30 January 2013

The Bite Before Christmas



THE GIFT, by Lynsay Sands: Teddy Brunswick knows about the immortals among us. He's worked with them, called them friend – but he never counted on being snowed in with one over Christmas. Katricia Argeneau is a tasty little bundle and she seems to feel the same way about him. Problem is, he's not sure she feels quite the same way. After all, the snowstorm has derailed her blood delivery, which leaves him the only available meal on the menu...

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, by Jeaniene Frost: Cat and Bones are looking forward to a normal holiday – at least as “normal” as it gets for the combustible vampire couple and their otherworldly friends and family. But their yuletide plans are shattered when a stranger shows up and reveals long-buried family secrets that threaten to take a bite out of their holiday cheer...and lives.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, published by HarperCollins Publishers, 2011; sent to me by a BookCrossing member.

My thoughts: I've read most of Sands' Argeneau books - and one of her historical romances - and I love her writing. Her story here, however, while enjoyable, was also a little boring, a little slow, a little same old same old. Fun but nothing special. Teddy is the police chief of and lives in the same little town as Elvi and Victor, from Book 7 in the Argeneau series, THE ACCIDENTAL VAMPIRE. So he's already familiar with the Argeneaus and their kind. Wanting to get away on his own during the holidays, Marguerite suggested a little cottage that he could rent. Little did he know that she was up to her usual matchmaking ways and had also suggested the neighboring cottage to Katricia Argeneau. And that a snowstorm would cause a tree to fall across the road, taking down a power line and effectively cutting them off from the rest of the world.

Teddy and Katricia pool their resources – she has food, he has firewood – and spend time hanging out in his cottage, talking and getting to know one another. You know how it's all gonna end, especially if your familiar with the series.

The Cat and Bones story on the other hand - I loved it. I can't get enough of them and Frost has not disappointed me yet. This story is a about 40 pages longer than the Sands story, and did not drag anywhere. The story opens with a surprise birthday party for Bones, which is crashed by a stranger who claims to be Bones' biological half brother. But while Bones, Mencheres, Kira and Spade all seem mesmerized by the stranger and his stories, Cat, Denise and Ian are suspicious of him, along with Fabian and Elisabeth. Cat finds herself actually working with Ian, and it was nice to see Ian become a little more likable.

Plenty of action, with a plot that I couldn't quite predict. I truly love this series.

27 January 2013

Track of the Cat (Anna Pigeon, No. 1)


Synopsis: The memory of violence and loss drove Anna Pigeon from the city to seek peace in the Southwestern wilderness. Now a ranger in America's national parks, Anna is at one with nature and its serene, unspoiled majesty. But the brutal death of a fellow ranger in the remote West Texas backcountry – presumably by mountain lion attack – looks suspiciously like murder to Anna. And her unauthorized investigation into the tragedy is placing her squarely in harm's way. For a trail with few leads winds through dangerous territory – where Anna must confront the dark side of the desert...and the human heart.

First line: There hadn't been a god for many years.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Avon Books, 1994; received from a member of BookCrossing.

My thoughts: A bit of a departure from what I normally read, and a gripping and interesting one at that. Anna Pigeon is a ranger at a national park nestled at the base of the Guadalupe mountains in Texas. While camping out one night, Anna stumbles across the body of a fellow ranger who appears to have been killed by a mountain lion. The death is ruled accidental, but to Anna it looks suspicious, and she begins covertly investigating the possibility that the ranger was murdered.

Most of the book is set in the park, and as someone who's never been hiking or camping (other than Girl Scout camps), it was an interesting peek into an unknown world. Anna is a fairly solitary, complicated character, still mourning the loss of her husband and just trying to live day by day. As she is drawn further and further into her investigation, we are drawn further and further into her life.

The mystery was well crafted, and the perpetrator stayed hidden from me until the very end. And there was a very tense chapter in the middle that had me almost holding my breath in fear for Anna, despite the fact that I know this is the first in a series so obviously she is not going to die. The writing is crisp and clever, and now I'm going to have to start hunting down the rest of the books in this series.

21 January 2013

The Christmas Child (Redemption River #4; Love Inspired #661)


Synopsis: In Redemption, Oklahoma, a young boy is found huddled in a Dumpster, clutching a Christmas book. Scared and refusing to speak, he captures undercover agent Kade McKendrick's guarded heart. Kade brings the child home until he can track down his family - and his story. All Kade has is a name, Davey, and the boy's trust of sweet, pretty teacher Sophie Bartholomew. With her kindness and faith, Sophie helps both the boy and the battle-scarred cop to smile again. And as they uncover the mystery of a very special child, a family is formed - just in time for Christmas.

First line: In twenty years of Dumpster diving, Popbottle Jones had found his share of surprises in other people's trash.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Steeple Hill, 2011; 217 pages.

My thoughts: Linda Goodnight is one of the two authors who first got me hooked on the Love Inspired line of books (the other being Jillian Hart). Her stories are heartwarming, the settings charming (love the town of Redemption), and the characters well drawn out and easy to connect with.

Kade, staying temporarily with his aunt in Redemption, is the ultimate wounded warrior, an undercover cop who's faith has been shaken by the human horrors he has witnessed on the job in Chicago. Sophie is an optimistic and upbeat teacher who loves Christmas and winter and snow and pretty much everything that comes along. Including a lost little boy and a lost man, both of whom she longs to take care of. One is eager to accept her love, one is not.

As Kade throws himself wholeheartedly into the search for Davey's family and for answers to how and why the little boy ended up alone in a dumpster, cold and hungry and unable to talk, he also finds himself doing some soul searching about his own life and whether he really wants to go back to Chicago after the holidays. Kade is a wonderful hero who I was a little in love with from the first chapter. The banter between Kade and Sophie was amusing and I smiled a lot while reading this book.

05 January 2013

Desert Prince, Bride of Innocence (Pregnant Brides No. 1; Harlequin Presents No. 2884)


Synopsis: Prince Jasim bin Hamid al Rais was concerned that his womanizing elder brother was bewitched by his child's nanny – the throne of Quaram could be threatened by scandal! Though Elinor Tempest appeared to be a fragile beauty, Jasim wasn't fooled; he'd deal with this strumpet himself...

Only after he'd ruthlessly seduced her did Jasim discover Elinor really had been a virgin – and she'd fallen pregnant! A royal baby couldn't be born out of wedlock so, faster than the desert wind, Elinor became Jasim's unwanted bride...

First line: His royal highness, Prince Jasim bin Hamid al Rais, frowned when his aide told him that his brother's wife was waiting to see him.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 2010; purchased at a library book sale.

My thoughts: Before I start, I will confess that romances with heroes who are billionaires, royalty, princes/kings, sheiks, etc, are my least favorite. I'm not into fairy tales and someday-my-prince-will-come (though I do love the TV show “Once Upon A Time”), and while I'm fine with a hero who has a lot of money, I'm not really into extravagance, which seems to go hand in hand with royalty. So this book already had a mark against it when I picked it up. That being said, I have read and enjoyed some stories that fall within these parameters (Jane Porter can always suck me in), and I have a pretty open mind when it comes to reading, my disinclination to ever crack open a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey notwithstanding. So I always go in with high hopes.

Unfortunately, they were not met this time around. I felt bombarded by all the adjectives in the book. Nothing is described simply, but rather with several words where one or two might suffice. If you love flowery descriptions, then this author probably will appeal to you. For example:

His firmly modelled lips compressed, he lifted his dark imperious head high. (page 12)
Sheathed in a faultlessly cut black business suit that was the last word in tailored sophistication, Jasim looked spectacularly handsome and stylish. For a split second, Elinor collided with deep-set dark golden eyes that glittered like fire in the impassive planes of his bronzed face. (page 78)
Glorious red hair framed the pale beauty of her face and her emerald green eyes were bright with umbrage. She was fizzing with impotent rage at his condemnation and the sight in no way cooled his deep abiding anger with her. (page 134)
Separately, those quotes don't look so bad, but 184 pages of those constant descriptions was wearying.

I like an alpha hero, but Jasim just did not appeal to me at all. He was insufferably arrogant and constantly accusing Elinor of being a slut or a gold-digger, though in more flowery and elegant words than mine. Elinor was young and inexperienced, so I could forgive her for her foolishness. And she was sweet enough, but kind of bland. Or maybe she just seemed bland next to Jasim.

The point when they finally admit to themselves and to each other that they love each other was very satisfying. It was just a tedious road to get there.

And one more small gripe, which might be considered a spoiler so stop if you hate those:

Elinor sneaks away from Jasim and they are then apart for 18 months. I find it very hard to believe that Jasim, with all his money and power, coud not track her down quicker than that. Seriously.