5 star review, Challenge

March TBR Challenge 2017 & OpenLibrary – Son of the Morning by Linda Howard

Son of the Morning

This month’s challenge is “Comfort Read”, but my moods are too dicy to try to call anything I haven’t re-read a comfort read. So I offer you this gem from 1997, the exception that proves the rule in my general hatred of time travel romance-the only time travel romance I actually enjoy and a near annual re-read. What makes for a comfort read? I dont know, but this one is on my list. So this was on my TBR because I was due, not because it is new.

A scholar specializing in ancient manuscripts, Grace St. John never imagined that a cache of fragile, old documents she discovered was the missing link to a lost Celtic treasure. But as soon as she deciphers the intriguing legend of the Knights of the Templar — long fabled to hold the key to unlimited power — Grace becomes the target of a ruthless killer bent on abusing the coveted force. Determined to stop him, Grace needs the help of a celebrated warrior bound by duty to uphold the Templar’s secret for all eternity. But to find him — and to save herself — she must go back in time.
Summoning the magic of an arcane ritual, Grace steps back to the barren hills of 14th-century Scotland, enduring the perils of an untamed land to confront Black Niall, a fierce man of dark fury and raw, unbridled desire. Driven by a mix of fear and passion, Grace enlists this brazen knight to join her in a modern-day search for a killer. In their quest to protect a timeless secret, they uncover a love for all time — and a deadly duel of honor that risks everything they have.

Once upon a time, shortly after I had moved away to college, I was bored at my mom’s house and this was the longest book I had not read, so I picked it up, thinking blegh, and then was so sucked in I left several hours later than I had intended and even stole one of her precious books. So yes, I own a couple of copies, but this one is also available on Open Library, with the usual disclaimers.

This is also the book’s 20th anniversary, so it seemed like a good time to bring it up for people who may not have ever encountered it before. Due to the longevity of the book and the fact that so many different book blurbs have been used, I may be a bit more spoilery than usual.

On to the actual review:

Have you ever met someone who was sweet and kind of delicate that you always kind of figured would be the type to collapse and never recover when hit by tragedy? But then when they are, while they might have completely shattered, they somehow managed to glue themselves into a sharp ball of all that brokeness and somehow managed to survive and complete their objectives? Never the same again, but completely not what you were expecting either.

That is Grace St. John. A sweet woman with a solid simple life, she loved her brother and her husband, was nice to the neighborhood teen, and loved her job as a translator. In short a round little cream puff of a woman. And then suddenly, it was all taken from her. Her husband and brother both killed, she’s the prime suspect. She has no resources, no skills, and no fallback position; and absolutely no clue why any of this is happening.

Most of the story follows her journey as she fights to stay alive and to solve the mystery of why this has happened to her. It is a story of a woman putting herself back together, inexpertly mended and complete with really sharp edges. It is a story about obsessions.

And I found it remarkably fascinating and was literally not able to put it down, despite the fact that the romance was light (I mean the love interest is in another freaking century for most of the book), and despite the paranormal element (when I already didn’t care for time travel and paranormal was barely a blip on my radar at the time) it was GOOD. I mean I honestly didn’t know which direction the author was going to go; was she taking the topic seriously, was Grace cracking up, was it some coma dream? I just simply didn’t know!

Grace was just so interesting, and eventually so confident and competent that I couldn’t help but root for her, even when I thought she might be out of her damned mind. The love interest, well, I am meh over him to be honest, but Grace really dug on him, so I was even rooting for her to get him too. He was the trapped prince waiting for the queen to rescue him, and basically she did. It totally rocked and was kind of an eye opener for me at the time. The WOMAN could be the rescuer, could be the one to do the leg work. The man could be the object of desire and the one who waited. It kind of blew my mind.

As for how well it holds up. Well except for the payphones, it really held up quite well I think, but take my opinion with a grain of salt, because I am surely reading with my rosy colored sentiment glasses. But if you never picked this one up, thinking it didn’t sound like your cup of tea, well give it another look, because this one is I think a little something special and out of the ordinary, even today.

Son of the Morning

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3.5 star review, 5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Dream Man by Linda Howard

Dream man

This 1998 classic one was way overdue for a re-read, and the comments from my review of Troublemaker made it imperative. Dream Man is available from Openlibrary, but the usual disclaimers apply.

Detective Dane Hollister of the Orlando police department has never met anyone quite like Marlie Keen. While he has doubts about her supposed clairvoyant powers, she sees crimes as they’re being committed, there is no doubt about how much he desires her. To Marlie, Dane is all heat and hard muscle, and he makes her body come alive as it never has before. But not even she can foresee that their passion will lead them on a dangerous journey into the twisted mind of a madman who will threaten their happiness and their lives.

So things to note, I adored this book, it got 5 stars from me and I have reread it so very many times. And I still love it, but, just bear in mind these comments are me trying to read this thing with 2016 eyes. If you still love and have fond memories of this book, you just may want to look away. Because as much as I still enjoyed it, I think perhaps it didn’t hold up to time as well as others have. And considering this is such a widely read and reviewed book, well there may almost certainly be spoilers, and my comments are going to be more directed and specific than I would otherwise be. You have been warned.

Holy crap, I DID NOT remember Dane being such a stalkerish pig. I really didn’t. I will grant you that he is no where in the alphahole league as the ones I really trash, but I remember him as being a sweet hero. But really his bowling her over and moving in was slightly creepy to me now. I mean there is some genuinely witty banter, and he is rather sweet at times, but still. On the plus though it was the late 90’s version of this Athur Dayne guy-which is a must read. READ IT!!!!

Other pluses include a psychic heroine, but it somehow doesn’t strike as hardcore paranormal, she is a strong heroine who shows a huge personal growth pattern (some would say too much), the romantic connection, the sex scenes, and Dane’s partner, and the mystery and truly creepy villain. There is a ton of good stuff.

On the side of I don’t know if this is a plus or a minus-the prose is remarkably purple and I enjoyed the hell of it in the way that only a reader of the old skool possibly could, your mileage may vary.

On the negative Marlie kind of gets healed by the magic Peen, there is some acknowledged condomless sex that I had completely forgotten about (and Linda Howard is usually so wonderful with this), the hero flat betrays the heroine (not sexually, but…professionally), and there wasn’t nearly enough groveling… but the make-up sex was hot and sweet.

And back to the pluses, the epilogue, the magical wonderful baby epilogue. I know that epilogues in general get a bad rap, and baby ones even more. But seriously, this one simply must be read, to quote one of the nurses “There may be justice in this world, after all.”

So in the end what was formerly a 5 star book is probably down to a 3.5 star book for me now, still goo, still maybe a re-read, but not the top of the re-read stack. And maybe subconsciously I knew this and it was why I had such a delay in re-reading it. Who knows?

Dream Man

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3.5 star review

Review – Darkness by Karen Robards

Darkness

New York Times bestselling author Karen Robards continues her penchant for “fantastic storytelling” (RT Book Reviews) with this next heart-pumping romantic suspense novel, the tale of a brilliant ornithologist trapped on the remote Attu Island in Alaska, fighting for her life—and that of a handsome stranger—before they’re swallowed up in darkness forever.

BOOM. That’s the sound that changes everything for Dr. Gina Sullivan, a renowned ornithologist on a group research grant trip on the remote island of Attu, Alaska. When an everyday outing turns sinister at the onset of one of Attu’s infamous storms, Gina expects thunder and lightning—but what she doesn’t see coming is the small jet plane that drops out of the sky and into the water mere feet from her boat. Even more unprecedented: there’s a sole survivor from the crash, and he needs Gina’s help. But it turns out that rescuing the stranger and getting them both out of the oncoming storm is just the beginning. Because the more Gina learns about James “Cal” Callahan, he of brooding eyes and muscled frame, the more she fears—for herself, and for him.

Cal has made a career of trading on government secrets and emerging unscathed—until a routine pickup goes horribly wrong and lands him in ice-cold water. Literally. He knows the plane crash was no accident and that there could very well be an enemy force currently combing the Alaskan island ensuring there were no survivors. Now if only the arrestingly beautiful bird-watcher with the clear-blue gaze would stop watching him, well, like a hawk. Cal convinces Gina to return to base camp and help him covertly get off the island. But when Gina makes it safely back to camp and finds her entire team murdered, all bets are off, and as darkness envelops the island, she must decide: trust a man she barely knows, or go it alone and risk running straight into the arms of a killer?

It looks like after the paranormal crazysauce, we are back to some old skool Karen Robards. And by that I mean that this is very much a modernized retelling of her 1987 classic (and still one of my favorites) Night Magic.

Now don’t think this doesn’t have its own crazy sauce charms, because of course it does. It is just that it is old skool crazysauce rather than paranormal crazy sauce.

So we have a fundamentally broken heroine. The modernization leaves said heroine quite a bit more competent and independent than that older version, but the trade off isn’t a certain intrinsic reticence, it is a complete shattering of her life that leaves her so cut of from the world and from men. And we have a rough, tough, aggressive, world weary hero. He isn’t going to trust the heroine even as far as he can throw her at the start, which is par for the course with this cynic.

They meet, they have undeniable attraction, their mistrusts and different goals seperate them briefly, and then they are brought back together by the suspense/thriller plot arc. Danger, and madness, and smexing, and happily ever love ensues. The End!

And I could leave it at that, because this is the Karen Robards romantic suspense formula. But the devil is in the details, so to speak. For one thing, this is modernized, so if you want some of that sweet, sweet old skool “charm” without the dated feel, this is something of a winner. And consequently, with the updates, I think the heroine may be a little more relate-able, and the hero just ever so slightly less alpha-hole. I don’t know, maybe that is just me and it is a function of not having read Night Magic in a while (maybe an OpenLibrary foray is in my future?). Additionally the tech is much more current, so there isn’t the snickering that you get when you read an older romantic suspense because the technology is so dated.

This one may not be for everyone. Personally, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It was action packed and adventure oriented, the suspense part was relatively plausible, as was the action. The main characters fairly sizzled, and while I don’t know that I necessarily buy the happily ever after, I definitely get the hot for right now feel. It was a good weekend read.

So whether you like this more or less than her most recent stuff is going to be a matter entirely of taste. But, if you had been feeling regretful or resentful of her most recent turn, and missed the old days, then this hearkens right back to the old Robards and you won’t want to wait to pick it up.

Darkness

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3.5 star review

Review – Brotherhood in Death by JD Robb

Brotherhood in Death

The new novel featuring homicide detective Eve Dallas from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Devoted in Death.

Sometimes brotherhood can be another word for conspiracy. . . .

Dennis Mira just had two unpleasant surprises. First he learned that his cousin Edward was secretly meeting with a real estate agent about their late grandfather’s magnificent West Village brownstone, despite the promise they both made to keep it in the family. Then, when he went to the house to confront Edward about it, he got a blunt object to the back of the head.

Luckily Dennis is married to Charlotte Mira, the NYPSD’s top profiler and a good friend of Lieutenant Eve Dallas. When the two arrive on the scene, he explains that the last thing he saw was Edward in a chair, bruised and bloody. When he came to, his cousin was gone. With the mess cleaned up and the security disks removed, there’s nothing left behind but a few traces for forensics to analyze.

As a former lawyer, judge, and senator, Edward Mira mingled with the elite and crossed paths with criminals, making enemies on a regular basis. Like so many politicians, he also made some very close friends behind closed—and locked—doors. But a badge and a billionaire husband can get you into places others can’t go, and Eve intends to shine some light on the dirty deals and dark motives behind the disappearance of a powerful man, the family discord over a multimillion-dollar piece of real estate . . . and a new case that no one saw coming.

This series is an auto for me. I adore Eve and Roarke and the whole gang. But, this is Book 42 in the series, and while the mystery stands alone and you probably COULD read this without the rest of the series, I would say it is inadvisable, because the STORY doesn’t standalone.

And this one features a favorite character that we haven’t had a whole lot of insight into. And I adore that part, although he was even more befuddled then I would have expected (it was a bit over done). I have to admit though, I am becoming frustrated by the increasingly fast and loose way Robb (AKA Nora Roberts) handles the police procedural part. Yes, the way Eve works with her husband and friends is part of the appealing aspects of the story, and part of watching her grow into herself, but now since so many of her friends are not cops, it is just becoming unsettling. Because the other part that is important about Eve, is that she is a great cop. The balance is getting shifted a bit too much in my opinion. If this is about the balance being shifted further to the home life and making the changes that will end the series, then I am OK with that, much though I will miss the series. But if we are going to hang out here for an extended length of time with Eve playing faster and looser with the police procedural side, I fear I am going to start getting very irked.

Anyway, beyond that, I really enjoyed this one. Mr. Mira (who it turns out is actually professor Mira) was a delight. There was lovely friendly banter between everyone, particularly noteworthy between Eve and Roarke, and Eve and Peabody. And the mystery part was fast paced, interesting, and it kept me engaged-even though the psychoses are horrifying. And we do get more character growth from Eve as she really talks to both Peabody and Dennis Mira.

And Eve and Roarke’s relationship seems to have reached a turning point. He’s not so perfectly inexplicably tuned to her as he has been before, and their relationship has become decidedly less adversarial.

So, as I’ve said before, much though I’ll miss this series, I’m hoping it’s a sign of things coming to a close and getting that final happily ever after for one of my favorite romance couples… before it loses the things that have made it so successful and wonderful. 42 books is one hell of a run, but I think it’s time to be letting go now.

Brotherhood in Death (In Death, #42)

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3 star review

Advance Review – Day Shift by Charlaine Harris

Day Shift
by Charlaine Harris


I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

There is no such thing as bad publicity, except in Midnight, Texas, where the residents like to keep to themselves. Even in a town full of secretive people, Olivia Charity is an enigma. She lives with the vampire Lemuel, but no one knows what she does; they only know that she’s beautiful and dangerous.
Psychic Manfred Bernardo finds out just how dangerous when he goes on a working weekend to Dallas and sees Olivia there with a couple who are both found dead the next day. To make matters worse, one of Manfred’s regular—and very wealthy—clients dies during a reading.
Manfred returns from Dallas embroiled in scandal and hounded by the press. He turns to Olivia for help; somehow he knows that the mysterious Olivia can get things back to normal. As normal as things get in Midnight…

This is the second book in Charlaine Harris’ Midnight, Texas Series. I enjoyed Midnight Crossroad, but had some concerns at the aims for the series.

And I think I was right to be concerned with the aims. While there were flashes of brilliance, and elements that I enjoyed in this book, great big old chunks of it seemed like nothing more than backlist baiting. We have one very popular character of a former series who has shown up with what appears to be a retconned back-story and completely stripped of any of his former personality. (As an aside, due to events in this story it is apparent Harris has decided that the Dead But Not Forgotten book of stories is not canonical-which I find insanely frustrating.) And a second character from that series also made an appearance but it seemed contrived and not anything that couldn’t better have been handled with someone in this series.

I enjoyed seeing more of Manfred, and I definitely enjoyed getting to know Olivia (she’s so delightfully morally ambivalent). And Fiji, Chuy, Joe, and the Rev were very integral to the story and we were able to see more of their character’s hidden facets. Bobo was more of a side character this time, as was Lemuel, and that is okay because trying to make everyone take center stage would have made this book even more scattered than it turned out to be. I think Ms. Harris might be struggling with a series that doesn’t just have one or two main characters. And Manfred’s mystery was overall very entertaining as was the side plot involving the new business in town. There were some “what were you thinking?/why aren’t you thinking?” type moments with Manfred and Olivia, but they usually acknowledged those and corrected. But a third shoehorned in mystery was just too much and done for no real purpose that I can see at this time.

Finally, the book just sort of ended. Only one thing was resolved, and the rest was just left hanging. I suppose it is to set up for the next book, but really it felt abrupt and unfinished and I kept paging back and forth looking for the rest of it. I’ll probably try to catch this at the library to make sure there isn’t something that was fixed for the publication from the ARC.

Overall, I am rating this 3 stars, but bottom line-get it from the library, wait for paperback pricing, or cost share with a friend.

If you enjoyed this review, please consider “liking” it on Goodreads or Amazon.

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