punishment. This is why I think there must be more to the process than what David has been told.

I liked the way being a reaper was viewed as simply David’s job. Other than the ability to heal quickly and a bit of mind persuasion – to help with difficult reaping situations – he doesn’t have any superhuman abilities. He’s just a guy with a tough job who likes to have a few drinks at the end of the day.

Like anyone who has a job he hates, he’s learned some coping methods, his current being to simply not care, remain numb. However, meeting his neighbor challenges these coping methods. He finds himself drawn to her, but he’s afraid to get involved. It’s been so long since he’s felt anything and he knows that if he allows himself to feel pleasure, he’ll have to be prepared for the pain as well.

Sarah’s a research scientist who loves her work, but hates her boss and could do without the crowds of protestors that greet her at her lab every morning. She’s also emotionally struggling to care for her elderly grandmother, who is always getting in trouble at the nursing home for her disruptive behavior. Sarah needs a break from all the stress.

David and Sarah both are at a point in their lives where they could use a friend. I enjoyed the gradual buildup of their relationship. They actually got to know each other and really like each before they ended up in bed together. I liked the way they took care of each other and seemed to absolutely adore each other. They were grateful for each other’s company and companionship. I like to believe that this is how a romance is supposed to work. Neither was in a position of power over the other. They’re two adults, getting by the best they can in their circumstances that are glad to have found each other.

But the book would probably be boring if there wasn’t a twist of some sort. I’m not going to give away what happens, but things get intense and I found myself on the verge of tears for a while there. I might have also been mentally screaming, “that’s not fair, they were so happy” because I felt that close to these characters and my heart was breaking along with theirs.

This is a well-written, enjoyable story with strong, likable characters and plenty of romance, and paranormal elements blended into reality so carefully, it almost seems believable. (Almost. Don’t worry, I don’t really think there are grim reapers disguised as humans walking among us.) I’m looking forward to reading more books by this author.

I received a review copy of this book via Netgalley.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review: Blood of the Sorceress by Maggie Shayne

I loved this book, absolutely loved this book. Before I read it, I didn’t think it was possible for it to live up to Daughter of the Spellcaster – which I thought was amazing. But it did. I couldn’t put this book down once I started reading it.

Blood of the Sorceress has everything I need in a book – plenty of action, good versus evil, some very intense, steamy romance, and it’s all wrapped up in magic – lots of magic.

This is the third book in Maggie Shayne’s The Portal Series. Everything that happened in the first two books has been building up to this book. After 3,500 years, Demetrius has escaped the Portal, and now Lilia has to convince him to reclaim his soul. The problem is, Demetrius doesn’t remember the past they shared, and as convincing as Lilia may sound, he’s afraid she may be using magic to persuade him.

I really liked these characters and was glad to see that the characters from the first two books in the series play a significant role in this book. These women – all witches — are strong and fierce, capable of taking care of themselves and determined to protect the people they love. The men help out, quite a bit, but they know who has the powers. There’s a scene when two of the sisters are trying to rescue the other sister, and their husbands are with them. They’re about to walk into a potentially dangerous situation, and one of the husbands says something along the lines of, “I know you’re the super witches, but would you please let us walk in first?” I thought that line summed up the relationship between the men and the women fairly well.

Strong women, and men who respect their strength – whether it’s mental, emotional, natural or supernatural — are pretty much essential for me to love a book. This book does well in that area.
And while this book is entertaining and exciting, there’s also a much deeper meaning to all of this.
Demetrius has a big decision to make. If he accepts the final piece of his soul, held by Lilia, he becomes human again, and sacrifices his immortality. As an immortal, he’s powerful and wealthy and can have whatever he wants, he’s only living sort of a half-life – he derives no pleasure from his senses: food all tastes the same, he’s unable to view things as beautiful, he feels no pain, but also no great joy. He likes the idea of living forever and having super powers, he likes the idea of never having to feel guilt or loss, but as he grows closer to Lilia, and she shows him bits of what he’s missing, he’s not sure if immortality is worth never being able appreciate beauty or humor or love.

I’ve been recommending the books in this series to all of my friends. I really enjoyed reading these books and I’m hoping there will be future books with these same characters.

I received a review copy of this book through Netgalley. Blood of the Sorceress will be released on January 22, 2013.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: On Dublin Street by Samantha Young

A while back, I started hearing about the book On Dublin Street.  Kept showing up in mentions and recommendations from the people I follow on social networks.  A lot of people were saying it was the next big thing, the book to read after 50 Shades of Grey. 
I like to know what everyone is talking about.  I thought it sounded interesting, takes place in Scotland, so that was a plus, and the cover art looked really beautiful – sexy and romantic, rather than trashy.  (I’ve since seen this exact same cover on a few other books, so guessing it’s a stock photo of some sort.) The e-book was only a few dollars on amazon, so I bought it.
With regard to romances, I tend to prefer those of the paranormal sort – you know, the ones that include vampires or witches or demons, or some sort of supernatural element.  People, regular people, they kind of bore me.  Usually.
Not the case with On Dublin Street.  Not bored, at all.  And let me say, this book is so much better than 50 Shades of Grey.  Of course, I didn’t really 50 Shades, thought it was more a story of abuse than romance, but that’s just me, wasn’t my thing.

On Dublin Street though -- I really, really liked this book.  For hot and sexy, this is the book everyone should be reading. 
These characters were likable and interesting.  Jocelyn is an American who went to school in Edinburgh.  She lost her family in a car accident when she was a teenager and she’s been struggling to bury her memories of them for eight years.  She’s learned to take care of herself in the best way she knows how.  Maybe not the healthiest way, but she’s safe and she’s careful.  I liked this about her.  She’s tough and she’s independent.  She’s not weak or whiny or annoyingly innocent.  She’s not seeking someone to take care of her.
Even though she can afford to get her own place, she’s looking for a roommate to maintain some sort of social contact.  This roommate is how she ends up getting to know Braden – who happens to be her roommate’s very protective and very handsome and successful older half brother.
There’s clearly an attraction between the two from the beginning.  But Braden has a girlfriend, and Jocelyn has no interest in getting involved with anyone.  She’s spent the last few years making sure she doesn’t care about anyone too much.  She’s had enough hurt to last a lifetime and has no desire to put herself in a position to feel any more. 
But Braden is used to getting what he wants, and he wants Jocelyn.  This could have gone a few different ways.  This could have turned into one of those books I hate where the guy is a complete jerk and the girl just swoons for him anyway because “oh my god, rich, hot guy wants me.”  There are too many books out there like that right now.  That didn’t happen though.  Jocelyn agrees to a sex only relationship with Braden, because, hey, she’s an adult, and yes, he’s hot and why not?  She’s still going to keep her guard up emotionally, so no harm done, right?
I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that despite their initial arrangement; the two end up falling for each other, and falling hard.  I liked the way their romance built over time.  In the beginning, it was just physical, but as they got to know each other they grew to like each other and care about each other.  It wasn’t the typical, “Oh, he/she’s the one,” five minutes after they met.  This felt like a real romance – with a lot of hot, explicit sex – so if that bothers you, probably not a book you should read.  As I’m reading more romance novels, I’m finding that it’s rare to find books that have what I consider to be the right combination of steam and story.
One thing I didn’t like about the story though was too much of the friends and family getting in their business.  I got tired of people lecturing Jocelyn about being too reserved and not letting people get to know her – this was from Braden’s sister and the former step-mom, she barely knew these people and they were acting like she’s a villain because she doesn’t walk around telling everyone about her innermost feelings all the time?  Maybe that annoyed me because I tend to be reserved and I resent people thinking I owe them some window into my soul without doing anything to earn the view.  I didn't think Jocelyn was so wrong in being reserved, I thought the other people were wrong in thinking she needed to be more like them, and less herself. 
Also, the version I had of this book had so many typos.  This was not a review copy; I paid for this ebook.  I would assume an editor at some point had read it.  A few times “your” was used when it should have been “you’re”.   This may not bother everyone like it bothers me, but it bothers me quite a bit.  For nine years of my life, I was a copyeditor for an international news distribution service, so no matter how into a book I am, that kind of mistake will throw me out of a story momentarily because my first impulse is to correct the mistake. 

I bought this ebook back in September and I’ve also noticed the version I have is no longer available when I go to the “manage my kindle” site.  Maybe a copyeditor read through the version that is available now.
Also, this is the second book I’ve read in the last few months that takes place in Scotland.  Both stories, an American who falls for an unbelievably hot Scotsman.  Well, this American will be visiting Scotland in June, men of Scotland, you’ve been warned.  My expectations are high.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Review: Forbidden by Jacquelyn Frank

The cover of this book is what caught my attention. Shallow of me, I know, but it’s the truth. Every time I paused in front of the book section at the store, at any store, I found myself picking up this book. But I kept putting it back because even though it’s the first book in a new series, The World of the Nightwalkers, that particular series is a spin off of another series, The Nightwalkers, and I was concerned I wouldn’t know what was happening in the story, having not read any books in the first series. But that book cover kept catching my eye. Finally, over the holiday break I decided to give in and read it.

Based on the description I was expecting some sort of tense Guinevere and Lancelot story, and based on the hot body on the cover, I was expecting lots of smoking hot sex.
Someday I will learn to not judge a book by its cover.

The story was so slow. It wasn’t so much that I disliked it; I simply didn’t care much about what was happening. I never reached a point where I felt that I couldn’t put the book down. After getting only 35% into the book after ten days, I had to force myself to finish it.

As for the romance, it wasn’t anywhere near as angst ridden as I’d anticipated and/or hoped it would be. They seemed to resolve what could have been a major problem very quickly and easily. Now, one positive thing about the book is that the two main characters – Docia and Ram – did have some real chemistry together. The scenes between the two of them, even something as simple as Ram touching her hands as he’s helping her dial a forgotten number on the cell phone seemed to sizzle. This kept giving me hope – but most of those scenes ended abruptly. There wasn’t enough of the romance happening in the book.

Most of the book was focused on the war between the Politic and the Templars and trying to explain the role of the Nightwalkers. This being the first book in a series, I guess all the explanation was necessary, but overall I didn’t find it all that interesting. Also, I found the concept of the Nightwalkers – ancient Egyptian spirits blending their spirits with humans – a little difficult to grasp. It seemed a little bit too weird for me. It wasn’t really reincarnation, but rather two spirits sharing one body. Not really my thing. I don’t have any interest in reading future books in this series, no matter how hot the guy on the cover looks.

I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.