Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Caressed by Ice by Nalini Singh: A Must Read

**Note: this review is spoiler-free, so read on without fear**

In the year 2079, there are three different species of people on the planet. Humans, the shape-shifting Changelings, and the Psy, who operate on both the physical and psychic plane. The Psy are trained from childhood to feel nothing – they are conditioned to be emotionless to the point of being cold and almost inhumane in their view of the world.

Judd Lauren had been an Arrow, one of the Psy Council’s most elite soldiers, until the day he and his family dropped out of the PsyNet. Now Judd lives amongst the SnowDancers – a pack of changeling wolves. But though he has left the Psy population, Judd continues to live an icy, emotionless existence, binding himself up in the conditioning of his youth to prevent himself from harming others.

Brenna Shane Kincaid is a changeling wolf who has survived abduction and torture by a ruthless Psy serial killer. But she hasn’t fully recovered from her attack and is fearful that the torture she suffered has left something evil inside of her. And despite what logic might tell her, the ice-cold Judd is the man she knows, in her heart, will be the one to help her.

Caressed by Ice is the third installment in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series and it is flat-out amazing!!! Singh has gifted readers with an absolutely flawless read. After meeting Judd and Brenna in the first book of the series, Slave to Sensation, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to connect with the seemingly emotionless Judd. Boy was I wrong! As Judd’s icy barriers melt he struggles to balance his growing attachment to Brenna with his fear of completely breaking his conditioning and potentially unleashing a part of himself that would endanger everyone he loves. And seeing Judd’s struggle both broke my heart and made me incredibly attached to him.

As for Brenna, I have been waiting since Slave to Sensation (the book where she was kidnapped) to see her get her happy ending. Brenna surpassed even my highest expectations of her character. She has survived being horribly tortured and has come through with a strength and a dignity that not only I respect, but that feels truly realistic; I adored her.

The love story between Judd and Brenna was a thing of beauty. Balancing Brenna’s need for touch with Judd’s painful reaction to such contact could have been awkward with a lesser author. Singh not only pulls it off, but she had me on the edge of my seat, worrying how things could possibly work out for them.

There is plenty of action and danger to be had, and I give Singh high marks for keeping me guessing as to who was behind various attacks. There’s also humor to be found, as well as unexpected moments of sweetness, and not just between the main couple. Characters from Slave to Sensation and Visions of Heat play strong supporting roles, and I greatly look forward to the unmated changelings I so love getting their books (especially the latent leopard Dorian).

Caressed by Ice can be read as a stand-alone but I do not recommend it. I would suggest at least reading Slave to Sensation first to fully understand the Psy-Changeling world. And once you read Slave to Sensation, I’m sure you will want to run out and read Visions of Heat as well. All three books are fantastic and the series is wonderfully addictive. I cannot wait for the prequel, “Beat of Temptation” in the An Enchanted Season anthology (Nate and Tamsyn’s story – coming out October 2, 2007), nor can I wait for Mine to Possess (Clay’s story, due out February 5, 2008). And, because he has been my favorite from the very beginning of the series, I am incredibly impatient in waiting for Dorian’s story.

Caressed by Ice will be in stores September 4, 2007. Slave to Sensation and Visions of Heat, books 1 and 2 of the series, are already available and well worth rushing as fast as you can to the nearest bookstore. Nalini Singh is truly one of the most talented storytellers of today. Readers of the para and non-para genre alike will fall in love with the world Singh has created and the characters in it. Run, don’t walk, to get all three of her Psy-Changeling books!!!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It’ll Change the Way You Drink

Wow, one very busy summer means three months of neglecting my blog. Fear not, beloved readers, I have returned. Apologies to those who have asked questions in previous posts, I will answer them immediately. And now, onwards we march :)

For the past few months, I’ve wondered how much of what I read influences my daily life; causes me to try new things or at least want to try them. Not in a “my whole world view has changed because of this book” sort of way, but on a much smaller, less life-altering manner.

The best example I can provide is my personal quest for Tab. I adore Anne Stuart’s Ice series (Black Ice, Cold as Ice, Ice Blue, and the upcoming Ice Storm). Cold as Ice was one of my favorite books last year, and Ice Blue will almost certainly be on my personal Top 10 list for this year’s books. The heroines of Cold as Ice and Ice Blue, Genevieve and Summer respectively, both have a particular preference for the soda Tab. After reading Cold as Ice and not only loving the book but identifying in many respects with the heroine, I was curious about Tab, though I knew nothing about it. Ice Blue sealed the deal and I was on a mission to hunt down Tab which (and if you are from the West Coast you know or will soon find out it is more likely that you would be able to sell a kidney on the street than find a six-pack of Tab). I finally succeeded in buying some and was pleasantly surprised that, like Genevieve and Summer, I have found that I prefer Tab to both Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke. My mother, who can’t stand the drink, remains mystified as to why I like it.

Perhaps a more popular example would be the search for Grey Goose and dark chocolate. Fans of J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood know that Vishous (of the upcoming Lover Unbound) has a strong preference for Grey Goose vodka, and Cellies also know that he has a noted preference for dark chocolate. Being a fan of neither chocolate nor vodka, I still set out to try both, and both products were markedly easier to find than the elusive Tab. Surprisingly, I did like both the Goose and the dark chocolate, more than I expected. Whether this is because of its association with a beloved character or not, I’m not quite sure. Neither is something I would have often, but just the same, reading the BDB books did make me want to try two products I might never have before.

This is not to say I support tons of brand-name dropping in books; I don’t. If it fits with the story, as in both the aforementioned examples, then I’m all for it. Nor does it mean that I will like everything that a favorite character likes, because that certainly is not true either. The two previous examples are just the most recent examples of small influences a book or series of books have had on my daily life. There are numerous instances of books making me see things a bit differently, consider what I would and would not do on a very personal level, et cetera. So this is, to me, yet another fascinating thing about books; their ability to make you want to try new things. From something as small as trying an unknown brand of soda to something larger and, perhaps, more profound, books have the ability to influence your life on so many levels.

Now, if only a gorgeous, intelligent operative like Peter Jensen were as simple to find ;)

So this week, my lovely readers, I leave you with the following question:
Have you ever been influenced by a book to try something new (no matter how big or small)?

Monday, May 21, 2007

My May Must-Read: Beware a Scot’s Revenge by Sabrina Jeffries

I always love it when my favorite authors have a new book being released. It’s generally a sure-fire way to pick up a book you’ll enjoy and Sabrina Jeffries never disappoints. But even I, a devoted Jeffries reader since I came across her Swanlea Spinsters series, was blown away by her newest, Beware a Scot’s Revenge.

Beware a Scot’s Revenge is the fourth story (third full-length book) of Jeffries’s School for Heiresses series. It’s the story of Sir Lachlan Ross and Lady Venetia Campbell, both of whom you briefly meet in the first Heiress book, Never Seduce a Scoundrel. Without giving away too many plot details, the basic premise of the book is that Venetia’s father is Lachlan’s enemy and he kidnaps Venetia in order to force her father to give what is owed to him.

This book was perfection to me. It had adventure, humor, and a wonderful romance. Venetia remembers Lachlan from when they were children and she had a crush on him that has never faded. Lachlan remembers the girl he thought was too proud to live a poorer lifestyle and is amazed to discover how wrong his assumptions were. And while there is a kidnapping plot, Lachlan isn’t cruel to Venetia, rather the kidnapping serves to provide adventure and is an avenue for the romance to develop. The story also takes place entirely in Scotland which for me was another point in its favor.

Lachlan is exactly the sexy, daring hero I dream about and Venetia is the intelligent, adventurous heroine I dream of being. Beware a Scot’s Revenge is a fabulous, sexy, and entertaining romance that I can’t recommend highly enough. While I love all of Jeffries’s books, this one has surpassed even To Pleasure a Prince as my favorite of her books. And while Beware a Scot’s Revenge is part of a series, it can be read on its own.

From the characters, to the story, to even the title and the gorgeous cover, Beware a Scot’s Revenge was and is a pleasure. I cannot wait for the next story in the series and I am especially eager to learn more about Charlotte Harris and the mysterious Cousin Michael.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I’ll Take That Rake

Seductive, smoldering, sensual…a rake is one of the easiest characters to find in historical romance, and I, for one, am happy about that. There’s nothing I love more than a jaded seducer meeting his match, whether it’s with an innocent debutante, a bookish spinster, or an experienced widow. But the term rake seems to be too liberally applied – sometimes it seems as if almost every hero who isn’t noticeably awkward is referred to as a rake. To me it feels like the term “rake” should only apply to only the most elite of the sensual heroes. Granted, in the universe of each book, the rake in question might be the only one to whom the term applies. But in my head, the place where all historicals set within a certain two hundred year period get mushed together, I’m often tripping over rakes right and left.

Don’t get me wrong – as I said before I love a rakish hero. But unlike having the plethora of dukes, earls, and viscounts in novels (which I also love even though there couldn’t possibly have been even a fraction of that number running around), I don’t think just any hero should be termed a rake. They’re the bad boys of romance – the ones the good girls want even though they know they shouldn’t. The ones with seemingly untouchable hearts who can only be tamed by the right woman – that’s what makes their stories so exciting. To me, the true rakes are the darkly seductive types, like Sebastian St. Vincent in Lisa Kleypas’s Devil in Winter. Jaded players like the Earl of Mayne in Eloisa James’s Pleasure for Pleasure. And the smoldering tempters like John Grayston, Viscount Rochdale in Candice Hern’s upcoming Lady Be Bad. These are the rakes that deserve the title, and no, because I hate book-bashing I won’t list the ones I think do not.

So for this week I leave you with these questions:
Do you love a rakish hero?
Do you think the description is too liberally applied?
And, most importantly, who are your favorite rakes?

And for those of you who’re fans of the non-rakes, never fear. They’ll get love in my next post :)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dark Dukes, Voracious Vamps, and Sexy SEALs

Real life being what it is at the moment, I haven’t had much time to read for pleasure or update here. That being said, I decided to update in the form of recommended reads. Below I have my top picks of books that have been released so far this year, along with a sampling of what is in my “To Be Read” pile (the number of books in said pile being well over 200). As always, if you’re looking for a good read, I suggest any of the authors that I have links to their websites. None of them has ever written a book I haven’t liked.


Top Pick: Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell

One of the books I’ve been anticipating most this year. The heroine, Verity, is London’s most infamous courtesan. When she up and leaves, her lover, the Duke of Kylemore, tracks her down, kidnaps her, and whisks her off to the highlands. I feel I should warn that this book is dark in nature at the beginning. Justin isn’t kind to Verity when the story begins. But even when he isn’t at his most likeable, I was drawn to him and I cared deeply about him (note: I love tortured heroes and Justin has a past that makes me cry).

This debut leaves no doubt that Anna Campbell is author to watch. CTC is an amazing, compelling story that is beautifully written. I’m very excited to read her next book.

Also Recommend: And Then He Kissed Her by Laura Lee Guhrke

This is my first LLG novel, and it definitely won’t be my last. A Victorian romance in which the heroine, Emmaline, a girl-bachelor who’s also an aspiring author, has it with her viscount employer when he rejects her book without so much as reading it. This was a sweet story, utterly charming and well-written.

Top TBRs: The Secret Passion of Simon Blackwell by Samantha James, The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt, If You Dare by Kresley Cole

Oh the Anticipation: Lady Be Bad by Candice Hern (8/7/07), The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn (6/26/07), Beware a Scot’s Revenge by Sabrina Jeffries (5/29/07)


Top Pick: Lover Revealed by J.R. Ward

Anyone who has ever met me knows I’m a die-hard J.R. Ward fan. I was jumping so much when I bought Lover Awakened last fall that I scared a bookseller. LR is the fourth in Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. It’s the story of Butch O’Neil, the first human ever allowed into the world of the vampire warriors known as the BDB, and Marissa, an aristocratic vampire who Butch fell for hard and fast the moment he met her (in Dark Lover). I can’t really say much more without giving away series spoilers. I would highly recommend reading the BDB series in order: Dark Lover, Lover Eternal, Lover Awakened, and Lover Revealed. All of the books are incredible, and Lover Awakened is one of my favorite books of all time.

Also Recommend: The Dream-Hunter by Sherrilyn Kenyon

I am equally in love with Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series, of which this is a part of (though you don’t have to have read any of the other books to follow this one). TDH has romance, action, and adventure all wrapped up in one. Dr. Megeara Kafieri is an archeologist searching for Atlantis when she finds Arik floating out at sea. What she doesn’t know is that Arik is a dream god (to oversimplify greatly) and that he has made a pact with Hades – Arik may live for two weeks as a mortal man, but he must return to Olympus with Geary’s soul. This description doesn’t do the plot or characters justice, I’m afraid. All I can say is that this book is a must-read, especially if you’re a fan of Kenyon’s books.

Top TBRs: Hunting the Hunter by Shiloh Walker, Jacob by Jacquelyn Frank, Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

Oh the Anticipation: Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward (10/2/07), Devil May Cry by Sherrilyn Kenyon (8/7/07), Tanner’s Scheme by Lora Leigh (8/7/07)


Top Pick: Dangerous Games by Lora Leigh

Leigh is an author I came across by chance last Thanksgiving and I’ve been buying up her backlist like there’s no tomorrow. Dangerous Games is the second story and first full-length book in her SEALs series (Reno’s Chance, Dangerous Games, For Maggie’s Sake). The book is about Clint McIntyre a Navy SEAL who’s on leave at home when he finds out his sister’s best friend, Morganna Chavez, is a DEA agent working under cover to bust up a date-rape drug ring. Clint’s determined not to let Morganna get hurt and he soon joins in the mission. Warning – this book, like all of Leigh’s work, is HOT and definitely not for the faint of heart. Can’t wait for Hidden Agendas, her next SEAL novel.

Also Recommend: A Man in a Million by Jessica Bird

I’ll fess up: Jessica Bird is J.R. Ward so it’s a guarantee I’m gonna love her books, and AMIAM does not disappoint. The book is the story of Spike Moriarty, a bad boy who fell in love with boat racing champ Madeline Maguire when he first met her in From the First. It’s a classic tale of two people from different walks of life, but told in a way that feels new and fresh. Bird could probably write a grocery list and make it compelling, but Spike and Mad are two characters you will care about and cheer for.

Top TBRs: Ice Blue by Anne Stuart, Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas, Tongue in Chic by Christina Dodd

Oh the Anticipation: The Billionaire Next Door by Jessica Bird (7/31/07), Hidden Agendas by Lora Leigh (6/26/07), Safe Harbor by Christine Feehan (6/26/07)

And for all you lovely readers out there:

What recent releases are at the top of your TBR pile?

What do you think of the books that made my TBR list (assuming I survive through finals to read them, I’d like to know where to start)?

What upcoming books are you looking forward to the most?

****Please no book-bashing****

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Love & Lies

Manipulative men – in real life, any man who would use or play games with me would find himself in the hospital getting my foot surgically removed from their rear end. In romance, however, the men who manipulate, while often walking the fine line between good and bad (but not evil), are often so darn sexy that I just don’t care. True, their heroines often give these men their comeuppance, but what is it about these romance bad boys that send shivers down my spine?

Case and point: I just finished reading Lora Leigh’s Harmony’s Way (which is a fantastic book, by the way) and one of the main secondary characters, Jonas Wyatt, completely captured my attention. For those not familiar with Leigh’s Breed series, in a nutshell Jonas is a Lion Breed (scientifically created humans with animal DNA spliced in – a very oversimplified definition) who can and will lie, scheme, and manipulate anyone and everyone in order to ensure the safety of his race. He, like all the other Breeds, has a very tortured past which we don’t know much about. In the books he has been in (Kiss of Heat, The Breed Next Door, Megan’s Mark, and Harmony’s Way), Jonas doesn’t hesitate to use others to get his way. Despite all this, I couldn’t help but absolutely fall for him and he’s become my favorite of Leigh’s Breeds, second only to the delicious Bengal Breed Cabal.

Another of those sexy manipulators is Rehvenge from J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Rehv is part vampire, part sympath and has the ability to manipulate the emotions of those around him, which if you’ve read Lover Awakened, you know he will do in order to get what information he wants. While Rehv has just a touch of evil in him, his absolute love for his mother and sister, and his kindness towards another vampire, Marissa, made my heart melt for him when I might have otherwise wanted to kick him.

What about heroes who manipulate their one true love? In Kresley Cole’s A Hunger Like No Other, Lachlain, a werewolf, doesn’t hesitate to bully and manipulate his heroine, Emmaline (who’s half valkyrie, half vampire), to get her to stay with him. But his schemes are tempered by his growing love for Emma and the fact that he’d spent well over a century being tortured by the king of the vampires. If you’re a fan of historicals, Chirstina Dodd’s latest, The Prince Kidnaps a Bride, has a hero, Rainger, who deceives and manipulates his heroine, Sorcha, to get what he wants. Again, Rainger had spent years being tortured by his enemies, and his goal is to save his kingdom from the hands of an evil usurper.

So I leave you lovely readers with these questions:
Do manipulative men in romance novels make you swoon or make you sick?
Does there have to be a reason behind their actions (ex: in my case most of them have tortured pasts or are trying to protect their people)?
Who are your favorite manipulative men?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What’s in a name?

This morning I came across the title of a new book by an author I have never read before. The book is How to Abduct a Highland Lord by Karen Hawkins. The title immediately struck my fancy so this afternoon I went out and purchased the book. I haven’t had time to start it yet, but on my walk home I started thinking about the various authors who now reside on my “auto-buy” list that I first picked up on a whim because a great title caught my eye.

This method of choosing new authors isn’t new to me. I started reading Julia Quinn after I came across The Viscount Who Loved Me and found the title amusing. Eloisa James is another author now on my auto-buy list after Duchess in Love caught my eye one day.

For some reason, I haven’t yet had many conversations over book titles with people. There is talk a plenty about whether or not someone will buy a book with a “trashy” cover, but no one I know has ever rejected a new book for a bad title.

And does anyone else get excited when one of their favorite authors has a really great book title? Some of my personal favorites are Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Side of the Moon and the upcoming Devil May Cry, Eloisa James’s Much Ado About You (I’m a sucker for a Shakespeare reference), Kresley Cole’s No Rest for the Wicked, and one of the classics – Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

So for my very first blog, I leave these questions to you lovely readers:
Will a good title induce you to try an author you’ve never read before?
Will a bad title turn you off from a book?
And what are your favorite book titles?