Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Review: Loyalty in Death

Loyalty in Death
J. D. Robb

Romantic Suspense

In Death/Book 10

Penguin/October 1999



From Goodreads ~

In 21st-century New York City, tough-as-nails cop Eve Dallas can survive a bombing, seduce her husband, and outsmart a terrorist--all on four hours of sleep. In this latest installment of the In Death series, author J.D. Robb (a.k.a. Nora Roberts) casts our heroine against an enigmatic group of terrorists named Cassandra. With no clear motivation or demands, Cassandra feeds on the thrill of senseless killing and the calculated destruction of Eve's world.

Relying on her own brawn and brains, as well as that of her aid Peabody and her husband Roarke, Eve
begins to unravel a mystery that began decades before. When the killer's threats land close to home, Eve knows she has no choice but to gamble her own life for the chance to save her city as well as her loved ones.

I'm jumping around on my In Death reading, or re-reading as is the case. I also realized that I can use the In Death books as my re-reads, when I don't have time to do both, as was the case this month. :) I don't remember why I picked Loyalty, maybe, subconsciously because 9/11 is fast approaching? I'm not sure, it isn't one of my favorites but it had some memorable moments as well as some over-the-top ones too.

The creepy terrorist group known as "Cassandra" is taunting Eve with their threats against the citizens of New York City. They are threatening to set off bombs if their demands are not met. Dallas and Peabody also have a bizarre homicide to deal with. They know who the murderer is, who the victim is and how he was killed. It's the how he was killed that makes it bizarre. Dallas and Peabody have see a lot of deaths but death by power tools isn't all that common.

So there's the bomber and the murder and somehow they're linked. I liked the overall plot of the story. The tension was high when the teams were trying to figure out what the next likely target of the bomber would be. Race against time and all of that. Roarke, of course, was involved. He's not only good with B & E but also with defusing bombs. Who knew? He's a real jack of all trades that Roarke!

I wasn't crazy about the antagonists - the evil terrorists group. The recordings that were sent to Dallas came off a bit too formulaic. Anyway, I liked the drama surrounding the threat but felt the actual villains came off as nothing new.

Peabody's younger brother Zeke shows up and well, I wasn't impressed. He's nice and sweet and just too nice and too sweet and way too naive to be believable. And speaking of Peabody, this is the point where her relationship with McNab finally comes to a head and they quit the can't-stand-ya dance and start the I-can't-keep-my-hands-off-you dance. Much to Dallas' disgust. LOL

Eve and Roarke are still fairly early in their marriage so the strong feelings they have for each other are still new. They're learning how much and how far to push each other and not always pulling back when they should. It's interesting to see two very strong, powerful characters learning to trust enough to let someone else take the lead.

So, not my favorite in the series but it does have some character development between Roarke and Eve along with the turn in the relationship development with Peabody and McNab.

Rating: B

Monday, August 30, 2010

Review: Raised by Wolves

Raised by Wolves
Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Young Adult/Fantasy
EgmontUSA/June 2010
Library Book

From the author's website ~

Adopted by the Alpha of a werewolf pack after a rogue wolf brutally killed her parents right before her eyes, fifteen-year-old Bryn knows only pack life, and the rigid social hierarchy that controls it. That doesn't mean that she's averse to breaking a rule or two.

But when her curiosity gets the better of her and she discovers Chase, a new teen locked in a cage in her guardian's basement, and witnesses him turn into a wolf before her eyes, the horrific memories of her parents' murders return. Bryn becomes obsessed with getting her questions answered, and Chase is the only one who can provide the information she needs.

But in her drive to find the truth, will Bryn push too far beyond the constraints of the pack, forcing her to leave behind her friends, her family, and the identity that she's shaped?

I had heard some buzz about Raised by Wolves, I liked the blurb, the library had it so it was an easy decision to read it. And am I glad I did! It was a wonderful story with a heroine that displayed not only maturity but still maintained that rebellious nature that teenagers are known for. Bryn walks a fine line, having to know when she's gone far enough and not push it with Callum, the pack's alpha.

The story opens with Bryn getting in trouble. It's a boy and grades that have brought her to the attention of Callum, again. He's patient but he's also use to Bryn and her testing his limits. Right off, Callum had shades of Bran from Patty Briggs' Mercy Thompson series. Callum is very old, very wise and very powerful. He spared Bryn's life when her parents were brutally murdered by a rogue werewolf. Not every alpha or werewolf would have spared Bryn's life. They keep the pack very secret, allowing only a few humans to know about the pack. The ones that do are almost always female and mated to the males of the pack. They must cut all ties to their human lives and give their loyalty to the pack.

Bryn knows all of this. She knows she's an oddity among the pack. She also knows that some members of the pack don't want her there and it's only due to Callum's protection that Bryn is left alone. I thought having the werewolves actually born to it made an interesting twist, rather than the more traditional method of being attacked and turned. It was practically unheard of for a werewolf to be attacked and turned. And then the fact that almost all are born male, there are very few females born as werewolves, making the female werewolves that much more treasured.

One of Bryn's few friends is a teenage werewolf. He's also an oddity because both of his parents are werewolves. His name is Devon and I thought he was a great match for Bryn. Not as a mate but as a best friend. You really get the sense that they get each other and it was such a nice change to have a guy and girl be friends. Sure they had complications, he's a werewolf, she's human, but the way their relationship is written, you know they are there for each other.

Another teenage werewolf in Bryn's life is Chase. He's the newest member of the pack and he's another oddity. (Callum seems to collect them.) Chase is having a hard time and Bryn, for reasons she doesn't understand, is drawn to him. Bryn must work hard and earn the right to see Chase. Callum doesn't go easy on her but pushes her to her limit and beyond. At the time, it seemed like Callum was being too harsh on Bryn, pushing her too hard and not taking into account that she was human. In the end, it made sense but getting there, Bryn had to go through some very tough times. There is one point that some readers may think Callum goes too far, treats Bryn more like a werewolf, who are nearly indestructible. But Bryn is human and she is horribly injured. It's not an easy scene to read.

Bryn's need to see Chase, talk to him, starts a chain of events that eventually bring Bryn to where she started, at the attack on her parents. There is a mystery within the story, it's the driving force for Bryn. It's her personal quest to find out what this connection is to Chase that she feels and how it all relates to her past. I loved how Barnes orchestrated the events within the pack and the realistic reactions of the characters. It all coalesced in a surprise ending that left me wanting more.

Rating: A-

Book 2, Trial by Fire, is due out summer of 2011. (Thanks Nath!)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Review: I Am Number Four

I Am Number Four
Pittacus Lore*

Young Adult/Fantasy

Lorien Legacies/Book 1
Harperteen/August 2010

Library Book

From the inside cover ~

Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books - but we are real.

Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. We have lived among you without you knowing.

But they know.

They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They killed them all.

I am Number Four.

I am next.

Sounds intense doesn't it? And at many points it is. The constant threat of discovery hangs over John Smith aka Number Four and Henri, his Keeper. Henri acts as John's father here on Earth but was appointed John's Keeper on Lorien, their home planet. They escaped to Earth when the Mogadorians attacked Lorien. They have each other, no other close ties, and must move whenever they fear the Mogadorian hunters are getting too close. They've moved 21 times since they came to Earth ten years ago. And with the death of Number Three, it's time to move again.

This time Number Four chooses the name John Smith as his new identity. It's funny but it also shows his weariness in the constant moving and identity changes. He may be an alien but he's also a teenager who needs social interaction. He's lonely and is just tired of having to keep to himself and not stay anywhere long enough to make friends. He wants to make friends, even one would be nice. But he's told to keep a low profile which becomes difficult when his Legacies begin to make their appearance. And then there's the girl, cause there's always a girl. And a sidekick, cause a hero needs a sidekick. :)

John begins his newest identity at his new school in the small town of Paradise, Ohio. It's here where he meets Sarah, a beautiful girl who likes to take pictures. And Sam, who loves NASA and believes in aliens. You know as soon as he meets them they will all become friends, however odd it seems. John soon learns more about his Legacies and his planet's history. His Legacies are his alien powers that are beginning to manifest, and not always at the best times.

As John gets settled into his new identity, circumstances make him unable to keep that low profile and he quickly gets the attention of the school's popular jock and Sarah's ex-boyfriend. John finds himself standing up to Mark, Sarah's ex. It's exactly the type of attention Henri warned him about but John has friends now and they have become important to him.

The writing is good but not "blow me away" amazing. It's told from John's POV which has its limits and causes the narrative to become a little too heavy at times. I liked how we see John not only coming into his super-special Lorien powers but also making more of the decisions instead of completely relying on Henri. He also starts to take the initiative in finding more information on his enemies, the Mogadorians, even knowing that Henri would disapprove. Their relationship is multi-layered with Henri acting as father figure, teacher and John's only link to his past and home. They are also friends, which isn't surprising since they spend so much time together. It would really be odd if they hadn't become close, being the only two Loriens they know.

The fight scenes are intense and creative with a host of alien monsters for John and Henri, along with their allies, to fight. I thought the creatures hunting John were a little bit larger than life, with very impressive alien powers. And creepy too which is always a plus! It was a good thing John healed fast since he was thrown around a lot during the fighting, with quite a few near death misses.

If you haven't heard, there's already a movie being made. The movie is in production and set for release next year. Will I see it? Yes, unless the trailers are absolutely horrendous. Why? Two words - Timothy Olyphant. He plays Henri. Plus, I do like the story, it has the potential for a good movie. We'll see. As it stands, I Am Number Four ends on a cliffhanger so I'll be reading the next book, The Power of Six, due for a spring 2011 release.

Rating: B+

*Per Wikipedia, Pittacus Lore is the pseudonym of authors Jobie Hughes and James Frey.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Review: Cold Sight

Cold Sight
Leslie Parrish
Paranormal Romance/Suspense
Signet Eclipse/July 2010
Extrasensory Agents/Book 1

From the back cover ~

After being made a scapegoat in a botched investigation that led to a child's death, Aidan McConnell becomes a recluse. Still, as a favor to an old friend, Aidan will help on the occasional case. But under his handsome, rugged facade, he keeps his emotions in check for fear of being burned again.

Reporter Lexie Nolan has a nose for news - and she believes a serial killer has been targeting teen girls around Savannah, Georgia. But no one believes her. So she turns to the new paranormal detective agency and the sexy, mysterious Aidan for help. But just as the two begin forging a relationship, the case turns eerily personal for Lexie - and Aidan discovers that maybe he hasn't lost the ability to feel after all.

I've been getting more into Romantic Suspense and the addition of the paranormal element interested me. It's not vamps or weres but the psychic type of paranormal that is contained in Cold Sight. The idea of the reclusive hero appeals to me. It has a little of that Beauty and the Beast feel to it.

The story begins in a dark place with the killer and his latest victim. That's what wakes Aidan McConnell from his restless slumber. The smell of gingerbread, the sound of a woman's scream. Aidan connecting to the victim, a connections he doesn't want. Aidan has this ability to connect to the thought of people that he has come into contact with. This can be frustrating because he doesn't know who they are. Only that he's had some contact with them. Then there's the fact that Aidan doesn't want this responsibility anymore. He doesn't want to feel the fear of someone who's reaching out for help. He's become a recluse for a reason and has no desire to go back out in the world.

Ah, Lexie Nolan - the news report that doesn't take no for an answer. She is tenacious, courageous and funny at times. She has that self deprecating humor that lets you know she doesn't take herself too seriously, only her job. That she takes very seriously. After her recent humiliation, Lexie knows what it's like when people talk about you behind your back and treat you like an outcast. Aidan and Lexie have that in common. It's Lexie who, through shear stubbornness, gets Aidan to help her find out what's happened to the the missing girls.

Aidan and Lexie make a good team. They're both smart and determined to get to the bottom of the mystery of the missing teenagers. They continue to uncover secrets that finally lead them to the killer. I can't say I was completely surprised by the final reveal - all the clues were there. I did like how Parrish developed the relationship between Lexie and Aidan. It was based on mutual trust and genuine liking for each other, not just physical attraction. There is romance but there is also the teamwork, not only between Aidan and Lexie but also with the other members of the team of Extrasensory agents. Yes, there's some sequel bait, but it's wasn't annoying just the opposite. I found myself interested the the other agents and their abilities.

This first book in the Extrasensory Agents series proved to be a solid read. A little too predictable at times, I felt the mystery was the weakest point in the story. Too much of that feeling that I've read this before. But I liked the characters and the touch of paranormal elements so I'll be reading the next book, Cold Touch, due out April 2011.

Rating: B

Monday, August 23, 2010

How Many at One Time?

I'm over at Access Romance today blogging about reading habits and how I usually find myself reading more than one book at a time. Come on over and join in and let us know what your reading habits are. Are you a one at a time reader or do you like reading more than one book at a time?

And while you're there check out the Author's Blog and the great contests going on.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cover Love: Rob Thurman's Blackout

I was alone, and I was lost. I didn’t know where I was; I didn’t know who I was. It doesn’t get more lost than that. Knowing what I knew and not knowing anything else at all, why would I want to be in the darkness where monsters hide? Because killers hide there, too…

Half-human Cal Leandros has always walked a bloody line between keeping his mortal soul free and clear (sort of) and unleashing the horror of his otherworldly heritage. The one thing that’s always saved him is the memory of his brother, Niko, his friends, and those he loves.

Until now.

Cal wakes up on a beach littered with the recently slaughtered remains of a variety of hideous creatures that were obviously looking for trouble. The fact that he was the one doing the slaughtering doesn’t bother him. The fact that he feels like a natural-born killer doesn’t either. What bothers him is that Cal doesn’t remember Cal anymore…

And he’s not sure he cares.

Another Chris McGrath cover of goodness. Seriously love his work! And that blurb - oh, no. What's Cal without Niko? It's like Sam without Dean. Not good at all. We've still got another seven months to go. Blackout release is set for March 2011. Plenty of time for some re-reading of those fabulous Leandros brothers. :)

TBR Challenge Review: Some Kind of Magic

Some Kind of Magic
Theresa Weir
(Anne Frasier)
Contemporary Romance

HarperCollins/ November 1998


From the back cover ~


Not much is duller than winter in sleepy Fallon, Idaho. So on her thirtieth birthday, Claire Maxfield wishes for the one thing - well, one of the things - missing from her life: some excitement. Besides that voodoo doll from her best friend, she has no idea what she's about to get.


That very night a mysterious injured man named Dylan carjacks Claire at gunpoint, ordering her to hide him. But once inside her secluded cabin, something strange occurs. Claire's powerfully attractive captor somehow becomes the captive - and Claire winds up taking care of him!


Just how did it happen, she wonders. Maybe that voodoo doll, now sporting one of Dylan's hairs, had something to do with it. Or maybe it was a different kind of magic, a spell that is mystifying, unbreakable, and absolutely irresistible.

*Apologies for posting a day late.*

I love log cabins. I've always wanted to live in one. My sister has a log cabin in the mountains of North Carolina. I've only seen pictures, but would love to go someday. Given that, I'm a sucker for the romance trope of the hero & heroine stranded in a log cabin, while a blizzard rages outside. When this month's suggested reading was to try a new author, Theresa Weir's story taking place in Idaho in a secluded cabin fit perfectly.

Claire Maxfield isn't asking for much when she makes her birthday wish, just a little excitement in her life. She's an artist who's trying to sell her work but isn't feeling a lot of confidence. Add to that, her boyfriend took off for an artist retreat three months ago and hasn't been back since. Instead, he hooked up with a sugar mama and now Claire is waiting in vain for his return. Claire's due for something good to happen but getting kidnapped isn't exactly what she had in mind.

Right off Weir had me laughing. The conversation between Claire and Dylan, when he kidnaps her had me thinking "this is not how you talk to a kidnapper". Claire is scared, nervous and getting angrier by the minute. Her kidnapped is rude, telling her she smells of mothballs. Because of that and how she's bundled up, he thinks she's an old lady. Once they get to Claire's house, Claire has no luck convincing Dylan to take what he needs and leave. Instead she finds herself tied up with a kidnapper sleeping in her bed.

Dylan hates the cold. He's desperate to get warm and picks Claire to help him. Dylan is a hero not looking to be a hero. He's in a situation that leads him to hold a woman at gun point, fight with her and leave her tied up on the floor. He's really not a bad guy, he's just had a little bad luck. I liked Dylan and his bluntness - it's funny. He thinks Claire is a bit crazy and maybe she is, who wouldn't be in her situation?

I thought Claire and Dylan made a cute couple. They had me chuckling with their banter. It had a bit of that Hepburn/Tracy feel to it. With Claire surprising Dylan with her sometimes silly logic and Dylan sometimes falling for it. LOL They did have quite a few things to overcome before getting their HEA. And along the way there is some mad sexing going on. They definitely had the chemistry!

There is also the mystery surrounding the plane crash and who Dylan really is. I thought the plot of Dylan's identity was interesting, if a little bit weak. The way Dylan dealt with his problems, by running away, left me a little disappointed in him. He does redeem himself and figure out what's really important to him. Claire, well she gets a little obsessed with the voodoo doll. There are times when she actually thinks the only reason Dylan is with her is because of the "power of the voodoo", cue spooky music. I could have done without the creepy little doll.

This was a good choice from the TBR pile. I like Weir's writing - she delivers a funny, sexy and sweet read. Perfect log cabin getaway. :)

Rating: B+

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review: Linger

Maggie Stiefvater
Young Adult Fantasy
Wolves of Mercy Falls/Book 2
July 2010
Library Book
*Spoilers for 1st Book*

From the inside cover ~

the longing.

Once Grace and Sam have found each other, they know they must fight to stay together. for Sam, this means a reckoning with his werewolf past. For Grace, it means facing a future that is less and less certain.

the loss.

Into the world comes a new wolf named Cole, whose past is full of hurt and danger. He is wrestling with his own demons, embracing the life of a wolf while denying the ties of being human.

the linger.

For Grace, Sam , and Cole, life is a constant struggle between two forces - wolf and human - with love baring its two sides as well. It is harrowing and euphoric, freeing and entrapping, enticing and alarming. As their world falls apart, love is what lingers. But will it be enough?

I really enjoyed the first book in the Mercy Falls series, Shiver so I was happy to get Linger from the library. The way Shiver left off felt incomplete. I knew it wasn't the end, both because it's a trilogy and because it just didn't feel finished. Grace and Sam were at the beginning of their story and we still had to find out how it would all play out and how it ended. Linger is a continuation of Shiver so you definitely need to read this trilogy in order.

The story opens with Sam and Grace adjusting to Sam being human - all human, all the time. It's written is four different POVs. Each time the POV changes, it is noted which characters POV it is at the being of that chapter/section. I liked how Stiefvater wrote the different POV, sometimes giving more than one POV for the same scene. We find Sam working at the bookstore again and simply enjoying being in his own skin. Grace going to school and basically raising herself because of her absentee parents. Sam does spend his nights at Grace's house. They are only sleeping together - strictly sleeping. With everything they've been through they need that closeness.

It's still cold enough that the wolves are still wolves but the newer wolves could start changing into humans at any time. I liked how Stiefvater had Grace and Sam in a sort of us-against-the-world situation. The only other person that knows about the wolves is Isabel and she's not going to tell anyone. And Isabel is sort of on Sam and Grace's side but I think it would be going too far to say that they are friends. It's more of an association due to circumstances. The circumstances being that Isabel's brother had been infection with the "wolf virus" and that's how Isabel found out about Sam and the wolves.

One thing about Linger is that it's sad. There's some happiness but it's fleeting, small moments in between the growing unease that has settled over Sam and Grace. In spite of that I liked it and understand why everything happened the way it did. Why Grace and Sam must go through so much pain and sadness before they can get to anything close to a happy ending. But even in that sadness Stiefvater's lyrical prose comes through to lighten the mood. To give such beauty to such sadness.

Graces' POV ~

When I was younger, I had imagined being a wolf. Running away with Sam the wolf into a golden wood, far away from my distant parents and the clutter of modern life. And again, when I'd thought I would lose Sam to the woods, I'd dreamed of going with him. Sam had been horrified. But now, finally, Cole had told me the other side of the coin. All that matters is that moment, and being with the other wolves, and just being a ball of heightened senses. page 284

Sam enjoying cold weather ~

This time I locked the back door, picked up my guitar case, and went out the front, sliding a little on the ice coating the threshold. I pulled on the skullcap that Grace had bought me in a failed attempt to make me look sexy while keeping my head warm. Stepping out into the middle of the sidewalk, I watched tiny flakes float down onto the abandoned street. As far as I could see,there were banks of old snow pressed into stained sculptures. Icicles made jagged smile of the storefronts.

My eyes smarted with the cold. I held my free hand out, palm up, and watched as snow dissolved on my skin.

This was not real life. This was life as watched through a window. Life watched on television. I couldn't remember when I hadn't hidden from this.

I was cold, I had a handful of snow, and I was human. pages 54-55

All four main characters: Sam, Grace, Cole and Isabel are well developed and give different perspectives to the story. Isabel is a character with that dry, snarky humor that I adore. She's not a happy camper since her brother Jack died. She really wasn't exactly happy before that but now she's got this huge load of guilt dragging her down. Her parents are jerks and she blames herself for her brother's death and... well, that's enough! But I do like her so very much. She's taken up the task of trying to find a cure for the werewolves. She's smart and at times, comes off as cold, but she does have feels, she just has a hard time showing them. I think she's afraid of showing any vulnerabilities because of this feeling of aloneness that sits with her. It's like she can't depend on anyone but herself. We should get to see more of her in Forever.

Since this is a trilogy, you should read the books in order and Linger does end with a cliffhanger so consider yourself warned. And one cool thing - the text is in green. It's very easy on the eyes. I'm completely enjoying this trilogy and can't wait to read the final book, Forever, next summer. *sob*

Rating: A-

My review of Shiver

Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: Presumed Dead

Presumed Dead
Shirley Wells


Harlequin/July 2010

Received for Review (Carina Press/NetGalley)

From the publisher's website ~

Dylan Scott has problems. Dismissed in disgrace from the police force for assaulting a suspect, he has no job, his wife has thrown him out and—worse luck—his mother has moved in. So when Holly Champion begs him to investigate the disappearance of her mother thirteen years ago, he can't say no, even though it means taking up residence in the dreary Lancashire town of Dawson's Clough for the duration.

Although the local police still believe Anita Champion took off for a better life, Dylan's inquiries turn up plenty of potential suspects: the drug-dealing, muscle-bound bouncer at the club where Anita was last seen; the missing woman's four girlfriends, out for revenge; the local landowner with rumored mob connections—the list goes on. But no one is telling Dylan all they know—and he soon finds that one sleepy Northern town can keep a lot of secrets.

Dylan Scott's life has been really messed up. Nothing seems to be going his way but when he finally gets a job it's not exactly something he wants to take but beggars can't be choosers and it will get him away from his mother, if only for a little while. Dylan doesn't think he'll find Anita Champion, it's been too long, but her daughter is willing to pay and Dylan needs the money.

The more Dylan finds out about Anita, the more he understands her and he is certain she never would have left her daughter. Not willingly. As Dylan starts connecting the dots he finds even more questions and realizes this isn't the case of an irresponsible women taking off in the middle of the night. The way the author, Wells, lead Dylan along, finding the different clues and piecing them together to make that final picture kept and held my interest. I never thought Anita was still alive but I did want to know what happened to her - why she left and were she had gone. I think for a mystery to work the reader needs to not only want to read the steps in discovery the truth but also to know the why of the mystery. Wells does a good job delivering both.

In addition to the mystery there is also a subplot concerning Dylan's marriage. He's been kicked out of his home, his wife is barely talking to him and his relationship with his son is sliding down hill. Dylan is certain his wife, Bev, will come around and let him move back home. I liked how Dylan's marital problems also reflected on his state of mind when searching for answers about Anita's disappearance. He doesn't understand why the wife he loves kicked him out. He doesn't understand why Anita Champion abandoned her daughter that she loved very much. As he slowly unravels the mystery of Anita's disappearance, he slowly understands why his wife kicked him out. Dylan is smart and applies that intelligence to solving the case. He's a little slower when it comes to his own personal mystery of his wife and their marriage.

Overall, a good solid mystery with interesting characters, plot and a dash of humor thrown in. I also liked the British flavor the book held. There were a few words that I had to look up to be certain of their meaning but I did enjoy the feel it gave the story. There was no doubt this book took place in England and the characterization of the people and country reflected that.

Rating: B+

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Review: Welcome to Harmony

Welcome to Harmony
Jodi Thomas
Contemporary Romance
Harmony/Book 1
Berkley/June 2010
Library Book

From the back cover ~

Sixteen-year-old runaway Reagan has always wanted a place to belong. She's never had a real home of her own, but maybe she can borrow someone else's. At lest for a little while...

At the nursing home where Reagan works, Miss Beverly Truman's fond memories of Harmony, Texas, seem to fill an empty space inside the girl. After Miss Beverly passes away, Reagan travels to Harmony, pretending to be the woman's granddaughter, and is taken into the home of Beverly's surviving brother.

Still, Reagan is afraid to trust the gruff kindness shown to her by Jeremiah Truman and the warm friendship offered by antoher teenager named Noah, who dreams of being a rodeo star. She keeps her distance from Noah's sister, Alex McAllen, who's the town sheriff and busy with her own stormy relationship with volunteer fire chief Hank Matheson.

But when prairie fires threaten Harmony, Reagan learns the true meaning of family, friends, and home...

I liked the synopsis and thought the story had promise but I would have liked it more had it been focused on Reagan and her story about finding a place to belong. As it was, I got bored with the romance between Alex and Hank. I did like the overall feel of the town - Thomas can write a small town and make it come alive. There is also a secondary sort-of romance that takes place primarily on line which I found interesting and hope it will continue in the next book.

The story starts with Reagan who I enjoyed reading about. She's a teen that has a lot of guts and not much to lose when she sets out on her journey to Harmony, Texas. She pretends to be related to a former resident who also happens to be related to a current resident. The current resident, Jeremiah Truman doesn't exactly throw out the welcome mat for her but he does let her stay at him home. It's a start and Reagan is willing to take it.

Crotchety, grumpy, recluse and even mean old man could all be used to describe Jeremiah Truman. At the core he's really just lonely but isn't a people person and has very little incentive to change. That's until Reagan comes along and gives him a reason to become a little more open and willing to let someone into his life. I like how these two characters who came from not only different backgrounds but different generations, became friends. They bumped and stumbled a bit but in the end they were a family, maybe not by blood but by choice.

Reagan also makes friends with Noah McAllen another teen who wants to follow in his father's footsteps and become a rodeo star. The problem is that the Trumans and the McAllens are the Hatfield and McCoys of the area. Reagan doesn't know this and she really doesn't care, she likes Noah. Theirs is a sweet friendship and I hope we see more of these two in the coming books.

Now to the part that made this such a slow read for me. Alex and Hank and their destructive relationship. It didn't remain destructive but boy did the guilt eat at both of them to the point where they couldn't see past it to the fact that they loved each other. For me, there was too much dancing around with these two. Alex getting drunk, Hank coming to her rescue then Alex telling him she wants nothing to do with him. Then they'd do it all over again the next week.

The romance of Alex and Hank just plain dragged for me and by the end I really had no interest in whether or not they found their happily-ever-after. For whatever reason I just could not connect with them. When they were on the page I was wishing it was Reagan with her oddly developing relationship with old Jeremiah or Reagan and Noah, trying to decide if they're just friends or boyfriend/girlfriend. The good news is that the next book in the series, Somewhere Along the Way, is due out November 2. I liked the excerpt so I'll be reading that and hoping for more Reagan. :)

Rating: C+

Friday, August 13, 2010

Need More Twilight in Your Life?...

I never got into the Twilight craze but I can imagine how it can get to you after a while. It's everywhere, not just the bookstores but grocery stores, Walmart, Target, well, you get the idea. :) Anyway, I saw this trailer for a Twilight-ish spoof called Vampires Suck and got a few laughs. I won't see it on the big screen but it could be fun for some mindless home entertainment when it comes on DVD after a few months.

Any fun plans for the weekend? Maybe some mindless home entertainment? :) It's been a while since I've been to Blockbuster so I'm overdue. What should I rent this weekend?

Vampires Suck Trailer

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Review Up at Breezing Through...

Hey there ~ the most awesome Nath from Books, Books and more Books and I have a buddy review of Rob Thurman's Chimera up at Breezing Through. Come on over and find out what we thought about a story about two brothers who are not Cal and Niko. *Hint* We really liked it!

Ten years ago, Stefan Korsak’s younger brother was kidnapped. No one knew who took Lukas, or why. He was simply gone. But not a day has passed that Stefan hasn’t thought about him. As a rising figure in the Russian mafia, he has finally found him.

But when he rescues Lukas, he must confront a terrible truth–his brother is no longer his brother. He is a killer. Trained, brainwashed, and genetically transformed into a flesh-and-blood machine with only one purpose–assassination. Now, those who created him…will do anything to reclaim him.

And the closer Stefan grows to his brother, the more he realizes that saving Lukas may be easier than surviving him…

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Review: Abandon the Night

Abandon the Night
Joss Ware
Paranormal Romance
Envy Chronicles/Book 3
Avon Books/March 2010
Library Book

*Spoilers for Previous Books*

From the back cover ~

Quentin Fielding had everything. Money. Power. Women. But now that civilization is all but annihilated, Quent only wants one thing: revenge. Harnessing a strange new "gift," he embarks on a deadly mission to find the the man responsible for the chaos and destruction, the man he should have killed years ago: his father. Only one thing stands in his way – a mysterious, arrow-wielding beauty...

Zoe Kapoor is on her own quest for vengeance, searching for the monstrous fiends who murdered her family. Soon she and Quent join together, journeying through the ruins of the world they once knew as a desperate desire builds between them. Drawing closer to an enemy they never imagined, Zoe and Quent must abandon all fear, abandon all regret, abandon the night ...

I'm still reading this series. And once again, it's the world that I find fascinating with the romance coming in a distant second. Or maybe that's third? LOL I had high hopes for the hero and heroine of this one. I really liked what I had already read of the heroine, Zoe, and while I still liked her, the romance between her and Quinn didn't hold my attention the way I had hoped it would.

Abandon takes place a week or so after the end of Embrace the Night Eternal (book 2). This time it's Quinn who's in some serious trouble when he realizes his father is one of the leaders of the Cult of Atlantis and that they are the cause of the destruction and disasters that happened 50 years ago. He's determined to find his father and kill him. Okay, but Quinn not exactly Rambo or even MacGyver. Before the Change, aka destruction of the Earth as we know it, Quinn was a rich man who liked the finer things in life. He did do some volunteer work in third world countries but for the most part he's used to a life of privilege and luxury. He teams up with Zoe who is accustomed to living off the land and taking care of herself.

I liked Zoe when she first saved Quinn's neck in Beyond the Night (book 1). She was the mysterious archer who saved Quinn and then took off. She's an excellent shot with her bow & arrows and experienced in hunting gangas - the zombie like monsters that come out at night, tearing apart any humans they find. Zoe is a definitely loner, living alone with only her wolf for company. And while she may be a loner she isn't adverse to spending some time between the sheets with Quinn. Zoe tends to pull a fuck-and-run when it comes to her encounters with Quinn. This is something that Quinn isn't used to and doesn't like one damn bit. He's used to women falling all over him, not sneaking away after he's fallen asleep.

I liked some of the secondary characters and want to know more about them. Ian Marck for instance. He's a bounty hunter that works for the Strangers, and like his father no one likes or trusts him. But there's more to him that just a bounty hunter. I wouldn't be surprised if he got his own book and a heroine to go with it. And there are a couple of possible heroines for him.

The next book, Night Betrayed (January 2011) is Theo's book. Theo is one of the survivors of the Change. He's interesting and I'm curious to see who his heroine is. So, I'll probably read that one too. It's weird since I haven't really been wowed by the romances but I'm still interested in the world to even consider reading the next book. And I've still got some hope for a few of the secondary characters. Who knows, maybe Theo's romance will hold my interest more than the post-apocalyptic setting.

Rating: C+

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

ARC Review: Naked

Megan Hart
Contemporary Erotic Romance

Harlequin/August 2010

ARC from Harlequin/Netgalley

From the author's website ~

No strings. No regrets. And no going back.

I didn’t think he wanted me. And I wasn’t about to get involved with him, not after what I’d heard. Alex Kennedy was tall, dark and unbearably hot, but I’ve been burned before. Maybe it was stupid of me to offer but he needed a place to crash and I needed to pay the rent, but now he’s my tenant…with benefits. And now that we’ve crossed that line, I can’t seem to find my way back.

But I can’t give my heart to a man who’s so…unconventional. His last sexual relationship was with a married couple. It’s enough that my ex-fiancé preferred men, I won’t take that chance again no matter how much my body thrives on Alex’s touch. I can’t risk it, but I can’t resist it, either.

Alex can be very convincing when he wants something.

And he wants me.

I love Megan Hart's writing. I have to put that out there so you know where I'm coming from. She's an author that writes out of the box. Her characters come from all walks of life, all nationalities, all races, all religions. I'm never sure what I'm going to read when I pick up one of her books, I only know that it will be a well told story filled with characters layered with strong emotions, flaws and insecurities. Characters who want to love and be loved. Most importantly, characters I come to know and care about. That's the case with Naked.

To me, this is Olivia's story. Yes, Alex is there and is the hero, if you want to give him a label. But the story is told from Olivia's POV and it's Olivia that we really get to know, inside and out. She is a complex woman with so many layers that I loved finding out about her. She was adopted as a baby, her adopted parents divorce when she was five. She doesn't come from a close family, they stay in touch but there's still some distance to the relationships.

When Olivia first sees Alex it's at the holiday party hosted by her ex-fiance' Patrick and his lover Teddy. Olivia has stayed close to Patrick and is friends with Teddy. Some might consider it an odd relationship but Olivia loves and cares about Patrick and doesn't want to loose his friendship. They have a long history that Olivia can't simply dismiss even though Patrick hurt her terribly when he broke off their engagement when he came out. She eventually forgave him and they remain friends.

I didn't care for Patrick at all. He was very self-serving and arrogant. He acted like he was concerned for Olivia when he warned her about Alex but I really think it had more to do with Patrick and what he wanted. He couldn't have Alex so he didn't want Olivia to have him. Plus, I don't think he really wanted anyone else to have Olivia. I think it was a case of he didn't want her but he didn't want anyone else to get serious with her either. Almost like he wanted to keep her in reserve, just in case he changed his mind. Bastard.

Alex is a character readers will be familiar with if you read Hart's Tempted. Alex was the best friend of the husband, James and became the third in that marriage's ménage. He has since moved on and now finds himself attracted to Olivia. When he rents Olivia's spare apartment, he starts spending time with her, hanging out and getting to know her. Alex is likable and I thought his heart was in the right place but he's also confused about his feelings regarding Olivia and the feelings he still has for James that go beyond best friends. I do think we see Alex trying to be there for Olivia and not cause her pain but he's still has some doubts about what he wants on a permanent level.

One difference between Olivia and Alex is financial. We often hear that finances are one of the main causes for problems among couples and Olivia and Alex are no different. Alex has made lots of money and while he still works, he can afford to take time off when he wants to. Olivia is a photographer who does print work for her clients. She's very good and hopes to make it a full-time career but she's not there yet and must also work at one of those photo places at the mall. When Alex wants to take off for a day or even a few days and Olivia has to work, it causes problems. Alex offers to help Olivia with money and that causes even more problems. I did like how Olivia didn't let Alex completely take over and continued to pursue her dream of quitting the mall job. She's did slowly let Alex into her life and her apartment but I never felt like he took total control of her.

Olivia has gone through some rough times in the past and everything isn't perfect with Alex. They both have secrets that are not easy to share, even when they fall in love. As we get to know Olivia and Olivia gets to know Alex, we see how past decisions have not only shaped these two people but how they affect the decisions they make now. I think Hart did an amazing job portraying these complex characters that have a tough time trusting and opening up to each other.

The biggest problem Olivia and Alex have hits Olivia right in the face and I could feel her pain and anger. It's a very emotional scene and really got to me. At this point I had come to like Olivia so very much. She's the type of person you hope you get to meet in real life. She's sweet, caring and fun to be with. I was so pissed off by what happened to her and how she's put in this position with no warning of what to expect. The way Hart dealt with the situation and how the characters' reactions played out made for some very emotional reading. The thing about Hart's writing is that it's far more than an erotic romance. There's sex, lots of hot sex, but as I've said in previous reviews, there is so much more to Hart's stories. Lots of character development and getting to know the big and small, the ins and outs of what makes these characters do what they do.

Another beautiful romance that I really felt a connection with the heroine. Loved the fact that she is not a typical cookie-cutter heroine. She's from a non-traditional home - adoption, divorce, religious differences and then there's the fact that Olivia is half white, half-African American. She finds herself straddling two worlds. Both with regards to her race and her religion. It all becomes intertwined with her love for Alex and her need to figure out how she can fit it all into who she is.

Rating: A

Monday, August 9, 2010

Review: Nothing to Fear

Nothing to Fear
Karen Rose

Romantic Suspense

Grand Central/August 2005

Library Book

From the back cover ~

Nothing to See

As director of an inner-city woman’s shelter, Dana Dupinsky safeguards many secrets. Some are new identities; some are new addresses; and some are even hidden truths about herself. Passionately dedicated to Hanover House and the women she protects, Dana has always been reluctant to look for love. But now, just as a case puts her and a child in mortal danger, it seems that love has come looking for her.

Nothing to Hear

Security expert Ethan Buchanan learned to stalk men in the Afghan desert. Now he vows to track down the ruthless woman who kidnapped his godson—and falling for Dana is not in the plan. Yet her very presence seems to chase away the ghosts that haunt him, and her skillful evasion of personal questions raises his hunting instincts. For there’s a deadly new secret at Hanover House. A brutal killer is weaving a web of revenge with a stolen boy at its center. And Dana is the next victim on the list…

I love finding a new to me author with a nice, long back list to enjoy. Karen Rose has become one of my go to author's for romantic suspense. She writes complex characters and dark, warped antagonists that give the heroes and heroines worthy adversaries.

We met Dana Dupinsky in Rose's first book, Don't Tell. Dana runs the same Chicago shelter that the heroine from that book, Caroline Stewart, ended up in. I really liked Dana in Don't Tell and have been looking forward to her story. She's smart and tough but has a soft side when it comes to abused women and children. She puts her heart, and her money, into running the shelter. Dana doesn't have time for romance, she barely has time to sleep, but when Ethan Buchanan shows up, Dana takes notice of the handsome security expert.

Ethan is such a wonderful hero. He's an alpha but he's also smart, loyal and loving. Ha - sounds like a puppy! LOL I liked him a whole bunch. He's close to his family and is pulled into the kidnapping because of an old friendship and guilt. Ethan's searching for his kidnapped godson and the psycho woman who took the boy. Ethan is a security expert, not an actual PI, so it's a good thing that his brothers are Chicago police officers. Ethan is no slouch when it comes to protecting those he cares about. He's there for Dana when she needs him even though she doesn't like to lean on anyone. Ethan lets her know that it's okay to ask for help and not do everything herself.

One thing that I enjoyed was seeing some characters from the previous books play roles in solving the murders and finding the kidnapped boy. It's good to see the development of the characters prior to reading their stories as well as catching up with previous primary characters. I was especially pleased to see Evie Wilson, a young women who was attacked and brutalized in book 1. She's an interesting character and we do get her story but not until I Can See You (book 10).

The kidnapper and murderer are known to the reader. That's not kept a secret. What is kept from the reader, until the end, is the why of the kidnapping and murders. Some of the killings psycho bitch commits are really just because she can, and well, she's a psycho. I'm not sure what it says about me but I like when the antagonist is a woman who's not a watered down version of what the character would have been had the antagonist been a male. Women may not commit murder as often as men but they can be just as evil and violent as men. In a way it makes it almost colder, more evil, when it's a woman doing the killing. Women are thought to be nurtures not killers. Rose does an admiral job getting into the mind of psycho bitch and her twisted logic.

Rose does the suspense and violence well, giving this reader just enough to keep me on the edge but not completely grossing me out. I also liked the romance between Dana and Ethan but it never overtook the suspense - there was a good balance between the two. I would even go as far as saying the suspense gets more page time than the romance but that's what I've come to expect from Rose and that's fine with me. This is another long one, coming in at just over 500 pages, but it goes quickly. Another well written book in this loosely connected series.

Rating: A-

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Jay Asher
Young Adult Contemporary
Razorbill/October 2007
Library Book

From the inside cover ~

Clay Jenkins returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers 13 cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

Hannah's voice explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a first-hand witness to Hannah's pain, and learns the truth about himself - a truth he never wanted to face.

Wow - just wow. This book is certainly different. The approach the author takes in telling the story is unique. It's told from the POV of Clay Jensen and the voice on the tapes of the deceased Hannah Baker. We get Hannah's thoughts leading up to her suicide and her reasons why she made the tapes and sent them out. Clay tells what he knows of Hannah and what happened leading up to her death but he's confused as to what part he played in her death. The reader is with Clay as he listens to the tapes and discovers the series of events that culminated in Hannah taking her life.

Clay Jensen is a nice, likable teenager. He's not one of the real popular kids but he's not a loner either. I'd call him an average high school kid. He gets decent grades, works at the local movie theater and stays out of trouble. Which is why it's such a surprise when he gets these mysterious tapes. Once he starts listening he can't believe it's Hannah's voice on the tapes and he's even more surprised when he realizes what she's done. She's telling secrets about Clay's classmates and how she feels each of them had a part in her suicide.

Clay doesn't just listen to the tapes, Hannah also included a map of the town and the "points of interest" she refers to in the tapes. It's almost like a treasure map that takes Clay on this journey as he listens to the tapes. He discovers some things he didn't know about the people in Hannah's life but mostly he learns about Hannah herself. He also makes some discoveries about himself and how he wishes he had done some things differently but he can only move forward and change how he acts in the present, not the past.

The story went by very quickly - I, like Clay, wanted to know what part Hannah thought Clay had in her suicide and more importantly why she did it. The why for me was never quite clear. Yes, she had some difficult times and she was fighting depression but there didn't seem to be any one thing that caused it. Sure, some of the people on the tapes were mean to Hannah, treated her poorly and upset her but there wasn't any one person, it was a domino effect.

What bothered me was the way Hannah spread the blame around but never seemed to include herself in that blame. In hindsight she exhibited some of the classic signs of depression and potential suicidal tendencies. The problem with hindsight is that it doesn't do you a bit of good after the fact. I'm not really sure you could say her life was any worse than other teens, but everyone has different breaking points and Hannah met hers.

It's hard to say if I would recommend this book. It really depends on your comfort zone. Teen suicide isn't a light subject and while this story presented it in a different way, it's still teen suicide - a dark, sad and potentially upsetting subject. I do think the impact of Hannah's death was muted by the fact that we meet her after her death. If she had been alive and I had gotten to know her, then she committed suicide, I think it would have had a more in-your-face effect. By having Hannah on the tapes, it allows the reader to take a step back from direct contact with her. We see her through Clay's eyes and through Hannah's words but those words were spoken after she made the decision to end her life. Overall, an interesting story but possibly not for everyone.

Rating: B+

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

ARC Review: Libertine's Kiss

Libertine's Kiss
Judith James
Historical Romance (England/1660)

Harlequin/August 2010

ARC from Publisher/NetGalley

From the author's website ~

A Restoration era love story inspired by the character of the Earl of Rochester, King Charles II’s court poet who was rumored to be the model for Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff. William de Veres, the handsome son of a hard-drinking cavalier was abandoned at an early age to a brutal school system and a predatory and abusive tutor. He soon discovers the escapes of poetry, literature, alcohol and sex, and the defenses of a sharp sword and lacerating wit. As a titanic struggle erupts between parliament and king, William takes up arms in the Royalist cause and pursued by Cromwell’s men finds himself seeking shelter from a sober young Puritan woman in a cottage deep in the woods.

The Civil war has cost the once high spirited Elizabeth Walters her best friend and her father, leaving her unprotected and alone. She flees an unwanted marriage, seeking safe haven, but what she finds there is something she never expected. Despite William’s gratitude and promise to aid her, Elizabeth never expects to see him again, but the Restoration of Charles II to his throne will bring her to the attention of both William and the king.

Can a promise long forgotten and a friendship forged in the past help two lonely people find each other and themselves? Can a debauched court poet and notorious libertine convince the wary Elizabeth he is capable of love? These are the questions asked by Libertine’s Kiss…

After having read and enjoyed Ms. James previous books I was looking forward to reading this, her latest release. The time period is not one of the more common periods found in historical romances. While I like Regency and Victorian settings, I also enjoy something different. The fact that the characters are inspired by real people from history made me curious enough to look up information on them. And left me curious as to how they would be portrayed in the novel.

William de Veres is a true rake. He is loyal to his king, living in exile with Charles and returning to England when Charles takes the thrown. William is also very loyal to himself. He enjoys drinking and women and he doesn't try to make any excuses for his actions. It was refreshing to have him not use past abuses as an excuse for his debauchery. His way of thinking is that the excessive drinking and numerous women are simply how things are done.

Elizabeth Walters is a 27 year old widow, living quietly in the country when William bursts into her life again. They knew each other as children, were close friends even, but their families chose opposites sides during the war. It has been years since they have seen each other and now William needs Elizabeth's help and she willing gives it. Years pass before they meet again. This time it's William who helps Elizabeth when she needs it the most. Elizabeth is desperate to get her land back and William is there to guide her through the intrigues of court life.

Once William decided to help Elizabeth get her lands back, he sees that she is dressed in the height of fashion and lets the other members of court think that Elizabeth is his mistress, which she is. He doesn't concern himself with this since it's what they will believe, no matter what he tells them. This side of William was a little hard to take. He cares for Elizabeth but still maintains the lifestyle of a rake.

With William, Elizabeth experiences so many new things and seems to enjoy her time at court. She falls into love with William quickly and is having the time of her life. I liked that Elizabeth embraced her time with William. Of course she wished it wouldn't end but can't see herself with a man who can not swear to be faithful to her. William's life is at court and while Elizabeth enjoys her time at there, she longs for the simpler life in the country.

William believes in looking out for himself and playing the politics of the court. He has this habit of blaming his nature, or the nature of men, for his debauchery. After Elizabeth comes back into his life he doesn't suddenly become a new man, fully redeemed by love. His life with Charles, both as a fugitive and now at court, have left him very cynical. Even with this outlook he still holds fond memories of Lizzie as a child. His first love and his only good childhood memories. There were times when he could be cold and unloving but you could feel his need to take care of Elizabeth and that hidden need to love and be loved.

I must say Judith James makes the court of King Charles come alive with vivid details and descriptions of the ornateness of the palace and the people at court. The life at court with all its finery and excesses, politics and subterfuge, add another dimension to the story. I loved seeing William use his knowledge of Charles and the court to help Elizabeth navigate through those rough waters. Until a misunderstanding due to William's reputation and Elizabeth's previous experience comes between them. They keep their distance from each other but can't stop themselves from caring for each other.

I did, at times have some problems with the slow pace of the story. While I found most of the descriptions interesting there were points when the pacing dragged and I would have liked for William and Elizabeth to have spent less time apart. They do get their happily ever after but James really made these two work for it. They both go through some changes but they didn't happen overnight. They way it played out made it far more realistic with Elizabeth standing her ground and William, being William, and doing the unexpected. Judith James delivers an enjoyable love story with unique characters set in an equally unique historical period.

Rating: B+

Monday, August 2, 2010

Review: No Mercy

No Mercy
Lori Armstrong

Mercy Gunderson/Book 1

Touchstone/January 2010

Library Book

From the inside cover ~

Mercy Gunderson is a straight shooter with a hard edge. On medical leave from the Army, she returns home to South Dakota, which isn’t much safer for her than Iraq. Arriving just after the death of her father, it is up to Mercy to decide what to do with the family ranch. Trying to deal with her irresponsible sister and nephew and feeling guilty that she didn’t make it home soon enough to see her father one last time; Mercy is suddenly pulled into the local community when the body of a Native American boy is found on her land. But nobody seems to be doing anything about it, especially not the local law enforcement.

When tragedy strikes again, Mercy is ready to throw all her energy into her own investigation, and she’s out for revenge. As she digs up the truth behind the shocking crimes, Mercy uncovers dark and dangerous secrets and must race to stop a killer before everything she’s fought for is destroyed forever.

If you've been around my blog lately you know how much I love Lorelei James and her Rough Riders series but did you know that she also writes mysteries under the pen-name Lori Armstrong? She writes the Julie Collins series and this year started the Mercy Gunderson series. I decided to give Mercy a try. I liked the idea of a female Army sniper and Mercy, being 38, has got some wear to her.

Let me start with saying Armstrong writes some amazingly complete characters. I never felt that any character was there simply for filler. They all had a part to play in this mystery. The story takes place in a small town in South Dakota. It's a place where everyone knows everybody's business. Mercy comes back on medical leave to help her sister with the family ranch. Her father is dead and the ranch and it's responsibility have fallen to the two sisters. There are developers wanting to buy the ranch and the sisters need to make a decision about what to do with the ranch.

The book opens with the death of a teenager. His body is found on Gunderson land which is how Mercy first becomes involved. The description of the body, and the land is both vivid and stark. "The blazing sun and dry wind burn the most resilient flesh into dried meat." Armstrong does a good job making the reader feel what the environment is like, not only the physical but the emotional environment that the people live in. It's a ranching community but there is also a population of Native Americans in the community who play a key role in the murders.

Mercy is pulled into the murder investigations and begins to find evidence of some sinister goings on in her community. She often finds herself in the company of Mason Dawson, the sheriff, who doesn't want Mercy involved in his investigation. Mercy has mixed feelings for Dawson - she's attracted to him but she's also not pleased with how his murder investigations are going. As Mercy continues to discover some pretty dark secrets she finds herself in danger and her Army training proves to be very useful. I liked that Mercy was tough and didn't back down once she gave her word. She came across as standoffish but she did care about her family and friends, she simply wasn't as demonstrative in her feelings as you might expect a woman to be.

The mystery is the central storyline and it is played out well, with the reader, along with Mercy, uncovering bits and pieces of the puzzle that lead to the final confrontation. The way it all played out made sense and kept me not only engaged but wanting revenge for Mercy and her family. I liked how Armstrong incorporated the ranch life, the military and the Native American culture into the plot and gave the reader much to think about by the end of the book. The actual mystery of the who and why of the murders had some twists and turns that kept me not only interested but entertained as well. Armstrong's writing is at times brutal - showing the harsh realities of life and death. But I liked the brutal because she also softened it with those quiet moments of contemplation and family loyalty. Overall a well written mystery with intriguing characters that left me wanting more.

Rating: A-