Thursday, May 31, 2007

'Rises the Night' by Colleen Gleason

ISBN: 045122146X
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 352pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Price: $6.99

If you have not read The Gardella Vampire Chronicles, I can tell you right now that you are missing one of the best paranormal romances in the bookstores at the moment. Set in 19th-century England, the heroine is Victoria Gardella Grantworth de Lacy, a modern woman in a past time. Victoria is one of my favorite heroines: strong, independent, but not perfect, which makes her easy to relate to.

In The Rest Falls Away, book one of the series, Victoria learns of her family’s history as Venators, or vampire hunters, and she embraces it. While it means a lot of complication in her life she knows she cannot turn away from it. When Victoria meets Phillip, the Marques of Rockley, she falls desperately in love. Determined to have the best of both worlds, and make it work, soon the two are married.

But while Phillip is planning their happily ever after ,Lilith Queen of the Vampires is plotting to get her undead hands on a book that will make her even stronger than she already is. With the help of dark and handsome Max, another Venator, her Aunt Eustacia, her plucky maid Verbena, and not always so helpful but always sexy Sebastian, Victoria comes away from the events alive if not completely whole-hearted.

Rises The Night picks up one year after the events of The Rest Falls Away. Victoria is once again on the prowl through the darkest of London’s streets, but Lilith has taken all of her vampires away with her and the streets are quiet. Max has been missing for several weeks and although Aunt Eustacia tells Victoria not to worry she can’t help but wonder where he is.

Victoria visits the ruins of The Silver Chalice, Sebastian’s burned out vampire/ human establishment, but she is not the only one searching the empty building. Inside Sebastian’s office is a vampire and something else, something Victoria has never come across before.

She finds a strange amulet inscribed with a wolf. Victoria takes it to her Aunt who immediately sends a description to Wayren, an ageless woman who always seems to know everything. But knowing that it will be some time before information is received Victoria decides to go to a friend’s house party in the country.

What promises to be a sedate week soon turns into almost more excitement than Victoria can bear. Sebastian, who has not been seen since The Silver Chalice burned, is there with an Italian gentlemen. A Dr. Polidori the author of a vampire novel that has taken society by storm. But too much of the novel seems real and Victoria is not the only one who thinks so.

When the house party is disrupted and Victoria discovers another amulet bearing the wolf she travels to Italy to uncover the mystery. She discovers that the amulet is the sign of a human group working for vampires. Once again Victoria is called to defend the innocent from these power-hungry monsters.

Sebastian proves to be more than just a minor distraction for Victoria in Rises the Night. Although she can not deny her attraction to him she realizes that she cannot count on him for help. Sebastian lives in a gray area while Victoria’s survival depends on the black and white. The mutual attraction they share is soon boiling and Victoria must make a choice. Can she live with just a little gray in her world?

Rises the Night is a fantastic follow up to The Rest Falls Away. It moves along quickly and surely with never a false step. It doesn’t suffer from the second book syndrome like some books can and if anything is better than the first. It also leaves you wanting more. I’ll have to wait another year for book three, The Bleeding Dusk, but I have a feeling it will be worth the wait.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

'Jade Tiger' by Jenn Reese

Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Juno Books (October 1, 2006)
ISBN-10: 080955674X
Price: $12.95

From start to finish Jade Tiger is a page turning adventure. You have it all; romance, mystery, suspense, travel, and some more adventure not to mention some edge of your seat action. Once I picked this on up it was hard to put down.

Shan is half-Chinese and half-American woman who grew up in China as part of a group called the Jade Circle. When they are attacked by an unnamed group who are after the precious jade animals that they take their name and power from Shan and her father are forced to flee.

Once in America both refuse to give up the search for Shan’s mother who stayed behind. Shan studies with different martial arts masters and searches for the missing jade animals hoping that they will somehow reunite her with her mother. When she spots one of the animals in a magazine photograph she tracks it down immediately.

But it turns out that Shan is not the only person looking for the animals of the Jade Circle. So what Shan hoped would be an easy retrieval turns out to be a problem. But with the help of Ian, a professor she saves while trying to rescue the jade animal, and his comic relief friend Buckley Shan is soon flying around the world to discover another missing animal from the Circle.

From there the story takes off. Shan and Ian are a perfect match as they uncover the mysteries surrounding the Jade Circle and the locations of its sacred animals. Along the way women from Shan’s past, members of the Jade Circle, slowly start to come back into her life. Shan must not only recover the animals but prove that she is worthy to do so.

Shan is a great character. Part Laura Croft, Indian Jones, and Bruce Lee she fights her way though the book, and like a good guy every time, not only kicks the bad guy’s rear but gets what she came for too. But while Shan may seem super human she is far from it and it was nice to see that even she could still get hurt or get weak in the knees from a kiss.

Jade Tiger was a lot of fun. Well written and fast paced it moved you along quickly to a satisfying conclusion. I only hope that Jenn Reese’s next book is as good

Friday, May 25, 2007

'Wildfire at Midnight' by Mary Stewart

ISBN: 0060093579
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 324pp
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $7.99

First published in 1956, Wildfire at Midnight is one of Mary Stewart's best romantic suspense novels. With the ruggedly beautiful Isle of Skye as her backdrop, the author weaves a tale of madness and murder; deception and love; hope and forgiveness; it's a novel that is nothing short of spectacular.

Gianetta, named for her ‘disreputable and famous’ great-great-grandmother Gianetta Fox, makes a splash in London just like her relative before her. Beautiful but very shy she quickly catches the eye of Nicholas Drury a handsome but moody author. They are married within three months of their introduction.

Gianetta was ‘wildly, madly, dumbly’ in love. But Nicholas was expecting a modern version of Gianetta Fox and soon the two have parted ways. But even once the divorce is final Gianetta can not bring herself to stop wearing her wedding band.

Years later Gianetta is escaping from London and its memories to Camas Fhionnaridh in the Isle of Skye. But the relaxing vacation she had planned at a peaceful inn turns out to be anything but tranquil. Gianetta finds herself surrounded by an odd mix of characters including, of all people, her very ex-husband.

When a young woman is found murdered on Blaven — a mountain looming over the hotel -- and then one of the inn guests goes missing, suspicion runs among the guests. Gianetta gets caught between Nicholas and the dashing blue-eyed Grant, and she knows in her heart that one of these men is a murderer.

One of the things I love best about this novel is the fact that Gianetta is so very human. She is this enchanting beautiful creature with all these wonderful flawed bits like everyone else. Gianetta is not perfect and her mistakes are easy to relate to. As you read you find yourself hoping that everything will turn out right for her, as you are meant to.

There is a chance that Wildfire at Midnight could seem dated, as it takes place in 1953. But the language still comes across as fresh and the dialogue charming. The references to clothes, hair, and life styles seem glamorous and alluring to me. While it lacks the swear words, blatant sex, and gore that can be found in any novel now it is still one of the most thrilling novels I have ever read.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

'Matters of the Blood' by Maria Lima

ISBN: 0809557908
Format: Paperback, 282pp
Publisher: Juno Books
Price: $12.95

Keria Kelly is not your average girl. For one she isn’t human, sure she looks it, but in reality far from it. What is she exactly? Well she has not found out yet. She could be anything; a shape shifter, a clairvoyant, a mind reader, or a healer. Until her body decides, she gets to enjoy a little bit of everything.

Keria belongs to a clan of ‘others’ and her extended family is large, with her grandmother at the head bossing everyone around. This, among other reasons, is why Keria is in Rio Seco a quiet little town in Texas Hill Country. Keria is playing babysitter to her human cousin Marty, the outcast in her supernatural family.

Things seem to be on a normal course until two mutilated deer show up at a resort ranch on the outskirts of town. Keria, as part of her change, has been having graphic dreams about the deer and is horrified to learn that they are not just dreams. When Marty calls her and tells her he has to speak to her urgently concerning family business, Keria gets a little worried.

As is Keria didn’t have enough to worry about, an old flame rolls back into town. Sheriff Carlton Larson is investigating the dead deer and a possible connection to Marty. When he questions Keria it is not all business and Keria tries her best to stop his advances. But the Sheriff is not the only possible love interest here. Adam Walker, owner of the resort ranch, is also walking straight out of Keria’s past and he is a temptation that is harder to resist.

So what used to be a small quiet town turns out to be anything but. The mystery that soon takes over Keria’s life is engrossing and quickly snowballs to something much larger than just two dead deer. Her favorite brother Tucker shows up to complicate matters all the more, and her wise-cracking best friend Bea provides some comic relief.

Matters of the Blood is a great page-turner from first-time novelist Maria Lima. Her characters are believable, lively: likeable, or dislikeable in some cases. The interaction is lifelike and often grin-worthy. As of yet there is not a guaranteed continuation of Keria’s story but I will be the first one to pick up one up if it appears.

Monday, May 14, 2007

'The Gypsy Madonna' by Santa Montefiore

ISBN: 0743278895
Format: Paperback, 372pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Trade
Price: $15.00

Santa Montefiore says that ‘with each book I try to create a world that is exotic, sensual and full of colorful characters.’ The Gypsy Madonna, her sixth book, is no exception. From the first page to the last her words paint a picture of a time and place that is unforgettable.

The majority the of story centers around Mischa’s unhappy childhood living in a château just outside the sleepy French town of Maurilliac. His mother Anouk is a servant of the château turned hotel for wealthy guests and Mischa, only six, helps where he can. What sounds idyllic is far from it.

Everyone in the town is hateful towards Mischa and his mother and soon the reader learns why. The year is 1948, just a few years after the end of World War II, and Mischa is half French and half German. During the war Anouk had fallen in love with a German officer and they were married in secret. But once the war was over Anouk and Mischa were left on their own with the town and its people against them.

Mischa’s childhood is unhappy but with a few bright spots. An American woman who comes to Maurilliac to remember her fiancé who died liberating the town is six-year-old Mischa’s first love. The old man who cares for the vines of the château is a sort of father figure for awhile, supporting Mischa and Anouk as best he can. The one friend Mischa has from town, Claudine and her toothy grin.

Then Coyote, a charming American, is blown into town by the wind. Everything changes for Mischa and Anouk with Coyote’s arrival; suddenly the other servants in the château and the people of the town are being civil. In Mischa’s eyes Coyote is pure magic.

Coyote takes Anouk and Mischa to America with him, stealing away together in the middle of the night without any good-byes. At first their lives in America are everything they had dreamed but soon a shadow falls over this small and happy group. Mischa learns that people are not always what they present themselves to be.

Years later, with his mother's death, Mischa discovers that Anouk has given a priceless Titian to the Metropolitan Museum. But where has this priceless piece of artwork come from? Mischa decides to face the demons of his past and discover how exactly his mother came to have the Titian.

The Gypsy Madonna is a wonderful story of redemption and the fact that it is never too late to make changes in life. True love is always worth fighting for and no matter what choices a person has made they are still capable of that love. Mischa is a very human character, and there are aspects of his personality that many people could find in their own. In the end everything is wrapped up nicely and all the secondary characters are accounted for.

There is nothing I like more than finding an author that I enjoy with several books to their name. After reading The Gypsy Madonna I’ll keep my eyes open for the rest of her work.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

'All Together Dead' by Charlaine Harris

ISBN: 0441014941
Format: Hardcover, 336pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Price: $24.95

Sookie Stackhouse is back in All Together Dead, book seven of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire novels. In book six, Definitely Dead, Sookie had been brought to the attention of the vampire Queen of Louisiana, Sophie-Anne. The Queen recruited Sookie, with her ability to read human minds, to go to a vampire summit to help determine who had Sophie-Anne’s best interests at heart.

Also, in Definitely Dead, Sookie met the famous tall, dark, and handsome weretiger Quinn. While they share a lot of chemistry they have not spent enough time with each other. In All Together Dead the heat is still there but time is still one of their problems. It turns out that Sookie doesn’t know as much about Quinn as she had first thought and the things she learns about his past could put a damper on their future.

At the vampire summit the Queen of Louisiana is presenting her case to the vampire court for the murder of her husband, the King of Arkansas. With her state weakened by hurricane Katrina, and control over her country hanging in the balance, the vampires are already circling in for the kill. If the Queen of Louisiana is found guilty her entire entourage, including Sookie, face the consequences as well.

But a vampire trial is not the only thing Sookie will have to deal with. The Brotherhood of the Sun, a fanatic anti-vampire movement, is planning something for the summit. Sookie has had problems with them in the past and knows just how deadly they can be.

While Bill might be out of Sookie’s life for good there is one vampire who is not. Eric, owner of Fangtasia and sexy ancient Viking, is still struggling with his feelings for Sookie. Mainly that he has feelings at all. He still cannot remember what happened between Sookie and himself when his memory was wiped clean (Dead to the World) but he has figured out that they were lovers and it’s possible that Sookie really loved him.

A vampire in one hand and a weretiger in the other. How can a girl make a choice? Well, besides the fact that all firmly is over with first love Bill, there are not any decisions made here at all. The open-ended conclusion leaves hints of the future, ensuring the series will continue, but little else.

There is also the underlying theme of Sookie trying to control her mind reading ability as well as her life. She has always kept a low profile, sure most people in the small town she lives in know she can read minds, but they tend to forget. But the vampires, as well as some humans, are trying to maneuver her into a place they can control her and her ability. Sookie is hard pressed to keep hold of her life as well as her identity as a human being.

All Together Dead
is great. The characters are wonderful as always and it is nice to see some faces from previous books. The universe that Sookie inhabits, just like ours except for a few differences, is easy to get wrapped up in. I could not put it down once I started, and the love triangle and mystery kept me turning pages well past midnight.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

'Dead Girls' Dance' by Rachel Caine

ISBN: 0451220897
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 256pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Price: $5.99

In Glass Houses, book one of The Morganville Vampire series we were introduced to Claire Danvers, a sixteen year old college student in the small Texas town of Morganville. She quickly learns that this college town isn’t what it seems.

Vampires rule the entire population except for the college campus. If the vampires weren’t bad enough, there are two groups locked in a fight to gain control of the town. Claire and her friends, Michael, Eve, and Shane, are stuck in the middle of it.

The Dead Girls’ Dance picks up exactly where Glass Houses left off - with a cliffhanger. I can’t tell you how glad I was to pick this book up and not have missed a single scene of the action. Michael, ghost during the day but solid boy by night, is seemingly killed. But the Glass House isn’t going to let anything happen to its occupants and soon Michael is back in action.

But the distress call that Shane placed to his father, Frank Collins, during the last scene of Glass Houses, brings more hurt than help. A self-proclaimed vampire hunter, Frank has returned to Morganville to clean the place with Shane’s help. One group of the vampires has offered protection to those of the Glass House and Claire and her friends are relatively safe. But Shane’s father doesn’t care about the alliance, or Shane’s friends for that matter, and quickly lands the four teenagers in trouble.

When Shane gets tangled up in his father’s mess, Claire has to discover a way to save him from a horrible death at the hands of the vampires. Desperate to save the boy she loves Claire visits each faction of vampires. But things are not that easy and in the end everyone must make drastic changes in their lives.

If you haven’t read the first book I can guarantee you that you will be a little lost in this one. While it’s easy to figure out the plot and the characters' relationships to each other, they do discuss past events quite a bit. Not to mention you wouldn’t understand why these two sets of vampires are at each others throats.

Some characters are three dimensional — Claire, for example — while others are flat and have not grown enough from the last book to make them interesting. The action in Dead Girls’ Dance is constant while you follow the characters — from page one all the way to the fiery end — with a death grip on the book.

Is this a satisfying follow-up? Yes. Am I looking forward to the next book in the series? Yes. It’s a good story with decent characters. Just don’t expect something out of the ordinary.