Review: Unnatural Issue by Mercedes Lackey

The particulars: Historical Fantasy, DAW, available as e-book and in print
The Source: Purchased at Books on Board, I think.
The Grade: C+
The blurb:
Richard Whitestone is an Elemental Earth Master. Blaming himself for the death of his beloved wife in childbirth, he has sworn never to set eyes on his daughter, Suzanne. But when he finally sees her, a dark plan takes shape in his twisted mind-to use his daughter’s body to bring back the spirit of his long-dead wife
The Review:
I have had this book for years, but never got around to read it until now.   
It was nice to revisit the world of the Elemental Masters. The alternative Europe that Ms Lackey has created felt very believable to me. From the moors of Yorkshire to the battlefields of Europe, it felt like I was there.
I liked Susanne and Peter. Susanne was smart, down to earth and had a good dose of common sense. Peter played the gentleman to the fingertop. He was used to a certain level of comfort. It was fascinating to watch how he used other peoples misconception to coax out clues.
It was also interesting to see how Susanne’s father changed from the Earth Master he was at the beginning, and how he started to use darker magics. ( I’ll admit that he gave me the creeps.)
The fantasy part of the plot was well crafted, if a bit predictable. I liked read about Susanne’s journey from the moors of Yorkshire to the battlefields of France. I liked how they managed to thwart her father through pure ingeniousity, but that they also realised that Susanne had to leave England. I liked how the war made life harder for Susanne, and how it gave her life a direction. I liked how she and Peter kept on trying to stop her father, and how it was Susanne who came up with the plan that finally succeeded.
What pulls down the grade is the romance. It felt.. unbalanced. Not in the way that Susanne is a Squire’s daughter and Peter is the son of an higher ranking noble. But it stems more from the fact that Susanna spent a big part of the story being infatuated with another man. While Peter was gradually falling in love with her. They did get their HEA, but Susanne’s part felt very rushed.

Review: The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures ofHoratio Lyle by Catherine Webb:

The Particulars: Historical Mystery, Hachette, available as e-book and in print
The Source: Omnilit
The Grade: C+
The Blurb:

In Victorian London at the height of the industrial revolution, Horatio Lyle is a former volunteer law enforcement officer with a passion for science and invention. He’s also an occasional, but reluctant, sleuth. The truth is that he’d rather be in his lab tinkering with dangerous chemicals and odd machinery than running around the cobbled streets of London trying to track down stolen goods. But when his government calls, Horatio swaps his microscope for a magnifying glass, fills his pockets with things that explode, and goes forth to unravel a mystery of a singularly extraordinary nature. Thrown together with a reformed—in other words “caught”—pickpocket named Tess, and a rebellious young gentleman named Thomas, Lyle and his faithful hound, Tate, find themselves pursuing an ancient Chinese plate, a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of polite society, and a dangerous enemy who may not even be human. Solving the crime will be hard enough—surviving would be a bonus

The Review:
I bought this awhile ago when Kari Sperring ( I think) recommended Ms Webb’s Urban Fantasy novels, written as Kate Griffin. Mainly because it was on sale and I was in the mood for Historical Mystery. And I am glad I did, since I enjoyed the book.
The author painted a detailed picture of London, never hiding the good and bad sides of London. Which led to a believable London, which worked as a background for Horatio’s, Tess and Thomas adventures.
I liked Horatio. He was observant, witty… and totally fascinated by science. Which felt logical since a lot of scientific discoveries happened in the 1800’s.Tess was a hoot. She was a thief to the finger tips which caused some intresting discussions between her and Horatio.
Thomas, the other sidekick that Horatio aquires, was Tess opposite. He was noble, and used to be sheltered. It was intresting to watch as him started to realise some unpleasant truths about his family, but I admired him for the courage he showed.
The search for the Plate took them all over London. The plot was action packed, and I frequently wondered how they would get out of trouble. But they succeeded, and I appreciated how the author used the characters strength.
I had two big problems with this novel:
1. The author’s tendency to use 10 words to describe something, when 5 would have been enough. Yes, all that description led to a believable setting, but it also slowed down the pacing.
2. I wish that it had dared to take the step out it needed to be a Steampunk novel. As it was, it flirted with Steampunk but it never took the plunge.

ARC Review: Diana’s Hound by Moira Rogers

The Particulars: Steampunk romance, Samhain, available as e-book
The Source: ARC from the author
The Grade: C+
The blurb:
Nate Powell lived one full life as a world-class inventor before a disaster born of magic and science returned him to his prime—and turned him into a half-vampire, half-bloodhound abomination.
He’s finally stopped yearning for death, but he’s a long way from being excited about life—even if his newly virile body is very excited by the latest arrival to Iron Creek.
Diana is another creature that shouldn’t exist—a female bloodhound. While the males of Iron Creek accept her as a fellow warrior, Nate seems torn between a desire to study her and a need to protect her. Diana’s urges are a lot more carnal.
When they learn that a rogue hound is selling women across the border, Diana and Nate are chosen to infiltrate the vampires’ capital city. But before long their inner bloodhounds feel the mating pull—and a hound never outlives their mate for long. In a fight to keep each other alive, they could both end up worse than dead.
The Review:
I have been looking forward to reading Nate’s story ever since I read Wilder’s Mate. And I am glad I requested this ARC.
The world of the blood hounds are a harsh world, filled with dangers. This book gave another dimension to the vampires. It was intresting to see how polite the vampires in Eternity was, compared to how they normally were described.
Eternity might be home to vampires, but it was also a flaunting of power. In fact, I couldn’t help wondering how the life in both Deadlands and at the Border would have been if Eternity hadn’t existed.
I liked Diana and Nate. They are both oddities among the Bloodhounds. Diana because she is female, the only female hound, infact. Nate because he is part blood hound, part vampire. But.. they fit each other. Diana were a fighter, and Nate primarily a inventor.
Their search for the rogue hound that created Diana was fast paced, and filled with unexpected twists. The fact that they were headed to Eternity, a town filled with vampires added to the tension. As did the sexual tension between them. The sexual tension, combined with the protective urges added another layer to the story.
The plot wrapped up the story arc, but it had a whopper of a twist that made me itch to read the next book.
Despite all the things I loved with this book, it took a long time before it fully hooked me. Which is partially because I am tired of books with paranormal elements.

ARC review: Trouble with Air and Magic by Patricia Rice

The Particulars: Paranormal Romance, Book View Cafe, available as e-book
The Source: ARC from the author
The Grade: C+
The Blurb:

Romance and Danger are in the Air
Dorothea Franklin’s life is sliding toward disaster just as surely as her house is crumbling into the Pacific. Her unusual talent for feng shui can’t bring harmony to her invalid father or prevent her brother from dying in an experimental helicopter crash. Or has he?
She turns to computer genius Conan Oswin, whose brother also reportedly died that day. When Dorothea informs Conan that she didn’t feel the vibrations of her brother’s death, he wants to dismiss her illogic… but his instinct for trouble is already on full alert. His attraction to her is almost as distracting as her nonsense about chi and harmony — nonsense that plants doubts about the deadly crash. If only she would quit twisting his head with temptation, he might be able to save their brothers and her life.

The Review:
I love Patricia Rice Malcolm books, so when she offered the opportunity for reviewers to request ARCs, I requested it on the spot.   And overall,  I am glad I did.

At first, I had a bit problem with the fact that it was set in California, since I associate it with Georgian England. But once that passed, I enjoyed exploring California with Dorrie and Conan.  The settings felt believable. From Conan’s beach house to their trip to the Mojave desert.  One thing I appreciated was that Ms Rice clearly showed that  California is a geologically active state, and let that affect both Dorrie’s and Conan’s lives.

I enjoyed following Dorrie’s and Conan’s search for their brothers.  At first glance, they look like they have nothing in common.  Dorrie is  Irish-Chinese, and believes in the paranormal. Conan is a bit more sceptical about the paranormal, and wants solid facts.  But as the story developed, they gradually realised that  they complemented each other.  I loved watching Dorrie reclaiming her life with Conan at her side.

The search for their brothers were fast paced, and I loved how both Dorrie and Conan were a part of it ( Nothing frustrates me more than when the heroine is just waiting on the sidelines).

The biggest problem I had with this story was connecting with the characters, but that might be because I read it in December, but forgot to review it. So I had to re-read it a month later or so, and I still remembered what happened.

Review: Man Law by Adrienne Giordano

The Particulars: Romantic Suspense, Carina Press, available as e-book
The Source: Books on Board
The Grade: C-
The Blurb:
Security Consultant Vic Andrews lives by his Man Laws:

Never mess with your best friend’s sister
Never get caught
Never get attached
 But he can’t deny his irresistible attraction to Gina Delgado, a young widow with three kids and plenty of strings attached. Even so, having a physical relationship doesn’t mean they’re “in a relationship.”

Gina lost her husband to tragedy; she is not getting emotionally involved with another man in a dangerous profession. Sleeping with Vic is just stress relief.
Until one of Vic’s assignments goes wrong and the target selects Gina and her kids for revenge. There’s nothing Vic won’t do to protect Gina and the children–the family he realizes, too late, he wants. He’ll accomplish his mission but will he have lost his only chance at true love?

The Review:
Ever since I read and loved Relentless Pursuit last summer, I have wanted to read more books by Adrienne Giordano. I was in the mood for action packed romantic suspense, so I decided to buy this book.
The Chicago setting was believable, from the Taylor security offices, to the house were Gina lived. The other settings also felt believable.
The plot was fast paced, and filled with action. It was interesting to follow Vic as he worked through his worries and fear that Sirhan would find him. It was interesting following how Vic and his friends searched for Sirhan, and how they reacted to the threat.
In the middle of this, Vic and Gina also worked through their issues, and their friends opinions. Gina’s reluctance to start a relationship, especially with someone that was in the military consultant business, made sense to me. I enjoyed following the developement of Gina’s and Vic’s relationship, and how it gradually developed from a fling into a real relationship.
The biggest problem I had with this, was connecting with the characters. I cannot pin point why, exactly. Maybe it was because despite the threats, it never felt as if anything was at stake. Not really.

Review: Capable of Murder by Brian Kavanagh

The Particulars: Mystery, Be Write Books, available in print and e-book.
The Source: Won in a giveaway
The Grade: C+
The Blurb:
The old lady’s decaying body lay at the foot of the stairs. The police believe it was simply an accidental fall that killed great-aunt Jane. But was it? Young Australian, Belinda Lawrence is convinced it was murder and when she inherits her great-aunt’s ancient cottage and garden on the outskirts of Bath, England, she finds herself deep in a taut mystery surrounding her legacy. A secret room. Unknown intruders. A hidden ancient document. They all contribute to the mounting dread. A second vicious murder by a ruthless killer intensifies the tension and Belinda, now under threat herself, is befriended by two charming men: her neighbour Jacob and real-estate agent Mark Sallinger. But can she trust them? And what interest has befuddled antique dealer Hazel Whitby in the cottage? Could one of them be the killer? An excellent example of a time-honoured English village murder mystery with a lively young heroine pitting her intellect against an evil killer, both bent on solving the riddle of an ancient garden. An inventive puzzle glazed with wit and the first of the Belinda Lawrence series.
The Review:
I won this in a giveaway, almost a year ago. But it took a long time before I actually read it.
This is a cozy mystery, set in the small village of Milford. The setting was very detailed and believable. Both when it came to the history of the houses, and the attitude of the villagers to accept a newcomer.
The mystery was intriguing and well written. I loved how Belinda gradually started to investigate the murder of her Great Aunt- It was intresting to see how her relationship with her neighbours developed through the novel. What I enjoyed was how things gradually got more and more complicated as the story went on, and the more I read I wanted to know about the history of the house.
From the first page to roughly half way into the mystery, I thought this story took place somewere between 1960-80. And then…. a minor character picked up a cellphone. I wish she hadn’t since everything else about the story felt like one of the classic mysteries from the 30’s.
Still, it was well written and I enjoyed it.

Ten Days of Yule Review:Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight by Grace Burrowes

The Particulars: Historical Romance, Sourcebooks, available in print and as e-book
The Source: Discover a new love
The Grade: C+
The Blurb:
No one would ever guess that Lady Louisa, the most reserved of the Duke of Moreland’s daughters, had published a book of racy poems under a pseydonym on a dare. Before she can buy and destroy all of the copies, a dastardly fortune hunter seeks to compromise her reputation by revealing her secret identity at a holiday ball.

Before she can be publicly ruined, close family friend Sir Joseph Carrington saves the day by offering to marry Louisa. As he recites poetry to her, waltzes with her by starlight, and showers her with lovely kisses, they both begin to discover that their match may be the best Christmas gift either has ever received..

The Review:
Grace Burrowes are one of my favorite authors, so when this was one of the picks at Discover a New Love I snapped it up.
This was a sweet romance. Both Joseph and Louisa felt very believable, and down to earth.
Both of them felt slightly out of place at the balls and the soarees that the rest of the Ton felt at home with. The descriptions of felt believable, from the way some males prefered the billiard room, to the polite chatter that could hide so many things. As the story went on, their romance developed. It was a slow romance, but I enjoyed it. They showed their feelings in a thousand different ways.
Both of them had secrets, and I enjoyed as the secrets were gradually revealed, as both of them seperately, started to get an inkling of that something was wrong. It was touching, when their relationship reached the point that they trusted each other to reveal their secrets.
The biggest part I had with this book was that it lacked… tension. Oh, the sexual tension was there, but considering the blackmail threat, I missed the feeling of a suspense regarding to who it was, and what would happen.

Review: Motorcycle Man by Kristen Ashley

The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Smashwords( will be re-issued byGrand Central Publishing), available as e-book and print ( at the moment of this review)
The Source: Smashwords
The Grade: C+
The Blurb:
Although Kane “Tack” Allen colors Tyra Master’s world with a vibrancy that’s blinding, being with him means she has to live in his Motorcycle Club world. Full on, no holds barred. And since Tack’s world, not to mention Tack, is a little scary, Tyra isn’t so sure. It’s Tack’s job to convince her.
The Review:
I kept hearing good things about Kristen Ashley, so when Mandi from Smexybooks raved about this one at twitter, I decided to give it a try. After reading it, I can understand why Kristen Ashley is so popular.
I enjoyed reading about Tyra’s plunge into the World of Chaos. Both Ride and Chaos felt believable in many ways. Both when it came to their attitude towards women, and also the dangers from the slightly shady world they live in.Just as Chaos balance the fine line of keeping clean, this book manage to stay out the misogynic mire. 
And that is because of Tack. Tack is a jerk, occassionally, but the reason is that he wants to protect Tyra and his children. And, I loved Tabby and Rush, they were so typically teenagers, with their drama, and mistakes.
But, of course everything isn’t perfect. Naomi, Tack’s ex wife, hit the roof when she found out about Tyra and Tack’s relationship. Which, I felt, was as it should be. Tack hadn’t been a saint, and he admitted it.

Tossed into that story, was the threat of the Russian Mob looming over them. I loved how the author woved it into the rest of the things going on in the novel.  

What made the book for me was how the author mixed everything. Tyra’s uncertainty, furious ex-wife, dramatic teenagers, rebellious Chaos members. And keeping it together was Tack. He was tender and patient with Tyra and his children. He was harsh with Naomi, and the Chaos members.
So for what I didn’t like. The biggest problem I had with this novel, was the author’s tendency to use 10 words when one would be enough. At times, I wondered what the characters were talking about, which isn’t a good sign. This  became even more obvious when they confronted the Russian mob, because those pages crackled with tension. This, gives me hope that Kristen Ashley’s Chaos Series which will be published by Grand Central Publishing during 2013, will be much more polished. 
 One  minor quibble: The Russian mobsters mentinoed by name, their surname ends on -ova.  Which, is the ending that signifies FEMALE surnames in Russia. And those characters are male..

ARC review: All he ever desired by Shannon Stacey

The Particulars: Contemporary Romance, Carina Press, available as e-book ( print coming 2013)
The Source: ARC from Netgalley
The Grade: C+
The blurb:
A second shot at first love
After college, Ryan Kowalski decided to leave Whitford, Maine, rather than watch Lauren Carpenter marry another man. Now his siblings need his help to refurbish the family-owned Northern Star Lodge and he’s forced to face the past sooner rather than later when he collars a vandal–and learns the boy is Lauren’s son…
The last person Lauren needs back in her life is Ryan Kowalski. With a bitter ex-husband and a moody teenage son, she has enough man trouble already. But her son needs to learn a few lessons about right and wrong, even if Lauren has to escort him to Ryan’s door every day to work off his crime.
With all this close contact, Ryan and Lauren can’t deny the chemistry between them is as powerful as ever. But can a few searing kisses erase their past and pave the way for a second chanceat true love?

The Review:
After reading All he ever needed, which was a disappointment to me, I hestitated before I requested this one on Netgalley. Since it was an Arc, I figured all I would lose if I didn’t like it was time. I am happy to say that I did like it.
Just like all the Kowalski novels, this book was a small town romance with down to earth characters. I loved how both the good sides and bad sides of living in a small town were included in the novel.
If this novel had a theme, it was second chances. Lauren and Ryan got a second chance at love. It was touching to follow their relationship. From the first awkward moment when they met each other again, to their HEA.
Nick got a second chance to make amends for his stupidity. I’ll confess that I liked how Lauren dealt with Nick. It was interesting to watch how Nick and Ryan interacted.
The biggest problem I had with this book was that it felt a bit too long. After page 150 it felt like the book was dragging just to reach a higher wordcount.

Review: The Fortune Quilt by Lani Diane Rich

The Particulars: Women’s Fiction, Storywonk, available as e-bookThe Source: Purchased at SmashwordsThe Grade: C+ The Blurb: 

Accept the book with the amber spine. 
Return the frog. Take the cab.
What the hell kind of advice is that?”
When Tucson Today segment producer Carly McKay visits the quirky artist’s community of Bilby, Arizona, to do a story on a psychic quiltmaker, she receives an odd reading… and her life falls apart in eerie harmony with what the quilt foretold. Her best friend professes his undying love; her show gets canceled; and the mother who disappeared seventeen years ago appears on their doorstep, getting instant forgiveness from the entire family… except Carly.
Carly rushes off to Bilby to return the cursed quilt, and then surprises herself; she stays. She rents a cabin, gets a job, and meets an artist who shows her new ways to look at life, and love. Can she run away and start a new life, or should she go back and stitch her old one back together?
And why is it so hard to get a straight answer from a psychic, anyway?

The Review:

This is another book that has languished unread. I purchased it, since I love Lani Diane Rich Crazy for you.  This book had a lot of potential, but in the end it fell short.

The story about Carly, and how her life falls apart was interesting and full of unexpected twists. It was well plotted, and made sense. I enjoyed following her journey. From the time she recieved the quilt, and all the havoc it wrecked on her life. (Though as Brandy pointed out it would probably have happened anyway.)

The characters she met in Bilby were quirky, and felt like they fit the small town setting.  Carly’s family annoyed me with the way they forgave her mother when she returned after 17 years. In fact, Carly’s reaction was the only one that made sense to me.

Despite the things I loved with the books, I had two major problems with the book.  First, the formatting errors jarred me out of the book several times.  The second problem was the fact that I felt the book had trouble deciding if it should be Chick lit or contemporary romance.  Which might be why I had some trouble connecting with the characters.