Reviewed for THC Reviews When I requested an ARC of Ripe for Pleasure to review, I had high hopes that it would be a fun and different read. The idea oReviewed for THC Reviews When I requested an ARC of Ripe for Pleasure to review, I had high hopes that it would be a fun and different read. The idea of a new series centering around the second sons of nobility who've banded together to aid each other seemed like something new, and a courtesan heroine was rather intriguing as well. The plot certainly had potential, but in my opinion, the execution fell flat due to a lack of substance and detail. The book was much shorter than I had anticipated (less than 300 pages), and in this case, the abbreviated length was definitely a detriment. I'm not sure which, but the book felt like it was either over-edited or under-developed. I had a somewhat difficult time following the story, because things happened very quickly, without much explanation as to why the characters were doing certain things. There also wasn't enough expository narration for me to clearly imagine the settings and situations, leaving me sometimes having to re-read passages to try to figure out exactly what was going on. I felt that all of this lent itself to the overall narrative lacking a coherent flow. The dialog wasn't much better, as I often had trouble discerning who was speaking, especially in situations where there were more than two characters, and occasionally there were lines thrown in that didn't make much sense to me. I'm not sure if the author was trying to show off her familiarity with advanced vocabulary, art and classic literature or what, but she would often toss in obscure words (I think some of them may have been period vernacular) with which I wasn't familiar (even with my own extensive knowledge), and art or book references which I doubt would be particularly meaningful to the average romance reader.
As far as the hero and heroine, I didn't really dislike them at any point, but I can't say that there was much to recommend them either. Viola is a courtesan who is writing her memoirs and she begins the story apparently having tried to coerce some of her former protectors into paying their way out of her book. Her “blackmail” kind of falls by the wayside, and the author teases the reader with the possibility of sympathetic reasons for Viola having become a prostitute. All of this and the fact that she treats Leo pretty well prevented me from disliking her, but in my opinion, Ms. Carr still waited too long to reveal Viola's backstory. Leo, for his part, opens the book searching for a Jacobite treasure that he thinks is hidden somewhere in Viola's house. He is essentially in a race with an unscrupulous cousin to find it, and in order to gain access to the premises, he engineers a ruse to make her think that one of her former protectors is angry about her exposing him in her memoirs. Leo's plan involves seducing Viola while looking for the money, which didn't exactly put him in my good graces. However, he was fairly charming and sufficiently guilt-ridden when he realized that he had put Viola in even more danger than he would have imagined, so I was mostly able to forgive his initial deception. This was about as far as the characterizations of this couple went though, so in the end, I can't say that I really felt like I got to know them on any meaningful level.
As to Leo and Viola's relationship, I had a hard time connecting with them emotionally. Their romance ended up being one of those overused insta-lust plots which has them hot and bothered and all but falling into bed with one another in the first chapter, and then developing supposedly deeper feelings soon after. I've just always had a hard time buying into this scenario. Not to mention, their love had very little rhyme or reason to me, so I never felt a true romantic connection between them. I also was rather disappointed by Leo's so-called seduction. When he uttered the line, “I propose to seduce you in stages, my dear. To make you beg for each and every intimacy,” I was expecting a long, drawn-out and scrumptious seduction. While most of the love scenes were fairly steamy, it just wasn't the slow, sensual experience that I was anticipating. Like everything else in the book, it all seemed to occur far to fast. I also have a more minor issue with the author making too-frequent use of teeth during intimate moments. If memory serves, there was even an instance when their teeth clashed together while kissing in a particularly intense moment of passion, which left me thinking "Ow!" I know some people are into biting, so to some extent, me not being able to get into it was just a personal preference. Still, I couldn't help thinking that it was a rather repetitive use of an intimate gesture, because it seemed like they nipped and bit at each other during nearly every love scene.
I know I've had a lot of criticisms of Ripe for Pleasure, and I certainly think that deeper character development would have been quite helpful in better understanding their motivations. However, in spite of its flaws, I wasn't entirely bored by the book. It did have its moments. Hopefully, I'm not over-anticipating when I say so, but I still think there is a great deal of untapped potential in the other League members, and I couldn't help but be a bit amused by Leo's unconventional, head-strong sister, Beau. She and Leo's best friend and fellow League member, Gareth, who seems to be a little more serious and buttoned-up, could make an interesting pairing as the hero and heroine of the next book in the League of Second Sons series. Ripe for Pleasure was my first read by Isobel Carr (and her first written under this pen name). She may not have wowed me this time around, but I think I might be sufficiently intrigued by Gareth and Beau's story potential to give Ms. Carr another shot when their book, Ripe for Scandal come out in August (2011).
Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, Hachette Book Group, in exchange for my review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Her Very Special Robot is an erotic quickie with a very “different” premise, which I unfortunately had a little trReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Her Very Special Robot is an erotic quickie with a very “different” premise, which I unfortunately had a little trouble buying into. For some reason, I initially had the impression that the House of a Thousand Pleasures resort actually had robots to pleasure the guests. Since I'm not aware of any such artificial intelligence actually existing, it was an idea that seemed more well-suited to an alternate reality romance than a contemporary one. After thinking it through carefully, I realized that I was wrong and that Trace had engineered the scenario based on the movie he was making. Even still, I thought that Allie was rather naïve to believe technology had advance that far, and I couldn't help wondering about why Trace's makeup didn't come off especially when certain body parts got wet. I decided I was probably just over-thinking things like I usually do though. When I just tried to go with the flow of the fantasy, it was easier to get into, although Trace's extensive “hardware” was a bit much for my taste. However, that's more a personal preference than a criticism, and I must say, I got quite the “education” on male genital piercings.
On the upside, Her Very Special Robot had some satisfying elements to help make it a more balanced read for me. As always, Ann Jacobs wrote some enjoyably steamy love scenes (there were actually two packed into this short novella), and somehow she managed to create an emotional connection between Trace and Allie, as well as give them a solid HEA in only 22 pages, something that many authors can't accomplish in a much longer story. I was surprised to discover that this novella takes place over Christmas, one of my favorite times of the year. Although it was a small part of the story, Trace did use the opportunity to give Allie a very special gift, so it could make for a fun read during the holiday season. If it hadn't been for the rather far-fetched premise, I definitely would have given Her Very Special Robot a higher rating. As is, it was still a fairly enjoyable read for a free quickie. Her Very Special Robot is available as a free download from the publisher, Ellora's Cave, and other e-book retailers.
Note: This novella contains explicit language and sexual situations, including extensive intimate piercings and anal play with a toy, which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Wings of Fate is a sweet paranormal romance, but its genre isn't readily apparent based on the cover blurb. This wReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Wings of Fate is a sweet paranormal romance, but its genre isn't readily apparent based on the cover blurb. This wasn't really a problem for me, as I enjoy paranormal stories, but those who don't would probably prefer to know ahead of time even though the supernatural element was kind of a part of the initial mystery. Mysterious genre notwithstanding, I had a very difficult time rating Wings of Fate. There were things about it that I definitely thought could have been better, but at the same time, I still generally enjoyed it in spite of the flaws. There were certain things about both the writing and the story, which on the surface, are elements I typically don't care for, but strangely, was able to mostly overlook anyway. The first of these was a more passive writing style which almost never works for me at all. While it did make the story rather slow-paced and wasn't always conducive to immersing myself in the moment, I think that there are a couple reasons I wasn't as bothered by it here as I normally would be. One is that when paired with the first-person points of view, it made the novel seem more like a memoir than a fictional tale. Being a reader who usually enjoys autobiographical stories, I think this unusual melding of styles held a strange appeal for me. The other thing would be the dialog which for the most part, had a natural flow and was pretty strong, so it helped to supplement the more passive narrative. I was also rather oddly taken by the perspective alternating between the hero and heroine. I've only read one other book like this, but surprisingly it wasn't that difficult to make the jumps back and forth between the two characters heads. The only complaint I would have about this is that sometimes when the author changed the point of view, she also went back in time to reiterate the last few events from the opposite perspective, which in my opinion, seemed unnecessarily repetitive. Another thing I almost never like are love triangles. Admittedly, the early parts of the one found in Wings of Fate did make me a little uncomfortable, because I knew a really great guy was going to be left out in the cold. However, as the story went on, I wasn't as bothered by it, because the “third wheel” bowed out very graciously and found an HEA of his own. Lastly, I was a bit disappointed that Kane and Callie didn't have stronger reasons for falling in love (it just seemed to happen with little rhyme or reason), yet I could sense their emotional connection later in the story. Overall, I would say that Wings of Fate left me rather baffled as to why I liked it, but in spite of my puzzlement, I'm glad I did.
Kane and Callie were very nice people, but I really wish the author had dug a little deeper with the characterizations. Even though I was getting their first-person perspective throughout the entire book, I'm not quite sure I came away from reading it with the feeling that I really knew them. I liked Kane and Callie, but they were rather one-dimensional characters. Kane works in the logging industry during the summer, and hangs around the Cree village during the winter, doing what, I'm not quite sure. He takes care of his cabin, runs the woods alone or with his friends, and takes part in the tribal traditions, but other than that he doesn't seem to have much of a life. Callie is a nurse who travels to Canada with a medical team to work with the Cree people, but the rest of the aid workers are killed in a tragic plane crash, leaving her alone in a remote area and completely reliant on the Crees. This somewhat mirrors the rest of her life where she spent her first four years in foster care before being adopted. However, her adoptive parents recently passed away in a car accident, essentially leaving her alone except for the elderly lady with whom she lives. She has no reason to question her background until Kane rescues her from the plane crash, and slowly the things she thought she knew about herself begin to unravel.
I like that Callie was able to find love and build a new life for herself after finding out the truth about her heritage, but everything just fell into place a little too perfectly to suit me. There was very little conflict. What existed was primarily of an internal nature, such as Kane and Callie having difficulty expressing their feeling for one another, but I didn't feel like I understood the “whys” of their issues and then they were overcome fairly easily. As for outside forces, there really weren't any. As I mentioned earlier, the love triangle dissolved pretty easily. Callie was also accepted by everyone with open arms, and while I liked the welcoming family atmosphere that was built, life is just never this flawless, so my mind had a hard time wrapping itself around everything that was happening even though I knew it was just a fantasy. I think I simply need at least some small dose of reality along with the idealism, otherwise it feels like little more than an illusion.
I had a few other smaller but no less important issues with the book. It definitely needed some work on the editing. I found numerous small errors, such as missing, incorrect or misspelled words; incorrect or missing punctuation; incomplete or run-on sentences. Fairly minor things in and of themselves, but when taken as a whole, a bit distracting. There were also a few continuity errors, one of which threw me for a moment during the love scene, when the hero and heroine went from foreplay to consummation without ever getting undressed, but then woke up naked later. This one and only love scene was very mild and nuanced, but a line or two simply stating that they took their clothes off at some point could have been added without making it any more explicit (maybe the author just forgot?). I also have to say that the cast of this book, particularly Callie, must be the most hygienic romance novel characters I've ever read, as they are constantly taking showers.;-) Wings of Fate is also a very sweet love story, sometimes almost to the point of being saccharine. Unlike some readers, I'm normally quite tolerant of gentler stories, in fact I usually love them, but this one was skating perilously close to even my limits, mainly because everything and everyone is just too perfect.
Wings of Fate is certainly not like any other paranormal romance I've read. There is no darkness, no intense angst, and no battles against evil forces. The characters simply are what they are, and enjoy being that way. In fact, one of the areas in which T. M. Hobbs excels is in her descriptions of them running wild in their animal form. I could just sense the pull they felt to get outdoors and the freedom and exhilaration they experienced when they let themselves go in that way.
As readers can probably tell by now, my feelings about Wings of Fate are very mixed and complicated to the point that I'm not even sure I understand them. In spite of its flaws, I can still honestly say that I liked the story, and yet even after typing up this review, I still can't say precisely why, as the many logical and technical reasons I shouldn't, seem to be stacked against it. The story was nice and it was different, but not to the point that I feel compelled to rave about it. I think this is one of those books that readers would have to try for themselves and form their own opinions, as my feelings about it, even more than a week after reading it, are still rather muddled. I don't think any book has ever left me at quite such a loss for words to explain my thoughts on it, and I'm not entirely certain if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Perhaps it is simply meant to forever be one of the “great mysteries of the universe.”;-)
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher, The Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House, in exchange for my review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Troubled Hearts is a sweet little e-book novella about a husband and wife who have drifted apart and become estranged due to aReviewed for THC Reviews Troubled Hearts is a sweet little e-book novella about a husband and wife who have drifted apart and become estranged due to a tragedy in their lives, but whose love for one another prevails to bring them back together. As with most short stories like this I couldn't help wanting to know more. How did Julia and Richard meet and fall in love? What were their lives like up until the event that put distance between them? I also found myself curious about Julia's life-long friendship with Aiden, and why she fell for Richard instead of him. Generally though, questions like this are pretty par for the course when the e-book is only 16 pages long, so I tend to evaluate these novellas a little differently than longer stories.
I'm usually not a big fan of misunderstandings or miscommunication being the primary conflict in a romance like it was here. Although I felt that Julia should have been a bit more proactive in attempting to discuss her feelings and concerns with Richard before taking such drastic actions, I was able on some level to understand how they could have come to this point in their marriage, because both were under a great deal of stress. If nothing else it all led to a very sweet, tender reunion, and I did like that they each trusted the other enough not to question one another's fidelity. Overall, Troubled Hearts was a well-written story that was another good read from Donna Hatch....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Even though Philip Hall Likes Me. I Reckon Maybe. was a Newbery Honor Book back in 1975 (when I was a kid), for some reason, IReviewed for THC Reviews Even though Philip Hall Likes Me. I Reckon Maybe. was a Newbery Honor Book back in 1975 (when I was a kid), for some reason, I had never heard of it until recently. I probably never would have found it on my own if I hadn't been introduced to Bette Greene through her wonderful young adult novel, Summer of My German Soldier. After reading that and its sequel I decided to check out Ms. Greene's other works. I'm so glad I did, because my exploration led me to this wonderful little gem of a children's book. It is a very light-hearted story that is quite different in tone from Ms. Green's young adult books, and in my opinion, showcases her versatility as an author.
Beth Lambert, the main protagonist and first-person narrator of the story, is cute as a button, smart as a whip with lots of imagination, spunky, determined, and oh, so funny. She had me almost constantly chuckling, if not laughing out loud through the entire book. I just loved reading about all of her adventures, or misadventures, as the case may be. The main focus of Beth's narration is her relationship with her best friend, Philip Hall, “the cutest boy in school.” I was positively tickled by how Philip goes from being “the sweetest boy ever,” to doing or saying something dumb which turns him into, “a dirty, rotten polecat.” Then does or says something nice that gets him back in Beth's good graces. These two also have a friendly rivalry going, each trying to one up the other to be the best or smartest at everything, as well as a bit of a battle of the sexes. It was like reading a love/hate romance between two twelve-year-olds, and it was absolutely adorable and hilarious. However, interspersed between their intellectual and verbal duels are some very sweet, tender moments that are full of heart.
There are lots of other characters too, including Beth's family who are very loving and supportive, her girl's club, The Pretty Pennies, and Philip's boy's club, The Tiger Hunters. Whether she was trying to catch turkey thieves, getting a new puppy only to find out she's allergic to it, standing up for what's right, rescuing Philip from the mountain, or raising a calf for 4-H, Beth was always in fine form. Philip Hall Likes Me. I Reckon Maybe. was a fast-paced and throughly fun read. It had just one mild profanity and other than that was a completely “clean” book that I would highly recommend to kids, parents, teachers or anyone who likes to read a good children's story. Although there doesn't appear to be an official series designation, Philip Hall Likes Me. I Reckon Maybe. is the first of three books about Beth and Philip. The other two are Get on out of Here, Philip Hall and I've Already Forgotten Your Name, Philip Hall!. With yet another winner, Bette Greene is solidifying her place on my favorite authors list, and I can't wait to read the other two books in the series....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Ask and You Shall Receive is a short, little contemporary romance novella that is both sweet and steamy. Being a rather passivReviewed for THC Reviews Ask and You Shall Receive is a short, little contemporary romance novella that is both sweet and steamy. Being a rather passive person myself, I could really relate to the heroine, Beth, having difficulty asking for what she wants, particularly in the bedroom. Chase was a really nice guy who was more than willing to fulfill all of Beth's sexual fantasies with only one condition: that she asks for everything she wants. I liked the way he gently challenged her to step out of her comfort zone and allow herself to be the person she really was inside. It made for a very fun, sexy romp.
My main complaint would be that I wish it could have been longer. There was so much more I wanted to know. The reader is given just a taste of the sympathetic reasons Beth has confidence issues, and I would have liked to know more about her background, as well as Chase's. He really had no backstory at all. I also would have enjoyed learning more about how they met both online and in person and how their friendship had progressed. However, such is often the case with short novellas like this. They sometimes leave me not quite fully satisfied. The only other thing that I thought could have been better was that the story was very dialog heavy, but rather lacking in facial expressions and gestures. I think adding a few little details like this could have really improved the element of intimacy. The love scene was also a little more chatty that I typically like, but it at least made sense in the context of what the author was trying to accomplish with the heroine. Ask and You Shall Receive was my first read by Karenna Colcroft, and in spite of a few minor criticisms, I did enjoy her writing style overall, and look forward to trying some of her other works.
Note: The sexual content of this story is very much on par with steamy mainstream romances, but it does contain a fair bit of explicit language which is typically reserved for the erotic sub-genre.
Ask and You Shall Receive was only released in digital format. I purchased it from an e-book retailer a few months back, but it appears to no longer be available. It has been removed both from the author's and publisher's websites. I did find a comment from the author which I believe pertained to this story in which she stated that the publisher had reverted the rights back to her, and I can only assume that she has either not sought to have it republished or has not been able to find a new publisher for it yet....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I've been a fan of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe since I was a child, but for whatever reason, I never got around to rReviewed for THC Reviews I've been a fan of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe since I was a child, but for whatever reason, I never got around to reading the rest of The Chronicles of Narnia. With the books now being made into major motion pictures, I've been taking the opportunity to rectify that situation, and I'm so glad to be discovering them. Each “new” book I read in the series takes me on another adventure of both mind and spirit. C. S. Lewis constantly amazes me with his ability to make me feel like I'm there in Narnia with the characters. His descriptions of the Dawn Treader, the sometimes perilous sea voyage, the places they see, and all the people they meet along the way are so well drawn that they kept me engrossed and anxious to continue reading. Somehow in a mere 216 pages, Mr. Lewis took me on a grand escapade that made me feel as though I'd sailed to the ends of the Earth myself, while also imparting some important spiritual truths that spoke to the depths of my soul. Aside from Aslan's sacrifice and his forgiveness of Edmund in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I haven't always been able to clearly identify the allegorical parallels to Christian beliefs that I know are found in The Chronicles of Narnia. The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” was a whole different story for me. I could see so many things in it that nurtured my spirit with its gentle, easy to understand message. It was a feel-good book which also left me pondering the deeper meaning in life.
The characters are such a joy to visit with. Edmund and Lucy are back, and make their travels to Narnia with a new player, their cousin, Eustace. Edmund has grown a great deal since his close call with the White Witch. I've always loved Lucy. She is brave, while also being a kind, caring and sweet girl to everyone, but as this book proved, even she can be tempted by power. Eustace begins the story as quite the spoiled brat, making me hope for a quick comeuppance. Some amazing things do happen to Eustace which lead to a loving transformation courtesy of Aslan, after which he's not perfect, but much nicer. On the Narnian side of things, Caspian and Reepicheep also return. Caspian is now King and going in search of the seven lost lords of Narnia who were friends and supporters of his father. The brave little mouse, Reepicheep, his loyal and fearless companion is very wise and ready to conquer any challenge that crosses his path. All of these combine with lots of new characters who are met along the way to create a thoroughly entertaining cast.
The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” is a book that presents something new and exciting in nearly every chapter. There is a little something here for everyone: adventure, mystery, magic, and discoveries galore to be made. I'm a “purist” who has been reading the books in their original order, which makes The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” the third book of the series, and I'm a little sad that it seems many of my favorite characters may not be back for the remaining stories. However, that doesn't deter me from greatly looking forward to continuing The Chronicles of Narnia soon....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Kathleen Eagle is an author I have come to respect for her care and attention to the historical and cultural details of the seReviewed for THC Reviews Kathleen Eagle is an author I have come to respect for her care and attention to the historical and cultural details of the setting she is portraying. Medicine Woman is just such a book, as it delves very deeply into Native American culture. There are many details of day to day life in a Lakota camp in the early 1800s, as well as legends, myths and spiritual beliefs. Some of these things were quite fascinating, while others could sometimes become almost overwhelming to someone like myself who has never been exposed to the Native American culture in more than a cursory way. Particularly on a spiritual level, the book was steeped in mysticism, which I didn't always understand. Even though I think I got the basic gist of things, there were times when I wished that the author would explain things better, because I felt like some of the characters were speaking in riddles. I came to realize by the end that this was all part of a culture in which the belief is that a man (or woman) must find his/her own way, or vision, in order to be whole, and no one else can tell them what to do. I guess it all boiled down to me often wanting to know “why?”, but “why?” is not a question that the Lakota dwell on. Even though the cultural aspects were kind of a mixed bag for me, I did enjoy the historical elements. The author took the time to mention some real-life naturalists of the day who James admired. She also didn't shy away from the very sad, prejudicial attitude of many whites in that era toward Native Americans. I would say that the biggest thing though was her portrayal of how whites brought the smallpox to the Indians and the tragic impact of the disease on them. In general, all these things came together to create a very different kind of romance novel.
I think I was expecting a rather awkward character in James, since he is a scientist and a Harvard professor, and while his obsession with plants technically makes him a geek, he doesn't have the stereotypical geek personality. If anything he's pretty confident, maybe even slightly cocky on occasion. Early on in the story, he could seem to become a bit petulant when Kezawin didn't react in the way he expects her to or he thinks she isn't paying attention to his accomplishments. I finally came to the conclusion that this was the author's way to express his initial ignorance of her culture, and as he learns more, he becomes very sweet, attentive and protective of her. James was rather prideful about his work though, and eventually had to learn what truly meant the most to him in life, and how to balance his scholarly nature with the Indian way. I did like that there were some behaviors which were simply ingrained in his nature from being raised in white culture and that he never fully gave up the white ways. More than anything, this story is probably about James' quest for a sense of belonging and purpose in life. When he finally discovers “why” the spirits brought him to the Lakota, it was a very poignant and emotional scene.
Kezawin is a woman who lives a rather lonely and separate life from the rest of her tribal group, because of a vision she had as a young woman which led her and her people to believe she is wakan (holy). Her vision was both a blessing and a curse. Because of it, she is a knowledgeable and talented healer, and she knew that James had a purpose among the people from the moment she met him. However, it has also made her feared among the people because of her “strong magic.” She also believes that she cannot have a relationship with any man without stealing his “magic,” and possibly even killing him. She is rather floored by James' lack of fear around her. Kezawin was a very strong woman in more ways than one, as well as very brave to do what she did to rescue James from an enemy camp. Although I know that it was also simply part of her culture to be that way, she was just so subdued for a large part of the story that I felt like I couldn't quite get a feel for who she really was inside, but in spite of that, she was still a very admirable character.
During the first 2/3 of the book, I found the actual romance and sexual tension between James and Kezawin to be pretty minimal. I could tell that the characters were growing to care for one another through their actions, but I just couldn't seem to feel it very much. Although it took a while to get to them, there were finally some sweet romantic scenes for this couple. I really enjoyed them taking part in the traditional Lakota courting ritual under the blanket. I also liked the wedding night, but found it a little frustrating that Kezawin was still holding back out of fear that she would become the deer woman and hurt James. The pair have a number of mild misunderstandings which in my opinion, made it seem like they weren't communicating well enough, but I suppose some allowance could be made for the language barrier. It is implied that Kezawin does not speak English, and although James can speak Lakota, there are some English words that simply didn't have a Lakota equivalent. Overall, I felt like they were a well-suited couple who expressed their love for one another primarily through actions rather than words.
Medicine Woman was a book that had both strengths and weaknesses. In my opinion, one of it's weaknesses was a decided lack of facial expressions or gestures during the dialog which made it rather difficult to sense the emotions of the characters as they conversed. I also thought that the story needed a little more introspection for much the same reason. Especially early on, I had a hard time getting a feel for the characters and understanding their motivations and what they were thinking, but at least, most things started to become clearer as the story went on. I know that the Native American lifestyle is a pretty laid back one, and Medicine Woman seemed to mirror that languid pace of life within its pages. There is a certain beauty to that, but readers who prefer lots of action or a faster pace, probably won't care for the focus on internal and spiritual conflicts within the hero and heroine as the primary drive behind the plot. Also, since Medicine Woman is steeped in Native American culture, I think that at least some interest in it is a must to properly appreciate this book. Otherwise, the reader might find it a bit dull. The bottom line is that anyone who enjoys Native American ways, and doesn't mind a slower, more artistic pace with lots of authenticity, will likely find it to be worthwhile. Medicine Woman was among some of the first books that Kathleen Eagle wrote, and even though it didn't quite measure up to her wonderful Fire and Rain for me (the first book of hers I read), I still found it to be a good story, and I'm looking forward to further exploration of her backlist soon....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Bridge of Hope was an e-book novella that was a decent read considering its short length, but I couldn't help feelReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Bridge of Hope was an e-book novella that was a decent read considering its short length, but I couldn't help feeling like it could have been better if it had been a bit longer and a few things had been different. I had somehow gotten the impression from the synopsis that the hero had a connection to the heroine's dead husband, perhaps was even his commanding officer, but that wasn't really the case. Mike only knew Peter in passing, because Peter had taken a training course with him before deploying to Iraq. In this case, I think that some sort of friendship or other relationship would have made the premise of the story a little more believable. I kind of had a hard time with the idea of a guy taking in a woman who was a complete stranger and entrusting her with the care of his young daughter when she had nearly attempted suicide and could potentially be emotionally unstable. Knowing of the military culture in which they tend to take care of their own and the fact that Mike had lost his own wife and understood Cynthia's grief, I decided to try to go with the flow. It did get a little easier to buy into it as their relationship progressed. The author stretched the story out over several months which helped to make the idea of them developing feelings for one another believable, but I still wish it had been a little longer to more fully flesh out the characters and plot.
Mike was a really good and likable guy to take care of a woman he didn't even know when she had nowhere else to turn. He was also an attentive and caring father to his eight-year-old daughter, Katy. As I already mentioned, Mike had experienced the pain of loosing a spouse and so was probably in a better position than most people to help Cyn through her own grief. He was also generally the voice of reason, guiding Cyn through several stubborn spots on her road to recovery.
Unfortunately, it was that stubbornness and tendency to flip-flop that kept me from fully liking Cyn. I could relate to her sense of loneliness and deep despair after her husband was killed in Iraq, and have to say that the author rendered those parts quite well, really making me feel her pain. I also liked that she became a kind and reliable mother figure to Katy. I could relate to Cyn's fear of change as well, but her antagonistic attitude about nearly everything started to grate after a while. In my opinion, it just made her seem constantly combative. Even when she realized that a particular change wasn't quite so bad after all, she would still fight the next one tooth and nail. She also seemed rather fickle to put Mike off because of her desire to find her independence and stand on her own two feet rather than getting into another unhealthy relationship, but then practically threw herself at him after one bad date with another man. I never really understood why she needed to date anyone else, since she obviously cared for Mike. It just seemed like an unnecessary plot device to conveniently bring them together. Ultimately, Cyn was an OK character who had her good points, but just wasn't always easy for me to understand.
There were also a few other things which kept Bridge of Hope from being the stellar read I had been hoping for. First, I don't mind some politics in my romance novels as long as it is kept on reasonably neutral ground, but when party affiliations start being bandied about and the author seems to be towing a certain party line while demonizing the other side, that's where I start to check out. Thankfully, this was just one scene, but any kind of heavy rhetoric in a novel is not romantic to me in the least. Although I'm not a big fan of ghost stories, I thought that the idea of the ghost of the heroine's husband bringing the hero and heroine together seemed kind of romantic and different, which in a way it was, but there was also something a bit off about it. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but maybe it was that Mike and Cyn seemed a little too accepting of talking to a dead man. Additionally, the one and only love scene in the entire story had no real spark to it. After Cyn's bad date, Mike had stopped things from going any further between them, saying that their first time together should be special, but then when it happened the very next night, it was over and done with so fast, the reader could blink and almost miss it. That didn't seem very “special” to me, and I really felt there needed to be a lot more building of sexual tension leading up to it. Lastly, one other minor thing that kept throwing me out of the story momentarily were several abrupt scene or point-of-view changes. There were no page breaks or any warning, just a quick transition that occurred from one paragraph to the next, which in my opinion, interrupted the flow of the narrative. Overall, Bridge of Hope wasn't a bad way to spend a couple of hours of my time in spite of my issues with it. This novella was certainly more readable than some stories I've tried, and good enough that I might be open giving Pam Champagne another chance to wow me in the future. ...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews This story was rather interesting with its ghostly legend and potential body-snatching spectre. It also had a good plot twistReviewed for THC Reviews This story was rather interesting with its ghostly legend and potential body-snatching spectre. It also had a good plot twist that I partially saw coming, although not in quite the way it happened, which means that kids might be even more surprised by it than I was. The story wrapped up in a rather open-ended way which left me with mixed feelings, but overall, this was a fun, creepy read. A Watery Grave can be purchased as a separate e-book and can also be found in the Haunted anthology.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my review. ...more
I found Amazing Grace to be a very informative biography of William Wilberforce, arguably the main person responsible for the abolition of the slave tI found Amazing Grace to be a very informative biography of William Wilberforce, arguably the main person responsible for the abolition of the slave trade in Great Britain and a name that should be more well-known than it is. Not too surprisingly, it also takes a historical look at that campaign, and the entire process the abolitionists went through to finally achieve their goal. Mr. Wilberforce was a man of strong faith, and the author focuses a lot on how that faith informed his decision to become involved in the abolition movement. I had already developed an admiration for Mr. Wilberforce after watching the movie Amazing Grace, and this book only strengthened my esteem, as it goes into much more detail. It might be worth mentioning that William Wilberforce was nowhere near as tall as Ioan Gruffudd, the actor who portrayed him. In fact, he was a mere slip of a man who was rather sickly his entire life, which makes his accomplishments all the more impressive to me.
William Wilberforce may have been small, but he had a huge personality and was famous for his oratory skills both in and out of Parliament. He was also quite well-loved and had many whom he counted as friends. In fact, this is really the only thing about the book that was troublesome to me: Mr. Wilberforce had so many acquaintances and there were so many other people involved in the abolition movement that I had difficulty keeping all the names straight and finally had to give up. Even though it was a small part of the overall story, being the hopeless romantic that I am, I really enjoyed the bits about Mr. Wilberforce's meeting and courtship of his wife, Barbara, who was seventeen years his junior. It seems the couple fell in love at first sight and had a whirlwind romance, but it ended up being a strong union which produced six children. This book contained a lot of information for me to digest and I ended up doing so over about seven months which is why my review isn't as detailed as it normally would be, but I did find it to be a very interesting read and one that I could highly recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about William Wilberforce and the abolitionist movement in Great Britain....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I love all things medieval, so this was one of my favorite stories in the Haunted anthology in which it is found. The castle,Reviewed for THC Reviews I love all things medieval, so this was one of my favorite stories in the Haunted anthology in which it is found. The castle, knights, tournament and such made for a pretty fun read that was just slightly scary. The joker's riddle was easy to figure out, although perhaps it wouldn't be as easy for kids as it was for me. There were a couple of things near the end of the story that seemed a little silly and clichéd, but overall, I had a pretty good time reading this one. A Medieval Nightmare can also be purchased as a separate e-book.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my review. ...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "2.5 stars" Awakening is a little novella that I had a very hard time categorizing. While the story is essentially one extendeReviewed for THC Reviews "2.5 stars" Awakening is a little novella that I had a very hard time categorizing. While the story is essentially one extended sex scene, it isn't descriptive enough to be considered erotic, but it technically isn't romance either. The reason it doesn't quite fit the romance genre, in my opinion, is that it contains no declarations of love, no commitments and no HEA (or really even an HFN) ending for the protagonists, only a playful acknowledgement that Adriana would need more “lessons.” I reluctantly settled on the romance category anyway, simply because the novella had a certain romanticism about it. What woman wouldn't want her first sexual experience to be pleasurable and even magical? I also did feel that in a more involved story, Nicolo would have made a very good romantic hero. There isn't a great deal of background information on either character, but what I read of him I liked. He's a more sensitive artist type who is known for his skill not only with a brush and canvas but with helping the young Fae ladies to discover their magical powers which are revealed during their first sexual encounter. I also never would have thought that a guy with lilac hair and a body that takes on the same hue while experiencing pleasure would be appealing, but for some reason, Nicolo was.
I also had an equally difficult time rating Awakening as I did categorizing it. I've already cited the elements that I liked in the story, but nice as the premise and its male lead were, the writing was at times utterly cringe-worthy. The author's actual style of writing was OK, but I can't help but draw into question her command of the English language. For a work so short, there were a number of poorly constructed and incomplete sentences which made it difficult if not impossible to discern her meaning. Not to mention, I was thrown out of the building sexual tension while trying to figure it out. In my opinion, some of the dialog was rather juvenile, particularly lines from the heroine, such as, “Wow!”, “It felt weird.” and several others which had me wincing. I realize that she was only eighteen, but as the princess of the Fae, I expected her to act a bit more regal instead of sounding like a twelve-year-old (My own twelve-year-old is more articulate than that.). Last but not least this work was in desperate need of a thesaurus. Awakening was an OK novella for what it was, but the lamentable composition made me happy that it was a freebie and that it wasn't any longer. If not for that, I would have had no trouble giving it a higher rating. E. D. Beale seems to have the imagination for creating a promising premise, but in my opinion, her writing skills need some serious polish. Awakening is available as a free download from the All Romance e-Books website....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" In my opinion, Rockville was the creepiest of The Horror Diaries stories I've read so far, probably owing to the vReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" In my opinion, Rockville was the creepiest of The Horror Diaries stories I've read so far, probably owing to the villain being a child who had committed some pretty heinous acts. No details were given, so it wasn't an incredibly hard-hitting story, just slightly more disturbing. I would have liked to have known a little more about why he was compelled to do these things and how he died, because as written he was pretty one-dimensional and was also perhaps a little too easily dispatched. I think that Calla Lily's parents being possessed and coming after her added to the fright factor. Calla Lilly was OK as the main character, but I didn't find her to be quite as interesting or likable as the protagonists in the other Horror Diaries stories, mainly because she could be rather whiny. Overall, not a bad little horror tale, but a few things could have been better. Rockville can be purchased as a separate e-book and can also be found in the Haunted anthology under a different title, The Manor on the Rocks.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I first read Love Comes Softly when I was only about 15 or 16 years old, and if memory serves, it was my very first romance noReviewed for THC Reviews I first read Love Comes Softly when I was only about 15 or 16 years old, and if memory serves, it was my very first romance novel. It seems I must have picked well, because not only is it an appropriate story for younger readers content-wise, but it has stood up to the test of time. I still enjoyed it every bit as much today as I did 25 years ago, perhaps even more because I'm seeing it through more mature eyes. Love Comes Softly is something of a Little House on the Prairie story aimed at a slightly older audience. Janette Oke captures that same spirit of the pioneers, depicting their day-to-day lives in a way that made me feel like I was there with them. It amazes me how hard-working and courageous these people were. Ms. Oke paints a picture of joys and sorrow, hardships and laughter against the backdrop of the frontier where close-knit communities of people existed who were willing to help each other in any way they could. She also really brings home the harsh reality for people in that time period, especially women, and how few choices they had. Marty would have been in unbelievably dire straits, and could possibly have even died, if Clark, a stranger to her, hadn't proposed a marriage of convenience. Under the circumstances, it couldn't have been an easy thing for him to do either, but he needed her almost as much as she needed him, even though she didn't want to admit it.
The vast majority (probably more than 95%) of the story is told from Marty's third-person point of view. Marty was a great female lead, but she was also a character who had to slowly grow on me. The author did a wonderful job of palpably expressing Marty's grief over the loss of her first husband. Then Clark came along immediately after her husband's funeral with his proposal. After some thought, Marty, being a practical woman, realized that she really had no other choice, but it didn't stop her from stubbornly resenting Clark for it. Although Marty never gave voice to her angry thoughts in Clark's presence, the reader is certainly privy to them. There were times when I felt like she was being ungrateful for this man taking her in and treating her with kindness and respect, and that she was rather selfish in not even considering the fact that he too might still be grieving the loss of his wife. In her defense though, I carefully considered what it would be like to be in her shoes, and decided that she was for the most part simply having a fairly normal human reaction to being placed in such an untenable position. During these times, I wish that a little more background information had been given about Marty so that I could better understand her reluctance to be beholden to a man, her being suspicious about Clark's kindness, and her inability to perform some of the simplest household tasks. I did admire her determination to uphold her end of the bargain (one way in which her stubbornness served her well), her willingness to learn, and that she always tried her best even when it didn't turn out right. Marty's initial ineptness at cooking and doing household chores could be pretty funny at times. As I continued to read, I realized that the story was really all about Marty's journey back to wholeness and being able to open her heart to love again, and I really enjoyed watching her learn, and change, and most of all grow as a person.
There is a part of me that wishes we could have had a little more insight from Clark's point of view. There were only a handful of times in the entire book where we get to see things from his perspective, and they only last for a couple of paragraphs. However, I think that the author meant for the reader to experience Clark through his actions, and the message that actions speak louder than words came across very clearly through his character. Clark was an incredibly kind and gentle man. He only asked for a mutually beneficial marriage in name only, and even offered Marty an out if she chose to take it. He gave her the space she needed to grieve the loss of her husband. He was never mean or demanding like she expected, but instead treated her with respect and patience when she burned dinner or made a mess of her attempts at cleaning. He even ate pancakes every meal for several days without complaint, and helped with some of the cooking and other chores until Marty got her feet under her. Clark was always caring, thoughtful and understanding, especially after he found out that Marty was expecting. He was an amazing father to Missie, and later, to Marty's child as well. Even Marty realized that Clark always did what was right and best for others, even if it hurt him to do it. I think that the best thing about Clark though was how he quietly “lived” his faith in God through example. He never, ever used it to beat Marty over the head. He just accepted her as she was. It would have been impossible not to love a romantic hero like Clark, and slowly but surely his love (as well as God's love) stole into Marty's heart softly and unexpectedly.
There were a couple of other elements in Love Comes Softly that really drew me in. First was the marriage of convenience which I haven't really read much of in romance before, and I guess had never really thought much about either. After reading this book, I am quite curious to try more romances with this theme. The other was simply the underlying Christian message of the story which I found to be utterly inspiring. I've been very reluctant to read inspirational romances lately because of the preachiness I often find in them, but Love Comes Softly was a truly uplifting novel that brought me back to some simple spiritual truths that had somehow gotten lost in the busy hustle and bustle of everyday life. For that reason alone, I am so grateful that I decided to re-read this book. In fact, the one and only small problem I had with the story was the author's use of backwoodsy vernacular that seemed a little extreme even for the frontier. In my opinion, it made the characters seem somewhat unintelligent which they clearly weren't. Overall though, it was a minor issue, and otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the book. Love Comes Softly is the first volume in the series of the same name. I can't recall how many of the books I read as a teen, but since the latter three were published several years later, I know that I never made it past #5. This all makes me very eager to revisit/discover the rest of the series soon....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Somehow this story, with its talking skull, possessed mannequin, and a vengeful spirit that keeps mis-hearing nameReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Somehow this story, with its talking skull, possessed mannequin, and a vengeful spirit that keeps mis-hearing names struck me as more funny than creepy or scary. In some ways, it reminded me of an episode of Scooby-Doo. However, the fact that A Haunting Past seemed kind of silly to me might just be because I'm a grown-up. I can see how kids, especially more sensitive ones, might truly find it frightening, since Truce, the main character is being chased by a ghost with murder on its mind. I have to say that I agreed with the girl who got herself punished for wondering out loud why they would build a conservation park dedicated to a man who'd caused so much destruction and wish that point had been explained a little better. I also would have liked to have seen a little more of Truce's relationship with his brother, and perhaps an admission from Truce that he understood where Colby was coming from after his experience at the park. Overall though, A Haunting Past was a decent story that should entertain kids, even if I did spent most of it smiling. A Haunting Past can be purchased as a separate e-book and can also be found in the Haunted anthology.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Ghost Park was a nice little story that was slightly creepy without being too scary. I liked that the main character, Chase, wReviewed for THC Reviews Ghost Park was a nice little story that was slightly creepy without being too scary. I liked that the main character, Chase, was interested in preserving the environment while still being sympathetic to her dad's plight of needing a job. I thought Ghost Park also had a great message about how important it can be to let go of the hurts of the past in order to get on with living life. Overall, it was probably my favorite story in the Haunted anthology in which it is found and a pretty enjoyable read. Ghost Park can also be purchased as a separate e-book.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Dark Side of the Moon got off to an excellent start, thoroughly tickling my funny bone. The heroine is a serious investigativeReviewed for THC Reviews Dark Side of the Moon got off to an excellent start, thoroughly tickling my funny bone. The heroine is a serious investigative journalist who got fired after a story went bad and has now been reduced to writing stories about alien babies and killer moths for a Weekly World News style tabloid. The conversation she has with her boss in the opening chapter about her moth piece and sensational headlines had me grinning from ear to ear. Then we meet the hero, a Were-Hunter, in his animal form, which at that moment happened to be an adorable but very ticked off house-cat who's stuck in a cage at an animal shelter. The way he was hissing and spitting at his captors, especially when they threatened to neuter him, was hilarious. Add to that the heroine “adopting” him in spite of being terribly allergic to cats and taking him outside where the poor baby's fur kept getting singed by the sun, creating a horrible stench in her car, and I thought that the book had the makings of something truly LOL funny. Unfortunately, this was just the first thirty pages or so of the story and after that, it was just never quite as humorous again, unless you count the author's numerous cheesy jokes which just never seem to do a whole lot for me.
While Dark Side of the Moon had a certain sameness to its characters and situations, there were some unique elements to it as well. Some of this uniqueness was what I consider “good,” because it added to the Dark-Hunter world-building. To begin with, the hero was the first Dark-Hunter/Were-Hunter hybrid. His form is that of a leopard, but as I mentioned above he can shrink down to the size of a house-cat. I would have loved to see more of him in this form, but as an Arcadian rather than a Katagaria, I suppose there was less call for him to take on his animal shape. This book also has the first alliance between humans and Daimons which made for a bit of mystery as to why these two species would be working together. This was an interesting side-story, but I would have liked to have seen a little more actual investigating considering that the heroine is a reporter. By the end, the reader also gets a glimpse at a demigod in the making, although I was rather on the fence about this since I thought that demigods were born not “created.” However, I think this sub-plot may be part of a huge build-up to Acheron's story and in a roundabout way, may have revealed some things about his background, so I'm willing to let it slide for the moment. Then there were differences that I consider to be “bad” (or at least not well explained) such as the Dark-Hunters and Squires breaking/bending rules left and right, particularly those prohibiting blood-drinking and mating/marrying, seemingly without consequence. Not that there hasn't been some occasional rebellion in the ranks before, but it seemed especially egregious in this book. There was also a secondary Dark-Hunter who was implied to have been turned Daimon, but if that's the case, I don't entirely understand how, as it wasn't really explained. Lastly, the ending for the hero and heroine was different than that of other Dark-Hunters who have found their mates to this point. I think it was intended to address the life-span issue between a human and a Were-Hunter, but logically, it didn't make sense to me.
Ravyn and Susan were nice enough as the hero and heroine, but even after learning both their back-stories, which were quite sad, I still couldn't seem to make a deep connection with them or muster much enthusiasm for them. I liked the way Ravyn showed Susan many small but thoughtful kindnesses, and I liked how Susan took care of Ravyn when he was drugged. Also, Ravyn's surprising compassion for others in general, made me feel some small emotional connection to him, but as a couple, they just didn't spark off the pages for me like some of Sherrilyn Kenyon's other heroes and heroines. I think this was owing in some part to the author's penchant for having her stories take place over a mere few days time. Everything just happened too quickly to make them falling in love believable to me. Even though Ravyn and Susan spent some time talking about their backgrounds, it felt more like sympathy and lust, than a true intimate and loving bond that comes from knowing someone for a while. There just needed to be deeper, more meaningful character development for me to buy into a lasting relationship.
Even though the story is set in Seattle, far away from the Dark-Hunters home base of New Orleans, there were a number of character sitings, both new and old. The Seattle contingent of Dark-Hunters are mostly new characters with the possible exception of Zoe who I believe made one or two brief appearances elsewhere. I was intrigued by Cael with his kilt and Scottish accent, and I have a feeling he will play a role in future stories. There are also a number of characters reappearing including the Squires, Otto and Kyle, and the goddess, Artemis. Savitar puts in a brief appearance, and I find myself still on the fence about him, as he seems too arrogant and self-centered for my taste. Stryker plays a big role, once again as the villain. There was a little more development to his character this time, but I continue to have a hard time seeing how he's going to be redeemed sufficiently to have his own book. We also get to really see Nick again for the first time since he was turned Dark-Hunter at the end of Seize the Night. He is obviously no ordinary Dark-Hunter to begin with and even less so by the end of this book. I dearly miss his sarcastic humor. He's now a bitter, angry shell of his former self who only seems to be living to seek revenge against Acheron. Then, of course, there's the amazing Ash, who never fails to steal the show. I so admire him for the way he grieves deeply over every lost Dark-Hunter and over his lost friendship with Nick. It's one of the things that makes him so human and relatable. As usual he is as sweet as can be while continually getting screwed over by Artemis which seems to be causing some friction with the Dark-Hunters and the possible beginnings of rebellion against him. I truly can't wait for his book to see him finally be free of her clutches.
Dark Side of the Moon had some decent action sequences, but it also probably had an equal number of instances where the story seemed to plod along. This was, in part, due to Ms. Kenyon's penchant for repetition. I realize that she likes to do this so that new readers who may jump into the middle of the series will be up to speed, but for someone like me, who has been following the series religiously from the very beginning, it's nothing but a bunch of filler that can be easily skipped. Not to mention, when she starts repeating stuff from earlier in the same story, it can actually become annoying. The author also has a tendency to overuse certain words such as “Uh-huh” and one character calling another male character, “boy,” as well as the phrase “begs the question” which happens to be an incorrect usage of the expression anyway.
Overall, in spite of my criticisms, Dark Side of the Moon was a decent story in the Dark-Hunter series. I just wish that Ms. Kenyon had pared down the repetition in favor of better character and relationship development between Ravyn and Susan. As is, it happened to be one of those books in the series where, generally speaking, I was more interested in some of the sub-plots about other characters like Acheron, Nick and Cael than I was in the main romance. For the bits and pieces that were added to the bigger Dark-Hunter story arc, I definitely recommend it to fans. Dark Side of the Moon is book #9 in the Dark-Hunter series. There are currently a total of 19 full-length novels in the series and quite a number of related novellas and graphic novels as well, with more still to come (#20 is due for release in Aug. 2011). A complete list of all the books and their recommended reading order can be found on Sherrilyn Kenyon's website....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews In a series that has been rather hit and miss with me, Unleash the Night was definitely one of the better Dark-Hunter installmReviewed for THC Reviews In a series that has been rather hit and miss with me, Unleash the Night was definitely one of the better Dark-Hunter installments, but still didn't quite make it to the front of the pack. I fell for the hero, Wren, from the moment he first appeared (in fact, I'd already been intrigued by him from his brief appearances in past books), and Maggie was a really sweet wonderful heroine too. The first half of the book really sucked me in and kept me reading as Wren and Maggie's relationship developed and I learned more about Wren's backstory. Unfortunately, the story began to falter a bit for me around the halfway point right after Maggie finds out the truth about Wren. Then it felt like their romance kind of got put on the back burner as they try to prove Wren's innocence in the murder of his parents twenty years earlier, which involved some semi-confusing time travel and action sequences. Once they went back in time, Wren and Maggie and their romantic interactions started to loose some luster for me. After giving it some thought, I believe this was owing to them overcoming their problems a little too easily. There never was a great deal of conflict in their relationship to begin with. The only thing really keeping them apart was the fact that he was a Were-Hunter and she was a human. This issue was magically solved in an instant and in a way that I cannot reveal without giving away spoilers, but suffice it say that I had a hard time buying into the ease with which Maggie was able to accept and master these changes. Also, I felt like the character development suddenly came to a halt. The couple previously had been quite fascinating with their flaws, particularly Wren, and then almost instantaneously everything was all wine and roses as they discovered an immediate newfound confidence in themselves and Wren found out that some things he had previously believed weren't true. These rapid turnarounds just left the characters and the remainder of their story rather prosaic in comparison to the promise shown in the first half.
Wren was a hero who was very easy to love. It was apparent right from the beginning that he was a tortured and misunderstood soul who was desperately in need of some lovin'. Because of being an animal hybrid, Wren was rejected by his parents, particularly his mother, and then had to deal with their murders. He grew up almost completely alone except for Marvin, his monkey companion. Even at Sanctuary, where he was supposed to be protected, Wren was still an outcast, mistrusted for being different. He hid behind a temperamental nature which caused him to often lash out at others, but inside he was gentle and vulnerable. When Maggie comes along, she speaks to that part of him and tames him with her kindness. I love how he can be so sweet and thoughtful in spite of his innate animal nature, and how he can in turn kiss Maggie both tenderly and fiercely. Wren is also a virgin, one of my favorite kinds of romance heroes, but here his inexperience is treated somewhat differently. Most virgin heroes I've encountered are a little unsure of themselves, and while Wren was to some small degree, his animal instincts simply took over making him an almost unbelievably fabulous lover right from the start which left me with somewhat mixed feelings.
Maggie was a sweet heroine who was also very likable. She was struggling with having a U.S. Senator for a father and him basically running her life. She feels stuck in a rut with friends she barely even likes and no real romantic prospects, as most guys see her as more of a good friend than a girlfriend. Wren makes her feel so much more than that, and completely desirable as a woman. She was the one gracious person in the midst of her snobbish friends, and I loved how she defended Wren when they decided to taunt him. I also liked that she was very level-headed and intelligent, simply calming herself and putting the pieces of the puzzle together the first time she saw Wren shift. I also greatly respected her for being willing to trust and help Wren even when she knew that he was in terrible danger which would likely put her in danger as well. Maggie was just an all-around nice girl.
One thing that I greatly missed in Unleash the Night was Acheron. He is essentially replaced in this story by Savitar, who is Acheron's equivalent in the world of the Were-Hunters. He is another equally mysterious and omnipotent character who was newly introduced in the last book of the Dark-Hunter series, Sins of the Night. Ash is one of those larger than life characters who runs away with virtually every scene he's in, and never fails to spice up the narrative in some way. I also fell for him the very first time I ever read anything about him, and always look forward to seeing him again. By comparison, Savitar was just OK. He simply didn't capture my imagination in the same way that Ash does, and seemed a little too arrogant and dismissive for my taste. I will admit that there appears to be some potential for building an interesting character in Savitar, so I will try to reserve judgment until I've seen more of him. In the immediate though, he just couldn't fill Ash's shoes for me, and at the moment, I have a hard time seeing myself waiting patiently through many more Dark-Hunter books while waiting for his story like I've done (and am still doing) with Ash.
As far as other supporting players, I did appreciate Sherrilyn Kenyon's usage of a number of previous characters instead of resorting to her penchant for creating dozens of new ones. She even took the time to reveal some new and interesting facts about some of them. Bill Laurens put in what was probably his biggest appearance to date and we get to learn more about his involvement with the Dark-Hunters and Were-Hunters. We also really get to know Mama and Papa Peltier, Nicollette and Aubert, and especially get to see what Mama Bear is truly like, which I have to say surprised me a bit. I'm not quite sure that I like the direction her character took, because it seemed to contradict my previous impressions of her. Aimee and Fang (Bad Moon Rising) are in the beginning stages of their “impossible” love, and I'll be interested to see how that resolves. Both Wren and Maggie were friends with Nick which I thought was neat. He has one brief scene at the end of the book, but is still essentially in hiding after the events of Seize the Night. Other past and future characters with their own stories who also put in appearances in Unleash the Night include: Julian (Fantasy Lover), Kyrian (Night Pleasures), Vane (Night Play), Fury (Shadow of the Moon from Dead After Dark), Dante (Winter Born from Stroke of Midnight), Sebastian (Dragonswan), and Dev (No Mercy).
Even though I thought that the plot could have been a little better developed to hold onto some of the edginess of the characters and complexities of their relationship, at the same time I generally enjoyed both Wren and Maggie and their story. It would have simply been impossible not to love them in my opinion. I'm not sure if all editions of Unleash the Night have it, but my copy features the first Dark-Hunter glossary I've seen in the back. I actually found it to be helpful in refreshing my memory on various characters and their abilities as well as general terms, and will probably reference it often in the future. Unleash the Night is book #8 in the Dark-Hunter series. There are currently a total of 19 full-length novels in the series and quite a number of related novellas and graphic novels as well, with more still to come (#20 is due for release in Aug. 2011). A complete list of all the books and their recommended reading order can be found on Sherrilyn Kenyon's website....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Although there doesn't seem to be an official series title, Morning Is a Long Time Coming is a sequel to Bette GreReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Although there doesn't seem to be an official series title, Morning Is a Long Time Coming is a sequel to Bette Greene's modern classic, young-adult novel, Summer of My German Soldier. Since that book had a decidedly unsatisfying ending, I was glad to see that Ms. Geene had written a follow-up. I had always felt that there were many reviewers who mis-characterized Summer of My German Soldier as a romance. I didn't really see it as such for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the 10-year age difference between Patty and Anton and the fact that she was still just a girl when they met. Love can take many different forms, and although Patty and Anton cared for each other deeply, I was never 100% convinced that what they shared was a romantic sort of love. Nevertheless, Patty does begin this book with unresolved issues surrounding her time with Anton. Undoubtedly, a lot of reviewers will view Morning Is a Long Time Coming as even more of a romance than the first book, because of Patty's relationship with Roger, a young Frenchman she meets in Paris (which I will concede is definitely of the romantic variety), but at it's heart, this book is totally about Patty's journey of self-discovery of which Roger is just one part. He brings joy and happiness to her life that she had never known before, but ultimately, Patty must vanquish her demons on her own.
When we first meet up with Patty again, she is now a young woman just graduating from high school, but the frightened, hurt little girl is still there, as is her burning need to belong to someone. Of course, her parents think her crazy for wanting to spend her graduation money on a trip to Europe, but that's exactly what she does with a plan in the back of her mind to meet Anton's mother, thinking that she can receive from her what Patty's own mother was never willing or able to give. Of course, the best laid plans often go awry, especially when the person who makes them is relying on someone else to provide emotional security.
I felt that in the six years between books, Patty had grown and matured. She engaged in a fair bit of self-analysis, as well as trying to figure out her parents, why they were abusive toward her and why she never seemed to be able to please them no matter what she did. I could really relate to Patty feeling like a square peg in a round hole. She discovers that she is pretty socially inept with her peers which isn't too surprising. Some of that comes from a lack of self-confidence that was beaten out of her all her life by parents who constantly criticized and were physically, emotionally and mentally abusive. The rest is quite simply that Patty truly is different in the way she thinks and perceives the world around her. She is more open-minded than most about those who are different from her and truly wants to give of herself to help others. It's what drove her to assist Anton all those years ago, even knowing that it might lead to more trouble than she could imagine, and her quest to understand this part of herself still drives her now. In fact, all of these things weigh so heavily on her that it makes her physically ill. Once she is out of her stifling hometown, Patty finally feels a freedom she's never known, yet I wasn't too surprised to see that the first young man she felt attracted to on the voyage to Europe was just like her father, critical, demanding and temperamental. She is definitely a classic case of an abused person gravitating toward what is familiar and comfortable even if it isn't good for her. I was glad to see that didn't last long, and when Patty got to Paris and met Roger, it was like she became a whole different person around him. It was uplifting to finally see her laugh and smile, but those old demons still lurked in the background, keeping Roger at arms length. When Patty finally made her decision to go to Germany, I understood her obsession with needing to meet Anton's mother, but at the same time, I agreed on some level with Roger that he deserved better considering all that they had shared.
Roger is the only supporting player with a meaty role in this book, but since the entire story is written in first-person perspective from Patty's point of view, we don't get a lot of deep insights into his character. However, there were just enough relationship scenes for me to really like him. He is a gentle, free-spirit who is the perfect foil for Patty's more serious nature. I liked that Roger was a gentleman. He very easily could have taken advantage of Patty when she got drunk once, but instead took care of her and waited for her to sober up before trying to take things any further. Throughout their time together he was tender and sweet, but at the same time, those wonderful qualities are what make Patty a bit suspicious of him and his motives, because she has only ever known men who were hard and cynical. In many ways, Roger understood Patty even better than she understood herself, but when her obsession with somehow making Anton's family the family she never had finally reared its ugly head, he was understandably upset and said some hurtful things. Luckily, Roger was a very forgiving man who truly did love Patty and wanted to make a life with her.
There were certain elements in Summer of My German Soldier which has caused it to have a long-time place on the most banned/challenged books list, and Morning Is a Long Time Coming followed suit with some of the same potentially objectionable content while upping the maturity level. Though not pervasive, there are some mild and religious profanities peppered throughout the book as well as racial slurs against Mexicans and African Americans, including several uses of the “n” word. Patty smokes a couple of times, drinks wine on a few occasions and one time consumes a stronger alcoholic beverage, getting drunk. Patty's father threatens to beat her, and her parents are abusive. There is mention of Patty's father having “taken advantage” of young ladies, and some mild discussion of sex in general including but not limited to Patty's parents thinking she's sexually active and possibly pregnant, and a classmate who earned a colorful nickname for apparently messing around with the boys. There is also one love scene between Patty and Roger that ends in a cut scene with no real details, but some may find it troublesome that the couple have just met at that point and then live together for the next few months without being married. Additionally, the complexities of Patty's emotions may be difficult for even adults to understand, so in that respect, I thought it had more the feel of an adult novel. However, in spite of all this, I still did not feel that there was anything that older teens couldn't handle especially with parental or educator guidance. As a parent, I wouldn't object to my 15 year old reading it.
Morning Is a Long Time Coming is a story that delves fairly deeply and realistically into the psyche of an abused person and her efforts to make sense of that in order to carve a meaningful place for herself in the world. For that reason alone, I thought the book was emotionally touching and deserved kudos. That said though, I couldn't help wanting the ending to be a little more solid than it was, which is why I knocked off the half star. By the time I finished the book, I did believe that Patty had learned some valuable insights about herself and life in general and was finally on the right road. It was just that her peace did not feel quite complete to me, but then again, she was still very young with much ahead of her and this type of recovery is always a lifelong journey. Although as I've already said, I fully realize that this story was not really meant as a romance, the hopeless romantic in me also wanted an HEA for Patty and Roger, mainly because I thought they complimented each other well, and after everything she'd been through Patty quite simply deserved it. The way it wrapped up felt like more of an HFN (happy for now) ending, but at least, I felt like they had a strong chance to make it work on a more permanent basis. Overall, I liked Morning Is a Long Time Coming very much. It has earned a spot on my keeper shelf and with two lovely books in a row, Bette Greene has earned a spot on my favorite authors list. She is a writer who is good at expressing the emotional and psychological complexities of her characters and who doesn't seem to be afraid to explore issues of marginalization or other controversial topics. I love these types of stories, so this makes me eager to check out the other books she has written soon. ...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Ghost Park – Ghost Park was a nice little story that was slightly creepy without being too scary. I liked that the main charReviewed for THC Reviews Ghost Park – Ghost Park was a nice little story that was slightly creepy without being too scary. I liked that the main character, Chase, was interested in preserving the environment while still being sympathetic to her dad's plight of needing a job. I thought Ghost Park also had a great message about how important it can be to let go of the hurts of the past in order to get on with living life. Overall, it was probably my favorite story in the anthology and a pretty enjoyable read. Star Rating: ****
A Haunting Past – Somehow this story, with its talking skull, possessed mannequin, and a vengeful spirit that keeps mis-hearing names struck me as more funny than creepy or scary. In some ways, it reminded me of an episode of Scooby-Doo. However, the fact that A Haunting Past seemed kind of silly to me might just be because I'm a grown-up. I can see how kids, especially more sensitive ones, might truly find it frightening, since Truce, the main character is being chased by a ghost with murder on its mind. I have to say that I agreed with the girl who got herself punished for wondering out loud why they would build a conservation park dedicated to a man who'd caused so much destruction and wish that point had been explained a little better. I also would have liked to have seen a little more of Truce's relationship with his brother, and perhaps an admission from Truce that he understood where Colby was coming from after his experience at the park. Overall though, A Haunting Past was a decent story that should entertain kids, even if I did spent most of it smiling. Star Rating: ***1/2
The Manor on the Rocks (aka Rockville) – In my opinion, this was the creepiest of The Horror Diaries stories in this anthology so far, probably owing to the villain being a child who had committed some pretty heinous acts. No details were given, so it wasn't an incredibly hard-hitting story, just slightly more disturbing. I would have liked to have known a little more about why he was compelled to do these things and how he died, because as written he was pretty one-dimensional and was also perhaps a little too easily dispatched. I think that Calla Lily's parents being possessed and coming after her added to the fright factor. Calla Lilly was OK as the main character, but I didn't find her to be quite as interesting or likable as the protagonists in the other stories, mainly because she could be rather whiny. Overall, not a bad little horror tale, but a few things could have been better. Star Rating: ***1/2
A Medieval Nightmare – I love all things medieval, so this was one of my favorite stories in this anthology. The castle, knights, tournament and such made for a pretty fun read that was just slightly scary. The joker's riddle was easy to figure out, although perhaps it wouldn't be as easy for kids as it was for me. There were a couple of things near the end of the story that seemed a little silly and clichéd, but overall, I had a pretty good time reading this one. Star Rating: ****
A Watery Grave – This story was rather interesting with its ghostly legend and potential body-snatching spectre. It also had a good plot twist that I partially saw coming, although not in quite the way it happened, which means that kids might be even more surprised by it than I was. The story wrapped up in a rather open-ended way which left me with mixed feelings, but overall, this was a fun, creepy read. Star Rating: ****
Each of the individual stories had some things that I thought could have been a bit better, but overall, Haunted was a pretty good anthology of scary tales for kids. Even though most of the protagonists were teenagers, my guess is that the plots are probably too simplistic to hold the attention of older, more sophisticated readers, but the book still has just enough advanced vocabulary to possibly challenge elementary readers. In my opinion, Haunted would probably be best-suited to kids in the 7-10 (perhaps up to 12) age range who enjoy ghost stories.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my review....more