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A Note in the Margin
A Note in the Margin
by Isabelle Rowan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Note in the Margin..., 30 July 2009
This review is from: A Note in the Margin (Paperback)
John McCann has been told by his doctor that he needs to have a 'sea change' in his life. So John decides to take a year out from the rat race to manage a bookstore - Margins. Whilst there, he meets David - a homeless man - who comes in to the store to read the second hand books. John's initial prejudices are eroded away as he comes to know David and he has to question exactly what he wants out of his life and who he wants to share it with.

I found this a little difficult to get into. I didn't settle into the story straight away. However, the story slowly drew me into the world of the bookstore and the characters who frequent it.

At the start of the story, John is almost an everyman character, he represents the majority of people and their attitudes to the homeless. However, in coming in to contact with David, John has to deal with things he might otherwise not have had to and also he has to confront a lot of things about himself that he might not have wished to acknowledge.

David is understandably not as easy a character to get to know. We learn about him as John does, and at the end of the story John knows there is still much that he doesn't know about the man he's fallen in love with, but he knows he's got the time to find it all out.

I like that the author took her time in developing the relationship between John and David and didn't rush it. She makes it clear that it's two steps forward and one step back. John and the reader learn that it's not just going to be a case of giving David food and a warm place to stay, the baggage he comes with is more complex than that.

If I had a problem at all it was the point of view shifts. I personally prefer to stick with one character for a large chunk of time. Whereas Isabelle Rowan seems to favour a constantly shifting point of view which is sometimes dizzying.

There's a sense at the end that John and David still have a long way to go, but you also feel that they'll get there. This is only the end of the beginning.

The Lily Brand
The Lily Brand
by Sandra Schwab
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Two and a Half Stars - Not For Me, 30 July 2009
Troy Sacheverell is captured in France - a prisoner of war - he is sold to an evil woman to be a toy for her stepdaughter. Lillian wishes to escape her stepmother's clutches but it will not be easy to get away from the twisted woman. Lillian ends up in England and through a twist of fate ends up married to Troy but their relationship is far from smooth and Camille - Lillian's stepmother - isn't finished with either of them.

I picked this up a while ago after reading a couple of favourable reviews. I admit I'm not a huge historicals fan and this one really didn't work for me.

At the beginning of the story, Troy is terribly abused by Lillian's stepmother and by association (for him) Lillian herself. I found the abuse disturbing (which I guess is the point) and somewhat gratuitous.

Lillian takes refuge in stock phrases during times of stress. She is emotionally distant, in contrast Troy is full of anger that he vents in her direction. This doesn't seem to make him feel any better and he punches things a lot. Hence one of my problems with the story - it is very melodramatic.

I did however like the introduction of Drake and Justin, Troy's friends who are in a relationship. Troy tries to protect them and gives them a haven at his home where they can be together without fear of discovery. The two of them add a much needed humanizing touch to the story and it's Lilly's discovery of them in an embrace that is my favourite scene in the book. She finally realizes there is such a thing as love, not just possession and lust.

My other problem - I know in an historical you have to allow for the traditions and etiquette of the time, but if at any point Lilly and Troy had just talked to each other most of their problems could have been resolved. It's only towards the end when Troy is able to acknowledge Lilly was as much a victim as he was that things work out.

Stay the Night: A Novel of the Darkyn (Darkyn Novels)
Stay the Night: A Novel of the Darkyn (Darkyn Novels)
by Lynn Viehl
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £5.14

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seventh and Final Book in the Darkyn Series, 28 July 2009
As always (with the Darkyn) we have a multi-stranded storyline - the Kyn Lord Robin of Locksley's romance with Chris Renshaw, a fiendish plan to assassinate the high lords of the Darkyn and the culmination of Michael and Alex's story. The story is packed with plot and nothing is superfluous. One thing I've learnt from reading Lynn Viehl is that even things which might not seem important at the time may come to have greater relevance later. I'd never dismiss anything in her stories as irrelevant.

I admit before I started reading I was curious as to how the Darkyn series would be wrapped up in this book. The answer (for me) was that Lynn Viehl didn't wrap up the series (as such). (My hope is that the story of the shadow prince will continue in the new Kyndred series.) What she did was bring Michael and Alex's story to a satisfying conclusion. But because of this I found Robin's story slightly overshadowed.

Unlike many authors whose stories I'm often able to anticipate, Lynn Viehl always takes the story in a direction I wouldn't have thought of. Here it's through the continuation of Luisa's storyline. Finally we're getting a clearer idea of how she fits into the Darkyn world.

Just in case I've made it sound like Chris and Robin were more of a subplot. I did enjoy the development of their relationship. Robin's Kyn power is the ability to charm any human he touches, unfortunately it's a talent that Chris is immune to. Which leades to some incredibly snappy, sarcastic banter between the two of them. Robin has to learn to rely on his natural charisma to get what he wants, rather than his supernatural ability.

"Do you bring all your women here?
Only you. I keep my other women in the harem on the third floor."

I love how Rob is bewildered by the fact that Chris isn't in awe of him and doesn't worship at the altar of his masculinity. He can't help but respond to her pricks and snipes, and because of this it makes it so easy for Chris to manipulate him.

A little more on my thoughts about the conclusion to Michael and Alex's story. We've followed this relationship over the course of seven books. But this is where Alex finally acknowledges and accepts her place among the Darkyn. Alex reveals to Richard how the American Darkyn have been able to turn humans into Darkyn after centuries of the Kyn being unable to - and so the Kyndred story begins.

This story was very much like catching up with a large dysfunctional family you are particularly fond of. It doesn't seem to matter which Lynn Viehl story I read I am always left wanting more. And I look forward to the new series with great anticipation.

Shadowlight Book 1 of the Kyndred October 2009
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 21, 2009 12:08 PM BST

Zero at the Bone
Zero at the Bone
by Jane Seville
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four and a Half Stars, 28 July 2009
This review is from: Zero at the Bone (Paperback)
When Jack Francisco returns to his safe house to find a hitman waiting for him, the last thing he expects is that the man won't go ahead with his assignment. Instead the two of them end up on the run together, pursued by killers hired by the men who want Jack dead and other unknown enemies. Against the odds the two of them build a relationship, but what will happen when the danger is over and they then have to return to their lives?

D is something of an anti-hero, at least at the beginning of the book. He's a man who lives to his own set of rules. One of the things I liked most about this book was that we (as readers) get to meet both of the protagonists before they meet each other. And we also appreciate more (I think) the moment when their lives collide.

I love the banter between them.

"...He sighed. "I'm starting to see words like 'accessory' and 'accomplice' floating around my head."
D barely reacted. "How about 'dead on arrival'? Ya like that better?""

This is a real opposites attract story. Each man fulfills in the other something that is missing in himself. I've read in a couple of places that readers didn't like D, that they found him remote. But one of the things I liked was seeing Jack break through D's reserve. How D changes Jack, but also how Jack changes D.

As regards the epilogue. I appreciate the comments (elsewhere) about multiple endings as I thought there were two places where the story could have ended before it did and that it would have felt resolved. The epilogue itself does feel like an excerpt for the next book, rather than wrapping up this story. However, having said that, I did enjoy the sneak peek into Jack and D's life in the future and I hope we don't have too long to wait for the next book.

Made To Be Broken: Number 2 in series (Nadia Stafford)
Made To Be Broken: Number 2 in series (Nadia Stafford)
by Kelley Armstrong
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Second in the Nadia Stafford Series..., 28 July 2009
Made to be Broken follows ex-cop Nadia Stafford as she investigates the disappearance of a teenage mother and her baby. With support from her hitman mentor Jack, and Quinn another hitman, she pursues a quest for justice, for a girl that no one misses.

If you like your heroes and heroines to be morally superior then this might not be the story for you. But if the morally grey area between right and wrong intrigues you I'd recommend this series.

The main plot fills in more details about Nadia's past - as her desire to find out what happened to Sammi (the teenage mother) becomes an obsession - but it is the interactions between Nadia and Jack that had me compulsively turning the pages.

Whilst the relationship between Quinn and Nadia develops further, what I love most about the Nadia Stafford series is the relationship between Jack and Nadia. In a way I find them a more interesting couple that Clay and Elena (Kelley Armstrong's main couple in her Otherworld series). Maybe because a lot of 'stuff' between werewolves comes down to instinct. Jack and Nadia don't have that, they have to rely on talking to each other. And Jack doesn't really talk.

Nadia is very visual and logical in her responses to Jack, she has a tendency to take what he says literally and doesn't read between the lines. Jack then cues his responses from Nadia's response to him. It would be frustrating if you didn't know that somewhere subconsciously Nadia knows what her feelings for Jack are. And I think part of the reason she responds the way she does is because the strength of her feelings is almost overwhelming. So she represses them.

At the moment it seems to be unclear whether there will be any more books in the series and I think it would be a shame if there weren't. Jack and Nadia are one of my favourite couples*. They are unconventional, have sexual chemistry that virtually scorches the page even though they haven't even kissed and I WANT to know what's going to happen to them next.

(*In a way they remind me slightly of Lily and Jack from Charlaine Harris's Shakespeare series)

by Perry Moore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

4.0 out of 5 stars Hero, 28 July 2009
This review is from: HERO (Paperback)
Hero tells the story of Thom, a secret teenage superhero, as he struggles to grow up, deal with his powers, his relationship with his father and find out who he really is and what he stands for.

This has been one of my favourite books of the year so far. Fast paced and emotional the story pulls you in from the first page. And whilst the character types will be familiar to anyone with only the barest familiarity with the superhero genre - healer, precog, strongman etc. - seeing the story through Thom's eyes shows it to us from a different perspective.

Told in the first person, from Thom's point of view, for me the story works best when it deals with the relationships he has with those close to him - his father, Goran, Ruth. It's realistically written and we share Thom's experiences with him, (most of them familiar to those of us who hated high school). He and his father seem to communicate on different wavelengths, no one understands him, and on top of everything he likes guys rather than girls.

Thom is finding his place in the world and finding out that having super powers doesn't necessarily make it any easier. He's finding out you have to make your own place and be prepared to fight for it - and not necessarily with your fists. He has to 'wake up' and realize that life is something to be lived and that not everything can be achieved without experiencing pain. Okay, I don't mean to make it sound completely angst-ridden because actually a lot of it is very funny.

One of the most interesting things about the book for me - was how it highlights how our parents can live separate lives that we aren't even aware of. How the biggest thing they may have to deal with in a day is not that we pranged the car or broke the home computer but that they lost their job or that their best friend died. I think this will be a future comfort read for me and a book that I highly recommend.

Red Gloves
Red Gloves
by Beth Vaughan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.61

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First in a New Fantasy Series, 18 Mar 2009
This review is from: Red Gloves (Paperback)
Red Gloves is a female mercenary who has come to the land of Palins in search of work. Josiah - a goatherder - knows very little about her, but he knows her dagger-star birthmark indicates she's a Chosen. Part of a prophecy that may set the land of Palins free.

Red Gloves is a name, that for me, took some getting used to and I think it distanced me a little from the story to begin with, though by page 7 I was interested and by page 40 completely hooked. It's more like a label than a name as such - she's a mercenary who wears red gloves. This is in a world where people change their names as their circumstances change.

Red is the alpha in this story, and is not exactly the most sensitive person. She's a much more prickly character than Lara(from the War Plains books) not so ready to be the martyr. She's practical to the point of insensitivity, stroppy, knows her own mind. But she's also loyal, brave and determined. This is a woman we believe capable of leading an army.

There is a slight role reversal. Red is very take charge, whilst Josiah is more beta. That doesn't mean he's a wimp - think Daniel Jackson from Stargate. There's strength in being able to bend rather than break. I also think it can be harder to write a believable beta hero, than a believable alpha.

This book has a large 'cast' and is told from multiple points of view, but each character has their own beliefs, quirks, desires and ambitions. Red - the mercenary, Bethral her sword-sister, Ezren - the storyteller, Evelyn - the priestess. I suspect for some people this style won't work, but I do like seeing the same situation through different eyes. There are a couple of wonderfully written parallel scenes where it's clear Red and Josiah are thinking the same thing, but are convinced the other person is thinking something else. They need to talk. :) I think as long as it adds more to the story then it's working. I wish the book had been longer so we could have gone into more depth, but hopefully there will be more books to come.

My main concern whilst I was reading was how this world fits in with that of the War Plains trilogy (written as Elizabeth Vaughan). The thing I liked about the trilogy was that it was a fantasy, which dealt with the cultural conflict between two peoples. There was no magic, no easy solution. Everything had to be strived for. There are hints that this is the same world - kavage, references to the Tribes of the Plains. I think what concerns me, is how what we find out in Red Gloves, affects the world of the Plains.

In Red Gloves we find out there is magic - elves, portals, magical fire. And in a way I wish Red Gloves had been set in a new world, that the two worlds had been kept separate. If magic is real then maybe the warrior-priests of the plains weren't lying to Lara.

That aside, this was another story I immersed myself into and at the end there are still questions that haven't been answered. Still stories there to be told. I want to know what happens next not only to Red and Josiah, but also to Ezren, Bethral, Evelyn, Dominic, Fael, Helene. And I really want to know how Verice and Warna got together.

Elizabeth Vaughan writes stories about women who change their world. Heroines who may doubt themselves or their gifts but who ultimately triumph. And it's not through use of magic but through self-belief and determination. She's one of my favourite authors and I'm counting the days 'til the next book.

(Note - published in the US as Dagger Star by Elizabeth Vaughan)

The Leopard Prince: Number 2 in series (Princes Trilogy)
The Leopard Prince: Number 2 in series (Princes Trilogy)
by Elizabeth Hoyt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Second in the Princes Series, 18 Mar 2009
The Leopard Prince follows the developing relationship between Lady Georgina Maitland and her land steward Harry Pye. Their relationship across the social divide would be complicated enough, but it's set against a background of suspicion, poisoned sheep and murder. If Lady Georgina is going to get her man, she'll have to keep his head out of the noose first.

I liked this more than the Raven Prince, maybe because the relationship between Harry and Georgina is more earthy, more sensual? I don't know. I love how Elizabeth Hoyt makes the characters come alive on the page, how she makes us care about them. Harry and Georgina are so right for each other, but there is so much between them that they have to overcome.

Almost like Scherezade, Georgina tells the tale of the Leopard Prince to Harry. Starting when they first spend the night together in the shepherds hut and continuing over their subsequent meetings. It almost serves as an analogy for their relationship, 'til at the end Georgina sets her own leopard free. They are caught in a cage of circumstance. As Harry ponders -

"If she were a different woman, if this were a different place, if he were a different man..."

Georgina is a strong heroine, sometimes a little snippy, but on the whole softly spoken with a spine of steel. She also has a slight tendency to voice whatever's on her mind whether it's relevant to the conversation at hand or not. This keeps the more reserved and quiet Harry on his toes.

One of my favourite things about Elizabeth Hoyt's writing is how she shows how situations that happen to characters when they are apart, influence their behaviour to each other when next they meet. As a reader we understand the change in attitudes of both characters but the characters themselves do not. Very clever writing. She's able to take this and write these wonderful arguments which are layered with double meanings.

I think that this may be the favourite of the trilogy for me. I liked it more than the Raven Prince, and I'm thinking Harry and Georgina may end up being my favourite couple. Elizabeth Hoyt is one of the few historical romance authors I read and I'm looking forward to completing the trilogy and getting started on her next series.

A Dangerous Thing
A Dangerous Thing
by Josh Lanyon
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Second in the Adrien English Series, 17 Mar 2009
This review is from: A Dangerous Thing (Paperback)
I think possibly my favourite in the Adrien English series. A Dangerous Thing takes place a couple of months after Fatal Shadows. Adrien is suffering from writer's block and frustrated by his relationship (or lack of relationship) with Jake Riordan, he travels to his ranch in California to clear his head. Unfortunately life is never simple for Adrien and on his arrival he finds a dead body in his drive. A body which disappears. When events take a violent turn it will be to Jake that Adrien turns for help.

The main reason I like this series so much is because of the character of Adrien. I love his inner voice that we as readers get to hear, and I love his snarky outer voice. There's something that just makes you root for him. He is by no means a saint, but he is very human and very real and that is what makes him so appealing. I love the way Josh Lanyon can put you (as the reader) in the moment with the characters. And I really enjoy the situations he gets his characters into. Jake's reaction to Kevin is priceless.

Maybe this book is my favourite because the relationship between Jake and Adrien (eventually) warms here. They are away from the constraints of their 'real' lives and are free to just be Jake and Adrien.

We get to know Jake much better in this book and see that beneath his assured exterior he has some issues, not just with his sexuality but also with getting older. His life has not turned out how he expected. He can't make himself fit with what he thinks he needs, but it doesn't stop him trying. What's very interesting though - for those people who don't like Jake - is to note that he never lies to Adrien. He doesn't lead him on with false promises, he tells Adrien exactly how it is.

Oh, and there's also a mystery to solve. :)

This series always leaves me wanting more, and I have book three ready to go. Only one more book left after that though. At one point in A Dangerous Thing Adrien says:-
"I'm a thirty-something gay man with a dodgy heart. I sell books for a living. Who wants to read about that?"

Hopefully more Adrien English books will be coming our way soon.

Dark Needs at Night's Edge (Immortals After Dark)
Dark Needs at Night's Edge (Immortals After Dark)
by Kresley Cole
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £4.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Addition to the Immortals After Dark Series, 16 Mar 2009
This is the fourth full length novel in the Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole.

Neomi Laress is murdered in her New Orleans home and then gets to stay there as a ghost watching people come and go but never able to interact with them. Until the brothers Wroth arrive with their half mad sibling Conrad. Unfortunately he is the only one who can see Neomi which doesn't initially help his madness. Eventually Neomi and Conrad come to an understanding but when there are still lies between them, will they have their happy ending?

Conrad and Neomi are both well written characters - something I've come to expect from Kresley Cole. It's partly down to this excellent characterisation that I can read the story even though Neomi's a ghost (one of my least favourite supernatural creatures). One of the things I like especially is that because for much of the book Conrad is a prisoner, he and Neomi actually have to talk to one another. Which means when their relationship does become physical that there is a greater understanding between the two of them.

Taking them separately Conrad is aware that he's not right mentally. As he starts to improve I like how he tries to model his behaviour on how Neomi would want him to behave. In a way she becomes a compass for him. And he does worry that she has an idealized view of him - which in a way helps him want to be a better person.

Neomi has a great deal of patience with Conrad, but she also keeps secrets from him - usually because she feels she has to. So even though they talk to one another a lot in the early part of their relationship you can see that they still have a way to go. It's a work in progress - a bit like Conrad himself.

Although they seem very different as characters, personality wise they are very similar. They decide what they want, they make a plan and they execute it. If that plan fails, they make a new plan until they achieve their objective. It was nice to see the contrasts and similarities of their characters played against each other.

We meet a few characters from previous books, notably Nix and Mariketa. On the subject of Mari, I fear that she has been hanging about with the Valkyrie too long as her dialogue was pretty much indistinguishable from theirs.

Although I loved the characters and what the story brings to the mythology of a series as a whole, the ending did feel a little contrived and it's not going to be one that I re-read as often as the others. But I am left with a couple of stories to look forward to and I hope Kristoff the vampire King's story will be coming soon.

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