Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Trouble in High Heels

Author: Christina Dodd
Published: August 1, 2006 (Signet)
Category: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 6/10

Brandi Michaels is a lawyer. A bodacious one. ::makes the hourglass hand motions:: But she wants to be recognized for her legal talents, not for the way she looks in a dress. In fact, she dresses as conservatively as possible for work, to the extent of wearing boobie-mashing bras.

To understand Brandi, you have to look at her childhood. She had a disgusting, arrogant ass of a father, who ditched her mom, Tiffany for his cliche of a secretary. Brandi's lawyer father is known for his frequent wife upgrades. He also thought Brandi was a useless child, taking ballet and gymnastics classes. Brandi vowed that she would make her father proud of her, and decided to become a lawyer so he would take her seriously.

Fast forward to the future, and Brandi has just moved to Chicago to join her doctor fiance. After he fails to make an appearance at her new home, she finally hears from him. Apparently, he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and they'd just gotten hitched in Vegas. The ex-fiance claimed that it was all Brandi's fault for finishing her law degree in Tennessee rather than moving to Chicago to be with him when he moved.

To get back at him, Brandi pawns her engagement ring and plans to glam herself up, take advantage of her looks to snag a guy for one night of reckless passion. She finds that one night of passion in Roberto Bartolini, an Italian count who's also being accused of jewel theft. It also turns out that Brandi's new job is representing Roberto in this case. Oops. Now Brandi thinks she has to recuse herself from the case and ruin her legal career before it began. To top it off, Roberto insults a judge and he assigns the defendant to the 24-hour custody of his lawyer - Brandi. Now Brandi's coworkers at the law firm take her even less seriously.

She finds out that the leader of a Chicago jewel thief league wants Roberto to steal some gigantic diamond. He tells her he will never steal again, but she doesn't believe him. So we go into that "I don't trust you" game. Of course, she's wrong in her assumptions and creates a lot more trouble as a result of that mistake.

There was too much of the "I want to be taken seriously thing," and I don't enjoy the idea of doing things to please a father or ex-fiance, neither of whom would appreciate anything you did anyways. There wasn't enough time spent on building the relationship, unless you call Brandi's being annoyed at her client relationship-building.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Kept Woman

Author: Susan Donovan
Published: June 2006 (St. Martin's Press)
Category: Romance
Rating: 6/10

This is one of those really fluffy reads for a summer day. Too bad it's the dead of winter here. I think I need cozier reads for this part of the year.

Poor Samantha Monroe is a hairstylist and single mom raising three kids ranging from rebellious teenager to toddler who refuses to use the potty. Her spineless husband left her right after getting her pregnant with the third child, realizing that he's gay and has to run off to pursue his glassblowing career. He also ducked out on over $50,000 worth of child support. Just when Samantha's life is at its worst, she gets an offer she can't refuse.

Playboy politician Jack Tolliver needs to clean up his image if he wants to run for US Senate. Apparently, he was caught "ogling a speaker's booty at a teachers' convention" and the female votership turned against him. His campaign manager, a client of Samantha's, proposes the plan to Jack. They will have Samantha pose as his fiancée and have them part ways amicably after the election. And of course, they'll compensate her very well.

Sometimes I felt like I was reading a Desperate Housewives episode. Jack was expressing how appalled he was over her three children. Within an extremely short period of time, he's accepted her family and friends! It all fell together too quickly. He changes from playboy to doting boyfriend in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, he's being a great father to the anti-potty wonder child and actually weaning him from diapers. It was unreal, even for a romance.

Then you toss in the over-the-top enemies. A lover scorned and an unstable ex-husband with a plan for blackmail. I thought both in the book was too much. Jack's ex-girlfriend has a political news show and her goal is to bring down Jack Tolliver because he embarrassed her at an awards show. But now he's on perfect behavior and ready to settle down with some hairdresser with three brats. The ex-husband decides to blackmail Samantha, threatening to reveal the nature of her relationship with Jack, even though it's real at that point. He knows this as well and demands that she pay up and break up with Jack for real.

At least Samantha wasn't a flake. She didn't get stupid until the end when she paid the blackmail money and wouldn't tell Jack what was wrong and why she suddenly wants to break up with him. That aggravated me to no end, and the truth came out on the news anyway, so the blackmail payoff was pointless!

Everything works out; love conquers all, blah blah. Jack Tolliver winds up winning because he's the only politician who owns up to the truth, always something appreciated by me. In a perfect world, the voters buy it, but you know it'd never fly in real life. I hate politics. Maybe that tainted my view of the book.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Storm Front

Author: Jim Butcher
Published: April 1, 2000 (Roc)
Category: Fantasy
Series: Dresden Files #1
Quote of choice: They say we wizards are subtle But believe you me, we've got nothing, nothing at all, on women.
Rating: 7/10

I've been watching The Dresden Files on the Scifi channel, and it's pretty good. The actor they picked to play Harry Dresden isn't too hard on the eyes either.

Harry Dresden is a wizard for hire. - not for parties though. He helps his clients with problems such as lost items and freelances for the police, solving crimes with a magical twist and therefore beyond the understanding of the regular cop. The world is a bit more understanding of magical beings. For example, a vampire runs a very fancy brothel/escort service, and Harry frequents a pub that caters to those who deal with magic.

The writing is great, and very descriptive without being tedious. I found myself wanting to know more about Harry - what's his workshop like, what ingredients go into a potion, does he wear boxers or briefs? Butcher answers the first two questions, and I don't remember reading an answer to the third. I don't think I would've missed something like that.

Anyways, Harry has been called in by his Chicago Police Dept. pseudo-friend, Lt. Murphy. She's a scrappy officer who's worked hard to get where she is, and doesn't intend to let anyone underestimate her because she's a woman. Sometimes her toughness got annoying, like how Josh tells me that I get ultra defensive when he isn't even criticizing me. The crime involves a dark wizard performing a powerful spell to kill two people from a distance, which makes him very powerful, or completely insane for taking the risk.

Dresden determines that lightning storms are the source of the dark wizard's power, but his investigation is impeded by obstacles set by the murderer. How about a demon or some gigantic scorpions?

Throw in a love potion gone awry, a talking skull, and a death sentence from the High Council hanging over Dresden's head, and you have an amusing, dark humored story suitable for filling your spare time. It shows promise, and I do love series!

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Author: James Clemens
Published: November 7, 2006 (Roc)
Category: Fantasy
Series: Godslayer Chronicles #2
Rating: 9/10

A satisfying sequel to Shadowfall. If a series is that good, I won't take a break in between the books.

In an attempt to bridge the rift between Tashijan, led by Argent Ser Fields and Chrismferry, led by God-Regent Tylar Ser Noche (he gets his Shadowknight status back after the events of Shadowfall), Fields plans an elaborate ceremony to bestow another Shadowcloak and black diamond-pommeled sword upon Tylar. They hope that the ceremony, which invites the Hands of other gods, will do much in uniting Myrillia against the threat of the Cabal (the faction trying to free gods from their bonds to the land, willingly and unwillingly).

However, an unnatural snowstorm is ripping through Myrillia, seeming to head straight for Tashijan. After Tylar's party arrives at the Citadel of the Shadowknights, the storm locks everyone inside. Unfortunately for everyone there, the storm is not the only thing to worry about. From the end of Shadowfall, we see the growing threat hiding beneat the Citadel; it's a dark army of zombie-like Shadowknights. They were kidnapped and poisoned with dark Graces, and over centuries, this army has grown rather massive. It created lots of opportunities for action of the horror movie type.

While Tylar pursues a lead to figure out the source of the ice storm, more information is revealed about the Godsword, more importantly, a way to make it more powerful. His party enters the Hinterland (unsettled land with rogue gods roaming), hoping to kill the storm before it destroys Tashijan.

At the end of Hinterland, Tylar and Kathryn's romance seems to start up again, and things seem to be on the mend, with the remaining gods uniting with Tylar and the Shadowknights against the Cabal.

Of course, the last couple pages introduce a new twist to the saga with a Frankenstein-like god creature. I'm frustrated now because I won't find out what it is until the third book, but there's no information on when it's going to be published!

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Author: James Clemens
Published: July 2005 (Roc)
Category: Fantasy
Series: Godslayer Chronicles #1
Rating: 9/10


It's not very often that the start of another epic fantasy series starts off so well. I could not put this book down. The book is complex, with a lot of characters, but never gets bogged down in details and keeps you in suspense at the same time. I found myself flipping ahead several pages sometimes to make sure that certain characters didn't die. The characters are extremely well developed despite there being so many, and you can really see the way they interact with each other, even without direct dialogue between them. Clemens introduces a new world with a lot of structure and details, but I wasn't confused or overwhelmed by all the information. I found it very well put together, rich in storyline, characters, and descriptions.

At the time of the sundering, the home of the gods was split, and the gods fell to Myrillia, as portions of their former selves. Each god was split into three parts: one falling to the naether, one rising to the aether, and the last took physical form to live among the people of Myrillia. Those gods that did not form a bond to the land went mad, keeping to unsettled lands called the Hinterlands. In settled areas, gods helped society grow through guidance and the sharing of his or her humours, the eight bodily fluids (sounds gross, but you get over it), which carry the god's Graces (power). They are (in order of importance): blood, seed or menses, sweat, tears, saliva, phlegm, yellow bile (err... pee), and black bile (uh... poo). Once you get over the fact that all of these things are valuable, with magical and alchemical properties, it's very interesting how they can work together. For example, black bile is a nullifier of Grace, so if you had an object rich in dark Graces and you didn't want it to affect you, you can smear it in black bile and keep it contained. Don't worry, people don't go throwing around bodily fluids willy nilly.

Aside from the gods, there is an organization called the Shadowknights, warriors trained to bring justice, wearing shadow cloaks blessed in Graces that allow the knights to move about unseen in shadows. They are usually assigned to serve a particular god, and if not, they reside in Tashijan, the Citadel of the Shadowknights. Tylar de Noche used to be one of these knights, but his title was stripped from him when he was involved in some scandal (it was a setup and he took the fall for someone else). He was sold into slavery for a few years, where his body was broken again and again, leaving him a hunched, limping man at the fringes of society. One night, he witnessed an attack on the god Meeryn, seeing a naethryn beast slay her. After all had settled, Tylar went to the dying god's side and comforted her as she passed away. Before she died, she granted all her Graces on Tylar, and connected him to her naethryn third. By having the shadowy beast reside within Tylar, his body was healed, and he found that all of his humours carried godly Graces. He was also accused of murdering Meeryn, and was branded the Godslayer.

The Meeryn-naethryn beast can be called out of Tylar's body by breaking any of his bones, and when the creature emerges, Tylar's form reverts back to his original broken self. After it deals with the immediate danger, it returns to Tylar's body and he is healed once again. I'm glad that Tylar is very responsible with this power, picking and choosing when he has no choice but to use the naethryn. I can't deal with stupid, arrogant heroes.

From there, Tylar embarks on a quest to clear his name, and figure out the mystery of why Meeryn was killed. Along the way, he picks up a motley crew of companions, including a thief who is much more than he appears, and Meeryn's Hand of Blood (the handmaiden responsible for collecting her blood).

While we follow Tylar's story, two other stories are being told. One is focused on Tashijan and the political turmoil within. A new faction of Shadowknights is rising, and they want to make Tashijan more independent of the gods. Corruption and mistrust is spreading through Myrillia, and it's even among the gods and Shadowknights. Tylar's former fiancée Kathryn is one standing against the new regime and is placed in the difficult position of taking the position of the man accused of slaying a god. The other follows Dart, an orphan training to become a god's Hand at a prestigious school. There is more to this girl than meets the eye, and someone wants her dead, even after she is chosen as the Hand of Blood to the first god of Myrillia. Everyone's story will intersect and weave together into a hugely rich book and I'm really happy I picked it up.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Author: Christopher Paolini
Published: August 2003 (Knopf)
Category: YA Fantasy
Rating: 3/10

I was really looking forward to reading Eragon, but find that I was really disappointed. Oftentimes, I am sucked into a YA fantasy and am disappointed when the story ends in 208 pages. This is one of the reasons why I love Harry Potter; the writing is good and it lasts a loooong time. Eragon, on the other hand, was loooong and boooooring.

On his website, Paolini says, "For me, the time spent plotting out a novel is more important than the actual writing." His method is very apparent in his writing, what with the uninspiring dialogue and the plodding-along sort of exposition. It pains me, because I will ADMIT that the storyline has a lot of promise and it could have been tons better.

Yes, there were a lot of plot elements that seemed to come out of Lord of the Rings. For example, there were the a bunch of ringwraith-like creatures that even had flying steeds. The character of Murtagh, son of the Forsworn, reminds me of Aragorn in that reluctant/despised heir way. I even bet Murtagh is going to get involved with Nasuada, the daughter of the rebel leader. Oooo, forbidden love! And to get into the rebel base (hee hee, Star Wars), you had to go to this slab of stone next to a waterfall and say the magic words to go deep into the dwarf tunnels. Mines of Moria anyone?

The characters were lacking. Even Saphira the dragon, who should've been very interesting, was boring. Am I supposed to be in awe of her being a dragon and therefore overlook her staleness of personality? The most interesting characters were Angela the witch and her werecat, Solembum. It figures, as Angela was based off of Paolini's sister. That's how she was the character with the biggest sense of humor and seemed the most realistic. Everyone else seemed rather flat.

It is admirable that Eragon was written by a teenager, especially in today's world, where vocabulary and appreciation for books have declined with the rise of other entertainments. However, I think a lot of the book's popularity is due to the fact that its writer was so young when he wrote it, and not due to the quality of the writing.

I heard the movie isn't good either.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Rest Falls Away

Author: Colleen Gleason
January 2, 2007 (Signet)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Gardella Vampire Chronicles #1
Quote of Choice:
How does one address... the master of the vampire executioners? My lord? Your grace? Your Stakeness?

The promotional literature for The Rest Falls Away said it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Pride and Prejudice and that was enough to make me want this book.

Victoria Gardella is about to make her debut to London society at the age of nineteen, two years later than scheduled due to mourning her father and grandfather. While her mother is prattling on about snaring the elusive Marquess of Rockley, Victoria is training to be a venator (vampire slayer) under her great aunt Eustacia's guidance. Apparently, a member of each generation of the Gardella family is called to service as a venator, and Victoria is the only one of hers. Oh, and the queen of the vampires can be slain only by a Gardella venator. No pressure!

There are some very interesting ideas at work here. For example, a person can choose not to follow their slaying path and their memories will be altered so they never knew about the legacy. With each generation that chooses to ignore the call, the one who eventually accepts will inherit the combined powers of those who declined before her. Since two Gardellas rejected before Victoria's turn, she's got the abilities of three slayers. However, it seems that her strength gets evened out to that of any other venator (Victoria is not the only one) by this amulet of sorts given at an induction ceremony. It's a small silver cross piercing and it enhances the venator's strength and innate abilities.

The romance was a bit lacking. The Marquess of Rockley does choose Victoria for his bride and they have a very sweet back story, since they knew each other in their childhoods. After that, the romance fades away into the background and Rockley turns out to be a tool, demanding that Victoria give up her profession because she is a marchioness. There are two other men involved. One is Maximilian Pesaro, another venator who resents Victoria's desire to marry and have a normal life in addition to slaying the undead at night. The other is Sebastian Vioget, a weird double agent (but not a vampire) who owns a tavern where the living and undead can mingle in peace. He seems to trade information for personal liberties upon Victoria's person. Their relationship is one more of lust than actual romance. I'm still not sure about Max though. Perhaps something will develop in later books.

This was a promising first novel. It wasn't great, but I'm hoping that Gleason's later books will improve with experience. There's great potential for the series because there are great ideas, but the characters definitely need work. Victoria was rather robotic, accepting her destiny without a fight. I understand that regency romance heroines are usually ahead of their time, but there was no fits or fears at all. Victoria was all business and it would've been better to see her more human. The characters need to connect to each other more. They felt very distant to me, but maybe that's the true solitary nature of a venator? I saw the likeness to Buffy, but there's no Pride and Prejudice here. It's more Buffy meets a random regency romance.

The next in the series, Rises the Night, comes out this June and I will give that one a try as well.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Lady Midnight

Author: Amanda McCabe
Published: May 2005 (Signet)
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 8/10

Katerina Bruni is heiress apparent to her mother, Lucrezia Bruni, the most famous courtesan in Venice. Katerina has been raised and trained to follow in her mother's footsteps. However, before her first protector makes his first purchase, their yacht party gets swallowed in a sudden Mediterranean storm, leaving Katerina as its sole survivor. In a fever dream, her mother's spirit tells her to start a new life, because the life of a courtesan isn't so glamorous underneath the surface. She believes Katerina will find happiness in another life.

By using the jewelry she'd been wearing, Katerina starts a new life in England as Mrs. Kate Brown, widow of an English soldier. She finds a position as a governess in Yorkshire for Michael Lindley's younger sister Christina and his daughter Amelia. Michael is another tragic story. Due to his reckless ways, his wife died in a curricle (or something of that sort) race, turning him into a more mature and responsible man. Instead of indulging in the entertainments availabe in London, he chooses to stay in Yorkshire, working on his estate, and even helping out with the physical labor outside.

Kate finds that she loves Yorkshire and its moors. She's also very attracted to Michael, a man who is attracted to her as well, but not false like the men she knew in Venice, particularly the vile Julian Kirkwood. He was to be Kate's first protector, but he talked about her as though she was an object to possess and stalked her when she left her home. In contrast, Lindley was charming and enjoyed conversing with her, liking more than just her looks.

Both Kate and Michael have secrets: he about his wife's death, and she about her almost-career. This is the part where the book could go bad, where the characters are too chicken to tell each other the truth and wind up being angry at each other in the vein of, "How could you not tell me? Don't you trust me?" They both reveal the truth, and neither of them holds their past against the other. In fact, as each truth is revealed, the listener is understanding and supportive, showing how much they actually love each other.

There's a bit of darkness as well. Julian Kirkwood didn't die during that fateful yachting party. He was slow to recover, and when he finally awoke, he was still obsessed with his Katerina. He also believed her dead until they attend the same salon and he begins raving about his Katerina. Kate's secret past is then exposed, and Michael's sister-in-law freaks out because this will ruin the family name! And then Michael's mother freaks out as well, making Kate decide to run away. Thankfully, we don't have to deal with that plot device, as Lindley prevents this and convinces Kate to marry him (she turned him down the first time because of her past). However, they've got to figure out the Julian Kirkwood problem before they can have their happily ever after.

Kirkwood is very creepy, following Kate and the rest of the Lindleys back to Yorkshire. He even tries using Christina to get to Kate. I thought the dumbest thing Kate did was deciding not to tell Michael about seeing Kirkwood in the village.

I would've rated this a 9 or 10 if Kate and Christina weren't so reckless regarding Julian's presence in Yorkshire. And if the sister-in-law and dowager didn't freak out about Kate's almost-bad-past. It's not like she actually was a light skirt; she never got to that point in her previous life.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Juliet Dove, Queen of Love

Author: Bruce Coveille
Published: October 1, 2003 (Harcourt)
Category: YAFantasy
Rating: 7/10

It was hard to rate this one because I have to consider that this is a YA book. I've read two of Coville's other Magic Shop books, and my favorite was Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher. To me, that title was 100% fantasy. Juliet Dove pulls elements straight out of Greek myth and fairytales, specifically the one with the girl who's kind to a beggar in the forest and is gifted with jewels and roses spilling from her mouth whenever she spoke.

Juliet Dove is the shyest of the Dove children, often teased by her classmates to the point where she lashes out at them in brief moments of fiery words, earning her the nickname of "Killer." One day, she's running away from the girls who dislike her the most and stumbles upon Elives' Magic Shop. It's a wondrous place filled with magic supplies and genuine magical objects. The Mr. Elives we know from previous Magic Shop books isn't at the counter, but a strange woman is, and she gives an amulet to Juliet.

This amulet makes Juliet irresistible to boys and she finds she has a crowd of adoring fans following her everywhere. For a shy girl, this is very bad, and the attention of the girls who resent Juliet's new appeal is also unwanted. We later learn that this amulet was not a part of the magic shop's stock, and Mr. Elives is rather worried about any potential consequences of wearing it. He sends two of his helpers to guide Juliet, and they happen to be Jerome and Roxanne, talking rats from Jennifer Murdley's Toad, another Magic Shop book.

We later find out that the amulet is tied to the story of Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world and that goddess beauty contest that led to the whole Trojan War debacle. Athena and Hera have given their blessing to Juliet, saying that she has to find her way out of the story. Eris, the goddess of discord is still powerful on Earth while the other goddesses have faded away from reality, and she plans to use the amulet to create plenty of discord.

Aside from the goddess beauty contest, the book also draws on the myth of Cupid and Psyche, the lovers who are united at the end of the story. As a YA book, it does a good job of showing that Greek myths aren't old and dusty things that we'll never see after reading about them in history class.

Body Movers

Author: Stephanie Bond
Published: August 2006 (Mira)
Category: Mystery
Rating: 6/10

Poor Carlotta Wren. In a Bones-esque parental situation, her white-collar-crime father jumped bail with their mother, 10 years ago, leaving an 18-year-old Carlotta to raise her younger brother Wesley. Carlotta went from living in a mansion to a townhouse, and works as a Neiman Marcus salesgirl. Her fiance, Peter Ashford, dumped her when her stained family could damage his reputation. Wesley is no help, owing a lot of money to loan sharks and they're knee-deep in late bills as is. To make things worse, Wesley has just been arrested for hacking into the city's computer system to erase a friend's tickets and to get information on his parents' case.

To make extra money to cover his gambling debts, Wesley takes on a job as a body mover. He moves dead bodies to the morgue or funeral home with his boss, Coop, a guy with a past. He's also extremely good looking and willing to give Wesley a chance to put his past behind him, as Coop has also done. He's a good father figure to Wesley. It's just too bad that Wesley is too stupid to make responsible decisions.

Through Wesley's new job, Carlotta finds out that Angela Ashford, one of her Neiman Marcus clients, has died under suspicious circumstances. Due to Carlotta and Peter's history, they become suspects in the murder of Angela. Because the detective have something against Carlotta, they're not taking her seriously even though she has potential evidence for the case, and she winds up taking the investigation into her own hands. She's not that slick about it, but she's pretty good at turning up information. Of course, her investigation gets her into a very sticky situation at the end of the book, you know, that mystery "ta-da" moment where everythin falls into place and the murderer is revealed.

The mystery was put together nicely, but I felt like I never really got to know the characters. Their development didn't seem very deep and there were no memorable lines (hence no "quote of choice" in my heading). At the end, Carlotta's long-lost father calls and we're left at a cliffhanger for the next book in the series.

Monday, January 01, 2007


I guess this year, I'll rate my reads. I'll try to be consistent in my judging criteria, and I doubt I'll ever have a 1/10 because I tend to stop reading books I dislike.