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)?