Thursday, October 31, 2013

Harrowgate by Kate Maruyama

It's time for a Halloween surprise! Today's review is actually written by my good friend Rachel. With her help I hope to bring a bit more variety to the reviews on Reading Amidst the Chaos, so please help me welcome her to the RAtChaos family!

Dana

~~
Michael should be overjoyed by the birth of his son, but his wife, Sarah won't let him touch the baby or allow anyone to visit. Greta, an intrusive, sinister doula has wormed her way into their lives, driving a wedge between Michael and his family. Every time he leaves the Harrowgate, he returns to find his beloved wife and baby altered. He feels his family slipping away and, as a malevolent force begins to creep in, Michael does what any new father would do--he fights to keep his family together. Kate Maruyama’s debut novel, Harrowgate, is a chilling, richly detailed story of love, loss, and the haunted place that lies between.
~~

Harrowgate is the perfect Halloween read for those interested in being spooked in a more contemplative and slowly suspenseful way.  While there is a shocking discovery, the author offers it at the beginning and with little emotion.  Rather, the anticipation while reading comes from trying, with the characters, to understand how this new world might hurt those involved.
 

I appreciated the author not getting caught up in explaining the unexplainable.  She presents the reader with the supernatural in a very natural world and expects him or her to accept this.  However, it is impressive and surprising how quickly the characters also accept these phenomena.  While it speaks to how far we will go to protect the ones we love, a clear theme of the book, I do think my own reactions would be more dramatic.  Once again, though, this understatement was so the author could focus on the quieter psychological intensity and confusion of such circumstances.
 

The issues I had with the book arose more from the doula character’s story-arch.  It is no secret that she’s the nemesis, however, you spend most of the book unsure of why.  When the inevitable discovery and fighting of evil comes, there is little true explanation and even less of a tangible resolution.  This was the part of the book in which I needed clear clarification rather than a murky and too easy ending.
 

Despite these issues, I’d give this book a solid B and recommend it as an easy, engaging, entertaining read for those willing to accept the simplicity of a not-so-simple situation.

Overall Feeling - B

Series - Series

*Title requested from NetGalley*

Monday, October 28, 2013

Enthralled by Lora Leigh, Alyssa Day, Meljean Brook, & Lucy Monroe

They have the power to hold you spellbound, to captivate your senses, and to keep you forever in their control. Forever enthralled…

#1 New York Times bestselling author Lora Leigh returns to her sensual world of the Breeds…as one stubborn Breed meets her match, and can no longer deny her mate—or the fierce desires of her own heart.

New York Times bestselling author Alyssa Day introduces the League of the Black Swan…and the dangerous game one woman plays when her family’s curse dooms her to kill the man she loves.

New York Times bestselling author Meljean Brook delivers a new story in her steampunk world of the Iron Seas…as a man who’s lost everything returns home to find that not only is his marriage in jeopardy, but he must now fight air pirates who intend to steal his one remaining treasure—his wife.

And Lucy Monroe, national bestselling author of the Children of the Moon novels…unleashes the feral passions of a werewolf on the body, mind, and soul of his prey, his lover, his lifemate.
~~

I kind of remember when this anthology was released, I think it was on my Google calender, but it was thanks to the efforts of the good ol' DC Public Library that I brought it home. Enthralled is an anthology of 4 stories, all with authors I know but none of which I currently read regularly. The Breed series by Lora Leigh was the big draw, her books have been autobuys for me up until the last couple of years, and while "Devil's Due" was good it wasn't great and the lack of real conflict just made it ok as a read.

The real winners here were "Ecstasy Under the Moon" by Lucy Monroe and "Curse of the Black Swan" by Alyssa Day. Both are interesting introductions to the authors' individuals worlds (and characters) and even as short stories had very satisfying endings.

All in all the anthology isn't bad and for people who need a little help deciding what to read next there are a variety of genres on display to choose from.

Overall Feeling -B/B+

Series - Various

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dark Lycan by Christine Feehan

Tatijana of the Dragonseekers spent centuries encased in ice with her sister, trapped in limbo between life and death, never speaking to a soul other than those who tormented her. Now, she has been freed from her frozen prison by an unknown descendent. Awakened in human form, Tatijana yearns to explore the modern world in which she now lives—a world with more mysteries than she is prepared for.

Fenris Dalka has returned to the Carpathian Mountains after a long absence to be with his brother. He is scarred by centuries of battle, and every hard-won victory. But the real reason for his return home could prove deadly if discovered by the wrong man—or woman. Upon his arrival, he is compelled by a beautiful and enigmatic stranger who carries the scent of fresh earth, of forest, of the night itself.

In time Tatijana and Fenris will discover all that unites them—their secrets and pasts, their predators, and the hot flush of passion that stirs their souls. Yet just as surely, seduced into the silvery darkness of a full-moon night, they’ll also discover everything ancient and evil that exists to destroy them.
~~

Christine Feehan is killing me. This series used to be *it* for me and now, slowly but surely, I'm ready to throw it out the window. Dark Lycan is a step up from the last book in that Fenris isn't an asshole and Tatijana has some backbone, but neither of these are followed through very well. We start off and Tatijana doesn't want to use her voice around Fen because she doesn't want a lifemate (that's smart), and even when they're forced to confront what they are to each other they don't seal the deal because of each person's histories.  Interesting, no? Well we kind of breeze over this pretty quickly unfortunately, and they become true lifemates, after which the book focuses on multiple over the top battles with two Lycan/Vampire hybrids. 

At this point I got bored and started flipping through the book because honestly I just wanted to find out what happened and how we got more of Dimitri and Skyler who off screen at some point fell in love and are more than just the destined lifemates. Poop. As one would expect things end, new possible alliances are made, and Dimitri is kidnapped to I'm sure be tortured horribly so that he and Skyler have something new to talk about in the next book. Which I'll read (from the library anyway), because I'm an idiot.

Overall Feeling - C-

Series - ....23) Dark Storm 24) Dark Lycan

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Deeper Dimension by Amanda Carpenter

An independent woman, a strong-willed man, and a love neither of them can deny.

Diana needed no one. She’d survived on her own, put herself through school, and was totally self-sufficient. And now, at twenty-six, she had a successful career in the business world. And despite the fact that her new boss, Alex Mason was dynamic and attractive, she was determined to keep it strictly professional between them.

But when unscrupulous business rivals threaten to destroy all that Alex has built, Diana finds herself falling for the hard-working man she discovers behind his formal fa├žade. And the closer she gets to Alex, the farther she drifts from her hard-fought independence…

This Retro Romance reprint was previously published in March 1984 by Harlequin Books.
~~

When Harlequin calls this a retro romance they are really not kidding. It was kind of hilarious to read this through the eyes of a modern woman because so much of it is complete what-the-f*ckery. Just hired but the boss kisses you on the mouth in fond affection? Totally fine. Have a Masters but somehow still the arm candy when the boss needs a date to meet with clients? Also apparently fine. Just go with it!

Diana is the quintessential "ice cold" heroine, cut off from her own feelings due to being shuffled among foster homes, who needs Alex to show her what love is because she's never felt it herself and is completely mystified when she starts to care about whether she's around him or not (I wish this book was a music video). The romance is wordy, filled with over the top descriptions of both main characters and the story, but all in all (especially for a freebie) it was fun read and an interesting look into Thea Harrison as a writer.

Overall Feeling - B-

Series - None

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Undead and Underwater by MaryJanice Davidson

New York Times bestselling author MaryJanice Davidson “continues to put her own unique spin on paranormal romance” (Fallen Angel Reviews), and in this all-new anthology, she’s three times as outrageous as ever before…

Super, Girl!
Meet Hailey Derry, human resources representative and round-the-clock superhero. Born with the ability to convert anything she eats into crime-fighting energy, Hailey is now faced with her toughest challenge: the sexy new hire who has a mad crush on her. But how does Hailey break the news that she’s more of a Wonder Woman than he can imagine? She’d better think of something fast, because letting this guy go would be a crime.

Undead and Underwater
Betsy, queen of the undead, and Fred, the dour could’ve-been-a-princess mermaid, reluctantly team up to help a mutual friend in trouble. After all, a friend in need is a friend who, well, can really test your patience—because Betsy and Fred aren’t exactly BFFs. What they do have in common is the source of the problem: a man. And what’s more troubling than love?

Incomer
As leader of the Pack, it’s Lara Wyndham’s job to usher her breed to safety after the cataclysmic Kardashian Riots of 2025—and fend off the advances of Jack Gardner, a sexy Packer with alpha urges and a knack for getting into trouble. No matter how bad Lara wants it, she doesn’t need it. Not that intoxicating scent of his, or his talented mouth, or that perfect ass. Then again…

~~

I happened upon this while browsing in the library and even though I've lost touch with Betsy and the Undead series by Ms. Davidson this set of novellas was a lot of fun. Each one brings back characters from their individual series, so for those who are familiar with the set ups it might be a touch more poignant, but even as a standalone the stories have enough humor and action to make them worth a read.

(Also - kudos to Ms. Davidson for switching first person view points between two of her main heroines in "Undead and Underwater". I think maybe it was LKH who said she'd never do a crossover between Anita and Merry because they were both first person narratives but I think Betsy and Fred were balanced really well in that story.)

It's a great primer to Ms. Davidson's voice, and the sense of humor that runs throughout all her series, but none of it seems stale or out of place. It's a good, quick read, perfect for this patchy of rainy gloomy weather that DC is experiencing.

Overall Feeling - B+

Series - Various

Monday, October 14, 2013

Drawn Together by Lauren Dane

Beauty is more than skin-deep…

Tattoo artist Raven Smith is blunt and hard, broken and jaded, dark and beautiful. While she doesn’t hide her painful past, she does keep a wall around her heart. She’s free sexually—but no one gets to the real Raven beneath the prickly exterior.

With a voice like smoke, Jonah Warner is a smooth-talking, highly successful attorney, with a body that should never be hidden by a suit. He’s the kind of man who never takes no for an answer and always gets what he wants. And what he wants is Raven. She’s a survivor, and he finds that incredibly alluring.

Jonah gets under her skin in a way Raven has never experienced. He makes her break all her rules—including her no-monogamy rule.

But when a figure from Raven’s past shows up at the tattoo parlor and drops a bomb into her life, their relationship will face the ultimate challenge…

~~

There's a lot of history before Drawn Together, mostly for those who've read the rest of the Brown series, and while it's probably not my favorite book of the bunch it's not a bad way to end things either. Raven is the wild child of this extended family and I almost feel like a bit of the rough edges that make her who she is were muted here - of course that could also be a result of her growing into her own which totally happens to people as time passes, and I'm just being a big whiner about it. [Shrug]. When she meets Jonah they click instantaneously, initially in the bedroom, but from that springs the beginning of a relationship Raven can't manage to squash. 

I don't have any complaints or comments about their sexual antics, what people like is up to them and I think it defeats the purpose of the HEA to split hairs on whether things were BDSM enough, but I guess I'm just glad Raven had it as a touchstone. She's had an incredibly crappy life - that I wish had gotten more screen time - but like for us sometimes the characters in books don't get to have 100% perfect explanations for why things happened the way did. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and we just have to find ways to survive the aftermath, no neat answers to be had. As someone who feels probably overly attached to the Brown family after all these books, lol, it was nice to see everyone threaded through Raven's story and it was a good novel to say goodbye with.

Overall Feeling - B+

Series - ... 3) Inside Out 4) Never Enough 5) Drawn Together

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Charming by Elliott James

John Charming isn't your average Prince...

He comes from a line of Charmings — an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is — until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn't change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar... Right?

~~

This is one of those rare moments for me where I get to say a book is remarkably good. I like the book summary quite a bit when but I don't think I could have anticipated the depth of the lore James uses in this book or the irresistability of the characters. On the surface it's an urban fantasy much like the others: a lonely hero resisting the monster he fears he might be with his motley crew of sidekicks, each fighting their own demons, hoping to save the day. But it's also much more than that.

John is funny, sardonic, and being inside his head for this battle incredibly interesting. He's not just an almost SPOILER, he's a man with a crap ton of training in defeating monsters who has to do it now on his own terms. The men and women he fights beside are complicated imperfect characters who make choices that have a variety of consequences, few of them pleasant. 

I probably haven't been this excited about a new series since Kate Daniels or the Dresden Files and I can't wait to find out what happens next.

Overall Feeling - A+

Series - 1) Charming

*Title requested from NetGalley*

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays (10/8)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read

* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

"Let's just leave it at this - if you touch me again, I'm going to punch you so hard you lose a tooth or two. Trash like me doesn't take kindly to being manhandled by dried-up bitter bitches who wished they'd been able to fuck their way higher up the societal food chain."

--pg 144, Drawn Together by Lauren Dane

Monday, October 7, 2013

Thankless in Death by J.D. Robb

Lieutenant Eve Dallas has plenty to be grateful for this season. Hosting Roarke’s big Irish family for the holiday may be challenging, but it’s a joyful improvement on her own dark childhood.

Other couples aren’t as lucky as Eve and Roarke. The Reinholds, for example, are lying in their home stabbed and bludgeoned almost beyond recognition. Those who knew them are stunned—and heartbroken by the evidence that they were murdered by their own son. Twenty-six-year-old Jerry hadn’t made a great impression on the bosses who fired him or the girlfriend who dumped him—but they didn’t think he was capable of this.

Turns out Jerry is not only capable of brutality but taking a liking to it. With the money he’s stolen from his parents and a long list of grievances, he intends to finally make his mark on the world. Eve and her team already know the who, how, and why of this murder. What they need to pinpoint is where Jerry’s going to strike next.
~~

I'm so glad for the internets that help me remember series that I've loved but haven't gone back to in a while. J.D Robb/Nora Roberts' In Death series had been a staple of mine a long time, but somewhere along the line I guess I got distracted and stopped keeping up with each new release. Jumping back in by re-reading Innocent in Death then following it up with with this book has got me all excited to go back and read the ones I've missed - it's just that good.

This isn't a whodunnit mystery, the book actually starts out with the murderer, but writing it this way allows the characters themselves to shine throughout the story. Eve and Roarke have been through a lot by the time we reach the 37th book, but they're still committed to standing up for the people who've been victimized and for the love they share for each other. The killer might get a lot of lucky breaks (and I admit to being a wimp and flipping through some of the more violent scenes) but ultimately he gets his comeuppance and Eve and Roarke recognition for all the help they've given the people of New York.

Overall Feeling - A

Series - ....36) Calculated in Death 37) Thankless in Death

Friday, October 4, 2013

September in Review

So September was a hard month. Fast and over incredibly quickly, but a hard month. It started out well with Dragon*Con (I've got a one, two, and three wrap up posts for that monstrosity, lol) but work (if you'll excuse my language) has been a bitch. I'm glad to be past of it.

Reading wise though I like the books I got through. I spent time reuniting with authors I like (Gini Koch) and series I'd lost touch with (J.D. Robb).

To Kill a Warlock by H.P. Mallory (B-)
Girls Night Out by Lauren Dane (Mini Me)
Heart of the Sea by Christine Warren (Mini Me)
Making Chase by Lauren Dane
Deception Cove by Jayne Castle (A)
Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch
Alien Tango by Gini Koch
Alien in the Family by Gini Koch
Affliction by Laurell K. Hamilton (C+)
Cake by Lauren Dane (A)
Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens
In too Deep by Jayne Ann Krentz
Innocent in Death by J.D. Robb
Thankless in Death by J.D. Robb
Wolf With Benefits by Shelly Laurenston

Winner? Well I think from now on I'm just going to always pick two because this month I had a hard time deciding between Deception Cove and Cake.  Both great stories!