Wednesday, August 27, 2014

eBook Review: Finding Miss McFarland

Delaney McFarland is on the hunt for a husband—preferably one who needs her embarrassingly large dowry more than a dutiful wife. After the unspeakable incident at her debut, Delaney knows marrying for love is off the table, but a marriage of convenience—one that leaves her free to live the life she chooses—is the next best thing, never mind what that arrogant, devilishly handsome Mr. Croft thinks. Delaney plans to marry for money . . . or not at all.

Ever since the fiery redhead burst into his life—in a most memorable way—Griffin Croft hasn't been able to get Miss McFarland out of his mind. Now, with the maddening woman determined to hand over her fortune to a rake, Griffin knows he must step in. He must help her. He must not kiss her. But when Griffin's noble intentions flee in a moment of unexpected passion, his true course becomes clear: tame Delaney's wild heart and save her from a fate worse than death . . . a life without love.

Let me start off by saying I've enjoyed Lorret's "Wallflower Weddings" stories quite a bit and I've wanted to know the deal between Delaney & Croft for a while. Between her reaction and her friends reaction I expected something far more scandalous then the...Incident. Admittedly yes it was kind of horrid and I could see how the first few weeks (maybe months) after there would be talk, but Delaney took it much too far.

A year has passed since the Incident and in that time she has successfully managed to NEVER be in Croft's presence at ANY function. This is a point drilled home numerous times throughout. Yet Delaney is CERTAIN absolutely 100% certain that if she so much as looks at him the scandal sheets will be on fire. And this is where the story often lost me. All the characters alternate between believing she's right and tut-tutting her for being ridiculous, often contradicting something they said the chapter before.

And while Delaney is constantly checking the papers for any mention of her and Croft being in the same place at the same time, no one seemed to care but her. Let me repeat that--no one cared but her. So all her machinations are basically for no discernible reason, especially as by avoiding him she was giving rise to far more speculation.

There are also several other plot points which kind of dangle and then drift away. Or in the case of her parents' and their relationship informing upon her, take a sudden 180 turn for weird.

I honestly had no problems with Croft throughout, other then some weird thing about his Uncle being kind of a bully towards him for childhood problems (which kind of came out of left field) he was in general entertaining and loveable. Considering off disjointed Delaney's actions/mannerisms were I wasn't surprised he was confused by her at all.

Delaney's friends make occasional appearances, but this takes place mostly during the same time as WINNING MISS WAKEFIELD, so there's not a whole lot of interacting. OH that was the other thing I was thoroughly frustrated by - Delaney goes on at length that her friends would abandon her if they knew she couldn't so much as do a stitch of needlepoint. These are the same friends that have shown more loyalty to each other then to their suitors on more then one occasion. Hell they show more loyalty to each other then to their own blood relatives! I didn't understand how after a year or more in each other's company she would come to that conclusion.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

eBook review: Taste of Darkness

He spent more than a thousand years imprisoned in hell…

Drake is an ancient dragon shifter, one of the most powerful beings in existence, but a millennium trapped in utter darkness has left him ill-equipped for modern society. If it wasn’t for Victoria, the sweet female brave enough to befriend him, he’d be lost. She’s smart and gorgeous and everything he never dared dream of during his years of agonizing loneliness. He may not have anything to offer her, but one thing he knows for sure: he’d die to keep her safe.

Only to fall into the heaven of her touch.

Victoria is a wolf shifter, healer of the Stavros pack. She’s seen a lot, but she’s never met anybody quite like Drake, the fiery, fascinating shifter who can blaze through the skies unseen by mere mortals. He’s lost, dangerous, and the last male she should fall in love with, but the more time she spends helping him navigate modern life, the deeper—and hotter—their connection becomes. She’s thrilled when they finally locate his family, but reuniting with his people plunges them both into unimaginable danger. It’s a race against the clock trying to figure out who wants them dead and who they can trust, especially when the threat is closer than they ever imagined.

Hey so remember that guy that just suddenly appeared from the portal to Hell that helped to save Vega's life, got all growly in regards to anyone coming near her or Victoria and in general was just awesome from DARKNESS AWAKENED?  Drake, his name is Drake.  Its important to remember that Vega called him that but he doesn't remember himself so later when you find out his real name file away the tidbit about Vega being awesome cool.

Can we have a YA paranormal where Vega is off being awesome and snickering behind her parents' backs because she's a bit smarter then they are?  

Oh. Right back to the book.  

I really liked the dynamic between Victoria and Drake.  Its been four months since he was released from Hell and its been a learning curve for them all.  He's got amnesia, very protective urges towards Vega (the daughter of the Wolf Alpha that adopted him into the family more or less) and Victoria (though its just as much possessive as anything else) and is having a hard time trying to find his "niche" in the world.  Especially since maybe he's the only one of his kind. And you know that's a problem because he's been having these really weird feelings towards Victoria and there's glowing sometimes...

Oh. Um yeah...

It made sense that Drake was protective of Vega as if she was his own blood kin.  She helped release from Hell, she protected him when she didn't need to and she fought for him.  Victoria is a little more insta!love, but as he explains he didn't want to jump the gun with her.  He knew she was his mate from the first moment, but he also knew that he had a lot to learn in this brand new world and didn't want to come to her empty-handed.  

Unlike DARKNESS AWAKENED Reus sets up at least two other romances to build stories around and at least one other I wouldn't mind happening but I'm patient while still focusing centrally on Victoria and Drake.  I enjoyed watching their courtship unfold amidst Drake's recovery of his life.  And while I call a bit of shenanigan's that an entire race could hide as well as the dragons could for the thousands of years that they have, I was curious to see more of their way of life vs. the Wolves.

I was surprised by the identity of He Who Betrayed Drake (ugh I really disliked this dude), but I was just as happy it didn't turn out to be who I thought it might be (and my crack!theory was totally off base thankfully).  And can I say how nice it is that rather then have some sort of false suspense about whether Victoria and Drake would get together, Reus makes it believable that Drake would want to take a step back and evaluate before jumping into something as serious as a mating bond?  There isn't an "if" about their relationship, its more of a "when" and I appreciate that it was a thought out thing and not just an arbitrary thing because there needs to be suspense.  

I definitely look forward to the next book!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book Review: Lock In

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

One per cent doesn't seem like a lot. But in the United States, that's 1.7 million people “locked in”...including the President's wife and daughter.

Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora,” in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own.

This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse....

This was an interesting read.  Redshirts, which was one of my favorite books of 2012, and it was (for a Star Trek fan like myself) utterly awesome in ways that are hard to explain.  It had its flaws, but overall it worked really well for me.  Lock In by comparison convinced me that Scalzi's fictional writing just works for me. 

While ostensibly a science fiction novel (with lots of talk of neural interfaces, robotics, viruses) this comes across more like a police proceduralOur guy Shane, a wealthy victim of Haden's from a very young age who's second day on the job as a FBI agent lands him into a conspiracy of MAJOR proportions, is economical and precise.  Its not that he doesn't have a sense of humor or that he doesn't show his feelings, its more that he studies and learns and strategizes before taking most actions.

He draws connections and uses the resources available to him--his new housemates, his partner's history, his family's wealth and prestige--to form conclusions that aren't slapdash.   Actually some of the more amusing moments are when people either realize which Chris Shane he is.  His father, a prominent real estate tycoon and former basketball player, spearheaded what it meant to have a family member with Haden's Syndrome.  Multiple times its mentioned that because of the visibility Shane had as a child society as a whole was able to humanize what was happening to those Locked In.

There are drawbacks to Shane's narrative tone though; there are sometimes infodumps that feel like a teacher explaining something to you.  The first chapter or so, as Shane walks us through his life/his new career, is largely one big information quagmire.  And while we get a pretty good idea of what it means to be Locked In, I could not for the life of me picture the "threeps" (or the Transport Modules).  I'm not sure if that's a failure of imagination on my part of is that's a fallacy in the fact Shane never sees a reason to describe what they look like fully (why would he?).

Throughout much of the book the "threat" that is front and center has more to do with hacking Integrators (those who survive past the 2nd stage but are not locked in) then anything else.  There's sideline problems that crop up (profitizing the Agora now that the government was privatizing Haden's Syndrome treatment, a possible "cure" for Locked Ins that's drawing a lot of controversy), but the main threat is the Integrator problem.  It sometimes felt a bit too much however.  Much in the way the ending of Redshirts revealed just one complication too many, Lock In reveals the bad guys' aim from the very first death and it was just too much.

Lock In was an immersive, thoughtful look into the near future.  Scalzi handles both the day to day minutiae of being a Locked In victim (apartment hunting, bedsores, vulnerability of your biological body) and the new culture of living outside yourself really well.  It felt real when Shane and Vann would discuss what it meant to be an Integrator or Locked In.  How to deal with the idea that you are and you aren't yourself.  The coping mechanisms they had to get through a situation they had no choice in.

Definitely worth reading and recommended.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

eBook Review: The Governess Club: Sara

Sweet Sara Collins is one of the founding members of the Governess Club. But she has a secret: She doesn't love teaching. She'd much prefer to be a vicar's wife and help the local community. But this quiet mouse doesn't want to upset her friends, and she resolves to help in whatever ways she can.

Nathan Grant is the embodiment of everything that frightens Sara. Which is why she can't understand why the handsome but reclusive and gruff man is so fascinating to her. When Sara decides it's time to take a chance and experience all that life has to offer, Nathan is the first person she thinks of.

Will Sara's walk on the wild side ruin her chances at a simple, happy life? Or has she just opened the door to a once-in-a-lifetime chance at passion?

Sara was and remains my favorite Governess Club member. I am acutely aware of what it is like to become so overwhelmed by anxious thoughts that the mere act of breathing is impossible.  To hear that voice in your head constantly condemning you over and over again, desperately wondering why its you that is always punished, but no one else seems to be.  Its really hard to overcome that, even with support from your friends.

So when she realizes that she no longer had to let some spectre dictate to her how to live, that she didn't like the person she saw in the mirror and wanted to change that, I gave a little squeal of joy.  Its not always the big moments that make a person change, it can sometimes be smaller moments that make you realize you can be more.

There was a double edged sword here.  Even as she grabbed the reins of her own life I felt this nagging feeling that she wouldn't have enough time to really grow into that feeling.  And to a point I was proven right.  The pacing got more awkward as she experienced more of life.  Not because of how she was taking that control, it was mores due to the length of the story.  There wasn't enough room to watch her grow into the changes.  

This led to a sudden shift in her relationship with the pastor and a quickly abbreviated account of the time directly thereafter.  In the end, when Sara finally voices her opinion on how she really felt about teaching I wanted there to be a bit more time spent.  Of the three books in the Governess Club so far I think that Sara's has hit the nail on the head perfectly for this group--even though they knew each other they didn't know each other.  Louisa remarks that Sara basically was a go along to get a long sort--she let her decisions be made for her and just went with whatever was decided.  Later Sara realizes that she knew absolutely nothing about Louisa and much of what she thought she knew was assumptions on her part.

I did appreciate that Nathan, for all his selfish words, genuinely wanted her to get the most out of her new attitude about life.  He didn't want her thinking that only large up heavels were "adventures", the smallest thing (rolling down a hill or walking barefoot) could also be a heady experience.  And while I judge him (and her) a little for his inability to see past his own stubbornness I found their resolution to be satisfactory.  And humorous.  And just so cute.

Of course now this means its time for Louisa's story and I just can't get excited.  She was kind of mean in this story and almost cruel towards Sara.  There's a line between bluntness and cruelty that Louisa just barely stayed on the right side of at times.  So let's hope her story softens that tongue at least a little bit.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

eBook Review: His Secret Superheroine

All kindergarten teacher Peyton Pearson wants is a nice, quiet life. Unfortunately, quiet isn't something she's had a lot of after tainted medicine turns her into a superhero. She's single, and saving the city from criminals—which is increasingly dangerous as the anti-superhero movement in St. Louis gains traction. Then there's her hot next door neighbor who makes her think super-dirty thoughts, and has no idea who she really is.

Police officer Dylan Wilson is trying to make the world safe by working to unmask all superheroes. When his sexy neighbor, Peyton, is evicted, Dylan offers her his spare room, unknowingly opening his home—and his heart—to the city's most reluctant superhero.

Can love survive when the masks come off?

To be perfectly honest when I started HIS SECRET SUPERHEROINE I expected something more in line with Eimer's "Speak of the Devil" books--lots of humor, banter and a light sexy romp, but this time with superheroes.  The book began this way as well, but there was threads that were far more serious in nature woven throughout.  

For instance from the get go we get an idea of why a relationship between Dylan and Peyton would be a headache.  She's a reluctant superheroine desperately trying to live a life of quietness and he's a (mostly) proud member of the "Safety for America" movement.  A movement that severely wanted to limited the rights, privileges and lives of anyone who has superpowers.

While Dylan is presented as a rational guy just trying to protect his family, he does come off as a blind idiot who needed to understand the situation for himself instead of basing his responses on clearly biased information.  And Eimer doesn't sugarcoat that; while Dylan isn't one of the yahoos running around with bombs he is one of guys defending that person's right while shunting aside the supers' rights to feel safe. 

Near the middle this becomes a rather political book for all that's a paranormal romance.  This wasn't a problem for me, except that other then Dylan and his friend Jimmy we don't see any sane "Safety for America" members.  Dylan's ex-wife is a member (though I have a bit of a timeline issue here that I'll get to in a second), two extremists who go the terrorist route are members and we see the leader who [spoiler]is the biggest Supervillain ever known[/spoiler] and spends much of his time threatening Dylan's little girl to get him to do what he wants.  Whether the group had legitimate arguments or not, it was completely and utterly washed aside by the lunacy of the majority of its members.

Quite honestly for a book that has many of its superhero'ed characters mentioning how much everyone hates them we see very few civilians--aka the general public--discriminating against the supers who are gadding about.  For Superman's sake they hold a charity event that is bi-weekly and was only recently attacked as a plot point in book.

The timeline issue I mention is that Dylan's ex Aria shacked up with a super who's powers went haywire nearly burning her and Dylan's daughter alive.  That was about a year ago.  I'm not completely sure when this superhero thing broke out in the general public, but Dylan's been part of the "Safety for America" for a long time and Aria is also a part of that group.  What's a little unclear if whether Aria has always been part of that group or if its a recent thing since her super ex nearly torched her or what.  Like I said the timeline is a little wonky

Now for what I liked.  Peyton.  Shea.  Jimmy.  Liza.  Dylan when he finally got his head out of his ass.  In that order.  We get a very strong sense of who Peyton is as well as what she was willing to do for those she cared about.  And this was consistent.  Dylan had a lot of views he had to change in order to be worthy of even thinking of being with Peyton, but Peyton was firm.  Either take me as I or this isn't worth anything.  Which she repeatedly tells Dylan even to the point of telling him to get the heck out of her life if he wasn't going to understand why it was important to her.

Jimmy, for all that he is a womanizing lech at times, had common sense enough to only worry about one thing: are you a threat to those I love?  Its not made entirely clear why he's part of "Safety for America" (though he's a cop and they're apparently big supporters of that), but once he clears up that Peyton and her cohorts aren't the danger he's on board with the "Dylan you're an idiot" train for his thoughtless reactions.

For which we all agree, Dylan is an idiot.

Monday, August 11, 2014

eBook Review: Darkness Awakened

Years ago he ended things between them to protect her…

As leader of one of the fiercest werewolf packs in the south, Finn Stavros is in full battle mode 24/7. He has no choice—he’s one of the few beings strong enough to fight the Akkadian demons, whose mysterious escape from hell threatens the entire world. With the battle turning bloodier by the second, Finn is ready for anything…until his vampire long lost love shows up on his doorstep in desperate need of his help, sending his heart into a tailspin. He agrees to help her, unaware that she carries a shocking secret that will turn his life upside down.

This time, he’s not letting her go…

Vampire Lyra Marius curses the day she met Finn. The ruthless werewolf promised to love her forever, but he rejected her instead—before she could share her life altering news. Pregnant, kicked out of her coven, and cast aside by the love of her life, Lyra struggled to raise their rare shifter-vampire daughter Vega alone among humans. When the 16-year-old is kidnapped and used to fulfill a frightening prophecy, Lyra swallows her pride and turns to Finn for help. But how long can she fight her feelings for him and keep him from guessing the truth about who Vega really is? As they race against the clock to save their daughter, they must defeat the lethal threat imposed by demons infiltrating the human world and a hell gate that could not only reveal their existence to mankind, but destroy the world in the process.

Okay so for the record I know that one of Reus' most used tropes is the "Once lovers but ended for his/her/their safety", but damned if it doesn't get me every single time.

Reus' paranormal romances never fail me. Her heroes are always smoking examples of men, her heroines don't let themselves be torn down and there is always a heated chemistry both in and out of the bed. DARKNESS AWAKENED is no exception.

In one corner you have Finn - uber Alpha leader of Biloxi, he challenged and defeated his maniacal ruthless uncle years before and has spent the time since rebuilding the Pack into something admirable. In the other corner you have Lyra - a natural born vampire princess in exile ever since her relationship with Finn ended in flames 17 years before. She's lived on her own all these years in the human world and will be damned if anyone tries to harm her or theirher daughter.

Then you have assorted other characters, a lot of whom will feature in the next book TASTE OF DARKNESS to varying degrees.

I say "assorted other characters" because while they were interesting, and were part of the reason why I am so eager to read the next book, this story was squarely about Lyra, Finn and their daughter Vega.  Everyone else existed as peripherals to their little family.  Oh hey pack member you have an issue with my future mate?  Go ahead and die now.  You think I'm not good enough for your alpha?  Go ahead and eat your heart okay?  These two, once they committed to the idea (in Lyra's case mostly unconsciously), everybody else could go screw themselves because nothing would keep them apart.  Not even each other.

I liked that Vega wasn't just a damsel in distress, she actively sought ways to exploit her captors' weaknesses and plotted ways to thwart them.  Yes the telepathic bond with Lyra was a bit convenient...but that could be overlooked since she was supposed to be the Uber Child of Prophecy (aka The Star Child) and that only accounted for a small amount of how she was eventually saved.

My only complaint was that this felt as if it belonged to a larger universe, but I'm not entirely sure if that was true.  Some of the "events" that are mentioned in vague ways could point to other books Reus has written, but specifics were not very forthcoming.  Add to that the abbreviated world building and I sometimes wondered if I was missing something vital.

This was, in all the ways that matter, an engaging and steamy read.  If you've enjoyed her previous books definitely read this. If you're new to her body of work this is just long enough to satisfy, but short enough to only take a night or two of reading to know if you like her style.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Summer of Christie: Dead Man's Folly 8/4

The Summer of Christie continues 8/4 with Dead Man's Folly, the first Hercule Poirot book we'll be covering this summer in celebration of his new mystery The Monogram Murders this fall!  We're kicking off our discussion with tonight's airing of "Dead Man's Folly" starring David Suchet as the Belgium detective while questions and discussions will continue on at Bookclub Girl Monday.

This is not Suchet's first time with this story - he was also the audiobook narrator for one of the versions (specifically this one here, available at Audible with whispersync).  He vowed to be Poirot for all of his mysteries (something that took him 25 years to do!).

The new ITV production airing on Masterpiece is not the first time Dead Man's Folly has been made into a movie either however!  Back in 1986 Peter Ustinov, who played Poirot for 6 movies from 1978 to 1988, also brought this book to screen.

Let's compare:
David Suchet as Poirot
Peter Ustinov as Poirot
Unfortunately Christie herself did not live to see either of the men play the character she vocally disliked (she found him to be a “detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep.”) and for myself I grew up moreso on Suchet then Ustinov, a fact made very clear since until recently many of the books Ustinov adapted were not adapted by Suchet.

Its hard for me to compare the two actors though.  Ustinov's Poirot is a fussy, pedantic sort just as Suchet's version, but because Ustinov played him so infrequently Suchet was able to refine a lot of those quirks more.  Then there's the fact Suchet had several "friends" and "associates" who reoccured through his run (just as in the books themselves) who served to ground his character better. 

Tonight is the premiere of "Dead Man's Folly" (in America at least)

Here's a trailer:

and here's a scene from Masterpiece! to whet your appetite:

Here's an interview of Suchet from BFI on the movie:

And for comparison here's Ustinov's commercial for his version in 1986:

DEAD MAN'S FOLLY premieres on Masterpiece! August 3rd, 2014 at 9pmEST.  We'll be discussing it via twitter so feel free to tweet @WmMorrowBks and use the #monogrammurders to join in the fun!